A Story Behind A First-of-a-Kind Competition: The Edible Texas Wine and Food Pairing Competition

From the file: Be Careful What Your Brainstorm!

A Story Behind A First-of-a-Kind Competition: The Edible Texas Wine and Food Pairing Competition

…and Recent Announcements from Competition Headquarters

I remember exchanging comments with Chef and cookbook author Terry Thompson-Anderson about the need to build a stronger bond between Texas wine and the Texas cuisine it often accompanies. I was thinking out loud about an idea for a Texas wine and food pairing competition. We agreed that it would be an interesting event and then we just let the idea go, or so I thought.

I guess what followed could be filed in a drawer marked “Be Careful What You Brainstorm” that comes right before the infamous “Be Careful What You Wish For”.

A few months later, I received a follow-up communication from Terry saying that she discussed the idea of a wine and food pairing competition with her friend Marla Camp publisher of Edible Austin. Terry related that Marla loved the idea to the point that she wanted to do it. Her next comment was “Was I interested in helping?

Terry’s next questions were “Has anyone every done this before? Is there a set of criteria for judging such a competition?” My response was that I frankly didn’t know so I set out to find out and was surprised at what I found, or more appropriately, what I didn’t find.

When I searched the Internet, I noted that there have been only limited forays into the world of competitions pertaining to wine paired with food. They’ve been generally related to small bites served with wine, a single esoteric wine varietal type like Sherry, or simple sip and stroll events. There was nothing that I could find that at all came close to what Marla and Terry were organizing. They were thinking big! An event that involved submission of a formal application complete with a “Mission Statement” and a complete menu for a full three course meal with a different wine accompanying each course. I remember thinking, “Marla and Terry really set the bar high on this one, didn’t they.”

Furthermore, when trying to find judging criteria, the space was equally devoid of experience. I even contacted known luminaries in the fields of wine and wine and food pairing, and prestigious institutions like The Culinary Institute of America at Graystone. However, they responded that they knew of nothing in a format usable for a competition judging.

Since Marla and Terry were already running a hundred miles an hour to get the Edible Texas Wine and Food Pairing Competition started based on what I considered a feeble brainstorm on my part, I felt obligated to generate the judging criteria. Thank goodness I’m a pack rat of sorts when it comes to electronic media from my past. I’ve got in some form nearly ever document I’ve generated on wine and food over the past fifteen years. Example: Pairing BBQ wood smoke with food and wine, and an herb and wine pairing sheet.

In preparation for a hands-on course on wine and food pairing that I gave in the late-1990’s, I developed  a set of criteria for evaluating wine and food pairing. The guidelines that I developed back then were used by the course attendees to evaluate their wine and food creations versus others in a moment of good matured and lighthearted competition. Little did I know that years, no a decade later, I’d have to dig them up again for a formal event like Marla and Terry envisioned.

The only problem was that I couldn’t find my criteria in the pile of external hard drives, Zip-drives and other formats that I’ve squirreled away since that time. I still have a box of  miscellaneous floppy disks with no way to easily access the information on them. This was likely where the information I sought resided in a quiet, peaceful sleep, perhaps for all time.

So, as a last resort, I had to deal with my “memory-of-last-resort”: the one located inside my brain.

To shorten my story that has already gotten far to lengthy, here is what I came up with from memory:

My Five Criteria for Judging a Wine and Food Pairing Competition (each graded on a five point scale (1-5 with 5 being the best), see below.

1. Wine/food balance (intensity of flavors/aromas)

2. Wine/food complimentary (synergy or interplay of food element(s) and wine)

3. Wine/food integration (utilization of similar aroma/flavor/tactile characteristics in food and wine)

4. Wine/food creativity (new combination or fusion)

5. Wine/food overall (meets stated intent as described in a pairing mission statement)

Since I hate working in a vacuum, I’ve continued to search, but have not yet found anything better. I guess that we are ready to go… Let the wine and food pairing begin!

— — — — —

Recent Announcement from the Edible Texas Wine and Food Competition

Deadline for Entries has been extended to March 15. Please Click here to download updated entry form and competition rules.

The Contestants Operation must be a member of the GoTexan restaurant program to be eligible. The cost for membership is $25 and helps the Texas Department of Agriculture promote the Texas food and wine industries. Click here for information on joining the program.

The Final, On-Site Judging will be by a panel of national celebrities from the food and wine industries, featuring Jacques Pépin and Francois Dionot. Final judges panel will be announced on March 1. The live competition taste-off  is an official Optional Event during the 2011 International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Annual Conference and will include well-known regional and national media guests.Proceeds will benefit the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA).

The Five Finalists will prepare their three-course menu to serve tasting portions to 150 guests on-site.  Servers will be provided by the competition and assistance will be provided for sourcing donated or at-cost ingredients. Significant cash and other prizes will be awarded.

Preliminary Judges Panel Announced! 16 Texas’ top food and wine professionals are confirmed for the round of judging that will reveal 5 finalists for the competition event on June 3. They are also invited guests at the competition event: Brenda Audino, Twin Liquors Fine Wine & Spirits; Devon Broglie, Advanced Sommelier and Whole Foods Market Southwest Regional Specialty Team; Doug Clark, CSW, Representative for On Premise Wine Division, Republic National Distributing Company; Alison Cook, Houston Chronicle;Bear Dalton, Spec’s fine wine buyer and My Table magazine’s wine and spirits editor; John Griffin, editor, co-founder SavorSA;Mary Martini, director, Central Market Cooking School; Jane Nickles, WineSpeak101; Tanji Patton, Good Taste with Tanji; Monica Pope, chef/owner, t’afia; John Roenigk, Austin Wine Merchant; Pat Sharpe, food editor, Texas Monthly; Ron Smith, food writer and radio talk show host for FM 106.7 Talk Radio in San Antonio; Renie Steves, Cuisine Concepts; Bonnie Walker, food writer and co-founder SavorSA; and Barbara Werley, Master Sommelier, Pappas Bros.

Background: The Central Texas regional segment of the Edible Texas Wine and Food Pairing Competition, produced by Edible Austin magazine and The Texas Food and Wine Gourmet will be hosted at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin during the 2011 International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Annual Conference on Friday, June 3.

This is the First of Four Annual Regional Competitions planned whose mission is to encourage the use of Texas wine and food products, raise the bar for excellence in Texas winemaking and provide a platform for Texas wine and winemakers to receive recognition and reach a broader audience.

The Competition is Open to Any Central Texas Restaurant (mobile or brick and mortar) or catering company, but you may use any Texas appellation wines.

To Enter the Competition, please complete the official entry form, prepare your menu with wine pairings, write the recipes and submit them. Submission information is listed on the Competition Rules. Deadline for entering the competition is March 15, 2011. Finalists will be notified by April 1, 2011.

Click here to download entry form and competition rules. Good luck!

For questions, please contact Marla Camp by email or phone: 512-441-3971.

And find and follow the upcoming competition on Facebook and Twitter!

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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.

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