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It’s autumn in the borough of kings, and that means it’s time for Brooklyn Eats at the New York Marriott Brooklyn. The annual tasting event on Oct. 22 promises to be even more exciting than last year’s, says Ken Adams, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the event.

This year’s food fest will feature national sponsors, like Absolut vodka, in addition to the local microbrews and sodas and samples of the signature dishes from more than 40 restaurants.

"We do it in the fall, every year, to promote wonderful neighborhood restaurants," says Adams, "and to remind Manhattan residents that Brooklyn dining - the quality and the diversity - has improved dramatically in recent years."

Martha Bear Dallis, the event director for Brooklyn Eats, agrees.

"Walk down Court or Smith streets, Atlantic Avenue or Montague Street, or the neighborhood of Bay Ridge," urges Dallis. "In all the neighborhoods now you can go out and dine - just steps away from the subway or your own house."

While some people may feel timid about getting back into the swing of a normal social life, Brooklyn’s restaurants offer a lot to tempt you away from your lonely vigil in front of the TV with your takeout food on your lap, says Adams.

"We’re sending out a message that Brooklyn was booming before Sept. 11 and is still doing very well with powerful neighborhood economics," said Adams, echoing Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s sentiments about the importance of returning to work - and normalcy. "We’re back to business and doing well. Our neighborhood restaurants offer creative, talented chefs and interesting menus. They compete in size and annual revenues with Manhattan restaurants. But the value for hungry New Yorkers is here in Brooklyn, because the prices are lower."

A new development, according to Adams, is the "Brooklyn Eats Out" coupon book. Retailing for $25, the book offers restaurant discounts, buy-one-entree-get-one-free coupons and other deals. The coupon book is a real value to the foodie, says Adams, pointing out that if a customer uses just two coupons, the book will have paid for itself. The coupon books will be on sale at the event.

To pull off Brooklyn Eats, the Chamber has once again contracted the services of food guru Dallis. She also produces Grand Gourmet, the tasting event sponsored by the Grand Central Partnership, and she recently wrapped Harvest in the Square, presented by the 14th Street-Union Square Local Development Corporation. In short, Dallis knows her food.

Simplicity reigns

Dallis says that a food industry trend she has discovered this year is the way menus are designed.

"I would say that people are showcasing their expertise or specialty with their menu. Chefs don’t need to present a complex menu, but a simple menu with specialty dishes. They’ve simplified. Not necessarily preparing simple dishes, but fewer dishes. They don’t feel as compelled to be a restaurant that serves all of these different types of cuisines."

Dallis says that this year, even diner’s expectations have changed.

"People want to see food looking like what you expect it to look like, not overproduced," she says. "The dishes are keeping true to their intent. Beautifully roasted chicken with haricots verts and garlic mashed potato - it comes out true to the description. Ingredients are not so esoteric. Simplicity reigns as well as the integrity of the dish itself."

"The amazing thing about Brooklyn restaurants is that they do their signature dish so well," said Dallis, calling attention to the North African pastry of Oznot’s Dish, which will be sharing samples at Brooklyn Eats. "It’s very distinct and they are true to who they are."


Another sell out

Adams is projecting more than 900 people will attend Brooklyn Eats in the Marriott’s grand ballroom. In other words, says Dallis, don’t wait to buy your tickets, call Telecharge now. (Another incentive: the $65 tickets are $15 cheaper when purchased in advance.)

Attendees have just two hours to enjoy unlimited samples of the wares of many of Brooklyn’s best restaurants, so it’s not a good day to arrive fashionably late.

Dallis promises to reward you for your punctuality with a diverse line up of sampling opportunities.

"The ethnic diversity reflects Brooklyn’s neighborhood diversity," says Dallis. "There’s South African from Madiba, French, Italian, Jamaican, Southern and classic new American from Smith Street restaurants like Saul and Smith Street Kitchen. This is also the first year we have Irish food from Eamonn’s [formerly known as Eamonn Doran’s on Montague Street]."

Newcomers to this year’s Brooklyn Eats event include: Amette Jamaican Cafe’s chef Sedrick Lewis who will be serving jerk chicken wings and Jamaican chop suey; Beso’s chef Carlo Zuccarello serving Quinoa bread pudding with Valencia orange sauce; Grappa Cafe’s chef Anthony Parascondola serving artichoke ravioli, crispy duck and pollo rosmario with mascarpone cream sauce; Minnow Restaurant’s chef Aaron Bashy’s warm smoked codfish with homemade creme fraiche; and Rice’s chef David Selig with roasted eggplant maki, Malaysian jerky and edamame. And that’s just a "sampling" of the more than 40 restaurants expected to be at Brooklyn Eats.

For those foodies who come back to Brooklyn Eats year after year looking for their favorite restaurants, the "classics" are back again, too, assures Dallis.

"Marco Polo and Henry’s End will be there and River Cafe will be there with birch beer ice cream floats," she says, explaining that River Cafe’s new venture is the Brooklyn Bridge Ice Cream Factory, adjacent to their restaurant at 1 Water St. on Fulton Landing.

"They make fabulous ice cream," says Dallis. "In a good New York restaurant, the hardest thing is to prepare the simplest thing - the best cup of coffee or bread or the best ice cream. But when a fine dining restaurant can do the very basic to the top, that’s the magic of a fine restaurant."

Whether you decide to attend Brooklyn Eats or go to your local haunt for the usual, Dallis says you’re not alone.

"People want - especially these past seven to 10 days - to go out and share with friends and family and celebrate life. That sense of community and having a shared experience.

"It’s really healthy to go out and dine, and when at a neighborhood restaurant it’s like a big home - breaking bread together with friends and family," she says. "It’s OK to do that. You’re celebrating life. What the mayor is saying is that you must go out. It’s healthy for the mind and for the soul."

Brooklyn Eats will be held Oct. 22 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the New York Marriott Brooklyn, 333 Adams St. Tickets are $50 in advance and $65 at the door. Call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200. Look for the GO Brooklyn table for a free Dizzy’s Kitchen chocolate chip cookie courtesy of The Brooklyn Papers.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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