This past weekend was the 13th annual Albany Chef’s Food and Wine Festival: Wine and Dine for the Arts at the Albany Capital Center in Albany, New York. It was the first full in person event since COVID and the best turn out in festival history.
Here is a recap of the weekend of festivities and why you should plan to attend the Albany Chef’s Food and Wine Festival next year!
What is the Albany Chef’s Food and Wine Festival?
The 2023 Albany Chef’s Food and Wine Festival was a 3 day event. It started on January 26th with a Mayor’s Reception and Kickoff with Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.
Friday’s events included a Grand Tasting, a Slider Slam competition and a Battle of the Bartenders event, with bartenders from around the area competing to make the best Negroni cocktail.
Saturday’s events included a Grand Tasting and Battle of the Bartenders: Espresso Martini edition during the day, followed by a Grand Gala Dinner in the evening.
All events feature an incredible variety of food and beverages from local businesses and prominent local chefs (more on that later).
Festival goers can purchase tickets to individual events or an all access ticket that grants them entrance to all the events throughout the weekend.
The Albany Chef’s Food and Wine Festival is not just a great opportunity to sample food and beverages from some of the best chefs in the area, it is also a great opportunity to support a great cause.
The Albany Chef’s Food and Wine Festival benefits a selection of local arts organizations.
The premiere beneficiaries of the 2023 event are the Albany Barn, Capital Repertory Theatre, Capitaland Chorus, and Park Playhouse. The spotlight beneficiaries include the Albany Center Gallery, Capital Cinema and Electronic Body Art, Inc.
The Grand Tasting events were held on Friday, January 27th and Saturday, January 28th. The events featured food samples from the region’s best chefs and restaurants, wine and spirit samplings, a craft beer pavilion, educational seminars, a VIP lounge and art installations and performances.
Over 40 local restaurants, offered generous samples of their best dishes. From mac and cheese to sliders and smoothies to boozy donuts, there was something for everyone to sample.
My favorites of the day were the fettuccine prepared in a parmesan cheese wheel by Nicole’s Restaurant, the mac and cheese from Druthers Brewing Company, the birria tacos from Taco Libre and the spiked donuts from Cider Belly Donuts.
There were also over 20 breweries, distilleries and liquor vendors pouring samples of their tasty beverages. Some of my favorites were the vodka sodas from Southern Tier Brewing Company and Albany Distilling Co. and the spiked snow cones from Curamia Tequila.
When planning your visit to the Albany Chef’s Food and Wine Festival, be sure to come hungry and thirsty, because there is so much to sample and you don’t want to miss out on any of it!
The Slider Slam took place on Friday, January 27th at 8PM. Restaurants competing in the competition included Innovo Kitchen, Swifty’s Restaurant, Dinosaur BBQ, Nicole’s Restaurant, Tipsy Moose, Slidin’ Dirty, Farmhouse Tap and Tavern, Druther’s Brewing Company, The Fountain Restaurant, Mazzone Hospitality, Season’s Catering, 677 Prime and Abrookin CTE.
Attendees were able to cast their vote for their favorite slider of the evening. John LaPosta from Innovo Kitchen took home the title as Slider Slam champion, maintaining his slider champ title from 2020!
Battle of the Bartenders
Battle of the Bartender competitions took place on Friday and Saturday, so all attendees could participate whether you were attending on Friday or Saturday (or both). Friday was a Negroni competition and Saturday was the Espresso Martini competition.
Bartenders participating in the Negroni competition included Logan Virkler from 30 Lake, Blake Rock from Dinosaur BBQ, Braden Lilly from Olde English Pub, Tim and Pat Taney from Slidin’ Dirty, Sabrina Ross from Swifty’s Restaurant and Pub, Trudy Steier and Sam Hooker from The Copper Crow, Katy Aitchison from Wellington’s and Joseph Heany from Sea Smoke Waterfront Grill.
Bartenders participating in the Espresso Martini competition included Logan Virkler, Blake Rock, Braden Lilley, Pat taney, Sabrina Ross, Katy Aitchison, Zachary Valentina from Fort Orange Club, Dionee Puorto from Tipsy Moose and Jenn Hiza from 677 Prime.
Katy Aitchison from Wellington’s won the Negroni competition and Jenn Hiza from 677 Prime, who made my personal favorite espresso martini of the competition, won that round.
Congratulations to all the participating bartenders for their impressive cocktail creations.
Grand Gala Dinner
The 3-day festival concludes with a bang at the 5-course ‘Casino Royale’ themed Grand Gala Dinner. The evening began with a reception featuring a champagne wall, a food station by Chef Ric Orlando, passed hors d’oeuvre, two bars, art demonstrations and black jack and roulette tables.
After sampling some of the delicious hors d’oeuvres from the friendly waitstaff and trying my luck at a round of roulette, we were escorted upstairs to the Grand Gala Dinner. The room was decked out in ‘Casino Royale’ decor and DJ Reel and DJ Romantics provided live musical entertainment.
After a few opening remarks, the 5-course dinner started out with an appetizer by Chef AJ Richard of Farmacy Restobar in Glens Falls, NY. The dish featured tuna tartare with local vodka compressed honeydew, bruleed orange, carrot broth, jalapeno parsley oil, sunflower seeds and micro basil.
The accompanying wine was a Bonterra Organic Sauvignon Blanc from California. The dish and wine was unique, light and refreshing.
The second course was prepared by Chef Elliot Vogel from Old Daley Custom Catering. It was a champagne lacquered salsify with cured heirloom carret, hickory earth apple, smoked sultana, pistachio, sesame, green cardamon tahini and aioli basil. The accompanying wine was Allegrini “Palazzo del Torre” 2020 from Verona, Italy.
I’ve never had salsify (a root vegetable) before and I was almost convinced they were scallops as the taste and texture resembled them. This dish was unlike anything I’ve tried before and all the flavors played so well together. The wine was my favorite of the evening.
The third course was prepared by Chef Ian O’Leary from Yono’s & dp an American Brasserie. Miso Butter Poached Hake was served with creamed red cabbage, 5 spice roasted parsnip, crispy candied ginger and micro wasabin. The wine pairing was a Louis Jadot Chardonnay from Burgundy, France.
The fish was flaky and tender and the creamed red cabbage was a surprising favorite.
Chef David Zimmerman of Mazzone Hospitality prepared the fourth course, which was a Grilled Lamb Loin with saffron potato, carrot gratin, Moroccan eggplant, pomegranate-apricot jus and chermoula gremolata. The dish was paired with a 2020 Penfold’s “Max’s Shiraz/Cabernet from Australia.
I generally dislike lamb, but this grilled lamb loin was extremely tender, flavorful and not gamey. The saffron potatoes were out of this world, and my favorite item from the whole dinner.
This exquisite meal concluded with a dessert by Chef Jaime Ortiz of JO Restaurant Group. It was a Chocolate and Cherries with Bing cherry and maraschino mousse, chocolate amarena cherry ganache, star anise black forest crumble and kirsch glaze.
The wine pairing was a Rosa Regale Sparkling Brachetto d’Aqui NV from Piedmont, Italy. The presentation was exceptional and the flavors even more so.
The evenings food and drink were accompanied by live performances from Capitaland Chorus and Mr. Vegas and His Showgirls. The evening also featured live and silent auctions, with proceeds benefiting the night’s art beneficiaries.
I hope by now I’ve convinced you to attend this spectacular food and wine event next year (and the next, and the next). I only know it’s going to be bigger and better than ever in 2024.