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Levon's Obsessions

A gal whose obsessions lie within fat, sugar, carbs, caffeine, and beverages that could strengthen the heart or seal up a womb.

Archive for the category “Restaurant Competitions”

Taste of the Nation NYC 2014

Sponsoring the annual Taste of the Nation NYC event, I assumed we would have some sort of laborious obligation prior to the event.  Which was perfectly fine given the dynamics.  No Kid Hungry is an ongoing initiative and close affiliate in which the overall objective is to raise awareness, engage the public, and raise money to feed hundreds of thousands of children. We arrived hours in advance to help load in the vendors’ food and materials.  Since that was my heaviest ordering day of the week, I spent the majority of my time taking orders on my laptop in my makeshift office space in the wardrobe room.  Hours after everything was strategically set up, we were given wristbands and asked to stay for the VIP cocktail reception.

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This was bittersweet since I was far from fabulous that day and not at all dressed for the occasion. I had to suck it up and go to the ladies room to primp myself into the most presentable shape possible.  I figured I’d just lurk around the event looking like the overworked journalist in all black and grey, and knee high, flat boots, yet chic and smart looking enough to be present.

There were countless restaurateurs and vendors displaying their trendiest creations possible, in addition to falling into the theme of healthy cuisines.  From the delectable crab puffs at one booth, to Nios‘s seared scallop and crispy pork belly, accompanied with white sweet potato puree, pickled ramps, and fava bean salsa..

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..to Red Rooster Harlem‘s jumbo lump crab salad Ssam with Yuzu mayo and pickled chili..

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There were several notable moments that put a euphoric look on my face like the shrimp on shrimps moment I experienced at Alder NYC‘s booth with
Maine sweet shrimp, green papaya salad, and peanuts on an amazing skin textured shrimp cracker..

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There were other moments where your true food knowledge versus your personal palate were tested.  Like the Quail egg en gelée with American caviar from Balthazar. Balthazar has some of the most amazing pastries in the neighborhood of Soho, as well as countless other locations.  So I was curious to try something on the complete opposite end of the sugary spectrum, which is what led me to the golden speckled egg.

quail

Poached quail is truly an acquired taste, as are certain types of cordials and spirits, as are everything in life that comes on a plate, or in a styrofoam bowl at a $200 – 400 ticketed charity event.  If this were a Paris Fashion Week show, let’s just say this would’ve been the Lanvin finale piece that made every bit of since to the Parisiennes in the tent that watched the entire show/collection and knew the entire story.  To the street pedestrians however, it would’ve left them in a slight state of bewilderment.  Let’s just say after swallowing the egg and wandering off to the next tent/I mean booth, if I weren’t on such a strict diet I would’ve downed the first shot of bourbon in sight..

Other dishes on display included L&W Oyster‘s smoked cantaloupe oyster shooters which were delightful and refreshing..

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..Minton’s North African spiced lamb loin was a pleasure to digest, along with the pleasant culinary staff that I spoke to about their location and their sibling restaurant The Cecil..

..my favorite art piece at The Cecil (artist unknown..)

..my favorite art piece at The Cecil (artist unknown..)

I also had the opportunity to chat with Chef Banks White as well, mainly about distributor stuff. Chatted up to the point of forgetting to take a picture of the savory loin..

Miss Lily’s and their incredible jerk chicken chutney dish was, very Miss Lily’s..  It was was piercing in flavor and colorful.  No different than what I’ve experienced at their restaurant in the West Village. Their staff at the TONNY event were replicas.

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..and this extraordinarily, naturally flavorful and robust dish which was a vegetarian’s sanctuary.  I believe this was the Hamachi Crudo from Bill’s Food & Drink ..

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..situated next to its sibling restaurant The Lion, with their cocktail explosion.

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I was in heaven and hell at this show due to my gluten/glycemic free diet I’m on for the next few weeks.  I did however triumph not having a single cocktail, wine, or shot of caffeine the entire evening.  They looked amazing though..

Overall it was a successful event and I had a great time and appreciation for the limited dishes I was allowed to indulge in.  Anything involving food and passed hors d’ouevres from the top 80 restaurants in NYC, and the notion of donating 10 meals for every dollar raised with the various proceeds and silent auctions, I’m all for it. It definitely warrants my stamp of obsessionista approval, and I definitely look forward to doing it again next year..

 

 

 

 

 

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The $2,499 Coffee Maker

So last weekend I had to work in Westchester NY, and had the pleasure of stumbling upon the Bentleys of coffee machines – the new Miele CM5 Countertop Coffee System.  It was dead smack in the middle of the mall where this hugely inflated coffee machine moment went down.  It was a part of the Simon Fashion NOW event at Westchester Mall where all kinds of goodies were being served and sampled from Benjamin Steakhouse, Thyme in Yorktown Heights, local bakeries, and obviously Miele .

Walking around this machine ($2,499 sticker price) was like walking around the new Continental GT Speed Bentley that’s on display in malls that contain a demographic miles away from the one that I fall in.  You inevitably do the walk around, but you do not dare complete a lead sheet.  Well this coffee maker encounter was kind of like that moment.

I was torn between accepting a sample and just walking away.  Did I want to experience coffee paradise, knowing the only other chance of me having that repeat experience would be at another mall event or coffee lovers tradeshow?  Or did I want to just go to the 1 out of 4 Starbucks in the mall and call it a day? I took the sample.  It was heaven.  My final opportunity at coffee heaven, but heaven none-the-less.

