Monday, October 13, 2008

New York Wine and Food Festival: How SWEET it was...

Francois Payard
This week I got the very exciting news that I won a pair of tickets to SWEET, the sold out dessert party at the New York Wine and Food Festival courtesy of Serious Eats. Blondie had plans with dear friend, Madonna, so I took my partner in life rather than my partner in crime. Lucky Lawman! Blondie, I hope the Madonna concert was all that you wanted it to be (Blondie-oh it was, and more!) because seriously, next year we are going to SWEET...

The line to get in was insane, the crowds were insane and the desserts were the most insane of all. Over 50 of the top pastry chefs in the city offering dessert. How could it not be completely insane...

While in line waiting to get in we were given maps of the place, but all strategy went out in the window when we finally pushed through on of the entrances into the main dessert hall. The crowd nudged us towards the 12th Ave side of the building and we didn't make it back to the 11th ave end until the night was drawing to a close. Apparently I missed out on the best dessert of all, a peanut butter and jelly chocolate covered graham cracker crusted lollipop from Jean Georges. Mmm. Next year, my pretty.

I heard that this year they had more savory nibbles than last year, which after all of the sweets was a welcome change.

The Savory Highlights...

Fig Braised Pork Slider with Slaw from the Whole Foods booth. They were pairing it with Apple Cider which I'm sure would have been delicious, but there's only so much tummy room. Apple're not worthy.

Fig Braised Pork Slider

Emmi Fondue had a couple of stations but they quickly ran out of forks. Still I was able to get a cheese morsel or two. I heart melty cheese.


wichcraft handed out mini grilled cheese sandwiches with green olives grilled inside and an unusual and savory dessert, an Ice Cream Bruschetta made with Ricotta and Olive Ice Cream and a Tomato and Basil Confiture. It was actually quite delicious, but definitely one of those foods that messes with your head. Hmmm...It looks like a bruschetta with cheese...oh, but it's cold...this is ice cream. So crazy, yet tasty.

Ice Cream Bruschetta

The best cheese of the night was undoubtedly the Pecorino Sardo with Truffles and Porcini Mushrooms from the Academia Barilla. Wow. Sharp, salty, and nicely truffly. You could do a lot with a container of that cheese--pasta, bread, a dollop on soup. The possibilities are endless. And in the city it's available at Di Palo Fine Foods and Murray's among other speciality stores.

Truffly Spreadable Cheese

One of Lawman's overall favorites was the Pane e Cioccolato from Del Posto. Delicious Italian bread smothered with a chilled dark chocolate and topped with Olive Oil. Oh yeah, baby. Perhaps the biggest testament to the Pane e Cioccolato's deliciousness was the hard time I had photographing it. As soon as the chef made one there was a hand reaching out to yoink it.

Pane e Cioccolato from Del Posto

The booze was free flowing...there were even alcoholic milkshakes in the Target lodge. Alcoholic milkshake shots, Blondie. ALCOHOLIC milkshake shots.

Tarzhay Milkshakes

I kind of wish I had spent a little more time in the Target lodge earlier in the evening. By the time I got there they were down to the Mint Julep milkshakes which were freaking awesome. Blondie, you should serve these at your Derby party next year.

And they brought the food to you in the Lodge. The little Garam Masala Coconut Fritters were quite good.

Garam Masala Coconut Fritters

Also, as promised Sam Ronson was DJ-ing.

Sam Ronson Spinning

DJ Sam Ronson

Cupcake Watch: It was interesting that more chefs didn't go the cupcake route. Still there were a few notable cupcakes to sample...

cupcakes was offering minis of an assortment of flavors. They were mobbed when I walked by so I didn’t get a photo. At least from a distance their cupcakes on offer didn’t look different from the regular Crumbs fare.

Stanton Social made delicious mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cupcakes with Peanut Butter frosting. The cake was dark chocolaty and moist and the peanut butter frosting was just the right balance of sweetness and peanut butteryness. It's not on the regular dessert menu, but perhaps their chef could be swayed by requests...I imagine a plate of those petite cuppycakes would fit in nicely with their tapas-centric menu. They have my vote for the best cupcake of the night.

Chocolate PB Chip Cupcake

The New York Times had a booth to promote this week's food issue where they were handing out special New York Times logo cupcakes in chocolate, red velvet, and carrot that were created by Dortoni Bakery for the occasion. Their little Sunday with the New York Times display cake was cute, but the cupcakes while they were pretty good couldn't really compete with the rest of the available desserts.

New York Times Cupcakes

Duncan Hines was offering samples of their Decadent Carrot Cake. I just saw this carrot cake at my local grocery store and I was intrigued. It's a boxed mix with no artificial flavors and it also includes a pouch of real carrots and raisins. The cupcakes were appropriately tiny so I snagged a bit and it was quite good. I like carrot cake, but I rarely have it because 1) it usually comes with nuts and 2) I don't typically have time to make a good one from scratch. This new mix makes for a good compromise.

