When asked if I wanted to tag along for free entry to A New Taste of the Upper West Side’s Comfort Classics event on Friday, May 18th, I was appalled. What makes anyone in their right mind think I would want to grace a celebration of New York City hosted by Adam Richman and Andrew Zimmern to sample over 30 of the Upper West Side’s most innovative chefs as they re-envision deliciously inventive renditions of culinary classics and new takes on old favorites?! And that, my friends, was a lesson in sarcasm.
Of course I was stoked to attend this event with my oldest sister, donning complimentary VIP passes thanks to friends at Agency 21. The Miami based consulting company specializes in the creation, development, and organization of special events for both corporate and non-profit organizations all across the nation. They boast heavy hitter clients such as Food Network’s Wine & Food Festival (South Beach & NYC), Dan’s Taste of Two Forks, and Roadfood Festival to name just a few.
I knew the event didn’t need any sprucing up, but due to my longstanding history of ingesting large quantities of food and what some may say is an unhealthy dose of NPH on How I Met Your Mother (for you, non-viewers, that’s Neil Patrick Harris), there was definitely a challenge in the works. Throwing what little inhibition I possessed in the first place to the Big Apple’s windy streets meant only one thing, I accepted a personal challenge to defeat Adam Richman in the ultimate eat off at A New Taste of the Upper West Side. The guidelines were simple: try as many samples from what the 35 vendors had to offer, plus specialty drinks along the way.
Sadly, Adam Richman was pre-occupied by a never-ending line of foodies weak in the knees. Contester or no contester, this city was about to see something it had never seen before!
My agent (older sister, Shena) and I decided a strategic attack was best. The vendor tables were mostly lined up around the large tent’s perimeter with a small middle section dedicated to about six other participants, and a random beverage distributor here and there. However, prior to our official start, a Big Daddy’s representative went above and beyond to make sure their Mac n’ Cheese was our first bite, and it proved to be a memorable one for all the right reasons!
After gulping down a much anticipated munchie, I began my matchless food challenge at Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft. The casual NYC hot spot that offers sandwich service like no other refuted a well-known, ancient proverb “save the best for last.” Their Roasted Pork sammies with Coppa, Pickled Relish, and Fontina outshined the rest as my favorite offering of the night, even trumping Moolife Group – The Sunburnt Calf’s Australian Kangaroo Shepherd’s Pie and Barney GreenGrass’ Pastrami Salmon on Pumpernickel with Homemade Mustard. ‘Wichcraft wasn’t my last sample, but it was the only one I somehow managed to fit seconds of.
Despite the trance cast on me by this “’wichery,” there were many other notable offerings at the 5th Annual New Taste of the Upper West Side. Shena’s meatless tendencies led her to fall in love with GreenMarket’s Spinach Soup with Yogurt and we both went nuts for the Baklava from Gazala’s Place. Whole Food’s, the event’s Title Sponsor, hit a home run as well, pairing their twist on Grilled Cheese and Gazpacho with a Summer Cocktail. There were many attempts to re-master the mac n’ cheese but Marc Murphy’s Ditch Plains found a special place in my heart (stomach) with their “Ditch Dog” mac n’ cheese/hot dog combo.
It was a foodie’s playground built by the talented chefs you saw at every full-bellied turn. To explain each culinary master’s offering in accurate detail would leave a writer with bruised fingertips and the reader’s jaw suspended over a puddle of drool. The entire line-up for Comfort Classics is available at A New Taste of the Upper West Side’s website but I recommend attending the event yourself in 2013 for a full flavored experience of your own!
For those of you who didn’t forget about my initial challenge, rest assured, I came out on top. The ride home might have been more comfortable if my belly wasn’t touching the glove box but it was well worth it!