When I first heard about the first annual New York City Wine & Food Festival, I thought, Finally. I’ve clocked a lot of time at F&W’s Classic in Aspen, plus more at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. It was only be fair that the superstar chef demos, wine demos and Burger Bashes come to me in NYC. (This is a good place for me to say that Food & Wine is an event sponsor.)
And so they are: Starting October 9 and running through the 12th, there will be close to 100 events, featuring almost 200 chefs… and I can’t even start counting the wine experts and mixologists in the mix. Which presents a new, watch-what-you-wish-for scenario—how to pick what to attend from the seemingly infinite list of events.
There’s really only one person I’d trust to answer that question: Lee Schrager, the NYC festival’s founder, and the man who made the South Beach festival mandatory for every food lover. Here, Mr. Schrager’s top five must-do events. (Note, some of these events are officially sold out, but, thanks to Craigslist and eBay, still very much attendable.)
1. The Burger Bash (Friday, October 10)
This event, which started in the sand on South Beach, will be recreated on the Dumbo waterfront. Hosted by Rachael Ray, who says burgers are her favorite food, the event will feature 20 or so contestants, from Adam Perry Lang of Daisy Mae’s BBQ to Craft’s (and Top Chef’s) Tom Colicchio to whoever is the burger maker at Shake Shack. The crowd selects the best burger after eating as many as they want. “Honestly,” says Schrager, “people have a better chance of trying a Shake Shack burger here than at Madison Square Park.”
2. The Mentor and the Protégé seminar (Sunday, October 12)
Ferran Adrià, the world’s most famous chef, will present his food while Jose Andres (a.k.a. the protégé, and one of my favorite cooks in this country) prepares it.
3. SWEET (Saturday, October 11)
This decadent late-night dessert party will feature 50 of the city’s top pastry chefs, unlimited Champagne and and and Samantha Ronson DJing the whole hot mess.
4. Mouton Rothschild Art & Wine Tribute (Sunday, October 12)
The Baroness (Philippine de Rothschild) doesn’t do seminars that often, so when she does, it’s a big deal. This one will feature a vertical tasting of Château Mouton Rothschild bottles with American artist–designed labels—think Andy Warhol (1975) and Keith Haring (1988)—hosted by F&W’s outstanding wine editor Lettie Teague.
5. Meatpacking Eats (throughout the weekend)
You’ll find food bloggers taking over the 14th Street Apple store’s lounge, cookie-decorating seminars at Chelsea Market (nominally a kids’ program), Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin talking about a little book they wrote called Skinny Bitch and wine tasting extravaganzas at Del Posto. Here’s what’s great: A lot of the events are free, or maximum $20. (Well, the Super-Tuscan tasting is a little pricier.)