When you’re invited to the inaugural edition of an exciting food and wine festival on a private island in Venice, you just don’t say no. You pay the babysitter overtime, you cancel all meetings, postpone any other plans, pack your bags, and you just go.
Last week I did just that. After a high-speed train ride from Milan, I stepped out of the train station and right onto the wooden deck of a typical venetian water taxi, which promptly whisked me off to a tiny island in Venice’s sprawling lagoon.
Isola delle Rose, or “Island of the Roses” is the youngest of Venice’s islands, born in 1870 out of earth and rocks excavated for the construction of the city’s commercial port.
The island’s unique micro-climate favors the growth of plants rare to Venice, such as the olive tree, and proved to be the ideal location for a hospital for respiratory diseases which opened here at the beginning of the 20th century.
Lucky for me, the entire island now houses the JW Marriott Venice Resort and Spa. The hospital buildings have been converted into beautiful retreats, a luxurious spa, and a lovely hotel. The ancient olive trees and lush gardens continue to thrive, and provide oil and produce for their Michelin-starred restaurant, Dopolavoro.
On May 3rd-6th, 2018, the JW Marriott Venice will hosted the inaugural Venice Food and Wine Festival: three days of cooking demos, interactive classes and tastings in the company of internationally celebrated chefs and wine experts. The festival, organized by Food and Wine magazine, and previously hosted in Aspen, Colorado, came to Europe for the first time and couldn’t have chosen a more perfect location.
I had the immense pleasure of attending cooking demos and beautiful dinners by all-star chefs, many of them Americans whom I never previously had the opportunity to meet.
The final gala dinner was a festival in and of itself: Chefs Giancarlo Perbellini, Scott Conant, Melissa Kelly, Jonathan Waxman, Missy Robbins, Caterina Ceraudo, Fabio Trabocchi, and Amirah Kassem each prepared a course celebrating the bright and bold flavors of Venetian spring.
The entire experience was unforgettable (and highly delicious), and I sincerely hope to attend next year’s festival as well. You can check out more pictures from the festival in the slideshow below.