by Deborah Ann Tripoldi
To adapt to its growing popularity, the Montclair Food & Wine Festival’s Bourbon & Biergarten has moved to a new venue for its third year, and will be held at the Wellmont Theater on Saturday, July 15, at 7 p.m.
According to Melody Kettle, 350 people attended the inaugural event; last year there were approximately 600.
Kettle, co-president, treasurer and founder — and event organizer — is happy with this year’s venue. “It’s very Montclair. I like the bones of the theater, it’s very charming,” she said. “It’s also climate-controlled air conditioning,” she added.
The event will be held both outdoors and in, to accommodate the crowd and in case of rain. “We always cheated the weather,” said Kettle.
“The idea of the Bourbon & Biergarten came from Chef Michael Carrino, owner of the Pig & Prince restaurant,” said Kettle. Carrino was one of the event’s original board members and served as acting vice president. “He wanted to do something more casual. Causal grazing events were selling more,” said Kettle. “Bourbons and ryes were growing in popularity.”
A backyard barbecue inspired the chef. “I was at a backyard barbecue and decided to incorporate bourbon which is a very trendy thing. I thought it was a good idea to join the two,” said Carrino, who will not be participating this year due to a scheduling conflict.
The event will again be judged, and with a more formal approach than last year’s popular vote: A panel of four select judges includes a chef, a columnist, a food writer and a citizen.
Francesco Palmieri is executive chef of Calandra’s Il Vecchio Cafe; Rosalie Saferstein is NJ Monthly magazine’s “Table Hopping” columnist; Elisa Ung is a food writer and former reviewer for the Record. The citizen judge is Alessia Aron of Jersey Girl Food Tours, who won her spot in a Facebook contest held by the festival organizers.
This will be Aron’s first experience as a judge, and she’s excited.“I always wanted to be a judge on something like this,” she said. “This will be interesting.”
Aron has high expectations of Bourbon & Biergarten. “There is going to be some really good food. Who doesn’t love barbecue?”
Entertainment includes Street Beat Brass Band, Sky & Vlad Eros Fyre, Captain Highwalker on stilts and Leo the LED hula hoop juggler.
“The Street Beat Brass Band will add a Bourbon Street sort of vibe,” said Kettle.
More than 30 restaurants will be participating, including Montclair’s Bluff City BBQ, Halcyon/Egan & Sons, Brick Lane Curry House, Costanera Restaurant, Mezoco Mexican Taqueria, Spice II Thai Cuisine, Gus Seafood Market and Villalobos.