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Constructive Criticism for Wine & Dine

January 8, 2015

A note from the Profussor: For a long time I’ve been looking to open the platform of the FUSSYlittleBLOG to other voices in the community. After all, if there is something about food or the food culture in the Capital Region you want to get off your chest, what better place is there to vent your spleen than on a community of readers who will tolerate several hundred words on the evil of sprinkles?

Recently, Deanna Fox picked up the gauntlet and asked to write the story below. If you don’t know Deanna, she’s awesome. Not only does she now write the Eat This! feature for All Over Albany, but she writes food stories for the Albany Times Union too. Her own blog and the one she’s maintained over at the TU have languished a bit, but she’s active on Twitter and Instagram.

So, I’ll let her say this in her own words, but D. Fox has some strong feelings about the Albany Chefs’ Food & Wine Festival: Wine & Dine for the Arts. And I know she’s not the only one.

By Deanna Fox

For the past two years, I’ve gone to the Albany Chefs’ Wine and Dine for the Arts with various hopes and predictions. Mostly, I was there to look for interesting products and find new story angles. Of course, I was also there to hobnob and try to make a few beneficial connections, as well.

Mostly, those things happened. I wrote a story that was birthed from a conversation with a winemaker at the 2013 Wine and Dine. I did, in fact, make a few beneficial connections and mingle with a few people in the food industry I can at least call good acquaintances.

But I won’t be going to the Wine and Dine this year. Or probably ever again.

The reason is mostly this: How can something claim to be an ALBANY Wine and Dine when so many worthwhile establishments are excluded from participation?

Listen, I get it. These things cost money to produce. That’s why the organizers choose to work with sponsors who can give them a big check to cover expenses while in the planning stages. But how does this exclude local companies? Let me backtrack a little.

The Wine and Dine has been sponsored by Empire Merchants North for several years. Empire distributes some of the most recognizable names in wine and liquor (like Grey Goose, Bacardi, and Beringer). On the Wine and Dine homepage, there is a disclaimer at the bottom that states, “Empire Merchants North is the exclusive Wine & Spirits Sponsor of the Albany Chefs’ Food & Wine Festival. Please Drink Responsibly.” See that little word…. Exclusive? That means unless you are part of Empire’s distribution, you can’t participate in the event. You can’t even think about participating in the event. It’s not happening.

What this means is that Standard Cider Company gets exposure, but local darling Nine Pin Cider doesn’t. Swedish Hill Winery gets to pour samples, but Victory View Vineyard from Schaghticoke, which makes some truly outstanding wine, can’t. Owney’s Rum can be part of the Albany Wine and Dine, but Albany Distilling Company, which sits on some of the most historic real estate in Albany and produces a rum based on a centuries-old Albany recipe, can’t.

DeCrescente, which reps New York craft breweries like Adirondack, Brown’s, Keegan, and Steadfast, handles the beer aspect of the event. That’s a decent assortment of what’s available. It would be nice if places like Rare Form, Green Wolf, or Shmaltz could get a seat at the table, though.

This is how business works, right? The big players with the money come in and push the little guys out, keeping them from publicity and shelf space. But how does this really contribute to an Albany-centric event? It doesn’t. The caveat for the Wine and Dine is that it never claims to be a platform to promote quality local products. The organization’s mission statement is this:

To provide sustainable funding for the support and preservation of the not-for-profit arts community in Albany, NY, through an annual 3-day Food and Wine themed Festival that markets our restaurants, chefs, and their innovative cuisine; educates consumers on healthy, sustainable agriculture; and donates all net income directly to deserving non-profit arts organizations.

Nowhere does it say it’s looking to promote locally-produced beer, wine, spirits, or anything else of that nature, so I guess I can’t shake a finger at taking the money route over the quality or substance route. Still, this event is a powerful platform, and it is a shame that more isn’t done to highlight the local efforts to produce worthwhile foodstuffs through mostly noble efforts.

But let’s go back to that mission statement. It holds within it a few contradictions.

The first is the statement about innovative cuisine. I don’t have the ticketing numbers in front of me, but I’m guessing that the Grand Tastings are the most popular events during the entire three days of the Wine and Dine. Like all the other (trite) dine arounds in the area, local restaurants and some producers come in and sling some two-bite version of a popular dish on their menu or that they offer in catering gigs. Innovative? Far from it. The most exciting thing last year was the fact that Henry St. Tap Room decided to serve ice cream in a push-pop tube. Riveting stuff. I feel bad for the poor kid who had to form all of those suckers.

