Tasteful Surprises at Taste of Hope
The American Cancer Society‘s Taste of Hope event was my first real New York City foodie event – and it set the bar high for future events. The event was overflowing with delicious and beautifully executed sample dishes from more than 50 renowned restaurants and eateries. 82 Mercer, the event space, was open and airy with high ceilings and plenty of natural light in the early evening hours â€“ great for admiring the food and for people watching. The restaurant reps and folks from the American Cancer Society were friendly and everything was really well-organized.
For the last 6 years, Taste of Hope has helped the Eastern Division of the American Cancer Society raise money for the fight against cancer. The American Cancer Society hosts over 3,000 guests at its three Hope Lodges in Manhattan, Buffalo, and Rochester and the organization is currently funding 98 grants totaling over $54 million for cutting edge cancer research. This year, the American Cancer Society honored Chef Eric Levine, a cancer survivor, champion of the Food Networkâ€™s â€œChopped,â€ and newly appointed Executive Chef of Montammy Golf Club in Alpine, NJ. Chef Eric was honored for his contributions to the food industry, the American Cancer Society, and the fight against cancer.
I wish I could describe every single thing I sampled, since just about everything was tasty! Unfortunately I can’t go into all the delicious details, but here are some of my favorites (I believe many of these were also among Sherryâ€™s favorites â€“ in addition to taking great photos, she obviously has great taste):
Montammy Golf Club‘s spicy seared tuna on a sesame crisp. As if it wasnâ€™t enough that he was being honored, or maybe in light of that, Chef Eric really came through as a hero with this dish. The flavors worked really well together and the varying textures were so exciting! From the light soy foam, to the heavier avocado mousse, to the delicate and meaty tuna, all held together by an extra crispy sesame cracker â€“ it was just awesome.
Junoon‘s chicken malvah. I thought this dish would be really heavy, but it was surprisingly light and full of flavor! The chicken was really tender and I loved that you could really taste the fresh ginger and cilantro. Great color too!
Mustang Harryâ€™s truffle potato ravioli with saffron cream and balsamic syrup. Yes, I am a sucker for anything truffle, but Iâ€™m not the biggest ravioli fan. But this was such an appetizing dish, I loved the contrast of the rich golden saffron cream sauce and the dark balsamic syrup, which was sharp and potent. The truffle didnâ€™t swallow the other flavors, and seemed more a part of the aroma than the flavor. The sundried tomatoes added a different texture and gave the dish a tart-sweetness, easing the taste transition from the saffron cream to the edgy balsamic.
Buddakan‘s tuna tartare spring rolls. I was a big fan of the texture of these rolls, especially since I usually associate crispy spring rolls with heavy oily filling. But these spring rolls had a delicate crispy casing and the tuna tartare filing was refreshing. The crispy shallots inside the spring rolls was a nice touch and the ponzu gave just the right amount of kick.
Terrace 5 at MoMAâ€™s grilled seafood salad with spiced chickpeas, fennel, and roasted tomatoes with harissa vinaigrette. I canâ€™t honestly say Iâ€™m surprised that I loved this dish, since I love just about everything in it. But I thought it was so fresh and well-executed. There were also some lovely surprises â€“ like the fresh lemon hummus that was under the salad and the harissa vinaigrette, which gave the dish a great kick. And, even though it was a â€œseafoodâ€ salad, it was pretty lobster heavy, which is always a pleasant surprise!
Tribeca Grillâ€™s lamb with lentils. This hearty dish seemed to bring together a variety of culinary influences and was one of the few savory dishes served with a spoon and in a bowl, which made it easier to get all the flavors together. The grilled lamb was tender and brisket-like with a hint of what I think was cardamom. The lentils added a unique texture and the almonds on top gave it the necessary crunch!
Tulsiâ€™s pistachio cake with passion fruit buttercream and saffron syrup. Honestly, wow. This moist little delight packed a punch in flavor. The intense passion fruit butter cream and the saffron syrup got along so well when mediated by the more mild pistachio cake. It was also such a uniquely good looking dessert. I had at least two of these, but maybe more?
Chocolate cheescake truffle by Serena Palumbo. I loved the dark chocolate cheesecake truffle because they were not sweet, but they were delightfully rich. There was also a little bit of a salty crunch from nuts dusted on the outside of the truffle and apparently they were made without dairy!
I was also a big fan of Tanuki Tavern‘s slightly smokey cream of edamame soup with mustard oil and black soy beans, and Nuelaâ€™s salmon ceviche with green apple and horseradish, which had an amazing yuzu kick. And of course, you can’t go wrong with Blue Ribbon Sushi. They were serving up hand rolls of your choice made right there in front of you. My favorite was the spicy tuna with scallions. So fresh.
Needless to say, after a few rounds I had to unzip my skirt a little to breathe (seriously) and it was time to go home. You would think at that point I would stop, but then we walked by the Guggenheim cake and I just had to have one last bite because it was so impressive! But what impressed me even more on my way out was the fact that Taste of Hope, a weeknight event that attracted people of all ages, was still raging when I left sometime between 9-10 pm. I can only assume that all those good looking people in their fitted dresses and suits were inspired to keeping eating and enjoying themselves by the important cause and the eventâ€™s overall very tasteful execution (pun intended).
Photos by Sherry Li for Appetite for Good.