GrillHampton & Taste of Two Forks 2013: The Many Delights of Two Days of Fabulous Food

Dan’s Taste of Two Forks Host Chef Bobby Flay and emcee Alex Guarnaschelli
Dan’s Taste of Two Forks Host Chef Bobby Flay and emcee Alex Guarnaschelli. Photo: N. Chowske

The GrillHampton competition on Friday and Dan’s Third Annual Taste of Two Forks on Saturday provided a bevy of rich foodie experiences. To bring it all to life, Dan’s Papers staffers wrote tasty little “morsels” as they devoured the best that our two forks and New York have to offer.

The inaugural GrillHampton was an evening of fine food and festive atmosphere, enjoyed by guests and chefs from the Hamptons and New York City. But the Hamptons team eventually came out on top. Chef David Hersh of Rumba took home the Blue Moon People’s Choice award for his Dominican Ribs, while Hill Country BBQ Market’s Elizabeth Karnel won Judge’s Choice. Herewith, a tasting menu of the highlights and memorable moments…

Amanda Phillips and elyse niederee of Miami Cocktail

•Weeks before the big night, Chef David Hersh, of Rumba in Hampton Bays, seemed to be joking when he revealed his GrillHampton preparation regimen, unique among the myriad competitors under the tent. “I’m exercising three times a day and trying to mentally prepare for this gruesome battle ahead,” he said. “I’ve hired a coach to make sure that I’m ready for this competition. We are working around the clock going over the details and game plan for the day.” When Rumba’s Dominican Ribs reigned victorious as the Blue Moon People’s Choice Award winner, were those whispers we heard about more chefs hiring trainers for next year?

Christian Acosta and Danielle Owczarek of Sailor Jerry Rum, Jason Belkin and Taylor Merrill of Hampton Coffee Company

•The inaugural GrillHampton was, in an utter (not udder!) coincidence, held on Cow Appreciation Day. “Is it really Cow Appreciation Day?” Chef Keith Luce asked with a conspiratorial grin as he sliced a braised short rib. “Well, we certainly do appreciate them.”

•“It’s like the Bermuda Triangle, but I don’t want to get out.”—said a very happy guest standing in one tent corner surrounded by the tippling triumvirate of Miami Cocktail Co., Glenfiddich (serving 12-, 15- and 18-year varieties), and Sailor Jerry rum, as he sipped their version of the classic Dark and Stormy—the aptly named Perfect Storm.

•Chef Colin Ambrose of Estia’s Little Kitchen stepped away from the corn on his grill to share a story about a photography project he was working on with then-unknown New York City sous chefs a decade ago, among them a man named Joey Campanaro. With a glance over his shoulder, Ambrose nodded toward the acclaimed chef from NYC’s The Little Owl—Joey Campanaro—serendipitously working in the booth next door to his own. “I get here and there he is, right next to me. I haven’t seen him in 10 years,” Ambrose said with a smile. “That makes a night like this even more special.”

•Barbara from Hampton Bays captured the full flavor of the evening: “I’m eating my way around the world—a French burger, tacos, barbecue from Hill Country—it’s like EPCOT for people who love to eat.”

Freshly Shucked oysters from nammos

•Foody’s Chef Bryan Futerman’s NY strip and beets was melt-in-your-mouth good!  Epic local chow out of Water Mill.

•Among its offerings at GrillHampton, Blue Moon served its Blue Moon Agave Nectar Ale and a selection of its Proximity, a sauvignon-blanc-and-beer creation that paired perfectly with the night’s food. The pourers also served up the story of how Blue Moon got its name. Originally brewed underneath Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, it was served only at the baseball stadium’s SandLot Brewery and was affectionately called Bellyslide, “in honor of the players’ head-first slides into bases right above where the beer was being made.” As Bellyslide began to be distributed outside Coors Field, the powers that be decided a new name was in order. Amid numerous suggestions, a secretary commented that “You only get to drink something like this once in a …”

Manhattan Media’s Chairman Richard Burns, Chef Bobby Flay and Dan Rattiner

•“Geoffrey, can I get a photo Mr. Zakarian, would it be okay to get a picture Geoffrey, I’m a huge fan, can you sign this Geoffrey? I can’t believe I’m getting to shake your hand Mr. Zakarian! I have a recipe you’d love Geoffrey you have to try this…”—the cacophony of fans enjoying their up-close-and-personal moments with the GrillHampton host, Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian (who accommodated every one, of course)

•The aroma of smoke rising from the cherry wood on the Foody’s grill may have inspired a new fragrance, or at the very least, a laundry product. “I’m going to stand here all night and let the smell soak into my clothes,” enthused Vincent from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, “and then I’m never washing them again.”

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•Being under the tent before the event was under way, I had the opportunity to watch top chefs in action, all working with their staff to produce tastings for the crowd and for a panel of judges.  I spotted one of my favorite chefs, Elizabeth Falkner of NYC’s Corvo Bianco, busy at work at her station. She was talking and laughing with her staff, looking like she was having a great time—and why not? A badass chef like Faulker must live for the adrenaline of competition. I remember watching her on her season of The Next Iron Chef and admiring her quick-thinking and unfailing confidence in herself and her food. That I was standing barely 10 feet away from her, watching her in action, blew me away, and I realized this was going to be a night to remember.

