Blog: New Taste of The Upper West Side Presents Comfort Classics 2013
Underneath the comfortable confines of a massive tent, the annually anticipated event called ‘A New Taste of the Upper West Side’ celebrated its ‘Comfort Classics’ event in style on Friday evening, the kickoff to a weekend rife with exclusive food tasting experiences. With dozens of distinctive restaurants, beer and spirits purveyors and hundreds of hungry attendees, the evening would turn into more of an outright party than a snooty tasting affair. But the folks behind the Whole Foods’ sponsored evening understand how to run such a wildly successful event of this caliber, and as such, Friday night’s extravaganza had once again proven to be among the finest food events of the calendar year. From celebrity hosts to delicious dishes to inventive cocktails- everyone had something to love.
Shortly after 7pm we entered the huge tent located on the corner of 76th Street and Columbus Avenue, taking a brief pause as we gazed out at the tables stacked side by side lining each side of the spacious room. Upon entering we also set our eyes on a trapeze artist in full regalia, performing for incoming guests. Since the temperatures outside were rising, it only made sense to kick off the eating with some cold fare. We picked up plates of the vinegary bites from Jacob’s Pickles featuring deliciously brined cucumbers, carrots and beets. These popular pickles paired perfectly with glasses of ice cold “Lunetta Prosecco” from the folks at Palm Bay International. Each crisp sip brought forth notes of summer fruits, sending us back for repeat pours throughout the evening. Since man cannot live on pickles and wine alone (well, we can..), we quickly made our way toward some heartier fare and Virgil’s Real Barbecue came calling. Dishing out meaty hunks of their signature “Ribs,” each fell off the bone and was smoked to perfection. With their homemade sauce for slathering on each rib, the tasty dry rub proved a worthy compliment to the sticky sauce. New York City burger institution Shake Shack came to “Comfort Classics” with a “Dapper Dog,” a traditionally prepared hot dog topped with Shack cheddar cheese, American cheese sauce, and crispy ShackMeister Ale-marinated shallots. The dueling cheeses oozed into our mouths with the crispy shallots providing a much needed crunch.
After chomping down these choice eats we decided to grab some tasty brews. Without thinking twice we grabbed frosty cold bottles of Blue Moon, replete with the requisite fresh orange slice in the bottle. Once we had downed the first cold brew we quickly followed it with another from Palm to really soak in the differing suds the event had to offer. Next it was time to kick off the evening’s festivities in style with the return of 2012′s host with the most and Travel Channel’s “Amazing Eats” mastermind Adam Richman. Bustling with enthusiasm, the host was ready to take the sold out crowd to the next level. Not only is Richman “Mr. Brooklyn” but he’s also apparently “Sir Upper West Side,” delivering a speech about his love of the neighborhood and its positive effects on his career. Once he finished up, Jay-Z’s hit “Empire State of Mind” blared out of the speakers getting everyone firmly into the rhythm of the night with some NYC pride. The food celebrities continued with The Food Network “Chopped” judge Chef Marc Murphy making the rounds and grabbing ice cold cocktails courtesy of Tito’s Vodka.
As the house DJ worked the mix all evening long, the party atmosphere could be felt on each side of the tent, making “Comfort Classics” like a circus of amazing eats and superior drinks. We headed over to LocalBozo favorites 5 Napkin Burger to devour slider versions of their notoriously outstanding hamburger. Each overloaded bite exploded with sweet onions and their signature blend of perfectly grilled meat, doused solely in salt and pepper, but incredibly complex in flavor. A quick detour was made toward the back wall which was filled with decadent desserts, most notably from Momofuku Milk Bar who were doling out scrumptious bite sized morsals of melt in your mouth “Cake Truffles,” proving that David Chang’s restaurant dynasty is doing several things very right. These desserts also went down perfectly with the test tube shots filled to the brim with Jagermeister, a true party starter (or ender). Luke’s Lobster crushed it as usual with their savory “Shrimp Roll,” garnering one of the largest lines of the evening. Their mounds of tiny shrimps piled atop a soft buttery roll is seemingly served at every summertime event- and is always consistently spectacular. And keeping it truly Upper West Side related, Artie’s Delicatessen made a terrific showing with their “Pastrami Sandwiches,” half sour pickles among other Jewish delights.
At 10pm the party officially ended, but you would be hard pressed to see anyone running for the exits as nobody wanted the festivities to end as the night was truly that much fun. But with bellies pleasantly filled with spirits and eats, it was time to head out into the night. The Upper West Side has a certain magic to it and “Comfort Classics” pulled a rabbit out of its hat and grilled it to perfection!
- Jay Rubin