I had a conversation with a particular chef of note (who in addition to being on TV has written more than one best selling cookbook) about some of the food at last year’s Wine and Dine. He said nothing positive, claiming most of the “ethnic” food was “inauthentic.” And he was brought in to herald the benefits and successes of this event!

Most of the chefs (scratch that: ALL) of the chefs I’ve ever spoken with about the event say the only reason they attend is because they feel they have to. That they feel beholden to go, and that they might be somehow “blacklisted” if they don’t. (Many say that they feel pulled into a system of cronyism, but that’s for another day.) That getting their pictures splashed across myriad PR materials is free-but-not-really-free advertising for them.

If that’s the case, what incentive is there to be innovative? None of them have been able to quantify how participating in the Grand Tasting has translated to customers in the restaurant door. It was hard to get a dinner seat at Tara Kitchen before Aneesa’s appearance at last year’s Wine and Dine. It doesn’t seem any more or less hard now.

Some of the better-executed food samples at the Grand Tasting have come from restaurants associated with large-scale catering groups (like Mazzone). Which makes sense, since this is basically just a big catering showcase (making it feel more like a bridal show than a food festival). I wonder if the average eater who goes to this event really feels like they are getting a deal for their $65 ticket. They’d be better served to take that money and have a nice dinner at a new-to-them restaurant.

All this really does is contribute to the common claim that the Capital Region is filled with dining mediocrity. Innovation is lacking across all events at the Wine and Dine. That says less about the skill or the chefs represented than it does of the stagnating format of the event.

One instance in which this format does work is for value-added producers, like Bake 4 You or DreamPuff Marshmallows. Because the festival-goer is getting to taste an actual product, like a cookie or a confection, that is exactly what they would be purchasing outside of the festival, they are more likely to remember a positive experience and therefore more likely to buy the product after the festival is over. The serving is a true representation of the product being promoted, not a pared-down, hackneyed version put on a plate with little thought or intention besides feeding all the people. It does an incredible disservice to many of the outstanding chefs and restaurants in the area.

Now about that, “educates consumers on healthy, sustainable agriculture,” bit. Show me where that is happening? No really… where? January is prime CSA sign-up time, why not pull a farm group in to offer on-the-spot sign-ups (maybe there is some sort of rule about money exchange, who knows). Why not pair a chef and a farm together for some sort of dining event? I’m not really understanding how the goal to educate consumers on healthy, sustainable agriculture is manifesting at the Wine and Dine. (I’ve heard some rumbling about the Chef’s Consortium maybe being part of the Wine and Dine this year… I’ve yet to confirm that. I’d like to see how these two groups work together). This feels kind of like big food corporate greenwashing.

My final gripe with the Wine and Dine (or, at least the last one I’ll broadcast here) is who it aims to benefit. Why a big food festival for arts? Why not food for food’s sake? This isn’t unique to the Albany Wine and Dine – any food festival that benefits anything other than food feels so unfortunate. I’m a proponent of having arts in a person’s life whenever possible, but people aren’t going to support the arts if they can’t eat. When people can’t sustain themselves, it leads to a whole host of social, political and economic problems. Having an expensive food festival benefit the arts feels like a supreme practice in the exclusivity and elitism that presents itself in several iterations throughout the festival’s scheme.

I understand a festival can’t be all things to all people, but I’m not the only person to speak out about this. Then again, there are some people who sing the festival’s praises to high heaven. I wish I could do the same. Hopefully one day, I can.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2015 12:20 pm

    Excellent piece. This is the way to make change based on facts and propose solutions. Wine and Dine for the Arts will never be the same again. I’ve trained my mind to ignore these event because they can be so crushing to the spirit.
    Free food events of this nature are so difficulty for the little guy to afford….. or for my establishment to afford. There must be a carrot. Most of us do what we do to please people. We do it because first and foremost we are entrepreneurs, living the American dream. “If you work hard enough, learn and apply as much as you can intelligently about your craft, you can achieve your dream”. But the fight is fixed on so many levels. Its often not about ability in this arena. Its about favoritism and money. Its lazy. Its the easy way out.
    The People Choice Award show last night shows you what the adverage consumer thinks is good. Thank god there are critics out there willing to talk about other options. With out there expertise I would not see films like ‘Boyhood’ or ‘Skeleton Twins’. Without film festivals like Sundance there may not be arenas for independent low budget films.
    Its the same model that should be applied in many arenas. Blaze a new trail. Focus on what is good, not what is easy or expected.

