CTBites Scene: Greenwich Wine + Food Festival 2019

James Gribbon

The Greenwich Wine + Food Festival sailed into harbor to cap off the summer for its ninth year last weekend, and CTBites was there: awkwardly balancing camera, food, and cocktails, and wishing for a prehensile tail. Bites were eaten, photos were taken, and not overly much wine was spilled on ourselves in the process. Perhaps you will see yourself in the gallery, maybe you'll be inspired to attend next year for the tenth anniversary - either way you'll feel better than we did on Sunday morning - and anyway, it'll be worth it.

The map helpfully printed on the reverse of my press pass showed a tent village clustered around the acreage of the grand tasting big top, including a BBQ-centric tailgate area with its own cocktail tent (which met with my approval on a college football Saturday, plus HooDoo Brown brought the biggest smoker I've ever seen in Connecticut.), South Of The Border Mexican food tent sponsored by Don Julio for all your taco and tequila needs, and and entire tent dedicated to burger makers and beers, featuring Connecticut's own Nod Hill Brewery from Ridgefield, and Stamford's Half Full.

The main event in the biggest tent began, naturally, with a bloody mary. Park City Honey Co. are beekeepers and candy makers with apiaries in Bridgeport and Fairfield, and make a Queen Bee Of Scots bloody mary mix which instantly became one of my top two favorites made in the state. Their support for pollinators, especially in a city setting, is admirable enough, but their gingered- and lavender honeys were also outstanding.

Buzz accomplished, I wheeled around to an attractive display set up by The Lodge At Woodloch, offering a spa-appropriate nut and seed bread, spread with smoked trout mousse, topped with a bit of salad. The attention getter here was the drizzle of Citra hop vinaigrette over the whole thing, which added a bit of punch. It was unquestionably the most I have ever enjoyed a gluten free "bread," which is why I was particularly dismayed upon dropping half the hors d'oeuvre on my right shoe. Pity, that. Why yes, person holding an outstretched bottle of prosecco immediately to my left, that may be just the thing to take the edge off this unfortunate development. Maybe - yes, maybe two would be more effective. Indeed.

Park Avenue south's Little Beet Table has opened a location on Greenwich Avenue, and showed up with a shockingly interesting hummus, paired with a root vegetable for dipping (in this case a radish), and another one in their cocktail. Their beet juice and lemongrass Prairie gin and tonic was not one, but possibly three of my favorite drinks of the entire afternoon.

Elsewhere in drinks, boozed-up seltzers were just about everywhere, but canned cocktails are also enjoying a bit of a moment in the sun, and the tower of cans from Salt Point arrested my eye with their attractive label art. This west coast brand makes outstanding Moscow mule and greyhound cocktails in a can - ginger being an excellent palate cleanser between bites, several times. Lyon Distilling Co. in Maryland urges you to drink more rum on their business cards and, suitably encouraged, I tried cocktail samples made with their Curacao orange and cherry liqueurs, and fantastic French oak finished overproof rum.

The Greenwich Wine + Food Festival supports Food Rescue U.S., and the Town of Greenwich Parks&Rec. Foundation, but were you aware it also supports alpacas? Henny Penny Farm, which raises alpacas, goats, and sheep on their fiber farm in Ridgefield had a booth offering soft knit hats, and goat's milk bars from their on site soapworks. Also courtesy of their adorable four legged friends from the farm was a healthy bit of slow roasted lamb on toast which was delicious.

Oddly, two of the best dishes I had at the festival - besides the incredible American-raised wagyu beef from Kow Steaks in Iowa at the tailagte - had no meat in them. Jacob's Pickles is located on Amsterdam in the 80s, west of Central Park, but they had one of the most appetizing spreads in Greenwich. Their Dilly Beans, hot sour, and Kosher dills were piled in shades of green beside bright pickles carrots and beets, and I swung back over and over again to grab one or another over the course of the festival. I also have a new note in my phone to visit the brick and mortar location, whose bywords are "Beer, Biscuits, and Pickles," and whose Instagram includes shots like this.

The second dish to make a cowboy frown yet gave me a grin was an superb root vegetable chili over cauliflower rice, via Myx Creative Kitchen. They also make cauliflower crust pizzas and, after that chili, I'm willing to risk it. Serving both vegetarian and pasture-stock based broths and dumplings was Norwalk gem Nit Noi Provisions. These were one of the few items made on site within the main tent, had one of the longest lines, and were unquestionably worth every second, both waiting and eating them. I was grabbing strangers and demanding they try these dumplings.

It was a hot day in Greenwich, so I cooled off after several steaming bowls of broth with a bit of sparking wine from Brotherhood Winery, which was established in Washingtonville, NY in 1839, and bills itself as America's oldest winery, then strolled out to the burger tent, and most prodigious lines I saw all day. I grabbed a few sliders and watched as a panel of judges selected the Greenwich police department's entry as the best of the Burger Battle (the people's choice going to the town fire department), while I selected a cold, malty harvest ale from Nod Hill.

Several herb-crusted seared ahi tacos from The Little Pub somehow flung themselves into my hand as I attempted to make an early escape from the festival, the sun heading down over the water as the lights went up on a stage in which Michael Franti and Spearhead were getting started, but time was up for me. Summer was ending, night was approaching, and the music will be back next year in Greenwich. Also, I had to get this smoked trout off my shoe.