Sticks and Stones and Soup From Bones: Brothfest Recap

On a rainy, muggy Saturday, a crowd of NYC’s most enlightened eaters (or should I say slurpers?) journeyed to South Street Seaport for the Battle of the Broths, determined to find the one in seven that would warm their bones and their souls. Planned as a collaboration between FAME by Alex Mitow and Greg T. Spielberg’s Imagination in Space with additional backing from Yelp and the Howard Hughes Corporation, the event appears to have been a soupy success. The famous Katz’s Delicatessen offered a classic chicken-matzoh broth dating from the restaurant’s earlier days in 1888. It was a smooth, simplistic throwback with little artifice that carried a great deal of salty and umami flavor.

I had a chance to meet Jake Dell, Katz's current owner, and a proud legacy of a deli dynasty taking over for his father and grandfather.

I had a chance to meet Jake Dell, Katz’s current owner, and a proud legacy of a deli dynasty taking over for his father and grandfather.

Using their Magic Bullet (only like my favorite as-seen-on-TV product), Belle Reve whipped up a Blackened Butter Bone Broth splashed with a shot of Wild Turkey bourbon. It was intensely creamy and decadent with a harsh, smoky aftertaste, and one of my favorites.

Paula Deen would be proud of all the butter in this broth!

Paula Deen would be proud of all the butter in this broth!

FAME by Alex Mitow had the  “Sake to Me,” a concoction of Kobe Beef broth dressed up with lemongrass, herbs, dry sake, and chive oil. The ingredients were fresh and well-chosen, and they all noticeably popped, but I found this elixir too over-the-top for my appreciation. Baz Bagel prepared its own variation of a chicken matzoh ball soup that was salted nicely and came with an adorable baby matzoh. It was definitely the most recognizable broth in the bunch, and a safe choice. Bone Deep and Harmony gave out both beef and chicken broths, allowing visitors to choose their own spices and condiments to customize their cup. I tried mixing in some chimichurri, but turned out to be a poor judge of how much to mix in. Spur Tree brought in its “Fish Tea,” a fish-based broth with garlic, scallions, and even a little bit of tropical fruit. It managed to be fiery and sweet at the same time with very delectable bits of boneless fish that melded swimmingly with the broth. There were even some crispy wonton chips  for a crunch with my slurp.

The Fish Tea was well-stocked with fish, veggies, and flavor!

The Fish Tea was well-stocked with fish, veggies, and flavor!

Caracas Arepa Bar had a traditional Venezuelan San Cocho  with beef shanks on the bone. The heat and the spice were overpowering in contrast to the tender morsels of beef. It wasn’t really my cup of broth, but the beef was absolutely delicious and it slid right off.   Sancocho Spur Tree’s “Fish Tea” ended up scoring the most votes (including mine), followed by Belle Reve (my second choice), who was just four shy. I seldom think of my tastes as conventional, but my picks apparently were the consensus.

Spur Tree was the winner!

Spur Tree was the winner!

Between cups, there was plenty of beer, clothing boutiques, and live music provided by gypsy band Sylvana Joyce and the Moment and DJs Andrew Andrew. Alex Mitow even took the stage at one point to spin a few playlists of his own as DJ Mouthlove.

Oddly enough, I didn't hear any Bowling For Soup

Oddly enough, I didn’t hear any Bowling For Soup

With this year’s weather remaining as hostile and chilly as ever, it doesn’t look like the bone broth trend is ready to simmer down just yet (and neither is Shailene Woodley). Broth Fest was a fun way to fan the flames of this fad, and I’m excited to see what’s up next. Hopefully Spring!

Photo with Alex Mitow and fashionista Leo Gugu. Photo by James Miille.

Photo with Alex Mitow and fashionista Alotta McGriddles. Photo by James Miille.

Interview with Chef Alex Mitow: DJ, Caterer, and Broth Brahman!

This exceptionally biting winter has birthed a new foodie craze in the form of bone broth by the cup. While I have yet to fully immerse myself in this soupy tradition, I’ve always found that a little meat stock and a lot of love does wonders for the body and soul.

No stranger to the funky food fads of New York, Chef Alex Mitow has masterminded a melting pot of epic proportions in conjunction with Greg Spielberg and fellow NY pop-up star Imagination in Space. This Saturday, March 14th, the inflatable Sugarcube pavilion at South Street Seaport will be transformed into a bouillon cube to host Broth Fest, a toasty warm pop-up that joins several eateries like the famed Katz’s Deli. Other participants include Baz Bagel, Caracas Arepa Bar, and Spur Tree.

