Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New York City Wine & Food Festival - Grand Tasting, Day 2

Illy Park Welcome Center at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival - Photo by Taste As You Go
Illy Park Welcome Center in New York

I'm not going to lie. Given that I was on my seventh straight day of riding the bus into the city, I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got to the final day of the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival and Sunday's Grand Tasting. I was moving noticeably slower than my typical commuter pace as I walked from the subway station to the Illy Park Welcome Center, so I dialed it down and took a more relaxed approach.



Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Sitting in the Illy Park Welcome Center

I had originally planned to get my wristband right away and get in line at Pier 57 for the day's first culinary demonstration. Instead, I lingered at the Welcome Center and got in a good dose of people-watching while sipping my cappuccino, an activity I don't have much time for these days.

While I was basking in the sun, a couple walked over to me and asked, "Are you somebody? You look like somebody. Will you take a picture with us?" I didn't have the heart to tell them I was just me and not "somebody", so I posed for a picture with them. It was the least I could do, right?

Culinary Demonstration with Chef Ming Tsai at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival at Pier 57 - Photo by Taste As You Go
Chef Ming Tsai at the Food Network
New York City Wine & Food Festival

Since I saw Alton Brown on Saturday, I headed to the North Stage this time for the demonstration with Chef Ming Tsai. I grew up watching episode after episode of his PBS show Simply Ming, so I couldn't wait to finally watch him cook in person. He packed his demo full of cocktails, helpful culinary information, and advice:

"I like to eat at drive restaurants for inspiration. It's important to go out and eat other people's food to see how you can bring it home and make it your own."


After the demonstration was over, I hit the floor, determined to enjoy the afternoon and the food and not worry so much about taking photos. It took all of fifteen minutes for me to throw that plan out the window and reach into my handbag for my camera.

Buitoni Marinara Sauce - Photo by Taste As You Go
Buitoni Marinara Sauce

Buitoni Three Cheese Tortellini - Photo by Taste As You Go
Buitoni Three Cheese Tortellini

Naturally, I went all the way back to the Buitoni booth to see which pasta they were serving up. What I discovered made me very, very happy and instantly put a smile on my face.

Buitoni Three Cheese Tortellini with Marinara Sauce
Buitoni Three Cheese Tortellini with Marinara Sauce

Three Cheese Tortellini with Marinara Sauce! I can't tell you how many times my mother made this very same meal for dinner. (When she wasn't force-feeding us tuna casserole, that is.) With each bite, I was transported further back in time, and despite the crowd of people swarming the booth, it felt as if my mother and I were sitting at the kitchen table, just the two of us.

It was a nice moment.

Before I got too teary-eyed, I told the Buitoni bunch I'd see them later and started to explore the other exhibits. Here are just some of the pictures I took:

Oyster Ceviche from Hudson River Cafe - Photo by Taste As You Go
Oyster Ceviche from Hudson River Cafe

My love for raw oysters didn't develop until later in life, so I was thrilled when I came across the Oyster Ceviche from the Hudson River Cafe. I could have easily eaten a dozen of these.

Crab and Avocado Corn Cake from The Hurricane Club - Photo by Taste As You Go
Crab and Avocado Corn Cake from The Hurricane Club

I could have also eaten a dozen of these Crab and Avocado Corn Cakes from The Hurricane Club. Look at all of that crab piled high on that corn cake, which isn't actually visible in this slightly blurry photo.

(Sorry, there were hungry old women all around me clamoring for food. It was sort of scary.)

Crab and Avocado Corn Cake from The Hurricane Club - Photo by Taste As You Go
Sharing the Crab and Avocado Corn Cake
from The Hurricane Club

In the middle of the chaos (okay, I'm exaggerating a little), I managed to grab a corn cake for this little guy. He was getting hungry watching everyone else eat. See how he's holding his tummy?

Good thing I'm so thoughtful.

Cappuccino Braised Short Rib and Pumpkin Sage Gnocchi from DUO Restaurant & Lounge - Photo by Taste As You Go
Cappuccino Braised Short Rib and Pumpkin Sage Gnocchi
from DUO Restaurant & Lounge

I wanted to love the Cappuccino Braised Short Rib and Pumpkin Sage Gnocchi from DUO Restaurant & Lounge. As I'm a huge fan of all of the individual ingredients, they didn't come together for me in the finished dish. That may have been due to the fact that the food was cold when I tried it and the meat was tough despite being braised. So disappointing.

Thai Braised Short Rib Slider from Cityhouse - Photo by Taste As You Go
Thai Braised Short Rib Slider from Cityhouse

Thankfully, there was no shortage of braised short ribs at the festival that day. Cityhouse was serving up Thai Braised Short Rib Sliders with grilled pineapple and pickled cucumbers (why not just call them "pickles"?) on a brioche bun. Unfortunately, this dish didn't sit well with me either. Although the short ribs were sufficiently juicy, I would have preferred a thinner slice of grilled pineapple. The sweetness of the fruit overpowered everything else, and I could only manage a couple of small bites.

Culinary Demonstration with Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival - Photo by Taste As You Go
Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen at the
Food Network New York City
Wine & Food Festival

I didn't let a few not-for-me dishes ruin the afternoon, however. Even though I was running out of steam, I decided to stop by one more culinary demonstration before heading back to Pennsylvania. The Deen Brothers, Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen, were slated to appear on the North Stage, so I grabbed a seat and waited to find out what they were going to prepare.

Culinary Demonstration with Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival - Photo by Taste As You Go
Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen at the Food Network
New York City Wine & Food Festival

In between talking about what it was like to learn how to cook from their mother, butter-lovin' Paula Deen, they focused on the basics: how to roast a chicken. Something everyone should know, in my opinion. To be honest, it was a little difficult to concentrate on what they were saying. Something was distracting me.

Paula Deen at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival - Photo by Taste As You Go
Paula Deen at The Deen Brothers' Demonstration
at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival

Or, should I say, someone was distracting me. In case you can't tell by looking at the back of her head... that's Paula Deen in the front row! She surprised everyone by making a special appearance so she could supervise the demonstration. It was such fun watching her interact with her boys in real life. You could tell that they really are a close-knit family.


Go on and check out this video I took of Jamie and Bobby answering some questions from the audience. Even Paula chimes in!

Thank you so much to Buitoni for giving me the opportunity to attend the NYC Wine & Food Festival. I had an amazing time! Hopefully, we'll work together again in the future!

*hint hint*

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Taste As You Go Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Buitoni provided me with the ticket to Saturday's Grand Tasting at the 2011 Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival. I did not accept monetary compensation for this opportunity. All opinions expressed are my own.