What a good, good weekend. I spent both nights at the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic, sampling tastings from the culinary elite and sipping my fair share of vino. For a girl who believes we should go to work so that we can then go out to eat, this was the weekend of all weekends.
But now I have a little bit of a problem…I don’t know where to begin! Each night was different, yet similar, and since I tried so many things, I am struggling with a succinct way to describe it all to you. There were stand outs, there were bold moves, there were surprises, and I fear I won’t be able to do it all justice. I am a food writer and I am nervous that I am just going to end up with a bullet point list that simply says had an oyster with bacon on it, so good! But I’ll try.
Let’s start here. Friday night’s marquee event was the Pork Chopped Grand Tasting, where each chef was tasked to create a pork-inspired dish for a competition judged by national food writers, as well as the crowd. At this point, much of what I tried is running together, but I can say I voted for Renee Schuler’s Eat Well dish. I also remember Paul Barraco of 20 Brix‘s pork meatball as a tasty front runner as well. I’ve always said I could be a vegetarian if it wasn’t for pork, so if I would compare the two nights, this night won on the savory front.
Saturday’s event was the Feast in the Park Grand Tasting. This night was all about the top chefs bringing their top game. My sister-in-law and I started out with an aggressive first move. We went straight to Todd Kelly of Orchids at Palm Court and were given sweetbreads. Having never tried them before, but knowing what they are, there was a hilarious moment of well let’s just do this. And honestly, they were not bad! We then unknowingly followed that with Jose Salazar of Salazar‘s octopus. I’m obviously not afraid to try anything and I’ve had octopus before but I know I don’t like the texture. I gave it a chance though because we heard Salazar was a must, but I can report I still don’t like the texture.
From there we basically moved on to sweets, which to me, won the night. Jeremy Lieb of Boca was serving mini cones of pistachio ice cream, hand-dipped in chocolate ganache and Megan Ketover of Orchids at Palm Court had the most ridiculous chocolate cake. It was served on a plate that was covered with some kind of vanilla icing. I need to stop right now because I am not doing it justice. Megan is the top pastry chef in Cincinnati and it is ridiculous that all I can say is that I loved her chocolate and vanilla thing…it was so much more elite than that! I’ve failed you guys on this one.
But what was my favorite thing I had all weekend? The carrot and coconut soup from Joshua Dalton of Veritas Tavern. This was the one dish that I kept thinking about. It was just so creamy and flavorful and balanced and rich. Now Veritas Tavern is in Delaware, Ohio, but this soup would be worth the two-hour drive north.
The whole weekend was as legitimate as you can image. The set up was stunning, the chefs were welcoming and entertaining, the patrons were excited and friendly, and all in all, it was awesome. This was only the second year for the event, but it is bound to put Cincinnati on the culinary map for years to come.