Last year, Alex thrilled me with his All-American Diner pop-up, and on separate occasions, I’ve been wowed by his work at events like The Big Cheesy and The Thrillist Taco Knockout! His Taylor Swiss Grilled Cheese with Truffled Duck Mousse was proof that one can teach an old concept new tricks.

Previously the owner of Colombian Hot Dog restaurant Los Perros Locos, Alex has recently shifted to promoting his event planning company FAME and hosting art shows and fairs at his LESpace pop-up.

Recently, I was lucky enough to get a chance to interview Alex despite his busy schedule.

1. Why broth?

Broth is the hottest (no pun intended) NYC food trend this season, and there is a lot of debate about it. Is it just glorified soup? Is it a magical elixir? The new Gatorade? We decided that rather than just speculate, we’d hold a pop-up around the broth craze and let the public decide! No matter what the outcome, the eight chefs we have involved are sure to whip up a delicious spread of broths!

2. What’s your favorite dish that you’ll be serving at Broth Fest?

Of course I’m excited for FAME’s “Sake To Me”, a dry-sake based broth with kobe beef bones simmered with lemongrass and other assorted herbs. Besides that, we’re super psyched for the new TriBeCa spot Belle Reve’s Blackened Butter Broth as well as the old school matzoh ball soup version from Katz’ Deli.

3. How did you first find yourself in the world of cooking?

I grew up sleeping in booths at my family’s restaurant in Florida and cooking just sort of came about as a natural consequence. These days I’m spending more time behind my laptop and on my feet about town than in my commercial kitchen, but I still experiment at home and play with ideas on paper that our FAME team turns into reality.

4. How do you experiment with flavors/choose combinations for your dishes?

I’m a big eater and have been exposed to so many tastes. With cooking and flavor combos, a lot of the time I’m not so much trying things physically so much as putting together ingredients and combinations that sound like they’ll work well together on paper or in my cell phone’s note pad. The New York Times quoted me as saying that I wrote the menu for Los Perros Locos “in fifteen minutes on my cell phone” but I’m not that big of a douche. It was more like an hour.

5. What made you shift from Los Perros Locos to FAME/ LESpace?

I’ve spent ten years on and off doing brick and mortar restaurants and it’s kind of an addiction. It’s hard for me to walk by an empty space and not see it as some type of concept restaurant. LPL was one of those. However, the day to day grind and constant worry of a restaurant combined with the astronomical costs and questionable city policy in NYC wore on me. At the same time, I was producing more events and enjoyed that more, as well as getting deeper into the arts and music world (I own a gallery and also DJ on the side) so I decided to transition into something that capitalized on my F&B background while allowing me the creative freedom to do what I enjoy.

6. Got any funny kitchen/catering nightmares?

Way too many to list! People think the events business is glamorous, I beg them to imagine the owner of the events company biking through the Lower East Side with a suckling pig on the handlebars looking for an oven to cook it in because the oven at the pop up venue isn’t working.

7. What’s next?

FAME stands for Food, Art, Music, and Events and we have events coming up in all of these spheres. Food-wise we’re big fans of single-food festivals like Broth Fest and have a whole bunch more up our sleeve in the coming year, spread all around downtown. We’ve also been planning a monthly Night Bizarre* event that would combine food, fashion, as well as live art and musical performance, into a one night extravaganza at a yet to be named downtown space. Besides that, we’ll be continuing to provide bespoke catering for the arts and theatre community, as well as producing some awesome art events and gallery shows in the next few months. As I always say, big things poppin’, lil things stoppin’!

* Yet another clever pun!

Photo by James Miille of Irisism Photography.

Photo by James Miille of Irisism Photography.

Tickets for Broth Fest are available at this link with tastings selling for $33 in one hour chunks: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/broth-fest-at-south-street-seaport-tickets-15880705618

Snap, Crackle, POP-UP DINER: Alex Mitow’s All-American Diner

In food and drink and most walks of life, I’ve often found a single, simple truth to be evident: “Spontaneity is Sexy!” And restaurant director and event planner, Alex Mitow has demonstrated this very wisdom to me in the form of his latest endeavor and culinary extravaganza.

