Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Taste of WGBH" Food and Wine Festival - eating and drinking in the name of public radio

What better place to launch the food side of
90 Seconds and Velvet than with a review of the first annual Taste of WGBH Food & Wine Festival? Or, to be truthful, the Saturday 12-3 session of the Artisan Tasting (one small piece of this incredible weekend of eating and drinking in the name of public radio and sustainable food sourcing at the gourmet level.)The tickets were a birthday gift from my husband and a testament to me being the smartest woman in the world for marrying "This Guy". After 14 years together, I finally have him fully trained (just kidding honey) to listen with rapt attention to me every word, and to dote on me with lavish gifts of food and culture.Actually, he just knows me. I am a foodie, and a crunchy one, right down to the UVM alum sweatshirt, the hybrid, an addiction to Trader Joe's that probably funds a few salaried positions, and a bookcase split in equal parts classics, sci fi, travel guides and cookbooks. He even bought them through the radio station on a matching day. So his $100 got us three hours of tasting with the best of Boston's farm-to-table restaurants, enough wine to stun Bacchus himself and double the public radio.  This was the ultimate marital get out of jail free card for "This Guy", good till Christmas.

Parking was included (sweet), and ticket holders and passersby were welcomed into parking lot come allee' Farmer's Market abuzz with shoppers and live, jammy acoustic bluegrass..  A table outside the tasting tent sold WGBH memberships, event tshirts and nifty canvas shopping bags for carrying your loot both inside the event and outside, when you picked up some of the treats you'd tasted under the tent. Whoever rolled this plan out did it with a real eye for the details. 

Unexpectedly, yet truthfully not hard to believe, we ran into some fellow foodie friends at the entrance to the tent - which translates into more patient-because-in-the-company-of-dudes husband time while wives chat and mill. It also meant triple the number of people tasting and running back to exclaim ," you have to try... ".
The WGBH event staff handed out one wine glass per guest, to be rinsed at your will at abundant water stations. The heart of the tent was wine alley, with restaurants and retailers taking the right and left columns.  We established our strategy for maximum enjoyment - pick your food tasting and then go and PAIR it with the help of the wine reps. This not only worked in calling out the volunteers from the someliers,  but it made the whole experience that much more effective - and delicious.

The roll call of participating restaurants filled two pages in the event program, and the main stage offered hourly demonstrations with local celebrity chefs.  We rested our glasses and forks only once, to watch Barbara Lynch of Gruppo prepare a gorgeous, yet simple tomato tart after signing copies of her new book, "Stir".  Jokes were made all around at how little my crew knows of the new Hollywood and how much we know about the chefs we adore.  Cooking stars are my heroes.  Perhaps, someday there should be a Hollywood style star-walk, maybe in Chicago, the New Hollywood of food, I'm told, for the names of the "best in checks".

The wine flowed liberally and the sommeliers and reps spoke excitedly about their vineyards, their grapes, their commitment to green energy (Frog's Leap, in Napa, for example, is completely solar powered but boasts no language referencing their organic commitment on their bottles simply because "we've been doing organic since before organic was trendy". I love REAL environmentalists).

Table after table of friendly vintners, actual wine making family members and volunteers eagerly met our challenge of pairing whatever tasty nosh we'd scooped from the edible offerings with several options, even comparing similar varietals from their own portfolio and sharing, to dispel the concept of wine snobbery at the event, the better value for the buck within their own collection.

The Portuguese wines brought in by the folks at were probably the groups' "favorite collection", both for the unique flavors of this lesser known country in the wine making world, but also for the friendly and knowledgeable, funny rep who indulged us a laugh over the addition of Temranillo to one Portuguese varietal, made by Alete, we then re-named "Inquisition in a Bottle". It's not hard to imagine that this was one of the latter tastings of the day.

Favorites of the day included an amazing Asian inspired free range sirloin with onion relish from Longwood events, a sweet and spicy roasted red pepper bisque from Upstairs on the Square, Pete and Jerry's Heirlooms Egg custard with pear compote - made by the folks at community serving, an organization out of Jamaica Plain that delivers beautifilly presented meals to terminally ill shut ins and their families - giving nourishment and the joy of eating together back to families in crisis.
My personal "go back for seconds and thirds" choice - the "Street Taco" Great Bay Red Fish - with a spot on "tortilla" corn foam. In the wine category, the Silver Oak Vineyard collections wowwed me above all - and I was pretty much on "overwow" at that point.

Three hours of tasting, talking, comparing, listening, watching and supporting public radio later, our tasting was finished.  We had eaten food from around the city and sampled wines from around the world, learned a few things about some inspiring community programs and some innovative environmental initatives, all over free range sirloin and flourless chocolate cake. Giggly and a tad tipsy, we dropped our glasses, grabbed the latest issue of Edible Boston (that gem of a foodie - farmy magazine) and walked out into the sun, the Farmer's Market, the music and into a garage full of Priuses.

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