Friday, August 26, 2011

Taste of Tennis Serves Up the Goods

This year was my second year attending the BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis, held at the 49th/Lex location of the W Hotel. Mainly due to the fact that I’m such a tennis freak, I love to see all the tennis players interact with NY’s most famous chefs. Although most of the culinary prowess at this event comes from NYC, representatives from Miami, Puerto Rico and Australia also brought it. In fact, the official culinary host of the event was legendary chef, Michelle Bernstein who’s often a guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, a guest on Martha Stewart, as well as owner of two popular Miami restaurants, Michy’s (which I’ve been to) and Sra. Martinez.

As part of my media coverage of the event, I got to work the “Green Carpet” along with the other paparazzi. That’s right, I was one of them, getting all up in everyone’s shizzle, getting the tennis stars and the chefs to smile for the camera and getting the best shots possible. By that, I mean the same shots everyone else was getting, as is customary at red carpet-style shoots. It was great fun, I tell ya.

Culinary Stars that Represented:

From super high end Park-Ave type restaurants such as South Gate, Asellina, Dovetail to edgy establishments such as The Meatball Shop, Sorella, Public, Rayula and more, the scope of cuisine was eclectic and wonderfully contemporary. I loved seeing all the chefs come through the green carpet, workin’ it. They had a fun time in the spotlight, some of them like Brad Farmerie of Public and Daniel Holzman & Michael Chernow of The Meatball Shop really hamming it up. Here’s everyone who was there:

Michelle Bernstein
of Michy’s and Sra. Martinez
Peter Andino of Heartbeat at the W Hotel
Roberto Bellissimo of Zylo Tuscan Steakhouse
Marc Anthony Bynum of M Bynum Creations
David Craine of BLT Bar & Grill
Brad Farmerie of Public
Luisa Fernandes of Best Chocolate Cake in the World
John Fraser of Dovetail
Shea Gallante of Ciano
Emma Hearst of Sorella
Kerry Heffernan of South Gate Restaurant
Daniel Holzman & Michael Chernow of The Meatball Shop
Wendy Israel & Angel Elon of Baking by Design
Humberto Leon & Ashley Palma of STK
Anita Lo of Annisa
John Mooney of Bell Book & Candle
Bill Moore of Push Cart Foods
Fernando Navas of SushiSamba
Mario Pagan of Laurel Kitchen/Art Bar
Michelle Park of Kyotofu
Marco Porceddu of Asellina
Brian Ray of Buddakan
Adrian Richardson of La Luna Bistro
Maximo Tejada of Rayuela
Gabe Thompson of Dell’anima
Marc Vidal of Boqueria

Tennis Stars that Represented:

As mentioned, one of my favorite aspects of the evening was seeing my beloved tennis stars in person (just a few inches away from me). It represented the beginning of U.S. Open fun that officially starts on Monday the 29th.

While the official tennis host of the evening was supposed to be
Andy Roddick (as per usual), plans changed last minute and for the better, I think. James Blake became the official tennis mayor of the event, and even last year’s U.S. Open champ and my personal favorite, Rafa Nadal made an appearance. I couldn’t be happier to see the smiling Spaniard arrive, and while he seemed a bit uncomfortable in front of the cameras, he was a good sport, and hung around for a bit. Here’s who else besides James and Rafa attended from the tennis circle:

Mardy Fish (USA)
Gilles Simon (FRA)
Marin Cilic (CRO)
Victoria Azarenka (BEL)
Kei Nishikori (JAP)
Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
Heidi El Tabakh (CAN)
Tommy Haas (GER)
Bojana Jovanovski (SER)
Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
Janko Tipsarevic (SER)

Once I got to the actual event, I was pretty starving and couldn’t wait to sample the fabulous-looking goodies on display. While there were many great options to choose from, these four stood out to me:

Duck Confit Sweet Plantain Pionino & Paella Croquette from Laurel
– This was the second thing I tried and it made quite the impression on me. It was the quintessential tapas plate, a fried croquette with a creamy delicious inside that was further dressed with the most exquisite pimenton & saffron rum cream. The sweet plantain was also fried to perfection, embellished with another ingenious sauce made of port-rum and goat cheese. The two nibbles provided a great juxtaposition of sweet and salty – my favorite.

Heirloom Tomato Salad from Boqueria
– Although this dish was one of the simplest, it was just plain ol’ tasty. The tomatoes were fresh and colorful, with a mix of red and yellow. Creamy goat cheese and salty anchovies gave the salad some punch, the anchovies especially being wonderfully smokey and salty. It was a great combination and a nice way to refresh the palate after a lot of heavy dishes.

Love Balls from The Meatball Shop – It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for the Meatball Shop, and once again they delivered the goods. Serving up a Mediterranean lamb ball with pesto over a summer corn salad, the dish was unexpected and interesting. My favorite aspect was the corn salsa, which was super crunchy and gave it a breath of lightness. Even though their table was positioned on the outskirts of the main dining room, people still flocked to it, more so, I think.

Chocolate Cake from The Best Chocolate Cake in the World
– I’ve tasted this cake before at another event and remembered how yummy it was. Its beauty lies in simplicity, sheets of crunchy cake (almost wafer like), enveloping velvets of gooey, dark chocolate. The whole thing just oozes with indulgence and it’s fabulous in small doses.

Aside from the evening satisfying your above average food and tennis junkie, it’s also a benefit for the
New York Junior Tennis League, which aims to provide “free services to more than 100,000 New York City youths ages six to 18 each year”—simply said, a fantastic organization that hopes to cultivate more U.S. Tennis talent, something that’s a bit lacking in the current tennis circuit.

I want to wish all the players the best of luck in this upcoming
U.S. Open tournament…and let the games begin!

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