I can’t imagine trying all of New York City’s thousands of restaurants within a lifetime, which explains the potential beauty of tasting events such as Choice Eats. On March 19th, 2013, over 50 of the city’s best restaurants, bakeries, and alcohol producers, all of which were selected by the Village Voice, gathered at the Armory on 25th street and Lexington avenue in Manhattan. It was an experience that absolutely overwhelmed my senses: upon entering the armory, I was immediately submerged in a variety of smells and flavors from across the world. In addition, between the DJ and the enormous crowd, the sound level was many decibels above the ideal. Nevertheless, I am very happy that I decided to attend Choice Eats and I now have many new restaurant adventures ahead of me.
The great New York Yankees’ announcer John Sterling constantly says:
you can’t predict baseball, and the same can be said about life.
Keeping this in mind, here is how the events unfolded: One day this winter, I felt an overwhelming need to attend a popular tasting event called Choice Eats that I had heard so much about, which makes sense in and of itself… However, even at that point I recognized that this event would be insanely crowded and beyond difficult to navigate, yet I pursued the purchase of a ticket without any plan (which is very much unlike me). As luck would have it, two things happened:
- I met someone who had a ticket but couldn’t attend the event who sold it to me
- About a week before Choice Eats, I discovered that a friend of mine just happened to be going too!
This is how the fateful evening of March 19th came to be, and by 6:30 pm there was only a line of people over 3 blocks long – yes 3 blocks long — separating me from a foodie extravaganza.
The Highlights of Choice Eats:
Naturally, there were too many items to sample at Choice Eats; therefore, please allow me to guide you around the best food I found:
- The Ditch Dog — a hot dog topped with macaroni and cheese from Ditch Plains. Some people question if the addition of the traditional comfort food of mac and cheese is beneficial; trust me it really works. These textures and flavors blend together seamlessly, and in my opinion it’s a brilliant idea.
- Sesame-crusted feta drizzled with honey, and coffee rubbed skirt steak from Ovelia Psistaria. I have never heard of this Greek restaurant, but if these two dishes are any indication then I am impressed. (Especially since I’m not a fan of feta cheese and their creation made me like it.)
- Excellent lamb meatballs and grilled sausage from Zenon Taverna. Later on in the evening, I encountered yet another Greek restaurant with which I was not familiar; this was the best hot food I had consumed thus far and I had to go back for seconds! The flavor of the grill was apparent and proved to further enhance the seasonings and quality ingredients. I need to visit these two new favorites in Astoria soon!
- Outstanding brisket from Mable’s Smokehouse. After most of the restaurants had run out of food, which meant that many people had already left, Mable’s showed up to save the day. I have been contemplating the trek out to the middle of Brooklyn to try their barbecue fair for quite some time, and I am extremely happy that I stayed at Choice Eats until the end. My pallet could taste a wide variety of seasonings, none of which were “spicy” or overpowering, and the meat was perfectly tender. This was a last minute contender… and winner!
- My favorite dessert by far was made by Brooklyn Kolache Co. Kolaches are Tex-Czech sweet rolls; they can be sweet or savory depending on the ingredients used. The owner describes these treats as “slightly sweet and light, with a little chew and a yeasty finish” and I couldn’t say it better myself. During Choice Eats, I tried the Apple and Lemon Curd varieties which each possessed a sensational flavor of the real fruit. Apparently Brooklyn Kolache is located in Bed-Sty, a long trip from my home, so it’s fortunate that they were made available for this event.
- Brooklyn Brown Ale Brownie Bites from Robicelli’s. These were excellent with great chocolate and fudge flavors with a surprisingly pleasant hint of ale. The samples were considerably bigger than bites and one was more than enough; next goal: find one of Robicelli’s famous cupcakes!
Restaurants I missed:
In such a vast space, lines can be quite long; however, fighting the massive crowds in order to find a lobster roll from either Luke’s Lobster or Red Hook Lobster Pound was impossible for me. (I read the next day that the key is to get to the event way before the opening time of 6:30 pm in order to secure these coveted seafood creations.) I would also have liked to try the Boneless pork roast from Porchetta, and the fried chicken from Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter. Despite the few samples that I missed, the many other delicacies that I had the opportunity to taste made this experience worthwhile.
Thank you for joining me on this sensory tour of the 2013 Village Voice Choice Eats. To make the experience complete, I have included my audio highlights below the end of this review. Until next time,
When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.
– Helen Keller