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Arts and Entertainment Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 9 years ago

Forks & Corks 2013: Showcasing Sarasota’s finest in style

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Congratulations to The Sarasota-Manatee Originals on their Sixth Annual Forks & Corks Wine and Food Festival which just concluded on Jan. 28, 2013. The annual epicurean event showcased sumptuous, diverse cuisine from over 50 member restaurants, paired alongside a worldwide cast of winemakers and wineries.

I must say this year’s Forks & Corks was the best yet! I had the opportunity to visit and participate in a number of the events over a four-day period. I would like to share some of my festival highlights.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

The premier event of the 2103 Forks & Corks was hosted by Suncoast Motorsports, one of the festival’s sponsors, on Thursday, Jan. 24. The evening was Caribbean-themed with steel drum music, Caribbean spiced shrimp, lobster rolls, oysters, chimichurri beef, and of course wine.With an outdoor space, tables interspersed amongst new Porches, Audis and VWs, the evening was set for a showcase event. While people were sipping some of the best-in-show wines, Suncoast Motorsports was displaying two new Porsche models for 2013, the Carrera S Coupe and the Panamara Platinum Edition. What a great way to kick-off a festival! High performance cars, top-end wine, gourmet food catered by Michael’s on East and great people. Forks & Corks 2013 was off and running.

Time for School

One of the primary components of festival is the Forks & Corks University. This year’s educational seminars were "A World of White," "Big, Red, and Beautiful," and "California Road Show." I chose the full-day seminar which combined the "World of White" and the "Big, Red, and Beautiful" seminars.

We started with the whites at 9:30 a.m., perhaps a little early to be drinking (but technically we only tasted); the glasses were filled with 11 different wines arranged in order of tasting. A panel convened, moderated by Master Sommelier Brian Koziol and comprised of six winemakers/representatives. Each member of the panel gave an overview of their winery, region and some tasting notes as the audience swirled, sniffed and sipped along.

The afternoon session of reds followed the same format as the morning session. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two sessions was the range of varietals. Since the afternoon seminar was focused on "big" and "beautiful" reds, the range of flavor was tight and nuanced between the wines, whereas the morning session provided a broader sample of varietals and styles.

For me, the Forks & Corks University was outstanding. The seminars were educational, informative, entertaining and most of all enjoyable. I was curious as to the level of prior wine knowledge required to make the seminar worthwhile. My assessment: These seminars are appropriate for a wide audience. The general information presented by the panel was perfect for the individual with limited knowledge but a desire to learn more; while the questions asked by some members of the audience were more technical. In other words, there was something to be gained by anyone with an interest in wine.

Recess

The morning and afternoon seminars were punctuated by a four-course Wine Luncheon hosted by Michael’s on East, with food and wine provided by festival participants. The menu was as follows:

First Course: Savory Street

Mini Crab Fritter and Cactus Salad with “Queso Blanco”

Mini Ceviche de Pescado

Mini Empanadas Argentinas

Wine: Elstree Cuvee Brut, Highfield

Second Course: Bijou Café

Seared Scallop with Chipotle Slaw Finished with Grilled Pineapple Relish

Wine: 2011 Riesling, Willamette Valley Vineyards

Third Course: Crow’s Nest

Root Beer Braised Short Ribs Served Over Cheesy Stone Ground Grits

Garnished with Pickled Vegetables

Wine: 2009 Syrah, Daniel Gehrs Wines

Dessert: Ceviche

Tres Leches - Famous Meringue Cake with Three Fresh Creams and Nutmeg

Wine: Quandy Elysium, Quandy Winery

Dinner is Served

A series of winemaker events were offered by Sarasota-Manatee Originals restaurants throughout the festival. I had the pleasure of attending the The Adelsheim and T-Vine Vineyards winemaker dinner, hosted by the Crow’s Nest with food pairings from Executive Chef Mike Leopold.

First Course

Maine Lobster Summer Roll

Rice noodles, herbs, pickled carrots, peanuts, sweet chili-mango dipping glaze

~ Pinot Gris, Adelsheim, Willamette Valley, Oregon  2011

Second Course 

Olive Oil Poached Monkfish

Saffron couscous, beet greens, pancetta, charred tomato broth

~ Auxerrois. Adelsheim, Willamette Valley, Oregon  2011

Third Course

Hazelnut/parsnip soup with fried parsnips and pomegranate seeds

~ Pinot Noir, Adelsheim, Willamette Valley, Oregon  2010

Fourth Course

Pan Roasted Duck Breast

Mascarpone polenta, roasted strawberries, caramelized shallot/sherry gastrique

~ Grenache, T-Vine, Calistoga-Napa Valley, California  2009

Fifth Course

Roasted Beef Tenderloin

Wild mushroom/chevre risotto, watercress puree, gaufrette potatoes

~Petit Sirah, T-Vine, Napa Valley, California  2009

Dessert

Salted creme caramel with macerated strawberry compote

~Pinot Noir, Adelsheim, Deglace, Oregon 2011

It has been said that both “food makes the wine taste better,” and “wine makes the food taste better.” I am not certain which statement is correct. However, my experience at this particular dinner makes me believe both are correct.The Grand Tasting

Imagine a clear, bright, cloudless, sunny warm day with temperatures in the mid-70s. Picture the magnificent courtyard of the world-renowned John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on such a day. Add tables, tents, food from 50 of the area’s finest restaurants, world-class wine from 100 wineries and 1,200 people, and you get a picture of the grandeur of the Grand Tasting.

Open to the public from noon to 4 p.m., this is a great social event where you can walk the venue, sample some of the fine wines, connect with friends and taste some food. It is all about discovery: new restaurants, new foods and new wines. Many of the wines are from “boutique” vineyards with limited production, and can be hard to find as a result. What makes the Grand Tasting so unique is the retail tent at the exit. There you can purchase any of the wines you tasted and not go home empty-handed.

This event is so popular all 1,200 tickets were sold in less than four hours!

Forks & Corks 2014

What better way to showcase Sarasota than with great weather, fine wine and great food? In six short years, the Sarasota-Manatee Originals have done an outstanding job in making Forks & Corks a world-class event. If you are interested in food, wine or dining, then this festival is a must-try for you!

Next year’s Forks & Corks Festival is scheduled for January 24-27, 2014. So mark your calendar ...

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