Hong Kong To Host International Food And Wine Festival

Hong Kong's International food and wine festivalHong Kong, a city that is already well known for its fantastic cuisine and amazing selection of wines, will extend its reputation for fine dining even further when it plays host to the 2012 American Express Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival. The four-day event, which runs from November 1-4, will offer samplings of some of the finest foods from around the world, set against the stunning backdrop of Victoria Harbor and the city’s iconic skyline.

Now in its fourth year, the festival has already become a popular attraction for foodie travelers and wine connoisseurs alike. Last year’s event drew more than 170,000 attendees and the 2012 edition is expected to be even larger. Those in attendance will be treated to culinary delights and a selection of fine wines from 20 countries and regions across the globe, extending the festival’s reputation as one of the top ten food and wine events in the world.

With more than 310 booths offering tasty temptations, even the most particular of palates will find something to please their tastes. This year, organizers have also extended the very popular theme nights, which highlight specific types of cuisine, and they’ve added the Sweet Pavilion, putting all of the decadent desserts and delicate pastries under one roof. That location is sure to be popular as travelers enjoy a sweet treat while sipping champagne, rosé or sweet wines.

Travelers who aren’t simply content to eat and drink their way through four days of festivities can take part in interactive cooking demonstrations and classes, where they’ll learn to create culinary masterpieces of their own. Live music and street performers will also provide entertainment throughout the festival as well, adding a unique dash of flavor and culture all their own.

Beyond the festival itself, Hong Kong is a dynamic and engaging city that has much to offer any traveler. It features world-class shopping, rich culture, fine art, friendly people and luxurious accommodations. It also serves as a gateway to other parts of Asia, making it a fantastic stop for those coming and going from that part of the world.

Got goat? A cultural exploration of the other red meat

goat meatThere are goat people, and then there…aren’t. We’re like dog people, except we can’t carry the objects of our obsession in our purse. There aren’t city parks dedicated to goats.

I grew up with goats because my brother and I raised them for 4-H. When we got our first dairy goat in the mid-’70’s, my mom tapped her inner hippie, experimenting with making yogurt from the prodigious amounts of milk produced by our doe. And while no one in my family could be accused of squeamishness, it was an unspoken rule we’d never use our goats for meat. Although my mom claims it was because she preferred to donate the young bucks to Heifer Project International, I now realize she just didn’t want to see those adorable little kids sizzling on our grill.

Now that I’m older and more gluttonous, I know that goat makes for some fine eating, whether it’s mild, milky-tasting suckling kid, or adult animals cooked down into flavorful braises (think think less gamey mutton). Yet, while a staple in Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Middle East, Central Asia, and parts of Europe, goat has never been popular in the United States outside of specific ethnic communities.

In the last decade, however, goat has been getting more respect. Small goat ranches sell meat at select farmers markets nationwide, and amongst culinary cognoscenti goat is all the rage at select, locally-focused butcher shops and high-end restaurants. I’ve noted that goat as a mainstream ingredient is most popular in the Bay Area–something I attribute to the large Hispanic population, the sheer number of farmers markets, and the willingness amongst chefs, ranchers, and consumers to try new things. Ditto in New York, where goat was once reserved for divey ethnic restaurants of the outer boroughs.

Some chefs, like former “Top Chef” Season four winner/2011 Food & Wine “Best New Chef” Stephanie Izard, owner of Chicago’s The Girl & The Goat, prominently feature caprine preparations on their menus, even if most of their colleagues eschew it (fellow Chicagoan Rick Bayless, Mexican cuisine guru/owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and Xoco also uses goat). Jonathon Sawyer, another “Best New Chef” alum (2010; The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland), is also a fan of goat, and utilizes meat from nearby Cuyahoga Valley.

Why is goat meat so prevalent in other cultures, but not our own? Or, as popular TV host/chef Andrew Zimmern puts it: “Goat is like soccer: it plays well everywhere else in the world but the U.S..”

[Photo credit: Flicker user onkel_wart]goat meatThe reason is that goat is one of the most widely (and oldest) domesticated animals in the world. They thrive in harsh environments, on sparse vegetation, so they’re easy, inexpensive keepers. They’re small, nimble, highly intelligent, and fairly disease-resistant, and are thus lower maintenance than cows or sheep. They provide an ample supply of milk–which can then be sold as cheese, yogurt, or butter–and they’re also a source of skin, fuel (their dung), and meat. There are specific breeds meant for meat (the Boer, for example) or dairy (the prolific Nubian), but most animals in the developing world are multi-use, or serve several functions in their lifespan. Once they can no longer bear kids and produce milk, they become a source of food and hide.

Despite the widespread consumption of goat, they’re also a symbol of status and pride for the millions of nomadic peoples worldwide.The more goats (or other livestock) one has, the more affluent one is. These animals are also treated as members of the family, sharing living quarters and often treated almost as pets. Yet their purpose in life is always at the forefront: to provide sustenance and income for the family and community.

As Americans, we tend to anthropomorphize animals, even the ones we eat (think “Babe,” Charlotte’s Web, and the prevalence of cute little lambs on baby clothes). Goats get a bad rap in this country, due in part to their mythological and biblical associations with the underworld or Satan. They’re supposedly smelly, mean, and will eat the clothes off your back given half a chance.

Allow me to clarify. Goats are actually very tidy animals, although uncastrated bucks most definitely stink beyond description. As for their legendary appetite, goats are innately curious by nature, because they’re intelligent. Thus, they tend to nibble, and yes, sometimes your clothing (or, if you’re a journalist, your notes) might be included. But tin cans, nails, and humans are not in their repertoire. The reason goats are widely used for brush and fire control is their ability to eat and digest brambles and other tough plants most ruminants are unable to tolerate. As for their ornery reputation, goats–being very bright–can have personality clashes with some people (usually those who dislike them).

