Taste of New York

I don’t know about you, but I think New York Magazine gave me free passes to its Taste of New York event because of my photography skills. I mean with a picture like this, what else could it be?

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Ok, that’s a pretty bad picture but, in its own particular way it gives you a sense of the room: chefs, foodies, lights, cameras, suits, dresses, hair, tablecloths. Ilan Hall from Top Chef was there, as were all the bloggers–Eater, Grub Street, NYC Nosh–plus other journalists, media types, and, of course, New York’s favorite chefs. But there was one person there who was happier than anyone else–a certain someone who, after going last year–begged me to take him again….

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Yes, that’s Craig with Jean-George’s goat cheese parfait, an amazing amalgam of texture and flavor. I remember beets and, of course the goat cheese, but not much else: it was certainly a highlight.

The real highlight for both of us, though, was Dan Barber’s contribution: “V-8 Juice” with some kind of panna cotta from Blue Hill Stone Barns. Don’t you love the presentation?

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That’s a cracker with garden greens resting on each glass. You eat the cracker, then you scoop up the panna cotta with a spoon from the bottom of the glass and finish by shooting the V-8 juice. It was surprising and refreshing and inspired: at a big city event, it was a welcome dose of the country and as far away from cliche (tuna tartare, anyone?) as you can get at an event like this.

We spoke to Dan for a bit, and he said he was burned a bit last year after someone criticized him for serving raw multi-colored cauliflower straight from the farm. I told him, truthfully, that it was one of the more memorable bites that we’d had. But I suppose what makes a chef great is how they absorb criticism; some get defensive, but others (like Dan) use the criticism as a launching pad to do something better. And this year’s dish was certainly a testament to that.

I was incredibly flattered to be recognized by a chef whose name I immediately recognized: Marco Canora of Hearth (which I love) and Insieme (where I’ve never been). He was serving pumpkin tortellini and it was fantastic: it’s one of those dishes that never fails to impress (I’ve had it at Babbo) and I hope to make it at home some day.

I spoke to Wylie Dufresne for a moment and asked him about the popcorn soup he was serving.

“It’s simple,” he said. “It’s just popcorn and water.”

It was a strange soup–some people around us didn’t like it–but I’m always impressed by anyone who takes chances, and Wylie is probably one of the biggest risk takers in New York. (I still need to get to wd-50.)

Some of the best bites of the evening were the desserts. Daniel’s pastry chef made an incredible hazelnut cream that I devoured in just a few bites:

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The best, though, was this confection from Payard: a milk chocolate morsel with caramel inside and–here’s the best part–salt sprinkled on top:

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That salt knocked it out of the ballpark. Amazing what salt can do for a dessert.

In conclusion, this was again a very fun event; a great chance to mingle with chefs and other food writers. It’s truly fascinating to see what chefs come up with when presented with an opportunity like this: I know a certain someone who can’t wait to see what they do again next year.

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