Montclair’s culinary scene is getting ready for its closeup. Celebrated local chefs and area restaurants will get together for the inaugural Montclair Food & Wine Festival, a two-day event on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2, featuring a grand tasting with more than 30 area restaurants, food trucks and purveyors and wines by Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, and a gala dinner created by some of the area’s best known chefs: Ariane Duarte of CulinAriane; Francesco Palmieri of the Orange Squirrel; Michael Carrino of Pig and Prince; Mitchell Altholz of Highlawn Pavilion; Ryan DePersio of Fascino/Bar Cara/NICO; and Zod Arifai of Blu and Next Door Amanti Vino’s Sharon Sevrens, fresh from her Great Gatsby appearance on CBS New York, is selecting all wines for the gala dinne). (Get a special ticket price for Baristanet readers — see below)
Isn’t it about time Montclair had a food festival?
“A food and wine festival for Montclair has been long overdue,” says Carrino, who will start the evening off with the menu’s first taste — a tantalizing amuse bouche. Of the festival, Carrino says “it’s a great addition to the growing culinary agenda that Montclair already has to offer and the collaboration with the other chefs has been nothing short of a great experience.”
Forget the adage “too many cooks spoil the broth,” these six superstar chefs are happy to share a kitchen for a night.
“It’s been very easy to work and collaborate with the other chefs because we all get along and enjoy each other’s food,” says DePersio, who, because he is known for his pasta, immediately jumped to take that course.
“In the local chef community, we all respect each other,” says Palmieri, who adds that the fun of something like this is stepping up to a challenge. “This isn’t the time to hold back.”
Palmieri is creating the appetizer course, a tale of two “oysters,” a dish that pairs a warm pickled oyster mushroom and duck confit with a chilled oyster with green apple fennel mignonette. “It’s not just the word oyster than brings these two bites together — pickling the oyster mushroom bridges the gap and connects the flavor profiles, by bringing brininess, sour and acidity.”
DePersio says his dish, a crab-scallion agnolotti in a clam-herb broth, is “unique because it’s not your basic red sauce pasta, which is what people think when you talk about pasta. The agnolotti is a perfect light intro to the summer.”
Duarte, who is known for her fish, will do halibut (make that pan seared halibut, bacon lardon corn chowder, pea tendrils). Duarte’s dish was inspired both by the season and her fellow chef’s courses, including Altholz, who brings the beef with a duo of grass fed boneless short ribs and côte de bœuf with celery root puree.
The super creative, always surprising Zod Arifai will present dessert (Palmieri said Arifai graciously let the other chefs pick whatever course they wanted) and will prepare a caramel panna cotta with banana juice & black pepper crumble. Dessert will be followed by a coffee and chocolate pairing, courtesy of Java Love and The Chocolate Path.
Pulling off an event of this size takes both a food lover and an extreme planner. Melody Kettle is both.
“She has done a tremendous job of organizing,” says Palmieri of Kettle, who came up with the idea and started planning back in 2011. From purchasing the china for the grand tasting to coordinating little details like parking (vendor parking space will be available at the Commonwealth Club), Kettle, who has been busy organizing final details for the event, was inspired by attending food festivals in towns like Summit and Madison. The event has a charitable component — a portion of the proceeds will go to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and, working with MFEE, a scholarship for a high school student interested in a culinary career will also be awarded.
*Code “baristanet” is redeemable through Memorial Day weekend while tickets last; expires Monday, May 27th at 11:55 p.m.