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Tuna & Salmon Poke by SeaGrille

Nantucket Wine Festival Opening Gala

Chocolate Chicken Flautas from Breeze
Scallop taco from Nautilus

The Nantucket Wine Festival opening Gala at the White Elephant Hotel is the wine parties of all wine parties. Paired perfectly with restaurants from Nantucket to Boston, this event is a teaser to what is to come for the next few days during this extraordinary festival held annually in May.  Started 21years ago by Susan and Dennis Toner, this Thursday night kick off is the place to be. I have to admit here that I don’t drink, well, let’s phrase it that I am not a drinker and prefer to eat than sip a glass of wine, however, I found myself experimenting a bit this year. I arrived early since the event is only a few hours long and those who are considered “VIP’s” get in a 5pm instead of 6pm giving them a slight advantage to spend more time with the vendors. So as I said, I arrived early, yes, I was on that VIP list and slowly made my way one by one to each restaurant table tasting everything they had to offer while mingling among the more knowledgeable attendees. There were many local restaurants participating this year along with off island ones that caught my eye.

I felt somewhat like a judge as I visited each table and politely declined the wine that was supposed to be paired with it since I was more interested in the food than the grape aspect of the evening. I was of course there to inspect, to taste and to write about the food. Ok, so I eventually sipping a few glasses of wine, I confess. After making my rounds, and more than once I shall add, I decided without a doubt that Nautilus had the tastiest sample that night! It was a delicate balance of scallops in a citrus sauce and slivers of vegetables in a small taco shell. The burst of mouthwatering flavors that could actually come from two bites was shocking. “How the hell could this little gem of a taco have so much to offer. I literally stood there to watch them prepare the taco over and over and as tiny as it was, a bite full or two, it was perfect. “Bravo I say, Bravo.”

Now for the most beautiful display and good food was hands down, The SeaGrille. EJ Harvey is an artist when it comes to presentation. The sampling was Tuna and Salmon Poke with a Kimchi Crème Fraiche. Shades of pink and orange intertwined tuna and salmon sat atop a patty of rice on top of a very delicate crispy chip and the appetizers was garnished with a what I believe were sesame seeds and a micro green adding just the perfect punch of freshness to this exquisite display. 

Breeze from The Nantucket Hotel had a lovely presentation as well and offered a different kind of experience engaging the customers to participate in the presentation of the food by choosing which condiment topped the Chocolate Chicken Flautas. This table was buzzing with activity when I arrived and I patiently waited my turn to create my tasty treat. The toppings were a black bean garlic hummus, Greek yogurt, Chocolate BBQ sauce and some fresh chopped cilantro. Well, let’s just say, this creative concoction went very quickly with the crowds. Chef Josh knows what he’s doing and I understand their new Director of Food & Beverage Michael Blaksteen is paving a new direction for the restaurant. I shall put Breeze on my next restaurant to visit.

I ran into an old friend who knew I did not drink and insisted I try something called Sauterne. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I not drink much and I am not kidding, maybe three beers a year, never wine and although I love rum, I tend to cook with it more than I drink it. However, I ventured out this evening and indulged a bit. This wonderful dessert wine had a fragrance that hit my nose like a fresh bouquet of flowers, sweet like perfume and yet so yummy that I wanted to gulp it down. It slipped down my throat like a sweet syrup and before I took too much I was told to hold off as this friend grabbed my arm and dragged me over to the Vermont Creamery table. Here we sampled something called Bonne Bouche which is the flagship of Vermont Creamery’s signature geotrichum-rinded aged goat cheeses. When I combined the Bonne Bouche and Sauterne in my mouth for the first time I thought I had gone to heaven. I was amazed, shocked, and just couldn’t believe that something could taste so wonderful. All this time, I cook and bake with wine and alcohol, but never truly understood the balance and value of accompanying a beautifully prepared meal with just the right wines. “OMG, what have I been missing?” I am still talking about that unbelievable moment of that night when I discovered the perfect match. It was the perfect ending to this three-hour blissful food and wine extravaganza.

Rating: 5 stars!

Dishin’ It Out has a passion for food on Nantucket.

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