An all day experience at Pier 57 in Chelsea, the Grand Tasting features dozens upon dozens of tables manned by some of NYC's top restaurants and chefs where you can sample delicious culinary delights. The Grand Tasting also features samples from many vineyards and spirit producers. Each restaurant present offered a mini version of a signature dish, such as tiny Chicken Kiev from Firebird and mini Calamari a la Plancha salads from Marble Lane. The variety and quality of the food was wonderful, from roasted chestnut soup to Thai sausage served in lettuce cups. Some of the food was a little more..well, adventurous. One chef was serving protein bars made with pureed crickets! Most of the food, however, was more friendly to a more "standard" palette like mine.
Every guest of the Grand Tasting got their own wine glass to bring around to sample delicious wines from producers like Robert Mondavi and Thorny Rose. There were plenty of spirits as well, I sampled flavored vodkas from Pinnacle, whiskey from Red Stag, and Italian Limoncello, walnut, and strawberry liquor among others. Needless to say, I only had a tiny taste of each because there was so much to try!
Another wonderful part of the Grand Tasting is the series of demonstrations from celebrity chefs! I caught two of the demos- Paula Deen and Andrew Zimmern. Paula was a delight, entertaining the crowd while cooking and chatting with her husband who was on stage with her. Her little dog was running around underfoot, too! She seemed very genuine and was so happy when people shared their cooking stories with her. It made her especially happy when people said that their families enjoyed her recipes. Andrew Zimmern was also very entertaining, and his demo had a strong message behind it- that everyone, regardless of socio-economic status, has a right to wholesome, healthy food.
Guests did not go home empty handed, each person was given a gift bag filled with treats to take home. The gift bag had cookies, olive oil, spices, even a wooden spoon! The Grand Tasting was a fantastic event, benefitting a wonderful cause. I had lots of fun trying all different cuisines and spirits, and I hope to be able to attend next year. If you are a serious foodie, the Grand Tasting is an event you can't miss!
- Jessica Dowling, www.beautygnome.com