Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Denver International Wine Festival as a brand ambassador for Maple Leaf Farms. The was the 10th year of the festival, which spans three days and brings together dozens of wineries for tastings, as well as food pairings from local chefs. Maple Leaf Farms sponsored my trip, and I was able to attend the Pairsine dinner on Thursday night, as well as the Grand Tasting of International Wines on Friday night. Chef extraordinaire Sara Moulton was there to do a cooking demonstration of her recipe for Bistro Duck Breast, which was sampled by a large and appreciative crowd of food and wine aficionados.
The Pairsine event on Thursday was a chance to sample dishes prepared by ten local chefs, all paired with some of the top-rated wines from the festival. Attendees had the opportunity to vote for their favorite pairings, with the winning chef announced at the end of the evening. Voting was a challenge because there were so many innovative and delicious dishes to sample. Maple Leaf Farms duck was featured by three different chefs, including a duck mortadella on a toasted fennel seed cracker, by Chef Bill Miner of Relish Catering, as well as a duck breast carpaccio with lentil salad and coconut curry, by Chef Joshua Hesho, from the Omni Interlocken Resort:
Chef Laurent Mechin, from the St. Julian Hotel and Spa, had one of my personal favorite tastings, a cassoulet made with Maple Leaf Farms duck and Boulder lamb, which he paired with a Creekside Cellars 2011 Petit Verdot. The dish was lush and earthy, and balanced well with the dense fruitiness of the wine. Chef Mechin also prepared a salad of endive and apple, dressed with toasted hazelnuts, bleu cheese, and a truffle cider vinaigrette. This was paired with Balletto 2013 Chardonnay, which was a lovely surprise for me because I rarely enjoy Chardonnay–this was a hit, with a pleasantly un-oaked, crisp flavor that married well with the light salad.
Chef Chris Teigland, of Balistreri Vineyards, was ultimately crowned the favorite of the evening for his delicious braised pork belly, served on silky beet and sunchoke purees and topped with a blackberry Malbec demi glace and crispy truffled sunchoke chips. This dish was paired with Gascon Malbec. He also served one of my other favorites of the night, a scallop ceviche with pineapple and fresno chile, topped with a crispy curl of speck. This dish was paired with MacMurray Pinot Gris.
After all of that food and wine we retired to our lovely room at the Omni Interlocken Resort to sleep it off and prepare our palates for the next day of festivities. On Friday afternoon we joined Sara Moulton and some of our friends from Maple Leaf Farms for a great lunch at Linger. We ordered several sharable dishes and enjoyed everything we tried. Highlights included a roasted beet salad textured with cashews and puffed rice, a masala dosa filled with spiced potatoes and brussels sprouts, a plate of sticky-crispy honey sriracha duck wings, and a “coffee and donuts” dessert that featured a bag of hot, freshly-made donuts served with a coffee mousse.
That evening we grabbed our wine glasses and headed to the Grand Tasting of International Wines event. We tasted a wide range of wines, sampled some food, and watched Sara do her live cooking demo. She showed the large audience how to properly sear duck breasts to get the skin crispy while keeping the meat rare, and afterwards the crowd enjoyed some samples of the dish.
We had a wonderful time at the event and I would highly recommend it for anyone who is a fan of fine food and wine. Event founder Christopher Davies puts together a really spectacular range of tastings and vendors, and so long as you don’t plan to drive anywhere afterwards it is a wonderful opportunity to sample widely and discover some new wines. Maple Leaf Farms sponsored my trip, but all opinions are my own and are (as always) genuine. Their duck was featured throughout the event, a testament to the idea that duck has a versatility that makes it a veritable “pork with wings.” Chef Moulton emphasized the value of saving the “liquid gold” that is the duck fat rendered when you sear duck breasts, and in the spirit of that I came home and whipped up this simple recipe for Duck Fat Carrot and Parsnip Fries. These are seasoned with garlic and cilantro and are best served with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. I think you will enjoy this spin on oven fries.
- About 1/2 pound of carrots (I used red and orange varieties)
- About 1/2 pound of parsnips
- 3 tablespoons duck fat, warmed to liquid
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- fresh chopped cilantro
- lime wedges
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Trim and scrub the carrots, leaving the peels intact. Trim and peel the parsnips. Cut the vegetables into thick matchsticks.
- Toss the vegetables with the duck fat, garlic, and salt until they are evenly coated. Spread them out on a baking sheet with an edge. Roast for 25-35 minutes, stirring once, or until they are browned and have developed some crispy edges.
- Scoop the hot fries into a serving dish and sprinkle with the fresh cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
Thanks for reading,