I ate my fill at the Coral Gables Wine and Food Festival on Thursday. This was my second time attending. Bill of tinkering with dinner was not at all impressed. I agree that there were some underwhelming offerings. Overall, I think the samples at this year’s festival were satisfying, but not mind-blowing. I also noticed that some of the restaurants had empty tables at various points in the night, including La Dorada and Cacao.
However, my companions and I did find noteworthy dishes:
The salmon ceviche on blue corn tortilla from Cacao was fresh, plump and tangy.
Anacapri served a creamy and impeccable porcini risotto out of a hollowed out round of cheese.
La Gastronomia offered a large selection of their Italian dishes. The huge round of lobster ravioli in squid ink pasta from was amazing. It was dressed with a saffron sauce with morsels of lobster. The chicken fettuccine alfredo, perhaps too pedestrian for some, was also fabulous. The lasagna was average.
Reliable Ortanique served tasty conch fritters. Cindy Hutson described them as “heavy on the conch, very light on the breading.” They were complemented by a roasted red pepper coulis.
I also enjoyed the venison loin with blackberry demi glace and creamy grits from Christabelle’s Quarter, a newcomer to the festival.
Giardino Gourmet Salads delivered again this year with a simple salad composed of crisp lettuce, sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese.
The line at Chuao choclatiers was consistently long, which made sense. I’m selective about my chocolate, so Chuao’s chocolates and the truffles at Whole Foods were the most tempting offerings at the festival this year. At Chuao, I tasted brownie bites made with spicy dark chocolate, chunks of dark and hot Mayan Chocolate bars, and heart-shaped chocolates filled with hazelnut and praline.
My hand model displays Chuao chocolates.
Whole Foods had an impressive spread of cheese and chocolates at their table. I’m an avid fan of their store-brand chocolate truffles, which are not only delicious, but also relatively inexpensive (for those given to spending too much on fancified chocolate). The brie with rose petal jam was an inspired combination. The jam was exquisite, sweet and vaguely floral but not cloying.
Mark Randazzo works the grill, along with a young helper
.As far as the restaurants I was most eager to try at the festival, Christabelle’s, Ortanique, Chuao, and Anacapri delivered. I enjoyed Cacao’s dish as well. Randazzo’s had a long line for their sausage subs, served with grilled green peppers on a bun. It was a huge and exaggerated serving, as most things are at Randazzo’s. I was uninspired by their dish this year, and I left behind the soft white bread, because who wants to fill up on that at a food festival?
I was also disappointed by the Japanese beef curry served by Yuga. Owner Johnson Teh is also the proprietor of Lan, my favorite neighborhood Pan-Asian eatery. So I had high expectations. However, their dish seemed like a last minute idea: two chunks of beef with a flat green curry sauce, served on a mound of tasteless white rice. Again, why am I going to fill up on white rice at a food festival? I would have preferred something smaller and more flavorful from both Randazzo’s and Yuga.
I definitely steered clear of the candy flavored vodka, but the Select Vodka from Poland went down clean and easy. The Blue Fish Sweet Riesling, a budget wine from Germany, was crisp, fruity, and refreshing. I also welcomed the addition of a full open bar this year.
This is a festival, and restaurants do have to try to serve food in large quantities to satisfy the crowd. After this second visit to the festival, I have to say that if you expect the finest from each restaurant, you may have better luck trying them indoors. However, I do enjoy an opportunity to graze. I’ve decided that the Coral Gables Food and Wine Festival is a fun night out, with a great vibe, music, drinks, gambling (for those who choose at an extra cost), and for a worthwhile cause. However it may not be for purists looking for the best each restaurant has to offer. Let me know what you thought if you attended…