Blog: New Taste of the UWS
Underneath the massive space of a large tent, the corner of 77th Street and Columbus Avenue was literally transformed into a culinary festival of all things tasty and hearty for the 5th annual ‘New Taste of the Upper West Side.’ Following a successful five course vegetarian tasting last Wednesday evening at Dove Tail, Friday night’s festivities called “Comfort Classics” would celebrate dozens of chefs from restaurants around the neighborhood serving up their inventive takes on traditional, American comfort foods. In love letter written to the proverbial deep fryer, the hamburger, and even the barbecue lacquered rib, some of New York City’s most brilliant culinary minds gave the most revered flavors from our youth a renaissance for one night only, to benefit the refurbishment and the enhancing of what is already, Manhattan’s most desirable neighborhood.
With three full hours of eating and drinking to take place, ticketholders wasted little time getting started. The delectable “Shrimp Roll” from Luke’s Lobster quickly formed the event’s lengthiest line. Upon our arrival, we grabbed our wine tasting glass and lanyard and quickly filled up on a medium bodied red wine before putting together a collection of foods and heading to the outdoor seated area under the stars to enjoy the warm weather. Perusing the participating restaurant vendors, we began toward the back of the room, loading up on a ‘Big Daddy’s Diner’ “Cheeseburger Slider,” topped with Russian dressing and grilled perfectly. Each bite was reminiscent of backyard BBQ foods that we enjoyed as children. The cheese was perfectly melted and mixed well with the medium cooked meat. We also stopped to grab a deep fried “Corn Dog” courtesy of Shake Shack before moving over to ‘Virgil’s Real Barbeque’ for a meaty pair of ribs. These ribs were huge, yielding tons of meat per bite as well as a fantastic smoky flavor. Sauce could be added upon request, but truly was not needed.
Mere steps away from the ‘cue, we encountered the much talked about ‘Artie’s Delicatessen,’ who surprised no one with their open faced pastrami sandwich- loaded with a tangy mustard and your choice of either a half or full sour pickle. Each bite actually tasted like New York, as we chomped down on the salty, slow cooked deli standard. Before we headed out back to find a seat, we also stocked up on some of ‘Jacob’s Pickles,’ with a selection of several innovative pickle styles beyond the usual cucumber variety. Our favorite was the pickled carrot, which packed a vinegary punch that went brilliantly with many of the ‘Palm’ and ‘Blue Moon’ beer offerings, and became an ideal bar snack for walking around the space. While these tastes were standouts, the evening’s best belonged to Isabella’s, who brought with them an outstanding meatball slider. The savory tomato sauce complimented the tender sphere of prepared meat without overpowering it. Topped with shreds of cheese and ensconced in a fluffy potato roll, Isabella’s became our only repeat visit of “Comfort Classics.”
To appropriately pay tribute to comfort food, organizers were able to bring in two television personalities who sleep, breathe, and eat these foods regularly, and have a supreme appreciation for these creations. Man Vs. Food’s Adam Richman and Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern were up to the task, shaking the hands of all attendees, signing autographs, and posing for pictures, all while hob-nobbing over plates of tasty eats. At first glance, these two may not resemble rock stars, but in the culinary world, it may as well have been Page and Plant underneath the massive tent, as fans lined up to share an experience with two of the food world’s most sought after guests.
With lines kept relatively short, a DJ spinning throughout the night, and an outdoor area to boot, the organizers of the New Taste of the Upper West Side clearly put a lot of thought and effort into pulling off this year’s event. There were eclectic flavors representing the entire area and enough food and drink to go around to satiate even the hungriest of appetites. On one of the most picturesque New York City nights thus far in 2012, the light shining brightest was on the Upper West Side.
- Jane Van Arsdale and Jay Rubin