Review: The Big Chocolate Show at the Waterfront Oct 6, 2017

Cover image: © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Imagine a room full of chocolate… Sounds amazing right? This might seem like a fantasy, but the weekend of October 6th was a dream come true. Over 50 notable chocolate makers and vendors of the industry came together to show off amazing chocolates.

The Big Chocolate Show © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Since its inception in 2016, The Big Chocolate Show has attracted over 5,000 attendees over the three-day expo, with professional experts, foodies, food editors and fans enjoying up-close-and-personal live demos, tasting and pairing classes and of course, a plethora of samples from chocolatiers around the globe at The Terminal Stores on the city’s bustling waterfront.  A notable component to the weekend included the ”Legends” award that honors some of the chocolatey best. This year’s honorees included Sophie and Michael Coe, Ed Seguine, John Scharffenberger and Juan Carlos Motamayor.

Chocolatier Jacques Torres © Vicha Saravay for The Big Chocolate Show 2016

Chocolatier Jacques Torres at the Big Chocolate Show 2016 © Vicha Saravay for The Big Chocolate Show

So I know what you are thinking… Just spill the chocolate beans, Alyssa… what kind of chocolate did you have? Well, I was like a kid in a candy shop! It ranged from all the usual suspects (white, milk, and dark) to drinking chocolate to chocolate with quinoa — you can’t say I did not have anything healthy that night! Soft chocolate with beautiful designs from Chocolate Moonshine was irresistible. Fun political chocolate from DC-based Harper Macaw al la Flip-Flopper (chocolate with huge chunks of toffee). Hoja Verde Had a sweet rose and lemon bar that opened my palate in so many ways.

Chocolate Moonshine © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

One of the most decorated chocolates was William Dean Chocolates, which follows the artisan tradition of creating every truffle, confection, and piece of chocolate by hand, in small batches. The beautifully crafted treats are truly works of art, exciting the eye and intriguing the palate with interesting flavor combinations and vibrant designs.

Both delicious and a treasure to the eye, some of the presentation of some of the chocolate was an eye-popping experience. There were LAZOR engraved chocolates, which were perfect for corporate gifting and party favors. Also, chocolate shape as shoes was totally cute.

I attended the date night portion of the show on Friday night which paired chocolatey desserts with a boozy counterpart.  Before entering the choco-boozy room, I met Celebrity chef, Mary Giuliani who was promoting her new book The Cocktail Party, which was right up my alley!

Chocolate hearts © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

An interesting read, it got me amped up to enter the section of the show dedicated to desserts and spirits.  I soon discovered a lot of local sweet shops paired with some of the most delicious spirits in the industry— and of course, there was chocolate. Spirits like the sweet Indian liquors like Somrus to dessert vodkas like Van Gogh paired up with boozy cupcakes and bacon mousse tarts… YUM!

Truly an unforgettable experience. The Big Chocolate show was truly a sweet experience.

Review: How to Eat Like a Samurai Event on September 26, 2017

Cover image: Discussion with Kanna Himiya at the Japan Society © Meg for WhereNYC

“In order to conquer the world, we need to live a long life. And in order to live a long life, we need to eat properly, having the best food at the proper time.”

From the moment Ms. Kanna Himiya stood up from her seat, I was mesmerized by her pure elegance.

Mr. Romano introducing Ms. Himiya © Meg for WhereNYC

After New York City-based executive chef and restaurant owner in Japan, Mr. Michael Romano, presented Ms. Himiya, she stood up perfectly from her seat without moving her back, which was already formed in perfect posture. Then, before she climbed up the steps to the stage, she faced the audience, revealing her beautiful blue kimono, and bowed in a perfect 45-degree angle. I heard gasps and various “Wow” whispers from people sitting around me. As an American-born Japanese person, I, too, felt the urge to straighten my back in my seat.

For the Japanese, eating is a “Godly act” (i.e. shinji), because one shows grace to honor life, earth, peace and love. The term “Itadakimasu” used before eating, roughly translates as, “I will gratefully have your food.” “Gochiso-samadeshita,” said after eating, means, “I have finished your food and I thank you for giving me this food.” Ms. Himiya adds through an interpreter, “Even though Japan is a tiny island, I believe that it has the best cuisine, full of the most profound history and culture.”

Samurai Cuisine Introduction © Meg for WhereNYC

For Ms. Himiya, Kanazawa, in the Ishikawa prefecture of Japan, has the “healthiest cuisine” and is  the “birth place of samurai cuisine.”

What is the samurai diet?

