NYC Wine & Food Festival: Christmas for Foodies

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, despite what the NYC department stores are trying to convey, it’s not Christmas. But for foodies, it’s pretty darn close. It’s the NYC Wine & Food Festival! 

Last year I won an all-weekend pass to festival events, courtesy of Illy Coffee. This year, I had no such luck but since it’s a food blogger’s paradise, I was not going to miss this weekend for the world. 

Stacked: Sandwich Showdown

Stacked: Sandwich Showdown

Stacked: Sandwich Showdown

We kicked off the festival with a sandwich tasting event (and vendor competition) hosted by Chef Robert Irvine. You know, this guy with his arm around me… ;) 

 

Casual meet and eat with @chefirvine at the Sandwich Showdown #nycwff

A photo posted by Tom (@tomarchibald17) on

There were quail egg and duck confit biscuits, lamb sliders, ham & cheese meatballs, roast beef dip, cauliflower sandwiches, and pretty much any combination of deliciousness that you could put on a Martin’s potato roll. Paired with some Voss (only the best) and a cocktail in a mason jar (which we got to keep) and this was an event worthy of the pounds that I gained. Tom, who used to work in a sandwich shop and says his favorite food is “sandwiches” (which I say is a food GROUP) – this was some form of heaven for him.

NYCWFF: Biscuit with Quail Egg

NYCWFF: Biscuit with Quail Egg

When I first walked in I thought, “Imagine tasting every single sandwich here!” By the time I left, I was saying, “I can’t believe we tried every sandwich here.” We waddled our way home to digest. 

At the Sandwich Showdown!

At the Sandwich Showdown!

Tacos & Tequila: A Late Night Fiesta

Tom and I went to this event last year and we knew it was one we’d be returning for annually. We turned it into a party with some more friends and family also in attendance. They moved the event to the “late night” category (starting at 10 p.m.) and it also changed to the rooftop venue. It was a litttttlllle chilly but luckily there was some tequila – including an Illy espresso and tequila concoction – to make up for it. Oh, and tacos. Lots and lots and lots of tacos.

Bring on the Casamigos! Tacos & Tequila 2014

Bring on the Casamigos! Tacos & Tequila 2014

The most delicious of the night was probably from Toloache, one of the featured restaurants that I’ve actually eaten at. They had Tacos de Lechon roasted suckling pig with pickled vegetables and chicharron, served with a warm brussels sprout salad. I’m a huge brussels sprout fan, and I hope/wish this is on their regular menu.

In second place, I would vote the taco from Kin Shop: Braised Beef Brisket & Bone Marrow Taco with fried taro root, radish sprouts and yellow bean aioli Crispy Roti. The taco shell was like a warm pita – delicious.

The weirdest of the night was a cow heart taco that I’m told tasted like bland pork. (Animal organs are the one thing I don’t experiment with.)

And no, my memory for all these tacos is not that great. A cool addition to this year’s event was the esurance SavorBand – you tap the band at each taco station and rate what you like. Then you can login online and revisit what you tasted! Cool technology, cool promotion. 

Oh, and since the event was hosted by Casamigos – you know, George Clooney’s tequila – we got a pic with Georgey.  Or is that just an excellent photoshop job? Ah, let’s just say it’s him. :) 

Me, George, Rande, and Ashley

Me, George, Rande, and Ashley

The only disappointment of the night was the “ghosting” of Bobby Flay. He was the headliner for the party, but he showed up to give a quick two minute speech and then he was out of there.

The most we saw of Bobby

The most we saw of Bobby

Grand Tasting (Sunday)

Since Saturday was already packed with “stuff your face” events, Sunday was reserved for the Grand Tasting. While it wasn’t as star-studded as last year (meaning I didn’t have to wait in line for an hour to hand Giada a cook book with trembling hands so that I could get her autograph), the food was just as good without the distraction of the Food Network talents.

Shop Rite Grand Tasting #nycwff

Shop Rite Grand Tasting #nycwff

I entered to win about 50 contest (let’s see how lucky I am) and meanwhile got some fun free stuff. Just like last year, we ate way too much food and still tried to shove more in as if we were starving. (The irony is the event is to combat child hunger… I have mixed feelings about this hypocrisy, but I suppose it’s all for a good cause.) 

Grand Tasting, NYCWFF 2014

Grand Tasting, NYCWFF 2014

We ended up with a strategy of not finishing each sample, no matter how small it was. This was easy to do on the Barilla pasta station and the places that handed you a full sandwich. But on some … it was just too hard to resist. 

Grand Tasting, NYCWFF 2014

Hi Piggy!

