Grand Tasting at the NYC Wine & Food Festival – NYC

fig & proscitto @ nycwff lamb brains @ nycwff
trout tartar @ nycwff braised lamb @ nycwff

I still have an infinite amount of Asian fooding photos to go through, but I thought I would take a break and write about last week’s Grand Tasting at the New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF). Last Saturday, David and I spent an hour and a half at Pier 54 where lots of wine and food were to be had. We ate, drank, and ate some more, but since I want to keep this post to a reasonable length, covered here are just the day’s most delectable bites.

fig & proscitto @ nycwff

If you are familiar with the Food Network’s Next Iron Chef, two of the competing chefs were there doing a “prosciutto challenge.” I don’t watch the show, because I just don’t find it too exciting, and besides I’m not that crazy about the Chairman (What does martial arts have to do with food?!), but Amanda Freitag’s fresh mission fig with blue cheese cream and Prosciutto di Parma was one of my favorite dishes of the day. The fresh fig was a nice counterpoint to the aged prosciutto and blue cheese yet captured the earthy elements of both ingredients. There wasn’t too much cooking involved, and there was a lot of fig in one bite, but after going through a room of complicated little plates, it was nice to eat something simple and delicious.

lamb brains @ nycwff

Another favorite was from Philippe Massoud of Ilili. He had several lamb dishes at his table, but my favorite was lamb brains on warm milk bread. For the squeamish, the brains were quite harmless tasting. Fried crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside and served with pickled turnip and greens on milk bread, it tasted like a fried sweetbread taco. But, if you’re squeamish about sweetbreads also, this is probably not your thing. I loved it.

braised lamb @ nycwff

Massoud also had spoonfuls of lamb cheeks braised in a sharp flavorful jus. It was a juicy mouthful of tender succulent lamb. I’ll be making a point of dining at Ilili one of these days.

trout tartar @ nycwff

David especially liked the ocean trout tartare with pickled mustard seeds, pine nuts, chorizo oil and egg by Vincent Seufert & Stephane Dorian from 10 Downing. It tasted very fresh and the chorizo oil definitely made it taste different, but I think olive oil or sesame oil, although not as interesting, would have been a better choice for the mild fish. However, I kept rubbing it into David that he probably liked the tartare because of the chorizo oil, since he doesn’t eat pork, but he claimed he liked it because of the pine nuts. Uh huh, sure…

fried feta @ nycwff

And lastly, a favorite of both of our’s was the fried feta with eggplant jam and sea salt by Jason Avery of Pera. The crunchy salty feta went wonderfully with the sweet eggplant jam and slightly bitter microgreens. It was lovely bite, sweet and savory at the same time. The only problem with the dish was some bad microgreen gunk on the side. I’m sure it was hella hectic at the festival and hard to check every single plate that went out, but it’s a pet peeve of mine. No one wants to eat vegetal gunk. In any case, I was still impressed by the food, and I’ll be keeping Pera on the radar.

volcano @ nycwff

As for alcohol, my favorites included a Chenin Blanc from a South African winery called Mulderbosch retailing for only $14 and the Champagne Lanson Black Label which retails for about twice as much. In addition, the crazy folks from the Mandalay Bay (Jennifer Cross and Keith Bearden) had a cute tropical drink garnished with dry ice called The Volcano that was tasty but not too sweet. The recipe for the alcohol is below. I could see it being a fun cocktail for a themed dinner party.

The Volcano
Jennifer Cross, Keith Bearden
Mandalay Bay Mixology Team

3/4 oz. Absolut Mango vodka
3/4 oz. Absolut Peach vodka
1/4 oz. Amaretto
Equal Parts orange juice and pineapple juice, splash of grenadine

Garnish: Dry Ice
Glassware: Martini

And for those who need more food porn, for your viewing pleasure, I’ve included a slideshow of some of the food I consumed at NYCWFF 2009. I can’t wait for next year. However much I complain about the Food Network, they definitely know how to throw a party.

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