Cooking demos, wine tastings highlight s annual Wine & Food Festival

Cooking demos, wine tastings highlight s annual Wine & Food Festival

Naomi R. Kooker

STRATTON, VT. — White descended on green as chefs clad in their crisp whites brightened the base of Stratton Mountain during the KitchenAid Vermont Wine & Food Festival, held here Aug. 11-13.

The festival, in its fourth year, featured some of the country’s top wine instructors and chefs, who presented more than 20 cooking demonstrations and 45 wine seminars to the public. About 1,500 people from across the United States flocked to the festival, nearly doubling the size of last year’s attendance.

Many of the chefs arrived with their families, ready to work and enjoy Stratton’s surroundings. A Friday golf “tournament” gave way to a welcome lobster dinner at a Stratton Village pub Friday night.

Among the chefs in attendance were Todd English of Olives, Figs, and his latest restaurant, Kingfish Hall, all in Boston; Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger, Wellesley, Mass.; Michael Schlow and pastry chef Paul Connors of Radius, Boston; Takashi Yagahashi of Tribute, Mich.; Jimmy Sneed of The Frog and the Red Neck, Richmond, Va.; and Kirk Avondoglio of Perona Farms, in New Jersey. A panel of wine presenters included Mary Ewing-Mulligan, who is affiliated with the International Wine Center in New York and writes for NRN.

A grand tasting tent, featuring more than 250 different wines, specialty foods and area restaurants was open to the attendees throughout the weekend.

The area behind the scenes heated up as chefs, their assistants and volunteer students from Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School navigated the Stratton commissary kitchen to prepare for the event’s Celebration of Chefs dinner and demos. Pancake aromas emanated from Avondoglio’s corn blinis, which he served with smoked salmon and creme fraiche. Yagahashi served tempura zucchini blossoms stuffed with a lobster-and-shrimp mousse, and Connors made a hit dessert with his basmati rice pudding infused with fresh vanilla beans, elephant heart plum soup, mango and toasted baby coconuts.

After serving their cuisine at the sold-out dinner, the chefs gathered to sup on their own leftovers, including grilled steaks, ribs, and fresh com.

The weekend concluded with cooking demos and a panel discussion in which chefs shared “confidential” horror stories that broke up the audience — and themselves — with laughter.

Michael Ginor, president of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and honorary co-chairman of the event, said the festival has been progressively successful through the years. “These are always works in progress,” he said. “It takes years, at least five, before an event takes shape and becomes a sort of cornerstone event.”

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