Saturday, September 29, 2012

A night in the country: Food, fog and HalloWine


Food samples doled out at Altamont. 

ALTAMONT --  The weather always seems to cooperate, in a perverse way, for the HalloWine Festival at Altamont Vineyards & Winery.

Friday night, the start of the 3rd annual three-day event, saw not only a lineup of local chefs in a competition, but a large crowd braving rain, fog and general eerieness on country backroads to pack two tents adjacent to the tasting room, where the chefs' crews doled out samples of their handiwork, samples of Altamont wine were poured, a silent auction was held, and art displays and Dj music teased the other senses.

Unlike last year, when a driving rain created some discomfort amidst all the partying, Friday's weather was just enough to set the mood for an early-Halloween festival that was a fundraiser for the Wildwood Foundation and its lifelong education programs.

In the adjacent tasting room, a half-dozen judges -- including yours truly -- went through a blind tasting of 10 different dishes and accompanying Altamont wines to select a winner. That turned out to be Yono Purnomo, chef-owner of Yono's and DP: An American Brasserie in Albany.

Yono's braised short ribs with kale and spicy  coconut sauce.
His 24-hour braised beef short ribs with sauteed kale plus a spicy Indonesian coconut sauce topped the work of such other notables as Ryan Huneau (people's choice winner), corporate chef for the Mallozzi Family Restaurants; Marla Ortega of Illium Café and Illium Wine Bar, both in Troy; Elliott Cuniff of Creo in Guilderland, and Giovanni Morina of Gio's Culinary Studio in Voorheesville.

Some nice Altamont wines were available for pairing with the very-varied foods. My favorites were the 2009 Edelweiss ($13.50 a bottle), a crisp white with notes of melon, lemon and green apple; the 2011 Leon Millot ($17), a medium-dry red with just enough spice to temper its sweetness, and the 2011 Providenza ($15), a dry red with floral and berry notes and a fairly long finish.

The festival continues through Sunday. Here are a few shots of the crowd and the other foods of opening night:

Arborio rice & cheese croquette with polenta, roasted tomato sauce.
Veal cheeks on roasted corn polenta.

Compressed duck meatball, squash sauce, watercress, cippolini.

Kale-wrapped grilled shrimp.

Caponata in spiced oil.

Poached pear, blue cheese, macadamia crumble, balsamic.
Jasmine rice with vegetables.

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