Alex Mitow's All-American Diner graced Grand Street from April 17th-19th

Alex Mitow’s All-American Diner graced Grand Street from April 17th-19th

Last week, I am thrilled to say that I attended two nights of Alex Mitow’s All-American Diner: A Pop Up!, Time Out New York’s The Empire Club on Thursday and The Debaucherous Disco Diner Dinner Party on Friday. The hip, young owner of Los Perros Locos, a Colombian hot dog restaurant in the Lower East Side, Alex aimed to turn “a closed down diner into an art, music, and food spectacle,” and I must say, he delivered quite a delicious and eclectic experience.

All-American Beer Can Vase

All-American Beer Can Vase

The very essence of a pop-up entails synthesizing something grand from seemingly out of nowhere. Utilizing the abandoned space of Noah’s Ark Diner on Grand Street, Alex Mitow’s All-American Diner demonstrated the sheer brilliance that can go into engineering a rebirth. With the simple yet effective additions of a disco ball, colored flags, and original New York City themed art, including an impressive Manhattan wall mural by artist Fernando “Ski” Romero, Alex truly conjured a dazzling party scene for patrons of all ages and tastes.

Mural by Fernando "Ski" Romero.

Mural by Fernando “Ski” Romero.

The musical acts also proved to be just as fresh as the décor. On Thursday night, the live entertainment consisted of a winningly over-the-top performance by Sylvana Joyce & The Moment, a band that describes its style as a combination of gypsy rock, soul, and blues. On Friday, we danced the night away to some mixed up pop music by Andrew Andrew, a DJ duo of twin-like doppelgangers.

BITES TO WRITE ABOUT

THE DOGS

On both Thursday and Friday night, we were presented with numerous platters of Tipico Mini Dogs, hot dogs and some colorful condiments naturally being one of Mitow’s specialties from his work at Los Perros Locos. Drizzled with Colombian-styled Salsa Verde with Pineapple and a classical Salsa Rosada (Ketchup + Mayo), then sprinkled with copious helpings of crushed potato chips. The result is an explosion of sweet and savory flavors with a killer crunch between every bite–an absolutely inspired spin on an American classic. I will be sure to try Los Perros Locos when I have the chance–the Mini has already won my heart!

Tipico Mini Dogs - Los Perros Locos Style Who says you can't teach a hot dog Colombian tricks?

Tipico Mini Dogs – Los Perros Locos Style
Who says you can’t teach a hot dog Colombian tricks?

Thursday night came with a variety of gooey, crispy American comfort food courses: Pastrami Swiss Croquettes, The Challah Atcha Boy Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Grandma’s Meatball Sliders, and Fried Calamari.

THURSDAY EXCLUSIVES

The Croquettes made for tiny but tasty starters, slathered in chipotle apple aioli, yet another of Mitow’s ingenious sauce creations that made for an excellent compliment for just about every dish.

Pastrami and Swiss Croquettes

Pastrami and Swiss Croquettes

Alex Mitow’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich, the hilariously named “Challah Atcha Boy” was a welcome veteran of this year’s The Big Cheesy Competition. Classically tender Katz’s pastrami, two types of cheeses, more aioli, and light, peppery peppadew wrapped within fluffy challah made for the most well-rounded and complex grilled cheese I have ever enjoyed in my young life. It is my hope that Mr. Mitow continues to dabble in the creation of sandwiches. This one was a champion!

Alex Mitow's delicious variant of a grilled cheese sandwich, made famous at The Big Cheesy.

Alex Mitow’s delicious variant of a grilled cheese sandwich, made famous at The Big Cheesy.

Grandma's Meatball Slider

Grandma’s Meatball Slider

A smooth yet solid cloud of fresh ricotta cheese with a hunk of simmered veal and pork on top of delicate Hawaiian sweet bread also impressed me.  I adored Alex Mitow’s Grandma’s Meatball Slider simply because it was a safe and traditional yet still excellent choice. The simplicity of the dish’s constituents belied a rich and heavy hitter that didn’t pull any punches in the taste department.

Crispy Calamari

Crispy Calamari

Our last Thursday plate was the Crispy Calamari, fried in garlic and butter, and seasoned with a lemon-peppadew aioli. By the time it left the kitchen, I was convinced I was full, but found I couldn’t resist the richly flavored batter. Once again, Alex took a lovely classic and dressed it up with one of his impeccable sauces.