•There was so much to take in as we strolled through the tent, on our way to help out at the guest check-in at the front. Ciuffo Cabinetry had set up a gorgeous model kitchen, all stainless steel and modern looking. Miami Cocktail had a bold and colorful set-up, offering three different kinds of cocktails. I tried the green tea infused with vodka and mint. It was delightful and refreshing, and the vodka taste was subtle, which I enjoyed very much. Blue Moon was also there, serving their delicious beers in a variety of flavors and giving away souvenir Blue Moon glasses.

Jan Rose and Nancy Gallipoli, Summer Watermelon Salad from 75 Main, Christina Taylor, Christine D’Anna and Chef Franklin Ferguson of navy Beach Restaurant

•I was out front when our host for the night, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, pulled up in his black Escalade, and I gave a little shout of excitement, to which he looked over at me, smiled and nodded his head. Talk about a celebrity chef sighting. I consider Zakarian royalty in the “Cheffie World,” and I was stunned to see him up close and more than a little excited. I remember thinking, “He looks exactly the same as on TV!” Throughout the night I caught glimpses of him talking with guests, posing for pictures in his now famous Iron Chef stance, and tasting all of the dishes his fellow chefs had created.

•My favorite dish of the night was the French Onion Soup Burger from the NYC restaurant La Rivage. Served on a toasted English muffin and topped with tender caramelized onion and cheese each bite was blissful. As I was standing on the line for this burger, I heard people all around me raving, “Wow, this burger is a amazing,” and “You’ve got to try this burger, it’s a winner.”

Colin Ambrose of estia’s Kitchen with Joey Campanaro of The Little owl

•The highlight of my evening was having the opportunity to meet Chef Chris Santos of the Stanton Social Club in NYC. Being an avid foodie, I felt star-struck as I shook his hand and chattered about how big a fan I am. He was so nice, so comfortable to talk to and I can’t wait to visit his restaurant one day. He also prepared one of my favorite dishes of the night—sausage and peppers on a mini-roll, served with an eggplant panzanella salad. Being a good Italian girl, I adore sausage and peppers, and this one rivaled some of the best I’ve ever had.

Kyle Messinger of Farrell Building and Patti Cooke

• While Estia’s Little Kitchen (Sag Harbor) offered Shredded Beef Tacos with Mexican Slaw, Cynthia Sachs of Hamptons Cupcake Lounge satisfied all the sweet teeth at GrillHampton with her killer cakes. She also boogied down and danced all night to the sounds of New Life Crisis at her station.

•Guests Samantha and Victoria left GrillHampton hand in hand, lamenting the end, but with bellies joyfully full.

•Tito’s Handmade Vodka cocktail, The Go To—a tasty blend of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, elderflower liqueur, fresh lime juice and ginger beer—was a hit at GrillHampton. As we fondly look back on the magic of this gourmand’s delight of an evening, and look ahead to a summer filled with the fine food and beverages that surround us on the East End, we raise another cocktail to toast the East End, NYC and another wonderful summer season.

•Now that it’s over, who is ready for next year’s GrillHampton? I know I am! But first, let’s go to the third annual Dan’s Taste of Two Forks, hosted by super-chef Bobby Flay.

The People’s Choice Winner: Rumba

Round two of foodie nirvana,otherwise known as Dan’s Third Annual Taste of Two Forks extravaganza. Bigger and better than last year, before the event kicked off the tent was teeming with activity—chefs, sous chefs, bakers, wine makers—all from the Hamptons and the North Fork, all coming together to create a magical night for the dazzling SOLD OUT crowd of food and wine lovers.

•The biggest buzz of the night—celebrity chef Bobby Flay acting as host. Whether you’re a foodie or not, you’ve surely heard of Bobby Flay, the innovative, bold Iron Chef who has carved his place in food history with hard work, passion and determination. I spotted him entering the event, watched as he stopped to take pictures with the giant forks and our very own Dan Rattiner, watched as he interviewed with Elisa DeStefano from News 12. I found myself completely in awe of Chef Flay, someone who I’ve been watching on TV for over a decade.

Bill Hemmer of Fox news and Joe Farrell of Farrell Building

•Inside the tent over 1,600 people mingled, stopping at any one of the over 60 food and wine stations along the border and in the middle of the enormous space. The columns of light lent an ethereal feel to the evening, and the smells wafting through the air had my senses on high alert. My first bite of the night was a refreshing watermelon, feta and arugula salad from 75 Main, and I spied owner Zach Erdem with his megawatt smile helping out his staff and greeting guests. To drink we decided to start with a slightly sweet sparkling rosé from Sparkling Pointe. Fresh Hamptons had a yummy warm duck confit salad with spinach, local potatoes, mushrooms and raspberry vinaigrette. We tried some smoky dark chocolate-covered pork rinds from First and South, then some spiced Mexican chocolate ice cream on delightful mini cones from Joe and Liza’s Ice Cream. The Martha Clara Solstice rosé—heralded as the wine of the summer—was crisp, cold and lightly sweetened.

