Tag Archives: NYC Food Events

Brooklyn Eats!

Brooklyn Eats entryBrooklyn Eats! at the Pfizer Building

Last week, The Summer Fancy Food Show, the major industry food expo was held in New York City at the Javits Center. I’ve covered this event for several years, talking about some of my edible finds and scoping out potential trends that I saw (as well as just noshing my way around the display of culinary treats for a few days). This year, I decided to focus my attentions a bit more locally.

Brooklyn Eats check-in tableCheck-in table

Brooklyn Eats! was held the Friday prior to the main conference, sponsored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, focusing on food artisans and entrepreneurs that are making NYC such a hotbed of gastronomic creativity.  The first one of these expos was held last year.  I think it flew under the radar of folks a bit, from what I heard.  This year, it seemed better promoted, bringing out a steady pack of food industry people, buyers, writers, and retailers.  The BCC also assisted those exhibitors who wanted to take part in the SFFS, too, helping them to register and set up their booths, so this project helps entrepreneurs not just in their community but also in the larger, more competitive specialty food market.

Bacchanal Sauce - displayBacchanal Sauce – check out this fiery condiment!

Brooklyn Delhi - displayBrooklyn Delhi – spruce up your meals with these tangy-spicy relishes

There was no shortage of great food products to sample at this event, either.  As I ate (and drank) my way around the tables set up at historic Pfizer Building (the event venue as well as the site of production kitchens for some of these companies), I was struck by a few interesting aspects.  Yes, there were plenty of new, intriguing products to try.  At the same time, what made me the happiest to see was that many of the folks whose foods I’ve tasted over the years are still in business.

The Jam Stand - no-sugar jamsThe Jam Stand – look at their new lo-sugar line

City Saucery - saucesCity Saucery – check out their expanded product line and new, larger jars of their sauces

Not only that, many of them have grown and are thriving, adding new items to their product lines and venturing into other areas.  Quite a few have gone from the markets like the New Amsterdam Market, Hester Street Fair and Smorgasburg to brick-and-mortar locations.  They now employ full-time staff and also mentor other budding culinary start-ups.  Many of the founders of these businesses also participate in panel discussions and at other events to discuss in the ins and outs of creating your own food items and brands, offering tips, advice, and resources to those who are thinking of breaking into the industry.

Liddabit Sweets - displayLiddabit Sweets – follow them to see where they’ll be opening up their new store

Robicelli's - displayRobicelli’s – drop by their shop in Bay Ridge

While I don’t have any idea of the dollar amounts that these activities contribute to the NYC economy, I do know that they add invaluable services and grow the resources of the city.   It’s exciting to see the continued success of these hard-working folks.  Of course, getting to eat delicious things is a bonus for the rest of us, too!  I definitely think that our foodscene has improved and grown due to their efforts.  Check out the slideshow below to see what other great treats I found at this event.

Buon appetito!

Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” at Domino Sugar Factory

Kara Walker - exhibit bannerExhibit banner

For weeks, I’ve been hearing about how fascinating the exhibit by Kara Walker at the former site of the Domino Sugar Factory (soon to be converted into housing) is, but I hadn’t had an available afternoon to make it over to Williamsburg to get on line to see it.  This past Friday, I managed to carve out the time to take it in.  The show is in honor of the people who worked to refine and make the sugar that we’ve all enjoyed over the generations, with the centerpiece of the program being “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby.”

Kara Walker Domino exhibit - hall view“A Subtlety” – long view

Walking into the decaying structure, I was hit headlong with a smell that triggered a long-ago memory of my mother’s hobby of decorating cakes and making candy in our home kitchen.  A burnt-ish aroma of caramelizing sugar combined with an overpowering scent of fermenting sweetness in the air.  Remnants of the space’s former use were still in evidence, with piles of leftover sugar having accumulated on pieces of the factory’s support structures, which are still intact all around the space.

