This past weekend marked the second annual Montclair Food and Wine Festival. I happened to be one of the lucky attendees of two of the events they hosted over the 3 day occasion. It was my first big event that I was invited to as press to cover the activities. I connected with the creator of the Montclair Food and Wine Festival, Melody Kettle, who graciously supported my blog’s venture to bring all of you great food stories and she invited me to attend.
The first event of the Festival was the Grand Tasting which took place at the Montclair Art Museum. What a whirlwind event this was. Upon entering we were provided with our complimentary wine glass for the evening. This would be used to sample all the wines (and there were A LOT) provided my Gary’s Marketplace. Restaurants from across Morris and Essex Counties had tasting tables set up to highlight their restaurant’s food and/or drinks. The band, 3rd Valve, livened the room with musical entertainment and the museum was filled with what seemed to be a couple hundred festival goers. There was also a silent auction to oogle over that included graciously donated items from local businesses. The weekend’s profits were to benefit St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
As overwhelming as the crowd was, the food was just as awe-inspiring. While I am a very frequent restaurant patron in the Morristown area, Montclair (while just a short drive away) is a whole new ball park to me. It was exciting to experience entirely unfamiliar eateries, cuisines (for instance, Ethiopian) and dishes. It sparked some wanderlust to get over to that area to try some of the restaurants (I realize the tactic of this festival worked on me…I’ll be a Montclair visitor very soon).
There were 30 different companies marketing their food and beverage goodies (all of which were free for the sampling at the Grand Tasting). I’m not sure if I should be proud or slightly embarrassed to say that I managed to sample from all but about 2 of these stations. Even if it was just one bite I wanted to try all that the festival had to offer. (If you are wondering, yes I went home with a belly ache but; it was well worth it). One of the honor roll tables for me was Tia’s Food of Love. Their table was elaborate with beautiful floral garnishes and decor and the food was outstanding. They had one of the largest varieties of samples and everything that I tasted was mouthwatering. Don’t even get me started on their spiked strawberry lemonade…it was dangerously good. The only problem with Tia’s Food of Love being my favorite stand is that they are a caterer. I need to come up with an event, and quick , to have them bring me more of their fabulous food! Other stand outs included the macarons from Asalt and Buttery Bakeshop, the oysters from Fin Restaurant, and the custom drink from NJ’s only Distillery, Jersey Artisan Distilling paired with the Blue J Syrups. I can’t forget to mention Millie’s Meatballs which I have eaten at a handful of times. They were the only Morristown restaurant present for the evening but they represented our town well!
Overall, the evening was a night of firsts, but definitely not lasts. It was a great introduction to the local cuisine that the Montclair area has to offer.
On the second day of the festival there were 4 food focused seminars. I set my sights on attending the Aquaculture: Consider the Oyster and the Clam seminar. The other sessions sounded engaging as well but the oyster topic captured my attention as something I really wanted to learn more about. Prior to this seminar, I could count the number of oysters I had tried on less than 2 hands.
The panel that headed the seminar up was very impressive: Eric Levin, the editor of New Jersey Monthly; Chris Cannon, acclaimed restaurateur, Gef Flimlin, a Professor and Marine Extension Agent with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and Matt Greg of Forty North Oyster Farms. The knowledge the group had was palpable and they really dove deep into everything from the background of our local aquaculture to how to eat and pair oysters. The session was interactive, smart and delicious (Well, I’m working my way up to thinking oysters are delicious but I can say I’m learning the acquired taste!).
The festival ended out on the third day with a 5 course Gala dinner that highlights 5 renowned local chefs. Unfortunately, I was not a part of this portion of the Festival this year but, I can only hope next year that I can attend what was surely a one of a kind experience.
This weekend was such a testament to the local food culture. Not only does did it bring many of the neighborhood eateries together to showcase their efforts but it also gathers all us food enthusiasts into one spot. I can honestly say that we foodies are such a fun community. Julia Child said it perfectly ” People who love to eat are always the best people”. We’re always happy (What’s not to be happy about when you are eating great food!).
For all of you who reading who are interested in attending this event; be sure to mark down the Montclair Food and Wine website http://montclairfoodandwinefestival.org/ so you can sign up for next year’s festivities. I’m sure it will come back bigger and better the next time around!
You can also follow the Festival on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Montclair-Food-and-Wine-Festival) and Twitter (@MontclairFW) to look at photos from this year’s event and get updates for next year.
…all for the love of the dish!