The chefs lined up, the tables were set, and before you knew it, hungry guests flooded into the room, ready to take on all that was to be discovered.
This past Tuesday, March 25th , the Village Voice hosted its seventh annual Choice Eats tasting event at Pier 36/Basketball City, showcasing 75 restaurants from across the five boroughs, 12 wine and spirits distributors, and 14 breweries and beer distributors, building up to a grand total of 101 establishments which provided spectacular tasting portions of their finest products — chicken liver, shots of whiskey, and everything in between!
Upon entering the facility, which was filled with the delicious aroma of cooked meats and sounds of sizzling ingredients being finished at the tables, guests were free to roam around the entire area, where tables lined the perimeter and ran down the center of the room. Excitement filled the air, and the chefs and employees of the featured culinary establishments were ready to perform as more and more patrons queued up to taste their foods. “Tag us!” they shouted as pictures were snapped and posted online, offering a “one free drink” coupon those who adhered. At an event as energetic as this, where the people are true food-lovers with genuine passion constantly being shown, how could anyone help but to smile?
Now, with 75 restaurants to visit, we were ready to explode by the end of the night! Needless to say, the chefs pulled out all the stops, and choosing one favorite is simply impossible. Therefore, our top 5 food spots of this evening are as follows, and in no particular order, because they all were just too good to be true:
1.Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter (94 Ave. C, New York) - A cheese biscuit with country ham and a squash pickle. Simple, easy--how could you go wrong? Well, this dish was more than right! While some biscuits crumble, this one was soft and not at all dense or tough to eat. The cheese spread on top offered a unique flavor which was neither overpowering nor “funky," as some cheeses tend to be, and combined with the pickled squash, offered a zesty yet cooling, creamy flavor which was beyond delectable.
2. Pete Zaaz -(766 Classon Ave., Brooklyn) The menu read “twice baked potato skins”, but then we were handed something in an egg-roll wrapper. One bite of the salty, fried shell which released all of the creamy, potato-y goodness on the inside stole our hearts as well as the hearts of everyone who gave it a try. Perhaps it’s not the lightest of foods, but wow, was it delicious.
3. Fay Da Bakery (321 Avenue of the Americas, New York)- “I knew that people would like my tart pyramid!” exclaimed the man behind the table in excitement; and, hey, he was correct! Fay Da’s egg tarts were sweet and smooth with enough after tones of the eggs themselves to push this one-bite treat into the “sweet and savory” category. If you’re a fan of bubble tea, you’ll be happy to know that it’s available for sale here and perfect to wash down a dessert with!
4. Ample Hills Creamery(623 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn) - Your sweet tooth will go nuts after your first taste of Ample Hills’ ice cream. Brought to the table for sampling were the Salted Crack Caramel, Sweet as Honey, and Gather ‘Round the Campfire flavors, and if you enjoy thick, creamy, and insanely flavorful dessert treats, then all three of these were made exactly for you. Our favorite of the evening was “Gather ‘Round the Campfire”, which was a toasted marshmallow ice cream with chocolate covered graham crackers. All of sudden, we were eating an ice-cream s’more, and it was all we could’ve dreamed that it would be.
5. SCRATCHbread (1069 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn)- The table was lined with baskets of bread and dipping sauce which complimented each flavor perfectly. Available to taste was the rosemary focaccia, which was light and soft, even after being exposed to the air for a while, paired with baba ghanoush and pickles, which provided sweet and sour flavors in the form of a neat spread to complement this dish. Those of you who are fans of wholesome, slow food will fall in love with this bites from this restaurant.
Luckily, food and drink were a part of this memorable event, and what’s better to finish a meal with than an ice cold beer? Or, perhaps, a shot of whiskey, because of course. Along with food, here are our top 5 beverage distributors, as well as some products which were highlighted throughout the evening:
1. Blue Point Brewing Company - “Can you handle it?” asked the girl handing off a cup of dark beer. One sip and a burst of sour cherry raced across the taste buds. 9% alcohol and fruity as can be, Blue Point’s Sour Cherry Stout was one of the stars of the evening. This drink is definitely recommended for the dark beer lover and the sweet beer lover, but make sure you ask yourself before drinking: can I handle it?