    • January 8, 2015 2:14 pm

      Thanks for your comment! The “carrot” that you speak of should be the amount of exposure an event like this could bring. It’s paid advertising, essentially. Unfortunately, the money might be prohibitive, as you mention, for many smaller operations. For instance, one of the best locally produced foodstuffs I’ve encountered is the St. Stephen Triple Cream from Four Fat Fowl. But I haven’t seen it at the Wine and Dine, and doubt I will this year. Sure, sure, money or product availability might prohibit them from being able to participate on the Grand Tasting level, but here are two possible solutions to that:

      1) Offer an “emerging producer” rate (or wave the cost altogether, or even offer a grant system or competition of some sort) that would sidestep the money issue:

      2) Pair up each chef and their corresponding course at the gala dinner with an assortment of local products to be used in crafting the menu. (but, since Sysco is a food sponsor, the Wine and Dine doesn’t do it because of exclusivity agreements, most likely. I’ve seen Sysco’s “local” offerings and it’s kind of a joke, to be honest. Local doesn’t always mean “good” or “better,” but again, that’s another post. I see that Honest Weight is a sponsor this year, but I’m wondering what that means. I’ve just emailed HWFC to find out.)

      If a producer/farm/whathaveyou doesn’t have the resources to participate through the above, then they just aren’t ready to be seen on a stage as big as the Wine and Dine. Having too much exposure and not being able to keep pace with demand is a terrible thing for a fledgling business, one that could easily crush a new endeavor.

      • Danielle permalink
        January 8, 2015 4:04 pm

        Just a note, Shaleena could totally swing enough wheels to accommodate Wine and Food Fest – but she may not, and that’s because as much as everyone loves her cheese in the CR, 10 times that can easily go down to the city every single week. I know, because I see all those cases sitting in our truck ready to be sent there next to a ton of other amazing local products that can make it in NYC, but only get attention in certain circles around here.
        I think the important note is, what are the actual incentives for producers to spend a lot of time, inventory, product, and opportunity cost, on a festival set in an area were the food culture doesn’t support a sustainable relationship with their product? Sure it might over time, if you count this exposure as one piece of a larger campaign that will solidly and (most importantly) honestly promote and work towards a real food culture. The idea is great and the dream pristine, but these people are putting their heart’s blood into their product and they don’t have the time or resources to chip away at an entire population when there’s one that holds more appreciation, better consistency, and a higher price point just a few hours away.
        Whenever I place an order with one of my producers and they tell me that they won’t have everything I need, I understand. I know where it’s going, and I can’t blame them for sending it there. Then backlash will come where one person will call who orders a case every two weeks and then spits fireballs about inconsistency and how ‘this is why I can never count on local product.’ But it’s not true. They can’t count on that person who will get a case every two weeks, so they count on the person who gets 10 cases every week. It’s true that everyone starts slow out of the gate, they fumble with their first steps, and mistakes can happen; they may even have to go back to the drawing board completely. But if they have a good product, then as soon as they get the barest semblance of legs they are going to get snatched up hard and it’s not going to be by the CR public.

        It’s not them that need to convince us that this type of food is worth it by showcasing it at an event that is counter-productive to their making a living. It’s the opposite. We need to convince them that we think their product is worth it. Until then, the majority Upstate’s finest will keep filtering to one place.

      • January 11, 2015 1:20 am

        I just wanted to add that Deanna ain’t kidding about Four Fat Fowl. We serve it at every party now and it always gets raves from everyone.

      • Christine Kleinegger permalink
        January 14, 2015 2:51 pm

        Deana,

        The Honest Weight Cheese & Specialty Dept. will have a table Friday evening and will be featuring (among other things) Four Fat Fowl.

        I found much of your critique interesting and possibly valid — until I got to your objections to this event benefitting the arts (or select arts organizations). “….any food festival that benefits anything other than food feels so unfortunate.” I would hope there could be some synergy between the cultural landscape and the food landscape. Both are critical to the region’s vitality. Most arts organizations are non-profits so they are pretty dependent on these kinds of fund raisers.

  2. Jamie permalink
    January 8, 2015 1:00 pm

    I believe Wine and Dine was created as a food centric fundraiser to benefit many non-profit arts organizations in the Capital Region.

