Montclair’s Food and Wine Festival 2017 featured the very best that New Jersey has to offer.
On July 15th, the Wellmont Theater in Montclair was transformed into an eloquent dining hall for the Bourbon and Biergarten celebration of Montclair’s Food and Wine Festival. The event displayed the finest restaurants and beverage companies from around the area. The festivities took place both inside and outside, an advantage that the event organizer Melody Kettle said would help greatly as it meant there was no worry of weather ruining the day. The length of the event depended on what ticket you bought. For those who purchased the pricier “Manhattan” ticket, festivities would begin at 6pm. For those with the standard “Old-fashioned” ticket, the doors opened at 7 pm.
The festival was a collection of restaurants and drink makers enticing partygoers to try their wares. 32 different restaurants and 23 drink makers participated in the event. Men on stilts blew bubbles, a brass band played joyous, fast paced music to create a great atmosphere. All around the attendees, the most delicious food was being created on-site by cooks from the restaurants being represented. From expertly braised BBQ Ribs to sweet Tuna Tartare, the festival seemingly offered everything.
Amanti Vino, a popular local winery located on Church Street greatly helped to sponsor and promote the event. Wesley Kirk, a sales manager for Amanti Vino, said the festival had “the finest bourbon and craftiest beer this side of the Hudson.” Lawrence Hackney, owner of The Wood Pit, says he served three 40 pound suckling pigs at the festival. “The number one BBQ in Montclair had to be there!”, Hackney says.
The restaurants that were there were a diverse bunch. You had established Montclair favorites like Applegate Farm Ice Cream and Egan & Sons (who served delectable chorizo tacos). There were also relative newcomers to the Montclair food scene such as MishMish and Stuffed Burgers. There was a feeling of slight elitism to the food side of things – as though the very best restaurants around were all there. In that sense, there was a side of competition to the festival. Those manning the stalls tried to catch the eyes of those wandering through, claiming that you simply have not lived if you had not tried their BBQ shrimp.
None of this overshadowed the exuberance of the event. This may be something to do with the free flowing alcohol at the event, where whiskey makers and beer aficionado’s chatted and served samples. I spoke to Erin Baschwitz, who works for Ironbound Hard Cider, a proud New Jersey company that aims to restore the reputation of the once famed New Jersey cider. When asked about why a company may want to represent themselves here, Baschwitz says “Well along with promoting the brand, we also like to make an impact in Montclair. Charles Rosen, who founded us in 2015, lives in Montclair so it’s definitely about bringing something nice to our hometown and also showing our friends and family our drink.”
If anything, the festival speaks volumes to the caliber of food makers and food lovers in Montclair. Our town and its residents are lucky not only for these dazzling displays of consumable delicacy, but for the culture of good food and drink that surrounds us every day.
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