Doesn’t that make me sound/look important?!
I was surprised about that, too.
A few weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to the Grand Central Market for a Food & Wine Tasting event. Free food & wine, I’m there. Unfortunately my normal foodie-friend couldn’t attend, but I brought Debbie Downer, who was really excited about the event, and that in turn made me even more excited. She hadn’t been to something along these lines before, and to be honest, I’d never been to one quite like this, either. So we were both super excited.
I’ve walked by Grand Central Market a few times, but peeking in from outside (the doors that lead to the outside, not to Grand Central Terminal), the place intimidated me. It looked huge, formidable, and filled with people much more knowledgeable about all things food than I, and I never went in. Plus, it just looks expensive. Recently, I’d heard on someone’s food blog that Penzey’s Spices was there, and I was really keen on going to pick up some stuff, but hadn’t yet had the chance. This all worked out well for me.
When my friend and I arrived, as excited as we were, we wound up arriving super early, so I took the opportunity to wander around and take pictures without people getting in my way or “ruining” the shot. (This proved to be a very wise idea when later, while I was taking pictures by Corrado Bread & Pastry, an extremely rude girl pushed me, even though there was a line! and just plowed me over. I thought maybe I was overreacting but DD told me that it wasn’t just me, that girl was supremly rude. Unfortunately I didn’t get a look at her name tag, detailing where she was from, but curly haired girl with the denim jacket last night, you are a very rude person!)
We started out at Wild Edibles. The interesting thing about them, as Rachel, one of the people who helped put together the event, told us, is that they hand out literature about the sustainability of each type of seafood they offer, and they offer only those types that aren’t depleted and have been proven to be self-sustaining.
They were offering up four different things: salmon tartare on wasabi rice crackers, golden whitefish roe on toast points with creme fraiche,
Alaskan salmon roe on blinis with creme fraiche, and California white sturgeon roe on blinis with creme fraiche. The last one, I wasn’t a huge fan; it was too mild or too little for me to really taste.
DD hadn’t previously had caviar as such and discovered that she really liked it. She wasn’t crazy about the salmon roe, but really loved the golden whitefish roe. We both had a few bites each and personally, the salmon roe was my favorite. I wish the blini had been thinner (forgive me; my experience with blini is limited, so perhaps they are meant to be served like so) or perhaps served the entire thing on a crisp cracker like the salmon tartare. I enjoyed both the salmon tartare and the golden whitefish roe, but I really loved the bright bursts of seawater from the salmon roe the best.
Our next stop was Corrado Bread & Pastry.
When I saw this gorgeous display, I literally stopped in my tracks. I’m not a huge sweets fan, but where there’d normally be a glass front, in regular bakeries, it was removed. Yes, my dears, had I been more into baked goods, everything you see was available for sampling. Fantastic. I wound up snagging a cupcake (one of the chocolate numbers with a sugar moon on top; front/bottom center) but gave it away. It felt dense and moist, though, and I kind of wish I’d eaten it myself…
Next to them, Bella Cucina had this glorious display of sweet spreads with super delightful crisps to spread them on. (Not quite cookie like, not quite a cracker: they were the perfect background to these sweet spreads and the savory dips, but I’ll get into the dips next. They had no distinct flavoring to call their own, but were just crisp with a hefty weight to dip or spread upon.) We both tried the dolci di latte- DD first tried it and proclaimed it brilliant, so I had to try a bit, and loved it. In small doses; I could see this going well with crackers or other semi-savory items. I’m sure people put it over ice cream, but I can’t imagine that not being too sweet for me. Then we tried the blood orange, which was also delicious; DD also tried the cranberry conserve and said it was lovely.
Bella Cucina was one of the most generous stores last night, although I must emphasize that every store participated and very generously.
I didn’t try the items in this picture, mostly because of allergies and/or dislike of the ingredients. But the person whose arm is in this picture seemed to really like them!
Ignore the sign. I’m not sure what it was pointing to, since there was nothing underneath the sign and the item I’m calling your attention to is the flat, round bread/crisps behind the sign. This acted as a base for the dips in the next picture. I liked how crispy and thin it was, making me think it might not be that bad for me, but it was a bit awkward to grab. The woman standing behind the food (this is when someone pushed me!) told me to just grab some and break it off. I liked the idea, but in reality, there were quite a lot of strangers milling around doing the same thing and I briefly considered the sanitary aspect of this practice. Either way, I liked the crisp, though DD claimed it was salty (she tried one of the dips in the first picture), I thought it was fine.
