Adventurous Eating: Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival

So much food and so little time to blab about it. But this past Saturday’s Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival is worth the gossip. 60 beers, 40 bourbons, and lots of barbecue – oh my! I was submerged in a pig pen, I mean a warehouse filled to the brim with more dark beer, bacon, and men than I could take down and it was wonderful.

I came hungry and I conquered – garlic bacon, maple bacon, pork sandwich with coleslaw, Dinosaur BBQ’s pulled pork with baked beans (DELISH!), chicken wings, ribs, corn bread, collard greens, and to finish caramelized popcorn. It was quite a day and the barbecue was only half of it.

30 beers beckoned me, I only like the dark ones. And dark they were from Brooklyn Breweries to Heartland Brewery I drank til my hearts content – which clearly didn’t amount to that much. But despite my intolerance for binge beer drinking, I did manage to come across two new Belgian Style favorites which happen to be on the lighter side… Goose Island’s Matilda and Palm Breweries Palm which were both well paired to the spicy barbecue.

Needless to say, the event was a success. How can you go wrong with beer, bourbon, and barbecue – even if you skip the bourbon?

Feast your eyes on these finger lickin’ event photos…..

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Food Happenings: Hot Plates Live

Last night Metromix debuted some of NY’s newest downtown eateries at the their latest food soiree, Hot Plates Live. Highline Ballroom hosted nearly 200 hungry attendees who happily chowed down on a variety of snacks from eleven local restaurants. I figured arriving an hour late would have left me with slim pickins but to my surprise, most everyone came prepared with enough grub to satisfy this ravenous crowd.

Being a foodie and food blogger, I’ve learned that strategy can be very important at these events. I usually look at the event roster and think okay – which restaurants am I dying to try? which restaurants are looking low on food? which restaurants are the most expensive? And the reason why these questions are important is merely because these questions will determine which tastings are the most desirable. Luckily this event only had eleven dishes, otherwise I might have been in trouble!

But sometimes less is more and in this case I’d have to agree. Since the number of dishes on the must try list were tolerable, it enabled me to spend a greater amount of time with each dish and take in all of the flavors and textures, rather than racing to the next taste. That being said, there was only ONE restaurant which demanded seconds and that was Mark. See my rating of dishes below…

  1. Mark, mouthwatering sliders with American cheese and caramelized onions and served with homemade sauces!
  2. The Norry (at Kampuchea), succulent tamarind-glazed ribs
  3. Luke’s Lobster, mildly buttered and grilled main shrimp in a New England style bun
  4. Spot, deconstructed cheesecake with passion fruit air
  5. Stuffed Artisan Canolis, irish creme, peanut butter, nutella, and coconut canolis
  6. Corsino, ricotta crostini with honey and squid skewer
  7. Ofrenda, toasted tortillas topped with pigs feet, rice and green tomatillo salsa
  8. Spina, safron infused pasta with bolognese
  9. Sigmund Pretzel Shop, soft-style german pretzels with assorted homemade mustards
  10. Bia Garden, crispy pork belly, daikon hash, pickled new-year vegetable
  11. DISQUALIFIED – Lucy Browne’s, ran out of sliders!
  12. DISQUALIFIED – B. Clinton, never made an appearance. No pigs brains after all.

Despite the order you see above, if I was hard pressed to pick two favorite dishes, it would be Mark’s sliders and Spot’s deconstructed cheesecake.

These buttery sliders were perfection! Due to Mark’s genius preparation (see on right above), each slider was heated and stored face side down so that when they were served, the sliders would appear as if they were made right on the spot – fully intact buns, warm caramelized onions, and slightly melted cheese. Yum!

Although this dish didn’t look like much from afar, it had the perfect tartness to culminate a savory meal. And as someone who loves to mix multiple flavors and aspires for the perfect bite, this deconstructed cheesecake was both delicious and fun to eat.

Other notable dishes were presented by Stuffed Artisan Canolis, The Norry, and Luke’s Lobster.

But with the good, always comes the disappointing. And despite their attractive presentations, my least favorite dishes of the night were Ofrenda’s tortilla toppers , Spina’s pasta bolognese, and Bia Garden’s crispy pork belly.

