In New York, we just had the my favorite weekend of the year, the NYC Wine and Food Festival. It is such a treat to see and hear from so many great people in the food, wine and hospitality industry. Here are some of the highlights and some interesting takeaways…
The Star Studded Chef’s panel was amazing and featured Chefs Daniel Boulud (Cafe Boulud, Bar Pleides, DB Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud and DBGB Kitchen) and Jean-Georges Vongerichten (26 restaurants including Jean-Georges) and Michael White (Marea, Alto and Convivio). Even if you’re not a foodie you’ll definitely know that these are major players by their restaurants). I also saw another panel that featured some of NY’s top restauranteurs: Donatella Arpaia (Mia Dona, davidburke and donatella, Anthos, Kefi, EOS and Donnatella), Ken Friedman (Spotted Pig, The Rusty Knot, The John Dory, Locanda Verde) and Danny Meyer (owner of Union Square Hospitality Group that owns Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard, Shake Shack, Maialino). The Tour de Beef was very interesting and it was at DeBragga, the last remaining butchery in the Meatpacking District. It specializes in aged-beef for the top restaurants. I also was thrilled to attend the “hot ticket” of the festival, a vertical tasting of Brunello di Montalcino, hosted by Count Cinzano from Col D’Orcia, a wine estate near Siena. We tasted Brunellos from 2007 back to 1977. What a treat to hear from the man himself! It was completely sold out and well worth the ticket price.
Here my top 10 takeaways from the events I saw:
1. Top chefs agree that their number one influence and inspiration for food is TRAVEL
2. Sad stat: Each week there 650,000 cows slaughtered in America. Only 1 percent of those cows are considered organic, i.e: not injected with hormones, steroids, antibiotics or chemicals and live in pasture as opposed to giant feedlots. (Note: if you want to help, spend more and buy organic, grass-raised beef from a store like Whole Foods, Citarella or DeBragga.)
3. Top chefs are looking at Hong Kong as the next big thing. With 76,000 millionaires living in Hong Kong and with the expectation that 2% of the population of China with travel soon, there is a potential local market of 40 million people. Hong Kong is THE place to have a restaurant.
4. Dry-aged beef is exceptional. I didn’t exactly know what dry-aged meat was until the Festival. It is meat that is dry-aged in cold rooms for 30 days, in some cases 100 days, like we saw for Wagyu beef from Australia. You can expect to pay a lot for a steak, but believe me it is amazing. The company caters to all the needs of the top steakhouses and restaurants in New York including Per Se and others. The amount of time and energy that goes into the dry-aging process is incredible.
5. Top chefs say that you are not a chef after chef school. Only after attending chef’s school and then doing 9 years of doing every job in the kitchen can you be considered a chef.
6. St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc is excellent and goes with almost anything. As Andrea Robinson said, it is like secret fairy dust. There are very few pairings that it doesn’t work with.
7. In a vertical tasting make sure you learn what the weather conditions were each year. This is probably the key to understanding what will age, why it tastes different, and what you like better. Frosts will cause the winemaker to lose grapes, in many cases resulting in more intense fruit. The combination of weather is what makes the wine different, and no two wines are the same.
8. Brunello di Montalcino – my favorite year is 1997.
9. 75% of the dish is the quality of the product, 25% is the chef. (Yes, a top chef said this)
10. It is becoming harder and harder to make money in New York as a successful restaurant. Expected pay back time is 3-5 years.