What’s happening in food: Plant City Pig Jam, Beaujolais nouveau is here

Beaujolais nouveau is released, the Pig Jam gears up in Plant City and Norman Van Aken is out at his restaurant in Mount Dora.
Published November 14
Updated November 14

EARLY ARRIVAL: BEAUJOLAIS

It happens every third Thursday in November: The Beaujolais nouveau arrives. The craze, which may have reached its frenzied acme in the 1980s, has long been considered more marketing razzle-dazzle than substance. There are boat races, helicopter airlifts and a host of more romantic conveyances each year to disseminate nearly 70 million bottles of deep-purple wine across the globe (much of it quaffed in Japan, the United States and Germany). It’s not an age-old phenomenon — until WWII, it was a wine only for local consumption.

Made entirely from the thin-skinned gamay grape from two appellations south of France’s Burgundy region, the year’s youngest wines are made via a process called carbonic maceration. Whole grapes are tossed into a tank and the process starts right there, each grape fermenting in its own skin. Because the grapes aren’t crushed, tannins are minimized and fruit flavors maximized, the upshot being a light-bodied, fresh and fruity wine with flavors like strawberry, bubblegum, kirsch and banana.

And every now and then the young wine knocks the wine world’s socks off with good structure, fresh acidity and lush, ripe fruit, all snark of cherry Pez or fake banana Circus Peanuts temporarily silenced. Want to catch this year’s? Head tonight, Friday or Saturday to Café Largo for free-flowing Beaujolais along with a special menu (items individually priced). 5 p.m. 12551 Indian Rocks Road, Largo. (727) 596-6282.

PORKING OUT: FOOD FEST

Last week it was the Pig Jig and this week it’s the 16th annual Pig Jam, really the state of Florida’s barbecue championships. The Suncoast Credit Union Plant City Pig Jam runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Plant City Festival Grounds. The chefs will compete in the Kansas City Barbecue Society -sanctioned competition and see how they stack up against competitors from around the country. Teams can compete in both professional and amateur divisions, prizes for the top 10 teams will be awarded in ribs, pork, beef brisket and chicken. For everybody else, there’s plenty of barbecue to sample, live entertainment, kids’ activities, merchandise vendors, a rock-climbing wall and moon walks. No cover (food is priced individually). 1401 Gordon Food Service Drive, Plant City. (813) 754-3707. plantcitypigjam.com.

NORMAN VAN AKEN: OUT IN MOUNT DORA

We recently got news that Florida celebrity chef and James Beard award-winner Norman Van Aken has parted ways from Ken Mazik and Donna Brown, owners of Mount Dora restaurant 1921 by Norman Van Aken (which I reviewed very favorably at the end of 2016). It seems to have been amicable and a statement from the company read, “After a tremendous two-year run, chef Norman Van Aken and his partners at 1921 in Mount Dora have decided to part ways with much respect and admiration. For all involved, 1921 remains a very special project. The restaurant and chef Norman Van Aken both will continue to maintain their individual missions to celebrate community and the best of Florida’s seasonal and local ingredients.”

Chef de cuisine Camilo Velasco will assume command in the kitchen (but they’re going to have to do something about that name, right?). Meanwhile, Van Aken still presides over Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando as well as Three in Miami’s Wynwood District.

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