More event photos…

Best of: Fancy Food Show

Fancy Food Show Although Sunday was a lovely warm day filled with sunshine, I spent the entire afternoon indoors at the Fancy Food Show. With hundreds of booths distributing endless samples of artisanal cheeses, specialty spreads, pastas with gourmet sauces, rich chocolates, assorted teas and other goodies, food quickly took the place of sun.  I was practically glowing as I walked from isle to isle perusing all of the wonderful new foods and products I had yet to try. I had my work cut out for me.

The Fancy Food Show attracts over 20,000 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors representing 81 countries. Now that’s a lot of people AND a lot of food in one place. And with a sampling of 250,000 products including confections, cheeses, coffees, snacks, spices some even ethnic, natural, or organic. One would think you’d be satisfied in every culinary area with the vast amount of vendors. But to my surprise, the Fancy Food show seemed to be dominated by cheeses and antipasti such as cured olives, artichokes, and roasted red peppers. Although cheese happens to be one of my all time favorite foods, after a while my palette was completely desensitized to flavor and all I could grasp were textures. Clearly I had reached my capacity for sampling but at the same time I couldn’t help but think how these products differentiate themselves in the marketplace?

Cupcake Haribo

Fancy Food Show Cheese Fancy Food Show Funky Popcorn

As I strolled through countless rows of similar products I began to be more discerning of which samples I chose to try. The two things I judged each product by were:

1. Packaging

2. Sales Pitch/Customer Service

As a marketing and advertising professional, I’ve learned that its all about the packaging and presentation. Innovative designs draw the eye and a consumer’s curiosity. And a friendly and knowledgeable presentation can go a very long way in the marketplace.

And after four hours and approximately 40 samples later, I managed to escape with some great take away items. Some of my favorite and most innovative products from the Fancy Food Show are listed below, in preferential order. And be sure to check back over the next few weeks for my new Hot Product features.

Smart SpiceSmart Spice

“Every cook has a chef inside”. These pre-packaged single-serving spices are ideal for new cooks, moms, and even experienced chefs. Smart Spice was my favorite product at the show because of their innovative presentation of spices as well as their attractive packaging and staff.

LT BlendersLT Blender’s Frozen Concoctions (in a Bag)

Add liquor and water, shake freeze, and squeeze! LT Blender provides nearly instant frozen cocktails without the hassle of using a blender AND the ability to take your cocktail on-the-go. With over 10 varieties including margaritas, mudslides, and peach bellinis, there’s a flavor to suit your every mood. Check out their website for easy recipes to spice up your mix.

Prepara "Herb-Savor"

Prepara “Herb-Savor”

Prepara herb-savor will prolong the life of your fresh herbs for up to 3 weeks so you can enjoy fresh, flavorful meals every time you cook. And it comes in two sizes!

Au Printemps Gourmet Caramelized Onion and Blood Orange Confit

Though it’s not yet out on the market this outstanding condiment was just awarded the Sofi Gold Award for one of the most outstanding foods this year. This sweet yet savory marmalade pairs especially well with cheese and crackers. The onion and blood orange really bring out the flavors in the cheese its paired with.

Mozzarella CompanyMozzarella Company

Out of all the cheeses I’d sampled, the Mozzarella Company was my favorite. I tried so many gourmet varieties that I can’t remember which were which. But what I do remember was the creamy cottage cheese created especially for Kent Rathman’s Blue Plate Kitchen in Dallas.

Betsy's Cheese Straws Betsy’s Cheese Straws

This all natural southern snack was introduced to me by a family from Alabama. They were nice enough to give me a small bag to try at home and suggested pairing it with a cold glass of white wine. Similar in taste to Cheese-itz these straws have more body and crunch and are available in seven flavors, sweet and savory.

Kitchen Table Bakers Cheese Crisps

Kitchen Table Bakers Gourmet Cheese Crisps

Their low-fat gluten & sugar free cheese crisps are pretty tasty and are a well-developed niche snack.

David Burke’s Foodie Wonderland

David Burke's TownhouseDavid Burke, you had me at hello. Foodbuzz you’ve always had me.

