I was a woman on a mission and that mission was starting in...
Roasted Pork Lettuce Wrap with Kimchi Slaw.
This one has been one I've looked forward to and enjoyed every year since it was introduced to the menu. I like to use it as a starting point, because it gets me ready for eating without filling me up too much. For being so light on the stomach, there is just so much flavor -- from the pork, from the kimchi slaw, from that drizzle of mystery sauce. It's so good, I can even forgive it for being so messy to eat.
Taste buds engaged, my mission sends me to...
Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce.
This was one of the Fest fixtures. Along with a handful of other dishes, it was at the Fest for as long as I've been attending (since 2007) and it returns year after year. In fact, last year was the first time it *wasn't* on the menu, but it seems a lot of Fest fixtures has returned to celebrate the 20th anniversary. It's simple. It's straightforward. There's nothing unknown about it. Some people might shrug it off as "too safe," but I've been a fan of apple strudel since I was a little girl. The flaky pastry, the spicy apples, some golden raisins plumped up from soaking in the apple juices. In the past, it's been served as-is, with a caramel drizzle, with a vanilla and caramel sauce, and how it is served this year: swimming in a pool of vanilla sauce. It's like a riff on apple pie a la mode...and I am 100% on board with that!
And we're off again! Mission destination...
with a layover in...
Escondidinho de Carne. Stella Artois Cidre.
Let's start with the food. I try to do my best to
say not butcher the name of the dish I'd like when I order. I was way too intimidated by the length of this one though. The Cast Members are really great about pronouncing it for you if you ask though! (I still can't get this one out.) It's basically a meat pie...sort of a Brazilian shepherd's pie of sorts. It's seasoned ground beef and some veggies in a gravy, covered by a layer of mashed yucca (we'll get back to this), baked so the edges are all crispy and golden. So, when I said 'mashed yucca,' I bet you thought I was going to say mashed potatoes, right??I had no preconceived notion, going in, but as I was eating, I did a little Googling (yay for smart phones and free wifi!) and learned that a yucca root (also known as cassava) is a starchy tuberous root, just like, -- you guessed it! -- a potato! It's shaped more like a sweet potato, but its insides are white instead of orange and its texture is far more similar to a potato as well. This was a rather filling dish, as you might imagine, but excellent flavor and very comfort-food-ish. Because I usually get the non-savory waffle when I visit Belgium, I have a difficult time pairing that with a hard cider, which I also want. So, I have to improvise! I thought it would pair well with a heavier, savory meat dish, and the meat pie fit that bill. I was right. The light, crisp cider was an excellent complement.
It was a long, slow, somewhat full stroll to the next stop on my mission...
Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Dumpling.
You know how venison can be dry and tough sometimes? This was not one of those times. I couldn't believe how tender and juicy this slice of meat actually was. The sauce had lots of flavor. (I'm not sure what the green was...maybe baby collard green? It didn't have the pink stem of Swiss chard. It was too sturdy to be spinach and not sturdy enough to be kale.) And then there was the dumpling. Back to the Google. Kumara? Sweet potato! Mine was a smidge salty, but I am thinking that may have just been a fluke and it didn't ruin the dish for me. It sounds like this was pretty basic, but it definitely didn't taste that way!
Mission switching to sweet. Reroute to...
DESSERTS AND CHAMPAGNE
Strawberry-Basil Champagne "Toast."
Almost too pretty to eat, right? I'm glad I didn't allow that to deter me. Oh. My. Gosh. This was made for me. The little Food and Wine Fest logo was on a sliver of white chocolate, there was a dollop of whipped cream, and the little fuchsia spheres were...some kind of airy puffed something? That was all really just visual enhancement anyway. It's what's under all the fancy decoration that matters. There was a thin layer on the top that I believe was like a champagne gelatin. Next was that large lighter pink portion that was a strawberry mousse. And hiding in that mousse were fat strawberry slices that had been soaked in champagne. (I groaned a little just typing that. I want another serving. Now, if you please.) That darkest pink, at the bottom in the stem of the flute, was some champagne infused with strawberries and basil. It was so subtle, but the basil really gave the champagne and berries a really unique flavor, like there was this fresh element to balance out the berry sweetness. FWF15 is really knocking it out of the park with the desserts, let me tell you.
Today's mission has one small piece of business remaining. Rendezvous at...
First, may I just say that I really appreciate how much fun the're having, designing the new Global Marketplaces? Some of the newer kiosks are so creative in expressing the country or type of cuisine they are serving, and it really sets the mood for me.
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fresh Figs and Pistachio Brittle.
The only issue I have with Food and Wine Fest is that sometimes I'm left wondering about parts of the dish I'm eating that weren't included in the description and that I can't seem to identify on my own. This was one of those dishes. The panna cotta was pretty standard. It's vanilla and I like vanilla. But really it was about the fig and the pistachio, and the vanilla allows them to shine. I have never tried a fresh fig before and it was surprisingly sweet! The pistachios were less "brittle" and more "crunch." But that amber-colored syrupy layer on the top and bottom of the panna cotta? NO CLUE. It was sweet and fruity, which worked nicely with the other components, but I haven't any idea what it actually *was*.
Stuffed. My mission has been accomplished. Stay tuned for Round Three...
Friday, October 30, 2015