2. Singha Beer - “The Original Thai Beer”. Thai beer? Why not?! The drink itself is actually very light in body, which would usually mean that it would taste just like bitter water; however, the beer pushes forward its floral and citrus notes to express its flavors and remove some of the bitterness. If you’re a fan of beer
cocktails, this might be something to try using to brighten up your drink, or just drink it on its own and
appreciate its light, refreshing taste!
3. Barefoot Wine and Bubbly - The “Barefoot” name is actually pretty common in the market nowadays, and after tasting the Tropical Fusion wine, it’s very clear why. A sweeter wine with very clear flavors of fruit, such as pineapple and apricot, which carried a delightful spritz to help brighten up the drink. This white wine is good for those who enjoy a happy medium between light white wines and full-bodied whites, as well as something sweeter. Easy to sip on, easy to enjoy.
4. Four Roses Bourbon - The perfect bourbon for a perfect cocktail. Four Roses Yellow Label was mixed with grapefruit juice and honey to give you a mellowed down, acidic cocktail with enough of a bite to remind you that you are, in fact, still drinking bourbon. The alcohol blended with the mixers so well that it can only leave one wondering what else can be done with this ever-popular ingredient.
5. White Pike Whiskey - “We’re using it in a cosmo!” stated the gentleman who was serving the drinks — and it did taste very cosmopolitan-esque! Adding another liquor to the list of those perfect for a cocktail, this white whiskey was toned down enough in terms of spice, nuttiness, and smokiness that it yielded a fantastic versatility, allowing consumers to play around with flavor pairings. Plus, the cosmo was delicious.
All of this being said, Choice Eats wasn’t just tables of food. Guests were welcome to visit the Hashtag Hangout and share information about their favorite spots, and the Village Voice was busy tweeting at the evening’s patrons all night long! Not only that, but various food talks and cooking demonstrations took place throughout the night. Allison Kave, author of First Prize Pies, gave her audience tips on how to create and shape pie dough with ease, and Elly Truessell, Whole Foods Market NE Regional Local Forager, discussed product development within the market itself which we all know and love. Another speaker of the evening was Andres Fernandez, the Executive Chef of Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue, located at 267 Flatbush Ave., New York. Chef Andres provided a food talk on how his restaurant creates authentic “queso" while still being located in the Northeast of the U.S.A., which is not exactly “queso territory.” The restaurant itself features southern American/Texan barbecue, which is heavily influenced by Mexican culture and cuisines. Thankfully, Chef Andres was available to speak briefly after his food talk, as well.
Can you summarize how you create the queso?
We use velveeta and mozzarella and we smoke it for about an hour or two. Then, we roast poblanos and jalapeños, spice ‘em up, throw them in there. Once it’s all melted and incorporated, we just top it off with a little bit of pico de gallo, sometimes brisket and sometimes pulled pork.
And it’s pretty popular with Southerners? It sounds delicious!
Every Texan who comes in, right before they have the barbecue, they’re like “I have to have queso.” I feel like we’re the only ones in the city serving queso... I've been down there a couple of times as a kid, and it was just – just legitimate.
With a seal of approval from people who've made this food part of their lives, you know it’s the real deal! After all, nothing can make a person feel comfortable like a taste of their home. With food talks such as this, which provide education on cooking methods and combining different cuisines, Choice Eats changed from being solely a tasting event into a practical and relatable experience in education.
The most fascinating part of this entire night is now knowing that all of these establishments are located in New York directly under our noses. They are passionate about providing us with positive food memories, and this showed throughout the evening. As you can guess, you must make the Village Voice’s Choice Eats event part of your schedule in years to come, as the entire experience is more than worth it. All that’s available to learn and discover is placed in one room, eager to bring a smile to your face and have you leave with a full stomach.