Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mom's Birthday Celebration in NYC!

3 days of gluttony and debauchery in the Big Apple. I can't think of a better way to spend my mom's birthday weekend than in our favorite city. Besides walking around gorgeous Central Park and admiring all the beautiful people in the West Village, the highlight of the trip had to be attending the NYC Wine and Food Festival's Absolut Bloody Mary Brunch, hosted by the cast of "Chopped" on the Food Network. I didn't really know how much we'd get to eat, drink and be merry with the cast, but my expectations were exceeded 1,000 fold.

Bartenders from across the country submitted their best Bloody recipe, and we got to sample the top 12! The garnishes were my favorite part - everything from Pickles to Pork Belly, Hot Peppers to Hush Puppies, and more Celery than I ever want to see again. 20 or so "Chopped" contestants and celebrity chefs, most notably Paulette Goto of "Unique Sweets", prepared tasty bites for us, including a BBQ Duck Steamed Bun, Bulgogi Steak Tacos and Absolut Raspberri Cream Doughnuts!

"Chopped" Judges! (Clockwise L-R: Moi with GZ (Geoffrey Zakarian), Alex Guarnaschelli, Chris Santos, Scott Conant)
As soon as the "Chopped" judges walked out, people whipped out their Smart Phones and cameras and basically lost it. Fortunately, my mom pushed me into almost all of them, to snag a few photos. Notice how chummy I look with GZ! Perhaps it's because my mom had just confessed her love for him. They were all lovely and happy to make small talk and pose. The moment I spotted NoLa's OTHER famous chef John Besh, who was a surprise to the attendants, it's as if the clouds opened up and a bright light shone behind him. The few glorious moments I had with him gave me butterflies, and he is more gorgeous in real life than he is on TV. The eyes are bluer and the pearly whites are pearlier. Smoking hot and funny. I tried so hard to charm the pants off him (literally and figuratively) and I can now die a happy woman. (Well, I still have to meet Leo, but then yes. A happy woman.)
With John Besh(!!!) and Aaron Sanchez. A DREAM. Don't we make a precious threesome?
Samplings of Bloodies!

Other notable epicurean moments in NYC:

Sea Salt Caramel Eclair at Dominique Ansel Bakery. Really, no words.
The "Cronut" trend led us to visit Dominique Ansel Bakery, and heads up, if you're not in line by 5am, you're not getting one. I'm almost glad we didn't, because we purchased a Sea Salt Caramel Eclair instead. I would do just about anything to get my hands on another one. The flavors wrapped around my tongue like a warm towel right out of the dryer. And the flakes of Sea Salt took each bite to another level. This was my first "other-worldy" experience of the trip, and there were so many more. We even saw the man himself, and I would have complimented him on this treasure had I not been too shy! (ME shy? I know, right.)

Beauty & Essex on the Lower East Side is one of our faves, not just because we saw the entire cast of Modern Family there in 2011, but because the food kicks ass. The Chicken Meatballs with Sheep's Milk Ricotta and Truffled Cream are exceptional, not to mention the complimentary champagne in the ladies' bathroom (sorry, guys).

Del Posto is one of those places that was on my "bucket list," especially after becoming such a huge fan of "MasterChef." Joe Bastianich is one of the judges on the show (meaner than Gordon Ramsay, if you can believe that!) and a co-owner of the Tribeca establishment, along with Mario Batali. I'm so charmed by the idea of the Amuse Bouche. At Del Posto, you get 3. As soon as I took a bite of the Sea Bass with Truffled Mushroom Sauce and Escarole, I was no longer on this planet. Top things off with a box of "Amuse Bouche desserts" and I'm an ecstatic girl.

The DB Burger at DB Bistro. Just LOOK at that juicy interior. 
The Original DB Burger at DB Bistro Moderne has also been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Daniel Boulud's infamous Sirloin Burger (grilled to your liking) is stuffed with Braised Short Ribs, Foie Gras and Black Truffles, and served on a Parmesan Bun, reminiscent of the flavors of an Everything Bagel. If this isn't a delicacy, I don't know what is. Watching the juices run down my hands as I dove into this sensationally rich burger is a memory I will cherish for a long time.

Restaurant Marc Forgione is another long-time favorite. This was one of the first restaurants I visited that really made me think about food differently. The Halibut with Forgione's Sauce Proposal remains a staple, and the folks there made our celebratory evening extra special with complimentary Chocolate Truffles, Apple Cider Muffins and even shots for my mom's birthday. Not to mention the Pumpkin Souffle with Bourbon Cream Cheese Sauce and Butternut Squash Sorbet. HOLY DESSERT. This was the most perfect ending to perhaps the most perfect trip.

With the birthday girl at Restaurant Marc Forgione!

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