Sugar on the base of column - DominoSugar on the base of the columns

The scents and the remains of this industrial history emphasizes the starkness of the sugar structures dotted around the floor – the children with their baskets for collecting the harvest.  These pieces also share the effects the physical changes taking place in the space due to exposure to the strong seasonal sunshine.  They and the remains of the industrial infrastructure, along with the lingering aromas, are like long-ago ghosts whose hard work continues to echo in the vast, empty chamber, even now after the factory has been closed for so many years.

Kara Walker Domino - sugar statue moltingStatue of a child slave

Grains of sugar are bunched around the statues, as they are breaking down, while the baskets they hold seem to be filled either with the refined substance or a molten version of it, highlighting the different stages of production for this crop as it reached these shores.  There’s something sad and beautiful about these sculptures.  The largest piece seems to be looking over them, perhaps trying to guard them from a harsh fate or maybe she’s powerless to stop it.

Kara Walker - melted sugar sculptureA transforming sculpture

Unfortunately, however, the chemical effects of the sugar plus the heat plus time (something that we learn quite a bit about in cooking) means that these statues aren’t immune to collapse and crumbling.  Several of the smaller works were already in pieces when I saw them.  From a culinary point of view, it was also fascinating to see the several stages of disintegration of the works.  Some of the sugar turned to pools of syrup decorating the factory floor, while shards of sweet film seemed to resemble shredded cloth.

Kara Walker Domino - melted, fused sugar Sugar melting

More detailed aspects of the pieces had become obscured during the melting process.  The impermanence of it all and the decomposing of a few of the sculptures as a result of the environmental decay was a little disturbing, especially in a few cases where you could still recognize the humanity of the subject.  It was almost as though a worker had collapsed in the steamy, hot fields, mid-workshift.

Kara Walker Domino - SphinxThe main piece

Even with the largest sculpture, the “Sugar Baby,” time exposed to the elements of this industrial space has made it more transparent.  Drips of sugar hang from her headpiece, like saccarine beads of sweat.  Between her breasts you could see where the grains had fused together, as happens when moisture gathers in that spot on sweltering summertime days.  The statue kneels down on a bed of fine white grains, further tying together this exhibit with the former nature of this space.  Is it a statement on our dependence upon this import and its role in our society?

Kara Walker Domino Exhibit - entranceFactory exit

This is definitely not an exhibit to be missed for the works and their medium as well as for the space itself.  With so many of the older, industrial spaces in the city, especially in parts of Brooklyn, on the chopping block, it was also a unique chance to look inside the factory and to experience it un-retouched.  Below is a longer slide show of the pictures that I took, including some shots of the crumbling walls of this building, which seem to ooze sugar, a reminder of its previous existence.

New Taste of the Upper West Side – Best of the West

Best of the West programChecking in at Best of the West

For a week there, it was a busy stretch of food events plus kitchen work cooking at other food-related gatherings and special dinners, so I’ve just now managed to sort through all of my photos from the New Taste of the Upper West SideBest of the West, to which I was kindly invited by Key Group Worldwide.  Looking back on pictures from the evening, I was reminded of what makes a great food and drink event in this city where there are so many of them every weekend.

Tito's Beverage - pouring drinksTito’s Handmade Vodka pouring cool drinks

It wasn’t just about the dishes presented by the chefs or the specialty cocktails, it was also about the vibrant mood that the organizers created, complete with a band that kept the audience and the participants dancing (I saw a few chefs here and there grooving to the tunes.), a venue where everyone could circulate easily, and tables and chairs where everyone could relax and enjoy the festivities.  There were, of course, quite a few beverage stations set up, with tastings of wine, spirits, and beer, as well as several water stations, which also seems to be a more frequent (and welcome) feature at food events.