Donuts from neighbor The Donut Factory were a sweet surprise for dessert

Donuts from neighbor The Doughnut Plant were a sweet surprise for dessert

FRIDAY EXCLUSIVES

For Friday, Alex focused the dining experience on a more centered lineup with three options, including those yummy hot dogs, consequentially allowing several times more helpings for guests.

By the time I tried the Pink Castle Sliders, I had no doubts of Alex’s abilities with a grill. The addition of the Salsa Rosada once again augmented the flavors of an already strong entree.

Pink Castle Sliders - With a Splash of Salsa Rosada

Pink Castle Sliders – With a Splash of Salsa Rosada

Smothered in cheese and stuffed with seasoned pastrami, I found Alex’s Disco Fries to be the true delicacy of the diner. A gooey outer layer riddled with crispy tidbits and choice cuts of meat transformed a side dish into a mass of sinful decadence. They were a full meal–an experience within themselves and worth every calorie-infused chomp!It wouldn't be a true disco without DISCO FRIES!

It wouldn’t be a true disco without these DISCO FRIES!

Closing Thoughts

Amidst that storm of artificial pink lights and catchy tunes, I’d say that Alex Mitow’s All-American Diner truly exemplified that all-too American value of glitz and glam from grime with all of the delightful excess of a Baz Luhrmann movie or a Cadillac commercial, but none of the shoddy plotting or poor characterization.

For a moment, I was taken out of my hectic New York existence and treated to something wild and fanciful, but gastronomically satisfying as well.

It is this writer’s hope that Mr. Mitow continues hosting and planning these pop-up events in the future. Or at the very least that he continues offering his delicious re-imaginings and recipes.

Food For Ott was grateful to be a part of the craze.

Food For Ott was grateful to be a part of the craze and looks forward to the next one!

A Feast For Bros: The Game of Thrones Season 4 Red Carpet Premiere and Cast Party

This writer, foodie, and long-time fantasy geek got the extraordinary opportunity to join the cast and crew of the HBO Original Series, Game of Thrones, for Season 4’s grand premiere screening and swanky after party. The Red Carpet was rolled out at Lincoln Center and a specially designed statue of Queen Daenerys’ pet dragon, Drogon, greeted guests with a toothy grin, as did I.

Music is the Food of Love (and Murder–at least on this show)

At Avery Fisher Hall, some of the fabulous string musicians of the New York Philharmonic performed moving renditions of the show’s opening theme along with other fan-favorites like “The Rains of Castamere” and “Mhysa” with Ramin Djawadi, the show’s composer, conducting his own masterpieces. Lucky enough to sit in the second row, the epic music wafted into my ears—each string onstage feeling like one within my own heart. I must admit, when the title credits started rolling, it saddened me that the Philharmonic’s version can’t be the main one. It was THAT awesome! At the start of the ceremonies, Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) graced us with a stern warning (really some threats) about the dire consequences of leaving one’s cellphone on or recording the show. Before the screening began, show runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss as well as HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo left us with some triumphant speeches.

The Cello solos really stood out!

The Cello solos really stood out!

Food of Thrones: Inside the Episode and Its Characters’ Stomachs

While I was thrilled to get a sneak peek of Season 4’s first episode, I won’t be going out of my way to spoil anything too specific about the episode’s plot. However, as this is a food blog, I will be happy to divulge what the main characters ate, and there was actually quite a bit of feasting going on in Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) watched her sweet dragons flambé an unlucky goat with fresh pepper breath. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) had trouble eating pigeon pie and lemon cakes after receiving some troubling news about her family. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) continued to drink red wine excessively while bossing people around. The Wilding Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and her crew watched some bloodthirsty tribesmen eat some of their enemies while thinking of better fare. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McAnn) resorted to desperate measures for some delicious roast chicken. It’s a yummy start to what Michael Lombardo promises is the best season of [one of] the greatest show[s] on television!

Everybody has those days... You know it's bad if Sansa won't even touch the lemon cakes!

Everybody has those days… You know it’s bad if Sansa won’t even touch the lemon cakes–they’re her FAVORITE!

The Feast

I found it borderline impossible to engage with the actors on the Red Carpet or at the premiere itself as they were preoccupied with the paparazzi, but the cast party sang a different song as I had the opportunity to wine and dine with several of the stars—really got the royal treatment! Held in the Hall of Biodiversity and Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History Uptown, the Season 4 Cast Party featured animated flames all across the walls and over the exhibit’s signature fiberglass whale—that’s right, we were greeted with something as outlandish and mythical as a flaming whale!

