Epicurean Classic 2009

Well, it was a loooong weekend as I was at the Epicurean Classic all three days! It was an amazing event despite the unseasonably cold weather.

Friday, August 28
I decided to kick off the weekend by attending the Great Lakes BBQ Dinner on the bluff of Saint Joseph, MI. The event featured five chefs: Mary Sue Milliken, Carlyn Berghoff, Eve Aronoff, Jennifer Blakeslee and Ted Reader. I must say, the food was delicious and the wine tasting options extensive. The event was held in the main tasting tent with a gorgeous KitchenAid kitchen display overlooking the festivities. It was so much fun interacting with the product and dreaming about an all stainless KitchenAid kitchen!

It was KitchenAid's 90th Anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, they created a gorgeous anniversary edition standmixer. It's candy-apple red with a glass bowl and simply beautiful!

The first thing I tried was pulled pork and coleslaw in a sugar cone. It was ice cream cones filled with BBQ Pulled Pork mixed with Fois Gras, Jack Daniels and Cider Vinegar topped with a shot and a beer coleslaw. What a nice presentation. The pork was very tender and delicious. There was also a creamed spinach that I had to get seconds of. I'm not a huge spinach fan, but this was so savory and creamy.

The next dish I tried was a sort of fish taco. A small tortilla round, shredded lettuce, black cod, a decadent grapefruit salsa, and some cilantro. The fish was simply perfection in the way it was prepared and I loved the grapefruit salsa...however... I had forgotten that I don't care for cod, so I tried to not let that cloud my judgment. Overall it was a very tasty combination.

After a few more wine trials, I decided to call it a night and prepare for a full day on Saturday.

Saturday, August 29

The first cooking demonstration we made it to on Saturday was Anna Thomas : Soup and Accessories. She made two delicious soups and then showed different ways of dressing them up for serving.

In the photo above you will see that she has three bowls of greens. She was making "Green Soup". She used chard, cilantro, and curly kale. She put these in a pot and boiled them down with vegetable broth, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, and a potato. The potato added just the right amount of body and substance, she said. She used an immersion blender (provided by KitchenAid!) when it was all simmered together to get it blended into soup. The photo below shows the different ways she dressed it. Homemade croutons, olive oil, goat cheese...yum! The yellow soup was a ginger squash soup I believe, which I didn't get a chance to see her make. She made her own savory chili paste and placed that in the middle of one. It was a bit chilly outside and this demo was very inspirational and made me look forward to soup season!

After that, my mouth was watering, so we headed to the tasting tent. I must say there were more wines to sample than you could ever dream of! I tried to try things I had never heard of so I wasn't overwhelmed by the selection.

One of the first food stations we tried was one of my favorites. It was hosted by Collins Caviar and they were serving Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Caviar Peppar (golden whitefish caviar cured with fresh jalapeno, serrano, and habanero peppers and accented with Absolut Peppar Vodka). It was heavenly. The spice of the bloody mary-ness in the gazpacho was brilliant with the chill air. The spear of celery cooled of the tongue, and the caviar added dimension and brilliance. Not too spicy at all!

I had to taste each of their caviars multiple times, because they were soooo good! The yellow one is Caviar Citron (whitefish caviar with lemon, lime, and grapefruit combined with Absolut Citrus Vodka). One would think from the description that this would be a sour and sweet caviar, but the flavors were so subtle that the caviar was the most prominent flavor; it was really well done. You got a lingering sweetness on your tongue before the flood of salty, savory goodness. I need to buy some caviar pronto. The black one is Paddlefish caviar. This caviar had a rich and complex flavor. Black/grey caviars are some of my favorites! The green one was – wait for it – Wasabi Tobikko! I HAD to try this brilliant green caviar. The first bite was brilliantly balanced between the savory caviar and the tang of wasabi. My second bite was not so balanced and the wasabi was definitely prominent. Not being a big fan of straight wasabi, I think this would be a great garnish to some california rolls or some such.

One of our next stops was to Patricia's Chocolate's booth. To say these chocolates were amazing is an understatement. Patricia hand-crafts these beauties from the freshest ingredients. My favorites were the lavendar and mandarin ginger. I wish I had tried them all! They were very complex and kept hitting different parts of your palate long after your first bite. Delish!

Our next stop was Zingerman's booth. Zingermans is a conglomerate of small food-related companies in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and boy did they have the best candy bars! They were very tasty and tasted hand-made.

And, of course, there was some local love for Bit o' Swiss Bakery (of whom I've written of before). They were serving these very delicious chocolate mousse cups that were just beautiful.

After glutting ourselves on caviar, wine, and chocolate, we headed over and caught the end of Jennifer McLagen : Beyond Bread and Butter. I fell in love with this chef immediately. Her love and use of butter had me mesmerized.

