Food Network NYC Wine & Food Festival
This past weekend (October 10-12), I attended the inaugural launch of the New York City Wine and Food Festival. (nycwineandfoodfestival.com) It was sponsored by the Food Network, Food & Wine Magazine and Southern Wine and Spirits and patterned after the enormously popular South Beach Wine and Food Festival (sobewineandfoodfest.com). It started the day before and included seminars, cooking demonstrations, tastings and cooking competitions spread out at various venues around Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and Chelsea Market. Many of these had sold out before we could get tickets. Almost all of television’s top “food” personalities (including Rachel Ray, Bobby Flay, Nigelle Lawson, Paula Dean, Guy Fieri, Alton Brown and Giada DeLaurentis) participated by hosting events and/or doing book signings.
The first event we attended was the private tasting Friday afternoon for the members of the media and trades people (meaning bar and restaurant owners). There, we sampled a large number of wines accompanied by snacks provided by food companies and purveyors such as Allen Bros, Swanson, Bertolli, Del Grosso, Colavita and Shop-Rite (just to name a few). The wine featured such stand-outs as Clos Du Bois, Chalk Hill, Wente, Ferrari Cerrano and many more. We enjoyed a lot of old favorites and found some new ones as well (like the delicious Zaca Mesa Rousanne). Bubbly was also well represented by champagnes (such as Nicolas Feuillate and Lanson), sparkling wines (like Mumm’s Napa Valley) and an assortment of cava’s and prosecco’s.
I was, however, surprised by the preponderance of “spirit” companies present. It seemed like there was almost as much hard liquor being poured as wine. I found that somewhat odd at an event promoted as a “wine festival”and would have preferred to see more wines there. But,I have no idea what percentage of wineries Southern represents in the northeast and suspect that their market share there may be much smaller than in Florida(where I ‘ve gotten spoiled by the South Beach Fest).
That same night (Friday), we participated in the “Meatpacking Uncorked” Event. This gave us the opportunity to browse the area’s chic boutiques while sipping vintage wines and sampling gourmet appetizers. Some of the more prominent shops that participated were Stella McCartney, Diane Von Furstenberg, Scoop NYC, Helmut Lang and Ed Hardy. (As a future hint to all the boyfriends and husbands out there, this event might be a good place to either take it easy on the wine or leave the credit cards at home… if you catch my drift!)
Saturday during the day, in addition to cooking classes, book signings and tv show tapings too numerous to mention, there were two Grand Tastings; a morning and late afternoon session. We chose the earlier one largely because of the aforementioned hard liquor involved and the generous “tastes” that were being dispersed. (I figured it could get a little ugly by late afternoon and we got a preview of that as we were exiting around two o’clock when a rather large man with a Waterford crystal wine glass filled to the brim with beer “slung” around his neck and a “shot” in each hand stumbled into us!)
The beverage selections at the Saturday Tastings were identical to the private Friday event. Actually, the only real difference seemed to be that on Saturday, in addition to the food companies there from the day before, a large number of famous (and some not so famous) New York eateries were giving out small samplings of their signature dishes. The food ranged from tuna tartare to pulled pork sandwiches with almost everything imaginable in between.All of it was delicious.”Wine” plates(the ones with the cut-outs to hold your glass while you eat)would have been a welcome addition.
As the tasting lingered on, two interrelated things became apparent. First, the weather was absolutely gorgeous! Perfect for a semi-outdoor event…. sunny with highs in the mid 70’s. But,secondly, (and I’m sure the unseasonably warm temperature was a major contributing factor), a lot of the wine being poured just got too darn hot! My good friend and business partner, David Bradach is currently and enthusiastically,spearheading a campaign in support of “No More Warm Wine” aimed at bars and restaurants that serve ,particularly, their red wines at too high an ambient temperature( often 75 – 80 degrees).
Unfortunately, on Saturday, I found that, in addition to many of the reds being that warm, a large number of purveyors of exceptional white wines were,also, letting them sit out (unchilled) to the point where they were ,also, too hot to enjoy properly.
Saturday night, we attended the “Sweet” dessert Bash sponsored by Ferrero Chocolates, Perrier Jouet Champagne and Absolute Vodka. It was hosted by Duff Goldman of “Ace of Cakes” fame. Surprisingly, since this was one of the more expensive events, it was easily the most crowded one we attended. When we arrived, fashionably late, the line to get in stretched 2 city blocks.But,it moved fairly quickly and soon we were at the champagne bar being rewarded with a chilled glass of bubbly. Then, it was on to the main hall where all the sugary treats were being handed out. The crowd inside there made Grand Central Station at rush hour look deserted. Perhaps next year, a larger venue would be in order. Or maybe, I’m just getting too old for the shoulder to shoulder crowds and “thumping” techno music. Besides, even with over 40 of New York’s best dessert chefs (from restaurants such as Bouchon Bakery, Daniel, David Burke & Donatella, Del Posto, Gotham Bar & Grill, Mesa Grill and Tribecca Grill- just to name a few) presenting their masterpieces, just how many desserts can one stomach handle.Very shortly, we found ourselves back in the Perrier Jouet lounge where we remained until ready to go.
Just as we were about to leave, Food Network star, Bobby Flay made an appearance. The very popular and approachable, celebrity chef graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures with adoring fans. Also in attendance were, of
course, Duff Goldman who presided over the parade of pastries and Susie Fogelson, one of the creators and judges of the “Who Will be the Next Food Network Star”show. Numerous other celebrity chefs ,such as Thomas Keller and Tom Collicchio, were also there supervising the assembly and distribution of their restaurants’ “sweets”.
On Sunday, the seminars, etc. continued and there were also two more sessions of Grand Tastings. However, by then, we were “wined” and “walked” out. Based on both my first hand experience and overall ticket sales (virtually every event sold out), the first annual New York City Wine and Food Festival was a tremendous success.And,I’m sure it will do nothing but get better in the future. Sure, there were a few kinks to work out; but the promoters already have an enormous head start based on their other experience. I was particularly impressed with the way all the exhibitors praised the “behind the scene’s” staff for all their advance preparations; anticipation of and attention to their needs during the events; and, general, hard work.That,alone, will go a long way towards guaranteeing continued success because when you keep the “pourers” and “servers” happy , they’ll keep everyone else happy and coming back!!!