Friday, November 6, 2009

New York Taste Brings Out the Big Guns

This past Monday, I had the great pleasure of attending the 11th Annual New York Taste event, which proved to be a delicious and impressive amalgamation of New York's top culinary talent. Held at the spacious loft venue, Skylight Studios, the event boasted 47 cream of the crop restaurants, bars and upscale food suppliers.

The atmosphere was fabulous and literally buzzing, as most people seemed truly impressed by the abundance of culinary prowess in the simple yet chic hall, designed by the Rockwell Group who have an impressive portfolio of restaurant clients such as Nobu, Bar Americain, Adour Alain Ducasse, Wildwood Barbecue and more.

A few decor elements stood out to me, including a huge plate compilation fixture, hung strategically above the main bar. The plates displayed projected images of the yummy food featured that night.

Another cool touch was the wall of individual wooden cutting boards, carved with each chef's name and his or her fresh spice of choice. Positioned in front of the main tasting room, it was a nice--and fragrant--way to survey the talent that stood just a few feet away.

Food Stand-Outs:
Overall, the food was impressive but my stance holds true when I say it's hard to judge a chef's talent by a miniature dish, prepared ahead of time and finished off in a massive room without proper cooking equipment. With that said, here are some of my favorites:

Rouge Tomate - Chefs Jeremy Bearman and James Distefano prepared a Long Island duck with a side of farro with pomegranate and pumpkin seed. I loved how all ingredients were seasonal and local, complimenting the philosophy of this restaurant. The duck was exquisite with tender consistency and not too much fat, and the farro was earthy, exploding with flavor from the pomegranate.

They also served a great dessert of mini fall squash s'mores, which looked like little parfaits. Each layer was prepared carefully and I loved that this dessert wasn't excessively sweet. My favorite part included the slightly charred marshmallow topping and the crunchy bites of pumpkin seeds.

Public - Nolita's "Australasian" restaurant was quite the popular ticket on Monday night, with their fried fanny bay oysters, wrapped in shiso and dressed with sansho pepper and a wasabi-yuzu dipping sauce. One bite of it and I realized why people were swarming this booth--the oyster was crispy and bready on the outside and tender and squishy on the inside. I loved the quality of the oyster (no fishiness) and the shisho blanket left you with a fresh taste in your mouth.

Market Table - I love visiting this comfort-food restaurant, and Monday's event further confirmed my preference. Chef Mikey Price served a simple yet highly memorable roasted beet salad with hazelnuts, horseradish cream and goat cheese fritters. The flavors worked together beautifully, the earthiness of the veggies and nuts rounding out the sharp flavors of the goat cheese balls. The dish is featured on Market Table's lunch and dinner menu so if you'd like to try it, you can. I'm anticipating a visit myself.

Boqueria- As soon as I saw the oversized pot of paella, I was overcome with excitement. Dubbed "Paella de Cordero" it incorporated bomba rice, lamb, wild mushrooms and squash--an unusual combination, especially for paella but it worked. The lamb was the piece-de-resistance--it was juicy and fell apart easily, flavoring the rice and making it almost stew-like. The squash added nice color and a touch of seasonality to this dish. YUM!

Bobo - A dessert that captured my attention was Bobo's mini pumpkin, filled with creamy butterscotch and chocolate pudding. Wow! Not only was the presentation whimsical and fun, the pudding was as silky and decadent as they come. Topped with crunchy pumpkin seeds, they tied the contents of the dish together with its outward appearance. What a treat - and again, not too sweet. I just loved it.

The event was a lot of fun, and the big crowds proved just how highly-anticipated it was. Partial proceeds went to City Harvest, to help fight hunger--just another reason to attend this year, and hopefully in future years to come.

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