Review Coffee & Tea Festival @ Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint

Event: 2016 Coffee & Tea Festival at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Harney and Sons Ltd. My favorite go-to tea shop

Harney and Sons Ltd. My favorite go-to tea shop

The Bottom Line:  Year after year, it’s always a delicious treat to see what’s brewing in the cups of some New York’s most ambitious coffee and tea merchants.

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While some of the products weren’t quite my cup of tea, meeting passionate individuals who have made their livehoods in this competitive industry really warmed my heart.

Tea at last

Tea at last

Review: Happily the trains were actually working this weekend as my friend, Kei, and I headed for the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint.  Having arrived earlier than our previous ETA, luckily, the center had not yet filled up.

What are you having?

What are you having? Brooklyn-based Toby’s Estate serves up coffee

Generally, the annual expo is always a great success. Although I wish it would return to the Park Avenue Armory because of the space issue, the Expo center is still a cheerful spot.  After 2pm, however, it changes as crowds poured in making our sipping a congested affair.

CutCo Cutlery - one of the last to produce knives in the US.

CutCo Cutlery – one of the last producers of high-end knives in the US.

It was great to see some of the usual suspects. There was the long queue for Café Grumpy – a Williamsburgie coffee joint serving up foamy cappuccinos.

Cafe Grumpy

Cafe Grumpy

My favorite tea place, Harney & Sons Ltd. has, in my opinion, some of the most reliably delicious blends.

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Harney shows off its winners!

I purchased their Palm Court blend, which works well with Indian spices or just on its own.

Harney's tea arsenal

Harney’s tea arsenal

They weren’t the only ones on the block promoting Asian tea. My Chai Dairies founded by Ami Bhansali and supported by her family  was selling high end teas from India. I really liked the tea samples they offered, and the packaging was pretty, but they weren’t cheap.

Beautifully packaged but nose-bleed expensive

My Chai Diaries: Beautifully packaged but nose-bleed expensive

The $12 canisters of pure Assam seemed way over the top ridiculous, particularly because you can get almost twice the amount at Harney’s for cheaper. I decided to pass.

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Silver Needle’s gals were selling “Asian blends” most were from China, but they also had one Sencha from Japan and a light tea from Taiwan.

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Silver Needle’s beauties and the tea

The tea was good, but I would have preferred the bitter punch of  my favorite Gemaicha. Sadly, it wasn’t available.

Live Vessel also had an Asian thinkg going. They sell Buddha-like jade Chinese-style tea pots and cups. I liked the presentation of their product.

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Live Vessel. She gets my award for the best scarf.

Owl’s Brew, which produces tea-based mixers, were also serving up their concoctions, but I was hoping for a little booze to calm my over-caffeinated nerves. Unfortunately, this expo was teetotal.

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Owl’s Brew tea based cocktail mixers are always a hit.

OB has made similar appearances at Edible Good Spirits earlier tbis month and the 2015 Coffee Festival at the Amory.

Some of the booths had original concepts like The Subte Tea’s cold, refreshing tea on tap. Although it wasn’t quite my thing, I still enjoyed the theatre of watching tea get a proper pub-style pour.

Tea on tap! Now how cool is that? www.subtletea.com

The Subtle Tea on tap! Now how cool is that?

Some of the beverage disappointments included: 1st-line coffee, its retail rep, a charming man who likes his coffee strong, like Rocky IV strong. We tried the espresso – bitter is an understatement. It was to the point of acrid and that defined unpleasantness. I wished he had served up the same coffee ice cream from the previous Coffee Fest last year.

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A man who likes his coffee strong. 1st Line delivers the taste oppresso!

The grounds stuck to my teeth sending fumes up my nostrils. The very air I breathed smelled bitter. He set the bar so high in killing taste that everything we subsequently drank still tasted of the revolting brew.  Maybe just stick to equipment instead.

Some flavors no matter how hard I try just don’t work for me.  Vanilla Earl Grey is one of them. Both  Capital Teas and Fashionista Tea sell their own popular versions, but for me, the vanilla creaminess going into sour bergamote doesn’t work.

Fashionista Tea

Fashionista Tea served several kinds of tea

There were plenty of food options, and fortunately, they weren’t all gluten-free-because-it’s-trendy-to-be-a-celiac-to-annoy-my-friends fare. Many of the merchants should drop the term “Artisanal” which just gets thrown around too much.

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Jessy’s Pastries holding the goods!

