NYCWFF: Fun at the Blogger Lounge

I spent most of my last two days at the New York City Wine and Food Festival sitting in the The Dream Hotel in Chelsea. The lobby became the “Eater Blogger Lounge,” and was filled with circular silver couches and iPads. It was a place where electronic reporters could sit for much of Saturday and Sunday as some major food world personalities stopped for interviews and games with the Eater staff:

Marcus Samuelsson spinning the Eater Wonder Wheel and high-fiving a child. | Photo by Joel Kahn.

Marcus Samuelsson of the new The Next Iron Chef season stopped by the lounge on Sunday. He spoke about the differences between NIC and Top Chef Masters, of which he won the second season. “It’s just a different show,” Samuelsson said. “Obviously similar competition stuff, but both were great.”

The Ethiopian/Swedish chef went on to describe the close relationships between the contestants. “Any time you can cook with Michael Chiarello and people I’ve known for a long time – it’s just great to spend time with them.”

On the topic of his raved-about, highly trendy Harlem eatery, The Red Rooster, Samuelsson said, “The whole idea for us was to change the footprint of dining, to have people come up and see Harlem.” On the impact the restaurant has on the community, he added, “We are hiring in tough times. Customers not only eat at the Rooster, they go to businesses around it.”

Angelo Sosa, of Top Chef seasons seven and eight, described his new restaurant Social Eatz: “It’s American comfort food with an Asian slant.” Angelo cooked at “The Best Thing I Ever Ate Between Bread”, a lunch-time party showcasing sandwiches from restaurants all over the country. “I thought it was a cool concept and a great crowd,” Sosa said. The event had a playful tone with chalkboard tables, pastel chalk, and gallons of hand sanitizer to offset the greasy sandwiches.

Iron Chef Marc Forgione's sandwich from The Best Thing I Ever Ate Between Bread. | Photo by Joel Kahn.

Food & Wine Magazine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin also stopped by. She spun Eater’s “Wonder Wheel” and landed on “Minute to Win it,”  in which she had to speak about Guy Fieri non-stop for 60 seconds. She then had to play one move of Jenga (as did every visitor to the lounge), and was a great sport about all of it. She also talked about seasonality in cooking, and how it affects the magazine.

“For Fall, we’ve been thinking French. For years, France was it in the mind of chefs, of people who ate out. Any time they wanted to have a great meal, they’d go to a French restaurant. Then in the late ’70s, there was French technique, but interest in America and what America can do. The truth is that the French are unbelievable.”

Because of this, Food & Wine‘s latest issue is a Francophile’s dream. “In October our entire issue is dedicated to all things French,” she said. “We looked at the French influence on things that we just take for granted every day. Restaurant service the way we think of it today is inherited from the French. It incldes stus and braises and great vegetables, and lots of butter.”

Four star chef Daniel Boulud playing the obligatory round of Jenga. | Photo by Joel Kahn.

Ms. Cowin also discussed the major shift in the magazine industry, a change that Food & Wine has been embracing. “We launched the Andrew Zimmern channel [on],” she said. “We’re so excited. He’s doing a recipe a week exclusively for Food & Wine, starting with an Asian chicken soup. It runs the gamout from his mother’s chicken livers to things he makes with his kids, so you will get an insight into the world of Andrew Zimmern’s kitchen adventures.” She  went on to point out the iPads scattered around the lobby. “In January, Food & Wine will go monthly on the iPad,” she said. “We’ve been doing every other month special issues—all chef, all travel, all wine—so we haven’t really been replicating the issue on the iPad, until now.”

Daniel Boulud, emperor of the New York food scene, the newly opened Boulud Sud in Lincoln Square, and DB Bistro Moderne in Miami sat down with me for an interview. “I do like the local clientele [in Miami]. The seasonality is different. It’s about the food, service, and setting—not the scene.” Boulud also mentioned his daughter goes to Tufts, though he has yet to cook a meal using only a microfridge.

The next big Wine and Food Festival takes place in South Beach in February. “Miami is up and down in the real estate bonanza,” said Boulud, “but I think it’s settling, so we’ll see.” Tickets for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival go on sale October 24.

Joel Kahn

Joel is currently a film major at BU. He hails from South Florida, and started at The Quad writing about food. He is now the publisher of The Quad.

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