Festival Diaries: Looking Back, From Back of House

by Melody Kettle


The Montclair Food & Wine Festival accumulated a diverse assemblage of articles and blog posts leading up to and following the 2014 events.  To name a few:  

Montclair Times, Setting the table for the Montclair Food & Wine Festival

Baristanet, Montclair Food & Wine Festival Turns Two

Jersey Bites, Montclair Food & Wine Festival Does it up Right

Montclair Times, Montclair Food and Wine Festival invokes better angels of Dionysian leanings 

Devil Gourmet: MFWF Aquaculture, and more....

But one outlet, my very own Hot From The Kettle,  has been strangely silent.  "Shame on you!" say some - particularly Mr. Hot.   But I'm excused, aren't I?  Planning and executing "3 Days of Delicious"  hardly leaves much time for bloggerly behavior.  In fact, most other extracurriculars - like eating, for example, become neglected in the week leading up to the festival.  

But, no excuses. An internal documentation, recitation, regurgitation, and evaluation of the festival - unlike any other - including the good, the bad, the paranoid, and the exhausted.  It may be worth a write, and, possibly, worth your read.  The following raw and rough excerpts are from my notebook, my iCal and a small journal I keep which lend a back of house view - of the Montclair Food & Wine Festival.  

Sunday, May 25

Ill.  Very bad timing -  nasty cough,  joint aches and fever of 101.9. This s**t's gotta stop. 

Monday, May 26

Officially weened off coffee.  Tracy said, "why did you quit now?  This is when you need it!" But, it's exactly when I don't - I think it's going to give me a heart attack.  Yerba's got  10mg's less caffeine and it's keeping the  jitters to a minimum. 

Wednesday, May 28

 Meeting at the MAM - I think that's a latte next to my keys. 

Meeting at the MAM - I think that's a latte next to my keys. 

The Grand Tasting is sold out.  Need more room!!! 

 Journals arrived on May 29 from Cara Graphics (yes, Ryan DePersio's dad's printing company). 

Journals arrived on May 29 from Cara Graphics (yes, Ryan DePersio's dad's printing company). 

The day began early, with deposits and petty cash withdrawals, then, off the Montclair Art Museum for a two hour meeting with Liz and Raymond, and the Museum event staff.  Everything from floor plans - for both floors of the museum, vendor assignments, ice deliveries, rental delivery times, pick up times,  capacity concerns.  Relieved that they'll let me get in there on Friday to set up.  

Thursday, May 29

A day to clear the mind.  Pedicure and waxing; I got my two dresses and shoes (Dem Two Hands and Thread). I've got to finish my speech tonight - and not forget anyone this time. 

Friday, May 30

 Slick is loaded. 

Slick is loaded. 

 Raymond "Mr. Hospitality" Helfrich and Melody Kettle

Raymond "Mr. Hospitality" Helfrich and Melody Kettle

Commandante hat on. Soooo much nervous energy - I'll be happy when I could start slinging tables....head down and go....but I can't do that until the MAM calls to confirm rental delivery.   Waiting for a call from the MAM confirming rental delivery.  Tried to have a human lunch with Mr. Hot at Samba: back on coffee, no wine, and I could only eat half of my sandwich.  Last year, I lost six pounds before the festival, I'm hoping I come close to five this year! 

Later . . . 

Got to the to the MAM with Raymond at 2 pm to set up Leihr Hall. We popped and placed 38 six and eight foot tables, drop linens, set tubs, and by the end of set up, feel very ready.  We hit Uncle Momo for some much needed shawarma.  The kids wanted to help so I let them deal with the linens- - the room looked great.  I think we got this.  

Slept remarkably well, the Nyquil, probably helped.  Still phlegmy. 

 Things 1 and 2 managing linens

Things 1 and 2 managing linens

Saturday, May 31

I'm up at 6 am. Commence Production Timeline: my life is a clipboard for the next three days.  I'll start at 9 am with Paul to move all the etched glasses to the MAM, and relocate the step and repeat. After I place the vendor signs and the balloon sculptures arrive, I'll come back home. 

Later . . . 

It was cool being at the MAM when it was so quiet.  I enjoyed it. I'm pleasantly surprised by how helpful the MAM staff is.  Most importantly, I learned that I could rent the MAM security guards rather than off duties - mental note for next event.  I'm going to release more tickets to wait listers.  

 "This will do just fine." 

"This will do just fine." 

Much later . . .

By 2:30, I was back at the MAM, lighting and auctions were being set up and ice arrives. The silent auction is entirely too big. Mental note.

