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Highlights from 24 Hours at NYC Wine & Food Festival


© kate krader

Friday, 7:30 p.m. Bruni Unveiled The former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni told Eater cofounder Ben Leventhal why he gave Momofuku Ssäm Bar three stars (Momofuku founder David Chang’s name would come up roughly 500 times in each seminar over the weekend) and where he’d eat in a desert-island scenario with a choice between restaurants he gave his worst reviews to: Ago, Ninja or Harry Cipriani. (Bruni replied that he'd rather channel his inner Tom Hanks in Cast Away and fish with his hands.)

9 p.m. Burger Bash
Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn, who had a tremendous get-out-the-vote campaign with cheerleaders and pins, won the judges' favorite award with the Obama Burger (a bacon–blue cheese number).

Daily Candy’s Midnight Music and MunchiesLittle Owl’s Joey Campanaro gave free dancing lessons while PDT’s Jim Meehan served a drink that was so good I forgot the name of it (!), but it was dramatically garnished with slapped mint.

Saturday, 11 a.m. Fun and Fit in the City  – In the green room at the Harlem Children’s Zone, Rachael Ray told the former Knicks guard Allan Houston about the days when she had to cook with no money. Then President Bill Clinton told a gym packed with families that he knew personally how hard it was to find healthy food choices in Harlem. “There are a lot of other options, and they all taste good,” he said. Later, panelists Ray, Houston and Dr. Mehmet Oz talked about the challenges of eating healthfully in the South. “I grew up in Kentucky, and we’d eat pork chops for breakfast,” said Houston. “Gravy is a beverage there,” replied Oz.

3 p.m. – On a panel moderated by Time Out New York’s Gabriella Gershenson that debated whether fine dining is dead in NYC (I was on the panel, and I said no), Daniel Boulud and Andrew Carmellini somehow challenged each other to a sausage cook-off.

6 p.m. – At a Times Talk with Frank Bruni, Anthony Bourdain had so much to say that I’m going to save it for another blog.

It’s past 24 hours now, but the rest of the night, briefly: At the superfun Down South, Up North at Hill Country, Art Smith rocked the house with his fried chicken, Katie Lee made awesome collards with soy sauce and the Lee Brothers served smoked creamed cauliflower to excellent effect. Paula Deen got her photo taken a thousand times, though rumors that her big fan Vince Vaughn would show up proved false.

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