    Though Wine and Dine is probably the largest of many fundraising events in the capital district, there are many others that do include the small businesses listed in article above. These other events are certainly smaller, but still raise money and help promote these smaller businesses.

    One also has to consider that maybe the smaller businesses don’t want to participate in such a large event. Many don’t have the time, people or the product to give away. That’s why the larger events are sponsored by the large distributors. The larger businesses have a lot more band width in these areas to be able to support events of this size.

    At the end of the day Wine and Dine raises a lot of money for our community arts organizations. Money that many of these organizations count on to keep their doors open.

    • January 8, 2015 2:22 pm

      Hi Jamie, thanks for your comment! I agree, the Wine and Dine does raise a lot of money for the arts. That’s a great (and necessary) thing.

      As to smaller businesses not wanting to participate, that could be true, but any small business I’ve spoken to directly about this said they would jump at the chance to participate if it were possible for them to.

      “That’s why the larger events are sponsored by the large distributors. The larger businesses have a lot more band width in these areas to be able to support events of this size.” – I don’t disagree. In fact, I believe I made that point explicitly in the post. The difference is this Albany’s top-billed food festival. It is a shame more isn’t done to promote those in question.

  3. January 8, 2015 1:52 pm

    These are all valid points. Basically what it all comes down to is politics. Not literal politics, but politics of how the industry works. Unwritten rules. Oligarchy. Quid pro quo, etc.

    Not sure why that distributor has to be the exclusive sponsor for wine and spirits. Maybe they’re the only company that had any interest in it? “Exclusive” makes it sound like they won a bidding war.

    Decresente as the only beer distributor. LOL. So what else is new? Every beer person in the 518 hates them. Not working in the industry myself I can’t exactly say why, but it’s all I do hear from my peeps from within the industry. Why do they even need a distributor at all, why can’t the breweries just represent themselves? (or the wineries, cideries, et al) This just goes to show how archaic the three-tier system is. It’s cronyism, not capitalism.

    Personally, I have no interest in any of these events, not even the beer pavilion or whatever it is. I can get any of those beers anytime I want. Why pay a premium to go to a certain place at a certain time to do so?

    Though I will say I appreciate that money is being raised for “the arts” (whatever that means) via a private entity and not by milking the taxpayers. Not a dime of taxpayer money should ever go to “the arts” so that’s something worth supporting.

    • January 8, 2015 2:33 pm

      Hey Chad, thanks for your comment. A few things I’d like to discuss:

      1) “Why do they even need a distributor at all, why can’t the breweries just represent themselves? (or the wineries, cideries, et al) This just goes to show how archaic the three-tier system is. It’s cronyism, not capitalism.” – I think the issue here is a matter of cost/benefit. It would be too costly (money/time/resources) to be able to hawk these products (though many of them actually do sell/market/distribute through their own means) than to hire a third party to do it.

      2) “Personally, I have no interest in any of these events, not even the beer pavilion or whatever it is. I can get any of those beers anytime I want. Why pay a premium to go to a certain place at a certain time to do so?” – These events, when done right, can be great for the producer AND the end-user/customer. But it is cheaper to just go to the beer store, grab a mixed sixer, and try out a bunch of different beers with friends.

      3) “Though I will say I appreciate that money is being raised for “the arts” (whatever that means) via a private entity and not by milking the taxpayers. Not a dime of taxpayer money should ever go to “the arts” so that’s something worth supporting.” – I disagree on the taxpayer money bit. What about funding for arts education in schools? The arts have myriad benefits in the community that can offset many of socio-economic problems and disparities, therefore, when used correctly, can offset other gov’t expenses. But that’s for another blog altogether.

  4. January 8, 2015 2:14 pm

    I believe the piece was taking the ‘mission statement’ of the Wine and Dine for the Arts to task. “To provide sustainable funding for the support and preservation of the not-for-profit arts community in Albany, NY, through an annual 3-day Food and Wine themed Festival that markets our restaurants, chefs, and their innovative cuisine; educates consumers on healthy, sustainable agriculture; and donates all net income directly to deserving non-profit arts organizations.” Not the altruistic goal of the festival. The ends do not justify the means. It is a false pretense and the patrons who are promised this value in return for payment of a very expensive ticket to this event are not getting what they have been promised. Its a matter of integrity. Not a dispute of the fundraising effort.

