Monday, October 12, 2009

NY Wine and Food Festival

For the second year in a roll, throngs of foodies flooded the streets of NYC making their way to a cooking demo, a wine tasting, the ever popular Burger Bash, or the ultimate thrill of meeting their favorite Food Network star.  Even in a totally food obssessed town as NYC, a certain buzz was in the air, competing with the buzz from the bourbon tasting, but I digress.

I made it to three events this year, a Martha Stewart cooking demo, a wine tasting and a whiskey tasting.  Three very different, but interesting events.

Friday evening I made it to the New School's Tisch Auditorium for the Martha Stewart cooking demo.  I arrived about 20 minutes before the start and already the line was half a block long.  The line moved swiftly and I was able to snag a front row seat.  There, up on stage honing her knives, was the Doyenne of Domesticity herself, Martha Stewart.  It was interesting to see how a large part of the audience was completly besides themselves in the presence of their hero.  A group of foodies from the Phillapines asked her when she was going to pay them a visit back home.  That is dedication.

Martha was going to demo a dinner from her soon to be released cook book, "Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home".  It is a collection of seasonal dinners that will take about an hour on average to prepare.  When I say Martha demoed, I mean she mostly talked while one of her food editors mostly demoed.  The meal itself was very tasty looking:  duck breast with fig sauce, a potato dish based on pommes daphin, braised red cabbage and hazelnut brittle sundae.  After the demo there was a lively Q & A session that had a few very interesting moments.  A gentleman asked Martha what types of pots and pans he needed.  Martha replied, "Be sure they have a triple ply bottom.  It's very easy, go to Macy's, they come in a big, white box that says Martha Stewart on it."  The audience howled.

I discovered two keys to Martha's popularity during this demo.  The first key is that she has a very good rapport with her audience.  She seem genuinely engaged when talking to her fans.  Her second and probably her biggest key is she talks very authoritatively.  She makes statements with such confidence that you just believe her.  Well, most of the time.  I did not believe her when she said she makes her own puff pastry from scratch.

The next day was a completley differnet type of event.  I made my way downtown to the Astor Center to a tasting of Quintessa wines.  The tasting was structured to demonstrate how the area a grape was grown in affects the taste of the wine made from it.  This is what wine afficinados call terroir.  The tasting was led by Augustin Francisco Huneeus from Quintessa wines.  He told the story of how his family obtained the land and how it was planted.  The rolling hills on the property, along with differnet soil types create many different growing environments for their grape vines.  We went on to taste three differnet barrel sample wines made from the same cabernet sauvingnon clone.  The grapes were grown in different parts of the estate.  The grapes did indeed very different wines.  Some of these grapes were grown only a few hundred feet apart, yet the wines they produced were miles apart in terms of taste.  Well, miles apart from a wine geek's point of view at least.  We finally tasted the finished Quintessa wines from three different vintages, 2003, 2005 and 2006.  All three wines were wonderful, but the 2006 needs a few more years to really reach its peak.

A free event was running all weekend at the Astor Center known as "Le French Lounge".  Sponsored by the French government, this was a nice little event showcasing French food and drink.  Wines from the Alsace and Chateneuf de Pape were featured along with Perrier and French beer.  Of course, there was a full selection of French cheese and bread.  Chefs from Le Cordon Bleu were doing various demos.  Doing demos using foie gras.  Free event, free foie gras, free wine.  Winner for my favorite event.

Sunday afternoon, I met up with my friend GT for a whiskey tasting.  The event was held at the trendy steak house STK in the trendy Meat Packing District.  Even the damn pigeons in this area are trendy.  As soon as we entered, a drink was shoved into our paws.  "This is going to be some event.", I thought sipping my "Not Your Father's Manhattan".  We found a table and sat down.  Array in front of us were six glasses of whiskey.  Waiters flitted through the room carrying food as we waited for the drinking to begin in earnest.  A nice spicy shrimp was offered along with a killer maple glazed bacon.  I nearly had to physically restrain GT from taking a whole tray of the bacony bits of heaven.  The tasting began with a tasting of Maker's Mark bourbon.  The brand ambassador gave us the story of how Maker's Mark came to be and what to look for when we taste it.  Again, another brand ambassador(See Dewars DO post).  How do I get that gig?   We switched to the Jim Beam uinverse of booze and yet another brand ambassador.  Our first whiskey here was the bourbon Basil Hayden.  This was markedly different than the Maker's Mark, more spicy and less sweet.  Our next bourbon was Knob Creek.  This pretty much tasted as you expect bourbon to taste.  You get the vanilla and caramel from the barrel aging, along with some citrus and spiciness.  This has been one of my favorite bourbons for quite some time.  We took a quick detour to the land of rye, with Jim Bean's R(i).  This was a very flavorful and spicy whiskey that will probably not be to everyone's taste.

As we were progessing through the tasting, the decibel level in the room was also progessing.  Upward progression.  We were also being treated to another progression, the proof of the whiskies.  While Basil Hayden was a 80 proof beverage, Knob Creek was 105.  We made our way to Baker's 125 proof.  Luckily there were no open flames when we hit Booker's at over 130 proof.  At least all those glasses will be sterile!  Even at those high proofs, these whiskies had plenty of taste and character.

The emptying fo the last glass brought the event to an end.  GT and I made our out into a cool fall evening.  Not that we noticed the cold, but just saying.    


Fresh Local and Best said...

I like the photo you have of Martha Stewart, it's carries the same frown as the one on Ken Lewis wore when he was testifying about being forced into the Merrill deal in front of congress.

Chef Shari said...

wow, sure sounds like you had a great time. I am not a Martha fan, but I do like wine!

John D. said...

Not a big Martha fan myself, but I wanted to see her in real life.

Jessie said...

you're so lucky to attend to the Food and Wine Festival here in NY. I wanted to go but could not afford it at the moment. Sounds like it was a wonderful event