Taste Talks Takes Over Wythe Avenue

Saturday Chicken & Waffles Brunch by Pies & Thighs cred - janebruce 500
Saturday Chicken & Waffles Brunch by Pies & Thighs. © Jane Bruce

Taste Talks knows the way to every hungover food-loving Brooklynite’s heart is through a drumstick on a waffle.

That’s how the third annual Taste Talks, a food and discussion festival at The Wythe Hotel, Kinfolk Studios and Colossal Media in Williamsburg, kicked off last Saturday.

You can’t go wrong with Pies-n-Thighs on the fryer, and waffles and syrup to drown out the pain of a long week.

There were a lot of interesting talks this year, but the most thought-provoking conversation happened at “Staying Relevant,” which featured Sarah Zorn of Brooklyn Magazine moderating a panel with Dominique Ansel, Luke Ostrom of NoHo Hospitality Group, and Marco Canora of Hearth and Brodo.

In a city where your flash in the pan may shine only a few months, at a time when social media has reached a frenzied dewpoint, the entrepreneurs discussed how to stay on the tip of tongues without losing sight of a restaurant’s overall vision and balance.

StayingRelevant Panel 500
Dominique Ansel, Luke Ostrom and Marco Canora at “Staying Relevant”

“The trend, the quick hot flash in the pan can be very dangerous,” Ostrom, whose group owns Locanda Verde and The Dutch, said. “We’ve tried not to get too caught up in any trend that could pigeonhole us, but have tried to stay at the forefront of the conversation. It’s tough to find a balance of not diluting your brand. We had some rapid growth, and we took a pause to reflect upon what we have and make it better and be more prepared for the future.”

The panelists were asked who they emulate in the restaurant world.

“Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill still draws the crowds, but has made the conscious decision not to grow and has had a lot of opportunity to do it,” Canora said. “He’s a shining example of someone who learned not to grow.”

The group also discussed Ansel’s seemingly meteoric rise to single item stardom, with the almighty cronut.

“It’s not an overnight success,” Ansel said. “I’ve been trying for 20 years, and we just stayed true to ourselves. I believe in quality.”

QuestLove and Dominque Ansel at Dessert Party Selfie 500
Questlove and Dominique Ansel at “Sweet Thinking: A Dessert Party” at McCarren Hotel

“Every restauranteur or chef would love to have that one thing like the cronut that gets the recognition,” Ostrom said. “It’s a little bit of a perfect storm, that perfect mix of trend plus something delicious and comforting that has a lot of soul.”

Canora’s Brodo serves broth through a window adjacent to Hearth, and has gained both favorable press and a backlash against its supposed trendiness.

“I think (Brodo’s broth and Ansel’s cronut) both speak to something we all crave — that satisfying comfort food that triggers areas of your brain that you want triggered is real,” Canora said. “A lot of it is sheep mentality and it’s hard to know how much is attributed to the sheep mentality. It becomes bigger and bigger and then it explodes. It’s a really complicated question why. In New York, people are so hungry and interested and smart and want to explore things and be aware, so where we are has a lot to do with it too.”

Future of Food Expo Foragers Booth Gazpacho Sample Cred - AngelaDatre-6 500
Gazpacho at the Foragers booth at the Future of Food Expo © Angela Datre

A New York chef who has always been on top of trends, meanwhile, had won the Kellogg’s Cereal Throwdown across the street at the Future of Food Expo at Colossal Media. Lady Jay’s owner Sam Mason, whose former restaurant Tailor experimented in bubble gum cocktails and butterscotch miso pork belly, mashed up Special K, honey, figs, almonds, sesame seeds, and apricot jam.

Saturday Kellogg's Cereal Throw Down Featuring Winner Sam Mason red - janebruce2 500
Winner Sam Mason at the Kellogg’s Cereal Throwdown. © Jane Bruce

At “Preserving NYC Food and Restaurant Traditions,” Josh Russ Tupper of Russ & Daughters and Jake Dell of Katz’s, both heirs to New York deli dynasties, spoke about how they keep their families’ food traditions alive in their businesses.

