New York City Wine and Food Festival, Tale of the Fish
The journey to the New York City Wine and Food Festival all began at none other than the sacred grounds that is the James Beard House. There we connected with the festival coordinator of NYCWFF over Chef Tres Jackson’s Charleston Buzz guest chef dinner that we arranged at the former home of James Beard himself. We began talking about what event at NYCWFF would be the right fit to showcase his culinary style. The festival coordinator brilliantly thought of the Farmer’s Market Brunch which partners chefs with local farms for ingredients to create dishes for festival goers. Since Chef Tres likes to often highlight vegetables as the center of his dishes, his partnering with Norwich Meadow Farms for their carrots was a perfect fit.
Lots of planning and coordination later and fast forward from the guest chef dinner to last weekend which started out, I’ll just stay, not the way I planned – Stuck in the Charlotte airport…for SIX hours. All of the flights were extremely backed up because of Hurricane Michael. However, looking back, if I knew the amazing weekend I was about to have, I’d wait that long all over again.
The first day started out in Brooklyn. I walked and checked out some street art (some renditions of Frida Kahlo and Biggie Smalls were my favorites…made me think, ”it’s all good baby babay”) on the way over to Otway where Tres was prepping for the brunch taking place the next day. I walked into the restaurant that immediately makes you feel more stylish just by being there. I first noticed the décor which is clean and white with brass fixtures and white retro hexagon tile matched with the warmth of inlaid acorn brown wood work and furnishings, warm lighting and light accents of green vines growing on part of the exterior and interior. Then I met the owner, Samantha, who is just as cool and welcoming as the restaurant itself. Otway is just beautiful, and Pro Tip: If you ever get the chance to go, you have to, because the American Bistro style food, by Chef Ian Anderson is perfection. I found this out a couple days later when we ate there, but I guess this is when people say “I digress”.
The next day was the festival. Early that morning, I met Tres at Otway, where we got a huge Suburban Uber XL and loaded that thing up with all of the prepped food for the festival to make our way over to the Standard High Line Biergarten. There, chefs from all over were meeting each other and setting up to serve over 200 people at the Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian hosted event.
One of the best memories from the brunch, aside from eating incredible food, drinking mimosas and meeting Chef Zakarian was my encounter with a lady who made me, honestly, a little angry to start out. Waiting in line for Chef Tres’ Miso Roasted Carrot dish, she got up to the front by the table and starts saying way too loudly, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I waited all of this time for CARROTS!” She went on and on, “Can you believe we are waiting in line for carrots!? Well, I guess I’ve waited this long, so I’ll eat it.” I waited for her to try it to see what her reaction was. She ate a bite and after all of that complaining said, “Oh…actually, that’s really good, you have to try it.” That, is a shining example of what Chef Tres does, he showcases vegetables or whatever he chooses to be the center of a dish at their full potential which changes how some people, like this lovely lady, perceive them first as an afterthought.
Cut to later that night, there was an after party for the festival, which was one of the coolest events I’ve been to. Riding the elevator all the way to the top floor of the Standard High Line, I stepped out into what many call “The Boom Boom Room” where the party was. It is stunning with panoramic views of the city. Treys of champagne were readily available along with single distilled Suntory Japanese Whiskey and passed hors d'oeuvres.
On my way to get a good view of the surrounding skyscrapers from the windows by the fireplace, I ran into Anne Burrell, who is a fixture on the Food Network. I remembered her from Beat Bobby Flay when I was on set to watch Chef Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca and Coda Del Pesce…actually beat. Bobby. Flay. with his Gnudi pasta dish. I asked Anne if she remembered Ken and reminded her of how Bobby Flay’s gnudi fell apart into complete mush. She said, “Oh yeah! I remember Ken. That was too funny.” That moment was so full circle for me, not only because being on the set of beat Bobby Flay was a career moment at the start of KLAPR that I won’t forget, but also because I knew I was going to be seeing Ken the next day for his annual Tale of the Fish festival.
Leaving New York was much easier than getting there with a direct flight and no delays, thankfully. As soon as the plane touched down I was on my way to Tale of the Fish at Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms. This was my first year going, and I hope to not miss it again. The festival is so well organized and the chef talent is definitely first rate. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, tables were set up at the outdoor venue with various Italian wines and incredible Italian inspired dishes. I got there at the end of it, so I only got to try the Feudo Zirtari Siciliane wine and the Skate Wing Braciole by Nick Francis of Trattoria Lucca, and wow was I impressed. Braciole is traditionally made with a red meat, but the Skate Wing (a white fish) was perfectly prepared and was so fitting for an Italian food festival with an ocean backdrop.
Beside the table with the Braciole that blew my mind was Chef Dean Max’s table. He is a celebrated chef (and owner of DJM Restaurants) that I wrote about in press releases at the start of my career while representing the public relations for Pink Sands Resort in the Bahamas. He’s a friend of Ken’s, which just goes to show it’s such a small world when it comes to talented chefs. After talking with Dean I saw Ken, who is partly to thank for Charleston’s amazing food scene and owns two of the best (Italian) restaurants in town. I got to tell him all about the New York City Wine and Food Festival and meeting his Beat Bobby Flay judge, Anne Burrelle. I mean…what a weekend!