Harvest Wine & Food Fest steps up culinary game in third year
October 29th, 2019
By Michelle Farnham
WATERCOLOR – While wine is typically the draw at a wine and food festival, the surge of culinary options at this year’s Harvest Wine & Food Festival Oct. 26 was undeniable. There were certainly wine industry heavy-hitters bringing some of their best bottles – Shirley Roy of Roy Estate, Michael Kasper of Gamble Family Vineyards, and Marika Vida-Arnold of Catena Zapata to name a few – but as one attendee exclaimed, “It’s a festival of meats!”
A bevy of award-winning chefs hailing from Georgia to North Carolina, Alabama to right here in South Walton, fired up some of their finest fall-inspired dishes at 20 food stations. Pitmaster Sam Jones of Sam Jones BBQ smoked a whole hog, while fellow Carolinian Kaley Laird of The Rhu and Benne on Eagle offered smoked trout with herbed fromage blanc and pickled onion on homemade sweet potato sourdough.
Atlanta-based Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q returned for a second year, led by brothers Jonathan and Justin Fox.
“We brought our smoked beef short rib, our jalapeño cheddar sausage, smoked pork, and hatch green chile Frito pie,” explained Jonathan, adding that they have been vacationing in Seagrove for about a decade, and were excited to get to return to Harvest. “Everybody we’ve gotten to know here bugs us that they want to taste our barbecue, so this is an opportunity for us to serve them our food.”
Georgia restaurateur and Top Chef contestant/judge Hugh Acheson made his inaugural appearance at Harvest, bringing a pickled Georgia shrimp with fall vegetable salad, penne, dried mushrooms, habanada chiles and furikake (a Japanese seasoning made of seaweed).
“I serve variations of this at my restaurant, 5 and 10. I picked it because it’s humid and hot out,” Acheson said, adding that he would pair it with a French sauvignon blanc or an austere Spanish white.
Adding some good old-fashioned brine to the event, those in the VIP tent sampled bivalves from Oysters XO, while out on the main plaza, nonprofit Oyster South was shucking shells from Oyster Bay.
“We’ve been in a drought, so these are very salty,” said rep Cainnon Gregg, who recommended adding nothing more than a couple drops of Old Florida mignonette. “I don’t serve these with crackers or cocktail sauce because these oysters are worth tasting. The difference between these and an Apalachicola Bay oyster is these are spring-fed by 13 submarine springs.”
Chef Mark Eichin of Restaurant Paradis has been cooking at Harvest since its inception three years ago, this time bringing braised pork Bolognese with a saffron gnocchi.
“I was hoping it was going to be a little cooler today,” he said with a laugh as he tended to a steaming pan. “There’s a lot of nice, real big red wines here that would go great with it, like a cab, pinot or merlot.”
Those looking for something other than wine could visit the Beer Garden for samples from the likes of 3rd Planet Brewery, Burnt Hickory Brewery and Tin Roof Brewing, or an assortment of spirits.
The festival weekend began with celebrity wine dinners Thursday and the al fresco reserve tasting Friday night. Funds raised benefit the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, which supports more than a dozen local children’s charities. The foundation’s next event is the Destin Charity Wine Auction, held as part of the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival April 23 to 26, 2020.