The Winefest That Was

By staff May 11, 2009

Fun and flavors at the Florida Winefest.


By Judi Gallagher


It is hard to believe that Florida Winefest has come and gone so quickly, but certainly not before some exquisite cuisine danced on our palates. There is just no way I can drink during the afternoon, so Winefest to me is as much about the food as it is about what is uncorked.


The Friday night gala of the Florida Winefest was changed last year- to resounding forks up—for a newer format at the Ritz-Carlton. This year continued that favorable flow, as chefs from various Ritz Carlton resorts and hotels from all over the world served impeccable cuisine ranging from Russian caviar to whole soft shell crab and Wagu short ribs.

                    Soft-shell crab at the Friday-night dinner.

Saturday, another day, another chance to eat wonderfully prepared fresh foods. I noted a clear pattern of fresh and simple. Both the Crow’s Nest and Ezra were serving spring pea vichyssoise, both light and flavorful and a perfect pairing for those indulging in a glass of bubbly. New this year to Winefest, Nancy’s BBQ was serving her melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork sandwiches, and judging by the lines at her station, it was a hit and a perfect pairing with a full-bodied cabernet. Bbq and big bold reds may be the new trend.



While the crowds were thinner with this challenging economy, Winefest will be announcing their grants within the next few weeks and no doubt our local charities will all be grateful for the ultimate pairing of food and wine and a great cause.


 My favorite event of the weekend was most definitely the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Dinner at the Vernona Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton.


First of all, you tell me Stag’s Leap, and I am there. Second, I had the great honor of Mr. Chatterbox himself, Bob Plunket, as my date. How could I go wrong? The dinner was a creative blend of interactive cooking via television sets throughout the dining room capturing Ritz-Carlton chefs from around the world plating the dishes and describing their ingredients. We tasted poached lobster and Dungeness crab with California avocado and citrus, vanilla bean vinaigrette and confit of suckling pig with corn and trotter beignet, to name a few.

                             My dinner date, Mr. Chatterbox.

One of my favorite comments of the night came from my dinner date. When he glanced at the menu and noticed a course listed as pre dessert- he clasped his hands with glee and asked, “So, does this mean there is a post dessert?” Yes, Bob, there really is a culinary Santa Claus and he lives at the Ritz Carlton.
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