New York City Wine & Food Festival’s much-hyped Grand Tasting is a mecca for both foodies and oenophiles alike. The eighth annual event, held last week in a 130,000-square-foot space overlooking the Hudson River, served up culinary demonstrations, countless delicious morsels, and enough wine to satisfy all of the Real Housewives, from Beverly Hills to Manhattan. We took it upon ourselves to try (almost) everything at this year's smorgasbord. Below, a list of our favorites.
Cacao Market Chocolate
With four plates of colorfully painted dark chocolates, the setup at Cacao Market was somewhat of a culinary beacon. The artisanal chocolate line, an offshoot of mother company MarieBelle, featured beautiful products like a New York Caramel Collection, which was perfectly salty and beautifully decorated. Another chocolate-based crowd pleaser: abundant shots of MarieBelle’s rich hot chocolate.
One of the prettiest products? A glammed up bottle of Brut Sparkling Wine from California wine company OneHope. The proceeds from each bottle go toward one of several nonprofit groups, ranging from a clean water initiative to an organization that provides underprivileged girls with school uniforms. For the Grand Tasting, OneHope showcased a sparkling silver number that donates 25 meals to the hungry with each bottle sold. With notes of fresh peach and berries, this wine serves as an excellent taste of summer as the temps drop.
Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Bread
One particular InStyle reporter in attendance would like to clarify that she is not gluten-free nor does she generally enjoy gluten-free products. But the Canyon Bakehouse gluten-free booth made her a believer. Both the cinnamon raisin bread and brownies were as moist and flavorful as any conventional version.
At a booth featuring Larceny Wheated Bourbon and Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, we sampled a shot dubbed the “Gold Rush,” containing ginger liqueur, bourbon, and fresh lemon juice. A nearby patron described the taste as “jelly bean, but in a good way.” We concur.
Leema Craft Foods
One of the most intriguing booths there was one called Leema, which stands for “Let Everyone Eat My Art.” An online marketplace for buying and selling small batch and craft foods, Leema presented patrons with a few of their sweet treats, including crazy-good (and truly beautiful) Ruby Red Spicy Chili and Topaz Cappuccino dipped pretzels from Bijou Sweets. The intriguing combination of spicy, sweet, and salty made this booth a standout (and got us thinking about who might love to receive these unusual homemade treats as a holiday gift).
The telltale sign of a successful booth is the absence of its product. New Orleans-based company Bernard’s Pralines had a line so long, it encroached on its neighbors. One employee, Donna Jackson, whose ex-husband is Bernard of Bernard’s Pralines, the creators of the outstanding, nutty confections, threw Mardi Gras-style beads into the crowd to amuse and distract the hungry hordes. The wait was more than worth it.
Our favorite (and last) morsel of the day was a cup of carrot soufflé with crushed almonds and whiskey sauce from Noel’s Kitchen, a Brooklyn-based cajun, creole, and southern cuisine catering company. The sample tasted like the filling of a sweet potato pie, just right for this time of year. Try making your own version for Thanksgiving (or ring up Noel’s Kitchen).