Duncan Hines Decadent Carrot Cake

Kyotofu was also sampling teeny tiny chocolate tofu cupcakes topped with mocchi. This is the second time I'm tried them and as much as I'd like to get behind their cupcakes, I'm not wild about them. They tasty tofu-y to me. I like tofu and I like chocolate. Together, not so much.

Mini Cupcakes from Kyotofu

Kyotofu's Vanilla Beet and Sweet Tofu Pudding is in the running for one of the most striking looking desserts. The color was gorgeous and the presentation was lovely. It definitely was a lighter dessert which would have been welcome under the circumstances, but the taste was overwhemingly bland and tofu-y. Meh.

Vanilla Beet and Tofu Pudding

My other favorite desserts of the night in no particular order were:

The Butterscotch and Banana Pudding from Dovetail. The pudding was creamy and the bananas were a natural pairing that I never considered. Loved the cream on top and especially loved the barbecue potato chip.

Dovetail Butterscotch Pudding

The Pumpkin Cheesecake with Lime Whipped Cream and Spiced Cranberries. I'm not a cheesecake lover. At all. It comes from my mother. She just hates the cheesecake. She did once enjoy a mint chocolate cheesecake I made in high school, though she might tell you otherwise, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this pumpkin cheesecake from Gramercy Tavern. It was wonderfully pumpkin-y and that kick from the lime whipped cream was really unique. Now this is a cheesecake I could get behind.

Gramercy Tavern Pumpkin Cheesecake

Unexpected Fancy Dessert...

The last time I had a pushpop I think it had Fred Flinstone on the package. I remember when I first experienced this frozen dessert packaging. It was magical. And Hotel Loew's brought it all back with their vanilla ice cream pushpop with a caramel and chocolate covered pretzel center. For a fleeting half second I thought that the stick in the center of the pop might have been the chocolate covered pretzel which would have made this even more awesome, but then I realized that logistically that might not work out so well. The center was caramel and chocolate covered pretzel bites. Yummy, but I wouldn't have minded even more pretzel.

Hotel Lowe's Ice Cream PushPop

Best Celebrity Chef Sighting...

Being handed a Hot and Cold Pina Colada by Francois Payard and then witnessing him getting interviewed by the FoodTV network. From the interview I overheard with sounds like Chef Payard will be on Iron Chef next season for a chocolate battle. Mmmm. Chocolate battle…

Francois Payard at SWEET

Best looking dessert that I didn't try...

I have to say that I was really intrigued by the Chocolate Cubed from David Burke and Donatella which I believe included chocolate, caramel and cardamon. Unfortunately when I stopped by their booth there was no one there to ask if it also included nuts so I had to pass. But don't they look pretty?

Chocolate Cubed from David Burke and Donatella

Most Unusual Dessert Combo...

This would have to go to the White Chocolate Tembleque with Hibiscus Jell, Yuzu Curd and Black Sesame Oil from the Marriott Marquis. And it had Pop Rocks on top. And that funny little plastic eyedropper like tube was filled with chocolate milk. A lot of stuff going on, but it all came together nicely. And the chocolate milk was just fun.

White Chocolate Tembleque

Biggest disappointment of the night...

So the event was supposedly hosted by Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes, aka the Ace of Cakes and when I looked at the map I saw that Ace of Cakes and Charm City Cakes were listed as having a booth. As we got closer to Duff the crowd was enormous. I figured some excellent sampling was going on, but as I drew closer I discovered it was just Duff roped off from the general crowd taking pictures with fans. I guess that's what they had him doing all night. Sucks for him and sucks for us. I can't imagine that was a very fun way for him to spend the evening. I love Ace of Cakes and I really wanted to taste one of his famous cakes. Or at least see one in person. Sigh. Maybe someday…

Duff Goldman

For more SWEET pics check out our flickr set.

For more SWEET coverage check out Robyn Lee and Kathy Chan’s No Dessert Left Behind post over at Serious Eats: New York. Ladies, I salute you!


Robyn said...

In that Marriott Marquis dessert, I didn't know what the eyedropper-like thing was..and I squeezed it...and it dripped on my hands and feet. FAIL!

I missed the push pop! Too busy trying to eat everything else I guess...grrr...

Now I want a cupcake.

Brownie said...

We were lucky that the Assistant Pastry Chef noticed me and my honking camera and explained the whole dessert and how to drink the chocolate milk. Unfortunately I didn't really have a sense of how little chocolate milk was in there so there wasn't much left to share with Lawman. Ooops.

Anonymous said...

People attending alcohol filled parties and events must be fully aware that such drinks may cause harm to health. Moderation in drinking liquor is the best thing to do with these events in order to avoid alcohol related troubles.

Siobhan said...

good thing that Brownie the tee-totaler went and not me. I live in NYC, it's expensive. When offered free booze, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth.