Two weeks ago, my wife Leanne and I, along with our friends Rob and Danita, jetted off to NYC for the Food Network Wine and Food Festival. Going to New York at anytime is great, but for a wine and food festival was even better!  Although there were many exciting events and food evenings from “Meatball Madness’ to “Tequila and Tacos” with Bobby Flay, the following were my top 5 NYC experiences, in no particular order.

Eataly

Eataly is the Holt Renfrew of foods and reminds me of the Harrods Food Halls in London. If it comes from or is made in Italy, you can get it at Eataly.  Fish is flown in fresh daily, as are truffles, aged cheese and fresh cheese is made right in front of you. This is a grocery store/restaurant of epic proportion. Like any other grocery store, it is broken into areas of produce, meat and dairy. But that’s where the similarity ends. In each of these areas are eating stations where they will cook a meal for you, like tossing you a fresh salad if you are in the produce section. It is also a great place to have a glass of wine and rest your bones after shopping. I will always remember the smells, the sight of a perfectly manicured and dressed chef slicing prosciutto on a hand cranked berkel slicer, and the taste of the real barista brewed, creamy rich cappuccino that was served in a warmed cup.  If you go to New York City, you got to go to EATALY.

Guy Fieri

It doesn’t matter if you like his TV show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Guy Fieri is hands down one interesting dude. We watched his live demo at the festival and he had the crowd enthralled. He had guests running down the aisle, “The Price is Right” style, to receive a gift certificate. He actually gave away the fry pan that he was using to someone in the audience. The guy was crazy cool. The food he cooked was simple, looked and smelled really good. He was engaging, and taught the class relevant pertinent cooking methodology and useful tips. He marinated pork shoulder with a concoction of fish sauce and army of pantry stable items, making this amazing Asian pulled pork that smelled and looked (and I am sure tasted) outstanding.

I am sure he inspired more than one person in that audience to go home and cook, instead of having fast food. He was that good. And I loved the fact that he was looking forward to heading home to hang with his kids.

Jacque Torres

Jacques Torres is one of my all time favorite chefs. When I was the “bread and pastry guy” at the Hardware Grill, I would often watch him on PBS or refer to his amazing pastry cookbooks. His recipes were fool proof and easy to follow. We signed up for his cooking class at the International Culinary Center, and I have to say it was a culinary thrill to meet and cook with him. The nicest part is that he is one of the nicest, kindest, funniest, celebrity chefs that I have met. It is so rewarding to meet someone you put on a pedestal for many years, only to realize that they don’t just meet those expectations, but massively exceed them.

 

 

The Brooklyn Bridge

Not sure how this happened, but due to construction and lack of communication we ended up going across the Brooklyn Bridge four times while in NYC, once by subway, twice via taxi and one time we were walking. Words cannot describe the view. It is amazing to see this city and everything around it – from the other bridges, to the Statue of Liberty, to the New Freedom Tower.  Walking across I was thinking of the chick flick “Kate and Leopold” and couldn’t help but imagine what New York was like 200 years ago.  New York is truly a city that documents how North American society has progressed, for good or bad, over the years in the technology, architecture and humanity. The view from this bridge puts everything into perspective.

The Yankees

When we were in NYC, it was MLB playoff season and we had never been. There was a late afternoon Yankees game so of course, we had to go. To be honest, the game was not all that exciting (the Yankees lost 2-0), but watching the fans and people around us was amusing. Their dislike for their teams’ efforts was both visual and vocal. There was no better place to be a winner, and no worse place to be a loser, than in that stadium. Every fan had an opinion and they were not afraid to share it…complete with many bad, bad words!

Now it wouldn’t be a baseball game if your mind didn’t turn to food. There was everything: ribs and fries, crisp wings, New York style 100% Hebrew hotdogs, cold beer, Cuban sandwiches, née style pizza, and more. It was all very good quality and I had one of the best hot dogs ever! Great food, great company and bad baseball made for a memorable (but not cheap) afternoon, especially when you spend $11 for a draft beer. The one interesting thing was that all menu items had the calories beside them. I couldn’t help but think, do you really care about calories at a baseball game?

 

If you haven’t been to NYC, put it on your bucket list. And if you can, go for the food and wine festival. It is good event in a truly great city.

While I must admit that I like London better, and Leanne prefers NYC. We are 1 for 1….guess we will have to see how we end this tie-breaker.