I wanted to be at the Mpls.St.Paul Magazine ’s Taste! event this past weekend, but I had a previous commitment in NYC for the New York City Wine and Food Festival. I wanted to be here to see Adam, Beth, Pete, and Stephanie drink too much white zin before noon and streak the field, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I heard it was a great event and I hope I am here next year if the calendar gods align. I do have a report from the NY Fest for those of you looking to do more festival attending this coming year and want a teaser.
Smartest People to Listen to at Food Parties: Kim Severson, Andy Kaplan, Devin Padgett, Alle Salkin, Dana Cowin, Ed Levine, and Drew Nieporent. I had lots of great conversation with lots of brilliant minds, but these folks really impressed me. Melissa d’Arabian deserves special mention as well. I didn’t know anyone could be so kind and so much fun to hang with. Ditto to Claire Robinson.
Ball Report: Shea Gallante and Michael Lomanaco had the best offerings at Giada’s Meatball Madness. All the rest were delicious, but Donatella Arpaia won the day. She’s got some famous ones! Giada had my favorite sauce, but at end of day I would have loved to have tasted something she made herself, but her team was crackerjack. I shouldn’t talk; more on that later. After the party I went to my favorite neighborhood joint, Redcat, and lemme tell you, no visit to NYC should happen without a visit to Jimmy Bradley’s 10th Avenue clubhouse: simple, perfect food.
Rachel Ray’s Burger Bash: What a party. Seriously. It was an amazing event in an old abandoned tobacco factory with views of the Manhattan skyline. Minetta Tavern and Jonathon Sawyer’s Greenhouse rocked their burgers. They were my favorites but there were dozens of others that tasted incredible. Most offerings were simple but the logistics involved with cooking thousands and thousands of gourmet burgers to order boggles my mind (and the quality was insane from table to table). Ozerskytv.com has some great interviews on its site if you want to see the action.
I got to meet and bury the hatchet with Spike Mendelsohn (killer BahnMi burger and Viet iced coffee shakes) and Ted Allen—two people who are incredible gentlemen and were seemingly amused by all the trash talk I have thrown their way over the years, Spike especially. Allen is a hundred times more entertaining in real life than on Chopped . The after party was at DUMBO’s Superfine—what I was doing in a super hip bar/club at midnight in Brooklyn with only 200 other folks listening to a band and chatting with Rachel Ray and her husband was beyond surreal. RayRay had me at hello. First of all she is hysterical. Second she came over to me as I was making my over to her just to say thanks for the great party and she demands I show her pics of my wife and son because as she said, “Everyone says they are so gorgeous.” What can I say. Game, set, match.
Worst Dressed: Anne Burrel. Look hon, I know your brand is wild and crazy, so is mine a little bit . . . I can relate. But I think you are pushing it a little. Maybe a lot.
Weirdest Thing: We are at Bobby Flay’s Taco and Tequila event and Guy Fieri, who has always been pretty standup with me, took over a corner of the room and set up a small fiefdom, using his crew to create a VIP area. Oddest thing I have seen in a while because you don’t do that at someone else’s party and the events, especially private ones such as this, were patrolled by professionals who made sure that the more popular public personalities could enjoy themselves.
Best Bites: Everything I ate at Eataly (eataly.com). It’s an amazing place that Joe and Mario have a built the eighth hill of Rome in NYC. Every little detail is spot on and the food is brilliant. Breakfast at Breslin with Dana Cowin was fun. I had the blood sausage with fried duck eggs and tarragon emulsion. Insanely good; April Bloomfield is quite the chef. Pure, simple flavors. The La Esquina table at Taco event featured a secret off menu posole that was seemingly cooked for days. Corton’s chef Paul Liebrandt served a mini soft rolled taco that was good but his corn “fondue” underneath it was perhaps the best thing I ate all weekend. Alex Guarnaschelli’s Butter restaurant blew me away with its braised beef taco—super simple and with a very nice balance. The Fanny Bay oysters at Balthazar (quite the scene on a festival night) rocked, and went down pretty easy at midnight.
Sunday Sermon: Sunday was my Carts in the Parc event. Dozens and dozens of NYC’s most famous food trucks lined the Parc. Eventi Hotel’s outdoor greenway was a great space where there was a huge jumbo-tron with Biz Foods clips rolling, live music from the Crooners, and, of course, thousands of people. What can I say: Lee Schrager, Randy Fisher, and all their teams nailed it.
Besides being a host for the event, they asked me months ago to do a food item, but I don’t have a restaurant or a kitchen and I am not in NYC more than once a month so cooking was going to be a stretch. So I called Michael White from Marea, Osteria Morini, etc. (Yes, that Michael White, the one with five Michelin stars.) Well he says, “sure thing.” When the big day arrived he shows up hours early with a full brigade and a monstrous griddle and starts butter toasting yeasty little buns and griddling slices of poached veal tongue and slathering the sandwiches with pickled onions and sauce Gribiche. They were the hit of the day. When friends like that make sure you’re covered, you look pretty darn good. Thank Bianco!