Sun WineFest Celebrates Its 10th Year

For the Sun WineFest's 10th year, famed cookbook author and James Beard award winner Dorie Greenspan pulled together a cookie recipe representing three facets of her life: a vanilla French sablé base with cherries, cranberries and raisins cooked in mulled wine and topped with a cornmeal crumble. The co-owner of New York City's Beurre & Sel with her son, Josh, Greenspan also splits her time between Paris and Westbrook.

"It's New England flavors, it has wine, but it still has French [influence,]" Greenspan said of the cookie, created especially for the festival's Celebrity Chef Dinearound on Saturday evening.

Greenspan was a first-time exhibitor at the WineFest's Grand Tasting event Saturday, sharing Beurre & Sel's vanilla sables and delicate salted chocolate "World Peace" cookies with daytime guests. The Manhattan-based cookie business, which started as a pop-up store, is now permanent, with an online retail component.

And though she continues to commute between the Big Apple and the City of Light, she says she considers the Nutmeg State home now that her husband is retired. "I love Connecticut," she said.

As Mohegan Sun celebrated a decade of WineFests, celebrity chefs, local restaurants and beer, wine and spirits purveyors came together for a weekend of culinary enjoyment. Saturday's Grand Tasting featured small bites from more than a dozen Connecticut and Rhode Island food vendors, everything from Plan B's mini-burgers to "Year of the Dragon" chowder with alligator meat by Octagon Steakhouse.

"This is a good way to get our name out there and let people know what we do," said Elisa Bramato of Esca in Middletown, whose chef served up braised pork belly sliders on brioche with hazelnut butter and fig jam. "It's our take on a PB&J," she explained.

More Italian favorites were dished up by 84 Tavern on Canal in Westerly, R.I. (penne bolognese and clams casino,) Vivo Trattoria of Hartford (veal osso buco over chevre potato) and Al Forno of Old Saybrook (arancini with wild mushroom and prosciutto.) At First & Last Tavern's table, traditional meatballs with Sunday gravy were joined by a special of sweet potato gnocchi, with spinach, mushrooms and a pancetta vinaigrette.

"This is fun to cook something that's not on our menu, something a little flashier," said co-owner Russell Nemarich of the gnocchi dish. The restaurant chain is set to expand, he shared, with hopes of opening a Glastonbury location this year.

Guests enjoyed oversized pizza slices from Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, sushi rolls from Feng and Toshi Izakaya, guacamole and shrimp ceviche from SolToro Tequila Grill and raw-bar oysters, clams and shrimp from Jasper White's Summer Shack. Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville stayed tropical with conch fritters and jambalaya, and Cuvee provided champagne-ready mini Maine lobster rolls.

Also debuting at the WineFest: brand-new farm-to-table restaurant Parallel Post, located in the Trumbull Marriott Merritt Parkway, with ahi tuna escabeche and celery root soup with Asian pears and Jonah crab.

Saturday's Grand Tasting event featured seminars and presentations by celebrity restaurateurs and chefs Donatella Arpaia, Robert Irvine, Pat Lafrieda and Mark Pastore, Todd English and Mary Ann Esposito, followed by the flagship Celebrity Chef Dinearound event Saturday night.

Sunday's festivities include presentations and demos by William Kovel, chef-owner of Catalyst in Cambridge (and a native of West Hartford,) pastry chef Gesine Bullock-Prado, chef Govind Armstrong, "Top Chef" Betty Fraser with Manouschka Guerrier and chef Todd Winer, followed by the 9th Annual Oyster Open Competition. Closing the weekend is Sunday's Bubbles & Bonbons dessert event, with Dorie Greenspan, Mindy Segal and Gesine Bullock-Prado.

For more information, visit sunwinefest.com.

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