Tag Archives: alex guarnaschelli

New York Taste Event 2014: Thanks NY Mag!

17 Nov

My job has a lot of perks.  Because we work with a lot of magazines and websites, we get to take advantage of some of their more exclusive events.  Usually the events are more like big parties, which are fun but not really my thing.  But when New York Magazine (which also happens to be the only magazine I read as a consumer, every issue) invited me to their annual TASTE event, I was thrilled.  They even let me take a Plus One, so I had to invite fellow food lover and blogger, That Lori, of Stuff I Ate, to join me.


I’ve always wanted to go to TASTE, seeing as though it features a taste from some of the best restaurants in NYC, including some of our favorites, all’onda, Barbutobetony, Butter, Gramercy Tavern, and NoMad.


The event was in a space called The Waterfront Building on 11th Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets.  It was built in 1891 as the Terminal Stores building and it looked (and looks) like a medieval fortress.  Rail lines ran right into the building from the Hudson river docks and when it was built, it was the only building with direct access to the river, the road, and the rail.


It was a great space for this event; long and narrow with enough room to get around (though when the masses came in, we were certainly tripping over each other (and the poorly placed floor lights).   Though it certainly felt crowded at times, we never waited more than a few minutes for any food (though by the final hour, most were out of food… not that we could eat any more at that time anyway though!)


As we walked through the event, I kept noticing that they had great music on. I was actually surprised when we got to the end and it was a live band.  They sounded like a recording.  Great band.


But now onto the food!  I was impressed to see many of the celebrity chefs working their booths, including Alex Guarnaschelli at Butter and Dale Talde at Talde.

One of my favorite celebrity chefs, Jonathan Waxman, was behind his Barbuto table.  As soon as I lifted my duck liver pâté crostini with apples and saba up to take a picture, Chef Waxman immediately laughed at me and said I was being cute by taking a detailed picture.  I blushfully told him how much I loved his chicken at Barbuto and he told me that he hopes I loved his duck liver even more.  I’m not star struck by many people, but for some reason, Chef Waxman turned me into a giggling little girl.

And yes, his duck liver was superb (though blurry in this picture, seeing as though I was giggling…)


Here were some of my favorite bites of the evening:

Truffled hummus from Claudette.  I would never have thought to bump up hummus by adding truffle, but this was spot on.  From now on, if I want to make my hummus a more elegant meal, I will be adding truffle salt.


And while we’re on the topic of truffles, Toloache was serving a beautiful slice of raw tuna with quinoa, avocado aioli, and fresh slices of truffles. It also had a spicy sauce on top which they (kindly) left off of mine.  This was so fresh and just popped with flavor.



The Writing Room was serving a chicken liver mousse with green apples.  The mousse was so fresh and the apples were a great foil for the richness.  A very enjoyable bite.


Sadly, there was so much food that by the end, I just couldn’t fit another bite.  But I just loved the look of these lettuce cups with egg from Tao.


But my favorite bite of the evening was squash with pistachio and truffle from Piora.  It was so good, that Piora jumped right to the top of my list for next restaurant I want to try.


My favorite dessert was the chocolate lollipops from Wallsé. They were so rich and had such amazing flavor.  I went back for one more at the end of the night, but no surprise, there were none left.


I loved this event and even if I don’t get the opportunity to go as a guest next year, I think it will be worth it to pay for it and bring Mike.  It was an absolutely delicious and fun evening.

Thanks again, New York Magazine!


New York City Wine & Food Festival: Grand Tasting 2013 Review

19 Oct

This was our fourth year attending the New York City Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting. (Here are the reviews from 2012 and 2011, sadly I didn’t post about 2010).

The last few years it has been on a pier near 14th Street, but this year it moved to Piers 92/94 at 55th Street. We were a bit worried because it has always been nicely organized in the past and you never know what might change.  Turns out, the organization was definitely more lacking this year than in years past.

You used to come through a park before going to the Grand Tasting, where you would get your swag bag (some years) but always got to grab a cup/bottle of Illy coffee (a reoccurring sponsor) to wait with on line.  This year, it was just the line.

We got the Fast Pass which meant we were the line that went in first.  We were inside the building by 12:10 (start time was noon) but then the cluster started.

They give you a bracelet to show you turned in your ticket and are legal to drink, and it comes with a drink and swag bag ticket.  The problem was, you enter right into that table and there is really no way to get there in an organized fashion. Everyone was just en mass to get everything and then once they got it, they couldn’t get out through the crowd.  Last year, you walked down the hallway and got your stuff on the way in, so it all flowed with the foot traffic. This year, not so much.


