There’s one night each year when too much
of a good thing is just right: the "Brooklyn Eats"
food, wine and beer tasting festival. The ninth annual event,
sponsored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, returns to the
Grand Ballroom of the New York Marriott Brooklyn this Monday,
The foodie fest will include more than 60 of Brooklyn’s finest restaurants, caterers, gourmet shops, microbrews and wineries representing the cuisines of many of the borough’s ethnic neighborhoods.
"Brooklyn continues to be a showcase for great restaurants, and a mecca for sampling diverse cuisines," says Martha Bear Dallis, whose company, Bear Dallis Associates, produces the event each year. Dallis says she’s excited by the return of Brooklyn "classics" such as Cake Man Raven of Downtown Brooklyn, I-Shebeen Madiba of Fort Greene and Marco Polo Ristorante of Carroll Gardens, as well as new eateries.
"We’re thrilled that so many food purveyors see the festival as a vibrant marketing tool," says Dallis.
One first-timer is Stacey Mooradian, who owns Luscious Foods, a six-month-old gourmet to-go shop in Park Slope. Their specialty, says Mooradian, is "slow food fast."
"We’re very excited to take part in ’Brooklyn Eats,’" says Mooradian, who co-owns the shop with Christine Zeni. "We see it as a great opportunity to showcase our favorite dishes alongside other fine Brooklyn food establishments." The partners will serve two comfort classics with a twist: macaroni and cheese made with three cheeses and mini sandwiches of rare roast beef topped with caramelized onions and horseradish spread.
Another newcomer is Les Babouches, a Moroccan restaurant from Bay Ridge.
"We’re looking forward to meeting and greeting our fellow restaurateurs, and bringing the taste of Morocco to a wider audience," says Liz Gassimi, wife of owner Bouabid Gassimi.
Long-time "Brooklyn Eats" participant, the venerable Lundy Brothers of Sheepshead Bay, will bring their signature seafood dishes again this year.
"We have a great time participating in ’Brooklyn Eats,’" says general manager Tony Demetroulakos. "It’s the best way to put our food out there." Demetroulakos says the restaurant’s menu for the event hasn’t been finalized, but he anticipates that they’ll be serving one of their soups and pan-seared tuna over a house-made chip topped with a "secret" sauce.
Like Bear Dallis, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Kenneth Adams is enthusiastic about this year’s event.
"Of the 68 participants, a third are newcomers," says Adams. "That’s an unprecedented number of first-time businesses to join us at ’Brooklyn Eats.’ With so many of our old standards returning and all these emerging places coming to the festival, diners can survey firsthand the evolution of Brooklyn’s restaurant scene."
While it’s important to promote Brooklyn dining, Adams says, "It’s necessary that the culinary industry give back to other chefs whose restaurants are in need." In the works are "creative fundraising activities" like a raffle, to be held on the evening of the festival. Proceeds will go to aid the reopening of Dooky Chase, a New Orleans restaurant that was flooded during Hurricane Katrina.
That eatery’s chef is 82-year-old Leah Chase, who, says Adams, "is considered the Queen of Creole cuisine. We want to leverage the ’Brooklyn Eats’ event, so we can be there for this deserving restaurant and chef."
Imagine the spread
For those who have yet to attend "Brooklyn Eats," be prepared to be overwhelmed and overfed - not that that’s a bad thing.
In the vast main ballroom, participants set up tables side by side, so you’ll see a chef dishing out slices of pate while a nearby waiter serves shish kebab from a tikki hut. Along another aisle, you’ll spot a chef twirling linguini inside a hollowed-out wheel of Parmesan, and near the pasta is a towering mound of barbecued spare ribs being nibbled on by greasy-fingered diners. Beyond the savory offerings are tables so heavy with cakes and tarts, cookies and ice cream, they make the Viennese dessert spreads at weddings look stingy.
In the center of the buffet-style banquet are wineries decanting bottles, soda manufacturers offering samples, and servers pouring cups of dark coffee that go a long way toward clearing heads and palates.
As the evening winds down, you may discover yourself sitting at a large communal table in a recovery room of sorts. This salon, just off the main dining room, fills up with glassy-eyed attendees who curse themselves for giving in to that last bite.
Before leaving for home this year, diners can stop by local author Steve Hindy’s table. The president and co-founder of the Brooklyn Brewery will be signing copies of "Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery," the book he authored with brewery co-founder, Tom Potter.
And, for the fourth year, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce will announce the winners of its "Brooklyn Eats" scholarships. Prizes of $1,000 each will be awarded to three aspiring chefs enrolled in the hospitality management program at CUNY’s New York City College of Technology, in Downtown Brooklyn. The students will be on hand to debut their Caribbean pineapple cake.
The next day, plan on making friends with your "fat pants," you know, the pair you keep in the back of the closet for just such an occasion. And you’ll try not to think about food - until lunchtime rolls around.
"Brooklyn Eats" is Oct. 17 at the New York Marriott Brooklyn [333 Adams St. between Tillary and Willoughby streets in Downtown Brooklyn, (718) 246-7000]. Tickets ordered in advance are $85 per person for VIP admission that allows diners to begin eating at 5:30 pm; $65 per person with admission beginning at 6:30 pm. The event ends at 8:30 pm. Tickets purchased at the door are $85. To order, call (866) 468-7619 or log onto the Web site www.ticketweb.com.