Showing posts with label Choice Eats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Choice Eats. Show all posts


Tacos and Ice Cream and Barbecue...Oh my!

Ahhhhhhh Choice Eats, that fabulous glutton-inducing grub free-for-all that challenges even the strongest to a battle of overstuffing. "How long can I stay upright?" you ask yourself as you meander pass line after line, table after table you've already visited (maybe twice in the case of Salted Caramel Crack ice cream) in search of that one last amazing bite. Ultimately you succumb to biology, as we all eventually do, bottle of water in hand, your bed not far on the horizon. At least you get to wake up the next morning (in my case for all of your benefit) to photographic proof of everything you ate the night before. Get ready for an epicurean hysteria.

The event was held in a new, rather remote location at Basketball City on the river just north of the Manhattan Bridge. The space allowed the evening to flow with slightly less congestion, but as the night wore on, the lines for whichever restaurants still had food after 8pm seemed to each run into each other (all the more reason to go VIP for this one!). There were 84 restaurants, including an entire row full of dessert, and just under 3,000 attendees. Major successes of the night were BBQ and meat in general and eclectic desserts.

I hit the ground running eating with a couple of my blogger friends, Stephanie and Dave (Laura came a little bit later), and we never really looked back. First up...vegetables! You have to get the digestive system prepped after all and the folks at Dirt Candy know how to work a piece of broccoli! Their broccoli hot dogs with broccoli sauerkraut didn't make me miss meat for a second. Which leads me perfectly into my next bite (and many after that)...Kuma Inn whipped up flavorful Adobo braised pork shoulder and pan de sal bites while Swine served adorable yet delicious bacon-wrapped dates with chipotle blue cheese sauce.

Broccoli Hot Dogs from Dirt Candy
Adobo braised pork shoulder and pan de sal from Kuma Inn
Bacon-wrapped dates with chipotle blue cheese sauce from Swine
Next stop, an Astoria outpost I've been meaning to try for a while, Bear, served Siberian Style Dumplings in a light crema dill gravy so good that I ate all three! Mable's Smokehouse out of Williamsburg served my top dish of the night (and clearly a crowd favorite as they ran out early!): smoked beef brisket with candied yams. The crust on the brisket was damn near perfect and the yams were anything but what your Aunt Ida always makes for Thanksgiving--these things tasted like what diamonds would taste like, if you could eat diamonds, that is.

Siberian style dumplings from Bear
Beef brisket and candied yams from Mable's Smokehouse

The Little Prince served excellent and fresh steak tartare with fried capers, aioli and grilled bread, while Alobar took the creative route and served their beet tar tar with hearts of palm, apple coriander nage, goat feta and scallions

Steak tartare from The Little Prince
Beet tar tar from Alobar

Luke's Lobster was back with their usual fervor, although they decided to mix things up and offer crab rolls instead of the shrimp rolls they've been serving for at least the past 3 years. Red Hook Lobster Pound also opted to change their pace and served creamy lobster bisque instead of their usual rolls.

Main crab roll from Luke's Lobster
Lobster bisque from Red Hook Lobster Pound
Xe May Sandwich Shop served an array of sandwiches--I tried the flavorful lemongrass chicken with chili mayo but didn't care for the tortilla. Max stood out by offering lasagna we deemed "the good kind of mushy," and I liked the one-bite red endive cups with smoked salmon, avocado and creme fraiche presented by Anella. It was simple, elegant, and refreshing among a sea of heavy meat dishes.

Lemongrass Chicken from Xe May Sandwich Shop
Meat lasagna from Max
Red endive cups from Anella

Harlem joint Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken seemed to bring every item from their menu, and the crowd was eating it up with a line forming early on. I really liked their mac 'n cheese and collard greens.

Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken

Back to the meat, John Brown Smokehouse served house cured pastrami that was extra moist and Ovelia Psistaria Bar served an interesting take on Middle Eastern meat with Greek coffee steak with mushroom halloumi poutine. I was a big fan of the burnt ends at Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue as well as the beef meatball with classic tomato sauce and parmesan cheese from The Meatball Shop.

House cured Pastrami from John Brown Smokehouse
Greek coffee steak from Ovelia
Burnt ends at Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue
Beef meatball with classic tomato sauce and parmesan cheese from The Meatball Shop

One of my favorite Astoria brunch spots and soon to be featured Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives restaurants, Queens Comfort, served up their Atomic Mac and Cheese with cheddar, fontina, sriracha and buttermilk ranch sauce. It had quite the kick!