Chef Daniel Boulud thanking everyoneEvent Honoree Chef Daniel Boulud

Another aspect to the evening that made it a very special day, was the honoring of Chef Daniel Boulud, who has several restaurants in the area.  Taking the stage, Chef Boulud thanked all the culinary participants and the folks who cooked the dishes that we were all about to enjoy.  He also asked us to tweet about the event in support of City-Meals-on-Wheels.  Then, the chef signed copies of his cookbook Daniel for guests and chatted with party-goers.

Aerialist - handing out champagneServing champagne

It’s also not every evening or even at every food gathering that you have someone handing out champagne while hanging from the ceiling.  This was a terrific touch and captivated many of the attendees.

'Cesca - Housemade Stracciatella with Rhubarb Compote‘Cesca – Housemade Stracciatella with Rhubarb Compote

As expected, the food was a central feature of the event.  With neighborhood restaurants featured, at each table, it was possible to taste the wide variety of flavors and cuisines available within just a few short blocks of each other.  As this is a part of town I don’t normally visit all that often, it was nice to see some east side names over here as well as to discover some new west side venues to add to my “to try” list, like ‘Cesca, who brought one of my favorite bites of the evening.

There were so many delicious small plates to try that it’s difficult to list all of my favorite ones.  I’ve attached this slideshow of the pictures that I took at as many of the tables as I could visit.  The Poblano-Wild Mushroom Taco from Candle Cafe West (which also has an east side location) was one stand-out dish.  Calle Ocho served warm, pillowy Sweet Corn Arepas topped with silken house-cured salmon, crema, and salmon roe.  It was a perfect salty-sweet bite.

Best of the West - exterior shotOutside seating area

Having a gorgeous NYC evening (a brief rainstorm had passed through earlier in the day), with clear skies, helped create the festive atmosphere, too.  Most of all, this just felt like a relaxed, large-scale block party to celebrate the neighborhood, accompanied by really, really terrific nibbles.  This is definitely a food event to add to your list for next year as well.

Buon appetito!

Thank you to which I was kindly invited by Key Group Worldwide for inviting me to take part in this event.  It was an amazing evening!  All opinions on the dishes and commentary about the event are mine.

2014 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Sculpture for top 10 pastry chefs

I know that I mentioned last week that Brooklyn Uncorked is one of my favorite food events of the year.  Well, another annual gathering about which I get equally excited is the Dessert Professional Magazine Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America ceremony and dessert tasting, which was held this past Monday night.  I have a massive sweet tooth, and, as I generally work on the savory side of the kitchen, getting to eat and see incredible confections from some of the country’s (and the world’s) most talented pastry chefs is a real treat.  For one evening, I get to hang out in Willie Wonka’s workshop!

Richard Grausman - 2014 HonoreeRichard Grausman – Founder & Chairman of C-CAP

Before the dessert tasting starts, however, there is the awards ceremony which recognizes the hard work and dedication of all of the chefs who were selected.  In the audience, I spotted some past winners, maybe a few potential future nominees, as well as other well-known pastry chefs.  Each year, too, one person is recognized for his or her significant contribution to the industry.  This year, Richard Grausman, the Founder and Chairman of C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program), was inducted into the Hall of Fame.  He also announced that, starting in 2015, his organization would be awarding an annual scholarship to be applied to any pastry and baking program at The Institute of Culinary Education (the event host).

Table with mixing bowlsMixing bowls from KitchenAid engraved with each chef’s name

After the formal part of the program, we get to visit each of the kitchens where the chefs have set up their tables laden with desserts for us to taste.  Do I really eat all of this dessert?  Well, honestly, I try to sample most of them.  It does get to be a bit overwhelming sometimes.  Fortunately, I found a few friends who were willing to share plates with me, so none of us was completely overloaded with sugar.  I also captured some pictures of the prep and plating of the desserts, which are visible on my slideshow below.  As this was also the 21st anniversary of the event, cocktails as well as sweets were served at many of the stations.