On of my favorites was Jessy’s Pastries selling spicy empanadas, which were absolutely delicious. My first taste of these in Argentina almost twenty years ago did little to impress because of the lack of spices. Far from those bland-on-the-run hot pockets, Jessy’s really delivered on flavor. They will be at the Long Island City fleamarket so keep your eyes open.

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The honey and olive oil tastings from The Olive Table were indeed delicious.

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Olive oil tastings from The Olive Table

The Olive Table showcased an array of raw honey infusions. The orange blossom, pine and reiki were really nice. Being a huge fan of  classic Mont Blanc, however, I had to try the chestnut-infused honey.

Olive oil and honey

Olive oil and honey

Although it may not be to everyone’s liking, I enjoyed the chestnut flavor so much that I purchased a small jar to take home.

Maple and bacon seemed to be the lastest hipster flavor. Perhaps it was memories of a hangover Sunday breakfast at IHOP that made it popular, but as food critic Jay Rayner once remarked, adding bacon can make almost any dish or dessert taste better.

Free biscotti samples from Anita's

Free biscotti samples from Anita’s

Anita’s Biscottis promotted their latest maple & bacon biscuit. Unfortunately, no tastings of this new flavor were available. Why not? Their booth was still overwhelmed with customers glossing over the dozens of flavors available for sale. Anita’s actually has over 50 varieties!

Waffles

Waffles from Waffatopia

Waffatopia‘s maple & bacon waffles were a hit in terms of flavor. But having lived in Brussels, nothing beats the texture of a crispy gauffre fresh off the griddle with crystalized sugar sprinkled on top.

And who could ignore the donuts for sale, literally flying of the tables. It was definitely a nice accompaniment to a hot beverage.

Donuts!

Donuts from Firehouse

But this wouldn’t be Brooklyn unless something were vegan, paleo and gluten-free.  Haute Chocolate (which isn’t correct French!) offered the anti-oxidant, ex-foliating paleolithic female folk a taste of some high end non-dairy chocolates. Their steamy posters with semi-nude, inked females also caught our attention. I wonder why.

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Haute Chocolate

Don’t get me wrong. I did like the taste of the chocolate & chili, and the almond chocolate was actually quite nice. However, the rosemary & chocolate combo, which has found its way into trendy restaurant menus, was a step too far for me.

Man, he's fly and selling vegan chocolates. Ladies, queue up!

Man, he’s fly and selling paleo, vegan, gluten-free chocolates. Ladies, queue up!

There’s a reason, however, why chocolate needs cream in order to be called chocolate. Haute Chocolate’s flavor combinations were inventive and albeit worked, but texture was a bit too dry and chalky. And I don’t get this obession with paleo.  Do we walk around with clovis pointed spears hunting mammoths and mastadons? Was it really better during the Pleistocene, with an average life expectancy of 25? The packaging doesn’t really scream Paleolithic either.  Anyway enough ranting, they found a product that sells. Kudos to them.

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Fancy a Finally Ginger biscuit with your tea, mate?

Another pleasant surprise was the ginger oatmeal cookies from Finally Ginger. I tasted the original, which was too sweet for my liking, but did the cranberry oatmeal ones work really well. The sour berries cut through rich, sweetness of the oatmeal ginger. Absolutely delicious.

Artwork on the Run - inspired by tea and coffee staining

It wasn’t all about eating and drinking. Artwork on the Run‘s Coffee Art – inspired by tea and coffee staining

After two and half hours of sampling, the place was getting packed. We felt like two caffeine-jolted hot water bottles being pushed around in a bee colony. It was time to detox at the Spritzenhaus for a couple of beers and a hot dog. Until next year.

Review: Reception for In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11

Event: Members’ reception of In the Wake, a photography exhibit commemorating the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, organized by The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston @ The Japan Society.

spiral

Bottom line: It’s uncanny to imagine the amount of devastation the 3/11 earthquake caused when it struck Japan on that fateful day. In the Wake attempts to bring the viewer in perspective with the awesome impact of a killer tsunami. An impressive exhibit but I’d like to have seen a bit more of a people involved and the rebuilding efforts.

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The reception added a slight cheerful note

Review: “Where to begin?” is all I could think of when looking at images of the flattened urban landscapes and piles of debris. The curators of the exhibit had been very mindful to show the extent to which the tsunami had completely wiped out villages in the Sendai region turning it into wasteland.

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The photo that stood in my mind was of an ostrich, which escaped from a local farm, wandered the empty streets of an abandoned city in search of food.

