This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Cook.Eat.Drink.Live, "a three-day modern food and wine event at The Tunnel & La.Venue (608 West 28th Street), featuring a large sampling of ultra-premium gourmet foods and spirits, plus appearances from some of the city’s premier chefs."
The event was an interesting hodgepodge of small and mass food and wine and spirit producers, featuring stalls for companies as diverse as Qdoba, Manhattan's Xie Xie sandwich shop, Robert Mondavi Winery, and the North Fork's Lenz Winery. Despite the incongruent mix of vendors, with the disappointments outweighing the surprises, there were some gems that made the event, if not worth its $65 admission, at least a nice lunch.
Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar won my vote for most delicious item at the event for its plate of braised veal cheeks with spaetzle. I tend to lower my expectations when eating food at events like Cook.Eat.Drink.Live, knowing that even the best of chefs will have trouble cooking food for the masses that must be reheated over sternos. Seasonal's rib-sticking dish would have made me happy in any surroundings.
I also enjoyed the Italian delicacies served during Lou DiPalo's (of DiPalo Dairy fame) lecture. While the information that Lou shared on the importance of celebrating the Italian food culture was fairly pedestrian, the plateful of speck, Prosciutto di Parma, Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Pecorino Romano was just as enjoyable as samples that Lou serves at his store.
I must have sampled wines from at least 10 Long Island and upstate wineries at the event. As is expected of New York wine, there was plenty of characterless plonk, but there were also some unique wines that showed that New York can and should be a wine region that can compete with the West Coast regions. Among my favorites were an oaked Chardonnay from the North Fork's Lenz Winery and a few dry Reislings offered by the Finger Lakes' Keuka Lake Vineyards.
Lastly, I could not help myself from sampling two of the desserts on hand at the event. As always, a filled to order cannoli from Ferrara was a delight and the whoopie pies offered by WannaHavaCookie were nearly as delicious to eat as they were pretty to look at.