Monday, December 12, 2016

Feast of the Seven Fishes - Festival Cucina Cooking School

Festival Cucina

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian celebration on Christmas Eve that features dishes made with fish and seafood. Seven dishes (often more) are prepared, often including whiting in lemon, clams or mussels in spaghetti, baccala (salted fish cod), fried smelts, calamari, anchovies, lobster, sardines, eels, squid, shrimp and more. 

Festival CucinaNorth Central has a large number of Italians due to immigrants coming to work in the coal mines in the area. And with these folks coming to the area, so comes the traditions, like the Feast of the Seven Fishes. A Fairmont writer, Robert Tinnell, authored a comic strip book about his family's tradition. And, a subsequent festival followed.

Festival CucinaFairmont's Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival is held annually on the second Saturday in December to celebrate the tradition with lots of local vendors selling goodies and wares. I went to the festival last year for the first time, but what I didn't participate in was the event the night beforehand: The Festival Cucina Cooking School.

Cooking schoolYou see, the evening before the celebration kicks off, there is a more intimate cooking school demonstration. The Festival Cucina Cooking School was held at the First Presbyterian Church and cost $25 per person to learn from chefs who prepare dishes that could be part of your seven fishes dinner. The event included a glass of wine, polk music, and watching local chef demonstrations while getting to enjoy bites of holiday dishes. You also get detailed instructions on how to recreate the dishes at home!

  • (Revamped) Pesca Crudo from Hill & Hollow Chef MK Ohlinger
  • Peasant Abruzzo Soup with Bottarga Butter Crostini from Shannon Tinnell
  • Seafood Salad from Robert Germano
  • Classic Marinara Pasta from Isabella Tinnell
  • Bucatini with Snow Crab Legs in Red Sauce from Vince Libonati
  • Grilled Shrimp with Crispy Polenta from Rising Creek Bakery Chef Joel Brown
  • Zuccotto from Kristy Tinnell Martin
Festival CucinaThis was so much fun! It was entertaining and relaxing and delicious. MK's new take on the pesca crudo (due to some miscommunication in product ordered) was still delicious and light and fresh.

Festival CucinaFestival CucinaThen, Shannon's soup with that salty, buttery crostini was delish.

Festival CucinaThe seafood salad was one of my favorites, and we even lucked into getting some extra!

Festival CucinaAnd something as simple as the marinara pasta was out of this world. The fresh cheese on it was incredible.

Festival CucinaThe snow crab with pasta - while messy - was so tasty!

Festival CucinaAnd, god, Joel's grilled shrimp and crispy polenta is not only one of the most beautifully plated dishes you'll ever see, it was amazingly delicious.

Festival CucinaAnd finally, the zuccotto was the perfect way to end the evening - with a nice sweet bite.

This was such a fun event - not only entertaining - but amazingly delicious in a really relaxing setting. We were already making plan to attend next year's event, if that's any indication of what a truly great little event this is. If your mouth is watering, be sure to get your ticket early next year, as it sells out!