By: Ethan Shen
This past weekend was the 2009 Cook. Eat. Drink. Live. food extravaganza in New York City's Meatpacking District. From the wineries and mixologists to the restaurants and celebrity chefs, the three day festival was overflowing with an eclectic assortment of comfort foods and edible finery. After getting a week’s worth cravings satisfied in one afternoon, I was certainly a believer.
The first thing I did was find myself a drink and the festival didn’t disappoint. An assortment of cocktails and liquors were on offer. The two unique stand-outs of the bar were the orange vodka which carried a clean finish and authentic flavor. More interesting was the Shark Water (blue bottle) which was strong and lightly sweet. Classy, but also just little reminiscent of the Gatorade and liquor mixes of simpler times.
Next up was the wine. The festival offered up the wares of over 30 local wineries from New York State and each stop was another surprising reminder that there’s no need to look across ocean’s when there are such fine wineries just around the corner. Drink local, I hear it’s carbon friendly.
Before moving on the main venue we detoured into two side rooms that offered two tantalizing and juxtaposed appetizers. First was the spicy and delicious chili of New York Fire Department. There’s something inexplicably delicious about clichés and this was no exception. I left eagerly searching for a grandma serving cookies.
On the other end were the pepperonis and assortment of aged cheeses offered up by Di Palo Selects were delicious, but the special treat of this stop was the prosciutto which melted in your mouth and carried such great flavor that I may have shamelessly circled around for seconds under the auspices of photography.
And on to the main course. The seared bison offered up by One if by Land, Two if by Sea was excellent and well worth a visit to restaurant. I love eating new animals.
Zenon Taverna, a Greek restaurant from Astoria, had a buffet line of delectables on to share with attendees. From Greek sausage to homemade hummus, everything was delicious. Even more appealing was the 16 appetizer “Feast” promised to one and all ready to trek off the island to witness the power of tapas work its magic on yet another cuisine.
Not cookies, but her sauce was also fantastic.
And last but not least came the celebrity chefs. We were fortunate enough to catch Joey Campanaro, Chef/Owner of The Little Owl and Market Table, and Eric Hara, Executive of The Oak Room. Each chef was a marvel to watch and seeing them effortlessly turn handfuls of raw ingredients into the spectacular dishes in the course of a short conversation almost felt like peeking backstage at a David Copperfield show.
Joey’s home fries with Brussels sprouts made me wonder why anyone every whined about eating these as a kid. And the polenta that came with sweet sausage and peppers was one of the richest and most decadent versions of this simple side I’ve every tasted (I think the secret may have been the four separate cheeses that I watched go heartily into the pot).
The last delight of the evening was Eric’s Spicy Lobster Dumpling which tasted every bit as it sounds. Though one world of advice: the lobster claw on top is to aesthetic effect only. When you visit The Oak Room and order this, your first impulse will be to greedily stuff the entire thing into your mouth like an end-piece spider roll, which is perfectly logical. But you’ll certainly enjoy this delicacy more if you take my word and don’t find this out for yourself.
There were more amazing booths including even a real butcher shop in the meatpacking district! But I can’t fit them all, so you should go see for yourself next year. The show was an amazing experience and I look forward to attending again. I’ve certainly discovered many culinary treasures of this city which I’ll be eagerly following up over the holiday season.
Proceeds from the Cook.Eat.Drink.Live event benefit the ACTION AGAINST HUNGER charity, a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger. Recognized as a leader in the fight against malnutrition, Action Against Hunger works to save the lives of malnourished children while providing sustainable access to safe water and long-term solutions to hunger. To learn more or to donate, visit www.actionagainsthunger.org