Summer is officially upon us, and you know what that means – wedge sandals, BBQs, and food festivals! A few weeks ago, my festival season started off with a bang at New Taste of the Upper West Side in New York. The event showcased the growth of the UWS’s vibrant restaurant scene, with over 40 of the neighborhood’s most celebrated chefs presenting dishes using ingredients sourced from within 100 miles of the city. I attended Best of the West, the second evening of the two-day event honoring Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine Magazine, and had the pleasure of snagging a few moments with the guest of honor herself (who also happens to be an UWS resident, a New York lifer, and fellow Brown alum!). After graciously accepting her prize frying pan (much more practical than a trophy) from Monsieur Chocolat Jacques Torres, Dana and I got down to the good stuff: her cravings, highlights from that day’s roving lunch down the East Village, and Food & Wine’s evolution.
*****LMS: You get to travel a lot, tasting great food from all over the world. What do you crave from New York when you’re far from home?
DANA: Usually when I’m far from home I crave Sushi of Gari. I don’t eat sushi on the road because it’s probably not local to the place. Inevitably, if I’m eating abroad, I’m eating really deeply in one cuisine, and when I come back the thing I miss most is Asian.
LMS: What was the last great meal you had?
DANA: Oh boy...well, the last great meal is always the meal of the day. So, today I was at Rai Rai Ken, the ramen shop on 10th Street – oh my God. We had the shoyu ramen, which was excellent, and they had fantastic gyoza filled with vegetable and pork -- they were really fresh and crispy, and not soggy...and then we went to Chikalicious for a hot fudge sundae. The hot fudge sundae is unbelievable. It has chocolate fudge, it has chocolate pearlsâ€”
LMS: Chocolate pearls?! Like tapioca?
DANA: Well, they’re crunchy. It’s sort of like a chocolate Rice Krispie, but round. [The sundae also had] kataifi, which is also sort of like Rice Krispies, but shredded, and roasted pistachios. [My son] William was like, I just wanted a little ice cream! And that’s why I’m eating all the rest of this. Then we walked down to Sigmund Pretzel, which was great. The ramen was great, the dessert was great...the traveling meal. Actually, weirdly enough, we went to this community garden and they were doing an improv class, so my son joined the improv class!
LMS: That’s fantastic. I’m a big fan of the traveling meal too -- you never know what you can stumble upon, especially here in New York! Finally, right now must be the most challenging time to run a successful print publication. How has Food & Wine evolved to capitalize on all these new opportunities to reach readers online?
DANA: The really lucky thing about having an established brand is that when you transfer that brand to other media, you have such a leg up in terms of brand recognition. With Food & Wine, we’re able to translate it to iPad and online and apps, and reach our audience anywhere.
*****At this point, the 16-piece orchestra (Joe Battaglia and the New York Big Band) was really wailing on In the Mood, so we gave up trying to have a conversation and moved on to more fruitful pursuits by way of Damian Sansonetti’s (Bar Boulud) roasted suckling pigs.
And so the noshing began. Milton Enriquez of Compass offered a refreshing Blood Orange Lobster Salad with edamame, avocado, mint, and Thai chili vinaigrette.
The Chilled Spring Pea Soup with whipped mascarpone from Missy Robbins (A Voce) was a complementary next taste - silky, cool, and vibrant.
Jean Georges had our favorite bite of the evening, a fun take on sushi featuring a supple slice of fresh Salmon over a crispy fried Risotto Cake.
And Magnolia Bakery ruled dessert with Lemon and Red Velvet Mini Cupcakes, Chocolate Wafer Whoopie Cookies with Vanilla Buttercream, Red Velvet Cheesecake, and Banana Pudding.
New Taste of the Upper West Side
May 20-21, 2011
New York, NY