On Saturday, May 7th, I had the privilege to be a part of a panel of esteemed judges at a Master Chef Challenge that took place at Water’s Crest Vineyard in Cutchogue. The cook-off was between two Top Chefs on Long Island, Tom Schaudel and Tom Fazio. The goal for each? To best match a dish to the vineyard’s new release – a 2010 rosé, a bright, clean, quaffable wine that kicked some serious grape skin.
Master Chef Andrea Glick and Palmer Vineyard’s Winemaker Miguel Martin and I judged the Challenge with over 50 attendees who got to sample each Chef’s dish along with us. Tom Schaudel, Executive Chef/Owner of Coolfish in Syosset, A Mano in Mattituck and more, presented the hungry crowd with several small plates: a sweet, spicy seared tuna ablaze with red and yellow peppers atop black forbidden rice dressed with grilled pineapple salsa, then pork done two ways: one slice was hand-cured and smoky, the other a flavorful, lean loin. Tom S. also served a fantastic grilled olive oil lemon cake with pickled strawberries for dessert.
Talented Tom Fazio, chef/owner of The Kitchen by Waterside Caterers in Northport, made an outstanding wine braised Long Island duck leg prepared with cinnamon, garlic, thyme, shallots, butter and drizzled with cold peach soup and blackberry sauce. A zesty, creamy, goat cheese, lemon citronette and basil water asparagus side dish almost knocked out my decorative hairpin. This invigorating accompaniment paired beautifully with the lively rosé.
Our main objective was to choose the Chef that best paired their main dish with the rosé. If we had to judge just on sheer deliciousness this would have been a far more difficult task. Ultimately, Tom S. prevailed with his choices of light, yet sweet and spicy pork and tuna. His rationale? To emulate a summer picnic. Tom F. chose a heavier dish to illustrate that rosé can stand up to anything. It was an overall bold maneuver that worked, just a tad less than the pork and fish according to us Judges.
Of course, I had a lot of fun announcing the winner as just “Tom.” I eventually followed it up with “Schaudel.” But in reality, they were both winners in not just the food, but also on feigning rivalry and surpassing hilarity. Both Chefs poured tons of creative energy and hard work for this event.
In between, vineyard owner Jim Waters talked a bit about his winemaking process, as did fellow winemaker/judge Miguel Martin. The audience got to ask lots of questions and give their own comments on how the food paired with the 2010 rosé. Afterward, guests were treated to a wonderful three course dinner at A Mano, each paired with Water’s Crest wines. What a fantastic afternoon. Do not miss the next cook-off event!
Photos are courtesy of Roxanne Browning from Exotic Chocolate Tasting in Northport, NY.
One of my favorite things to do is visit the North Fork of Long Island. I fell in love with the region about 12 years ago when pumpkin picking during harvest season. Fall was in the air, along with the smell of roasted corn, Briermere’s pies and festive music coming from Palmer Vineyards. The strum of banjos beckoned our group inside.
I remember sitting on the deck that day with glass of wine in hand, listening to sweet harmonies while I gazed out on the perfectly placed rows of plump red and white grapes. While the sun warmed my face I thought, “Does it get any better than this?” Actually, it did. The only thing that was missing was baguettes and cheese. So, on my next visit to the NOFO, I loaded up on goodies from the Village Cheese Shop in Cutchogue on Love Lane prior to vineyard hopping. I explored the area more and more each time I went out, and there was always more to see.
Some years after I took a job writing for the Long Island Wine Gazette, and I discovered more vineyards, met important winemakers and covered some monumental vineyard events. I began to learn all about the wine making process. And I tasted a lot of wine because that’s the only way to learn each grape’s distinct characteristics. It takes lots of practice, but I’m willing to devote even more time on the NOFO and continue to taste, taste, taste. Ah, the sacrifices we make for love…