Essentially, it consists of healthy, well-balanced food with the freshest and most seasonal ingredients. It served both to entertain and represent the samurai’s land and power. The origins of the “samurai diet” started in the Sengoku Period, which directly translates to the “Period of Battle Country.” During this period, the samurais held miso shiru (i.e. miso soup) parties, or shirukou, allowing them to forge alliances. The samurai regimen featured “ritual foods for good luck” before they went to battle. This led to “Kyouoh” (i.e. banquets) during the following long, peaceful Edo Period in Japan, led by Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu. Under Tokugawa, the daimyos had to entertain each other, and they did this through Kyouohs, which were full of the “spirit of thanks,” or omotenashi  as they honored each other.

Beer from the Ishikawa Prefecture was also a hit. © Meg for WhereNYC

The samurai’s philosophy of a healthy diet contributed to the betterment of Japanese culture during the Edo period. The samurai regarded fresh, seasonal ingredients as “medicinal.” Staples such as miso, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, and umeboshi (i.e. pickled plums) were key to “umami,” which “can only be expressed in Japanese food,” explained Ms. Himiya, who believes that naturally delicious food made with the “spirit of thanks” (i.e. omotenashi) can help achieve world peace.

Soy sauce and dried soy sauce.. along with dressing. Soy-yummy! © Meg for WhereNYC

“I believe [cultural exchange] is the key to having a better world,” said Ms. Himiya through her interpreter. Perhaps a reference to today’s political climate, Mr. Romano, bluntly remarked, “If only our government could see that…” followed by rapturous applause in the audience.

The reception following the talk showcased an array of delicious food and sake samples from Ishikawa prefecture. One could feel like a true samurai in Edo Japan. The exchange of good food, sake, and conversation was almost therapeutic, making me feel very peaceful.

Sake tasting- tastic! © Meg for WhereNYC

The talk by Ms. Himiya was truly sublime, and the sake and food tasting from the Ishikawa prefecture added to the whole experience. It was so enjoyable that I unfortunately missed my chance to receive a signed copy of Ms. Himiya’s book, The Samurai Gourmet. Ah, well… Gochiso-samadeshita.

For more information on upcoming events including Escape East @ 333, Fri. Oct 20, please visit the Japan Society.

Review: Taste of NY Experience Craft Beverage Week – September 12th, 2017

Cover image: Beet Cider © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

As New Yorkers, we are spoiled to have an abundance of fresh ingredients in our food, only matched by our selection of tasty spirits, beer, wine, and cider – we have it all!  Well, it’s no doubt that the local movement is here to stay and one of our great state initiatives in New York is to promote local food and especially the beverage scene. The Taste of NY Experience is a celebration in honor of the first-ever New York Craft Beverage Week started by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which is coming up November 5-11, 2017. The week is designed to promote local artisanal beverage producers from the five boroughs of NYC and reinforce the city as an incomparable travel destination for epicures and drinks enthusiasts.  Over 50 local craft spirits, wines, beers, and ciders artisans came out to the landmark Pier A Harbor House to show off their finest liquid gems.

Taste of New York Sign (C) Alyssa Tognetti

One of the major standouts to me personally was how many great ciders there are in New York State, and now with apple season in full force, it’s a no-brainer that this would be the choice ingredient. Some of the cideries featured were Brooklyn Cider, Doc’s Draft Cider, Bad Seed, and of course, Angry Orchard, which brought some of their unique ghost bottles to wow guests! The most eye-popping and tastebud gamechangers of this category that I tasted was actually not made from apples but beets. If you are not afraid of beets, Pennings Farm Ginger Beet Cider is worth the taste – plus the pinkish-purple is quite mesmerizing! If you are not a cider traditionalist, then Doc’s Draft Hard Pumpkin is a refreshing change guaranteed to get your proper pumpkin spice fix for this year.

Nahmias et Fils Distillery Mahia (C) Alyssa Tognetti

If beer is your vice, then there are no shortage of breweries in New York State. My latest beer obsession was Greenport Brewing was there with two of their finest beer. I found my newest favorite IPA from War Horse Brewing called Lieutenant Dan. Yes, named after Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump.

Angry Orchard Ghost Bottles (C) Alyssa Tognetti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For wine lovers, there was a wonderful selection: including Stoutridge Vineyard which has no sulfates. It was incredibly fresh. The take the whole farm to table movement to heart. Other amazing wineries that should be noted for their deliciousness are Sheldrake Point and Enlightenment Wines.

Sheldrake Point (C) Alyssa Tognetti

But if you’re after something stronger, New York State does have a fine share of spirits. One of the most intriguing spirits happened to be called Mahia from Morocco and made from figs from Nahmias et Fils Distillery in Yonkers. They are the only local Mahia spirit in the US. Another notable spirit producer is Hudson Valley’s Denning’s Point in Beacon with their award-winning Maid of the Meadow, herbs and wild honey infused in a wheat-based spirit, which mixes quite well in cocktails or is quite lovely to just sip.

If any of these amazing New York State spirits intrigue you, then run to your nearest Taste of NY store.  Learn more at taste.ny.gov