  5. January 8, 2015 2:41 pm

    For additional reading, here is Steve Barnes assessment of the event, on the Times Union:

    http://www.timesunion.com/living/article/Steve-Barnes-Gala-meal-needs-change-of-course-5165736.php

  6. January 8, 2015 4:01 pm

    Thanks so much Deanna – you have provided really important information and a good argument for re-thinking the festival and its mission. I hope that the organizers will consider your thoughts. But even more it would be really interesting for the Capital Region (in the broadest sense – because that would include some of the truly world-class local producers) to do an alternative food festival that does include all the interesting little places we have here. I feel guilty suggesting it without volunteering to do any of the work, but I AM hoping that your words will inspire action on many levels.

  7. January 8, 2015 4:15 pm

    I went in 2013 for free because I was “working” then wasn’t, then was….basically what I noticed was a LARGE number of booze distributors and a few restaurant booths. I quickly started to realize this was more of a who’s who elbow rub than a genuine attempt to bring attention to “the arts” let alone to our local food/booze establishments. 1. I didn’t see ANY ART, ANYWHERE!!!!! WTF we have incredible artists in the 518 and I didn’t see a single piece by a single artist…….2. It was a booze fest more than anything else. I was very disappointed.

    • Albany Arts permalink
      January 16, 2015 6:54 pm

      Re: No ART! Look at the “Arts Beneficiaries” listed. None of our Albany VISUAL art galleries, that actually support and promote LOCAL artists are represented. I agree that we have incredible local artists, but non-profits such as Albany Center Gallery, Upstate Artist Guild, Grand Street Community Arts, Romaine Brooks Gallery, etc. are shut out. Funds are vital to keep these “smaller” art organizations alive. None of the Festival’s vision and objectives actually address the need for support and promotion of the Capital Region’s talented artists. Then we wonder why these creatives leave Albany.

  8. enough already! permalink
    January 8, 2015 9:36 pm

    Thank you for this eye-opening piece. I’ve been wanting to attend but after reading this I realize I can put my donation money to better use.

  9. January 9, 2015 2:37 am

    Not buying it.

    First of all, this isn’t the “official” Albany Food and Wind Festival. It’s an idiosyncratic event started by Yono Purnomo and a few friends in the industry as a way to give back for their success. There’s nothing keeping anybody else from having their own festival if they have a different idea of the way such an event should be run.

    Second, nobody’s getting rich on this. As I understand it all the food and drink is donated… am I wrong? Sure the participants get exposure but it’s not a cost-effective marketing exercise any way you do the numbers. You can’t get wealthy by giving away stuff.

    Third, I disagree that the offerings are predictable. Compare to the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival. There, I feel like the participants are going through the motions to get a little exposure for their brands. (Some exceptions of course.) At the Albany festival chefs outdo one another to see who can be most generous and lavish in their preps, and the paying public benefits.

    I also feel the comment about “ethnic” preps being “inauthentic” simply states the obvious. We are not a sophisticated town like Hudson. We wouldn’t know authentic if it jumped up and bit us on the keester.

    I am unfortunately marooned on the west coast eating beef cheeks and such. If I were in Albany I would make a special point of attending on Friday night when Tom Thibeault and friends are going to break down a number of large animal carcasses. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s in a good cause.

    • January 9, 2015 10:57 am

      “We are not a sophisticated town like Hudson.”

      Do you mean those couple streets in Hudson? Hudson is not a city any other city needs to emulate for any reason.

    • January 9, 2015 11:38 am

      “At the Albany festival chefs outdo one another to see who can be most generous and lavish in their preps, and the paying public benefits.”

      I have zero idea what you are talking about.

      • January 9, 2015 12:25 pm

        I was pretty impressed with the presentations from a number of chefs last year and I was reminded of this while reviewing my photos for a current post. And like I said, it compares favorable to Saratoga where the presentations are much more casual.

  10. January 9, 2015 12:17 pm

    This is what I heard from Honest Weight:

    “We’re the Grand Gala Reception sponsor this year. We’re also participating in both tastings(Friday and Saturday). Friday will be a cheese sampling and Saturday will be dishes from our Café. I don’t have a menu yet. I know that our cheese sampling will incorporate some of our local vendors. One of our vendors donated a wheel of parm that we’ll pair with a balsamic glaze…”

  11. David Nardolillo (DEN) permalink
    January 9, 2015 1:04 pm

    I second Burnt My Fingers’ comments and have a couple of my own. I count several of the Wine & Dine organizers/board members/volunteers as good friends, so take them as you see fit.

