Well I am still recovering from this one, but it was totally and utterly worth it.
The Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic is a really awesome Cincinnati event, that like any fine wine, just keeps getting better with age. And as evidenced by my Insta stories, Kenny and I were there to take full advantage of every bit of it. But doing each individual event (Friday night, Saturday day, and Saturday night) allowed us to really understand each of their own perks and worthwhile elements to gab about.
What I liked the most about Friday night was that it was a little bit more chill and casual, and I was really focused on the food. That night Kenny and I tasted nearly every offering, which was fun because the entire night had a theme competition – the grill invitational – therefore we were able to see who had the best grilled bite. With that, we sampled a lot of pork (in particular pork belly) but there were some definite standouts. To me, Pontiac’s burnt ends were unreal, as they were simply served with cold crisp apple bites. It was one of the last things I had but it stood out like crazy. Another personal favorite was a daikon radish pork belly “taco” from Out of Thyme. It was actually the first thing I had and it was hard to beat as I moved down the line.
So if you missed out on the event this year but are considering it in the future, know that Friday night is the night to go if you are into less of a crowd, and some good causal eating and drinking.
Kenny and I were lucky enough to have VIP tickets, which granted us access to the Everybody’s Happy Hour kickoff in the VIP tent on Friday night, where we were treated to concoctions by the Cincinnati cocktail celebrities Molly Wellman and Mike Stankovich. I drank Mike’s Wild Child to start the night, and Kenny dabbled in Molly’s bourbon option. Both were dead serious, dead serious delicious, and quite the way to get the party started.
Being able to hang in the tent that night was definitely fun, but I would say it was most worth it during the Saturday day event. Like Friday night, the Saturday day was on the much more laid back side, as it was more about demonstrations and the new up and comers. We did bounce around of course, but we actually took up residence in the VIP tent for most of the afternoon. Being able to just sit down and enjoy some time, while casually drinking and bearing witness to an awesome Napa Cab Sauv demo and tasting made that additional VIP perk totally worth it.
One of the most exciting parts was the giant grill pit. This thing was cooking all day and night, and it was operated by the city’s best, most noteably Daniel Wright (of Abigail Street, Senate, and Pontiac). Here you were able to just walk up and try a piece of grilled meat – and it was anything from chicken, to pork, to salmon. We visited it multiple times each time we were there, just to see what was new and happening. It was definitely a sight to behold and one that was just really fun and impressive.
But the big night is really Saturday night. The Grand Tasting in the Park is where nearly every restaurant you know and love shows up and turns out something awesome to try. The crowd was much bigger, so while there were lines, there was definitely an energy that made it feel like a major happening event. If you are only going to do one part, this is the part to do, especially if you are looking to eat and drink to your heart’s content with tons of people who come out to celebrate this city and region’s culinary and wine scene. We celebrated that night with friends and family, so we totally enjoyed ourselves and the company, while also making our way around to it all.
So not surprisingly, this was a big weekend in town that really did me in, but for a girl who loves to go out and try artfully tasty food, and drink wine and fun specialty cocktails, this had all the makings of one hell of a weekend. I’m already looking forward to next year.