” Hey Howard ” – I hear it once, then twice, three times in all. What a sweet mantra!! At each “Hey” I turn to see where they are coming from. First rotating one way and then another. Yes-I know those “Hey throwers” ! From among a throng of several hundred wine enthusiasts I am happily reacquainted with old and new friends who have come together to celebrate the thirteenth anniversary of the annual Mohegan Sun Winefest. ” Hey 1″ – a manly hug- my old pal Gary Carra, Publisher, Writer/Columnist, Photographer and currently Marketing Director at Asnuntuck Community College; “Hey 2” – a hearty handshake from Famed Restauranteur William Chen, owner of the Ginza/Feng Restaurant Group situated in the hamlet of Bloomfield, CT. ; “Hey 3” a Kiss- from the enchanting Maddalena Castano ( sister of TLC’s Cake Boss- Buddy Valastro, Jr. ) and warm greetings from her husband, Mauro Castano, pastry Chef and Buddy’s right hand man; who are both joined by Carlo’s Bake Shops mustachioed cake decorator Danny Dragone, – all culinary stars in their own right.
The Mohegan Sun WineFest has indeed become a January mainstay event here in Connecticut, this year held from, January 29th to the 31st, wine aficionados from all across New England have gathered to sample a myriad of over 1000 various locally produced, and imported vintage wines, beers and to experience culinary creations from the who’s- who of Celebrity Chefs including, Chef Todd English, Chef Rocco DiSpirito, Chef Michele Ragussis and Chef Jasper White, author of “Jasper White’s Cooking from New England”. Yes, that’s why I’m here- the food – and as mentioned it’s a “Good Thing” to have friends who love culinary perfection.
Restauranteur Bill Chen and I take residence at a seated table for 4, and begin our sampling of, from what else, his own Feng’s Japanese Cuisine, an assortment of various sushi- intricately made and oh so delicate including “The Feng Chef Roll” – Salmon, Yellowtail, Tuna, Tobiko, Radish Sprouts, Asparagus, Avocado, Spicy Mayo, & BBQ Eel sauce-a wonderful palette pleaser. We next try BBQ offerings from Bear’s Smokehouse, Buffalo Pretzels from Arooga’s Sports Bar, and lastly Carlo’s Bake Shop – where Maddalena and Mauro Castano are waiting for me to try their “direct from Hoboken” desserts.
Maddalena and Mauro quickly take me in hand and have me sample a truly freshly made Hoboken, New Jersey style Cannolie- with Mauro showing me the step by step method of creating the desert and Maddalena actually feeding me- ooh-la-la and yummy!! By the way, both Mauro and Maddalena are great folks, truly truly down to earth and a joy to talk too. In fact we learned that their 25th anniversary is upcoming and Maddalena is hoping to spend it in Italy. We discussed the making of their TLC reality television series “Cake Boss”, which premiered in April 2009, and the possibility of a new line of bottled tomato sauce and pasta products coming from the “House of Buddy”. A special “thank you” goes out to the adorable Maddalena and Nicole Valdes for the “goody Bag” filled to the brim with cakes, cookies and cannollis!
The Mohegan Wine Fest is truly a wonderful celebration of wine, wineries, specialty spirits, celebrity chefs, delicious foods and friends all coming together. I was so pleased to get not one but three “Hey Howard’s” as I entered the grand tasting hall at Mohegan Sun this year- and invite you to “Hey Howard” me at next year’s WineFest.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager of BATV, and a member of the C.C.C.