Kelly the Culinarian: Food find: Vintage Crystal shows off tastier side of Crystal City

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Food find: Vintage Crystal shows off tastier side of Crystal City

Today I trekked out to Crystal City, a half an hour away from my apartment via the Yellow Line in Arlington, Virginia, for the first Vintage Crystal event. In the past year, the city has been trying to reinvent and rebrand itself as a destination instead of a grouping of government buildings. In fact, Crystal City has the largest downtown area in Arlington County.

But this wine, appetizer and jazz music event was something to behold. It started at 2 p.m. and I wandering over around 3:30, and much to my surprise, a massive amount of people were standing in line and milling about. In fact, as marketing director for the Crystal City Business Improvement District Maurisa Turner Potts told me, they were simply overwhelmed with the response they received their first year for this event. She said first-year events typically attract between 500 and 1,000 guests. By 5 p.m, there were more than 3,500 people at the event.

For $10, adults 21 years and older received an etched wine glass with the Crystal City visual and a variety of wine and food tastings. Maurisa said there were 15 vendors and nine wine tents at the event. The organization had 3,000 glasses made and very few were left by 6 p.m. Children and designated drivers were free, of course.

The only catch was that wine pouring ended at 5:30 p.m., so many of the guests got restless when they encountered long lines. Noting this anxiety, some of Maurisa's 30 volunteers took bottles of wine out to the lines to keep tasters glasses full. Tasters got more than their fill, but Maurisa said for next year, she hopes to attract more vendors and wineries.

This was an incredible value for $10. There was sparkling wine, shiraz, cabernet savignon, roses, merlot and myriad other wine choices available for tasting. My personal favorite was a white wine offered up by Bin 1700. The German blend (I should have written it down!) had hints of oak and spices and reminded me of a holiday wine. I'll have to go back and purchase some, it was just that tasty, because their Web site didn't give me anything useful as far as what they serve.
As for the food, the choices were expansive. There was bruschetta, gazpacho, cheese and olive choices from La Tasca, wonderful cheddar and horseradish cheese tastings from Cabot Vermont, a canelli bean salad served in crunchy baked cups from Portofino's and organic cheese and fruit options from My Organic Market. But my favorite from the food offerings was Bebo Trattoria's penne quattro formaggi, or four-cheese pasta. The winner of a host of prestigious food accolades, Roberto Donna offered this recipe in case you want to replicate the dishes his chefs cooked on site and served to the wino crowd:
1 pound penne pasta
4 cups heavy cream
2 ounces Roth Private Reserve cheese
1 ounce Buttermilk Blue cheese
1 ounce Gran Canaria cheese
1 ounce Mobay cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente, then drain and reserve a few spoonfuls of the water. Reduce cream by half in a saucepan, add salt and pepper to taste and add cheese, removing the pan from heat. Toss pasta with cheese and serve hot. For more recipes from Roberto Donna's kitchen, visit his Web site.
This pasta dish was delicious -- the pasta was cooked just enough and the sauce had a pleasant tang that wasn't overwhelming, even with the white wine I was sipping at that point. A real highlight.

I simply must go back to Crystal City after this event. I had no idea there was so much going on there in the food world! Maurisa said she would like to plan next year's event for the fourth weekend in September again and perhaps it will be large enough to expand onto Crystal Drive with an overflown of vendors and wineries. If you get the chance, this is worth the trip.


SteamyKitchen said...

Wow - what a decadent dish!! Could you really taste all the different cheeses?

daphne said...

gosh. that's a good event to go to! SO many types of cheeses!

Truffle said...

Sounds like a fantastic day. I love these sorts of events.

FH said...

Sounds like a great day. We love Jazz!:))

Swaruchy said...

Sounds great Kelly......Have been to Crystal city a few times before...I stay in DC only..didn't know abt this event.....Better luck next time.....Thatz really a cool deal for 10$ dear...Wish I had been there :-)

Big Boys Oven said...

Sounds such a lovely outing that I will die bad you can't find such much here tho.

People St.Clair said...

I love crystal city and this event sounds like such fun what a great way to spend the day.

Abbey Watson said...

Hey Kelly,

Vintage Crystal is back again Sunday, September 19th for its fourth year. This time tapas and latin wines are on the menu with salsa dancing and live jazz. Tix are $20 for all you can eat & taste.

Hope you'll come back for another time!