Some 1,500 people descended on Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit on Sept. 14 for food, wine, spirits and a chance to see some of their favorite chefs in action at the sold-out Detroit Free Press Wine & Food Experience.
Many of Detroit's top restaurants were represented at the third annual event. Greeted with sun-filled skies and temperatures in the mid-70s, patrons wandered about downtown Detroit's town square eating, drinking and socializing — and also picking up pointers from cooking demonstrations and wares from vendors.
Alex Guarnaschelli, a celebrity chef best-known for her work on the Food Network's "Chopped," was a fan favorite, holding court for a VIP meet-and-greet and demo where she shared quips and tips.
Staffers from the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network, were led by restaurant critic Mark Kurlyandchik and food writer Susan Selasky in their quest to try most of the event's offerings. It was no easy task: More than 30 restaurants were serving appetizer-size samples — everything from curried whitefish to lobster tacos.
Here are 10 of the Free Press team's favorites:
1. Adachi's bite-sized lobster tacos were a big hit. Dressed lobster meat stuffed into an ultra-light wonton "taco" shell and topped with an avocado-based green sauce bright with yuzu and cilantro.
2. One of the persistently longest lines of the festival was for M Cantina. The Dearborn Mexican restaurant served a smaller version of its popular braised short rib tacos, complete with crispy onion and sweet mole sauce.
3. Ferndale oyster shack Voyager showed off its co-chef Justin Tootla's half-Indian heritage with a smoked whitefish dip heavy on smoke and curry flavor and topped with a ground cherry chutney, all served on a papadum crisp.
4. A big food festival featuring individual vendors each serving some 1,500 samples can generate a lot of trash. To combat waste, Lumen Detroit served a classic smoked salmon with whipped cream cheese, capers and dill on an edible spoon cracker.
5. Set to debut next week in Detroit's Core City neighborhood, Magnet played up its simple vegetable-centric concept with peak-of-season cherry tomatoes served on creamy housemade farm cheese.
6. After an inspiring recent trip to Spain, chef Brendon Edwards of Corktown staple Gold Cash Gold created a simple summery gazpacho made up of just tomatoes emulsified with olive oil, plus a little red onion, a brioche crouton and a dollop of ricotta.
7. Seafood was aplenty from Hazel Park's Latido at JoeBar. Scallop ceviche proved to be a winner on this warm September Day. It boasted classic tones of citrus and vinegar, paired with sweet scallops, diced mango and red onion.
8: Soup on hot day? Birmingham's Hazel, Ravines & Downtown carrot coconut soup was a hot hit. The soup was creamy and smooth, marrying sweet carrots with cool coconut.
9. Taking advantage of Michigan's sweet corn, Midtown's Grey Ghost paired it with poached shrimp.The poached shrimp was served atop of bed of corn blended with mayonnaise, lime and onion. Finishing the dish were crunchy tortilla strips and a sprinkling of queso fresco.
10. Crispy, sour, salt and spice — Takoi's signature naem khao tod hit all the marks. The dish featured Takoi's Thai sour sausage blended with puffed rice and Thai chilies, cooled off with cilantro, plus ginger and a kick of saltiness from fish sauce.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 10 best bites from the Detroit Free Press Wine & Food Experience