What makes a Grand Tasting grand? Is it the steelhead trout and olives marinated in Tito’s Vodka from Las Canarias? Is it the Brown Estate Zinfandel that kept evolving the glass into something richer and finer with each sip? How about a bacon-wrapped quail’s leg from Fig Tree Restaurant? Or a cocktail from Bohanan’s made with Maker’s Mark and ginger beer?
To the hundreds of people who filled the Grotto beneath the Convention Center Saturday evening for the New World Wine & Food Festival’s Grand Tasting, the answer could have been any of the above.
Throngs filled the vast space along the River Walk to sample smoked halibut chowder from the upcoming Auden’s Kitchen or mussels from Citrus, sip Saint Arnold’s beer or rose from Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall. Each bite seemed to be more satisfying than the one that preceded it.
Wildfish offered up a sashimi slice of Hebi, also known as Hawaiian spearfish, with a dollop of wasabi, while Lux Bakery tempted people with its pan dulces. At the same time, Bulgarian wines were poured alongside Scharffenberger sparkling wines.
Jason Dady offered a five-course meal, one dish from each of his restaurants, starting with a shrimp appetizer from Bin 555 and moving on to a Purple Cow (Blue Bell Vanilla with grape soda and whipped cream) from Two Bros. BBQ Market for dessert.
Though the array of food spread itself from the Grill at Leon Springs’ sliders to a leek and mushroom tart from the Peach Café in Boerne, the most common ingredient of the night seemed to be duck.
Kirby’s offered duck confit with a raspberry sauce while Acenar piled duck on a corn chip. Boudro’s offered duck carnitas on a taco, and Tong’s Thai offered duck with an Asian Twist. Francesca’s at Sunset served duck pot pies and captured more than a few hearts.
“The duck pot pie – that was the best,” said Michelle Robinson, who was attending the event for the first time. One of her favorite wines of the evening was Rivero Gonzalez from Mexico, which was a shame, she added, because “it’s not in the States yet.”
Her favorite wine was Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.
Walker’s husband, Mark, also fell for the duck pot pie, but equally good to him was the pomegranate-rhubarb macaroon filled with foie gras that Dady served from the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills.
The couple had chosen to visit this weekend because of the Grand Tasting, and they enjoyed it so much they plan to come back next year, Mark Walker said.
The New World Wine & Food Festival concludes today with Totally Tejas at Rio Cibolo Ranch. For details, click here.