Once upon a time I was on the media pass list for the Food & Wine Classic, but not any longer. Since I usually get invited to everything anyway, it only makes my weekend more of a spontaneous adventure, and so I rest up in preparation, get outside more religiously, eat minimally, and leave my schedule wide open for what’s about to unfold.
For me, the Classic began with the opening of The Grottos by Stephanie Janigo and Julie Engels, in partnership with Craveable Hospitality Group. With strong cocktails and great tunes by DJ Golden I was tempted to stay. Dancing in NYC nightclubs was once my world, writhing and twerking anonymously with strangers until daylight at the darkest and seediest clubs with the best DJ’s. Stumbling home, shoes in hand, I’d step over the brooms of store owners as they swept their walkway, the deep red sun rising over empty city streets. But that night was not my night to turn it up, I needed to pace myself.
The next morning the wiring in my swollen brain was short circuiting. Wanting to detox and sweat the night’s alcohol out in a workout, I kept changing my clothes, switching from comfy jersey soft pajamas, to mountain biking clothes, to yoga clothes, and back into the pj’s. That’s when the text came in with a pass offer. The seminar was to begin in 15 minutes and so I threw off the pj’s, put on my whites, and raced down to Paepcke Park. Having no idea what seminar to attend my eyes shot directly on the festival guide to “Breakfast of Champions,” a raw bar with chilled stone crab claws and oysters flashed like a beacon through the fog (yes … I’m from Mass).
Arriving late I sat down and immediately Anthony Giglio, one of the most entertaining wine and spirits authorities “on the planet”, told us to take our first sip of NV Collet Demi-Sec from Champagne, France. The bell rang through the mist, it was time to kick it back into gear, this Breakfast of Champions seminar was a Sparkling Smackdown, and all about sparkling wines and Champagnes. Quel est une fille blogger censée faire?
Mellifluously speaking of the experience of each sip, Giglio declared that the first sip never counts, guiding us to cleanse the palate before judging. With the second sip we were encouraged to take notice of the fruits and acids as they moved from the back of the tongue towards the front of the mouth and across the gum line, leaving the dry aftertaste. The third sip was where the tones and dryness were truly detected. Between sips Giglio interspersed the bubbles with humorous stories depicting French snobbery at its best, and Champagne interludes with Queen Noor of Jordan. The food that accompanied the tasting was an egg sandwich and a packet of hot sauce set in front of us in a silver foil bag, as if straight off the streets of New York. The egg sandwich was there to show how with each sip the heat from the hot sauce increases.
When the seminar was over I headed to the Grand Tasting Pavilion high on Champagne, taking an effervescent mental note that Champagne is a far better cure for a hangover than hamburgers for breakfast.
As the week progressed, the invitations poured into my inbox and I tried my best to keep up. In all the conversations I had with visiting chefs, wine experts and industry professionals, the message was always the same, turns out they enjoy meeting the locals and having them at their parties as much as the locals enjoy going to those parties. Both the locals and visitors were hungry for each other’s knowledge, with guests wanting to feel like an insider outside the tents, and locals wanting to get the quick guide on what wines and liquor to drink, what seminars to take, and what food to eat, leaving their mountain bikes and hiking shoes behind to test their stamina on a different level.
Thank you Food & Wine for bringing such excellence to our town. I do hope that in the future you recognize the value of broadening the opportunities for locals to also enjoy the festival and strengthen the palate of the experience, rather than pairing down the list. We do so appreciate the opportunity to add some local color to the festival and join in the conversation.