Massive Mozz at the Grand Tasting

Massive Mozz at the Grand Tasting

So what was the best thing I ate? Well, I have a new favorite food. Keeping with the the trend of “hybrid” pastries (see: Cronut) I was introduced to the delectably satisfying “bruffin.” It was explained as a brioche muffin-type pastry, but it tasted like a flaky croissant. It was the first and the last thing I ate (and the only thing I had seconds of). The best part is, if I head downtown I can get another one here in NYC – Bruffin is a store on Delancey Street and they are frequent Smorgasburg vendors.

bruffin

Photo courtesy of @thebruffin [Instagram]

Ah, I was so sad to see the weekend end. I think I have post-festival depression – this event is just too much fun. Until next year NYCWFF … 

Photo Booth at the NYC WFF

Photo Booth at the NYC WFF

Vegetarian Brussels Sprout & Mushroom Quesadillas

Here’s an interesting fact about me: I wake up early every morning to watch one hour of the Today Show. Some people find this weird and others don’t understand how I could ever sacrifice sleep for such an unnecessary task. While it initially started a year ago when I returned from Italy and jet lag had me waking up too early, the truth is that I really enjoy this time. I find that one hour of “me” time – sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee and even making time for breakfast while watching a show I usually reserve for enjoying only on sick days – it really does make a difference in my attitude going into start my day. I am happier, more optimistic, and ready for the workday because I already did something for me by the time I start the daily grind.

Anyway, I digress. My point is – I saw an interesting recipe the other day when Jamie Oliver was a guest on the 8:00 hour. He made “comfort food” including Brussels sprouts and onion quesadillas. I LOVE Brussels sprouts – I think because I never had to eat them as a child – and so this caught my attention. But, I wanted to make it my own way, by adding in my other favorite vegetable, mushrooms. (Ok, I know mushrooms are a fungus but for the sake of icky names can we just call it a vegetable?) I also wanted to get on the sriracha bandwagon and paired it with sriracha sour cream – my new favorite condiment.Brussels Sprouts, Mushroom, and Onion Quesadillas The final product was a healthy, vegetarian, easy-to-throw-together weeknight meal. Oh, and it was delicious.

Brussels Sprouts, Mushroom, and Onion QuesadillasSo from one Jamie to another, here’s my take on Brussels sprouts quesadillas.

Brussels Sprouts, Mushroom, and Onion Quesadillas Brussels Sprouts, Mushroom, and Onion Quesadillas

Vegetarian Brussels Sprout & Mushroom Quesadillas
Yields 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large red onion
  2. 10 oz. Brussels sprouts, stems and outer leaves removed
  3. 8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
  4. 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  5. 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  6. 1/2 tsp. salt
  7. 1/4 tsp. pepper
  8. 8 soft flour tortillas (or see recipe below)
  9. 1/4 c. grated pecorino cheese
  10. 3/4 c. mozzarella cheese
  11. 1/2 c. sour cream
  12. 1 tsp. sriracha (or more, to taste)
Instructions
  1. Finely slice onions and sprouts (or use a food processor). Heat oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add onions, sprouts, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove the lid and add mushrooms. Fry for 10 minutes more, until mushrooms are soft.
  3. Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add a tortilla. Top with 1/4 of the vegetables and add parmesan and mozzarella. Layer another tortilla on top. Cook several minutes on each side, until nice and toasted. Repeat for remaining quesadillas.
  4. Let cool for 2 minutes before cutting. Serve with sour cream spiked with sriracha.
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
Jai La Vie http://jailavie.com/

Turkey, Apple, Brie, & Fig Sandwich [Recipe]

Fall means fig season, go fig-ure! (See what I did there?) This means some delicious fruit-filled snacks for those of us that are fig-natics. (Ok, I’ll stop.)  I still have so many savory memories of just over a year ago, sitting on a rooftop in Positano eating local figs and looking out over the Mediterranean. I wish I could freeze that moment and live in it forever …

But back to reality here in NYC. During a bout of very nice weather, Tom and I decided to have a picnic. While intending to go to Central Park, we ended up at Pier A Park in Hoboken as a result of Saturday laziness coupled with the fact that there was a concert in Central Park that day. Tom had a clear menu in mind complete with prosciutto and melon and some apple and ricotta crostini with honey. I wanted FIGS, so I ended up with this container of fresh fig spread from my local market. For our picnic, I was satisfied with fig and goat cheese on crackers – mmm it was all so delicious. 

Jai La Vie

Our picnic lunch: prosciutto and melon, apple and ricotta crostini with honey, and fig and goat cheese crackers

Having a container of fig spread leftover was no problem, because I ended up making this sweet sandwich for dinner (and lunches). It was a perfect summer-to-fall transitional sandwich and it was so simple to throw together. Turkey Apple Brie & Fig SandwichIt was as easy as it looks – some fresh bread toasted, spread with fig and topped with turkey, sliced apple, and brie. Another easy dinner and lunch, assembled. 

One of these days, I’m going to have my own fig tree. I see it in my future. 

For more information on buying, storing and eating figs, check out this guide