Jun 062011
 

Texas Locavore Meets Locapour: Chef David Garrido Wins the First Edible Texas Wine Food Match

After many months of planning since the idea for this first-ever wine-food pairing competition was hatched in my telephone conversation with Chef Terry Thompson-Anderson (The Texas Food and Wine Gourmet), last Friday evening started with a thought that just wouldn’t leave my mind as the Edible Texas Food Wine Match started to unfold at the AT&T Executive Education Conference Center in Austin, Texas.

Over the past months, I tried to find other wine and food pairing competitions, but  only found walk around, “best-bite” festivities that gave each chef one course and one wine, and a wine-food competition that focused on pairing only Sherry with food. As I waited for the event to start, I figured we would possibly find out why nobody in the annals of gastronomy and wine had ever attempted such a grand contest.

However, in a mere three hours what seemed to be a daunting task, ended successfully and gloriously with the near unanimous selection of Chef David Garrido from his namesake Garrido’s Restaurant in Austin as the event’s first champion. He and his culinary team were selected first place wine-food pairing winners by the panel of luminary judges, and they were also honored by the vote of the attendees as the People’s Choice. First runner up was Chef Patrick James Edwards, of Bin 555 in San Antonio.

A True Gladiatorial Contest of Wine and Food Pairing

To understand my mental state as the evening began let me rewind. At 7 pm, we had the five chef finalists who were picked from over 30 chefs that entered the preliminary round of judging. Each of the contestant chefs submitted in writing a wine-food mission statement, menu, recipes, list of local ingredients and list of local Texas wines to be paired with each of their three courses. The five chef finalists were not working on paper any more, but in the reality of kitchen rush. With their teams, the chefs were  readying their three-course creations that would soon be paired with their selection of three Texas appellation wines.

It was a true gladiatorial contest of “Locavore” meets “Locapour” and I told the crowd as much when called upon to speak. The sum total of the event that made me rethink the sanity of our earlier telephonic brainstorm was obvious in the numbers:

  • 5 chefs x 3 courses = 15 courses and then
  • 15 accompanying wines (from 8 Texas wineries)
  • 5 luminary chef judges from the world of American and international cuisine, and
  • 150 competition attendees, each awaiting their 15 extraordinary portions of paired food and wine.

If you stop and think for a second, you will see the magnitude of the numbers that were going through my obviously mad, mad, crazily mad mind: 150 attendees x 15 wine paired food courses = 2,250 presentations of food and wine all within the short time allotted for this three-hour event.

Who’s Who of Texas Food and Wine

The program for the Edible Texas Wine Food Match read like a who’s who from start to finish:

Contestant Chef Finalists (in order of presentation/from Texas Hill Country): Kelly Casey (Hudson’s on the Bend, Austin), Josh Raymer (Navajo Grill, Fredericksburg), David Garrido (Garrido’s, Austin), Patrick James Edwards (Bin 555, San Antonio), Peter Smith (JW Marriott Hill Country Resort, San Antonio).

Paired Texas Wines (selected from aTexas Appellations): Becker Vineyards, Fall Creek Vineyard, Flat Creek Estate, Inwood Estates Vineyards, Messina Hof Winery and Resort, Perissos Vineyard and Winery, Sister Creek Vineyards, and Stone House Vineyard.

The Luminary Judges included Jacques Pepin (chef, author, TV celebrity, educator), John Besh (chef, restaurateur, author, TV celebrity), Francois Dionot (founder and director of L’Academie de Cuisine), Paula Lambert (author, founder Mozzarella Company), Michael Bauer (food/wine editor San Francisco Chronicle); People’s Choice – all attendees.

Masters of Ceremonies were Jack Gilmore (chef, restaurateur, owner Jack Allen’s Kitchen) and Tanji Patton (Emmy-winning journalist, producer Good Taste with Tanji).

Sponsors were AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center (and The Carillon), Salt Lick and Trattoria Lisina: The Driftwood Experience ($5000 Grand Prize), Whole Foods Market, Greenling Organic Delivery, GO TEXAN, Glazer’s Distributing, Wines Across Texas, Andy Sams Photography, Montesino Farm and Ranch.

Organizers of Edible Texas Wine Food Match were Marla Camp, Edible Austin and Terry Thompson-Anderson, The Texas Food and Wine Gourmet, supported by their advisory committee.

With amazing grace, the courses started to appear before us. The wine was chilled, opened and served with professional flair by Guy Stout M.S. and his cadre of Sommeliers. From this point, the evening was a collage of sensual aromas, tastes and tactile experiences.