“Goat is Great”goat meat
In June, I watched Zimmern do a seminar and cooking demo called “Goat is Great” at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The three-day festival of eating and drinking is full of talks, tastings, and demos celebrating the glory of pork, rum, budget and collector wines, and cooking with animal fat, but this is the first time goat has made the itinerary. Naturally, I was first in line.

Zimmern, who is far less goofy and more edgy and endearing in person, began his talk by touting the glories of goat. Not only is it healthy (high protein, and leaner and lower in cholesterol than beef or lamb), it’s affordable, versatile–he frequently substitutes it for lamb–and sustainable, because it’s not factory farmed. “To the degree that we eat more goat, and only a little fish, we slow the impact of factory farms’ pressure on the environment,” Zimmern explained. The best way to find goat is to request it. “Ask your butcher to carry it. Start telling your local farmers markets that you’d like to see it. You’d be amazed at what’s growing and being raised near your town.”

We watched Zimmern whip up three different preparations of goat, based upon dishes he’s eaten on his travels. The first was a tartare, a contemporary riff on a traditional Ethiopian dish, tere sega, which is usually made with raw beef. He seasoned the meat with crushed berbere (a spice mixture of chile and spices), egg yolk, lemon juice, minced shallots, chopped celery leaves, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, and minced caper.

Next, we watched rock star butcher Josh Applestone of New York’s Fleischer’s Meats break down a goat carcass in record time, to provide Zimmern with some cuts and offal for his remaining dishes (FYI, Fleischer’s does not carry goat at either of its locations, and based on the tone of the employee I spoke with, they’re really sick of being asked this question).

Zimmern also featured an Italian red wine-braised goat shoulder, before ending things with a globally beloved dish: meat on a stick. “All over the world I’ve eaten skewered goat,” he said, before demonstrating a Tunisian twist on Italian spiedini, or kebabs. He marinated chunks of meat, liver, and kidneys in garlic, olive oil, and homemade harissa (a Tunisian chile paste) before grilling them and finishing the dish with lemon juice and parsley.
goat meat
Where to get goat
Ethnic (Hispanic, African, and Caribbean) and halal markets and butcher shops
Farmers markets
Butcher shops that emphasize local sourcing and humane livestock management

What to do with your goaty offerings? Here’s some tips: throw shoulder cuts on the grill, pan fry chops, and braise shank, riblets, and leg steaks. Bear in mind that goat (especially kid) is lower in fat than most meats, so be careful not to overcook it if you’re barbecuing or using other dry-cooking methods.

[Photo credits: Berber, Laurel Miller; carcasses, Flickr user Mr. Fink’s Finest Photos; heads, Flickr user Royal Olive]

Teaching Children Responsibility with Goats

Enjoy unlimited cooking classes and more at the Santa Fe, New Mexico, Harvest Festival

Santa Fe Harvest Festival in New Mexico with unlimited cooking classes, wine tasting, food sampling, and more. From November 1-November 23, 2011, people looking for the ultimate experience in food and wine should head over to New Mexico for the Santa Fe Harvest Festival. During the festival, ticket holders are entitled to unlimited cooking classes and discounts on lodging and dining, allowing them to fully experience the hospitality and food culture of the area. The kickoff for the event includes a server relay race, where teams of servers from different restaurants race around The Plaza carrying trays loaded with drinks. There will also be a Chef Showdown, a competition between chefs, as well as Bar Wars!, which will determine who is the #1 mixologist in Santa Fe (and, spectators get to sip their own cocktails at discounted prices).

Are you a fan of sampling food and wine? The Santa Fe Harvest Festival will also feature a Food & Wine Expo which will have more than 50 booths set up for food and wine tasting, culinary demonstrations and exhibits, and book signings by celebrity chefs. The week culminates in a Best of the Fest silent auction and gala dinner.

Need another reason to attend? A portion of the proceeds go to help Cooking with Kids, a nonprofit based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that works to motivate and empower elementary school children to eat healthy through hands-on learning techniques using fresh, affordable foods from different cultural backgrounds.

Grape stomping good times at New York’s Naples Grape Festival

I can’t pass up a good “I Love Lucy” moment, which is why this event in New York‘s Finger Lake’s region is perfect for Lucy fans who’ve dreamed of re-enacting the famous grape-stomping scene from the famous television show.

The Naples Grape Festival in the Naples Valley of Ontario County, NY is held on the last full weekend of September to celebrate the area’s grape harvest, talented artisans, winemakers and local and regional music and food. Taking place Sept. 25 and 26, the festival features everything from wine making to cooking demonstrations.

Admission for the wine tasting tent is $10 per person and allows you to sample wines from numerous wineries in the Finger Lakes Region including White springs Farm and Estate Winery, 1000 Island Wineries, Arbor Hill, Cascata Winery at the Professor’s Place, Knapp, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Eagle Crest Vineyards, Glenora Winery, Atwater, Imagine Moore Winery, Miles Wine Cellars, Wagners Winery, and Hunt Country Vineyards.

You don’t have to have a palette for wine to appreciate this festival, though. The weekend also includes fine art displays and hand made works from local artisans. Of course, what’s a good festival without good food. The Naples Grape Festival will offer everything from crepes to sausage to steak on a stick and for dessert, don’t miss the grape pies.

While the music and bands play the weekend away, festival goers can watch (or participate) in the World’s Greatest Grape Pie Contest. Of course, if nothing else, there will be plenty of grape stomping for those who just want to get their feet a little dirty and have some fun.