Kara Sewell: My experience at Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Kara Sewell: My experience at Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic


Washington Park was transformed into the Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic mid-September. The nearly football sized tent housed stellar wines, thousands of food samples and cooking classes from James Beard award-winning chefs.

I was fortunate enough to attend all three days, each morning and evening offered unique tasting plates, cocktail classes and music. This was my first year to attend and only the second year for CFWC. This Classic was first-class and probably one of my favorite events I’ve attended since moving to Cincinnati.

I wouldn’t call myself a foodie because I’m not sure my palate is refined enough but I can appreciate different flavor profiles and original dishes. If you don’t think that Cincinnati or the Tri-State for that matter has an impressive food scene you are mistaken.

Opening night Friday featured all pork dishes including desserts with crispy pork belly. My mom and husband came along and we all received a wine glass and bag of goodies at the entrance. You didn’t need a wine glass at the Stella Artois booth; they happily filled beer and their hard cider Cidre’ in their own glasses. We enjoyed wine from Oregon to Ohio including Riesling, Pinots and Chardonnay.

The pork dishes were served on small plates and while I cannot remember the names of each dish they ranged from a meatball, pork belly, tacos and soup. Let me be clear, these are crude descriptions of the sophisticated dishes served that included pork flavored foam, horse radish mouse and faux sushi (what?!) yes, way cool. Live music and perfect weather made for a fabulous evening that left us satisfied and slightly buzzed (good thing we could walk home).

The list of participating restaurants is long: Orchids, Salazar, Boca, Mazunte, The Eagle, Sprout, Bouquet and Abigail Street to name a few. Most of the restaurants were from Cincinnati but others came from northern Kentucky, the west coast and northern Ohio.

Saturday morning kicked off a weekend of cooking classes, cocktail tastings and more Stella Artois! Did I mention they gave us a new glass every time we walked up to their booth? I have about 8. We attended ‘Farm Forward Brunch’ with Julie Francis, ‘Coffee Talk’ with Deeper Roots and my favorite ‘Punch Drunk Love’ cocktail tasting in the VIP lounge with a bartender from Pittsburg; cocktails before 11am are totally appropriate during the Food & Wine Classic by the way.

And the drinking didn’t stop there, Sysco Kitchen hosted ‘Art of the German American Cocktail’ tasting, ‘Somm Slam’ where we competed against sommeliers to determine the type of unlabeled wine we were tasting (we lost).

Saturday night was much busier, the tent was bustling and while I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was shoulder to shoulder, getting their early or later would be my suggestion. Saturday night chefs could prepare what they wanted which included octopus, carrot soup, dessert, steak… and we tasted nearly everything. My next suggestion, don’t do that! You have 3 hours to try all of this food you don’t need to do it in 30 minutes - ha!

What I loved about the tastings is the interaction you get with the chefs who created them. You can ask questions about ingredients, technique and really get a sense of why they created that particular dish and more about their restaurant. It was these conversations that led me to finding my latest favorite Cincinnati restaurant Huit; I will blog about my dining experience there later.

We began our Sunday tasting experience at Taft Ale House for the rising star brunch which featured up and coming chefs in the Tri-State. The samples were generous and unique. I never tasted pig ear prior to that event and I’m not sure I want to again but that’s the amusing part about the CFWC, stretching your palate and getting out of your comfort zone.

Next, we headed to Washington Park for French cooking with Jean Robert, ‘Ohio Uncorked’ wine Tasting, ‘Life of Pie’ with Summer Genetti, Indonesian BBQ (who knew?) with Tobias Harris (owner of Huit) and baking French macarons with award-winning chefs from Boca.

I’m not sure I have ever eaten so much good food in such a short amount of time or frankly learned so much about cooking. I am not a great cook and I can barely bake but thanks to Jean Robert my omelets are fluffier and I know chicken satay sounds fancy but I’m more than capable of making the dish on a work night.

I will be honest CFWC is not a cheap event, most tickets cost $100 but to enjoy this level of expertise, talent and ideas from all across the country in the heart of our wonderful city…it’s worth it!

My favorite foodie night was Friday, Saturday’s classes allowed me to learn and drink the most but Sunday brunch offered a calm, intimate setting. And if all else fails, Chipotle was outside the tent with beans and margaritas! I cannot wait to attend next year and plan to take better notes and more pictures!

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