    First, criticism of Wine & Dine on the sustainable agriculture mission was unfair. I cannot be the only one who remembers your three or four articles or blog posts in the Times Union on the Bounty of the County, which was organized and sponsored in part by Wine and Dine, and focused mainly on local producers and sustainable agriculture. Those articles specifically mentioned the efforts of Wine & Dine in a positive tone. If you think that they need to do more on sustainable agriculture than the one event a year and a half ago (I don’t know if they have or haven’t), that’s fine and a fair criticism, but say that instead of giving the impression that the organizers have totally shirked that mission.

    I was also dismayed by the publication of vague, anonymous, and ultimately unsupported suggestions of “blacklisting” and “cronyism” by the organizers. Those are serious charges and it is hard for me to accept them as they are presented. The organizers donate thousands of hours of their time and receive no direct financial benefit from their efforts in organizing this as far as I can tell. Either give more facts and give them a chance to respond before publication, or leave it out.

    Going down that road was also odd because even if those accusations are true, I don’t think it would help you effect the change you seek. It would only serve to erode the “powerful platform” that you wished would elevate other deserving producers. I would think it is also likely to alienate the volunteers who figured out a way to build it and who you could partner with to effect that change. Why not propose something more collaborative?

    To be fair, there are legitimate criticisms of Wine & Dine, and I have found the organizers to be receptive to my suggestions and the critiques of others. But, they did not get a fair shake in this article.

    • January 9, 2015 1:27 pm

      Hi David, thanks for your comment.

      As to the “Bounty of the County” article, I was the person to write that. I was part of that event, and I could write an entire new blog post on that, but to my knowledge, the Wine and Dine isn’t involved with that event anymore.

      “I was also dismayed by the publication of vague, anonymous, and ultimately unsupported suggestions of “blacklisting” and “cronyism” by the organizers. Those are serious charges and it is hard for me to accept them as they are presented. The organizers donate thousands of hours of their time and receive no direct financial benefit from their efforts in organizing this as far as I can tell. Either give more facts and give them a chance to respond before publication, or leave it out.” – I did not include names out of respect for the chefs who have shared these thoughts with me. However, I will say that many of them feel the organizers far overstep their requests of the chefs in the other 362 days of the year. I did give them a chance to respond, but for the same reasons and fear of essentially being “blacklisted” and having harm be brought to their business. As to the chefs, I think that’s weak, and they are creating more of a problem for themselves by giving perceived power to a group than is rightly deserved.

      Also, to say there is no “direct financial benefit” is untrue, in my opinion. I think the organizers (some of them) will tell you that the Wine and Dine was created as they saw a correlation between arts patrons (those attending shows at, say, Capital Rep) and customers who dine at downtown Albany restaurants before/after a show. By keeping organizations like Capital Rep in business, the restaurant benefits from a flow of customers.

      Sometimes benefit doesn’t come solely as financial. There are plenty of other ways that the organizers may benefit from donating their time to this event.

      “Why not propose something more collaborative?” – I did. Re-read the post and the comments.

      “To be fair, there are legitimate criticisms of Wine & Dine, and I have found the organizers to be receptive to my suggestions and the critiques of others. But, they did not get a fair shake in this article.” – I’ve reached out personally to some organizers, to no luck. And they are more than welcome to respond to this as they wish or contact me directly. As mentioned, you’re loyalty perhaps lies with the some of the organizers because they are friends of yours, and therefore I think you’re being blinded in seeing this as anything other than an attack, which it isn’t. It’s a fair – very fair – assessment of an event that, I believe, dupes people into believing it’s something it’s not. I don’t know every person involved with the Wine and Dine personally. Some I know to be incredibly kind, generous, and giving people who I think truly want the best for this event AND the Albany dining scene. Some, well, to put it plainly I DON’T think that is there intent.

      • January 9, 2015 1:38 pm

        *their. Ugh. Typos! Sorry (embarrassed)

      • David Nardolillo (DEN) permalink
        January 9, 2015 2:31 pm

        Thanks for replying, Deanna.

        Three quick points. Your response to my Bounty of the County argument confirms my point about fairness. In the post above you asked “Show me where [the sustainable agriculture bit] is happening? No really… where?” That is unfair when it turns out you wrote articles that were praising Wine & Dine’s efforts in doing just that. If they no longer do it and their focus on that mission has waned, that is a different argument you could have made, but that’s not the argument you made originally.