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One of the more poignant parts of the exhibit was the U-shaped wall of abandoned family photographs, many of which were damaged during the tsunami.

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Families lost

What I had mistook for ceramic tiles, turned out that that I was staring at wall of unidentifiable family memories. It pained me to think of the those who perished or lost their homes and livelihoods.

I wondered what became of these families. If they had survived, were they able to go back or did they settle elsewhere?

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The only criticisms I had is that I would have liked to see a bit more about the people who had been affected by this tragedy and of course the efforts to rebuild the area.  Although enjoyable, the latter expo bit of fetish photography and abstract shots honestly seemed slightly out of place with the theme of 3/11.

A bit of fetish relief?

Er, a bit of fetish relief?

Also to my suprise, In the Wake had little on the subsequent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant, and how this has changed Japanese attitudes about energy production and consumption. Thinking about how the rice, sake and fishing industries have suffered because of radioactive contamination, I would have thought that this was also an important part of the 3/11 tragedy.

Review: Edible Good Spirits Thurs. Mar 3, 2016

Erratum! My apologies to my readers for the wrong address, It was because of the icon I used from last year’s Escape in Brooklyn. Although I changed it in time, it was up there for quite a while.

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The bottom line:  Fantastic time at a great location. With tasty food and drinks to accompany there wasn’t much that wouldn’t please any food monger. For me though, I think there could have been a wider variety of dishes and booze.

Review: There goes the neighborhood as the old saying goes. In reality, however, that couldn’t be closer to the truth. Hudson Yards just a stone throw away from the Javits center is the prime target of a massive makeover. From it’s pristine and so-far-non-urine-smelling station (although give it time) to the impending glass skyscrapers resembling Mount Doom, the place is bearly recognizible.

Cocktails from the Wren NYC

Cocktails from the Wren NYC

Fortunately south of 31st, a little of the old Hell’s Kitchen still thrives in spite of the neighboring industrial menace. The streets are narrow, dirty and filled with warehouses, but the gentrifying storm has already begun with trendy little restaurants showcasing artisanal food.

Edible Mag picked a great place. In spite of the crowds, there was plenty of room to move about.

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As I got my pass, I headed to get something to eat first. There was a large amount of food for the guests, but there wasn’t much variety.

the not-too-sweet Gus Soda

the not-too-sweet Gus Soda

Don’t get me wrong. It was good, in fact delicious; however, I came expecting to see many kinds of dishes with local and exotic ingredients.

Tequila cocktails from Neuman's Kitchen

Tequila cocktails from Neuman’s Kitchen

Since there was so much beer, I’d have thought Indian and Mexican bites should have been front center. Instead, there were three tables serving up slow-roasted pork.

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Try my rye whiskey! King’s County Distillery

Yes I love it too, but just one dish would have sufficed. How about more seafood? Chicken, duck or goose? Veal sweetbreads? Root veggies? Spicy vegetarian? More deserts? Cheese?  Get my drift?

Slow cooked pork!

Slow cooked pork!

The beverage selection was abundant but also limited on choice. Although, they had both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, there was so much rye whiskey, which I’m not really a fan.

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Hillrock Distillery showcased three kinds of whiskey including a not-from-Kentucky bourbon – wouldn’t that be ‘sour mash’?

I get that it is drink of choice for the flannel-sporting, bearded  American connaisseur-nouveau, but one or two tables would have sufficed.

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Fancy more slow roasted pork? Far too good-looking, little bastard!

I was in the mood for wine, but perhaps because of coinciding local wine Grand Tasting expo, Edible thought it best to showcase other drinks.

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Samuel Adams’ Angry Orchard Rebel IPA, a citrus, slightly bitter delight

Tea-based whiskey cocktails from Owl's Brew

Tea-based whiskey cocktails from Owl’s Brew

As for the best food, there was a beautifully done slow cooked beef cheek from Louie and Chan.

Kevin Chan of Louie and Chan

Chef Kevin Chun of Louie and Chan

As a big fan of offal and cheap cuts, this dish sang to me with its beautiful unctuous sauce and melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Louie & Chan serving the dish of the evening. I would be proud too.

Louie & Chan serving the dish of the evening. I would be proud too.

It was by far the best beef dish I had had in a while.

Slow cooked ox cheek. Yum yum!

Slow cooked ox cheek. Yum yum!

Waving the seafood banner, guests flocked to sample Neuman’s Kitchen’s beautifully done citrisy salmon dish, which worked brilliantly with a tequila based cocktail.

