The Montclair Food and Wine Festival is a wonderful event, it lasted for three days. This included classes, food events, and tastings of food, wines, beers, and a lot of fun! I got the opportunity to attend the last big event, the 2014 Gala Dinner. This dinner was held at the beautiful Manor Restaurant in West Orange, NJ. During this event, they had a Cocktail and Hors D’Oeuvres hour with a live band and then a full sit down dinner with live music and an Auction. This Auction benefited St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and funding the Montclair Food & Wine Festival Culinary Award. At this Gala, the meals were prepared by renounce Chefs from all over the tri-state area. This included Chef Ariane Duarte of Culin Ariane (Montclair, NJ), Chef Ryan DePersio of Fascino Restaurant (Montclair, NJ), Chef Francesco Palmieri of The Orange Squirrell (Bloomfield, NJ), Chef Michael Carrino of Pig & Prince (Montclair, NJ), Chef Floyd Cardoz the Top Chef Masters Champion, Chef Mitchell Altholz of Highlawn Pavilion (West Orange, NJ), and The Manor’s own Chef Duane Hendershot. The fabulous wine was provided by and paired by Sharon Sevrens Proprietor of Amanti Vino in Montclair, NJ, rum provided by Busted Barrel Rum (a local NJ made Rum), the Mocktails from Whole Foods Markets (Montclair & West Orange), and the Vodka by Leaf Vodka.
Before the event started, we had the opportunity to visit the kitchen and see the chef’s preparing all the food. I was an awesome experience to see them concentrated and hard at work! We also got a peak at the special Chef’s VIP table, which is a table set up for a private dinner in the kitchen! When buying this special seat, you get to be in the middle of the hustle in the kitchen while the Chef’s prepare and run around to get all the dishes ready to serve.
There were also two stations with a Mocktail and Leaf Vodka cocktails. The Mocktails were provided by the Whole Foods Market of Montclair and West Orange. This included premade mixes in the flavors of Mojito, Margarita, Ginger, and Cosmopolitan. It was easy to create a great drink by adding some Sparkling Mineral Water or a lemon-lime soda to it and adding ice. You can make it an alcoholic drink as well by adding vodka or rum to the mix, or anything you wish! I personally tried the mojito and it was over ice mixed with mineral water, it was not overly sweet and was so refreshing. I cannot wait to pick it up at Whole Foods.
The Vodka Drinks were made with Leaf Vodka. We had a great opportunity to try two great drinks by Leaf Vodka. This vodka is great; it is a company that focuses on using the water in the Vodka from natural sources. There are two, one from Alaska Glacial Water and one from the Rocky Mountain Mineral Water. Both were smooth and delicious. We had two mixed cocktails provided by them, the first one was a Pink Glacier and the second was a Bitter Re-Leaf.
This event went flawless, and was such a fun and relaxing evening out at such a beautiful venue. The night started with live music by 3rdvalve Jazz, hor d’oeuvres passed around made by Chef Durante. The food was paired with a fabulous, and my new favorite, Prosecco; Riondo Prosecco. This sparkling wine was sweet and crisp with light citrus and some floral hints with a slight hint of acidity. It was a fabulous start alone or with the food, great for the summer. The dishes being passed around were Prosciutto & Cheese Beignet, Maple BBQ Rabbit Loin Crostini, and Zucchini Carrot Vadouvan Pancake with Raita. My favorite out of the three had to be the Prosciutto & Cheese Beignet. It was delicious and we even saw the Chef making them fresh in the Kitchen! It was so creamy and the perfect combination of crunch on the outside and creamy rich cheese inside!
Once these delicious treats were done being passed out, we were told to go to the next room for the main dinner in the main dining room. This room was fabulous and the setting was so beautiful! The center piece was an arrangement of a strainer filled with Kale, eggplant, peppers, asparagus, artichoke, and even a variety of live plants such as a tomato plant at our table. It was a great concept to have and then at the end of the evening, whoever wants to they can bring this home to continue the cooking adventure at home!
Already set at the table the final course from Chef Duarte was made, a Jersey Corn Gazpacho with Tomato Water. This was delicious and cold as it traditionally is, cold. It was sweet but had a slight spice to it. The corn and vegetables in it was delicious and tasted so fresh. It was a great start of the sit down portion and a great finish to the warm starters.
