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 Side – Best 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.