Last night, the 92nd Street Y Tribeca wasthe setting for the big reveal for the Food522nd annual Tournament ofCookbooks. Pitting 16 of the year’s most notable cookbooks against each other in acompetition judged by renowned chefs, the Piglet trophy was awarded to the onebook that managed to make it to the top, as determined this year by Mario Batali and his crack culinary team,as he describes in his terrific write-upof the final challenge. (As a cookbook fan, I really enjoyed reading theparsing of the steps towards making the decision.) Good to theGrain by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood* was named the winner.
The Piglet Partyitself was also a great time. Foodie types, competition judges andparticipants, food personalities, and some wonderful food purveyors allgathered together to sample some great goodies and to hear the results of thebig match-up. I don’t have any photos, as the lighting was very dim andnot conducive to my camera getting good shots; however, I got to see some of myfavorite folks including Jen and Liz at Liddabit Sweets,who brought along their fabulous “Breakfastof Heros” (Bourbon-Coffee-Bacon Caramel Corn – and, yes, I canvouch it is great for breakfast!). This sweet treat is so deliciouslyaddictive that I might just have to put it on my list to give up for Lent in2011. I’ve been picking it up at their stand at the New Amsterdam Market,every chance I get down there.
When I was at theirtable, I met Josh Greenspan who, along with his mother Dorie (whose “Around MyFrench Table” was a competitor), had a cookie table at theparty. It was great to talk to him about cookies in general and about howwe are both big fans of them. Having grown up making them pretty much all of mylife, I often prefer baking them to many other types of sweets, as my friendsand frequent cookie pack recipients will confirm. They had adorable andvery tasty, melt-in-your mouth, piglet-shaped French butter cookies with acrunch of sugar on top for everyone to try. I could have taken a pile ofthese home to have with my afternoon cuppa on this rainy day after the party.
If you follow the worldof pop-up food stores in New York, you may remember Josh from his Cookie Bar, which was in Mizu Salon on Park Avenue. Despitethe fact that this was just several blocks from where I used to work, I couldnever manage to make it to the store before all the cookies were sold out. He said that they went through 4,000 cookies in one week! On thatFriday alone, they sold 1,200 cookies. Seems we are not the only ones who lovethem. Will there be another Cookie Barpop-up coming up in the future? Please say “yes,” so that I canget another chance to try your creations.
My next tasting stopsalternated between savory and sweet. Russ and Daughters, the Lower East Sideappetizing institution, was handing out cool slices of cucumbers dressed withsilky crème fraîche and topped with saltysmoked salmon tartare. Simple, elegant, and delicious, this always seemsto me to be the perfect holiday appetizer. The next table I visited was anew vendor to me. Lush Candyhad samples of varieties of their English Toffee availablefor everyone to try as well as a chocolate-covered marshmallow creation thatwas reminiscent of a Mallomar. I tried the former, which was a crunchy, buttery, slightly saltyconfection with a great balance between candy and chocolate. I see fromtheir website that they have a white chocolate version, which I didn’t findlast night. I might just have to track that one down at a store thatcarries their products.
Then, Iwent back to the savory side of life again visiting Theo Peck and his friendsto try some of his amazing Peck’s Paté. While my mother and her sister are huge chicken liver fans, I have neverreally been able to see the appeal of it. This smooth, velvety creationmight just turn around my opinion on that matter. I’m not at allsurprised at how wonderful this is, as Theo and Nick Suarez are the duo behind Food Experiments, whom Ithought made one of the best dishes at Pig Island. Theo makes this in small batches and then notifies potential buyers via emailwhen it is available for purchase.
Despite the fact thatpickles are not my number one food choice, the folks at Rick’s Picks folks have products thatcan convert the most die-hard brine-adverse among us. As I’d mentioned inmy write-up of InternationalPickle Day 2010, their People’s Pickles and Mean Beans were twoof the ones that might actually change my mind about pickled goodness. They brought these both to the party last night along with Smokra, which I didn’t trydue to my deep-seated okra phobia. The other choice at the table was, Ithink, their Hotties,which I decided to take a pass on simply as I needed my taste buds to try someof the other wonderful foods at the other tables. For this event,they also created the Piglet Cocktail whose ingredients included (if I heard itcorrectly) pickle juice and tomato juice. I also decided to pass on that.
My heartand my body then headed over to the table for Salumeria Rosi where there was more meatto be eaten. I fell completely in love with these specialties when Ilived in Italy and really like to eat only those that capture that sameexperience. As I mentioned in my postabout the pre-Marathon event I attended, this craft is one that highlights thecare and quality that Italians take in creating only the best of the best. The 24-month old proscuitto diParma was unsurprisingly amazing, cut into paper-thin slices allthe better to melt its sweet, salty, silken goodness on my tongue. Theyalso had samples of roasted pork(which really just made me crave a sandwich from Porchetta) and one of my favorite thingsto cook with a delicious proscuittocotto. Any or all of these items would make a greataddition to your next antipasti platter.
Along theway, I noshed at the table for Cellars atJasper Hill, courtesy Lucy’s Whey,a unique project where they not only produce their own cheese but also assistother cheesemakers by providing aging facilities and marketing capabilities tothem, so that they can focus on the production of more great cheeses. This collaborative process seems to me to be a wonderful initiative fromwhich both producers and consumers benefit. I absolutely loved the Cabot ClothboundCheddar that they had to try. Nutty and rich with a greatdepth of flavor, it was the perfect balance and went well with the popcorn thatI was also eating from the Liddabitfolks. They also had samples of Omafrom Von Trapp’s Farmstead (yes, those Von Trapps) and Landaff Cheese atthe table. The first of these was softer and creamier and would be agreat addition to an after-dinner cheese board. The latter one I’d liketo get to know a bit better, as it is supposed to melt beautifully.
Anothergreat new find for me was June TaylorCompany. At this table, June had samples of her delicious candied citruspeel. No surprise that my favorite was the blood orange one. My mother went through a phase of making candied orange peel, which Ialways loved, so this brings back great memories for me. June said theproject grew out of her marmalade-making process. So as not to wasteanything, she started creating these confections with the rind as well. They are useful in all sorts of baking and cooking projects. I’menvious of my West Coast friends who can go visit her shop in Berkeley, but herproducts are for sale in New York for a limited time at a pop-up storein Midtown.
The lastbite of the evening for me was another favorite treat: Pumpkin Pie Ice Creamfrom Van Leewen Artisan Ice Cream. This was all the flavors of the season rolled into one cool scoop. I normally don’t like pumpkin pie, but this treat could have easily founda place at my holiday table. Not too pumpkin-y, with just the right notesof spice and graham cracker crust for my palate, this was the perfect way towrap up a very tasty weeknight evening. I can’t wait to see what nextyear’s Piglet Party brings to the table!
*You may or may not have noticed the Amazon store on the blog’s sidebar. I’ve added this cookbook to my list so that you can more easily check it out to see if it should be the newest member of your collection.