Best of the West, day two of the fifth annual New Taste of the Upper West Side, was recently held and was a personal favorite of the two days, featuring signature seasonal fare from 41 renowned chefs and restaurateurs including Jean Georges, Fishtag, Gastroarte, Calle Ocho, Bar Boulud and Jacques Torres. The Upper West Side isn’t usually considered a party-down kind of neighborhood, but the neighborhood’s well-heeled residents proved they can party, too. Under a big white tent, hundreds of hungry uptowners circled tasting booths from some of the neighborhood’s biggest restaurants, including Bar Boulud, Telepan, and of course, Shake Shack and more.
The event took place in a tent at 70th Street and Columbus Avenue, New York. Inside the tent, glamorous Upper West Side residents sampled dishes, sipped wine and specialty cocktails, and mingled with chefs. Adjacent to the tent, guests could retire for a quieter setting to enjoy the food and the beautiful spring evening. The New Taste of the Upper West Side benefits the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District, to improve the classroom at this location. John Fraser from Dovetail restaurant adjacent to the school, was the the chef-liaison to the project. Additionally, a portion of this year’s New Taste of the Upper West Side events to Citymeals-on-Wheels, founded by Gael Greene, the honoree of this year’s event, to help this year’s event, to help guarantee that West Side Senior Citizen’s will continue to receive meals throughout the year. The Best of the West honored Gael Greene, the longtime West Side resident who is hailed as the founder of the foodie movement. Though she started her career as New York Magazine’s first restaurant critic back in 1968, she has transitioned gracefully into the realm of social media. She is a best-selling author and restaurant critic for Crain’s New York Business and founder of Citymeals-on-Wheels.
Neighborhood’s streetscape and ongoing support to help the creation of a Greenhouse Saturday’s more elegant affair, the Best of the West, was an extravagant showcase of the neighborhood’s highest-end chefs, including Eric Bromberg of Blue Ribbon Sushi, Jim Burke from Caffe Storico, and Jesus Nunez from Gastroarte. There were 41 restaurants serving their popular dishes and a number of wine, beer and spirits represented that evening. All food offerings were good but some were more popular than others. Jesus Nunez of Gastroarte offered Tomatoes Six Ways, an appetizer at the restaurant. He proudly narrated each type of tomato for diners: Confit tomato, tomato marshmallow, green tomato – olive oil gel, roasted tomato (pure), tomato water gel, dried tomato, and heirloom tomato. “The roasted tomato is the one you’ll go crazy for,” he told many and he was right.
Mark Rosati, Culinary Manager of Shake Shack, was handing out burgers as fast as the crowd could gobble them up, accompanied by a new menu item: a house-made strawberry rhubarb soda. The burger was the “SmokeShack”: a cheeseburger topped with all-natural ranch apple-wood smoked bacon, cherry pepper relish, and ShackSauce. Salumari Rossi Parmacotto’s salumi was simple and excellent. They served hand-sliced prosciutto, mortadella, prosciutto cotto, coppa, and coppa picacante.
Bar Boulud Mangalista pork agnolotti, Louisiana Crawfish, fava beans, mushrooms, and spring peas were the perfectly balanced dish from Executive Chef Sansonetti. It was not too heavy and not too lite but just the right combintation. The agnolotti were perfectly cooked and meaty and the spring vegetables balanced out the heavy pasta. The Central Park Boathouse Coriander Seared Ahi Tuna, Eggplant Caponata and Tomato Jam was splendid. The Tangled Vine Spanish Mackerel and Spring Vegetables hit the spot while the Duck Trap Smoked Salmon Layered on Whole Foods Market In-House Made Scallion Cream Cheese on Local Just Bagels and Mini Bagels were delectable. The Lincoln Ristorante Braised Pork Spare ribs with Green Olives, Capers and Chili were delightful while the Loi Baklava on a Skewer and Stuffed Grape Leaves kept diners coming back for more.
The Organic Baby Spinach Ravioli in Butter-Sage Sauce and La Boite en Bois Leeks, Spinach, Ricotta and Goat Cheese Raviolier-Sage Sauce and the Rosa Mexicano Guacamole en Molcajete and Signature Frozen Pomegranate Margaritas were all appetizing. The Landmark Porchetta on Focaccia with Tomato Rosemary Jam was splendid while the Jean Georges Green Asparagus and Avocado Salad, Sorrel Dressing and Sesame was a refreshing addition to the evening.
Fishtag Corvino Crudo with Avocado Skordalia, Pickled Hearts of Palm and Dried Black Olives and Kefi Greek Cuisine Meatball with Roasted Garlic, Olives and Tomato hit the spot. AG Kitchen’s Signature Peruvian Roast Chicken and Calle Ocho Datiles Almond Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Smoked Bacon were amazingly delectable as the texture of the chicken and bacon were perfect.
Gabriel’s Bar and Restaurant Short Ribs of Beef Served with White Polenta and Wild Mushrooms, Dovetail Cured Carrot, Chicken Feed and Quail Egg and Ocean Grill Chilled Seafood and Artichoke Salad satiated taste buds. Other guests, adorned with dorky-but-genius wine glass necklaces (to keep their hands free for eating), noshed on faves like lobster sliders from Mermaid Inn, spicy salmon rolls from Blue Ribbon Sushi and Chinese rojak salad from Fatty Crab. Cafe Luxembourg’s succulent Lobster Rolls kept diners returning for more.
For dessert, Jacques Torres Chocolates Ice Cream Parfait & Frozen Hot Chocolate impressed everyone while the treats from Alice’s Tea Cup and Magnolia Bakery never fail to impress as well. Jacques Torres signed his books and it was a pleasure meeting him as he’s quite funny and entertaining, and his chocolates are amazing. Magnolia Bakery served Banana Pudding, Mini Cupcakes, Red Velvet Cheesecakes and Lemon Bars and Alice’s Tea Cups served cupcakes, muffins and more. The Nonna Hazelnut Panna Cotta was scrumptious and the Vietnamese Iced Coffee Spiked with Root was a pleasing addition. Art in the Age Root was an interesting spirit and Tony Abou-Ganim Sara’s Smile was the popular cocktail of the night.
There were many astounding food offerings at the event and plenty of premium wines and spirits. The food presentation, savory dishes and the combination of food textures and flavors were phenomenal while people danced to live music performed from Joe Bataglia & The New York Big Band. If you missed it this year make sure you attend next year.