Wine lovers are rejoicing along Florida’s Gulf Coast and in the foothills of the Adirondacks. Why? Just ask the organizers of two of the year’s biggest wine pairing events: Lake Placid Lodge Executive Chef Truman Jones on the Gastro Getaway and Director of Food and Beverage Bob Weil at The Resort at Longboat Key Club on the Bacchus on the Beach event.
[October 31–November 1, 2014] Bacchus on the Beach, Longboat Key Club & Resort, Longboat Key, Florida
[October 23–25, 2014] Gastro Getaway, Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid, New York
Food and wine events are a dime a dozen, so spending a weekend along Lake Placid’s lakeside or sipping wine in the sands of Longboat Key must be more than meets the eye.
Truman: For the lodge, it’s – in part – the true beauty of the Adirondacks and the caliber of the food and wine. You can be outdoors all seasons here – hiking, biking, water sports, or snowshoeing – so we incorporate those activities with Lexus test drives and activities.
Bob: In Florida, it’s a relaxed atmosphere – some wearing Tommy Bahama, some slacks. It’s not too overdone. You literally can dig your toes into the sand as you’re drinking wine and talking to the winemakers from South America, Europe, and California. Last year, we had more than 300 wines to sample, with 30 wineries and a number of spirit distillers and craft brewers. The event started as a kick-off to stone crab season five years ago, and it transformed into a wine and food festival with inspiration from the God of Wine and Merriment – Bacchus.
For your event, what’s in it for the foodie?
Bob: For our main event, we get 500 pounds of stone crab; the area is known for it. Last year, we were scrambling [due to the stone crab shortage] for enough. The guests love it; we couldn’t let them down. They go through [stone crab] like termites in wood – just gobbling it up. We pair it with classic mustard sauces and sometimes we’ll have a special sauce with fresh-squeezed orange and chilies to spice things up.
Truman: As executive chef, I’ll be preparing an eight-course dinner with a visiting chef, which in itself is an amazing culinary experience since we play off each other’s strengths using local ingredients but including our own twist on dishes. We also have cooking demonstrations, pulling Adirondack products from local farms and preparing them based on what’s in season or recently foraged or hunted (Canadian elk and venison). Obviously, being so close to the Canadian border, maple syrup is quite popular, so we try to incorporate that in at least one dish.
Both events share wines and food from around the world. How global are we talking?
Bob: We’ve had winemakers and vintners from South Africa, Spain, France, Italy, and Australia attend our event. Even last year, we had a station with Macallan scotch from Scotland. They had three ice ball presses, and people – even those who said they weren’t scotch drinkers – were tasting the liquor and really enjoying themselves and talking with the distillers.
Truman: This year, the Gastro Getaway coincides with the 60th anniversary of Relais & Châteaux. Typically, we have a visiting chef from a closer Relais & Châteaux property prepare an eight-course meal with one of our chefs (this year, me), but with the anniversary, Chef Rafael Casin of the Inkaterra Peru will be visiting us. Both of us will be preparing dishes inspired by our regions for the Chef Pairing dinner.
So is the whole weekend just drinking wine and eating food?
Bob: For us, we take advantage of being right on the beach for our event. We have live local music, plein air artists painting, and an auction on Friday night to benefit a charity each year. We’ve auctioned off back vintages, trips to Italy, and even a six-liter bottle of a special vintage. A lot of guests really enjoy our Blending Class, where they learn from a vintner and sommelier how to blend their own bottle of wine and create a specialty label. So there’s something for everyone.
Truman: The entire weekend, we have guests attending events both at the Lake Placid Lodge and off property – taking guided hikes, testing out Lexus vehicles, and cocktail mixing classes. There’s also curling and ice-skating at the Olympic Center with hors d’oeuvres. But, of course, it wouldn’t be a complete weekend without talking to the brewers, sommeliers, and winemakers – like those from Napa’s Clos du Val – to pare down the hundreds of selections. It’s more than just eating and drinking; it’s a weekend packed full of events where you’ll learn about the food and wine you’re tasting, but also about the area.
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