Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Choice Eats 2011: Extreme Gluttony & the Resulting Bellyache, Part 1

I'm fighting off a food coma as I write this.  Earlier tonight (being Tuesday night), Matt and I stuffed our faces at the 4th annual Choice Eats, the Village Voice's tasting event that was held this year at the 68th Armory in Murray Hill.

For once, I'm glad that there were limited vegetarian options.  Of the approximately 60 restaurants there, 15 had vegetarian items, which ended up being plenty of food - everything was so rich that I was barely able to finish each serving (most of which were huge - 4-5 bites instead of the 1-2 bites that I expected).  Add to that the fact that we had VIP tickets, which gave us access to food in the downstairs vault an hour before the main event as well as later in the evening for desserts, and you have a recipe for extreme overindulgence.  At 8:30, neither Matt nor I could bring ourselves to eat even one more bite of food - and the event went until 9:30.

OK, enough of my whining and bellyaching (seriously, my stomach is killing me as I write this and I'm contemplating not eating lunch on Wednesday) - let's get to the actual recap.  We tried nearly every single vegetarian dish offered, although we did miss a few (Curry-Ya and Fay Da come to mind).

A few weeks ago I found out that I won VIP tickets to Choice Eats, which was exciting news given that I really wanted to try all the desserts in the VIP Choice Sweets room, especially in light of the fact that there would likely be limited vegetarian options (which I was right about).

After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, we were granted entry shortly before 6.  I was unamused by this because I had planned to get there a little before 5:30 (when the doors opened for those with VIP tickets) but thanks to a sick passenger on my 6 train, it took me 45 minutes to travel 5 stops.  I could've walked there faster.  But I digress.

Turns out we didn't even need a half hour in the VIP room, much less a full hour - there were only 8 restaurants there and, of those, only one had a dedicated vegetarian item (Scratchbread, which served up a variety of breads accompanied by marinated mozzarella, blue cheese, and a bacon spread, as well as extremely dense, fudgy brownies.  Cathy Erway also provided some sustenance for the vegetarian set, dishing up a freshly-foraged dandelion pesto on slices of crusty bread.  I'm not dead (yet) so I now have full faith in Cathy's urban foraging skills (but I should really wait 24 hours before passing final judgment).  The bar was serving beer (Hoegaarden, Leffe, and Stella Artois) and wine from City Winery.

Upstairs we went at 6:15 and we got ourelves a place in the front of the line to get into the main room.  We were let in shortly after 6:30 and then two-hour gorging session began.  Now we're getting to the good stuff.  I'll let the photos do most of the talking from here on out.

Root vegetable terrine from Fat Radish.  It tasted mostly of turnips and we both thought it could've used more seasoning.

General Tso's Broccoli Salad Sandwich from No. 7 Sub - it was sort of a mashup of their General Tso's Tofu sub (which I really like) and the broccoli sub (which I'm lukewarm on).  This was...ok.  In the background are mint chocolate cookies, which were also...ok.
Arepa with salsa from...I have no idea.  They also had a tilapia ceviche so if anyone remembers what restaurant this was from, please tell me!  The arepa itself was pretty good, if heavy on the coriander.
Gooey butter cake from Court Street Grocers.  It was gooey and super sweet.
Gato arepas (Guayanes cheese with plaintains) from Caracas Arepas Bar.  One of our favorite dishes of the evening.
Smoked fried cauliflower on top of a buttermilk waffle accompanied by wild arugula, horseradish cream, and pickled purple cauliflower from none other than Dirt Candy.  I've had this at the restaurant and was happy to have it again.  It's a gorgeous dish (look at those colors!) and tastes even better.
Sauteed tofu, fermented black beans, Thai chili, and basil from Umi Nom.  Good, but not all that exciting.
Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) from Agnanti.  I love stuffed grape leave and these were really good - the leaves had some bite to them and the filling was seasoned well and had just the right texture.
Pesto di noci (walnuts, parmesan, sundried Sicilian tomatoes, and thyme) on bread served with a big chunk of parmesan from Gottino.  The pesto was good but there was so much oil in it, which made the pesto overly rich and nearly impossible to eat more than a bite or two.  Somehow the sharp bite of the cheese helped cut through all that richness, as did a cold IPA.
Potato and cheese flautas with mild salsa, guacamole, mole, and hot salsa from Downtown Bakery.  The flauta shell was nearly impossible to bite into and there was barely any filling. :(
Churro from Cascabel Taqueria (I think).  Standard churros.
Eggplant and chocolate with ricotta straciatella gelato from Del Posto.  The little pieces of eggplant seem to have been battered and deep fried; I think this would work if the pieces were bigger, but because they were so small, the ratio of fried coating to eggplant was higher than it probably normally would be, and, as a result, all I tasted was the flavor of oil and batter.  The gelato, however, was awesome.

And that's all for tonight.  There are so many more photos to post but I need to be up early to get a passport (thanks to the 2009 Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, you now need a passport or similar document to travel to/from Canada and of course I just realized this THREE DAYS before leaving for Montreal).
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