By Vicki Hogue-Davies and Bespoke Concierge Magazine Staff
In the city that never sleeps, there are lively celebrations taking place nearly any given day of the year. Never is that more true than during the holiday season, when the country’s busiest metropolis enjoys a schedule of activities that ranges from Thanksgiving parades to massive New Year’s Eve soirees. Since 2007, however, the festivities have kicked off earlier than usual with the New York City Wine & Food Festival in October.
The event, which started as a one-night occasion called Sweet, attracts hundreds of the world’s leading chefs, winemakers and spirits producers. This year’s eighth annual festival takes place Oct. 15-18 and features a variety of culinary activities, including intimate fine dining and casual tastings, as well as cooking classes, demonstrations and seminars. Whether you’re attending for the food or vino, here are three ways to get the most out of this year’s festivities.
Learn From Culinary Legends
One feature that distinguishes the New York City Wine & Food Festival from its counterparts is the lineup of recognizable names—and not just those who have earned celebrity by way of the kitchen. In addition to the notable chefs and TV personalities are high-profile personas like Whoopi Goldberg and NFL legend Joe Namath.
Goldberg will host the Chicken Coupe, one of the first events of the four-day festival, at The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park. During the Oct. 15 event, guests will savor various takes on fried chicken prepared by chefs from local eateries like Root & Bone, Four & Twenty Blackbirds and Queens Comfort, which was named Goldberg’s favorite dish during last year’s event.
There are also two opportunities to see Rachael Ray: First, the Food Network star will host the festival’s marquee event on Oct. 16, the Blue Moon Burger Bash at the Pier 92 rooftop, where chefs will compete for the Blue Moon People’s Choice Award that honors the best burger of the evening. New to the bash this year, a “Smack Down” component was added that pairs the burgers with creative mac ’n’ cheese dishes. Following the celebration, Rachael Ray’s Feedback: Chefs and Cocktails will take place from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at The Bowery Hotel with food, music and cocktails.
The following day, Namath, who was quarterback for the New York Jets for most of his career, will join acclaimed chef Mario Batali to present Jets & Chefs: The Ultimate Tailgate. Chefs will be serving traditional pre-game foods like steaks, ribs and wings alongside beers from Southern Wine & Spirits. One of the only family-friendly events, a FanZone will be set up for children to play games, take pictures with players and enter to win tickets to this season’s games.
Later that evening, the rooftop will transform into a Polynesian-inspired paradise for the first The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown, hosted by Emeril Lagasse. Mixologists will create rum-centric concoctions to be paired with island-style small bites.
Sip and Savor Your Share of Samples
In addition to the these star-studded events, a variety of tastings, classes, seminars and demonstrations—taught by major talents in the culinary and wine and spirits worlds—await guests. The signature grand tastings on Saturday and Sunday, for instance, feature the likes of Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, Andrew Zimmern and Masaharu Morimoto. The chefs will offer new techniques, recipes and advice for attendees to practice at home.
This year will also see a few new walk-around tastings. One not to be missed is Dominique Ansel’s Sweet Masquerade, which showcases whimsical desserts created by the James Beard Award-winning chef at a masquerade-style party taking place Oct. 16 at Four Seasons Hotel New York.
Other new novelties this year include Veg Out with Hungryroot hosted by Haylie Duff and Robert Irvine’s Pigs n’ Pints at Hudson New York. Duff’s celebration at Gansevoort Park Avenue’s rooftop on Oct. 17 highlights clean eating with health-focused dishes and organic juices. An immersive event, yoga classes, spa therapies and meditation classes will also be available. Meanwhile, the Pigs n’ Pints feast is intended for pork enthusiasts; dishes from whole-roasted pig to candied bacon will be paired with beer during the event, which also takes place Oct. 17.
Share an Intimate Meal
Most events draw large crowds, but the festival also has a variety of intimate dinners on the schedule. More than 20 dinners are planned as part of the Bank of America Dinner Series, giving attendees a chance to enjoy a range of cooking styles by acclaimed chefs. Some of the events are already sold out (for instance, Celebrating Essential Emeril, which will highlight dishes that shaped Lagasse’s career, and Masters of the Kitchen starring Zimmern, John Besh, Jose Garces and Daniel Boulud), but there are plenty of dinners to choose from.
The series kicks off Oct. 15 and features multiple events all four nights. One of the first is hosted by two renowned New York City names, April Bloomfield—the chef behind the Michelin-starred gastropubs The Spotted Pig and The Breslin—and Amanda Cohen of the award-winning Dirt Candy restaurant. Both chefs are teaming up to create an adventurous vegetarian meal at Ace Hotel. The following day at Pierre Thiam and Carla Hall’s dinner, to be held at Haven’s Kitchen, the chefs are combining Hall’s Nashville roots and French training with Thiam’s knowledge of African food traditions for a unique meal.
Other international talents are scheduled to appear during the dinner series on Oct. 16, including Alain Ducasse, a classically trained French chef who will host a celebration of Parisian food at his Midtown Manhattan restaurant Benoit Bistro. The dinner will include a variety of chefs preparing foods such as steak frites, cassoulet and terrines.
Chefs Leonor Espinosa and Silvana Villegas bring a taste of Colombia to New York City during their dinner at the Warwick New York Hotel. The dishes to be served during the evening meld Colombian flavors with Caribbean influences.