Starchefs ICC 2012 – Thinning out the herd

Fresh Fish presentation by True World Foods

I arrived at the congress shortly before they opened the doors to the public.  Upon entry I noticed that they had changed the way they conduct the private seminars and classes on the floor of the products fair.  Everyone in the audience was wearing wireless headphones while the Chef was conducting the lecture through his cordless microphone.  Pretty cool that everyone in the audience could hear everything perfectly and that no-one else outside of the enclosure could hear what is going on.  They also got rid of the curtains separating the classroom from the rest of the product fair.

I caught a bit of the Elizabeth Faulkner’s presentation – which offered little inspiration.  She played a low resolution video of the inspiration she gets from her recent move to Brooklyn and the NYC restaurant scene and the way she designs her plates.  It was easy for me to walk away from that and head to day 2 of the Somm Slam.

This day I ran into Daphne Payan 6 months pregnant with her second child but still representing the wines of Côtes du Rhône.  This is the second time that Interhône the marketing arm of the Côtes du Rhône sponsored the Somm Slam.  She was of course hoping more of her wines would get chosen by the contestants.

The remaining six contestants came to the stage and once again had to determine the blind tasting. I was thinking it was maybe again a southern Rhone but then settled on a Greek wine because it just had the viscosity of a really warm climate wine yet with the earthiness of an old world wine.

On the second day the contestants actually get to choose wines to go along with plated dishes. The wines chosen on the first day are removed from the selection so that dwindles down the choices considerably.  The Chef plating the dishes on this day was Justin Bogle from the restaurant Gilt on Madison Avenue.  This time the Sommeliers have 4 minutes to taste the dish made by the Chef and then choose a wine from the selection table.

Lamb carpaccio with pickled blueberries and Matsutake

Wine choices were all over the map with this dish which was very subtle and light in flavor.  In choosing a wine to pair with something this light – I believe the first criterion should be ” first do no harm”  My favorite pairing with this dish was a Tuscan Sparkling Rosé chosen by Julie Dalton which had good acidity and light touch of tannin that paired well with the delicate lamb carpaccio.  But I guess that Christopher Gates’ selection of a Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc from Chile was the judges favorite pairing.

The next dish presented some bolder flavors and unique elements to challenge the Sommeliers.

Braised carrot with fried seaweed and amaranth

Once again selections were all over the map and the sommeliers worked hard to convince everyone that their choice was the best for the dish.  My next pop up was only a few minutes away and I barely got to taste the last sommelier’s selection.  I quickly voted on my favorite pairings (I believe it was Julie Dalton’s choice which once again swayed me) and I ran back to the Chef Product’s Fair to catch the Pop Up.  Apparently it was the Santa Rita Medalla Real Sauvignon Blanc that the Judge’s deemed the best choice.

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