This past weekend cult-status chefs descended upon North Williamsburg, taking over the Wythe Hotel, Kinfolk Studios, Colossal Media and the East River Park for Taste Talks Brooklyn.
Saturday, I was lucky enough to grab a seat at Mario Batali’s panel on “What is Buzz?” with Christine Muhlke, Executive Editor of Bon Appétit; Kate Krader, Restaurant Editor at Food & Wine magazine; Ken Friedman, Co-owner of several restaurants, including theThe Spotted Pig; and Craig Kanarick, CEO of Mouth.com. All of the panelists have years of curating and influencing tastes. A lot of the conversation circled around whether or not there is value in publicists and social media. Is a glossy magazine review worth more than an Instagram user with thousands of followers? The consensus – there is value in both. Credibility comes from the shiny pages of Food & Wine and expanded reach comes from social media. People find new restaurants and follow trends from those they trust – be it a journalist, Twitter maniac or coworker. And the biggest advice for new restaurants? Don’t over hype. True buzz starts with really good food. It is one thing to get people in the door, but the only way to make them come back is to provide an excellent experience that starts with the what’s on the plate.
Sunday, more than 25 chefs who all have “buzz” in their own right, including Andy Ricker, Danny Bowien, Action Bronson and Daniel Delaney, lit up grills at East River Park for the All-Star BBQ. Guests were given a card to visit each booth, checking off which samples tasted along the way. The system worked pretty well, until the lines began to get tangled. One volunteer marked my card at the back of a line and I was denied a sample when I got to the front. I waited for what seemed like decades to get the second to last sample on my card, there was no way I was missing a booth due to miscommunication. Thank goodness the guy behind me also had his card marked and he made for a perfect distraction as I grabbed a plate and darted to the end of the barbeque duck line. Victory.
Everything at the barbecue tasted delicious, but a couple best sellers for me were the lamb tongue from Lee Tiernan and Nate Smith and grilled cinnamon babka from Russ & Daughters. Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen served up duck hearts, which were admittedly tasty, but I couldn’t really get past the fact that I was eating little grilled duck hearts. Sixteen stations later, I could hardly breathe, but I had tasted every gosh darn thing on the menu. I waddled around the Future Food Expo for a spell (coolest thing I saw there was the SideChef app) and then back to my apartment where I passed out until dinner.