This Connecticut based food festival took place last weekend and had a really awesome culinary line-up. We were invited to attend the Saturday event called the “Culinary Village”, where 90 of the Northeast’s food, wine, and spirit vendors would all setup booths inside a large open tent ready for sampling. We arrived after a short hour long train ride from Manhattan and were greeted by a picturesque day, complete with sunshine and a cool fall breeze, perfect for some of the fall inspired dishes and drinks. The main tent, and the first one we ventured into, consisted of several rows of the promised Northeast vendors showcasing their top-notch culinary bites and samples, with various wines, beers, and beverages being poured throughout. It was overwhelming in an awesome way, what with so much to choose from and taste.
As we made our way through the tent, we saw decent variety; from bacon popcorn to chicken tikka masala and bacon wrapped dates over sherry! One the crowd favorites was a play on a Cuban Sandwich, which was a flavor packed slider made with crispy head cheese from Oak + Almond. Head cheese, for those of you newer foodies out there, is basically meat-jelly made with the flesh from the head of a calf or pig, and yes, it does taste as awesome as it sounds! If the head cheese wasn’t enough adventurous eating, there was also a beef tongue crostini from The Spread that even managed to entice plenty of people to come back for seconds. Besides that, there were numerous restaurants serving up more traditional fall fare like butternut squash soup and pumpkin risotto. By hour two, the buttons on my pants began screaming for help, so a food break seemed necessary. Wandering about, we found our way over to the CT Bites food blogger tent.
In this tent they were doing their version of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” with all the different chefs participating in the event. Basically it was an interview with each chef and various bloggers were allowed to ask their own questions as well. Even if you aren’t a blogger, a stop over near this area is a nice break and you never know what you might learn. Some of the interviews ended up getting some interesting responses from the chefs and even gave you a glimpse into a chef’s life and some of the more personal situations they get into. After watching Graham Elliot’s awesome interview, it seemed time to head back over to the culinary village to grab a cocktail.
Besides the nice selection of wine tastings, we stumbled upon a few more unique drinks at this event. 300 Joules, a creamy, all natural liquor with flavors such as fresh ginger, lemon zest and cinnamon that was formulated by a retired cardiologist (and named for the voltage he would use to restart a heart after cardiac arrest) was one that stood out. One sip and it was a holiday in a glass. After the deliciously creamy liquor, we moved on to something a little lighter called Spiked Seltzer. It was a crisp, bubbly soda water spiked with alcohol and fresh lime that is created in much the same way as beer (minus the hops and wort). It was quite refreshing AND delightlfully alcoholic.
Besides cocktail/wine/food tastings, there we also food demonstrations going on in other tents on the grounds. We took a walk over to one of these tents to watch a live demo from Chef Duff Goldman (most popularly known for the TV show, “Ace of Cakes”). Not only was he informative (and showed us how to make a bacon bananas foster), but, perhaps more importantly, he was so entertaining and charismatic. Always sharing fun stories with the crowd, he even demonstrated his self-taught ability to Tuvan throat sing. Who does that?! Definitely one of the highlights of the day.
By the second half of the day we were still full, but the Greenwich Food and Wine festival had other plans. Lastly on the list was the burger battle. It wasn’t hard to find though because you could easily smell the burgers from across the park. With salivating mouths, we walked (or should I say waddled) into the burger tent where we were greeted by an awesome display of 11 burgers on a spike from Plan B Burger Bar. Now, even though there is a burger battle to be had, this event allowed anyone to come up and try all the burgers in the competition for themselves. From Plan B’s more traditional slider, to Shake Shack‘s burger with their special sauce (oh man, we love that stuff), to pork sliders (not technically a burger?!) from Dinosaur BBQ, to a ton of other competitors, there were some amazingly delicious entries. After sampling as many burgers as we could fit into our faces, we headed over to the conveniently positioned Half Full Brewery to wash it all down with their (apparently popular) pumpkin beer. We are not joking when we say it was one of the best pumpkin beers we’ve ever tried. Since the beer was being poured liberally, we decided this was a good spot to hang and wait for the judging to begin.
The judging began and all hell broke loose. There were celebrity judges such as Duff Goldman, Ray Lampe aka Dr. BBQ, Chef Michael Psilakis, Richard Blais, John Stage, Dale Talde, Graham Elliot, and others all sinking their teeth into each burger and talking about how awesome they were. At one point, they even threw burgers into the crowd! Eventually though a winner was declared and it was Plan B.
As the sun began to set and the crowd started to disperse, we decided we had eaten and drank everything on that 6.2 acre park and it was time for us to leave as well. From the wonderful dishes, to the heavy-handed drink pouring, to the burger battle, to the food demos and the chef interviews, the Greenwich Food and Wine Festival is an amazing time and the ticket prices are well worth it (they started at $125 for the experience we had). We got a full day of culinary bliss and got to meet some talented chefs, foodies and small business peeps. You can bet we’ll be heading back to Grand Central and onto that train northward to do it all over again next year. You should come.