Events — 21 October 2013
NYCWFF ‘Grand Tasting’ Brings a Massive Affair to Pier 94

Blog: NYCWFF- Grand Tasting 2013

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Among the more unheralded events of the annual Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival, the “Grand Tasting” presented by Shop Rite is an incredible array of everything that makes the weekend so exciting. Housed in some of the City’s most spacious event venues, the “Grand Tasting” is a seemingly endless supply of food, wine, beer, and demonstrations that feeds thousands of attendees over two delicious days. And with a selection of notable chefs and Food Network personalities, the weekend would offer guests another opportunity to schmooze with some of the country’s most charismatic culinary masterminds.

The five hour Sunday session kicked off promptly at noon, and the Pier 94 space was almost overwhelming as soon as we entered. Large trade show sized displays that could rival the New York Auto Show were erected throughout the showroom floor- except they were handing out food and drink samples rather than car brochures. Now although the event is priced at $175 which is admittedly high, the value here is entirely worthwhile with five hours of imbibing and eating, and plenty of places to kick back and relax should the mood strike you.

Upon entering the venue, guests were handed gigantic- and when I say gigantic, I’m not exaggerating- gift bags, filled with swag from snacks and condiments to sauces and bags of rice. Despite being heavy, the gift bags were certainly a nice touch and filled with some valuable items from the participating event sponsors. In another pleasant surprise, the restaurants all seemed to be serving fairly hearty portions and nobody it seems was skimping with their samples- a testament to their collective commitments to both the cost of tickets and the cause- proceeds from the Festival all go toward the Food Bank of New York.

Part of what makes the “Grand Tasting” so special is the ability to check out culinary demonstrations all weekend long. Familiar names and faces like Anne Burrell, Bobby Flay, Andrew Zimmern, Giada De Laurentiis, and Robert Irvine were just some of the notables on hand doing book signings, meet and greets, and actually prepping food in one of two demo areas. But we made sure to get our moneys worth by tasting everything that we could find and began with a fury. Acqua at Peck Slip‘s “Figs in a Porker” were incredibly rich gorgonzola filled figs wrapped in fatty pancetta and doused in a sweet balsamic drizzle. Speaking of rich, Shake Shack‘s “The DogMeister” brought a Vienna hot dog topped with American cheese sauce and cheddar and shallots for a creamy comfort snack. Sliders became the word of the day with Southern Hospitality‘s “Savory BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders,” Rare‘s “M&M Burger” topped with cheese, caramelized onions and bacon, The Burger Bistro‘s veal based “Osso Bucco Burger,” The Borgata‘s “Borgata Fried Chicken Slider,” and Blue Smoke‘s “North Carolina Pulled Pork Slider.” Our favorite however was Gotham Burger Co.’s “Gotham ‘BFLT’ Bites,” combining applewood smoked and maple glazed beef fry served on a mini-ciabatta, with house roasted garlic mayo. While diminutive in size, the mini sandwich packed a wallop in smoke-filled flavor.

It wasn’t all just burgers and sandwiches however. Junoon‘s “Shrimp Moilee” foamed up a freshly cooked singular South Indian inspired shrimp and Gwynnett St.‘s “Cured Ocean Trout” brought a beet yogurt and pickled beets around a slice of fresh orange fish for one of the day’s best plated items. Strip House‘s “Smoked Filet Mignon Tartare” also proved to be among the day’s most inventive dishes, combining chilled steak decorated in a deliciously sweet red tomato sauce. Bread & Tulips however served the event’s finest dish with their “Ricotta Filled Salumi Cups.” Wrapped strips of cured salumi enveloped the rich cheese and was topped with a dollop of balsamic fig reduction for some added sweetness- an absolutely outstanding sample.

We left but a little bit of room for dessert, following endless pours from the stands of Negra Modelo and Blue Moon (fortunately, they were showing the Jets game), Samuel Adams, and delicious wine pours from Bedell Cellars and Dr. Konstantin Frank, a favorite of ours from the Finger Lakes. We grabbed a refreshing “Tart and Tangy Pear” frozen Kefir bar from Lifeway, whose gluten free and naturally made dessert was creamy and tasty. And at just 60 calories per frozen novelty, the bar more than made up for the damage we’d done the rest of the day, without making us feel guilty. In all, we managed to stick around for roughly four hours, taking time to watch a demo from Terroir’s Marco Canora, hanging around the Delta Sky Lounge, and eating virtually everything in sight. The food was delectable and the unlimited alcohol only added to the excitement of the afternoon, where at Pier 94, the tasting was most certainly ‘Grand.’

- Jane Van Arsdale

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