The annual Greater NY Wine & Food Festival was this past weekend at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tarrytown. There were two different Grand Tasting sessions and I chose to attend the first because of the trio of outstanding chefs that were scheduled to do demos- Andy Nusser of Tarry Lodge, Brian Lewis of The Farmhouse at Bedford Post Inn, and Peter X Kelly of X20.
Andy Nusser prepared a salad with a fantastic array of awesome ingredients including farro, favas, fiddleheads, burrata, and ramps! Yes, he included burrata and even ramps in a dish that they were serving to the entire audience!! Here’s a close-up of this beauty of a dish:
Completely belying the disposable partyware they were served on, the quality of the ingredients were unabashedly extraordinary. I say unabashedly because every element was just so remarkably bright and pure in flavor that it practically screamed at you “this is what fresh, quality ingredients taste like and you are a knucklehead for not eating like this all the time!” And Nusser brought his chef-y magic to the dish by bringing everything into perfect balance. The farro and greens were like the canvas and the foreground had several different highlights depending on where you looked. Those super tender favas and little bits of asparagus added a crisp textural contrast. The ultra creamy burrata with bright young extra virgin olive oil brought a decadent richness to the party. To contrast that richness, there was a touch of acidity from lemon juice and the brilliant addition of a mildly pickled fiddlehead fern. And of course everything was brought way over the top by the mild garlicky undertones of the ramps. Best salad ever? Could be!
Next up (not pictured) was Brian Lewis of Richard Gere’s restaurant, The Farmhouse at Bedford Post Inn. He prepared a beautiful fresh pasta ricotta ravioli featuring…yes, more ramps, woo hoo! I’m not sure if Lewis has done tv or has a history of teaching but I thought his demo was extremely well polished. It’s unusual for someone who is used to being in the back of the house be so relaxed and smooth in a public speaking situation like that. I think back to seeing Todd English back in the 90’s teaching a class of no more than thirty people and how uncomfortable he looked, stammering and murmuring in getting his words out and staring at his pasta dough to avoid having to make eye contact with anyone. Todd has clearly gotten past that and is now a terrificly confident public persona, but it took him over a decade to get to this point. Brian Lewis looks no older than Todd was back in the day, yet he seems like he’s been doing cooking shows for ages. Good stuff. And yes, his ravioli kicked ass too. Simple but rich and delicious. I haven’t made the trip up to his restaurant yet, but it’s now at the top of my must-try list.
And finally for the big finale, Westchester’s most acclaimed chef, Peter Xavier Kelly. The new Zagat’s guide is out and he has made the clean sweep, winning the categories of Most Popular Restaurant, Best Food, and Best Service. The former Iron Chef America winner prepared a corn flan with crabmeat and chorizo.
The flan was awesomely rich and its sweetness came purely from the corn; no additional sugar added. The subtle touches were the addition of Thai chili during the blanching of the corn, and a very interesting use of chorizo as a garnish. He apparently used the same technique David Chang uses with foie gras, namely freezing it solid and then shaving it with a microplane grater. The chorizo he used was so strongly flavored that even the smallest speck of it hit me with a heady shot of pimenton smokiness. The dish was brought completely over the top by the addition of the crabmeat, but in reality it would still have been a stellar dish without it.
Overall I was impressed by the festival. Tons of exhibitors, lots of great food and wine and the space was great. Plenty of room to circulate and having the demos on the outside patio was a great idea. All the staff were friendly and the cleaning and serving crews were on the ball all afternoon. A very well run event from top to bottom and I look forward to returning for many years to come.