Saturday, December 4, 2010

North Florida Wine & Food Festival - Grand Tasting

The last evening of the North Florida Wine & Food Festival was quite a sight to behold. Hundreds of participants crammed into the elegant ballroom to savor dozens of wines and aperitifs from local vendors.

One of the head chefs, Greg Fountain, at the University Club Center even showcased his food sculpting techniques to commemorate the event.

I was able to savor cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy before I visited their farm for the first time on the New Leaf Annual Farm Tour. The richness and earthiness of their soft cheeses is still some of my favorite from the area.

Bacon wrapped steak was a popular item from a local restaurant, although I opted to look and not touch.

This tasty bite was a creation of local students, like an open faced taco salad.

However, one of my favorites was this vegetable mixture in phyllo dough from Mozaik. The taste was complex, but light and airy. I went back for seconds...and thirds.

Several vendors showcased regional bayou tastes, like this Shrimp Bisque, which was my preference of the lot. The seafood flavor was mild and melded well with the creamy broth and vegetables.

But let us not forget the star of the evening - the wines.

I sipped on many throughout the evening, but one of my favorites was this Jermann Pinot Grigio. An elegant wine that had a clear taste from its balance between the grapes and the northern Italian soil. I wish I had found it earlier in the evening so I was able to savor more than half a glass, as I discovered it just before the last bottle was poured.

And my favorite appetizer pairing of the evening was again from the University Club Center. The double seafood cocktails and open truffle danced on my palate and warmed my soul. I was happily surprised by this trio.

However, my heart truly belongs to Cluster's & Hops - a local French food specialty shop and restaurant. I have been purchasing items at this shoppe for years to supply unique and uncommon ingredients when I prepare foreign recipes. The owner, Kent, and his staff have always been helpful and I highly recommend them. I was thrilled to see them featured and so happy to see he recognized me in the crowd. His ostrich medallions just melt in your mouth and had a rich, savory chutney to accompany it. Perfection.

And he's one of the only people that can prepare duck and I enjoy it. Usually duck is too gamey for my palate, but his cooking methods make it a pleasurably savory dish to enjoy.

The top dessert in my opinion was this Guava Cheesecake by Sage. It. Is. Breathtaking. I ate more pieces than I am willing to I lost count.

Thus ends the four day wine and food festival in Tallahassee, FL. (Day 3 was a golf tournament, which was fun and laid back, but I doubt anyone really wants to look at photos of fancy wine bottles in the grass on a food blog.) I had an amazing time covering my first food festival, and learned a plethora of information about local vendors, wines, foods, and photography. Thank you very much to Dr. Bonn and Brianne at FSU's Dedman School of Hospitality for allowing me to attend and cover all their events. Everyone was such a pleasure to be around and made me feel welcome the entire time. I was able to experience some very talented chefs, wine conosurs, and students during the festival who really showcased the variety of talent Tallahassee has to offer. I was glad to see a great showing of organic dishes and an emphasis on locally sourced foods. If you're ever in the area, please take a moment to enjoy some of these delicious eats.


  1. I love events like this, but I gotta tell ya, when I lived in Tallahassee there was nothing near this cool going on in the food world there. Yea Florida! GREG

  2. Wow, look at all those tasty bites. I bet I would have loved the guava cheesecake too...yum! Hope you enjoyed yourself! Sounds like a fabulous event!