        I am glad to hear that you want to collaborate with the Wine & Dine organizers but repeating whispers of blacklisting and cronyism or accusing the organizers, some of whom you admire, of duping the public seems an odd way to do it. I don’t feel duped!

        All of this is to say that different approach might have amplified your arguments about including more local producers and sustainable agriculture. I am not accusing anyone of bad faith, but I found that those arguments were undermined by an airing of grievances that are unrelated to the advancement of those admirable ideas.

        That is just my take. Your mileage may vary.

      • January 9, 2015 3:41 pm

        @David – I think you’re trying to manipulate my assessment of the Bounty of the County event to fit your argument on W&D. I specially asked to be shown at the W&D event where the ag factor comes into play. These are two separate events… am I wrong in determining that the W&D organizers are no longer backers of the Bounty of the County event?

        Just because YOU don’t feel duped doesn’t mean others don’t. I think it’s a shame that more chefs, etc., aren’t more vocal of their opinions on the W&D. Instead of turning a blind eye to what they share with me, I decided to take action about it… especially since I’ve seen some of their problems first-hand.

        I’ve taken other approaches to this and it hasn’t helped. So what am I left with? Silent bystander? No thanks. I’m not really sure what you are trying to say with, “I am not accusing anyone of bad faith, but I found that those arguments were undermined by an airing of grievances that are unrelated to the advancement of those admirable ideas.” The whole purpose of this post was a constructive critic of the event.

      • January 9, 2015 3:55 pm

        Here is the link to the Bounty of the County story, and from my experience with the event, SALT and it’s associates were far more engaged and involved in the event than W&D reps were. I don’t think I particularly laud W&D as much as you would suggest, @David.

        http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Cooking-up-assistance-for-flood-victims-4609954.php

  12. David Nardolillo (DEN) permalink
    January 9, 2015 10:07 pm

    My point on Bounty of the County is simply that you should have included mention of the fact W&D was using its resources to promote sustainable agriculture on at least one occasion because you argued they were duping the public by not living up to their mission at all.

    I don’t doubt you when you say that SALT and the local producers worked very hard on Bounty of the County, or harder than W&D. I’ll leave it to the readers to look at your other articles on the event to determine for themselves the degree of W&D’s involvement in the Bounty of the County, but I do think “A HUGE thank you” (your emphasis) to the sponsors, including W&D, constitutes “praise” on your part! http://blog.timesunion.com/eatlocal/bounty-of-the-county-recap/1976/#13724101=0 Here’s the other article: “Albany Chefs raise money for Schoharie County” http://blog.timesunion.com/eatlocal/albany-chefs-raise-money-for-schoharie-county/1903/#13409101=0

    My point about your “undermining” your argument is that I did not view your article as constructive criticism, and that may be the root of our disagreement. For example accusations of unethical behavior such as “blacklisting” and “cronyism” are not constructive criticism, especially when those allegations are anonymous and still unsupported by any factual basis. And when the stated evidence is so thin against volunteers that sacrifice a lot, it creates such a negative gloss that raises the issue whether you wanted the festival to do better to whether you were just trying to make the organizers look bad.

    Compare Steve Barnes’ article, which you highlight. That was constructive criticism. He described his dissatisfaction with the meal with objective facts about the timing of the courses, the incorrect temperature of the food, and then went behind the scenes to try and diagnose some problems in the organization and execution of the meal. Steve included no accusations of unethical behavior.

    I take it at face value when you say you mean well and want the festival to succeed. But allegations of unethical behavior need to be supported by facts, and the charitable organization deserves the consideration of the full spectrum of its efforts before we style them as frauds.

  13. January 10, 2015 12:05 am

    I’m not going to break the confidence of certain individuals in order to prove my point. My word, as a writer, is all I’ve got. Take it as punditry if you’d like, but it’s based it truth. My integrity stands.

    As to Steve, I’ll let him speak for himself, but his experience with the organization and mine might be very different, and therefore, different takes. Criticism doesn’t have to look the same across the board.

    To all who have commented or read this and perhaps thought about this, thank you. I’m a firm believer in the democratic process, and having respectful conversations like this is key to instilling change. Or keeping a stasis. Whichever. I really appreciate any time you’ve given to this discussion.

  14. Autumn permalink
    January 17, 2015 11:02 pm

    Very good write-up. I definitely appreciate this website.
    Keep writing!

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