On stop two of the Eventbrite NYC Blogger Tour, I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Taste Talks – two days chock-full of panels, workshops, and tastings, all revolving around the latest trends in food and drink. Curated by April Bloomfield, these events were packed with some of biggest names in food today, such as Mario Batali, Questlove, Dan Barber, Alessandro Porcelli, Wylie Dufresne, and more. Never before have I wanted to clone myself so badly so that I could attend all the panels – in lieu of that, here’s what I learned from my selection.
Is Food Porn Good for Food?: Probably the topic most relevant to this generation, as practically everyone is guilty of committing food porn nowadays – this panel, led by Mariana Cotlear of Heritage Radio Network and consisting of Bon Appetit’s Matt Duckor and Christian Seel (the photographer at Next, Alinea and Aviary) discussed food photography do’s, don’ts, and…why do we do it, anyway? I’m constantly trying to get people to put their phones away at dinner, but of course, I’ll be snapping away, too. Enjoying a meal out with friends is one of those occasions where you can actually share information and thoughts face-to-face, rather than through a screen – is it worth it to ruin the atmosphere of a meal for the pursuit of the perfect picture?
One audience member offered this analogy: if you were having sex and stopped to take a photo of every position, then you’d have a bad sex life, but you’d have really interesting photos. Thoughts?
Scenes from the Pancake Breakfast at Brooklyn Bowl, with entertainment by the Outer Borough Brass Band
Foodieodicals: Consisting of the editors of four self-published food magazines, the layouts of Diner Journal, Cherry Bombe, Put A Egg On It, and Swallow Magazine make me want to go out and start my own magazine, based on the beautiful graphic design and photography alone. Also, I have a huge girl crush on Kerry Diamond of Cherry Bombe – Kerry, if you’re looking for anyone to feature in your next issue, pick me, pick me!
Bitters Workshop with Brad Thomas Parsons: What I know on the topic of bitters amounts to nearly nothing, so I traded in my lecture pants for an hour and headed over to Aska for a bitters workshop, led by Brad Thomas Parsons. The poor guy was a bit overwhelmed by an onslaught of people who were no doubt crowding around for the free drinks, but he handled it as gracefully as anyone could in his position, handing out cups of rosemary bar nuts, pouring Old Fashioneds, and passing out a diverse collection of bitters for the audience to experiment with, all the while educating the crowd on his extensive bitters knowledge.
At the Intersection of Art and Commerce: It was already built it up in my mind that this would be the best panel – and, of course, it did not disappoint. A lineup of Questlove, Mario Batali, Jennifer Rubell, and Wylie Dufresne, all in one room – that’s as close as I’m ever going to get to fulfilling my dream dinner party. The most fascinating aspect of the panel was the mix of backgrounds in one room, with two chefs, one artists, and a drummer/DJ/author/professor/etc/etc/etc especially when discussing the critics in each industry, as it was educational not only for the audience, but even for the panel members as well. There was a definite collective gasp/laugh when Questlove brought up the Pete Wells/Guy Fieri debacle, leading up to what Jennifer Rubell dubbed as the “democratization of hatred” in society.
The takeaway from this panel? “You’re only as good as your last lasagna,” according to Batali, demonstrating that those in the food industry (or any industry, really) need to continually push and reinvent themselves – and that you are your own biggest critic.
I’ve never been in the presence of so many prominent people of the food industry at one time and nothing can compare to hearing so many accomplished people tell their stories, all in one day, but my only criticism is: what was the deal with the tickets? I never once had to show my pass to anyone, and workshops filled up fast or ended up exceeding capacity – maybe the organizers thought the event (like food) was something to be shared?
To sum up today’s food culture in one quote, Richard Coraine of Union Square Hospitality said it pretty well when he stated “I think people are more informed about food than they’ve ever been before, whether it be carrots or coffee.” However, I believe Matt Duckor summed it up best with this: “Isn’t it weird that we’re all sitting here in this fucking basement talking about food porn?”
It’s not over yet – more on the Taste Talks All-Star Cookout (complete with tons and tons of food porn for your viewing pleasure) on the blog tomorrow. Stay tuned!
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