Sunday, October 12, 2008

NYCWFF: Sweet!

I found heaven last night, and surprisingly it was located on 28th street between 10th and 11th avenues. It was also known as Sweet, my second major excursion into the NYCWFF. Now, if you've been a faithful or even occasional reader of this blog, you'll know that I love dessert. Point blank, I'd be happy to eat nothing but dessert all the time. I'd be malnourished and fat, but I'd be very happy. Well, that's what last night was all about-- all my favorite things in one place: sugar, chocolate, fat, cream, and champagne. And Food Network Stars.

I brought my good friend BD, who's in town from Boston for the weekend. We joined the line snaking around the block, but within minutes we were inside the cool warehouse venue. After having our tickets and IDs checked several times, we were ready to take on the desserts. But first, we were greeted by two auspicious images. First, a Ferrero Rocher lady, whose dress mimicked the wrapping of the candy (there was an army of these women walking around). If you think by the end of the night my purse was not stocked full of these chocolates squirrelled away in a somewhat shameful pack-rat manner, then you don't know me that well.

For Halloween, I want to be a Ferrero Rocher.

The second welcoming image involved ladies proferring shots of bourbon with honey. Seriously. I passed; BD indulged. It was going to be a long night.


Now, before I detail our lengthy excursion through the Land of Dessert Goodness, I'll note the Food Network personalities that we spotted. First, Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes-- he was quote-unquote "hosting" the event, but all that seemed to involve was standing there taking pictures with various fans. Still, it was cool to see him up close. He looked jolly and laid-back.

Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes!! He was thronged the whole night, so I didn't get much closer than this. There was also a huge whisk cake that Charm City Cakes had made (in the background of the bottom photo), which was awesome.

We also spotted Giada de Laurentiis, who looked AMAZING. She had a child six months ago and looked like she weighed about 100 pounds with a perfectly flat stomach. WTF??? Near the end of the evening, we also saw Dave Lieberman, or at least I think we did-- he was rocketing through the halls with a group of people, and I wasn't entirely sure if it was he, but it would make sense. Regardless-- all this is unimportant because we also saw Tyler Florence. Apparently, as BD informed me, I basically ran into him without noticing while trying to navigate the incredibly crowded venue (essentially, you spent about 60% of the time eating, 10% of the time drinking, and 30% of the time bumping into people). Then I saw him, and I actually decided to turn around, walk back to him, and ask for a picture. Then the following exchange ensued:

Me: Hi, would you mind taking a picture with me?
Tyler Florence: Sure. And you are...?
Me: I'm Janine [shaking hands].
Tyler Florence: I'm Tyler Florence.
Me: Oh, really? That's awesome! I actually do this to all random strangers I pass, but it's cool that you're a celebrity.

Just kidding, I actually just smiled vapidly and probably said something like "Nice to meet you." Anyway, he seemed cool and it was nice of him to pose for a pic. And now, I hereby present the first and likely only picture of myself ever to appear on this blog (and also my new now-and-forever Facebook picture):

FYI, that's Tyler Florence.

Okay. Now that that's out of the way, I present our journey through the desserts. Our strategy was to take one small bite of each, skipping the items that were easily procurable elsewhere or that took up an inordinate amount of stomach space. We refreshed with champagne (me) and beer (BD), although there were mixed cocktails, wine tastings, various liquors, and lots of Kahlua on offer as well. And we noticed that about 40% of the desserts involved pomegranate in some form. Diabetes ho!

The first thing we ate: "Caramel-Raspberry," from Le Bernardin. The caramel mousse was good, but the raspberry pearls didn't add too much.

Offerings from Jacob's Creek winery

PB&J pop, from Jean-Georges. It looked good, but I passed.

Tiny mini cupcakes from Crumbs! I was so tempted, but I reminded myself that I can get those any day and managed to refrain.

Candied Honeycrisp and Olive Oil Gelato, from Eighty One. With a crisp flaky pastry base, this was really spectacular-- one of the best things we tasted.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart from Fleur de Sel. Dense, filling, and chocolatey-- it was okay, but not a standout.

Butterscotch Pudding with BBQ Potato Chips from Dovetail. Didn't try this.

Annnnnd.... pulled pork sandwiches from Whole Foods. Obvi. (Seriously, there were pulled pork sandwiches. I don't know why. Maybe the WF truck got lost on the way to another event?)

Chocolate Sushi from Ono at the Gansevoort Hotel. I almost didn't try this, but then I did, and I must admit it was one of my favorite things in the whole event. I actually went back and had another at the end of the night. There was coconut-y sponge cake around the outside and different flavored mousses on the inside... just spectacular.

Maple Walnut Torte with Warm Roasted Apples from Gotham Bar & Grill. This was good but not as good as I had hoped. The cake had too many walnuts, I think, so the texture was off.