Georges Berger, MOF, Owner of Chocolate Fashion (FL)

Georges Berger - sign

Georges Berger - Pistachio Brittle & White Peach Mousse

Georges Berger - White Peach-Vodka Cocktail

Ebow Dadzie, Pastry Chef at NY Marriott Marquis and Pastry Instructor at Monroe College (NY)

Ebow Dadzie - sign

Ebow Dadzie - Coconut Lime Dacquoise w Mango Olive Jelly, Banana Lime Sorbet

Ebow Dadzie - Sorrel beverage

Della Gossett, Executive Pastry Chef at Spago (CA)

Della Gossett - signDella Gossett - White Chocolate Crottin with Surinam Cherry Preserve

Katzie Guy-Hamilton, F&B Director and Corporate Pastry Chef at Max Brenner Worldwide (NY)

Katzie Guy-Hamilton - sign

Katzie Guy-Hamilton - Suntory Chocolate Torte

Katzie Guy-Hamilton - chilled chocolate drink

Cher Harris, Executive Pastry Chef at The Hotel Hershey (PA)

Cher Harris - sign

Cher Harris - Mandarin n' Chocolate Hazelnut Sponge

Joshua Johnson, Executive Pastry Chef at Vanilla Patisserie (IL)

Joshua Johnson - sign

Joshua Johnson - Chocolate Mousse Chocolate Cremeux Cherry Compote Chocolate Pound Cake

Joshua Johnson - corn macaron with jalapeno jelly, corn cream, arugula

Ghaya Oliveira, Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Daniel (NY)

Ghaya Oliveira - sign

Ghaya Oliveira - The Cherry Tart

Derek Poirier, École du Grand Chocolate Pastry Chef Western USA – Valrhona USA (AZ)

Derek Poirier - sign

Derek Poirier - To The Five Boroughs

Derek Poirier - Chocolate Cocktail

Rudi Weider, Master Pastry Chef at Hilton San Diego Bayfront (CA)

Rudi Weider - sign

Rudi Weider - Chocolate Espresso Creme Brulee

Jennifer Yee, Executive Pastry Chef at Lafayette (NY)

Jennifer Yee - sign

Jennifer Yee - eclair display

2014 Top 10 Chefs Dessert Pro Mag2014 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America

For my re-caps of the event the previous for the previous two years, please visit these links on this website:

2013 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Ruskin International for inviting me to participate in this event.

Brooklyn Uncorked 2014 by Edible Magazine

Brooklyn Uncorked signage

Every year I say this, and each year I mean it: Brooklyn Uncorked is one of my top favorite food (and wine) events of the year.  It’s also one of the events that I recommend to people to grab a ticket to when they ask me what local food festivals they should try to attend.  Local restaurants + local area vineyards = great food bites & wines.  It’s the perfect recipe for a fantastic evening.  As with the past few years, it was held at One Hanson Place in Brooklyn, which has some gorgeous architectural features, as you can see in some of the photos below.

Wine glasses at entryEmpty wine glasses waiting to be filled

Chef Annette Tomei and I teamed up to wander around and visit all the tables, food and wine alike.  Having been at this event the past few years, it was really nice to have a wing-person and also to get another viewpoint from a more trained set of tastebuds.  As we’ve worked together in the kitchen many times over the past couple of years, we have a familiar frame of reference and could shorthand some of our findings throughout our adventure.  The slideshow below shows a few of the things that we sampled.

I tried to capture as much as I could, but, inevitably, there were a few tables that we couldn’t get to due to the overwhelming number of folks who wanted to taste the various foods and wines.  There were also a couple of tables that were finished serving their dishes before we got around to them.  It was also lots of fun to bump into our friends and colleagues in the industry, which just made the evening feel even more like a giant celebration of the region’s culinary bounty.

The Good Fork - Mung Bean Pancake with Chilis, Perilla, and KimcheeThe Good Fork – Mung Bean Pancake with Chilis, Perilla, and Kimchee

Macari Early WineMacari Vineyards’ Early Wine

I even ran into one of my culinary school classmates who was helping out the team at the restaurant where he formerly used to work, The Good Fork, a returning participant.  They had one of our favorite pairings of the night, a tangy-spicy Mung Bean Pancake, which went really well with the bright fruit flavors of Macari Vineyards’ Early Wine.

