About 40 minutes before the scheduled 6 p.m. start of the first Rioja Street Fare Festival, Thursday, Sept. 22, the Winter Park Farmer’s Market was a flurry of activity. Inside the former railway depot and outside in the parking lot, chefs and their assistants were setting up their food booths, workers were rolling out tables and chairs for guests to sit at, signs and banners were being unfurled, and I was putting the programs on a table at the gate where people would check in and pick up their Riedel tasting glasses.
And then I checked the weather radar on my phone, and the activity suddenly got flurrier.
It was pretty clear we were going to get hit by a nasty looking storm. All the chefs that we had planned to be outside, including two food truck owners I had invited to participate, would have to move inside. (The trucks could stay in the lot.) Luckily, Erin Allport, who works with Dhane Chesson of Vibrant Rioja, with whom I had partnered in this event, had worked out a Plan B ahead of time. All we had to do was implement it. But it meant a lot of fast work had to be accomplished. Erin, who was in the final days of her pregnancy, had been ordered to rest by her doctor, so she could only stop by briefly or give instructions over the phone.
But everyone pulled together — and squeezed together, too — and we managed to fit 11 chefs, wine purveyors and their 60 wines, a Rioja cocktail bar, a very large bread display from Olde Hearth, two musicians, a few tables and chairs for sitting (others had to be rolled back into the closet for extra floor space) and a booth for Canine Companions for Independence, which benefitted from the evenings proceeds, and two of their service-dogs-in-training, all under the roof.
And it seemed to come off beautifully. It was almost as if we’d planned it that way all along.
If you were one of the 200 or so who attended, thanks for your support, and I hope you had a good time despite the rain and the close quarters. So many of you were kind enough to say hello and to tell me how much you enjoyed yourselves; I really appreciated that.
If you were one of the dozens who wanted to buy tickets but weren’t able to — it sold out in a matter of hours after the sale was announced to my newsletter recipients — take heart, we’re already planning other events.
Kudos to the intrepid team of car parkers from One Way Valet, who worked in the rain but kept sunny dispositions.
Special thanks to the chefs, who really came through with “street fare” creations specially engineered to highlight the properties of the wines of Rioja. We all noshed on such things as grouper cheeks from Tony Adams of Big Wheel Provisions food truck; “Empanadillas” filled with braised goat meat and Manchego with a smoked tomato sofrito dipping sauce from Kevin Fonzo of K; smoked Brisket, Pork & Chicken tacos with Rioja soaked & smoked cheese topped with fresh pico, smoked tomatoes & crème fraiche from John Rivers of 4Rivers Smokehouse; Venezuelan Arepa stuffed with charred baby octopus, pickled onions, grilled corn, avocado, nectarine & jalapeno from James Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig; steamed buns with beet cured salmon and kimchi from Jamie McFadden and Harold Henderson of barJme; Gulf shrimp with serrano ham, white beans and tomatoes from Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s; slow-roasted pork belly in a steamed bun from Greg Richie of Emeril’s Tchoup Chop; and braised lamb shoulder tostada from Steve Saelg of The Crooked Spoon food truck.
Guests also got a first taste of the soon-to-open Prato. Chef de cuisine Matt Cargo served a meatball with Anson Mills polenta. Brandon McGlamery and his newly-named chef de cuisine at Luma on Park, Derek Perez, served Laughing Bird Shrimp Croquetas with Preserved Key Lime-Cucumber Salsa, Marcona Almond, and Roasted Jalapeno Gazpacho.
The Ravenous Pig’s Julie Petrakis was also there, serving an array of desserts that were made using Rioja wines.
And all of the above is just a sampling of what was sampled. I don’t think anyone went away hungry.
Here are some of the images of the event, courtesy of photographer Derek Bigham. Oh, and one final note: congratulations to Erin Allport and her husband, John, who was also there pouring wine Thursday. Erin gave birth to Lyla Shea Allport over the weekend.