The World’s Most Amazing Wedding Cake

So I’ll start off by saying, in no way, shape or form am I alluding to any type of monumental milestone in my own life.  Not for current discussion anyway.  However I happened to stumble across the most incredible wedding cake that I had ever seen in the form of a dress.  Seeing this gown made me investigate deeper to see if there was any competition that could come remotely close to this level of art.

First I found Cake Central’s wedding dress cake which had a one shoulder, simple yet elegant number with minimal embellishments.  They even went as far as listing instructions which is pretty amazing.  I’m just not sure what bridezilla would have a fraction of the time or remaining brain cells left to make their own wedding cake…

Photo Source Cakecentral.com

Then there was the beautiful ballroom, princess gown piece made by Cakes We Bake with a very simple yet classy, dusted sugar layer for its finish.

Photo Source Cakeswebake.com

..But my wedding cake dress investigation didn’t end there.. As I looked and looked and looked, I became far more intrigued with this idea of a wedding cake shaped like a bridal dress.  It was and still is absolutely fascinating.  Being in the single world for so long, you simply don’t think about things like this.  So the next couture mega pastry I came across was from Christina Smith.  Her detailing was more on the draping side than flat patterns and embellishments.  The draping was that of a Valentino, Dior or Lacroix pattern.  It was truly one of the most beautiful pieces I had seen.

Photo Source Christina Smith

I then discovered a piece with a very pre-dark Alexander McQueen feel to it at Perfect Wedding Day.  Being that he has always been one of my favorite fashion designers, it’s very difficult to not get completely distracted from the ultimate cake, which was the inspiration behind this wedding cake blog entry in the first place.  None-the-less, it is a very, very well thought out and well constructed couture piece..

Photo Source Perfect Wedding Day

After seeing Christina Smith along with a Perfect Wedding Day and the other extraordinary pieces, one would find it hard to believe that there was a cake that was yet even more stunning.  So beautiful that I wouldn’t for the life of me be able to imagine someone at one point cutting it during the reception….

Photo Source Foodista.com

This stunning work of art from Foodista almost brought me to tears.  I can’t begin to imagine how many hours or work was put into this breathtaking piece of edible art.  The intricate detailing in the lifesize bodice is remarkable.  Even up to the top where the cake almost identically resembles that of a regular dress form. This is truly the world’s most amazing wedding cake in the form of a bridal gown that I’ve ever seen.  I searched and searched for the sculptor and only found several links that used the image.  So for now, we have no choice but to label the cake designer as anonymous.  If I’m ever blessed to have something like this at my own wedding, you guys will be the first to know.  That is a promise..

The Mac and Cheese Trophy

Even though baked macaroni and cheese has been popular over the last several decades, it has slowly reemerged as one of the most popular dishes in 2012. Almost like how sweet potatoes have been around for who knows how long, red velvet cake, etc but for some reason they are all the “new rave”. Well the same goes for mac n cheese. It is personally one of my favorite dishes and has been since my childhood days of standing against the counter with my little arm propped up, in total amazement over my mom effortlessly combining the perfect ingredients for a soul food/more traditional version of baked macaroni and cheese. I loved it then and I still to this day can appreciate a well cooked baked mac n cheese. I’ve tried just about every kind there is from the traditional soul food kind with cheddar cheese, egg, mustard powder, and heavy cream or milk, to the various gourmet versions consisting of Gouda, Brie, Fontina, Gruyere, Mozzarella, Swiss, you name it. To keep it short, I put together a list of some of my favorite mac n cheese dishes in the US. Truthfully, they are all equally amazing.  They really are.  However at the end of the day, someone has to take home the trophy. These are all dishes from various restaurants in Culver City, NYC (Harlem, Lower East Side, Brooklyn, and Chelsea) and Portland. Below in no particular order, are some of my favorite and most memorable macaroni and cheese experiences…

Rush Street in Culver City CA – Baked Mac and Cheese

Red Rooster in Harlem NY – Gouda, NY Cheddar and Comte Mac and Cheese

Sarita’s (S’MAC) in LES NY – Custom Mac and Cheese w. sausage, tomatoes, green onions, mushrooms and cheddar

Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn NY – Bread Crumb Mac & Cheese with Smoked Chicken and Peas (Photo from Newyork.seriouseats.com)

The Cafeteria in Chelsea NY – Macaroni And Cheese Sampler w. Cheddar And Fontina, Smoked Gouda And Bacon, Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese and Truffle Oil (Photo by Wendy, Urbanspoon)

Stanford’s in Portland OR – Mac N’ Cheese – Gruyère, Swiss, Fontina, Cheddar, bacon (Photo from pechluck1.typepad.com)

So with all the delightful experiences with these wonderful mac and cheese dishes, varying in cheese and consistency, my mind still seems to gravitate towards one restaurant in particular when it comes to this popular dish.  The Cafeteria NYC is notorious for their mac n cheese, and rightfully so.  They offer one of the most innovative trios of macs.   However…… I would honestly have to say….  Brooklyn Bowl takes home the trophy.  They have always managed to put me in a state of jubilation whenever I eat their bread crumb mac n cheese with smoked chicken and peas.  They also give you the option of adding artichoke and black olives.  It is consistently good whenever I go, and it just puts me in a more pleasant state when the bill comes out.  The consistency is excellent, it is firm but not traditionally over firm, the cheeses are amazing and perfectly blended.  On top of that, the meat and vegetable options are a bonus and not overpowering.  When I order the mac n cheese from Brooklyn Bowl, I’m always happy to know my money was well spent on execution and not just presentation.  At the end of the day, this is the most important factor.  So the trophy goes to Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl for best baked macaroni and cheese.  I think my mom would like it.

Brooklyn Bowl Mac – The Winner (Photo from Mightysweet.com)

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