Delicious cocktails from Neuman's Kitchen

Delicious cocktails from Neuman’s Kitchen

Very light,refreshing, yet bold with flavor.

My favorite seafood dish of the evening from Neuman's Kitchen

My favorite seafood dish of the evening from Neuman’s Kitchen

The other salmon dish from Penrose with classical oriental flavors was deliciously done, but the salted crumb added to much crunch to an otherwise beautifully balanced dish.

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You lookin’ at my mustache? Penrose serving up salmon.

My favorite slow roasted pork dish (out of three!) was from Bar Almond Restaurant, The chef carved the roasted pork and served it with delicious spicy pickles swiming a tangy like a jus de nage and grilled onions. It was so good that I swooped by for seconds.

Slicing roasted pork off the bone just screams "Eat me!"

Slicing roasted pork off the bone just screams “Eat me!”

Other pork dishes included the bourbon braised pork tartines from Monument Lane decorated with pickled cucumber.

Bourbon braised pork. It wasn't only the dish that was popular with the ladies.

Bourbon braised pork. It wasn’t only the dish that was popular with the ladies.

It really worked well. Unfortunately, the actual toasted bread was a bit dry. I think they could have moistened it a bit with some olive oil, pork fat or garlic.

There were some delicious surprises, for example, the most amazing hot toddy from Shawn Chen from Decoy and Red Farm.

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Shawn Chen serving up toddy and dumplings.

Awakening my inner Anglo-Indian, this was a truly a welcomed drink. It was so good, I had to enjoy another. With its arromatic bouquet and hint of spicy clove, I really fell in love all over again. Yummy.

Spirikal samples a second Toddy!

Spirikal samples a second Toddy!

Their beef ravoli or dumpling looked a sexy dish, but I’m not sure if it need the truffle. A bit of overkill.

A sexy dish, but quite salty and didn't need the truffle.

A sexy dish, but quite salty and didn’t need the truffle.

 

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Toddy Queen

Sweden-based Rekordelig Cider, served up cider samples and an amazing cider-based cocktail.On its own, the cider was too sweet for me, but the cocktail was really refreshing and tangy.

Rekordelig Cider

Rekordelig Cider

Then, there were some disappointments. The oyster tacos from L&W Oyster Co. didn’t live up to my expectation.

Oysters in a dry, hard shell taco? Not my thing.

Oysters in a dry, hard shell taco? Not my thing.

I’m a massive fan of coquillages: freshly shucked oysters and clams. Just drizzle some vinegar, soy sauce or tabasco or even a dollop of caviar  and I’m anybody’s boytoy. But don’t put it in a dry, hard shell taco.

Putting that out of my mind, I particularly loved the bread from Orwashers Bakery.

Glorious bread! Where's the butter?

Glorious bread! Where’s the butter?

It was truly marvelous, but they should have served it hot with some good quality butter, a jam or even cheese.

Now that's a loaf of bread!

Now that’s a loaf of bread!

All we got was just cold bread. Come on guys; think it through!

Some of the sweeter cocktails didn’t work for me. I like spicy margaritas but replacing the rim of salt with sugar just made the drink sickly sweet. Plus the combo of Chambord Liqueur and tequila didn’t work. I put that one in the bin.

Beautiful bartender but the drink was far too sweet for my liking

Beautiful bartender but the drink was far too sweet for my liking

Anfora & Brooklyn gin’s cocktail was just made of gin. I didn’t any tonic or spices that it had boasted, although I could see them floating around my glass.

Beautiful gals, but the gin cocktail was far too strong

Beautiful gals, but the gin cocktail was far too strong

In the end, I had to toss that one as well.  I saw some familar drinks from Maven Cocktails – who serve their wine & vodka cocktails in an attractive little bottle. Not my cup of tea. Only one with a deranged palette would mix white wine with vodka.

Regretably, many tables ran out of food and drink almost an hour before the show was supposed to end.

"Sorry sir, no more cocktails, we're too good" Or maybe you should have stocked up properly.

“Sorry sir, no more cocktails, we’re too good” Or maybe you should have stocked up properly.

I never got to taste the delicous gin-based cocktails, which my date said were great, and the cupcakes from Prohibition Bakery one of the few desserts offered disappeared quickly.

I made out pretty well in the end. I got loaf of bread, a bottle of cider from Rekordeling Cider and a beautiful Negra Modelo glass, which I brought home to enjoy another time.