The first course was prepared by Chef Ryan DePersio. This was another outstanding dish, it was a Crudo Trio of seafood based dishes. The first was a Tuna Rollatini with Yazu-Sesame. This was similar to a sushi roll, we saw the Chef preparing it in the back and he made it long and cut it to size for each portion. This was so tasty, so fresh, and I really cannot choose which one of these three I liked more. The second was the Scallop Crudo, which is a raw Scallop with almond, chive, and crispy prosciutto. This was another great one that literally melted in my mouth and was great with the crunch on top. The third one was a crab-stuffed Wagyu Beef sphere with Meyer Lemon and Meyer lemon curd. This was again so tender and was a great combination of sweet.
The wine was Abbazia di Novacella Kerner and it went well with all three; it was a tart wine, so I went so well with the sweetness in the meal. It had hints of nectarine. With the seafood and raw food, the wine was just fabulous cutting the rawness. I would not drink this alone, but paired with the food was great.
The second course was prepared by Chef Franceso Palmieri. He prepared for us a bowl is deliciousness. In it was a Zucchini blossom Pappardelle, a Poached Truffled Duck Egg, and a Squash Primavera. The truffle was in the bottom, which was great because every dish could have the hint of the truffle in it, which made it yummy. The squash was so fresh and sweet and the pasta combined with the truffle made it so tender and full of great flavor. I did not try the Duck egg, due to allergy, but from what I heard around the table it was absolutely mouthwatering. The wine it was paired with was Almondo Arneis Vigna Sparse (2013). This wine was great alone or with the dish. It had hints of green apple, floral, herbs, and honey sickle.
The third course was prepared by Chef Michael Carrino. He prepared us a Red Snapper with Ginger Potatoes and Pickled Red onion and Ramps. This was paired with a Wilde Farms Pinot Noir (2012). The fish was so delicious, I usually do not order a strong fish like the Red snapper, but Chef Carrino has changed my mind! This fish was full of flavor and paired so well with the red wine. The wine was sweet with a Rose and berry finish. It blended well with the entire dish, the ginger flavor was accented with the sweet flavor. The fish was tender and crispy on the top, the perfect combination. It was full flavored and then the potatoes were a pretty strong flavor as well, very creamy but went great next to the fish!
The fourth course was prepared by Chef Floyd Cardoz. He made a sweet spiced Beef Short Rib with Braised Greens. This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. This dish was full of amazing flavor and really was cooked so well. It was paired with Eric Texier Brezeme (2012), which was a fabulous 100% Syrah. It included hints of black current, berries, olives, and even a smoked flavor. It had a slight spice to it. The beef short rib was delicious, it fell was so tender and sweet. The sweet taste blended so well with the Syrah. It was cooked for hours before, and it was the perfect amount of time. I actually was sad when I took my last bite, because I wanted more! An outstanding dish!
The fifth and final course was desert created by Chef Mitchell Altholz and Chef Duane Hendershot. This final trio was a Chocolate Trio of Dark Chocolate Pretzel Ice Cream Napolean, Milk Chocolate Mousse Fruity Crisp, and a White Chocolate Cream Torte Chocolate Sauce. This was paired with a Dessert Cocktail by Busted Barrel Rum and Blue J Syrips. It was a Papaya, Elderberry and Lemon mix with the Busted Barrel Rum. It smelled very strong, but tasted so smooth and refreshing. Another fabulous drink to have in the summer, it was sweet and delicious. This was a great end to a wonderful evening. This trio was full of so much flavor, the stalty with the chocolate and ice cream touched every taste bud, it was sensational.
I could not boast how amazing this evening one, everything was flawless, the food was exceptional, and the company was even better. This was for a great cause, everyone got to taste some of the Chef’s greatest dishes, and had them paired with wonderful wine. I cannot already wait until the third annual Montclair Food and Wine Festival in 2014, I know it will be even bigger and better than this years!
ReCap of the GALA CHEFS 2014
Chef Mitchell Altholz, Highlawn Pavilion
Chef Floyd Cardoz, Winner of Top Chef Masters
Chef Michael Carrino, Pig & Prince
Chef Ryan DePersio, Fascino, Battello, Nico
Chef Ariane Duarte, CulinAriane
Chef Francesco Palmieri, The Orange Squirrel
Wines and Beverage by Sharon Sevrens of Amanti Vino
Bios on the chefs: http://montclairfoodandwinefestival.org/chefs-2014/
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