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Rising Star Chef Food and Wine Show


Published August 25, 2009 at 3:28 p.m.

This summer's excess of extraordinary food continued Saturday in an unprepossessing field across the street from the Topnotch Resort & Spa. A smallish, white tent held a dozen stations staffed by some of the country's culinary luminaries. Familiar faces like Mark Timms of Norma's (who organized the event) and Sean Buchanan of Solstice cooked alongside the likes of James Beard winner Mike Lata of FIG in Charleston, SC.

I started with a sambal egg from Zaina Dell' Aquila, Chef at the Condé Nast commissary, which hosts meals by notable cooks throughout the country, including Timms. Dell' Aquila, a native of Singapore, prepared a dish with a fusion of flavors that exist harmoniously side-by-side in her native land. The Malaysian hardboiled egg, bobbing in a dish of fiery red sauce, blended with the best Thai green curry I've ever had, spooned over aromatic yellow rice and topped with crispy fried onions.

Ford Fry of JCT Kitchen and Bar had more of a connection to Vermont than most of the other out-of-town chefs – he studied at NECI. Eating his Humboldt Fog chevre-stuffed fresh pasta seemed daunting in 90 degree weather, but they were so delicately creamy that they made me forget my sweat.

Timms' Norma's table (pictured) presented filet mignon on toast, covered with gorgeously seasoned, locally foraged chanterelles and a poached egg, which made its own luscious sauce for the tender steak. I also have to speak of my affection for Steve Bogart – late of A Single Pebble – and his anise-scented red pine chicken. Chicken bedecked in pork loaf? What a way to eat two of the tastiest animals at once!

My favorite, however was the dish presented by Springfield, MA native, Lata. His pig trotters (pictured) was braised to ultimate tenderness, formed into cakes, breaded and fried gloriously crisp. A refreshing salad of three local South Carolina beans and sweet corn was the perfect foil.

The event as a whole was exquisite and organized as if it had been done 100 times before. Not a drinker myself, I can't comment on the wine, except to say that it flowed plentifully and for free, with the assistance of very knowledgeable sommeliers. For just $25, the afternoon, which benefited the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, was the best deal of the summer.