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Wok+Wine and Foodspotting Event in New York

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Last night, in the Tribeca offices of Luminary Labs, Wok+Wine teamed up with Foodspotting to host one of their dynamic, seafood-fueled events.  I was one of the 40 folks who helped consume some of the “40 pounds of jumbo shrimp and 40 bottles of delicious wine” that they had laid on for us.  It was definitely one of the more unique and napkin-worthy food get-togethers I’ve ever attended.

Shrimp al Ajillo (shrimp in spicy garlic sauce) cooked in a Wok

The concept for these gatherings was developed by Wok+Wine‘s founder, Peter Mandeno, who hails from New Zealand but has lived all over the world, when he transplanted himself to the Big Apple and found it a bit challenging to meet new and interesting people.  The idea is relatively simple: get a group of folks together who don’t mind getting a bit messy to dig in around a communal table for a large shrimp peel and many glasses of wine to see where the evening leads them.  He’s taken this concept to several cities around the world where it seems to be a hit no matter where he goes.

Oriel Russian River Valley Zinfandel – perfect for the spicy shrimp

One of the other features of these gatherings is that they are often held in unusual locations in each of the host cities.  We were in the offices of a commercial building in Tribeca last night.  Other events have been held in a library (Auckland), a flower shop (Amsterdam), and a demolition site, to name a few.  They are always looking for new venues, and even new cities, in which to get folks together.  After New York, their next (and newest) stop is Portland, Oregon.

How to eat the heads of the shrimp

The fact that the eating choices are limited to the cooked shrimp and wonderful loaves of artisan bread with which to sop up all the great juices (ours last night was from Amy’s Bread) means that the food, while delicious, is less of a focus of the evening, so guests can concentrate more on having dynamic discussions and finding new friends.  First, Peter walks everyone through the proper way to separate the shrimp head from its body and extract the tasty bits from it. (By the way, yes, you have to clean your own shrimp, heads included, for this.)

Peter’s shrimp eating demo

Then, the group is let loose to peel and eat the shrimp, interacting with each other in the process.  Watching everyone dive in for the first of the batches of shrimp, I described it to a fellow guest as being a bit like a scrum.  We hung back a bit and waited for the table to clear after a few minutes, which still left plenty of the hot, juicy, spicy creatures for ourselves.  The shrimp are brought out in batches, so there is plenty of opportunity to polish off that pound that has been allocated to you.

The full table waiting for more eaters

This was a really terrific, innovative way to meet some new people.  That we were a small group compared to many food events I attend helped facilitate the flow of the evening.  The dig-in and fend-for-yourself aspect to the eating experience made it a more casual and relaxed atmosphere conducive to mingling than say a dinner party or more cocktail type gathering would do.  This is due in no small part to the fact that everyone’s hands are greasy and red from the fragrant garlic sauce, while trying not to have smeary fingerprints on his/her wine glass, and everyone tears into the loaves set on the table to pick up all the left behind bits of goodness.  I’m looking forward to the next chance I have to break bread, so to speak, with the folks at Wok+Wine.

Thank you to Foodspotting.com for sending out an email to its members (including me as you can see on my sidebar) about this event!  It was also wonderful to catch up with Amy Cao, their Head of Community last night.

4 Comments

  1. Amy
    Amy08-22-2011

    Oh Kathy, this post brings back such delicious memories! Sure, it’s Monday morning, but I am already craving those garlicky, spicy, fragrant shrimp again. We’re gonna have to host another one and I insist we reunite to get our hands dirty again. SO GOOD! P.S. hope you have a blast in Italy!

  2. The Experimental Gourmand
    The Experimental Gourmand08-22-2011

    Amy – We’ll definitely need to get together again! I was thinking about these shrimp when I was at a bbq this weekend!

    Kathy

  3. East Village Eats
    East Village Eats08-24-2011

    Nice write-up, it was great to meet you!

  4. The Experimental Gourmand
    The Experimental Gourmand08-24-2011

    So nice to meet you, too! We’ll definitely need to get together and explore some of the East Village’s wonderful eats at some point.