Atomic mac and cheese from Queens Comfort

Most intriguing and successful dish of the night went to Williamsburg's Egg Restaurant with pimento cheese on pork crackling bread. The name doesn't even do it justice as there was so much complexity going on I almost couldn't handle it. Another particularly delicious concoction was the "Braciole" Tortelli served with toasted garlic and herb croutons from Rubirosa. Khe-Yo served crunchy coconut rice (I could seriously pop these like candy) with Kaffir lime sausage and baby iceberg lettus.

Pimento cheese on pork crackling bread from Egg
'Braciole' tortelli from Rubirosa
Crunch coconut rice from Khe-Yo

Below-the-border cuisine was heavily represented in several successful permutations. Murray Hill hidden secret Mexico Lindo prepared banana leaf steamed local rabbit tacos with cascabel mole rojo and butternut squash, garnished with micro cilantro and almonds. Also, Fonda served delicious cochinita pibil--Yucatan style Achiote marinated slow baked port shoulder with oregano and pickled onions.

Banana leaf steamed local rabbit tacos from Mexico Lindo
Cochinita Pibil from Fonda

Although I'll admit we laughed at the name for a hot second, the Dark Men noodles from Tabata Noodle Restaurant were entirely different than anything I'd ever had and I definitely wanted more. No there weren't any bits of men (or women for that matter!) in the cups, but there was black sesame paste noodle soup with spicy ground pork and scallions.

Representing the Aussies, quite well actually, Sheep Station plated flavorful roasted leg of lamb sandwiches with sautéed onions, tomato, garlic mayo, and baby arugula on a po boy roll.

Roasted leg of lamb sandwich from Sheep Station
Before we get to the sweets, lets highlight some of the flavorful greens. Telepan Local surprised me with their broccoli rabe with white anchovies (I couldn't bring myself to eat it), egg yolk puree and parmesan. Also, Bunker prepared a Vietnamese style long bean salad with watercress, kaffir, red onions, peanuts and toasted coconut flakes.

Broccoli rabe from Telepan Local
Long bean salad from Bunker

Now for the best part (if you are not totally sick of staring at endless food pictures yet)...Choice Sweets! First up, and my favorite, was the ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery. Even after trying new-to-me flavors "Sweet as Honey" and "Gather 'Round the Campfire," the good old "Salted Crack Caramel" is still my hands down favorite. Fay Da Bakery was also a repeat favorite from last year with their bubble milk tea and other goodies.

Ample Hills Creamery Ice Cream
Bubble Milk Tea from Fay Da Bakery
Robicelli's was a hit with their chocolate chip cookie bars and I thoroughly enjoyed the do-it-yourself popsicle bar from La Newyorkina.

Chocolate chip cookie bars from Robicelli's
Popsicle bar from La Newyorkina
Another ice cream purveyor, Oddfellows Ice Cream Co., scored points with me with their cedar creamsicle with orange foam--it was woodsy and refreshing all at the same time. East Village favorite Edi and the Wolf also surprised me with their super rich chocolate gianduja with milk crunch strawberries and caramel.

Cedar creamsicle from Oddfellows Ice Cream Co.
Chocolate gianduja from Edi and the Wolf
To wash it all down, I headed over to the Singlecut Beersmiths table for their Keith English Pale Ale. I'm not usually a fan of IPAs, but I liked this a little better. Their 19-33 Lagrrr is still one of my favorites.

Before we left, we had to take advantage of the exclusive VIP lounge upstairs (and take the opportunity to catch our breath and get some space away from the very crowded venue). Little did we know, there were still lots of amazing bites to be eaten!

Something I would have been very sad to have missed if I never made it to the VIP section was a large selection of special donuts from The Donut Plant. This place is seriously AWESOME. I ordered the cashew and orange blossom cream donut, but also tried the coconut cream and peanut butter and jam. All were YUMMY!!

The Donut Plant spread
Cashew and orange blossom cream donut from The Donut Plant
As you can imagine, we were beyond stuffed at this point but we examined the rest of the samples in the VIP area anyway. I mean, it's VIP so it had to be good right? Morgan's Brooklyn Barbecue served dry rubbed Texas style barbecue which definitely held it's own, but was not as good as Mabel's Smokehouse or Fletchers. Clarke's Standard, one of my go-to lunch spots, sampled their cheeseburgers, and Grandaisy Bakery had a wide array of baked goods. We tried the cauliflower flatbread.

