The Montclair Food & Wine Festival Gala Dinner, held on June 2 at The Manor in West Orange, celebrated not only fine food and adventuresome wine but also community and the art of giving back. As a fundraiser, the festival rallied Jersey foodophiles to put their dining dollars to work for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, helping to continue its outstanding mission of offering comprehensive health care services for patients from birth to age 21, as well as a culinary scholarship fund.
And what a success it was! The gala was a sellout, the room was packed and abuzz with excitement, and a rousing auction had star chefs shouting out encouragement as eager bidders raised their hands again and again for a chance to catch one of the once-in-a-lifetime-experience packages going once, going twice, sold! Overnight resort accommodations? Wine-paired gourmet meals hand-plated by your favorite culinary artist? Exclusive seats for you and your guests at the Chef’s Table at next year’s gala? Bring it on!
Held in a beautifully decked-out atrium and adjoining ballroom, the event was the perfect mix of fancy, fun, and extravagant. Festival founder Melody Kettle was a constantly moving target, filling the room with enthusiasm and camaraderie. The décor featured a spectacularly impressive balloon sculpture by talented “twisticologist” Robbie Furman that captured the celebratory mood, along with centerpieces that featured live food as funky art.
The five-course meal, almost needless to say, was divine. And bumping into the famous chefs – including Ariane Duarte, Ryan DePersio, Francesco Palmieri, Michael Carrino, Floyd Cardoz, Mitchell Altholz, and Duane Hendershot — casually circulating around the room once their own courses were served, was a treat to nearly rival what was on the plates. Amanti Vino’s Sharon Sevrens worked overtime to select the wines that flowed throughout the evening and stepped to the microphone to coach attendees through their tastings that ranged from Italian Prosecco to California Pinto Noir to a Cotes du Rhone from a gorgeous little corner of France. By the end of the night, you felt like you’d traveled the globe and arrived home with the most delicious memories to savor.
Congratulations to the Montclair Food & Wine Festival for another successful year and a series of truly unforgettable events. Looking forward to what 2015 will bring! — Deanna Quinones
And here’s a look at some of the highlights from the Montclair Food & Wine Festival’s Grand Tasting, which was held at the Montclair Art Museum on May 31. Photos by Deb Smith.