“It’s nostalgia but … when there’s a bris, wedding or shiva, it goes beyond nostalgia,” Russ said. “People identify culturally with this. It’s not just Jewish — it’s New Yorkers, it’s cultural. There’s such a connection for people and people are very passionate about delis because so many important events in their lives are marked by these foods.”

With the recent surge in popularity of Jewish deli food and the buzz surrounding it, Dell and Russ said they attempted to add a few items here or there to the menu, but they didn’t want to alienate loyal customers who have been coming for years.

“You see it in people’s faces and you can’t really say what it is — the taste, the smell,” Dell said. “One of my favorite memories is of a 95-year-old woman sitting up front, crying, saying “I’m just so happy. I used to come here every Sunday, to Shimmels, Economy, Candy, and here. Every time I come here I immediately think of my sister and my family.’ That’s nostalgia — there’s nothing more powerful.”

By the end of the day, attendees and speakers were ready for a serious drink. “A Drink for All Seasons” featured several mixologists demonstrating cocktail making and serving up samples to the audience, including a delicious jalapeno-infused tequila cocktail by Leyenda owner Ivy Mix.

A Drink For All Seasons Demo Cred - Madeleine Andrews 500
“A Drink For All Seasons” demo © Madeleine Andrews

The evening concluded at Biba with an oyster spread and a dinner prepared by Leah Cohen of Pig & Khao, Daniel Holtzman of The Meatball Shop, Jacob Rosette of Dinner Lab, and bakers Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga of Ovenly.

Mother of Pearl Dinner Cred - liz_clayman_1 (1) 500
Mother of Pearl dinner. © Liz Clayman

Come Sunday, it was time for a barbecue. The All-Star Barbecue brought out Questlove, whose former restaurant Hybird (R.I.P.) served up great fried drumsticks in Chelsea Market, and Matty Matheson, chef and owner of Parts & Labour in Toronto.

QuestLove All-Star BBQ cred - lizclayman13 500
Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour) and Questlove at the All Star BBQ. © Liz Clayman

This kid knew to burn his calories before hitting the barbecue stands.

Child Enjoy QuestLove DJing at All-Star BBQ Cred - AngelaDatre-131 500
The All-Star BBQ © Angela Datre

Some famous people made food for us.

Sunday allstar BBQ featuring Russell Jackson and Leo DeLaria cred - lizclayman 500
Sunday’s All Star BBQ featuring Russell Jackson (SubCulture Dining) and Orange Is The New Black’s Lea DeLaria. © Liz Clayman

Allison and Matt Robicelli created a ridiculously savory and delicious Japanese apple pie with miso caramel.

IMG_2676

Oysters were painstakingly shucked for our eating pleasure.

IMG_2670

Matt Timms of The Takedowns and Ben Conniff of Luke’s Lobster grilled lobster tail after lobster tail to perfection in a piquant chili butter.

IMG_2682

Hugue Dufour of M. Wells and Mark Hegedus of Blue Point Brewing served a slice of New England in Brooklyn.

Sunday All Star BBQ Crab and Corn by Hugue Dufour and Mark Hegedus Lizclayman10 500
Sunday All Star BBQ. Crab and Corn by Hugue Dufour and Mark Hegedus. © Liz Clayman

Formidable maverick of new Latin food Alex Stupak flipped flame-broiled burgers with chorizo.

Sunday All Star BBQ featuring patties for Alex Stupak's of Empellón LA HAMBURGUESA CAMPEÓNA cred - lizclayman6 500
Alex Stupak’s La Hamburguesa Campeona setup at the All-Star BBQ. © Liz Clayman

And the rain came, but attendees just ducked under the tents and kept scarfing oysters, devouring barbecue and eating Van Leeuwen ice cream. Another perfect weekend eating in Brooklyn had come to an end.

About Dakota

Dakota Kim is a writer and event producer. You can often find her buying wines at Dandelion, biking to Smorgasburg, shopping the farmers market in McGolrick, eating Van Leeuwen ice cream, and swimming in McCarren Pool.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *