Oh, What a Weekend
The 2015 New Jersey Wine & Food Festival, THE premier food and wine event in the Garden State, took place last weekend at stunning Crystal Springs Resort. The three-day festival is to oenophiles and gastronomes as an Orlando theme park is to children. It is a celebration of the best wines in the world and culinary experiences by distinguished national and local chefs, all benefiting the James Beard Foundation. Here’s a recap of my experience at the event last week.
Friday March 20
The festival launched on Friday evening with a Krug Champagne reception with hors d’oeuvres from Manresa and Restaurant Latour, where guests were able to meet famed chef, David Kinch.
The reception was followed by a dinner at Restaurant Latour, prepared by Chef Kinch and the Restaurant Latour team. Wine pairings for this dinner were from cult California winery, The Prisoner Wine Company.
There was also a dinner held in the stunning award-winning Crystal Springs wine cellar prepared by Crystal Springs Executive Chef John Greeley and Larry Stone, Estates Director of Quintessa and Huneeus wines.
Saturday March 21
Saturday was action-packed with informative, fun, and tasty afternoon sessions. I was fortunate to be invited to the Garden State Chef Throwdown, Digging into Quintessa, and the Macaron Happy Hour.
During the Throwdown, three chefs competed to see who could make the best beef dish as decided by audience members. The participating chefs were Francesco Palmieri of The Orange Squirrel (Bloomfield), Bryan Gregg of Escape (Montclair) and John Greeley of Crystal Springs Resort. Chef Palmieri made slow-braised black angus short rib “chipped beef” sliders on sesame brioche with beef marrow mayonnaise. The sliders were paired with a slaw served in mini canning jars – cleverly-presented and tasty, as one would expect from this talented chef. Chef Gregg served a pavé of beef with huitlacoche, mushroom, Carolina gold rice porridge – the rice porridge was creamy and made a perfect bed for the flavorful and tender beef. The winner of the Throwdown was Chef Greeley, who made smoked brisket with shrimp grits and chimichurri – Chef dared the snow and cold to smoke his brisket in the chef’s garden outdoor restaurant and it was delectable.
I was beyond thrilled to attend the Digging into Quintessa seminar led by James Beard Award-winner Larry Stone. Stone helped us discover iconic winery, Quintessa, through a tasting of barrel samples and wines from diverse vineyard blocks. It was a fascinating geological tale and the wines were, predictably, amazing.
Up next was the Macaron Happy Hour with a tasting from local macaron baker, Asalt & Buttery. The outstanding macarons were paired with sparkling and still wines from around the world. While all four macarons and wines were expertly-matched, my favorite was the pistachio macaron paired with Artazuri Rosado – spectacular.
The main event for most attendees of the festival is the Grand Tasting on Saturday evening. This elegant affair featured more than 100 wines from more than 30 wineries and food by 25 top restaurants from New York City and New Jersey. The participating restaurants included the following:
Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, The Ryland Inn, Elements, Ninety Acres, Escape, Agricola, Mistral, Terre à Terre, Maritime Parc, Strip House, The Orange Squirrel, Osteria Morini, Pig & Prince, Morris Tap & Grill, Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern, Axia Taverna, Crystal Tavern, Villalobos, and more.
There was also an exciting silent auction benefiting the James Beard Foundation.
For party-goers who wanted to go the extra mile, there was an after-party where guests could meet the Chefs and Winemakers to the beat of a DJ with open bars and buffets.
Sunday March 22
The weekend celebrations ended on a festive note with the Champagne Brunch—an over-the-top, decadent brunch buffet accompanied by Champagne.
To keep abreast of plans for the 2016 event, sign up to receive Crystal Springs Resort’s newsletters at http://www.njwinefoodfest.com. If you limit the number of upscale food and wine events you attend during the year, this one is a must.
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.