Then, Maserati, swag bags, more volunteers arrived.  

 2 hours before VIP doors at the MAM

2 hours before VIP doors at the MAM

The very patient volunteers peeled stickers off etched glasses, and Liz primed the floor staff - but she's wasn't happy with them, I can tell. Check in pow wow'd, to identify press and VIP's. Restaurants loaded in, and one vendor wanted relocation.  No can do.  Mav and Sasha were particularly great dealing with this.

Holly brought the centerpieces.  We were ready.  Guests, arrived early while we're taking pics with Christina.  Somewhere between 7 and 7:30 the crowd swelled, and raw bar emptied.

All night I ate a falafel - the emperor has no clothes, and the organized had no food -  I was starved.  We: Persephone, Liz, Raymond, and I (along with the Mr. Hot and the Things), hit Ani Ramen House.  No bill.  Amazing. The night a was huge success. I couldn't be happier - but - I think, I'll attempt to split the crowd next year into two different events.  G'night. 

Sunday, June 1

 Persephone Chan, Lou Palma, Susan Guerra, Liz Hartman

Persephone Chan, Lou Palma, Susan Guerra, Liz Hartman

It's got the feel of a "morning after."  I feel very hands off today because Persephone's got this.  I trust her.  Lou and Laura are up first, so it'll be a comfy start. But, the transport for the plates to the Manor (from the basement of the Woman's Club) better go smoothly. 

Later . . .  

 Thing 1 working seminar check in

Thing 1 working seminar check in

Susan Palma had beautiful basil.  Lou and Laura set up their table, I was impressed with how nice the room looked. Even the lighting was nice.  Shame the CC looks so underwhelming from the outside.  The kitchen worked well for what we needed to do, more could be done with/at the bar, but that's fine - we'll cross that bridge next time, and it's A/C. 

I was concerned that the oyster seminar was going to be a lot to handle - I knew time would have to be managed well, and I didn't want it come off too doctrinal.  People were very happy after the oyster seminar - something to do with lots of wines and aphrodisiacs?  Very informative, will probably revisit this topic with a few tweaks. 

 Matt Gregg of 40 North Oyster Farm

Matt Gregg of 40 North Oyster Farm

Re: Foie, this is when our train almost crashed.  God bless Persephone and Lily Hodge! We got word that Ariane Daguin can't make it, but an angel - Lily Hodge - who lives in Montclair and works for D'Artagnan, was in attendance, and decided to fill in for Ariane. She was amazing - that was my favorite seminar of the day - both very dynamic and fun presenters.  

 Lily Hodge and Ariane Duarte at Foie Gras Seminar

Lily Hodge and Ariane Duarte at Foie Gras Seminar

I had to leave foie early to head to Latin Vegan Tapas - which I kind of didn't want to do because the wine, the french toast, the foie, and chatting with Theresa P was right up my alley.  But, I headed over to Designer Appliance and was thrilled!  This girl makes me like vegan.  She BLEW me away. SO is so talented - royal trumpets imitating scallops! Brilliant!   All in all, we've got to get attendance up at the seminars, or reduce our overhead, but, I want to keep the content, even if the other events have to underwrite the seminars. 

Monday, June 2

6 - 5 = 1.  We are almost there! Again, I started early to work out the nerves, and schlepped the catalogs, decanters, menus, merch to The Manor.  Then, I went back later again with Mr. Hot and he set up the step and repeat.  I can't believe how great the weather has been.  

 Remember Our Balloons via Robbie Furman 

Remember Our Balloons via Robbie Furman 

Later . . . 

Wow!  What a night - I'm thrilled - no complaints whatsoever!  The live auction was phenomenal, I loved all Sharon's wines - all the courses were were really great (love the beef sphere!).  My house is full of oversized balloons figures. 

Tuesday, June 3

Uh, what an exhausting day - it sucked!  Thank goodness for Raymond - the return of the dishes was a debacle - two hours late, and rain storm.  Six course service for 220 is boxed and lined up in the hallway of the Woman's Club and Gabby is not a happy camper. Tomorrow we'll shelve and inventory everything. 

 MFWF storage room

MFWF storage room

 

Wednesday, June 4

Spent the morning shelving all of the dishes at the Woman's club with Raymond and Mr. Hot.  Went much faster than I thought.  We're short two boxes of risotto dishes....hmmmm.....

Thursday, June 5

Prepared agenda for post-mortem board meeting and elections. 

Tuesday, June 10

I stopped into Java Love, and Jodie was there.  "You've come out the other side!" she said.