2009 International Chefs Congress Wrap-Up: Tasting and Mixology Day One

Junior Merino at 2009 Chef CongressPinot-lovers poured over their beloved grape in the afternoon’s only wine tasting "Pinot Passion." Moderator Jim Clarke of Megu in NYC focused the discussion on New Zealand, looking beyond the usual price points and domains for pinot noir. Clarke led the panel of New Zealanders, including wine purveyors Simon Buck and Fraser Mackenzie, and wine producer George Geris. They discussed the regional characteristics of New Zealand wines and the ways in which its terroir is displayed. Given New Zealand wines’ lower price point, Clarke says, the country’s pinots are proving an increasingly sought-after alternative to expensive Burgundies. Red wine-loving diners, sommeliers, and chefs, take note.

Chefs/restaurateurs/honey connoisseurs Eric and Bruce Bromberg led their group through a tasting of honeys, including three of their own Blue Ribbon brand of raw Mexican varietals and two from Marcelli Formaggi. The five honeys were diverse in flavors, from mesquite to eucalyptus, and represented examples of both raw and processed types. The Brombergs described how they discovered their honey and the three-year process to get the honey to a standardized quality. Their tips for honey storage are to keep it at room temperature in a cool, dry place (not in the refrigerator!); they also recommend using the honey within a year’s time (though it doesn’t go bad); and to dissolve the crystallized honey in hot water. They encouraged chefs to use honey in their dishes, from pairing with cheeses and baking into bread to cooking, but not heating above 125°F!

Mixologist Junior Merino always puts on a good show. In today’s only mixology workshop, The Liquid Chef led a room full of cocktail pros and aficionados in a workshop on incorporating Latin flavors into cocktails. He started by having everyone taste four spirits on their own to see why it make sense to use them in each cocktail. Merino and the participants worked together to create four cocktails using a variety of spirits and cocktail gadgets, including smoking guns, iSi whippers, and Vita-Mix blenders—not to mention good old fashioned shakers, jiggers, and muddlers.

by Amanda McDougall, Katherine Martinelli, Emily Bell, Carolina Daza Carreño, and Francis Joven