The sun was shining, it was around 70 degrees, and there was a steady gentle breeze. What could make it an even better late summer afternoon? How about an all-star cookoff by the East River with April Bloomfield and friends?
The two-day chat n’chew event, Taste Talks, was organized by the Northside Media Group (publisher of the L Magazine) and curated by Chef Bloomfield. She assembled a group of stellar chefs and paired them up to create some very interesting dishes.
Bloomfield, the queen of nose-to-tail dining, teamed up with Nate Smith (Allswell) and served char-grilled beef heart and preserved lemon relish; Sean Rembold (Reynards) and Chris Bear (Grizzly Bear) offered Kentucky Mutton burgoo with corn bread; John Stage (Dinosaur BBQ) and Jon Feldman (Stumptown Coffee) offered brown sugar and coffee-rubbed pulled pork shoulder sliders with red eye gravy barbecue sauce and whiskey pickles; Carolyn Bane (Pies n’Thighs) and Caroline Fidanza (Saltie) plated ancho and coriander smoked chicken thigh skewers, while Tom Mylan and Brent Young (Meat Hook) and Francis Mallmann gave out ribeye with chimmichurri and chapa bread.
South African chef Hugo Uys and Sommelier Darren Humphrey paired up to showcase South African cuisine and wine. Uys’s booth featured mini ostrich burgers with black cherry chutney and Cape Malay seasoned frites. My taste card suggested that I get a glass of South African wine in the next booth. I had a choice of Zafeiraka, Laurent Miquel Syrah or the dry Pinotage. For me, a glass of Pinotage and I was very happy. Other drink options at the fest included Strongbow hard cider, Kings Ridge Riesling or Owen Row Sauvignon Blanc.
Still got room! So I helped myself to some grilled beef tongue with pearl couscous and mathura by Eli Sussman (Mile End Deli) and Dave 1 (Chromeo); smoked Texas beef tenderloin with summer corn succotash from Jeremy McMillan (Bedford Post Inn) and Elizabeth Karmel (Hill Country), the Mediterranean-inspired wood grilled yellow fin tuna collar whipped up by Joe Pasqualetto (Rucola) and Brian Leth (Vinegar Hill House), and the ‘Cue smoked bacon with Mast Brothers mole and salsa verde by Nicholas Kayser (Fatty ‘Cue) and Rick and Michael Mast (Mast brothers Chocolate)… Lord have mercy!
There were plenty of picnic tables under big tents, and buckets of Orangina, Acqua Panna and Pellegrino for everyone. This is dining outdoors on steroids.
The line for Van Leeuwen Ice cream was as long as the Mississippi River, but was worth it for me because Chef Dan Barber’s (Blue Hills at Stone Barns) sweet corn ice cream reminded me of my Dad, who taught me how to make a sweet corn pudding when I was seven-years-old. He mixed fresh milk, corn starch, sugar, cooked it slow and low on the stove top, then added some fresh yellow corn kernels, and patiently stirred and stirred. Food—it brings up such sweet memories.