All photos by Daniel Krieger (@danielkrieger)
This past Wednesday, a food and beverage experience of behemoth proportions descended upon New York City: The Village Voice Choice Eats. It was an evening of excess all around: excessive gluttony, excessive masses of humanity, and excessive flavor. I’m happy to say I lived to tell about it.
Now in its sixth year, Choice Eats is thrown by the fine folks at the Village Voice and a team of generous sponsors. Voice critics Robert Sitsema and Tejal Rao curate a sampling of some of New York City’s most delicious restaurants, which congregate at the 69th Armory on Lexington Avenue to present their wares to a ravenous public. It’s apparently pretty popular at this point, as I found out when I rolled up to the venue about 30 minutes before doors opened to find a line weaving around almost an entire city block. If I didn’t know what was going on I would have sworn Deadmau5 was in town for the night. Maybe food is the new rave scene.
Inside the armory, I found 90+ tables for different restaurants, plus a dozen more for beer companies, ten for wine and spirits, and a sprinkling of booths for the event sponsors. The room was fucking huge. I managed to enter the main space with my lovely First We Feast press pass that allowed me and the VIP ticket holders a 15 minute jump on the line of people still standing outside. This was awesome as the room pretty much filled up to “butts to nuts” capacity within 30 minutes. Imagine navigating a nightclub during peak hour. Verdict = tedious.
Essentially, each restaurant presented between 1-4 different food items that were available to sample pretty much limitlessly. I was able to almost reach total full-stomach mode within 15 minutes. The event was an embarrassment of food riches. Practically a full-on Roman-style food orgy. Almost any type of cuisine you can imagine was represented. I went from inhaling a country sausage biscuit straight to devouring a nice slice of tiramisu, back to a macaroni and cheese-covered hot dog, then into a chilled lobster bisque with pickled shrimp. And then to a smoked s’more. And then fried chicken. Ice cream. Lamb stew. Meatball-studded pizza bread. Mango chile paletas. BBQ brisket. And on and on and on.
Every time my stomach tried to tap out, I threw it back into the ring, continuing to wend my way through the chaos and the crowd, and adding an impressive four pounds to my total body weight in the process (or so my scale informed me the next morning). To be honest, I reached a point of no return. It was deliciousness overload. I was lucky to have my friend and photographer extraordinaire Daniel Krieger there to reign me in. I might have woken up, post-food coma, tucked beneath a dumpster in the back alley otherwise.
Upon reflection, it was a pretty awesome experience. So much great food filed neatly into one space. I’ve had much worse meals for more than $50, and at least at Choice Eats I was sampling so many different food options. It was insane.
So what were the best bites of the night? Here are my top 10 dishes of Choice Eats 2013, in countdown form—plus a bonus pick from my man Daniel Krieger.