As you can see, she's not a very big person at all, and yet she preaches a very good message. Eating fat doesn't make you fat. It's all about the kinds of fats you are eating as well as everything is fine in moderation. If you eat low-fat or no-fat foods, there are a lot of chemicals to enhance flavor, and the food doesn't satisfy you. If you eat two slices of pork belly, then you are more satisfied longer, and you won't be snacking between meals, so in the end you'll take in less calories and healthier fats. She also had some other good points about grass fed beef vs. corn fed and how our bodies absorb omega-3's vs. omega-6's. I'll spare you the long lecture. It basically gets down to the thick of it: The more processed and engineered a food is, the worse it is for you. We need to get back to basics and as close to nature as we can to nourish ourselves and enjoy food to it's fullest. And I completely agree with her.

She has a great cookbook out that I would love to have:

I was going to buy it at the bookstore at epicurean and get it signed, but I ran out of time. So if anyone is looking to get the foodie a gift, this would make a great one :).
For the rest of the event, we lovingly called her "the fat lady".

After drooling about butter, we headed over to Andy Pforzheimer : All About Tapas: The Simpler the Better. Andy owns a six-chain tapas restaurant. These two were fun to watch!

They talk about how tapas aren't a food-style, they're an act. It's like glorified snacking. In the photo above they made these amazingly simple tapas that I was lucky enough to try. They took a course bread and grilled it with olive oil and got it firmed up. Then they cut a head of raw garlic in half and rubbed it with olive oil into the bread. After that they took a thick walled softer tomato, similar to a roma, and rubbed that into the bread. A dash of salt, and viola! Soooo good! (I'm not even joking!) I actually had to go home and make some. I never would've thought of rubbing raw garlic into bread, but it's the best because you get a little bite and the garlic flavor. They went on to make other really simple bites of food that had my mouth watering.

That was the end of the demonstrations, so we headed home to warm up before the grand reception that night. I'm super sorry to say that I left my camera in the car accidentally and didn't notice until I went to photograph our first bite of food. :( There were plenty of bites to try, and again, plenty of wines to enjoy. I tried sake for the first time (hmmmm) and also a chocolate-cherry vodka from traverse city that would be heavenly in hot chocolate. One of my favorite things, however, was chocolate tea. (I know, right?) Angela Macke, founder of Light of Day Organics was there with a plethora of her teas. I had tried an earl gray earlier in the day that was so light and fragrant. That night she was serving her cacao-mint tea. Every ingredient in the loose tea is grown on the farm, except one, which is imported. When you smell it, it smells like decadent chocolate. When you try it, the chocolate is in the background, and the tea is light and fresh with other complex flavors. The mint doesn't come until afterward and is very subtle. I fell in love with this tea and cannot wait to order some. She said her inspiration for such a tea was thin mint girlscout cookies. All I can say, is that this is the best tea I have ever tasted.

Sunday, August 30
No camera today either, as I was volunteering at the registration tent. The weather was a bit dismal, but there were still people hankering for some more tastings and demos. I slipped into Jennifer McLagen's demo that day entitled, Bones, Fat, and Beyond: What Everyone Should and Will Be Eating. She spoke more about eating natural fats and then proceeded to demonstrate two recipes. The first was bone marrow. This was very interesting to me, as I can't wait to try some. She made some sort of bone marrow taco with it, but mentioned some other wonderful serving suggestions. It can be spread on bread and eaten (which is the way I want to try first), it can be ground up with steak to make burgers, or ground into sausage, or it could be spread on a steak while it cooks so it seeps into the meat and adds that extra dimension. All of which, sound devilishly delicious. So stick around, because you may see some bone marrow coming up.
Her second recipe was beef heart. Beef heart. A whole one. As big as my face. Now, I'm a hardcore foodie, and I love trying new things...but I have a problem trying things that still resemble their biological functions. As she held it up I could name the arteries coming out of the top and each chamber, but I could not fathom putting it in my mouth. The aorta was so large, it kinda grossed me out a bit. So I watched her dissect it and watched how she cleaned it. She cubed it and marinaded it, and then placed it on the grill. By that time it looked like venison, or maybe even liver, so it was more manageable to picture eating. Would I buy a beef heart? Maybe. Would I be able to clean it and eat it? Only if it cooked for a long enough time that I didn't connect the organ with the end result. At the end of the demo, she let us try the heart. And I did. Her marinade was to die for, and the meat was more tender than I would have thought. Really, not that bad. Do I want to try it in the near future? Probably not. Would I order it in a restaurant? Sure.

If you're still reading by this time, I'm really impressed. I hope you enjoyed the peek into the Epicurean Classic. Can't wait to see what next year's brings!


  1. What an amazing recount of Epicurean Classic. I am so pleased that you enjoyed yourself, despite the weather that Mother Nature dished out day after day. I am posting a link to your write-up on the EC Facebook page for all to see!

  2. Dianna,

    Thanks so much, it is truly an honor!

  3. Totally needed this to reference for a job interview. Thank YOU for posting!