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Posted by portugalpress on June 08, 2017

Between May 15 and 20, Vila Vita Parc held its third Fine Wines & Food Fair, an event that brought some of the world’s greatest chefs and wine producers to the Algarve

It all began on Monday, May 15, with what will be remembered as one of the food and wine experiences of a lifetime by those who attended. There were seven Imperial (6-litre) bottles of fine Bordeaux served, all excellent vintages from first, second and third growth producers, amongst them the likes of Mouton Rothschild. The menu was prepared by numerous international chefs, including the living legend Eckart Witzigmann, one of the few chefs ever to have received the prestigious Chef of the Century Award from the Gault & Millau food guide.

As the week progressed, there was a night with the great chefs of Switzerland, another with the rising stars of Austria, an all-star night bringing together various chefs who have cooked at the event over previous years and a Spanish night with some of Spain’s top chefs. Friday afternoon also saw one of Spain’s most renowned paella chefs, Evaristo Triano of the Pez Vela beach restaurant in Barcelona, cook up his speciality on the beach at Vila Vita’s Praia Dourada restaurant.

All of this, however, was the build-up to the grand finale: the Kitchen Party, on Saturday, May 20. This is a unique concept, developed by Vila Vita Parc and fine-tuned over the years, since the first ever Kitchen Party took place in 2013.
What makes this event so special is the interaction with what we are eating and who created it. A good description would be street food on steroids, a comparison that stems from this writer’s love of the Far East and memories of how I marvelled at the skill of a lady making noodles at a Bangkok market or an Indian street vendor deftly making his roti breads. At this level, we expect to interact directly with our chef, but it’s not often that we get the chance to watch a Michelin-star chef plate up his dish and hand it to us himself. Nor, for that matter, is it usual to be served a glass of wine by the owner of the winery that made it, or to have a piece of cheese or cured ham presented to us by the man or lady who produced it. And I nearly forgot the Imperial Caviar, spooned straight from the jar and handed to me by the man who imports and distributes it in Europe.

There were some 20 chefs, many of them with multiple Michelin stars to their name and a similar number of wine producers from Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Austria.

The event occupied the whole of the resort’s newly redeveloped Clubhouse building, which houses the Japanese Mizu, Atlântico, Whale and Aladdin Grill restaurants. There were food and wine stations all around, some in the restaurants, others on the terrace and some actually in the kitchen where a live band was playing. Guests mingled freely, chatting with chefs and winemakers. It was possible to taste the dishes from each and every food station and to repeat any favourites. That is one of the great things about this event when compared to sitting down and eating a multi-course tasting menu in a fine dining restaurant; this is gourmet cuisine without the ceremony, in a fun and relaxed environment.

And finally, this piece would not be complete without congratulating all the team at Vila Vita and the legions of staff who were drafted in to help for the Kitchen Party. The service was quite simply superb, with some 350 guests and close to 100 staff, a mammoth feat of logistics and a fitting end to the 2017 Fine Wines & Food Fair.

By Patrick Stuart

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