Texas Style Barbecue from Morgan's Brooklyn Barbecue
Cheeseburger from Clarke's Standard
Cauliflower flatbread from Grandaisy Bakery
Alas, the food was eaten, the drinks were sipped dry and everyone went home fat and happy. Until next year Choice Eats...or you can just hold out 2 more months for Choice Streets!!!



Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and Girls! (On second thought, leave the kiddies at home...). Start prepping your salivary glands now as the Village Voice's 7th Annual Choice Eats tasting event is on the horizon!

Last year the event continued to amaze, featuring bites from Luke's Lobster, Del Posto and Fay Dah (my favorites!), and the 2014 event (in a new venue downtown!) is sure to be a smash. It will be held on Tuesday March 25 at Basketball City on Pier 36.

General admission tickets are $60 and include access to the event from 7-10 pm, while VIP tickets ($85) allow you to come an hour early and snag a fancy giftbag. Considering the wait to get in is usually around the block, I'd highly recommend a VIP ticket! Tickets go on sale on Wednesday 1/29, but you can get yours now using the presale code EATSPR. This event ALWAYS sells out, so I'd encourage you to act quickly.

The first round of restaurants will be released tomorrow, but the sponsors include Stella Artois, Great Brewers, Southern Wine & Spirits, Whole Foods Market, Asahi Beer USA, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly and Hot 97. The charitable partner is Slow Food NYC. To get you super excited, here's an official photo of Laura and me from last year's event - we're featured on the official advertisement!

For the first time, Choice Eats will be accepting volunteers to assist The Village Voice team on-site at the event. All volunteers will receive a free general admission ticket to The Village Voice's 3rd annual Choice Streets Food Truck Tasting Event to be held in May 2014 (specific date TBA). To apply, you must be 21 years or older and fill out this application.


Get Ready for a Virtual Food Coma

There's one day a year that I purposefully hold back food all day in order to prepare myself for a bit of a binge. That day in 2013 was yesterday for Choice Eats!

As I lined up with fellow gluttons outside of the the 69th Regiment Armory, I could feel my insides churning and my mouth salivating over what promised to be the biggest and baddest food event NYC would see all year. We were let into the VIP room downstairs, and despite being ridiculously warm, it was nice because we got a sneak preview of many of the food samples without the crowds. Here, my friend Laura and I tried the chicken chorizo sandwich from Brooklyn Cured, bite-sized chicken pot pies from City Grit, truly awesome kale chips (and unfortunately I didn't catch the restaurant that made them, anyone know?), BBQ pork ribs from Pig and Khao, a jam goat grilled cheese from Mrs. Dorsey's Kitchen, 2 different pretzels with 2 different dipping mustards at Sigmund's Pretzels, cheese from Beecher's, and, for the most unusual bite of the night, a red wine marinated egg from Thirty Acres.

Chicken Chorizo Sandwich (Brooklyn Cured)
Bite-Sized Chicken Pot Pies (City Grit)
Kale Chips
BBQ Pork Ribs (Pig and Khao)
Salted and Truffle Cheddar Pretzels with Wholegrain and Beet Horseradish Mustards (Sigmund's Pretzels)
Jam Goat Grilled Cheese (Mrs. Dorsey's Kitchen)
Beecher's Cheese
Red Wine Marinated Egg (Thirty Acres)
Then Laura and I entered the main tent armed with a set of rules (split mostly everything, no drinking until we're done eating, eat as little bread as possible, etc.) which made our Choice Eats experience flow seamlessly.

First stops were set aside for seafood. None of the lobster roll places were actually serving lobster rolls, which sucked, but was as expected. We did a shrimp roll taste test between Luke's Lobster and Red Hook Lobster Pound and Luke's won by a landslide. Everything they do is simple and delicious, showcasing the fresh seafood, while Red Hook seemed to hide their shrimp in lettuce and mayonnaise.

