In March, April and May, wine devotees in four great American cities enjoyed Toast of the Town, Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s signature event. The festivities were held in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and New York City. A total of 5,500 enthusiasts attended the four evenings.
Toast of the Town was originally held exclusively in New York City. This year’s New York event was the eighth annual. Chicago was added in 2006, and the San Francisco event was inaugurated in 2007. This year, Atlanta was added to the roster.
All Toast of the Town events are held in spectacular cultural venues; live music, usually jazz, energizes the atmosphere; each city’s finest restaurants offer tasting portions of exquisite, wine-friendly dishes; seventy or more of the finest wineries in the world offer pours of their best bottlings; and thousands of wine-and-food-loving attendees stroll from table to table, enjoying the music, each others’ company and the exploration of artisan dishes and fine wines.
Some of the majestic bottles offered at this year’s events included Domaine de la Vougeraie 2005 Clos Blanc de Vougeot Premier Cru and Mommessin 2004 Clos de Tart, both from Boisset Family Estates; Vergelegen 2006 White Wine, from 57 Main Street Imports; Michlits wines from Burgenland, imported by Prescott Wines; Hess 2005 Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Beaulieu Vineyard 2004 George de Latour Private Reserve; Biondi-Santi 2003 Rosso di Montalcino; Barossa Valley Estate 2003 E&E Black Pepper Shiraz; and Masi 2000 Campolongo di Torbe Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. With such variety, quality and depth, it truly is an evening of exploration, whether it’s discovering wines, new friends, or unfamiliar dishes.
“I’ve been to hundreds and this is one of the best wine events,” confirms Michael Trenk, managing partner of the Capital Grille. The Grille’s Chef Aaron served over 1,400 portions of Kona Crusted Tenderloin with Shallot Herb Butter in three hours. “From the standpoint of the restaurateur, we certainly enjoyed it and benefited,” continues Trenk. “It’s well organized. The quality of the people that attended was high. It wasn’t stuffy, wasn’t pretentious. It was a fun event with great energy.”
TOTT in Atlanta, the newest addition to towns toasted, was held at the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world with more than eight million gallons of water and over 60 exhibits. One thousand guests filled the Aquarium’s Oceans Ballroom and sampled such fine seafood fare as Salmon Ceviche with Crisped Malanga, Ruby Red Beets, Yuzu and Hawaiin Salt, from Canoe; Bourbon Shrimp & Grits – Shrimp, Creole Bourbon Sauce, Jalapeño White Cheddar Grits, from The Clubhouse; and Roulade of Wild Shrimp, Scallop and Filet, from Halyards. Attendees enjoyed these delicious dishes, along with offerings from 30 other restaurants and 73 wineries, while gazing at the Beluga whale and whale shark tanks. Completing the ambiance was a blue-lit ceiling mosaic of undulating panels simulating the ocean’s surface.
Chicago’s Toast of the Town was held in Stanley Field Hall at the Field Museum. The 1,600 attendees were surrounded by towering totems, replicated elephants and Sue, the largest (42ft. in length) and most complete T.Rex skeleton yet discovered. Primal instincts took hold and guests were satiated by delectable dishes such as sweet and savory Lamb Loin Skewers Marinated in Pomegranate Molasses by Mambo Grill, Park Grill’s Slow Cooked Suckling Pig with Ruby Beet Horseradish and Himalayan Sea Salt, and tender Grilled Wagyu Skirt Steak with Arugula, Raw Cremini Mushrooms and Meyer Lemon Dressing from Trattoria No. 10. With pachyderms and a “tyrant lizard” as tasting companions, Chicago’s Toast certainly was memorable.
With an estimated 1,700 people attending, TOTT at Lincoln Center in New York City was the largest TOTT to date. Held at the State Theater, guests were able to enjoy the offerings of 93 wineries and over 30 restaurants on two floors, with an outdoor terrace that opened to the cool spring night air. Thalassa Restaurant served up savory Diver Sea Scallops over Caviar Mousse; while out on the terrace, Blue Water Grill offered a refreshing spoonful of Kona Kampachi Tartare, English Pea Coulis and Wasabi Tobiko to match the crisp climate. For a hearty more substantial bite, Manti—Lebanese Pasta stuffed with Beef and Lamb and Minted Yogurt—was Ilili Restaurant’s specialty for the evening.
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Curtains were up at the elegant War Memorial Opera House, where Toast of the Town San Francisco kicked off the season with 1,200 guests in attendance. Close to 30 restaurants and 82 wineries serviced event-goers, with plenty to enjoy and savor while strolling five expansive floors and marveling at the premiere opera house’s vaulted ceilings, marble foyer and sweeping balconies. Some of the standout dishes from local restaurants included Tuna Poke on Wonton Chip with a Seven Spice Aioli, from The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar; Pancetta-wrapped Prawns with Truffled White Bean Purée and Marinara Sauce, from Joe DiMaggio’s Italian Chophouse; and Braised Veal Cheek, Morel Mushrooms, English Pea Purée and Preserved Meyer Lemon, from Étoile at Domaine Chandon.