Events — 16 October 2012
The 2012 Food Network Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting Sponsored by Shop Rite

Blog: NYCWFF Grand Tasting

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If the Food Network Wine & Food Festival was a sundae, then Shop Rite’s Grand Tasting was most definitely the hot fudge. On a weekend full of diverse and exciting events throughout the city, nothing beats the easy going nature of the Grand Tasting. Although we made it out to last year’s excellent event, the folks at the NYCWFF this year managed to pull out all the stops and cemented the Grand Tasting as perhaps the can’t miss event of the entire festival. The LocalBozo boys woke up bright and early on Saturday to hit the west side event in full force. Hey, give us a little credit for pushing forward the day after the Burger Bash!

Just a stone’s throw from Chelsea Piers sat the home of the Grand Tasting- a massive airplane hangar housing dozens of interactive demos, food, wine, and beer tastings, and a plethora of giveaways. Following a surprisingly short wait to get inside we found ourselves amongst one of the largest collections of amazing eats in the free world. With little to hold us back besides our taste buds, we gravitated to the autumn designed booth housing Robert Mondavi wines. Their staff, all dressed identically, was extremely friendly and delivered a delightfully heavy handed pour. Personally I was a huge fan of the Cabernet Sauvignon, which despite offering a ton of body still possessed a light finish. With glasses full it was time to take on the feast. The Strip House and Benjamin’s Steak House came loaded with choice cuts of their signature steaks. Both had creamed spinach base but we found ourselves more enamored by the cut from Benjamin’s. The spinach surprisingly was prepared without cream, but their hearty squirt of steakhouse sauce seriously rounded the dish out.

In keeping with meat, China Grill came to the game to play with samples of their delicious lamb ribs. Each was served with greens on a cardboard boat for a nice looking presentation. Meanwhile, the always popular Lavo was serving up some delectable came with the Italian meatballs in a red sauce topped with ricotta cheese. Each bite was bliss, reminding me of the Italian grandmother I always wanted. Right after eating way too many meatballs it was time for a much deserved rest. Thankfully, Delta Airlines was on hand with an entire lounge equipped with a full sized bar pouring wine for all to enjoy. Best of all were the “Business Elite” seats set up for the sole purpose of kicking back. These seats would usually go for a pretty penny in the air, but on Saturday it was come as you are.

Once our quick R&R break was through, it was time to hit some of the vast reaches of the event. With our appetites appropriately prepped, we headed to Christos Steak House for their “Crispy Duroc Slab Bacon.” Plated above a bed of feta, arugula, and a crunchy pomegranate black pepper vinaigrette, the dish was outright awesome, with the fat, thick hunk of bacon among the best hot taste of the entire day. Another highlight for us was Bounce Sporting Club’s “Yellowfin Tune Tempura Nacho Bites,” perhaps the ultimate in bar snacking. Their melt in your mouth bite topped with a sweet mango dipping sauce was easily one of our favorites of the day which was both light and highly fulfilling.

There are aspects of the now annual New York City Food Network Wine and Food Festival that certainly receive more prestige and praise- the Meatball Madness and Blue Moon Burger Bash events immediately come to mind. But as a slightly more affordable alternative, I don’t know that any event is more enjoyable overall than the Grand Tasting. And the gift bag filled with samples from many of the purveyors in attendance certainly didn’t hurt as we picked through it on our drunken cab ride back home.

- Jay Rubin

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