For us smallfolk, there were opportunities for some virtual reality games based on the show, costume exhibits, and a photo on the Iron Throne, but I think I had a much better time trying the delicious party food and mingling with the cast and crew!
Better than a royal wedding! And less violent :)

Better than a royal wedding! And less violent 🙂

Of the positively kingly buffet offerings, I most fondly remember the fillet of beef, arctic char in miso glaze, and gnocchi in crimini and shiitake mushroom cream sauce. There was also a kingdom of appetizers, including tuna tartare, minced chicken with peanut sauce, and asparagus wrapped in pancetta, as well as an open bar with some show-inspired cocktails—I heard The White Walker was to die for!

Fillet of Beef, Gnocchi with Mushrooms in a Cream Sauce, Arctic Char Marinated in Miso
Fillet of Beef, Gnocchi with Mushrooms in a Cream Sauce, Arctic Char Marinated in Miso

For dessert, we were offered an assortment of cupcakes, pastries, cookies, and other treats, but I settled for the tasty blueberry almond tart a la mode.

Blueberry Almond Tart a la Mode

Blueberry Almond Tart a la Mode

FOOD FOR OTT AND THE STARS

I drank wine with Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

I drank wine with Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

I jested with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)!

I jested with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)!

I met the incredible author of the books that inspired the series, George R.R. Martin. When I asked him for tips on combating writer's block, he reached for the wine glass!

I met the incredible author of the books that inspired the series, George R.R. Martin. When I asked him for tips on combating writer’s block, he reached for his wine glass… CLASSIC!

King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) showed me mercy and even allowed me a picture. He has no immediate plans to annex Manhattan to the Seven Kingdoms.

King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) showed me mercy and even allowed me a picture. He has no immediate plans to annex Manhattan to the Seven Kingdoms.

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) agreed to a photo as long as I promised to scream with her. It was a long, good scream--made me feel like a warrior!

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) agreed to a photo as long as I promised to scream with her. It was a long, good scream–made me feel like a warrior!

A Fiery Photo with Lady Melisandre, the Red Priestess (Carice Van Houten).

A Fiery Photo with Lady Melisandre, the Red Priestess (Carice Van Houten).

Sansa Stark (Sophie Wright) was kind enough to take this photo of me with Ser Loras Tyrell (William Finn). I kid you not when I say she declared us "SEXY!" Ser Loras was actually sipping an appropriately green party drink!

Sansa Stark (Sophie Wright) was kind enough to take this photo of me with Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones). I kid you not when I say she declared us “SEXY!” Ser Loras was sipping an appropriately House Tyrell-Green party drink!

I told Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) that he looks quite dapper in a suit and when he's not tied up or being tortured!

I told Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) that he looks quite dapper in a suit and when he’s not tied up or being tortured!

Schmoozing with Shae (Sibel Kikelli)!

Schmoozing with Shae (Sibel Kikelli)!

The Wilding Ygritte (Rose Leslie) looking especially demure out of fur and boots.

The Wilding Ygritte (Rose Leslie) looking especially demure out of fur and boots.

I asked Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) to do something menacing for the camera, but he doesn't take direction. Just look what happened to the King in the North... I asked Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) to do something menacing for the camera, but he told me “I don’t take direction from boys… Remember what happened to the King in the North?” Plenty menacing 🙂

Missandei (Nathaile Emmanuel) is happy to play an intelligent woman of color in a medieval fantasy drama.

Missandei (Nathaile Emmanuel) is happy to play an intelligent woman of color in a medieval fantasy drama.

HODOR!

HODOR! (Kristian Nairn)

The festivities went on until midnight. It was honestly one of the greatest experiences of my young life. These characters, experiences, and tastes will stay with me for a very long time.

If my name wasn't Otter, I'd totally take this flaming whale for my House Sigil!

If my name wasn’t Otter, I’d totally take this flaming whale for my House Sigil!
Food For Ott would like to thank the good folks at The New York Philharmonic for this exclusive invitation, the cast and crew of HBO’s Game of Thrones for being sweet and humoring a fan, and the HBO staff for hosting the perfect night.Game of Thrones comes back to HBO on Sunday, April 6th, 2014 with Season 4 playing for network subscribers at 9 PM.