Football fans, food lovers, and connoisseurs of both cuisine and athletics from all over the country poured into the Red Hook Cruise Terminal for the 23rd Annual Taste of the NFL last weekend.
Chefs from representing 42 NFL teams cooked dishes representing gourmet versions of tailgating dishes from various hometowns, from Chef Debbie Gold's chicken-fried quail and biscuits with gravy for the Kansas City Chiefs to maple braised beef short rib with white grits and shaved horseradish from Chef David Lawrence for the San Francisco 49ers. Each dish was paired with a wine from Napa or Sonoma, bringing another flavorful level of national culinary pride to the event.
More than just feeding hungry fans, the "Party With a Purpose" aims to kick out hunger, by donating all net proceeds from the event to foodbanks all over the country. City Harvest was also in attendance, to donate usable leftovers to those in need.
The New York Jets brought Nobu's Chef Taku Sato, who served thin slices of tuna and salmon tataki with a light jalapeno dressing. The dish was a refreshing balance to many heavier meat-and-potatoes style dishes throughout the evening, and Chef Sato was totally on his game, preparing plate after plate of the highly-demanded dish, still with the poise and smile that makes Nobu one of New York's most renowned restaurants. The New York Giants opted for Kamal Rose of Tribeca Grill, who made a hearty Italian wedding soup and a New York cheesecake.
Perhaps the Seahawks' win was best predicted by their fantastic dish: chef John Howie prepared a Skuna Bay salmon with sticky rice, drizzled in coconut Thai curry sauce, and topped with thin shreds of zucchini-carrot-cilantro-peanut slaw. Former Seahawks player Craig Terrill told us, "Salmon is Seattle. We needed to serve salmon because it's delicious, healthy, and really represents our team."
The Denver Broncos' chef Troy Guard made a bison and pistachio sausage with bacon-infused mustard and apricot puree over a cabbage slaw: individually, the elements of the dish were uniquely flavorful, but overall they just kind of needed a time-out from each other.
Teams from the South — America's culinary heart, some may argue — definitely had the most creative dishes. chef William Schutz III for the Carolina Panthers served a braised North Carolina pork belly with micro collards, sweet potato mousse, with sorghum and smoked South Carolina peanuts. This modern take on classic regional fare was creative in flavor, presentation, and texture, and brought a unique new element to traditional Southern cooking.
Minnesota may not be known as a culinary destination, but representing the Vikings, chef Tim McKee made his table one of the event's major destinations, serving a tender Veal Oscar with snow crab and truffled Béarnaise, an impossibly perfect combination of steak and seafood that brought many guests back for seconds, despite the 40+ other options at the event.
Chef Gerard Craft of St. Louis prepared the most unqiue dish of the night: a lemon maple custard with shiitake mushrooms and bonito caviar served inside a brown egg shell, a feat Andrew Zimmern, a guest at the event, was notably impressed with.
San Diego's chef Jonathon Hale's freshly fried dulce de luche churros with chili spiced Mayan hot chocolate and tres leches whipped cream scored the winning touchdown: a satisfying crispy and sugary dessert with a rich chocolatey dipping sauce so delightful that no other desserts even had a chance on the field.
Taste of the NFL also featured a silent auction, offering items from autographed sports paraphanelia to culinary gifts like Big Green Eggs, cooking classes, and cook books.