Coral Gables Food and Wine Festival

Coral Gables Food and Wine Festival

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.

Porcini Risotto from Anacapri

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.

Venison Loin with Blackberry Demi Glace and Creamy Grits

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

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 at CG Wine and Food Festival

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?

Sausage Sandwich from Randazzo’s

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.

There was an abundance of red meat, mostly roasted and sliced, served by at least five restaurants. I suppose this is perhaps why Christy’s steered clear of steak and served its “World Famous Caesar Salad” instead. Unfortunately, their croutons had not stood the test of time when my husband sampled it. My favorite steak was the marinated sliced flank steak from Two Sisters. It was tender and succulent, with a smoky hint, but the flageolet ragout served on the side was undercooked.

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…

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2 Responses to “Coral Gables Food and Wine Festival”

  1. May 24, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    I just went to the Tampa F&W fest and wasn’t too impressed either – thought I wish we had Chuao chocolates participating!

  2. August 23, 2009 at 3:48 pm #

    Thank you for the great article Coral Gables Food and Wine festival! I have been to this festival as well and I had a great time. All the chocolate and candies were overwhelming, but I loved almost all of them.

    I don’t eat a lot of red meat or poultry and I did notice there were less vegetarian selections than I would have hoped, but it was still some great fun.

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