Shrimp Roll (Luke's Lobster)
Shrimp Roll (Red Hook Lobster Pound)
We then made our way around the event guessing which tables would run out or garner the biggest crowds. First stop, The Meatball Shop for their buffalo chicken balls, and good thing we did, because the lines for these guys were CRAZY later on. In the same row we visited Txikito for their Patatas Riojanas (braised lamb with chorizo and potato Alava style) and Rosamunde Sausage Grill for their beer sausage

Buffalo Meatball (The Meatball Shop)
Patatas Riojanas (Txikito)
Beer Sausage (Rosamunde Sausage Grill)
There was lots more meat to be had on the south side of the armory (is this paleo thing really starting to catch on?). First there was country pate with spicy tomato jam and pigs ears at Resto, pastrami sliders with coleslaw from John Brown Smokehouse, and (one of my favorites) Greek coffee rubbed skirt steak and sesame crusted fried feta from Ovelia Psistaria Bar.

Country Pate with spicy tomato jam and pigs ears (Resto)

Pastrami Sliders with Coleslaw (John Brown Smokehouse)
Ovelia Psistaria Bar
Although I didn't sample anything from Pulino's, they has an awesome display of antipasti and tiramisu. Allswell was also serving up some mighty fine meat pies. We got the chorizo pie (I sensed a big chorizo trend last night), and I loved the buttery, flaky crust.

Antipasti and Tiramisu (Pulino's)
Chorizo Pie (Allswell)
Then we, of course, stopped for a dessert break; boozy cupcakes from Butter & Scotch, Almond Joy Bastoncini and Farro-Walnut Burgers (I know, not dessert) from Del Posto (who always has an amazing table at Choice Eats), and cannoli from Carlo's Bakery.

Boozy Cupcakes (Butter & Scotch)
Farro-Walnut Burger (Del Posto)
Almond Joy Bastoncini (Del Posto)
Dessert Display (Carlo's Bakery)
We started to slow down, but quickly got a second wind as we made our way down the center aisle. Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue was serving up delicious chopped barbecued pork sliders (although the pickles were a bit too intense and briney for me), while Joe Dough replaced their giant sandwich display from last year with a buttermilk biscuit with breakfast sausage and wildflower honey butter (this girl loooooooooves her biscuits, so that made me happy).

Chopped Barbecued Pork Sliders (Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue)
Buttermilk Biscuit with Breakfast Sausage and Wildflower Honey Butter (Joe Dough)
The chets at Porchetta were dishing out super moist porchetta crostini and the currywurst at Landbrot Bakery & Bar really had a lot of great flavor and spice.

Currywurst (Landbrot Bakery & Bar
The next and almost last 5 bites were perhaps my favorites of the night. Dirt Candy always surprises me with their ingenuity and last night was no exception; I loved their cherry tomato tart with smoked feta. El Amacen also hit it out of the park with their hand cut steak empanadas, ceviche de bife, and costilla de res (Malbec braised shortrib). Anyone that knows me knows that truffle is the way to my heart, and Max found my heart with their porcini ravioli with truffled cream sauce. Those were all great, but I've been telling everyone about the double decker broccoli taco from No. 7 as well as the pork bun with caramelized onions from Nom Wah Tea Parlor.

Cherry Tomato Tart with Smoked Feta (Dirt Candy)
Hand Cut Steak Empanadas, Ceviche de Bife, and Costilla de Res (Malbec Braised Shortrib)
Porcini Ravioli with Truffled Cream Sauce
Double Decker Broccoli Taco with Peanuts, Feta, and Black Beans (No. 7)

Mini Steamed Pork Bun with Caramelized Onions (Nom Wah Tea Parlor)
Mexico Lindo impressed me again this year with their tamales with mole and butternut squash, and after hearing someone describe the fried chicken from Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter as "bangin,'" we had to try it ourselves. It was pretty yummy indeed.

Tamales with Mole and Butternut Squash (Mexico Lindo)
A Mini Fried Chicken Picnic (Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter)
Before we gave up completely, we headed back to the Choice Sweets section for some Bonfire Minis -- cocoa waffle cookie, dark chocolate ganache, salted caramel sauce, roasted meringue -- from The Good Batch and Asian sweets from Fay Da Bakery, not to mention some bubble tea!

Bonfire Minis (The Good Batch)
Asian Sweets (Fay Da Bakery)
Laura and I rocking Smartwater, beer, and bubble tea from Fay Da
All in all, it was a successful night. I was definitely full, but not to the "past-full" level I had gotten to in years passed. We got to most of what we wanted before the crowds loomed, which was key, and I left with a goodie bag from whole foods (woot woot!). With all that said...who's ready for Choice Streets?