Bon Appetit's Wine & Spirits Focus: A Lifestyle Experience wine and food tasting event at the Marriott Marquis was stuffed to the gills with 1,600 oenophiles and foodies eager to eat, drink and eat some more. The most commonly overheard phrase: “You have to try this!“ Second most commonly overheard statement: “Ugh. I ate too much.”
The tasting event, part of a nationwide, six-city tour (the other cities are San Francisco, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Chicago and Los Angeles) was also a benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to ill children. Produced by Bon Appetit special events director Caryl Chinn and M. Young Communications, the event boasted tastings from some of the best restaurants in the city, including Aquavit, Aureole, Daniel, Felidia, Fiamma, La Caravelle, Mesa Grill, Payard Patisserie and Bistro, Red Cat, San Domenico, Tonic and Tuscan Steak. (The people at the Swanson's broth table, which offered a bland risotto, must have felt a little intimidated.)
On the spirits side, beverages from lowbrow Michelob to Napa-based Trefethen vineyards flowed freely from the tasting tables to the guests' wine glasses. Food appliance and cookware companies like KitchenAid, Cuisinart, All-Clad, Panasonic and Jenn-Air displayed their wares for attendees who might have been inspired by the marvelous food. For those who were well-oiled from the booze, silent auction items such as wine gift sets and Make-A-Wish Foundation charger plates decorated by celebrities such as Mayor Rudy Giuliani, David Duchovny, Daniel Boulud, Vera Wang and Jackie Chan were available to the most generous bidder. And to round out the mix, event sponsor Mercedes-Benz displayed a few of its latest cars on the stage of the Broadway Ballroom, positioned there courtesy of the Marriott's 12.5-ton capacity freight elevators. The night raised more than $25,000 for the nonprofit.
While the tables at this tasting event weren't as elaborately decorated as those at some others we've been to this year (Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation benefit comes to mind), a few restaurants went out of their way to make their displays interesting. Todd English's Olives served roasted sugar pumpkin bisque with foie gras, cranberry chutney and toasted hazelnuts inside hollowed-out mini-pumpkins. Craft's tasting table featured an interesting suspended floral display of orange tulips by florist Roberta Bendavid, who does all of the flower arrangements for Danny Meyer's restaurants as well (but she's not taking new clients). And Esca, Mario Batali's seafood restaurant, had a surprising display of two dead giant wild striped bass on ice with their mouths gaping open, looking surprised that they'd been used as decor, and not someone's dinner.