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Events

Scenes from the 2016 Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival’s Center Stage

The first formal event of the 2016 Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival commenced last week.
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All photos by Brian Hutson Photography.

The first formal event of the 2016 Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival commenced last week, quite literally, in theatrical fashion. “Center Stage” was hosted at the Bass Performance Hall, and treated patrons to a unique experience consisting of a cocktail party, five-course dinner with wine pairings, and performance. I was provided a gratis seat to witness the enactment in the first person.

Dinner Guest on Stage

Guests arrived approximately one hour early to enjoy a bevvy of canapés, caviar, and champagne in the lobby of the grand theatre. Servers in French Revolutionary masquerade welcomed entrants, occasionally (and extemporaneously) bursting into character.

The champagne reception made way for a formal dinner which was held on the stage of the opera house. The scene was transformed by the use of elegant stemware, white linen tablecloths and silk napkins. Behind the scenes, many of Fort Worth’s finest chefs and sommeliers were assembling what would be dubbed as five “Acts”, leading guests through a culinary tale transcending two continents.

Texas quail tamal with mole verde, epazote white beans and toasted pepitas.
Texas quail tamal with mole verde, epazote white beans and toasted pepitas.

The first two courses of the evening possessed a Western European influence. Chef Blaine Staniford (Grace) led off with an escabeche of Spanish mackerel, albacore tuna and bouchot mussels, which was paired with a new-world style 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from Smith Story in Sonoma, California. A moving live rendition of “The Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera was performed by a singer in masquerade during the course.

Escabeche of Spanish mackerel, albacore tuna, and bouchot mussels
Escabeche of Spanish mackerel, albacore tuna, and bouchot mussels

Molly McCook (Ellerbe Fine Foods) extended the theme in the second “Act” by preparing an herbed rabbit terrine with roasted mushrooms, pepita pistou and three dollops of sweet corn custard. Its paring was an old-world 2013 Louis Latour Chateau de Blagny Premier Cru from Meursault-Blagny, France. The Premier Cru was easily my favorite wine of the evening, made even more enjoyable by an acrobatic Aerial silk performance to “Memory” from Cats.

Aerial Silk Performer

Acts III and IV took a decidedly Southwestern turn by way of Chef Michael Thomson’s (Michael’s Cuisine) Texas quail tamal with mole verde, epazote white beans and toasted pepitas, followed by Chef Jon Bonnell’s (Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine) Elk carne asada with smoked serrano and Oaxaca grits. These two dishes were served with, respectively, a 2007 zinfandel and a 2007 cabernet sauvignon from Rustridge Estates in Napa Valley, CA, followed by another 2012 Napa Valley cabernet from La Jota Vineyards. Chef Bonnell’s elk dish was accompanied by the only Texas wine of the evening: A 2014 tempranillo from Pontotoc Vineyards in Pontotoc, Texas.

Venturing south of the border, Chef Sarah Hooton (Central Market) presented a cinco de leche cake, topped with horchata ice cream, cinnamon churo crunch and a Mexican chocolate cajeta. A ten-year-old Madeira from Broadbent Boal provided balance stemming from the sweetness of the horchata ice cream, cinnamon and chocolate.

The delicious cuisine and fanfare was not Central Stage’s only assignment of the evening. Four remarkable packages were auctioned off to raise funds to benefit deserving candidates from

Fort Worth with scholarships to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Additionally, the Lancarte Family was honored with the Walter Kaufmann Lifetime Achievement Award for their generational culinary influence in Fort Worth. The Lancartes’ landmark Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, easily one of the most famous restaurants in Texas, celebrated its 80th anniversary last summer.

 Elk carne asada with smoked serrano and oaxaca grits.

Elk carne asada with smoked serrano and oaxaca grits.

Upcoming Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival events include numerous “Chefs’ Collaborative Dinner Series” events featuring some of Fort Worth’s finest culinary masters (such as Jon Bonnell and Jason Harper), and a number of exclusive events such as the BBQ Showdown Fort Worth; Rise + Dine: A Brunch Inspired Tasting; #latenight Desserts after Dark; Burgers, Brews & Blues; and Family Sunday Funday – Picnic at Panther Island. A full list of events and tickets are available here.

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