Hats off to the producers behind last night’s Foodbuzz Millionth Blog Post celebration at David Burke’s Townhouse. I was in complete awe and admiration of the truly stunning display of American fare chef David Burke, had prepared for us. And as a recent winner of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement award, I wouldn’t expect anything less!

I was told he was out to impress, and that he did with an overwhelming selection of fresh shellfish and sashimi, classic sliders, perfectly grilled meats, countless fried and steamed dumplings, and dozens of other tantilizing bites including a charming selection of petit desserts. The selection of food seemed endless! And I savored every last morsel from their special Lychee Martini Cocktail to their signature cheesecake lollipop. But the best part was, so did everyone else!

David Burke's Townhouse Lychee Martini David Burke's Townhouse Sliders

In my circle of family and friends I’m hard pressed to find someone who truly loves and appreciates food more than I do. Whether we’re talking sweet, savory, sour, meat, fish, vegetables, I love them all. I eat every meal as if it were my last and I have a good feeling that some of the other foodies in the room do the same. For once, I wasn’t alone!!! My eyes popped and my mouth watered along with dozens of other ravenous foodies eager to taste the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. And this time, God himself encouraged us to enjoy the fruits of our laborious food writing.

David Burke's Townhouse Lobster Scramble David Burke's Townhouse Sushi

In about 90 minutes I consumed 2 sliders, numerous dumplings, lobster scramble, lobster bisque, tuna sashimi, grilled rib eye, grilled salmon, assorted sushi, scallop ceviche, tuna tar tar, foie gras, beef carpaccio, butterscotch panna cotta, a beignette, apple fritter, and finally David Burke’s trademark, cheesecake lollipop.

David Burke's Townhouse Espresso Creme Brulee David Burke's Townhouse Lollipop Tree

And after indulging in some phenomenal food, making some new foodie friends, and meeting the renowned David Burke in the flesh, the clock struck midnight and I was no longer a cheesecake lollipop on a pine tree pedestal. Though I’ll continue to savor – the wonderful flavors – of David Burke’s Town-house.

David Burke's Townhouse Jessica Hartley

Spicing things up with Zarela Martinez

me & Zarela MartinezLast night I had the privilege of attending a culinary workshop taught by Zarela Martinez, chef and owner of the renowned Zarela’s. Zarela had contacted me after seeing Margarita, Guacamole Happy Birthday and was nice enough to invite me to this wonderful demonstration on how to work with Chilies. Since I know very little about cooking Mexican food and even less about chilies, I figured I might as well learn from the best…

If you’ve ever met Zarela, you already know she’s a character. From the beginning up until the very end of the workshop she recited anecdotes about her personal and professional life which though extended the length of the workshop, was extremely entertaining and enjoyable to learn about her interesting experiences. But in between stories, she did make some time for demonstrations, which proved to be quite helpful for home chefs like me.

Zarela's ChefThe workshop theme was Three Chilies, Nine Dishes. Zarela demonstrated how to create three basic preparations or building blocks using Jalapeno, Chipotle and Poblano chiles that one can use in a variety of dishes. And to my suprise, the dishes she created were actually fairly easy to make! Well, except for the vegetarian Tamales, but I wouldn’t try making those anyway…

Zarela's Cooking Class & David Burke's Townhouse Event 025 Zarela's Chipotle Chicken Zarela's Stringbeans

But aside from learning a few new things in the kitchen, Zarela also shared some words of wisdom with us. I’ve selected a few favorites to share with all of you:

When using salt…

Zarela’s only uses Kosher salt (Iodized salt breaks down textures of meat & produce)

When ordering supplies for her restaurant…

If you don’t give me my first order free, I will never serve your product in my restaurant (To this day she has never served a Corona in Zarela’s)

Tips on buying spices…

Never buy ground spices, you’re throwing away your money (Zarela’s has all spices ground to order)

Thoughts on housekeeping…

It’s better to starve than to be without help

Life Lessons…

Alone one cannot share life

Which is ultimately why Zarela invited us all to spend a special evening listening to her stories, learning her culinary expertise, and sharing this culinary experience with one another.

Zarela's Cooking Class & David Burke's Townhouse Event 005 Zarela's Pork Rind Salad Zarela's Red Snapper Tacos