Nightingale 9 - Vietnamese Tacos - Lemongrass Beef Tacos, Coconut, Cilantro, Lime, Chili-Peanut YogurtNightingale 9 – Vietnamese-style Tacos

Ravines Wine Cellars - RieslingRavines Wine Cellars Dry Riesling 2013

Tacos seemed to be the preferred vehicle for edibles this year.  There were lots of them served, as the photos show.  One pairing that I thought worked well was actually a table that we stopped at early in the evening.  Nightingale 9 offered Vietnamese-style Tacos composed of lemongrass beef , coconut, cilantro, lime, dressed with a chili-peanut yogurt.  In other words, this small plate had a lot of different levels of flavors – heat, spice, citrus – happening at the same time.  Fortunately, nearby were the folks from Ravines Wine Cellars who were pouring their 2013 Dry Riesling, which had just the right level of sweetness and acidity to work well with the taco.

No 7 - Double Decker Broccoli Tacos - Black Beans, Feta, Fried ShallotsNo. 7 – Double Decker Broccoli Tacos with Black Beans, Feta, and Fried Shallots

Marco Polo - Marinated Octopus - Mango, Lemon Yogurt, Black Quinoa, HerbsMarco Polo Ristorante – Marinated Octopus with Mango, Lemon Yogurt, Black Quinoa, and Herbs

A couple of other dishes that I thought were stand-outs for the evening – one taco and one non-taco – were the plates presented by No. 7 and Marco Polo Ristorante.  I went back (unashamedly) for seconds on the first dish and seriously contemplated doing another loop around the venue to grab a another plate of the second one.  Both of these had amazing flavor combinations with or without the addition of a wine pairing.

Bridge Lane - bottles on tableBridge Lane Wine

On the wine front, there were definitely some interesting vintages to sample.  Bridge Lane brought their boxed wine which are a whole different species of the unpleasant college experiences with the original boxed wines.  They also had a White Merlot, which was very intriguing and, when lightly chilled, has all the hallmarks of a perfect summertime food wine.  No surprise that I also enjoyed their Rosé, as they are the second label producer for Lieb Cellars, whose Rosé has been a go-to beverage of mine when I can find it on tap.

Brooklyn Winery selectionBrooklyn Winery

Another wine that I tasted at the event, that really made me say “Wow!” was the 2012 Barrel Fermented Riesling by Brooklyn Winery.  It has some of the same acidity as a traditional Riesling, but, having been fermented and aged in oak barrels, it comes out with extra earthy, funky notes due to the time spent in the wood rather than in stainless steel.  I sipped this wine independently of any food, and I’d like to spend some more time getting to know it and its particular personality.

Brooklyn Uncorked entry way2014 Participants

As always, there’s far to little room in a website post to cover all the wonderful food and drink that we had that evening.  Thank you to all the folks who made this event possible this year.  For information on the participating restaurants and vineyards from previous years, as well as to see photos of some of what was available to eat and drink, please see my write-ups from 2011, 2012, and 2013 (links take you to other pages on this website).

Buon appetito!

Brooklyn Uncorked 2013 by Edible Magazine

Brooklyn Uncorked 2012 by Edible Magazine

Brooklyn Uncorked 2011 by Edible Magazine

Thank you to Edible Manhattan for providing me with a press pass so that I could attend this event and cover it for this website.  The opinions and tasting notes are mine, as unrefined as they may be, and were not influenced by any of the food or beverage partners or by the magazine and its staff.