But once we were inside, it was smooth sailing.

When I looked at the map from Zagat that came out this past week, I was worried. It looked like many fewer tables than years prior.  But the space was actually a bit more spread out and I think the ceilings were higher and the skylights were new, giving it a bit of a nicer feel.


As we have found to be the best plan, we beelined for the very back of the pier and then worked our way forward. This allows us some time before the masses get too thick and we have the back of the area pretty much to ourselves.

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Throughout the pier, they have multiple sections with sampling and demonstrations.  The main demo area was right in the middle with a cute picket fence around it.




Throughout the day, the most empty area was the (big) Barilla takeover. Probably because they are homophobic pricks.  I used to eat Barilla. I will never again. I’m glad they wasted money on this.  OKAY… will stop ranting now…. back to the food.



Starting with the eats, I’ll first highlight our favorite bites.

Our number one bite of the day (and this was echoed throughout many people we talked to) was from High Road Creamery.

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This was absolutely awesome.  The buns were slightly sweet and warmed on the spot. The ricotta ice cream was very flavorful and the pistachio black pepper toffee on the outside was a great compliment both in taste and texture.  We went back to get more around 3:30pm (the Grand Tasting goes until 6pm) and they were all out.  Though I can’t blame them. They were so good.



Chefs Vanessa Palazio & Adam Schneider- Little Muenster: “Super Fancy Grilled Cheese” with braised beef cheek with cracked pepper marscapone, pickled fennel, old bay onion paste & muenster cheese on local peasant bread.

We LOVED this grilled cheese. One of the best I have ever had. Perfect balance of everything with a satisfying crunch of the bread (without being too sharp or too thick). Looks like we may need to head down to the LES or Brooklyn to get our hands on more Little Muenster!




Surprisingly, one of my favorite noms was from Celebrity Cruise Lines.  Squash soup with a really great grilled cheese.




Chef Kirk McKinny- Suite 36: Lilikoi (Passionfruit) Cured Hamachi with a salad of baby watercress, scallion, pineapple & Big Island macadamia nut. Finished with Sweet Yuzu & Hawaiian Chili Oil drizzle.

I had mine without chili oil, but I really enjoyed this combination of flavors and great hamachi. The macadamia nuts added a nice texture and taste to everything.  And I’m quite excited we found this place… it’s just a few blocks away from our apartment. We may try to go there for dinner tomorrow!



Chef Manuel Berganza- Andanada: Pulpo a la Gallego- Octopus seasoned with olive oil, pimiento de vera and served with mashed potato puree.  (I had mine without the paprika on top… see second photo).


This was scrumptious.  Perfectly cooked octopus and the potato foam on top was light and creamy. Great dish.


Chef Jeremy Leech- ReBar: Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese.

This was stupid good. It was just mac and cheese. Just AWESOME mac and cheese.


Chef Roxanne Spruance- Alison Eighteen: Lamb Bacon with maitake, crispy lentils, foie gras, walnut and concord grape.  This bacon was perfectly cooked and flavored and the little additions all went well with the bacon itself.




And here are most of the other things we nibbled:

Chef Arturo McLeod- Benjamin Steakhouse: Porterhouse Bites and Creamed Spinach with USDA Prime, dry aged porterhouse bites served with their signature “creamless” creamed spinach.

A very tender, simply prepared piece of meat.



Chef Sophia Lee- miss Korea BBQ: Korean marinated Kalbi


Chef Sara Moulton- Maple Leaf Farms: Peking Duck Wraps


Chef Lucas Billheimer- The Writing Room: Smoked Duck Rillette with apple butter and pickled squash on dark rye bread


Chef Miguel Trinidad- Maharlika Filipino Moderno: Pork Rib Adobo- National dish of the Philipines. Pork marinated in Filipino soy sauce, bawang, suka, and sili.


The Munchies is a “People’s Choice Food Award” and they had a selection from Hill Country Barbecue.  It was a piece of brisket with a really nice cucumber salad.  Very tender.


Executive Chef Jim Botsacos- Molyvos: Yiayia’s Meatballs (Keftedes) with rich tomato sauce, green crakced olives and whipped Mizithra.


Chef Kyle McClelland- Prospect: Butternut Squash Velouté with root beer cream and espresso marshmallows.


Chef Kenneth Johnson- Pescatore Restaurant: “Goat, Goat, Goat” with goat cheese gnudi with goat bolognese and shaved goat cheese.


