Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Festival

The annual Heirloom Tomato Festival at the Kendall Jackson Wine Center has been on our calendar for over a year. We had high expectations and we weren’t disappointed. The day was bright and sunny and the temperature was in the 90’s. I was concerned about the heat and the crowds, but it was well organized and there was plenty of shade.
Tasting Tent

I was anxious to head right away for the tomato tasting tent. Kendall Jackson grows over a hundred varieties of heirloom tomatoes in their garden on site. The tasting tent had samples of every variety imaginable cut and ready to sample. 

They provided a sheet for tasting notes, listing all the varieties in order by color. I made at least four trips to the tent and only managed to taste about 40 of the different varieties.

Hosea from Top Chef
A celebrity chef challenge ran continuously all day. Well-known chefs competed in challenge rounds, in a Top Chef-style competition. If you’re a fan of Top Chef, you might recognize some of the participants.

CJ from Top Chef
The chefs clearly enjoyed themselves in the fast-paced, friendly competition, in spite of the blistering heat due to the sun, stoves and grills. We got a bit of an inside peek at how it all works since the son of friends works at KJ for events like this. “Dangerous Dan,” as he is known, is one of the hard-working local chefs who work behind the scenes to help make an event like this successful. The competition was very entertaining, but I couldn’t stay for it all. There was too much going on!

Dangerous Dan

In addition to the requisite KJ wine tasting, there were 48 restaurants serving up samples of their best recipes using heirloom tomatoes. We ate continuously all day, and still couldn’t try all the delicious offerings. The creativity and variety of tomato recipes was amazing. Everything from more traditional salads, salsas and ceviche, to waffles, octopus, pulled pork, tomato cake and yellow tomato lobster bisque.

It would be hard to choose a favorite, but I loved the heirloom tomato chipotle glazed pork shoulder shown  on the right with KJ 2006 Grand Reserve Zinfandel prepared by Equus Restaurant, the vanilla butter cake with pineapple and cardamom scented caramel and brown sugar heirloom tomatoes by CutieCakes (above, bottom left) and the heirloom tomato waffle with whipped tomato butter and heirloom syrup by Nectar (above, top center).

There was also Bruschetta Boulevard where KJ paired their wines with different bruschettas. They prepared some unique bruschetta and no tickets were needed for the wines here. This area was also the location of the winners of the heirloom tomato growing contest. There were some real beauties in spite of our late growing season this year.

A live band for listening and a variety of seminars rounded out the entertainment for the day. I was far too busy sampling the food and wine to attend a seminar. But if the long line for the chocolate/wine pairing seminar was indicative of participation, a lot of other people did attend. The day ended all too soon, and I can’t wait until next year!

Contest tomatoes

1 comment:

  1. How much fun! I wish I could have attended an event like this...I'm such a fan of tomatoes. Thank you for sharing your pictures with us!