Farmers Market Dinner at Jimmy’s No. 43 with Chef Annette Tomei

Chef Annette shopping at Union SquareChef Annette Tomei picking out vegetables

More than a few times folks have told me that they get a bit stumped when trying to figure out what to make with the produce that is on display at the local farmers market.  They ask me for helpful hints as to how to navigate the stands, advice on what to buy when, and how I come up with things to make using what I purchase.  On Wednesday of this past week, a handful of guests assembled for a dinner at Jimmy’s No. 43 featuring Chef Annette Tomei where she which did just that: pulled together a 3-course dinner based upon ingredients gathered from the Union Square Greenmarket, complete with beverage pairings.  We did the shopping for the meal the morning of the event, schlepped the bags of food back to the restaurant, and then got to work fixing the dishes, with me as her sous chef for the evening.  Chef Tomei made several menu adjustments along the way and even tweaked plans for what we were going to make while we were at the market, having looked around at what everyone was selling that day.

Bowl of ramp butter popcornRamp Butter Popcorn

The evening started out with a platter crostini of farmers cheese from Ronnybrook Farm topped with a ragout of local oyster and cremini mushrooms and topped with sautéed fiddlehead ferns.  I also whipped up a batch of the Ramp Butter Popcorn I mentioned that I’d been making at the restaurant to serve as well.  To go along with this, the guests were served a glass of Foggy Ridge sparkling cider.  The high acidity of the cider was a great balance to the butteriness of the popcorn and the richness of the crostini.

Salad - Asparagus with Sorrel SauceSalad of Asparagus with Sorrel “Pesto” and Shungiku

For the second course, some of those asparagus that Chef Tomei is holding in the first photo were sliced thinly and turned into a light, crispy salad.  The asparagus were trimmed and served raw, no cooking involved.  They were super fresh and crunchy, needing just a drizzle of a fruity extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.  On top of them are shungiku, edible micro chrysanthemum greens from Windfall Farms.  To go along with the asparagus, we had made a sorrel “pesto,” giving the salad a lemony lift.  To drink with it, we poured Barrier Saisoff Saison, which played well with the greenness of the vegetables as well as the citrus notes in the herb. 

Main - Duck Breast with Ramp Greens, RhubarbSeared Hudson Valley Duck Breast with Rhubarb Gastrique and Candied Rhubarb on a bed of 5-Spice Braised Red Cabbage with Roasted Parsnip garnished with Ramp Greens

The centerpiece of the main course was the gorgeous, seared duck breast from the folks at Hudson Valley Duck Farm, who also supply the duck that is on the regular menu for the restaurant.  To showcase this high-quality protein, Chef Tomei created a sweet-tart rhubarb gastric and then candied small cubes of the rhubarb that we had picked up at the market.  Thinly-sliced cabbage and chunks of roasted parsnip, which was also still available at the market, were seasoned with a mock Chinese 5-spice mixture to lend an additional layer of flavor to the dish.  A deep caramel-colored Proletariat Other Half Stillwater Collaboration Dark Amber was our choice to go along with the duck and this complex combination of tastes.  

Dessert - Maple Pain Perdu with Maple FluffSourdough Pain Perdue with Grade B Maple Syrup, Grated Maple Sugar,Maple Candy Floss, and Nasturtiums

While perusing the stands at the market, we’d had a few ideas about what to fix for dessert.  Apples still seem to be plentiful right now.  No berries or other early summer fruit has yet to appear.  Passing by Roxbury Mountain Maple‘s stand and seeing a bunch of people trying their maple cream spread and their maple cotton candy gave Chef Tomei an idea for a sweet finish to the evening.  We picked up some of that same cotton candy, a bottle of maple syrup, and a block of maple sugar.  At another nearby stand, we added a loaf of sourdough bread to our purchases in order to make a batch of Pain Perdue, or fancy French toast, for the final course.  Aside from the appetizer course, this was probably my favorite of the parings that we did that evening.  Carton Brewing Company’s “BDG” Brunch. Dinner. Grub. was the ideal match for the sweet, buttery, toffee layers in the dish and the perfect note on which to wrap up this Farmers Market Dinner.

Buon appetito!