Coconut Chocolate Marquise with Brown Butter Sable, from Plugra Butter (the European, extra-buttterfat, extra-expensive butter company). I thought this was going to be incredibly delicious, mainly because it sort of looked like carrot cake. But it actually wasn't all that great. Speaking of which, there was a Duncan Hines booth that was offering carrot cake. I managed to convince myself not to waste the stomach space on it, even though it was probably the most appealing dessert there to me. Sigh.

"C3": Chocolate-Caramel-Cardamom Niblet from davidburke & donatella. This tasted like Indian food to me (it was the cardamom), which was not a good thing.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Lime Whipped Cream and Spiced Cranberries from Gramercy Tavern. I don't think I tried this; cheesecake is usually no good for my stomach (and I don't much like pumpkin).

Pane e Chocciolato, from Del Posto. Bread and Chocolate. Looked great, but I skipped it-- too filling.

Panna Cotta with Brown Sugar, Almonds, and Pomegranate, from Abboccato. This was delicious, especially the brown-sugary top layer.

Date Pudding with Domaine de Canton and Caramel Chantilly, from P*ONG and Batch. Pichet Ong was standing there with his assistants pretty much preparing these and setting them out one by one. They weren't the prettiest dessert there, but they were goooood.

Concord Grape and Plum Shortcake with Cabernet Ice Cream from Bar Americain and Mesa Grill. I love shortcakes, and the pastry here had lovely sugar crystals on top. But the huge chunks of grape in this felt a little out of place.

A HUGE selection of petit fours from Tribeca Grill. These went so, so fast-- they were entirely out of them after about an hour. I tried a Grand Marnier cream puff, which was exactly as it sounds.

Peanut Budino with Chocolate Ganache and Peanut Brittle, from Spigolo. Tasted sort of like a Reese's cup. Yum.

Two types of cake from Ron Ben-Israel cakes. I tasted the chocolate-stout with malt frosting. It was pretty standard-- definitely tasted like wedding cake.

Milk Chocolate Cremeux with Coconut Tapioca and Hazelnut Tuile, from The Modern. This was okay, though I wasn't a huge fan of the tapioca beads.

Offerings from Murray's Cheese. It sounds weird, but by the time we got here, the cheese was sooooooo welcome-- we were dying for something savory. I had a small piece of piave, my favorite, and that totally did the trick.

Chocolate Opera Cake from Japonais. Their set-up was really cool, but after one bite, as BD said, "this isn't doing it for me."

Sticky Toffee Pudding from Olana. I wish I had had this first-- it was one of my favorites. I love, love, love sticky toffee pudding.

The Levain Bakery Table, with their three kinds of cookies. I was too full at this point to have any of the cookie (which I've had before anyway, and which are incredible), but my favorite thing about this table was the tray of cups of milk. So genius! I had one of the shots of milk, which was just what I needed at that point.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake from Stanton Social. The cake here was really good, studded with peanut butter chips. The frosting was only so-so, too light and buttery for me.

Cookies from AMNY (made by Ivy Bakery). I took a few of these home.

The classy Perrier Jouet champagne room. Near the end of the night, they had run out of champagne flutes; I profferred my Negro Modelo glass (a freebie that came with the beer BD had been drinking), and this guy said, "We're only allowed to pour into flutes. Plus, do you really want to be that girl?" Um, yes I do. Champagne, please.

Ice cream bruschetta from 'Wichcraft. This had black olive gelato and some sort of tomato garnish. I passed; BD tried it and said it was weird.

Organic gelato from Blackwell's. These tiny little cones were adorable, but we didn't have the wherewithal to try it.

"Saveur aux Pommes" with petit fours, macarons, chocolates, and cookies from Per Se and Bouchon Bakery. These all looked good, but we had nearly given up by this point.

...but we mustered a second wind for Roasted Bartlett Pear with Brioche Pain Perdu and White Truffle Honey from Chanterelle. These pears were incredible-- the white truffle just made the sweet, buttery flavors so much more intense. Delicious.

Macarons from Mad Mac, which I'd never heard of. I include this pic for my friend AC, who loves macarons. These looked great, but we didn't try them.

Warm Brioche, Maple Syrup, Smoked Creme Anglaise from WD-50. I broke down and had to try this because it was from WD-50. I took a bite and it was like eating a charcoal briquette-- it was that smoky. Um, gross. I couldn't let that be my last bite, so I dashed to the Ono booth to grab one more piece of chocolate sushi. All better.

So-- that's the story. It was a spectacular, incredible, memorable dessert extravaganza, and I had so much fun trying all the different sweets on offer. Needless to say, were this a restaurant review, I would give Sweet about a hundred and fifty Offset Spatulas. But now, onward and upward-- one more event left...

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