News Section: Food and Dining
2012 Grand Tasting Sees Forks and Corks Ascend to New Levels
All Photos by Brian David Braun
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SARASOTA -- Already the premier food and wine festival in the region, Forks and Corks reached new heights in 2012, attracting a record crowd, even more great local restaurants and an impressive collection of international wine makers to celebrate culinary mastery.
During a perfect 75-degree day and against the backdrop of the Ringling Museum ground's unparalleled beauty, food and wine lovers from all over Florida convened for the event's "Grand Tasting" on Sunday, to sample an eclectic array of delicacies from all over the world.
The wine participants had a more international feel at this year's event, including some far-off gems which were introduced to eager enthusiasts, many for the first time. The selection of top-flight, imported value wines was particulary imressive.
Valle Reale caught the attention of many guests who gladly waited at a crowded table to sample their Montepulciano d'Abruzzos, four of which came in at under $20. The San Calisto, at only $32.95 was easily one of the best wines at the event, comparing favorably to reds at twice the cost.
Fellow Italian winemaker ColleMassari was also a hit, especially their robust and delightfully intense 2008 Montecucco Riserva ($26.96) a 100 percent Sangiovese. Justin Vineyards, from the vinyard-laden Paso Robles appellation of California’s Central Coast, was also well-received and their 2009 Justification ($45.95), a tart and bold Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend was one of the better premium wines, only slightly upstaged by their flagship wine, Isocscles ($59.95), a Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Petite Verdot blend, one of the better wines I've enjoyed in recent memory.
Bodego Rancho, a Russian River Valley standard, delivered a winning Syrah in their Que Syrah Vineyard Syrah ($39.95), while O. Fournier struck gold with its Urban Uco Argentinian Malbec ($14.95), easily one of the best value to quality wines at the festival.
Up the ladder, its Centari Red Blend ($25.95) also found plenty of fans, drawn to the Chillean wine's Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Carignon blend, which produced richly complex notes of mature plums and oak.
The Sarasota/Manatee Originals saw to it that there were plenty of perfect food pairings to enjoy with the reds, including Michael's on East's legendary Kobe prime rib, which was served on a moist bun for an exotic take on the slider, that went nicely with Euphemia Haye's famous Caesar salad for a one-two punch from two of the area's most iconic restaurants.
The lamb osso bucco from Ophelia's on the Bay rounded off the first sampling with the bar set high. Bijou Cafe's cassoulet with duck confit, pork and sausage was up to the challenge, providing the kind of densely-flavored and spirited offering you would expect from another standard bearer of Sarasota fine dining.
Venice was well represented with Cafe Venice's delicious chicken salad followed by the Crow's Nest's perfect oyster shooters, that made for a spicy delight after the wine tasting was finished. Lynch's blueberry crumble cake once again reigned supreme as the perfect dessert for those who saved room for a taste of the sweet side.
The event, which sold out almost as soon as tickets went on sale at $75 each, was a success that confirms its ascent to one of the premier food and wine festivals in the southeast – a tribute to our market's rich culinary culture, as well as the desire of elite winemakers to reach both our active set of restaurant goers and sophisticated clientele of vino connoisseurs. 2013 will indeed find it difficult to raise the bar once more, though something tells me that the Originals will be up for the task.
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