The New York City Wine & Food Festival just wrapped up four days of parties, events, and tastings, and while there are major similarities between it and its snowbird sister, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, there are also major differences.
True, both festivals are the brainchild of Lee Brian Schrager, and there are twin events like Burger Bash and the Grand Tasting Village, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. The NYCWFF and SOBEWFF are as different as the cities they represent.
I was invited to Manhattan to attend the festival. Here are some of the highlights of the weekend.
First and foremost, the main difference at NYCWFF is the Grand Tasting Village. While both feature celebrity chef cooking demos and plenty of wine, the New York rendition is a true trade show that's open to the public with hundreds of vendors not only pouring wine, but offering fine cheeses, handcrafted ice creams, and even wine grapes for your private, personal vineyard.
Of course, there were celebrity sightings, like Paula Deen, who held court at the Springer Mountain Farms chicken exhibit.
The NYC GTV also boasts two private rooms that offer the good stuff. One room features a fine wine collection, while the other is reserved for small-batch spirits like this El Buho Mezcal. Rumor has it that Broken Shaker might have a bottle or two -- if you ask nicely.
This being New York, you never know who you might run into. Latin Burger's Jim Heins was checking out the Grand Tasting Village with some friends.
Food Network celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian hosted the chefs' midnight party at the Plaza Hotel's Palm Court. José Andrés, Zakarian, and Marc Murphy take a pic at the step-and-repeat.
The following morning, Zakarian looks fresh and dapper as he taste tests some breakfast libations at the Chopped Best Bloody Mary Brunch.
Scott Conant, fresh off the heels of the announcement of his new Turnberry restaurant, was at the brunch. When asked about his new Miami venue, the chef simply said, "You'll be seeing a lot more of me soon."
Miami was represented by Lure Fishbar's Josh Gonzalez, who served his Havana Mary, a bloody with mango puree, Cuban coffee, serano chilies, bell peppers, Absolut, and lime juice, topped with all things Miami -- a pastelito, a croqueta, and a chicharron.
Over at the Burger Bash, Robert Irvine schmoozes it up with guests.
Lure Fishbar's Josh Capon holds his "Burger Belt" proudly.
This gal loves her burgers.
The only major disappointment? The "famous" ramen burger by Ramen Co., which was way too salty, with a ramen bun that can best be described as "gluey."
Yes, there were cheerleaders at the Jets Tailgater.
There were photo bombs at Meatopia.
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And lots of bourbon, so you could get bombed.
Best celebrity sighting? Jon Bon Jovi at Ronzoni's La Sagra Slices, an "only in New York" event that features dozens of the city's best pie makers churning out pizzas directly from wood-burning ovens. Eating a pizza with Bon Jovi? That's a New York moment.