When it became clear that legendary Boston Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz was going to be on the cover of our latest issue of saratoga living magazine—and that my Editor in Chief, Richard Pérez-Feria, would be interviewing the superstar and writing the cover feature—I made it known around the office that I’d be there, come hell or high water, watching the photo shoot and interview unfold. After all, Ortiz is one of my heroes; a lifelong Red Sox fan, I was watching in stunned silence (and then loud, joyful tones) as he and my team won the World Series for the first time in 86 years back in 2004. Ortiz’d been a huge part of it, too, especially in the American League Championship Series, knocking off the formidable “Evil Empire” (a.k.a. New York Yankees).
Then in dawned on me how much of the issue was still in draft and on my desk—and how impossible it would be to get through our impending deadline without at least one soul back at the office, holding down the fort. So, in a near-out-of-body experience, I went to my editor’s office and said, “Hey, man, I don’t think it would make sense for me to come to the Big Papi shoot.” While I did end up getting his autograph on a baseball card I sent along with Managing Editor Natalie Moore—in the haste to get it back in its protective case, the signature got smudged, unfortunately—I realized that I’d have more opportunities to meet Big Papi, wondering out loud whether he’d make it to this September’s edition of the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).
My prayers were just answered.
According to SPAC and reported here exclusively, Ortiz, along with The Adelphi Hotel’s Chef David Burke and fellow celebrity chef, Todd English, will be headlining the event, which takes place this September 7-9. Ortiz, who will be representing his wine company, Arias Wine, will return to the festival on Friday, September 7, to take part in the “Fired Up!” event, and will be available for both a meet-and-greet and VIP nightclub appearance that evening. The James Beard Award-winning chef, Burke—who’s head of culinary operations at the Adelphi Hospital Group (i.e. The Blue Hen, Morrissey’s At the Adelphi and Salt & Char) and has appeared on TV shows, such as Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters—and Emmy-nominated celebrity chef Todd English, who’s known for his PBS show Food Trip With Todd English, as a judge on the network’s Cooking Under Fire and for Food Network show, Opening Soon, will also be appearing to show off their favorite dishes and at key events throughout the festival’s busy weekend.
“Following the response that we received from Big Papi’s appearance at our festival last year, we were eager to bring him back to participate in our redesigned weekend events, including a new VIP Party and an opportunity to mingle with the baseball legend,” said Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of SPAC, in a statement to the press. “With the added presence of heralded celebrity chefs David Burke and Todd English, the festival will be a feast for the senses with curated gourmet food and wine tastings and entertainment from our charismatic hosts.”
As saratoga living previously reported, this year’s Wine & Food Festival, which is being co-hosted by newly minted festival partners Colin Cowie Lifestyle and the Saratoga Automobile Museum, will be featuring a decidedly more tricked-out lineup than ever before. For one, celebrity event planner and TV personality (not to mention saratoga living Design Editor) Colin Cowie will be a featured guest at the festival and will take part in a Sunday “Brunch with Colin Cowie.” Also, the American Bugatti Club will be zooming in more than 80 ultra-luxury Bugatti cars—one of the most expensive and highly-sought-after vintage and modern autos in the world, among collectors and auto enthusiasts—for display at the festival. (It’s just one of a few stops in the states that the arsenal of Bugattis will be making—and the first exhibition of its kind in the US in a decade.) Also, Chef Burke will be joining Ortiz in the Fired Up! competition on Friday as lead judge. He’ll also be preparing dishes from his famed New York City restaurants Tavern62, Woodpecker and David Burke Kitchen at this year’s Grand Tasting event, as well as competing in the festival’s own Iron Chef-like competition on Saturday afternoon. Not to be outdone, celebrity chef, English, who himself has won a pair of James Beard awards—and has appeared at the Super Bowl, Sundance Film Festival, Fashion Week and The Tony Awards, among others—will be co-hosting the Sunday brunch with Cowie.
The weekend’s festival includes a number of events throughout, but will be anchored by four: the Adirondack Road Tour and Luncheon, Friday’s Fired Up! grilling competition, Saturday’s Grand Tasting, and for the first time ever, the brunch with Chef English and Colin Cowie. The festival (and all additional ticketing) will help pay for educational programming at SPAC and the Saratoga Automobile Museum. Tickets to the event go on sale on Monday, July 9, at 10am. Below, find a schedule of events taking place on the weekend of the festival:
Friday, September 7
Adirondack Road Tour & Gourmet Luncheon (10:30am – 2:30pm)
This is a tour that snakes through Adirondack Mountain roads and concludes at the Lake George Club. (Take a closer look at the historic “Queen of American Lakes” here.)
Fired Up! Grill Competition featuring Chef David Burke and David Ortiz (7pm – 10pm) | Tickets: $100
Chefs from top local restaurants will face off for the Fired Up! grilling title, while guests will be enjoying live music, gourmet food, barbecue (of course!), beer, wine and spirits. Burke will lead a panel of four celebrity judges (the three others have yet to be named) in judging the event. Big Papi will also make a special appearance.
David Ortiz Meet and Greet (7pm to 7:50pm) | Tickets: $150
Note that the meet and greet is limited to 100 fans. A portion of the proceeds from it will be donated to Ortiz’s charity, the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which funds pediatric services for children in New England and the Dominican Republic.
Party with David Ortiz at VIP nightclub (8:30pm – 10pm) | Tickets: $200
A portion of the Saratoga Spa State Park, overlooking the reflecting pool, will turn into an exclusive VIP nightclub, with David Ortiz emceeing. Guests will be able to mingle with the Red Sox legend, enjoy gourmet hors d’oeuvres and Arias Wine and will each receive a bottle of wine autographed by the former Sox star.
Saturday, September 8
Grand Tasting (12pm – 4pm) | Tickets: $100 (VIP passes cost $175)
The Bugatti display will be featured at this part of the event, as well as curated food, wine and additional events and activities. The main stage will feature speeches, guest appearances, live music and the aforementioned Iron Chef-style competition. Chef Burke will also be serving some of his top dishes there, too. (Note: the VIP experience will include early entry and access to a special VIP area.)
Sunday, September 9
Brunch with Colin Cowie & Celebrity Chef Todd English (11am – 3pm) | Tickets: $225
Cowie and Chef English will be presenting Colin’s “five-senses” approach to the brunch, which includes scent consultations, examples of floral and table designs for all to view, live music by On The Move and of course, a number of gourmet food and cocktail options. “Cocktail Architect” Yusef Austin will also be onsite, mixing up a a number of speciality cocktails.