I tried the warm artichoke dip which, while not warm, was quite yummy- both on the crisps and some more crackers (the same as the ones that were near the spreads). Plenty of artichoke hearts in the dip, which I love!
Still more from Bella Cucina! Unfortunately this was a bit plain. It was pasta salad; nothing special about it though if you like pasta salad, it was nice enough.
There were a few crudites floating around, from Greenwich Produce. I tried some green beans, super snappy and delicious.
Ceriello Fine Foods had antipasti platters, which DD and I both tried a bit of everything.
Mozzarella knots, sun dried tomatoes, cherry peppers filled with goat cheese (a bit spicy, not too bad, but too much goat cheese!), broccoli rabe (a wonderful complement to the items), artichoke hearts with gorgonzola, soppersatta, pepperoni, prosciutto, and of course, olives. Yummm.
Supposedly these are snickerdoodles; I thought snickerdoodles were cookies? We were getting full, so we opted out of trying this offering by Penzey’s Spices…
We did not, however, skip out on the chocolates offered by Li-Lac Chocolates!
We each chose a truffle; her the chocolate cream, and myself the mocha. I loved how soft the chocolate was- not melted, just soft- and how the chocolate melted richly into my mouth. Good, but I was already about to explode from all the food… and there’s still more.
Onwards we went to Dishes. I’m not a huge fan of goat cheese, so this was not exactly my thing.
I tried these, despite being allergic to coconut, and enjoyed them enough, though I didn’t feel they were special. They were cold, and I think they’d have been better hot. Not wanting to push my luck, I only sampled the red pepper jelly, which tasted like sweet & sour sauce. I would pass on these if offered again.
Sorry for the blur- I’m not sure if I moved, the guy moved, or if the wine was getting to me. I wasn’t a fan of these dense cakes; they had little to no real standout qualities save the texture, which was a dense mush.
I almost feel as though someone had seen me walk by, peering into their deli-style-case at the Valrhona chocolate pudding. I’d stared at it, drooled a little, and then moved on, because it was not being offered by Dishes when I initially walked by. But at the end of the night, when we were getting ready to leave, there it was, in teeny little cups. DD and I each grabbed one, and I was absolutely delighted by the smooth chocolate. It was nowhere near “too sweet” as many puddings are. It was just right, in that bittersweet way.
They also were offering a mango tapioca pudding that I passed on… I’m sure it’ll appear on someone else’s blog shortly though! (More on that later!)
Murray’s Cheese had on display a wide array of Vermont cheeses. Since we were so full at this point, we both only tried a few cheeses and found most of them not to our tastes. Ah well.
Also from Greenwich Produce- exotic fruits, nuts, etc.
From Pescatore- California Gold Osetra caviar on toast points with truffle butter. This was mehhh. Not enough oomph to it. I was still drooling over the Alaskan salmon roe back at Wild Edibles- we headed back there a bit later to snag some more of their caviar, haha.
Buttery ham offerings from Koglin German Hams.
Ham hock, ham fat, ham, …. I’m not a big ham person, per se, but I am growing to love pork again (I gave it up about 6 years ago after my brother’s now-ex-girlfriend poisoned me; I was sick for an entire week, and that girl never did like me). This was good. There was one weird thing about this store though; they had a lot of different offerings, but as you can see, I only tried these two. The servers sort of stood guard in front of the samples, and I felt awkward asking them to move so that I could take a picture and grab a piece. They didn’t seem to care when I paused to look at the food, either; they just stood there, blankly watching me. Uncomfortable!
That’s pretty much it for the food. There’s one more thing that was super nice and notable, but before I get to that…
First, I was amazed last night- I believe it was a press & food bloggers event- by how many Asian women in food blogging there are! I was peeking at people’s name tags as we wandered around, and wow, some big names were there…
I had the good fortune to meet Cathy of Not Eating Out in NY finally! I have to say, I was a bit blown away and not really my normal talkative, friendly self, but she was incredibly sweet and I was really happy to have met her.
I also met, by pure chance, DD happened to see someone she knew, who in turn was with Kathy of A Passion for Food. I admit upfront I haven’t read her blog before, but I will be reading now! Nice to meet you!
Unfortunately, though Cathy pointed her out, I was unable to snag a moment to say hi to Ann of A Chicken in Every Granny Cart. I had to tell DD how I knew her through a shared feature article on Culinate.com… funny.
