I've been meaning to share some photos from my trip to NYC the other week and am finally getting around to it.
Fear not; this is very much food-related (no pictures of my cousin's cat or an Uncle Harold).
Here's the scoop: I was one of five winners in the Green & Black's Chocolate Challenge. Green & Black's is a premium organic chocolate. To enter, we had to come up with a recipe using 5 or fewer ingredients including at least 2 ounces of any Green & Black's Chocolate. We also had to write a brief essay explaining why we like to cook with organic ingredients.
The prize was a little bit of foodie fantasy: a short trip to NYC to (a) attend the James Beard Foundation Awards at Lincoln Center (a black tie gala--they call it the "academy awards of the food industry"); and (2) spend the following day food shopping with Curtis Stone, the host of the "Take Home Chef" show on TLC and spokesperson for Green & Blacks, then cooking with him at the James Beard House.
Things had been a bit stressful before heading out, so it really was a wonderful little trip in so many ways. My husband was heading off to an academic conference that week, so I took my friend Lindsey along.
I'm starting with the James Beard Awards; tomorrow I'll post the photos and more about our day with Curtis Stone (quick note: I rarely get goopy about men, but good grief, the man is GORGEOUS, and as sweet as can be).
So, to start: we stayed at the W hotel in Times Square. Great location, always fun to be right in the middle of the action:
Our room was what the W dubs a "cool corner room". Pretty, great views, but... definitely snug. Also, the bathroom is wedged into one corner of the room with no real walls, just some rather flimsy plastic siding akin to shoji screens or Barbie's Malibu Beach shower. I'm glad Lindsey is a good friend, there was no place to hide!
The gift box of chocolate from Green & Black's made the room seem much bigger (ahh, chocolate)...
Lindsey and I traipsed all around the city on Sunday morning and afternoon before coming back to get ready for the awards (cars were picking us up at 5). It was hot, but clear and beautiful. We had to wrestle our way through the crowds in Times Square--the Puerto Rico Parade was gearing up. I couldn't resist the beauty queens:
...or the legions of NYPD blue outside Central Park. One of the funniest comments of the trip, as we passed a police sergeant talking to younger cops: "You gotta stick togetha, keep in communication, 'cuz it's gonna be a long, hot, shi**y day."
The park was crowded, but still a sea of calm compared to the crowds on the streets:
We ate a late lunch at Whole Foods, then it was back to the W to prepare. Following much lacquering, shellacking, and corseting, I was ready-ish (Lindsey, by contrast, seemed to require minimal effort to appear utterly gorgeous & tiny). Here we are (Lindsey, me, the other winners and their friends). Lindsey is fourth in from the left, I am the tall pale person behind her, third in from the left.
Off to the awards in a mini fleet of black SUVs:
We were only a few minutes away from the awards location, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center:
Fun on the red carpet...
Me & Lindsey
Bobby Flay's actress wife:
A gala party and tasting followed the awards. Lindsey and I were too busy swilling champagne and eating delicious everything later that evening to take photos :). But here is a very small part of the set-up before the awards:
I am not sure what this reveals about me, but the only photos I took of food were of this watermelon display with barnyard scenes, a rooster, and corn (has it really been just three years since I moved to a small town in Texas???):
Green & Blacks was one of the primary sponsors of the awards so we got AMAZING seats!!!
Then it was time to begin. The theme of this year's awards was Artisanal America:
The awards were hosted by Bobby Flay and Kim Cattrall:
It was exciting to see Kim and Bobby up close (really up close; I'll explain more in a moment), but my favorites were Jacques Pepin and Masaharu Morimoto. The former was all casual elegance; the latter, pure goofiness (including running around the stage and fanning people):
So medals were awarded and speeches delivered. Awards ceremonies have a certain sameness, no? Fun and exciting? Yes. Akin to a high school senior awards banquet? Yes. I loved it, though, especially getting to see faces attached to names I have been reading about lately, or for many years.
Only one negative to the night, and it was huge; literally. I'm speaking of the enormous, high definition screen on the main stage. I know it sounds great (I can imagine the committee meeting: "Everyone will feel like they are in the front row, no matter where they are seated!")
Uh-uh. What we all got was way too much detail of each and every presenter. I'm talking every wrinkle, pore, sag, loose thread, whisker, blemish, unplucked brow...even blobs of deodorant got their 15 minutes of fame in excruciating, and gigantic , detail as otherwise elegant women lifted their limbs.
Eek. It was bad. And cruel. I was tempted to run and smear vaseline over the camera lenses.
Finally, the show was over...but the next phase of the evening was just beginning.
With all the talk of great food, I (and, judging from the stampede out of the theater, everyone else as well) was STARVING. But the food that awaited was divine (40 hand-picked chefs and their chosen specialty, each featuring at least one artisanal product). Lindsey and I had a clear favorite: a tamale with a fava bean salad, and bacon on top. We got seconds. A close second was a soft-shelled crab and rhubarb ice cream with strawberry sauce.
It was over far too soon. Lindsey and I grabbed some mini boxes of salted caramels for the car ride back to the hotel, then collapsed for a few hours of rest before the start of day two...