The Side Dish: 2009 NYC Wine & Food Festival Highlights

Traveling to New York this past weekend to visit the 2009 Food Network New York Wine & Food Festival, I have to admit I probably spent more time dining at all the wonderful restaurants than actually attending any festival events. Given that Daily Blender is a little more food and business than Food Network, I picked my events and activities accordingly, visiting great restaurants like Apiary and Rouge Tomate, and attending a few of the festival highlights, including former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni’s chat with Eater‘s Ben Leventhal, a fantastic sushi-rolling class with original Iron Chef Masuharu Morimoto, and a talk from sustainable seafood advocate (and nearly stand-up comic) Alton Brown.

leventhal and bruniAs a food writer, I was most interested in hearing from Frank Bruni about his experiences as a restaurant critic over the past few years. Though Leventhal asked about specific restaurants, Bruni had a number of great things to say about his time at the Times, including how he’d like to be remembered for being an “ethical and honest” critic. He suggested for fellow restaurant reviewers to “let your reviews reflect your private passions.” Where is he dining now that he’s footing his own bill? Peasant and Vinegar Hill House.

MorimotoOn Saturday, I attended the How Do You Roll? event at Morimoto, with the Iron Chef himself. With his arm in a sling, Morimoto let most of his staff do the talking and rolling, speaking up to offer tips on making your best sushi at home. The famed Japanese restaurant orders all of its seafood directly from Japan’s Tsukiji Fish Market, with guests devouring nearly twenty yellowfin tuna each week! When rolling your own sushi, Chef Morimoto recommended keeping your hands moist at all times and utilizing California short-grain rice cut with a bit of rice vinegar.

Alton BrownAnd on Sunday, I dropped by the Alton Brown Culinary Demonstration, which really wasn’t much of a culinary demonstration, much to my glee. With only forty-five minutes for the session, the Good Eats host presented a fantastic offering of ten things he’s “pretty darned sure about” regarding food, from illness outbreaks to the decline of farming in America. After my plea for celeb chefs to use their pop culture statuses ‘for good and not evil’, it was great to hear Brown’s key tips for diners, including educating children about the origins of their food while teaching them how to cook properly, encouraging folks to buy and eat locally and seasonally, and noting the importance of taking time to eat and enjoy your food, particularly in the world of fast food and five-minute meals. Kudos to Brown for really talking about food, and food issues, rather than just throwing a few things into a pan and calling it good.

Look for a few of my favorite New York restaurant highlights in this week’s Friday Five!

~Jennifer Heigl

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