Last but so not least, I was so excited to see them… Nosher and Hungry Man of NYC Nosh! I wound up not introducing myself- I mean, we all had been given name tags when we first signed in/registered, so it really is a two way street… though I’m not sure they know who I am… haha, I sound like a fan girl. I recall having read before on their site how they value their privacy and anonymity, so I didn’t want to annoy them, and just let them be. But- and I am so deeply sorry for not paying more attention to who was whom- (Nosher?) was ever so polite as we both approached the baked goods at Corrado. He let me go ahead of him as I picked out a cupcake to take with me. I almost swooned. Don’t tell me I have no chance! That’s not the point. Their site is so gorgeous and so honest and genuine, meeting them or just being near them made me nervous. I know, I’m a nerd. I don’t care. (To show you how dorky I am- I also almost fainted when I met Jeff Smith at a comicon earlier this year, I was shaking so hard. I was just mind boggled and he was so damn nice to me! And who is he? Well, it makes me an even bigger nerd when you find out.)
I also noticed people from Serious Eats, Sirius Satellite Radio, Yahoo! food (I think, I only saw the Yahoo part on the name tag). It was a great networking opportunity that I blew because I am awful at networking, especially when I am not expecting to see all these people. DD teased me when a few of the people throwing the event came up to me to “schmooze” me- “Do you feel important? DO YOU?” Haha.
Last but so not least, Zaro was giving away loaves of bread to take home! We’d been wandering around after we were completely full, and juggling sheafs of papers, business cards, and whatever else people had handed out to us, when I decided I wanted to buy a “Go Orange!” shopping bag to benefit NYC Food Bank. (More on that soon.) We wandered over to Zaro’s Bread Basket, since we’d read that they were giving away bread, and as I walked up, the guy thrust a bag filled with bread at me, then turned to fill one for DD! Awesome. I was carrying way too much stuff at this point, so I told the guy to please give me a Go Orange bag to buy. Before he handed it to me, he said, “You’re buying a bag? LET ME FILL IT FOR YOU FIRST!” and threw in another three loaves of bread! I was gobsmacked.
Foccacia with gorgeous slices of tomato on top. I tried some of this at the event, delicious. Moist and just right. I received two of these; one went to my sister, and the other to StB.
Ciabatta, the only loaf I kept for myself. I love ciabatta. I even had some for lunch today- check it out. It was dense and chewy, the way it’s meant to be. I was surprised initially when I cut into it and discovered that it wasn’t as airy/hole-y as I’m used to, but it was absolutely delish.
Raisin boule. Gave this one to my sister… my mother loves raisin bread. She’ll get some, too, of course!
Hand braided challah bread. I gave this to StB as well. (BTW, if you don’t eat it all, after it gets a bit stale, it makes excellent French toast!)
More raisin bread, but in longer loaf shape. This one went to StB. Yummy! Let me know how it is!
I also tried some sweets from Zaro, namely a black & white cookie which was great though not the best (the best black & white I’ve ever had came from B.’s grandmother, who explained to me that it is just cake batter dropped onto a cookie sheet and baked).
About this Go Orange thing: helping raise money for NYC Food Bank, and being environmentally friendly, this shopping bag is awesome. I was struggling with carrying everything yesterday, and the size is awesome. It’s about as wide as a carton of eggs, but it’s deep and very long. Some great features include how low it hangs- when stuffed to the gills, your arm won’t have to rest on top of it and jut out like one with shorter straps might make you do. It’s comfortable on the shoulder, and inside- I LOVE this- there are pockets along the skinny walls! On one side, there’s a deep, single pocket, perfect for a loaf of Italian or French bread, or anything long and skinny like so. On the other side, there is the same pocket, but on the outside of that pocket, a shorter, smaller pocket, perhaps for sticking keys or your cell phone or your small wallet! This is a GREAT bag and the fact that the proceeds go to helping out a great cause makes me feel good about buying it. For $5, really, can you beat that price???
I’ve already convinced three people to go get one- two of my coworkers, a friend, and I’m working on getting more people to swing by and purchase them. So please do what you can to go get one!!! It is awesome for market shopping- a while back, Ganda of Eat Drink One Woman had posted about “How to fit everything while you are shopping at the Farmer’s Market” and I think this bag would be fantastic for just that. Seriously. Go get one, right now! Though the color is brighter than I’m used to, I used it today and got many compliments (and proceeded to tell them about the cause as well!) already. Go go go!
This was a fantastic event and I want to thank Susan Graziano for the invitation and for the great planning and coordinating.
As always, happy eating!!!