Food Glorious Food! Grape Expectations at the MPL: The Wine Seminar

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Eric Asimov

Over the coming weeks, Baristanet will run three special features on the key players behind “Grape Expectations,” the unique wine and food event to benefit the Montclair Public Library Foundation.

The event itself—to be held on September 28—is a celebration of Charles Dickens and the sumptuous food he wrote about in his joyously descriptive style. It features an exclusive Wine Master Class presented by Eric Asimov, the renowned chief wine critic from The New York Times and  author of How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto, followed by an evening of magnificent Victorian victuals prepared by top local chefs.To create the menu, Montclair Public Library challenged culinary figures from new and beloved Montclair restaurants to interpret Dickens’ passages about food and wine. The intention is to create Oliver “twists” (pun intended, sorry) on everything from the holiday feasts featured in A Christmas Carol, to French Revolutionary cuisine reminiscent of A Tale of Two Cities, via the heady and hearty British delicacies of The Pickwick Papers.

In this first article, we meet the people behind the exclusive Eric Asimov Wine Master Class—Sharon Sevrens and Chef Ariane Duarte. In coming installments, we will feature some of the talented chefs who have risen to the task of re-interpreting dishes from Dickens novels, everything from gruel to Victorian sweets!

grape expectations

Mr. Asimov has collaborated with Sharon Sevrens of Amanti Vino and Chef Ariane Duarte of CulinAriane to curate the tasting seminar. He will tell the story of four unusual wines from interesting growing regions—supplied by Amanti Vino—for the group to enjoy, along with four corresponding appetizers, prepared by Chef Duarte. As you’d expect, tickets for this part of the evening are extremely limited.

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Sharon Sevrens

Baristanet spoke with Mrs. Sevrens about the event and she is thrilled to be working with Mr. Asimov: she is a huge fan of his writing and has a lot of respect for what he has done, especially with the artisanal wine movement.

Sharon joked that when she has staff meetings, it is as if Eric was sitting in with them, as his writing often finds a synergy with Amanti Vino’s progressive and thoughtful agenda. When choosing wine for this event, they were definitely on the same page.

And when asked about the library, Sharon said, “My family loves the library and my boys go on a regular basis. We love to read and will do anything to support it.”

In keeping with the literary theme of the event—and bearing in mind the rich, comforting nature of the food covered in Dickens’s work—we asked Sharon and Chef Ariane Duarte  a few questions about food and books!

Baristanet: What is your secret guilty pleasure food?
Sharon Sevrens: Dark chocolate covered pretzels.

Baristanet: What is your favorite comfort food?
Sharon Sevrens:  My childhood favorite was cheeseburgers. I still love them now!

Baristanet: What was your favorite childhood book?
Sharon Sevrens: I have a few. My mom would read me the Maurice Sendak book “Where the Wild Things Are.”  I loved “The Pink Elephant With Golden Spots” by Philippe and Rejane Fix. One of my mom’s friends was an artist and she painted the elephant on my bedroom wall. I was so sad when we moved house.

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Chef Ariane Duarte

We posed similar questions to Chef Ariane Duarte of successful Montclair dining institution CulinAriane, who will be creating the appetizers for this special pairing event.

Baristanet: What is your favorite junk food?
Chef Ariane Duarte: It’s a secret… but has something to do with a Castle.

Baristanet: What is your favorite childhood comfort food?
Chef Ariane Duarte: Macaroni and meatballs and gravy!

Baristanet: What was your favorite childhood book?
Chef Ariane Duarte: Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Tickets for the Wine Master Class are very limited so get yours now.

Over the next few days, we will be catching up with other chefs for the event, including The Pig and Prince,  Fricasseè, The Pie Store, Terra, Continuum, Little Daisy Bakeshop and Let’s Spoon with others still to be announced.

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  1. Once you get past the bad “Grape Expectations” pun, this seems like a great idea and hopefully a great fundraiser! Star billing too, with Asimov.

  2. My advice: Skip the foo foo event. Donate $75.00 dollars directly to the library. Get dinner at White Castle and Mad Dog across the street at Toast of the Town.

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