State Fair: Taste of the NFL
At the Taste of the NFL, held at the Fort Worth Convention Center on Super Bowl Eve, if you left hungry or sober, it was by your own choice.
Now in its 20th year, the Taste event pairs renowned chefs from each NFL city with a famous legendary player from that city’s NFL team. The chefs serve a signature specialty; the players sign autographs and chat up their fans. Wines and cocktails flowed freely. A portion of the money raised from the 3,000 or so tickets purchased for the sold-out event and a related auction is donated to food banks nationwide.
There were some stand-out restaurants represented. Atlanta’s Kevin Rathbun Steak, manned by the namesake chef who first hit it big in Dallas at long-gone Baby Routh, Stephan Pyles‘ hit bistro of the 1990s, served rosemary grilled ribeye cap with smokey brussels spouts. They were among the evening’s best entrees. Indianapolis sent chef Greg Hardesty (Recess, which was closed for vacation during my recent visit) with roasted chicken and udon noodle soup, a favorite of Indy CVB PR director Chris Gahl, who was there scouting the scene before Indy hosts the event–and the Super Bowl–next year. Miami sent Allen Susser, chef at Chef Allen’s, who handed out mango-marinated pork loin (Susser has an almost unnatural affinity for mangos).
Philadelphia’s Jack’s Firehouse served a fork-tender brisket that was suprisingly good, but not nearly as good as this. NY’s chef Shin Tsujimura from Nobu handed out an all-too-pedestrian salmon sashimi salad.
For dessert, no one could seem to resist the ethereal cupcakes from Minnesota’s Franklin Street Bakery; chef Lynne Hackman’s chocolate ganache cupcakes are the food of gods. (Hackman was a pastry chef at Tejas in MN, where the menu was penned by Stephan Pyles…which sort of makes her another Pyles alum).
Hutch, from Buffalo, featured chef Mark Hutchinson’s amazing seckel pear brulee with vanilla bean and brie gelato drizzled with riesling syrup.
On the local interest side, Dean Fearing was there, serving Frito Pies (in actual Frito’s bags). So was EscapeHatch friend and Kitchen Cowboy Grady Spears (who’s opening a new restaurant in Fort Worth very soon–I’ll have details here shortly), PR expert Andrea Alcorn, bubble bar empress Dee Lincoln, Grace restaurant’s owners, chefs Brian Olenjack (Olenjacks), David Holben (another hit: Dr.Pepper braised short ribs with gouda mac and cheese, from Del Frisco’s), Jon Bonnell (Bonnell’s), and Michael Thomson (Michael’s Cuisine).
Who else was there? Martina McBride, Roger Staubach, sportscaster-emcee Scott Murray, Miss America Teresa Scanlan, TLC Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, sports analyst Daryl Johnson, a whole slew of Glazers‘ wine reps (they provided the wines). EscapeHatch contributor Steven Doyle helped Kent Rathbun’s Abacus team serve chipotle-cured pork shoulder tacos, while Fort Worth wine and food writer Renie Steves worked beside San Francisco’s acclaimed chef Charles Phan (Slanted Door) to dish up pork and shrimp spring rolls. I bumped into LA chef Nancy Silverton (Mozza, La Brea Bakery) and Robert Del Grande (Houston’s Bar Annie and RDG) and Stephan Pyles, who were part of a small group of founding chefs who returned to mix and mingle with guests.
All things considered, a great dine around for charity. But honestly, has anyone put together a more impressive dine-around than last year’s Savor Dallas event?