About 1,500 people visited Detroit’s Campus Martius and adjoining Cadillac Square for food, wine, craft beer samples and more at Saturday’s sold-out Detroit Free Press Wine & Food Experience.
Many of Detroit’s top restaurants were represented at the second annual event, which was presented by Bedrock. Greeted with sun-filled skies and temperatures in the mid-80s, patrons wandered about downtown Detroit’s town square eating, drinking and socializing — and also picking up pointers from cooking demonstrations and wares from vendors.
Scott Conant, a celebrity chef best-known for his work on the Food Network’s “Chopped,” was a fan favorite, holding court for a VIP meet-and-greet and demo where he shared quips and tips.
Free Press staffers, led by restaurant critic Mark Kurlyandchik and food writer Susan Selasky, did their best to try most of the event’s offerings. It was no easy task: About 30 restaurants were serving appetizer-size samples — everything from steak to conch salad.
Here are 10 of the Free Press team’s favorite items:
1) Farm Field Table, the Ferndale-based butcher, served a curry-rubbed ham with fennel mayo, pickled onions and arugula. This dish had a great pink smoke barbecue ring, making it seem as if it was smoked for hours, even though it wasn’t.
2) Brush Park’s youthful steakhouse Grey Ghost served a short rib tostada with ranch coleslaw topped with pickled jalapeno. The crowd favorite was like a walking taco all in one bite.
3) Detroit’s Wright & Co. shared a charred corn salad with blackened shrimp, cilantro dressing and a crispy-shallot topping. It was all tied together with an orzo base.
4) Som Tum Thai was on the menu of Corktown’s Takoi. Fresh tasting long strands of green papaya — with plenty of heat from Thai chilies — were cooled with lime and finished with umami-laden fish sauce.
5) Ferndale’s oyster bar and seafood shack Voyager served a tostada topped with Florida rock shrimp, ground cherries, cumin and chili, garlic and lime-scented mayo — all finished with shaved, aged caviar.
6) Parc, the fine-dining Campus Martius restaurant, wowed the crowd with its presentation of a 110-pound Michigan Wagyu steamship round of beef.
7) The Apparatus Room at Detroit Foundation Hotel prepared one-bite gougeres filled with salted cod brandade and topped with tomato confit. Think of a fancy cheese puff stuffed with a flavorful mashed potato.
8) River Bistro in Grandmont Rosedale provided a fresh-tasting conch salad with a Caribbean flare. The salad — a mix of cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, onion and habanero — had a nice kick yet still managed to cool the palate.
9) An attendee favorite was the grape appetizer created by the team at wine bar Vertical Detroit. The delectable item rolled in Brie and pistachio, and was so tasty that tables full of people in the Grand Tasting area were talking them up long after the noshing.
10) Thanksgiving in September? It worked with this Lodgepan Yorkshire Pudding from Zingerman’s Cornman Farms. The crispy popover topped with savory turkey couldn’t help but get you thinking about November.
Free Press staff writers Steve Byrne and Nicole Avery Nichols contributed.