Chef Carmine Di Giovanni- Greenwich Project: Kobocha Squash Panna Cotta with spice candied walnut crunch and pomegranante cider meringue. (Popped a bite in my mouth and realized that spiced meant peppers and peppers mean allergy for me. So my mouth peeled a bit and I had to toss the rest… damn)


Chef Patricio Sandoval- Mercadito: Tacos de Camaron with shrimp, roasted garlic, avocado, and chipotle mayo.  (Mike had, not me)


Chef Thomas Biglan- Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa: Borgata Fried Chicken Slider with black pepper candied bacon, sundried tomato mayonnaise and micro greens.  This was actually awful. The only really bad bite of the day.  The chicken was cold and mushy, with no crisp on the fry.  I had one bite and tossed it.


Manon: Some sort of dessert with pear and a filling that tasted like pecan pie. (This was very good but they had no sign and soon ran out.)


Sea salt ice cream sundae from Graeter’s


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Blue Marble Organic Ice Cream in Spiced Pumpkin flavor. We wound up actually combining this with the fresh Crown maple syrup next door for a delightful treat.






Haagen-Dazs Gelato.  Very good sea salt caramel.



On the way to the Celebrity Chef demonstrations/talks, Cooking Channel was serving some awesome gourmet popcorn.  We tried the pizza and the miso caramel.

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Lovely Australian Lamb with cheese and tomato jam

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A piece of burger from Mater Purveyors, Inc. in the Bronx.


Certified Piedmont Beef with Italian Seasoned Roast Beef.



Olive oils from Spain



Bertoli Olive Oil Cranberry Pesto with Olive Oil


SooFoo original grain and lentil blend lemon kale salad (kind of bland… meh)DSCF2627


Pasta Chips tasted like crispy, dried pasta with dried seasonings resembling pasta dishes.  I really enjoyed these, especially the simple sea salt that let the pasta flavor shine through.


Brownie brittle was good as well.


I liked that the chocolate crisp. (Why aren’t there more crispy chocolate products out there?)




And what we drank:

We started our day in the back at one of our favorite wineries: Decoy. Great Napa and Sonoma wines.  Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of their lovely duck themed bottles.

VeeV Acai Spirits smartly served their sangria in a jar with a lid so we could carry it around and enjoy it throughout the day (especially when we were sitting in the chef talks)


The Chartreuse was a really interesting flavor. Very herbacious and floral.  Would be a great mixer. Will need to keep my eye out for this.


Mike saw Amarula and suggested I try it. Sure enough, a delicious creamy liqueur.


This was… weird.  Cheesecake wine? Probably not going to go anywhere beyond the “I’ll try anything once” mantra.


Nice bourbon

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And the Demos:  

One of the highlights of the Grand Tasting is the impressive roster of Celebrity Chefs who do demos and talks throughout the day.  This new location seemed smaller, and for the first time we were turned away from one (Rachael Ray) so we checked out some others.  Our first stop was watching Iron Chef Morimoto break down a HUGE Toro fish.




It was incredibly hard to hear because the other stage was way too close in this venue, but what we did hear was fun.  He even sang us a song at the end before flexing for the camera.


We caught the end of Chef Chuck Hughes (from Cooking Channel) and he was fun to watch.


Then Nadia G (from Bitchin Kitchen) came out to make the introduction…


…For Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.


She made a crepe cake (and burned a number of crepes in good humor). The crepe cake looked like it was going to fall down, but she managed to get a slice out and it looked lovely.


I really loved watching this demo because there is something just so endearing about Chef Alex.   Really it was the audience questions that made the demo so good.  One person asked her how it felt when she won Iron Chef.  And her ego (whatever ego she actually has) just fell to the floor and she talked about how shocking it was and how proud she was about it.  She made some great jokes and then mentioned that the moment she saw the curtain drop and her picture up there she was so overwhelmed that she had to tell herself “Iron Chefs don’t cry!”




At the end of the demo, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri crashed.  They asked some silly audience questions and they somehow wound up having a conversation about chafing due to being naked under chef coats.  They were obviously trashed but having a great time.  Alex took it all in good humor.  It was a lovely moment between 3 people you can tell really like each other.


This year’s Grand Tasting was certainly better than last year’s in terms of the event itself.  Sure, the new location had some issues, especially the chaos at the beginning of grabbing glasses and bags and then the closeness of the stages, causing some issues hearing the demos.  But there were a LOT more food options so I left totally full and not overly drunk.  Last year was somewhat pathetic in the amount of food that was there, so I’m glad they redeemed themselves.

I was questioning coming back after last year, but I’m glad we did. We had a blast!


