We’ve just woken up from our food and drink coma courtesy of the 4th Annual Greenwich Wine & Food Festival. To us, as our friend Ken Tuccio who runs the Welcome to Connecticut Podcast said when we saw him on Saturday, this event is our Super Bowl. Seriously, right? There are great drinks to drink, awesome local restaurants and chefs to get to know, plenty of celebrity food people to interact with, and plenty of good vibes going around all in the name of raising money for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang. All in all, this was our favorite year of attending and we feel like the festival was stronger than ever. Here’s our four cents (we both get 2 cents to share, see?) about all three days of events that we were fortunate enough to attend.
Day 1: Oysters & Wine Kick Off Party
We dressed up all fancy and hit up l’escale in Greenwich for the official kick-off party of GWFF 2014! Immediately, we tried some Castello Banfi wines and then shot right over to the oyster bar (we’d get the passed apps later). The bar was bright, lit against the dark sky and oysters were being shucked at a dizzying rate. Honestly, we don’t know how that guy did it. He’d shuck it, place it on the ice, then it’d be gone. Perhaps the best part of the night for us was listening to Suni Unger (a great person, btw) of Serendipty Magazine talk about the importance of people coming together to support the Hole in the Wall Gang, a camp that gives seriously ill children a chance to have fun camp experiences and just be kids. She was choked up (along with every other person there) listening to a story of a former camper who is now leukemia free and is very successful.
Day 2: 2014 Most Innovative Chefs Gala
Do you know what’s great about this event? GWFF gathers some of the best new, talented, and up and coming chefs from Fairfield and Westchester Counties and lets them go crazy, making whatever they’d like. The results are truly awesome and that’s proven by the fact that this event sells out every single year. Not only was the food so amazing, but we had the chance to talk with some of our friends and chefs from the local restaurants and even meet new friends like the boys at Fortina. Drinks were easier to find than last year and there was definitely an energy and excitement in the air as people chatted, noshed on food, and bid on auction items to people raise even more money for The Hole in the Wall Gang. Regis and Kathie Lee took the stage at one point and we were blown away, and the awesomeness continued as we saw Chef Jean-Georges and had the chance to meet Adam Richman after interviewing him just a couple of weeks before. If you’re free next year and you can afford the tickets, this is definitely a night that you don’t want to miss.
Day 3: The Main Event Including Culinary Village, Demos, Burger Battles, and More…
Our one complaint for the entire three days was for today: we wish we could have cloned ourselves, there were so many fun things to do and experiences to take part in this year! We spent our first couple of hours listening to Chef Matt Storch of Match in SoNo interview Chef Anne Burrel and Adam Richman in the CTbites and Serendipity Blogger’s Lounge. And, we were lucky enough to see Adam Richman take a seat during Chef Geoffrey Zakarian‘s interview and begin to grill him about his tie knots (Half Windsor, btw) and anything that he could think of.
By this time, we were pretty hungry and took this as an opportunity to head out into the Culinary Village where all the action was going on. First stop? Yup, drinks! Dan stuck with all the cocktails that were spread throughout the event and Kristien decided to take things a bit easier and drink some wine. Then, we made our way around the entire outside of the Culinary Village. From restaurant, to caterer, to coffee maker, to delivery service: we drank it all and we ate it all.
We were at 95% full, so we decided to see the Bartender Competition. Lots of great bartenders from spots in Fairfield County competed, but in the end Adam Patrick from Match wooed the judges with his drink. Later he explained to us that he discovered the secret for doing well is keep things clean, fresh, and simple. Too many ingredients might sound great on paper, but can definitely muddle the flavor (pun intended.)
From there we checked out a few more places around the inside of the culinary village then headed back to the Blogger’s Lounge to check out Adam Patrick, Jeff Marron of The Whelk, leFarm, and Kawa Ni, and Gretchen Thomas of Barteca (Barcelona and Bar Taco) talk about cocktails and drink culture. Admittedly, all that talk of drinks made us crazy thirsty, so we headed out in search of water, beer, and cocktails. At this time, the Burger Battle with Adam Richman was going down while the restaurants continued serving their burger creations throughout the night. Congrats again to Plan B Burger Bar & Bistro for winning…two years in a row. Food trucks were out, serving up samples, too. Our favorite was Johnson’s Food Truck because Chef Johnson’s son was helping out, plating, and throwing beads to people in line and he was just about the cutest kid/little man in the world.By this time the Culinary Village was being broken down as the rest of the events and activities went into full swing.
And, we also enjoyed the special add-on experience of Tequila & Tostadas with Aarón Sánchez of Paloma in Stamford. Margaritas, salted or unsalted, were prepared as guests arrived. But, really…who orders an unsalted margarita?! Each margarita was made with Casamigos Tequila, owned by Rande Gerber, George Clooney, and Mike Meldman. You best believe that we needed something to go with those drinks, so we tried some of the tostadas that the kitchen staff at Paloma prepared. Our favorites of the night were a beef tartare served with pickled cactus and a quail egg, the seared tuna tostada (just perfect), and the lobster tempura that was bursting with flavor and had a nice crunch while still keeping the lobster delicate inside. Even better? Aarón was around, talking with people he had never met, chatting with friends, and thanking those he remembered from coming into his restaurant. Definitely a great experience for us, but lucky local people can just hit up his restaurant when they are in the mood.
So, we stayed later than we ever had…until about 9. We have to tell people who go next year to make a full day of it. Yes, we know it’s daunting to think about a full day of eating and drinking, but if you pace yourself well and spread it out, it’s not bad. It was one of the most relaxing times that we’ve had in a while. We were never in a rush and soaked up every beautiful minute of weather. Plus, hey, you paid for a full day experience, so why not get it and watch the bands, too?
We’d like to thank Serendipity Magazine and Shelley of Splash PR again for a wonderful experience and we look forward to the 5th Annual Greenwich Wine & Food Festival!