On June 22, 2013, I was given an amazing gift: a wonderful husband. What I also received that day were tickets to Food Network’s New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF) from said husband. I can’t say getting those tickets was equally as thrilling as marrying the love of my life…but I’ll admit it came pretty damn close.
This past weekend, almost four months since that day, my husband and I got on the train and headed to the Big Apple. The NYCWFF is a series of events that showcase the best the culinary world has to offer. Food lovers and renowned chefs from all over the map come together to cook, eat, drink, and be merry. Guests buy tickets to hundreds of events spanning all over the city, and we had tickets to three of them: Greenmarket Brunch hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian, The Grand Tasting, and Pasta Making 101.
We woke up raring and ready to go on Saturday morning and headed to our first event, The Greenmarket Brunch, which was held at The Biergarten at The Standard. For this event, a number of master chefs were each partnered with local farmers to create dishes showcasing each grower’s seasonal ingredients. We walked in and I immediately spotted Chef Zakarian, who we regularly watch on Chopped and Iron Chef America. Of course I asked to have my picture taken with him.
Kobacha Squash with Buckwheat Honey, Ricotta, Spiced Pumpkin Seeds and Bacon by Chef Marco Canora:
We had a great time and tasted foods so unique in flavor and combination it was mind-boggling. Squash was definitely the star ingredient of the day. As part of the event setup, we also got to take home some fresh vegetables from the farmers who were on hand, so hopefully replication of at least one of the above is in the cards.
We then hustled over to the main event of the weekend, the “The Grand Tasting” at Pier 94. The Grand Tasting consists of literally hundreds of booths set up by various companies, each with small plates of food or wines for you to try. There isn’t as much time for you to really take in exactly what are you eating, but we sampled quite a few plates nonetheless. Vendors ranged from small vineyards to local NYC restaurants to big packaged goods brands.
I must admit that with the amount of people there, navigating the booths and tasting all of the food options was a bit overwhelming. Which is probably why the event also had two large stages where various Food Network celebrity chefs were giving live cooking demonstrations to the festival-goers like ourselves. It worked out perfectly, as we were able to alternate sampling food and watching the demonstrations. Among the chefs who took the stage(s) were:
Iron Chef Morimoto: A favorite as his restaurant Morimoto is legendary in Philadelphia (and amongst my family.) He demonstrated various ways to cook and eat sushi. By the way, did you know sushi should really be eaten with your hands and that you should not put wasabi in your soy sauce? Fun facts. Iron Chef Morimoto was ADAMANT about the latter.
Chef Rachael Ray: I’ll admit she can be a bit much, but her style of cooking is very relatable and I enjoy watching her in the kitchen. Also bought her cookbook and took a dorky fan pic with her. She was incredibly friendly and can work an audience of 200 like nobody’s business.
Chef Emeril Lagasse: A legend in his own right, the man practically invented the concept of live cooking shows. Watching him cook is like watching a maestro conduct a symphony. He made Shrimp & Grits, which we are now very anxious to try! He even capped off his presentation with a signature “BAM.”
Chefs John Besh and Aaron Sanchez: Pretty confident Chef Besh was hammered up on stage, but he was certainly entertaining. Chef Aaron is a regular judge on Chopped and we also adore his show called Heat Seekers that he films with Chef Roger Mooking (who was also there). These two are talking about opening a restaurant together in Baltimore, which will likely make its way onto our must-try list.
Chefs we also encountered at the Ground Tasting were Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, Robert Irvine (just as big as he looks on TV), Spike Mendelsohn, and Ty-Lör Boring. And of course, Martha Stewart. I’m not a huge fan of Martha, but it’s always fun to see talent in action. We left the event with full stomachs and headed out on the town for a bit.
Sunday we left our hotel to head to our pasta-making event, and we made a quick pit stop at Eataly to get us in the mood for some cibo Italiano. If you’ve never been there, Eataly is a MEGA market that features just about every brand and every style of Italian food imaginable.
We made way our Pasta Making 101 class at Macelleria in the Meat Packing District. The event took place in the wine cellar of this historic restaurant, and we met the family and the chefs behind it all. They took us through basic pasta making techniques and we made our own tagliatelle and ravioli. Such a blast and it was a really nice thing to do together. It made me miss my Grams and Popo as that was one of my favorite things to do with them.
Overall, the weekend was unforgettable. Being around people that share your passion for something is energizing and refreshing, and was a nice escape from all the chaos of our everyday. It’s also really important to note that 100% of proceeds from the NYCWFF benefit the Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength – both amazing organizations that fight hungry in our country. It was reported that over $6 million was raised throughout the weekend to benefit this causes!
Thank you MDE for such an amazing wedding day present and weekend! Oh, and for marrying me.