Food & Wine Classic Under the tent: The heat is on |

Food & Wine Classic Under the tent: The heat is on

Kelly J. Hayes

Friday was perhaps the hottest day ever under the tents at the Food & Wine Classic. And my favorite place to get a drink was the San Pellegrino sparkling water booth at the front of the courtyard. Yes, the wine flowed like water, but with temps in the high 80s, it was real water that I craved.

In years past at the Classic, the Best New Chefs were feted all together at an evening event at the Hotel Jerome. While it was great to see them all in one place, it became a bit overwhelming to try and taste the food of 10 chefs and to negotiate the crowds. The folks at Food & Wine have come up with a great solution to the problem by setting up a special area in the tents where the chefs could prepare small plates at each of the Grand Tastings. So now there is a much simpler, more intimate opportunity to easily meet and greet the chefs and taste their food.

Today, you can sample the cuisine of Seattle’s Zoi Antonitsas from Westward and Carlos Salgado from Taco Maria in Costa Mesa, California, at the early Grand Tasting. Johnathan Brooks from Milktooth in Indianapolis and Jake Bickelhaupt of Chicago’s 42 Grams will prepare food from their restaurants later in the day at the second tasting.

The format also has allowed a unique partnership to flourish between the chefs and vintner Kendall-Jackson who has signed on to be the exclusive wine of the Best New Chefs tastings. “K.J.,” as those in the industry call Kendall-Jackson, is introducing two levels of their wines, the Jackson Estates and the Jackson Estate Appellation series of wines.

I’m particularly looking forward to trying the Scallop Aguachile with Cucumber, Serrano, Hoja Santa and Squid Ink from Salgado with the Jackson Estate Chardonnay from the Camelot Highlands.

Saturday marks the mid-point of the Classic, and it’s the time to throw caution to the wind and get in a little cocktailing. One of the great activations at the Classic has been executed by the local boys from Woody Creek Distillers. The vodka, distilled in the Basalt Design Center from potatoes that are grown on Pat Scanlan’s Woody Creek Farm, was named Best of Show at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year, and the brand is blowing up.

Sean Kenyon, who won the title of “American Bartender of the Year” this past year at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, has joined the team as Brand Ambassador for Woody Creek Distillers and is on site at their booth. At the first Grand Tasting, he will be behind the bar as a trio of cocktails are made, each from a different Woody Creek spirit. Try a Woody Creek Mountain Mule made with the Woody Creek Rye, the G Zone Gimlet with the just-released Woody Creek Gin, and/or The Roaring Fork, which uses the original Woody Creek Vodka. If you live here and can’t make it to the booth be sure to head down for a cocktail at the distillery.

Speaking of new and improved, one of the best changes under the tent this year is the inclusion of the Grateful Bread Company. For years the worst thing under the tent was the semi-stale French bread. This year, the family bakery based in Denver has upped the game dramatically. Yeasty flavorful and delicious, the cheeses and butter products all benefit from this change.

There you have it, bread and water. Hey, the basics are the most important things.