Butter for Restaurant Week Winter 2013

28 Jan

Even if Executive Chef Alex Guarnaschelli (who just won Next Iron Chef) has nothing to do with Butter at this point in her career (which I am not sure about at all… I’ve heard she doesn’t do much with the restaurant anymore, but it’s hard to tell), you would never know. We have been meaning to go to Butter for years, and just never got around to it. I had heard it was good, but no one raved about it so it never made it high up on my list. But when we were trying to find a few new places to try for Restaurant Week this winter, we decided that in light of Chef Guarnaschelli’s recent win, we would check it out.

It’s right by the Public Theater in the East Village. We were seated downstairs and enjoyed the wood tree trunks and sticks that decorated the room. It had a nice, loungy feel with low couch benches in the bar areas and music playing in the rooms.


Here was the Restaurant Week menu for dinner on Sunday, January 27th.


And the regular menu.


And of course, since it’s butter, here is the butter shot.


And some more butter porn. (The butter itself was decent, but nothing too special and I could have used with a larger portion to cover off on the bread that was on the table.


But the pumpernickel and sour dough breads were top notch.


We decided to start with cocktails, and since they were so good, we continued drinking them throughout the meal (rather than switching to wine, which is our usual MO). I got the Pearadise with pear infused Bacardi rum, fresh pear puree, St. Germain liqueur, muddled limes and mint. It was fantastic. Perfectly sweet without being cloyingly so. Mike got the Mickey Blue Eyes, which was a martini made with Grey Goose Vodka and blue cheese stuffed olives.


Mike started with the House Made Charcuterie Platter. This came with house-cured bacon, duck breast mortadella, and chicken liver toast with spicy napa cabbage. This was awesome. The mortadella had a great flavor, and the chicken liver was packed with flavor and had these perfect crispy onions on top. But the bacon… ohhh boyyyy the bacon.


I got the soup of the day, which was a butternut squash soup. I have had butternut squash soup all over the world at this point, and I am a fan simply because I really love butternut squash soup. You don’t need to get fancy with it to be delicious, but that also means that most people serve butternut squash soup that tastes just like everyone else’s version. Sure, some people put in some toasted pumpkin seeds or some basil oil (and I sure do love it when they do) but the soup itself usually just tastes like squash, or squash and apples.

But this… this butternut squash was The Shit. I never knew squash soup could have this much depth of flavor. A bit of brown butter flavor and sweetness (from what I assume was brown sugar but not sure) with a layer of fresh squashy goodness. And the salted popcorn to accompany it was just perfect. I actually asked for more bread so I could lop up every last drop of soup. It was, hands down, the best butternut squash soup I have ever had.


As we started the entree portion of our meal, the additional side of cider glazed roasted parsnips came out. These had thinly sliced apple chips on top and the cider glaze was superb. It was the perfect compliment to the roasted parsnips and it was great comfort food without being heavy.


Mike chose the House Made Ricotta Ravioli with roasted oyster mushrooms, chili flakes (which they nicely served on the side so that I could eat it), and pecorino cheese. I thought the sauce and mushrooms went very well with the ricotta in the ravioli, which was fluffy and a tad tart, with great flavor. Though in the end, I never order cheese ravioli because I just find myself hard to impress with any version.


I ordered the Braised Pork Shoulder with a pretzel crumb crust and buttered rutabega. This was also outstanding. A great pork flavor over a bed of creamy rutabega. The little salty crispness of the pretzel with the cabbage on top was delightful. It was perfectly tender so you could just pull it apart with your fork. Fantastic.


For dessert, Mike chose the Ginger Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich with vanilla ice cream and spiced pecans. It was very good, with a well flavored ginger cookie and what I think were golden raisins with orange zest. The pecans were spiced with something pepper related that I couldn’t have (but Mike enjoyed) and while the cookie was a bit hard to cut, the dessert was very good.


My dessert came out and the first thing I noticed was that it was tiny. It’s hard to tell in this shot, but the piece of chocolate cake was about 3 inches tall and wide and less than 1/2 an inch thick. But BOY was this big on flavor.

The chocolate was rich and decadent, the pomegranate seeds adding a little bit of lightness to it, and a shmear of awesome salted caramel. The entire dish was so fantastic, and so packed with flavor, I didn’t miss those additional bites.


As the meal ended, I told Mike how I wanted to lick my plate for every single dish I had. (That is one of the highest compliments I can give a place!) The execution was flawless and I didn’t feel like we lost anything by ordering off the Restaurant Week menu. Portions weren’t huge, but I walked away totally satiated.

Overall, this was a standout meal not just for Restaurant Week, but overall. I was truly impressed and look forward to returning again in the near future. I can’t believe it took us that long to go!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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