I’ve been to a few of the Main Events at the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, and I know what to expect now. Namely, so many different types of wine that if you try to taste all of it, you’ll get bombed even if you spit out all the wine. I usually never find dessert wines at this event (and I’m looking, because dessert wine is my thing), but I was pleasantly surprised to find Lange Twins’ MVP Dessert Wine. The vineyard compares it to a ruby port, but I found it having the creaminess and lightness of a tawny port. It’s certainly priced accordingly. As per usual, the area outside the Pier 1 Tower was devoted to beer, cider, and hard liquor, and I found Seersucker Southern Style Gin handing out some cocktails. I wouldn’t have figured that gin would be my drink, but worked into a cherry limeade flavored with mint, it lent a pleasing earthy undertone to a highly drinkable beverage. Oh, and I heard Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss’ “Whiskey Lullaby” playing in the Maker’s Mark tent. That’s a strange choice, to say the least.
Even though the dinner was supposed to run until 9:00, most of the restaurants there had run out of food by 8. I’m bummed that I didn’t get to sample what Malai Kitchen was handing out, but I did get some of Nonna Tata‘s mushroom risotto. It won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s mighty flavorful. Bob’s Steak & Chop House offered up prime rib and lobster in a sauce, and while I think the whole concept of surf and turf is fundamentally flawed, both elements were quite well done. I think my favorite of the dishes at the event was Grace Restaurant‘s swordfish, with the peppery bite of the seared fish playing off the cream sauce underneath and the pickled onions.
What else? Eddie V’s Prime Seafood put out a tuna tartare with the dark flavors of sesame oil and sriracha. I’ll take that combination over soy sauce. Piattello Italian Kitchen‘s porchetta had a lot of people lining up for it. It was good, with the leaner meat and the fattier meat cut separately on the plate. However, with the weather changing, the wind blew away the frisée that came with it, which I’m pretty sure is the definition of a First World problem. And I liked the shrimp ceviche that HG SPLY CO gave me, with just enough lime juice to make it lively without drowning it.
And then there were the insects. Magdalena’s gave out tostadas with chicatana ants, which are cooked in a skillet and either used as the filling in a taco or ground up into a sauce. People say the taste is unlike anything else. I thought it tasted just like ground beef, but hey, getting me to eat insects is an achievement.
On to the dessert event, which this year was hosted at the Whiskey Ranch. Firestone & Robertson have sponsored this event in the past, but this year, the festival simply moved it to their showroom and distillery. It seems a great place to have a whiskey with 50 of your friends, but I moved on from Susie Cakes‘ table intending to come back, and then it took me forever to find them again, what with the ranch’s layout. Another problem with this event is that all the pastry chefs have to incorporate whiskey as an ingredient, and it seems to be of limited versatility as a dessert ingredient. The endless parade of chocolate things was interrupted only by the occasional banana dish. Of the former, Susie Cakes’ chocolate whiskey cupcakes were my favorite, though Gold Ribbon Confections‘ pecans melted in whiskey-laced chocolate weren’t too shabby, either.
In the non-chocolate division, Joy Macarons‘ whiskey-laced vanilla ice cream sandwiches were something I could have had a second one of, but I preferred what JayCee Hospitality did, making a bed of feathery whiskey turmeric mousse and setting into it slices of banana and coffee wafers with cacao nibs embedded in them. The bananas carried the sweetness load here, and the wafers added a nice bit of darkness to the dish.
As for the cocktails made with the whiskey, Avoca Coffee had a cocktail made of coffee-infused whiskey and nitro stout. It reminded me why I avoid coffee, but a fan of iced coffee who isn’t thrown by the carbonation might be into it. Bird Cafe tried to make an apple pie-type drink with whiskey, apple cider, and ice cream. They’d have been better off just leaving the cider out of it entirely. The one drink I could deal came from the unlikely source of B&B Butcher, who made a drink called “Texas Keys” with whiskey, lime juice, coconut, whipping cream, and a dusting of cinnamon. It was supposed to taste like Key lime pie, which it didn’t, but I liked it all the same.
Maybe some other year, one of our city’s illustrious craft breweries will sponsor the dessert event and we’ll see what the chefs and mixologists can make out of beer. Meanwhile, amid all the whiskey, I heard Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drank)” being played by the DJ, which is another strange musical choice. And I passed by Andy Dalton in the Whiskey Ranch’s hallways. Anna Caplan will be back to report on Saturday’s events.