Friday, October 17, 2014

Food and Wine Fest 2014: Round Four

Round Four was another unseasonably warm day (oh, who am I trying to kid? it was sticky hot), but I was back at it, plan in hand. I had kind of wandered aimlessly the first three times, and now that we're getting to the midway portion, I have to keep an eye on my list and attempt some kind of balance for the remaining rounds. I don't want to reach the end and be eating four desserts! Or ::gasp:: four savory dishes and *no* desserts.

Kicking off in...

NEW ZEALAND


Venison Sausage with Pickled Mushrooms, Baby Arugula, and Black Currant Reduction.

This is probably one of the most surprisingly balanced dishes of the Fest. The sausage is very flavorful (though there is minimal greasiness, probably due to leaner venison), and somehow it manages to match up well with its complements without overwhelming them. The peppery arugula. The zingy pickled mushrooms. The sweetness of the black currant reduction. They each add this layer of flavor, which is amazing all together, but also stands up well in smaller pairings of the dish's components. I'm not a huge fan of mushrooms. I'll tolerate them in the right circumstances. I can't say I ate them all, but I certainly added the smaller ones to my carefully constructed forkfuls because the zip of their being pickled really is a tasty addition.


I needed a little bit of food in my stomach to execute my plan, so venison sausage devoured, I was on my way to...

SOUTH KOREA


Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce. iCing Grapefruit Sparkling Rice Brew.

I'm still unclear what makes the dog that orange color (and with a hot dog, sometimes it's best just not to know too much, if you know what I mean), but it's a delicious combination. It's like an American classic -- the hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut -- had a little Asian makeover. The kimchi slaw provides a nice zippy crunch, and the mustard sauce gives it kick (although, unless I miss my mark, I'm pretty sure there is a low to mid level heat to all the pieces of this dog, except the bun). I've had this one before, so I knew what to expect from it. Every good baseball fan knows that a beer and a hot dog go together (whether you actually consume them or not, it's baseball fact), but I'm also fairly well documented as not liking beer. The taste, and especially the aftertaste, are just not suited to my palate. However, I have discovered that I do like fruity flavored beers, so I decided to get out of my comfort zone and go with the recommended pairing. Oh. My. Rice beer? I'm in! *None* of that taste or aftertaste that makes me put on a yuck face! It was light and crisp and refreshing, and just exactly what I needed to cut through the heat from the kimchi dog. It's also a little deceptive. I am a lightweight, so I make a pretty cheap date, since I get a quick buzz. I felt *nothing* from this rice brew. I attributed it to the half bottle of water, the venison sausage, and the kimchi dog also in my stomach.


Moving right along...

Oh, wait...

The buzz was delayed! About fifteen minutes after I finished the iCing, there it was. The slightly giggly, pink-faced buzz. Not that you could tell by my face, because it was already a little pink from the heat. (But not from the sun. SPF 100, baby! And a Red Sox cap on my noggin.)

Better get some more food in my stomach. I need to be driving home when I'm done...

POLAND


Sauerkraut Pierogi with Pork Goulash.

If I needed to soak up a little of that alcohol, this new Fest offering was the dish to handle it. I've had my share of pierogies in the past, but they've always been filled with some version of potato. I expected this dish to be hearty (I assumed it was the dough from the pierogi responsible for that), but it was even more heavy than I anticipated, and not in the way I had expected! The pierogi was unexpectedly light. The tangy sauerkraut filling was far less dense than the potato I am accustomed to. But that pork meant business. The tomato based sauce of the goulash was not a combination I would have expected with the pork and the sauerkraut, but I did end up enjoying it. My only real complaint was that the pork was a little dry, but pork tends to do that, so I wasn't overly disappointed.


The heavier dish and the rest of my water diluted my iCing buzz enough that I was ready to do something completely off the wall (for me) (remember, I'm a pretty boring human, so my risks are...well, you'll see)...

HOPS AND BARLEY

BELGIUM


Florida Grass-Fed Beef Slider with Pimento Cheese. Stella Artois Cidre.

Thinking back to my kimchi dog, earlier, what more appropriate dish to include on this round, but a burger, right?? This little guy was very tasty, although a wee bit dry (low fat content, I guess, because it wasn't overcooked). What made it pop, though, was that pimento cheese sauce on top. It was more "creamy dressing" than "melty cheese" but was still packed with flavor. The pimentos gave the sauce some texture and there was just a hint of warmth. There were some other diced "things" in the cheese sauce that provided crunch, but I'll be darned if I could actually tell you what they were. Onion, likely? And I could swear I tasted cucumber, but I'm not certain that was actually in there. What I know is that it didn't lack for taste, but the burger could have been a bit more juicy and the roll was not as soft as I would prefer. I'm thinking they chose a more sturdy option than a soft bun that may get soggy. At any rate, it wasn't bad, but not my favorite either. To wet my whistle with the slider, I did something heretofore unprecedented for my Festing: I matched the food with a beverage from another location. ::horror movie scream:: (Hey, I warned you my risk-taking was boring.) As stated, not a fan of beer. Didn't want wine with my slider. No other options at the Hops and Barley kiosk. But I *had* wanted to try a beverage from Belgium that decidedly did not match with the waffle I had gotten there previously in the Fest: a hard cider! I do really enjoy a hard cider. This did not disappoint. It was a great combination with my slider. A little sharp, a little sweet, a little bubbles. I'm glad I decided to go outside the box on this one.



And now to my goofy sense of humor. If you're a real Disney geek, you may have noticed something in the background of that food photo. Hops and Barley...America, if you will, joined up with Belgium...and invaded Morocco! BAHAHAHAHA! (I better disclaimer this, in case some misguided child searching the interwebs for a school project actually believes this happened. America and Belgium invaded Morocco to *eat* there, because it's cool(er) and quiet(er) and I really like sitting in Fez House.)

I know this amuses me more than probably anyone possessing an actual sense of humor, but I chuckled my way (and no, I was not buzzed, so no excuse there, since I tempered the Cidre with more water and I had a fair amount of food in my stomach now) over to...

ITALY


Cannoli al Cioccolato.

I was pretty stuffed, so dessert needed to be light. A nice, cool chocolate-covered cannoli filled with sweet ricotta, chocolate chips, and a little candied fruit called my name. The problem was finding a shady spot to enjoy it. By the time I found an available spot, I had gotten all the way to China, and my poor cannoli was starting to melt! Not to worry, because it still tasted delightful. The sweetness is subtle and it's just enough to make my meal feel "finished."


Satisfied, I wiped the chocolate off my face -- melted chocolate can make even a fairly civilized adult look like they have the table manners of a two year old! -- and made my way out of the park. I'm crossing my fingers that some more comfortable weather reaches us, because I have so much more left to try and the heat really saps my appetite!

1 with their own thoughts:

Kelly Dane Monday, October 20, 2014 3:23:00 PM  

I so look forward to these reviews! Thank you, burgers are on our menu for tonight's dinner, I might use the pimento cheese as an inspiration! So long boring burgers!

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