"Food is always the answer" was saying the marketing card promoting the Food for thought new trivia challenge game for the hostess. Is this one of the reasons people go to Food Festivals, including the EAT DRINK COOK LIVE Tastings that found a new home this year at the LAVenue in Chelsea? The venue was definitely smaller than the unnecessary massive space of PIER 94. Tastings were generous and satisfying but so were the long lines of participants.
From my close and rather objective observations, here is what I have to say for this year Tastings:
1. Where are the vegetarians?
The public is hungry...for meat. The longest lines were obviously for the Debragga's butcher who was giving out small portions of steaks (and who accidentally confused me with one of his friends asking me how is my dog, he didn't know that I actually hate dogs!). Benjamin's Steakhouse, Xie Xie and Ricardo's steakhouse saw all huge, endless lines for a tiny piece of meat, steak or something similar. I realized suddenly that New Yorkers have a special relationship with meat and they have all transformed to carnivores. And with very few exceptions, most of the participating restaurants, delis and gourmet brands included meat and dairy in their abundant samples...Tasty, I like it and I approve.
2. Sushi proved very popular with the line that never ended for Natsumi Restaurant's sushi and rolls, all fresh and well presented.
3. Plenty of dessert gourmet brands made their presence bold with tiny versions of muffins, cakes, cookies and the rest. I didn't try anything as I am not a cake fun but I witnessed the increasing popularity of pastries. Hot Blondies Bakery, Gotta Eat Sweets, Eileen's Special Cheesecake were a few of the populars. I will also mention the Italian Ferrara Bakery that was giving out cannolis and samples of Italian panettone, a delightful "break" from the American desserts...
4. Special "gourmet" dips as the wonderfully packaged Pestos with Panache by Lauren, unique and unusual but nonetheless welcoming. What would you say for the Fig and Gorgonzola pesto?
5. Ess-a-Bagel! This the first time that I actually found a bagel bakery exhibiting in a food show. Are bagels on a crisis? I don't think so!
On the drinks front, there was a variety of strong and unique cocktails and mixologists who gave talks and signed their books. I tried the tequila with sherry cocktail, too strong for my taste. But I gave in joyfully for the pink champagne cocktail, sweet but pleasant.
I give 10/10 to the Bally Hotel chef from Atlantic City for his roasted pepper crème brûlée with smoked chicken and corn salad, a smooth experience in the palate and amazingly presented in the small, black cooking pan. PT 212's (Planet Thailand) dry beef with papaya salad and sticky rice was a culinary experience (I heard people praising the papaya salad). Unforgettable was the chili offered not far from the entrance, a real comfort!
Tastings are now over but I will still remember those bits of chocolate from Theo Chocolate, I wish I had bought the dark one with cherries...