Zen and the Art of Food and Drink: 2012 Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival

 

When Kat and I arrived at Portland International Airport on Thursday morning, long before the sun would rise, we were nearly giddy as we passed through security, ecstatic that our adventure to New York City had finally arrived. As we made our way to the gate, we noticed a monk walking in front of us, and chattered about it being a good omen. After a brief wait, I stood patiently in line waiting for a seat assignment as others funneled into line, my mind wondering if I would be cast to the bowels of the back of the plane, shooting Kat a worried look. “Remember, we’ve got monk blessings!” she shouted.

“Here we are,” the attendant murmured from behind the counter, as she handed me my boarding pass. “First row.”

We arrived in Manhattan late Thursday afternoon. After settling into our digs at the Pod Hotel – a surprisingly comfortable, hostel-like locale just east of Times Square – we headed to Shake & Bake to kick off our NYCWFF schedule. With The Roots’ Questlove spinning R&B records, guests sampled fried chicken dishes of every shape and size from restaurants around the city. Hosted by chef Art Smith and The View’s Whoopi Goldberg, Yotel’s rooftop space was easy to navigate, a blustery laid-back late autumn vibe filling the space as folks grooved to tunes, with chefs Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto and Hill Country Chicken’s Elizabeth Karmel on hand to pose for pictures and pass dishes. In addition to chicken, desserts like a “Liquid Klondike” satisfied even the sweetest of teeth.

Full of chicken, Kat and I ventured south for a brief stop at Gotham Magazine’s intimate gathering at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo before making our way to chef David Chang’s Booker & Dax for compulsory, late night pork buns and cocktails. It wasn’t until the next morning, when we awoke for our first full day of festival events, that we discovered a missing credit card, misplaced somewhere along our late night travels through the city. Instead of following our meticulously planned Friday schedule, we found ourselves grabbing a quick breakfast at Pastis before trekking to the necessary bank, the hassle of closing accounts and shuffling money threatening to take down our adventures to the city. Yet our new path led to other gems, and we found ourselves in front of the coffee shop recommended to us weeks earlier by Riffle NW chef Ken Norris, the crowded space of Jack’s Coffee offering a respite along our detour. Missing a few of our intended events, we instead wound our way back through West Village shops during the sunny afternoon hours, coffees in hand.

Later that evening, Girl Gone Travel writer Carol Cain, a dear friend of mine from my adventure to Maui earlier this year, joined us for dinner at dell’anima as we dined on classic, unfussy Italian dishes. Kat and I arrived post-dinner at the craziness that was the SWEET event just in time to catch television darlings Sandra Lee and Bobby Flay crossing the red carpet. Chefs and Food Network stars Geoffrey Zakarian, Marc Murphy, Ted Allen, and Robert Levine followed, along with Cooking Channel’s Debi Mazar and her husband Gabrielle Corcos, pausing for pictures from the frenzied food crowd. Between snapping photos and maneuvering through the packed room, I sadly only had a chance to sample a few dishes, with my favorite being the autumn-appropriate apple cinnamon donut ice cream sandwich and horchata from pastry chef Stephen Collucci of Colicchio & Sons. As I made my way out the door (down many, many steps…in high heels) I was pleased to bump into meat man Pat LaFrieda, Jr. as well.

 
Saturday morning required another tourist must – a walk through Central Park – and we took paths to and fro without an intended destination, a dog-friendly gathering along one, a movie-famous water fountain along the other, with performers and artists poised on nearly every inch of the park’s paths. As we sauntered down the famed Fifth Avenue on our way to The Lambs Club for the afternoon’s Hot Cocktails session, Kat pointed out another monk in front of us. “Holy cow,” I said. “It’s officially a double monk weekend.”

Hosted by chef and restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian, along with his executive chef, Eric Haugen, the Hot Cocktails demo was certainly a highlight in a weekend of food and wine, Zakarian and Haugen pleasant and personable, charming the crowd at each turn. The space, decorated in sleek red and black, spoke of the glamour of New York clubs frequented by silver screen stars back in the day. All three cocktails made – including a “Hot White Russian” – were refreshingly simple to recreate at home, paired with a duck rillette, Haugen’s take on a classic reuben, and bit of chocolate to finish out the tasting.

Cocktails and bites at The Lambs Club satiated enough before ourdinner at Empellon Cocina – a recommendation of the guys at Immaculate Infatuation – and we headed to Brooklyn’s Backyard, chatting with Mike from Detroit (and Brooklyn)-based McClure’s Pickles, before subway-ing it back to the East Village for our final destination of the weekend. Taking our seats at the PDT – or, “Please Don’t Tell” – bar, a proper Aviation in hand, it was a most enjoyable zen-like end to a double monk weekend.

Be sure to become a Daily Blender fan on Facebook, where more photos from this weekend’s Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival will be posted later this week!

Missed my notes from previous NYCWFF adventures? You can catch that reminiscing post here.

 

~Jennifer Heigl

*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender

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