As I look back at my notes and the photos of the event, I realize what true wine and food pairing is all about. It’s really quite simple and can be summarized in the non-rigorous mathematical equation:

1 + 1 = 3, 4 or sometimes 5.

Tasted separately, each food preparation and each wine were singularly delightful, not a flaw in any of them. But, at times certain aspects of a preparation and the essence of a wine clicked in combination, launching what seemed to be an exploding skyrocket of sensual energy. Each chef demonstrated at least one and sometimes two courses that reached this level of wine-food pairing achievement. As the event unfolded, it was obvious how hard it would be for a chef to win this Edible Texas wine and food competition: all three pairings would have to be stellar: no doubt about it.

The following are examples of the evening’s wine-food matches that caught my attention:

  • Chef Kelly Casey’s Hopelessly Blue Cheesecake in a Pecan Crust paired with Stone House Vineyards Scheming Beagle Port 2006 (a tawny Texas port is made for Texas pecans)
  • Chef Josh Raymer’s Fredericksburg Market Salad with Pickled Peaches (who pickles peaches?), Herb-Roasted Beets, Mixed Lettuces and Texas Goat Cheese paired with Perissos Vineyard’s Viognier (the ripe Texas peaches and the heady and very ripe Viognier wine were a delight to experience), and oh yes, his prosciutto wrapped quail from Texas Quail Farms was perhaps THE BEST and biggest quail that I ever eat, washed down with another Perissos Vineyard’s creation, their Petite Sirah.
  • Chef Garrido’s three preparations came to the night’s competition working on all of its food and wine “cylinders”. The creativity, interplay and fento clinch the competition: 1st Course – Crispy Oyster with Habanero Honey Aioli and Pico de Gallo paired with Fall Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc (flavor meets tactile meets aroma with a wine match that I didn ‘t think would work, but IT DID!), 2nd Course – Coffee Chipotle Marinated Beef Tenderloin with Red Beet and Black Truffle Sauce paired with Fall Creek Meritus red Bourdeaux-style blend (both food and wine offered deep, dark and complimentary characteristics), 3rd Course – Pastel de Calabaza (squash tart) with Lemon Crema and Caramelized Pecans paired with Sister Creek Vineyards Muscat Canelli with its slight effervescence (neither over powered the other but combined to exemplify the whole concept of one plus one can actually equal three or four.
  • Chef Patrick James Edwards came up with what I felt was the possibly the best pairing of the evening with his Crudo of Gulf Coast Grouper with Cured Poteet Strawberries, Shaved Texas Onions, Jalapeno and fennel pollen paired with Becker Vineyards Provençal Rosé. This combination is really impossible to define in words, but the closest it are “complexity” and “interplay”. I tasted the food and wine separately, and they are great. However, when I taste them together, they were like heaven on Earth. The soft flavors of the raw grouper accented by the strawberries paired one for one with the light floral and strawberry essence in the wine. Then, the whole food-wine experience detonated on my palate. The onion and touch of jalapeno drew even more flavor from the wine (sounds crazy, I know!). By the second bite of the food and a taste of the wine, it turned into and early Forth of July celebration. Then, Chef Edwards finished his preparation with his “Grapefruit Dreamsicle” paired with the Becker Vineyards Clementine (late harvest Viognier). The wine carried sweet honeysuckle on the nose with a bare nuance of citrus with an the zesty quality of grapefruit. Yet, when tasted together with the Dreamsicle, citrus played on citrus and the zest evolved into a dominant essence of sweet ruby red grapefruit.

  • Chef Peter Smith had me reeling with his second course Sous Vide Beeman Family Ranch Akaushi Beef Loin with Parsnip and Cauliflower Mousse, Brazos Horseradish and Cheddar Gnocchi, Texas Pride Mushroom “Soil” and Candied Texas Olive Oil Powder paired with Flat Creek Estate Syrah. The whole concept of “soil”, a powdery brown substance, looked like the real thing, but combined with the olive oil powder produced a wonderful earthy herbal aroma and flavor that entangled the beef loin and combined with the natural earthiness and herbaceousness of Syrah.

Locapour (the appreciation of locally produced wines), which has been largely unacknowledged by the Locavore movement across America, gained an equal footing last Friday evening in Austin, Texas. Ed Auler of Fall Creek Vineyard said it best when he addressed the attendees and said that the Edible Texas Wine Food Match Austin made a First in the food and wine scene. I agree with Ed and believe that it’s high time for Locavore to meet Locapour and become best of friends.

How Can We Possibly Do Better than This?

I’m already waiting to start planning next year’s Edible Texas’s next wine food match event that will focus on the cuisine from another region of Texas and the Wines of Texas. Keep an eye on the Edible Texas Wine Food Match website for further details.

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