The First Rule of Choice Eats Is…


Blue Stove's temptresses push Chunky Monkey pie.

Blue Stove’s temptresses push Drunky Monkey pie.

On Tuesday night, I attended the 6th Annual Village Voice Choice Eats Tasting Event, a sprawling affair in the Armory showcasing food from nearly 100 of the city’s best restaurants and bakeries. My performance at last year’s Great Googa Mooga Festival, chronicled in detail on this blog, pretty much laid to rest any questions regarding my superior ability to binge-eat while in direct competition with throngs of aggressive New York “foodies.” (Sadly, this isn’t even a #humblebrag, it’s more like a #desperatecryforajuicerandsomeselfcontrol.) The point is, I had nothing to prove this time around; I could take it easy and even make some rules so that I could approach the event calmly and in a fashion that was unlikely to call to mind Louis C.K.’s bit about waiting in line for Cinnabon at his arrival airport.

Rule No. 1: In an effort to try as much new stuff as possible, I am not allowing myself to eat anything I have already sampled before Choice Eats, no matter how much I loved it. Sorry, Luke’s Lobster and Red Hook Lobster Pound, no room at the moment for shrimp rolls that instantly beam me to a weather-beaten wooden dock in Maine, but I’ll be darkening both of your doorsteps pretty often when the good weather finally gets here, don’t worry.

Instead, tonight is the night I finally get to sample Mable’s Smokehouse & Banquet Hall’s tender, among-the-best-I’ve-ever-had-in-my-life beef brisket. And Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter, this Southerner-by-birth sincerely apologizes for taking this long to try your sweet-tea brined fried chicken (served cold on purpose because you are apparently inside my head) and also for declaring rather rashly to a friend earlier that very day that the words “tantalizing,” “succulent,” and “mouthwatering,” are generally unacceptable outside the context of a Fancy Feast commercial, because they might actually apply here. Anella, your homemade burrata stuffed with tomato jam and finished with basil salt was more complex and somehow even better-tasting than that stellar three-ingredient list led me to believe.

That poor man's fondue sure was ridiculously good.

That poor man’s fondue sure was ridiculously good.

Rule No. 2: One, maybe two, bites of each thing and then into the garbage with it.  Wasteful? Sure, but it’s all in the game. A teensy morsel of a buffalo chicken meatball from the Meatball Shop was enough to confirm that it tasted exactly how you might think it would while at the same time avoiding a potentially night-ending bout of heartburn.  Let’s be honest, no one could take down an entire Fluffernutter Kolache (yep, I opted for the flavor involving marshmallow Fluff) or a full-sized cross-section of the items on SCRATCHbread’s “Interactive Noshery of Deliciousness” and still have room to hit a “Drunken Poor Man’s Fondue” cup from 606 R&D and the chopped pork slider from Fletcher’s that Robert Sietsema recently anointed the area’s only “near-perfect Carolina-style sandwich.” As an insufferable snob when it comes to Carolina pulled pork, the jury is still out for me on that bold assessment, but I’ll admit it was a damn tasty bite.

Thirty Acres might be in New Jersey, but this egg will convince you to visit.

Thirty Acres might be in New Jersey, but this egg will convince you to visit.

Rule No. 3: Bonus points for places far-flung from the usual Brooklyn hipster nabes and the East Village. This is how I ended up discovering that I evidently love Cypriot food (who knew?), or at least the cigar-shaped seasoned pork sausages called sheftalia that were being served up by Astoria’s Zenon Taverna. It’s also how I found myself marveling at the sheer artistry of the dish on offer from Jersey City’s Thirty Acres: a single aubergine egg slow-poached in red wine, laid on a bed of greens and flecked by mustard seed and ember-colored roe.

Rule No. 4: Do not, under any circumstances, eat so much that the trip home to Brooklyn entails a taxi, which would display an alarming disregard for both general physical health and fiscal well-being.

Ok, here ‘s the part where I confess to a few brazen transgressions. Allswell had a selection of mini savory pies and the beef and stilton was so good that I ate the whole thing before I realized it, perhaps because experiencing such well-executed English food is like meeting a unicorn. I also ate the entire double-decker broccoli taco from No. 7, and this was AFTER having a broccoli sandwich from No. 7 Sub for lunch the day before. In my defense, what those people do to broccoli is an engineering feat on par with the creation of the Large Hadron Collider. Then it was time for Choice Sweets, the dessert portion of the evening, when things really fell of the rails.

Already full to the point of  discomfort, I polished off a scoop of my favorite salted crack caramel ice cream from Ample Hills and a Robicelli’s brownie that used Brooklyn Brown Ale in the place of the milk because I am just a human girl not some kind of robot built with Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s self-discipline microchip. At this point, my insides felt like mush and the real bad decision-making began. I vaguely remember telling the nice lady behind the Blue Stove table that if I ate the Drunky Monkey Pie she was pushing I wouldn’t be able to take the train home. Minutes later, after a few heavenly spoonfuls of that bourbon and caramelized banana confection, I was hailing a cab on Lexington Avenue, bound for home and resolved to subsist on crudité and lemon water until GoogaMooga rolls back into town on May 17. See you guys then!

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