•When Chef Flay and emcee Chef Alex Guarnaschelli took the stage, along with Dan the man, the crowd surged forward to get a glimpse of the foodie favorites, and I was no exception. I found both Iron Chefs to be gracious and charming and Chef Guarnaschelli drew a chuckle from the crowd as she proclaimed herself to be “short and sweaty.” When Chef Flay took the mic, cheers erupted from the crowd gathered closest to the stage—and yes, I was among those cheering. We lost sight of the pair as the crowd surrounded them, hoping to get a picture with one or both Iron Chefs.

•Chef Flay recommended the Pistachio Sorbet from the folks over at Gourmet Sorbet by the Sorbabes, while Chef Guarnaschelli raved about the Lobster Roll from…The Lobster Roll, of course. The pistachio sorbet was ridiculously delicious and so refreshing, served with a crunchy little sea salt caramel. The lobster roll was everything you would expect—succulent lobster paired with a soft little roll and seasoned perfectly.

•Making our way around to the other side of the tent, we stopped at the Wölffer booth and indulged in another sweet rosé, then followed our noses to the Grana booth, where they were serving adorable meatball sliders.

Billy Duffy, John Geoghan, Carol Duffy, Phil Duffy of East End Awning, Chef Harold Moore serving a Commerce Burger, Colin Ambrose of Estia’s Kitchen with Joey Campanaro of The Little Owl

•We smelled barbecue and headed over to Smokin’ Wolf BBW & More, where they were dishing out BBQ Brisket sliders with coleslaw. The meat was smoky and tender and I loved every bite. The Southampton Social Club made some seriously scrumptious braised short rib sliders, accompanied by a roasted strawberry barbecue sauce that I found out-of-this-world good. I had to try Chef Keith Luce’s NoFo Duckling Summer Rolls, which were delightful, and I even snuck in a photo of the chef hard at work at his station. The Amagansett Sea Salt Company offered guests a Cherry Tomato and Basil Kebab dressed with their delicious rosé sea salt.

•After leaving the stage, Bobby Flay gave a shout-out to the Hamptons and then very deliberately—it seems—singled out the North Fork for its delicious fare. Could the king of burgers have been thinking about Chef Keith Luce and his soon-to-be-built meat curing facility?

Gina Mora, Cambria Levine, Lauren Riley, the BAi girls

•For my sweet tooth, I visited Sarabeth’s station, where she served an assortment of her signature cookies, all of which I sampled and loved, not surprising coming from Sarabeth’s kitchen. The Blue Duck Bakery had an array of beautiful desserts, from adorable little fruit tarts to decadent chocolate fudge cake.

•The wine was flowing at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks, with most wineries opting to bring a red, white and rosé. If red seems counterintuitive to bring to a summer fete, Logan from Lieb Cellars revealed that they opted to bring their Red Coast Red after sticking to whites last year and hearing that the reds were missed.

•But it wasn’t all about the wine! Just half. Blue Moon, a major sponsor at Friday night’s GrillHampton, also hosted a table under the Taste of Two Forks tent. As with the previous night, they brought their pioneer beer blend, Proximity, which is made with sauvignon blanc grapes and white wheat, and New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops. Crisp and refreshing. Of course, many still chose to sample the signature Belgian White!

•“We’re very happy,” said Ron Goerler, Jr., who received the Dan’s Two Forks Outstanding Achievement Award on behalf of the Long Island Wine Council. Goerler is the President of LIWC and owner of Jamesport Vineyards. He added that after 40 years, Long Island wine is finally getting the attention it deserves, plugging his preferred paper with “It’s great to have the recognition of such a high quality paper as Dan’s.” Jamesport Vineyards was pouring two summer whites—a sauvignon blanc and a blend of five different varieties.

Gary Ciuffo of Ciuffo Cabinetry & Host iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian

•Most vineyards showcased their best sellers. Scarola Vineyards brought four—three reds and a white. “We’re an Italian family business,” said Tom Scarola, AKA “Cousin Tommy.” The vineyard is a labor of love, grown out from the days of his grandparents making wine in the basement. “In our family, it’s work or get out!” Cousin Tommy joked.

•Duck Walk Vineyards brought their popular Blueberry Port, among others. (Also on hand was the Pinot Meunier, which winemaker Edward Lovaas revealed “not many people make in the U.S.”) Nothing says summer in the Hamptons quite like a piece of fresh fruit. Even better if that fruit is perfectly fermented.

•Wölffer bought their signature rosé, as well as a red and a white. There were cases of rosé, in fact, quelling any worries that the winery would run out of the favorite summer sip.

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•Nicolas Feuillatte, French champagne, was on hand during the VIP hour. Their Mobile Toast Champagne app will fill you in on everything you need to know about champagne, including how to open the bottle. The North Fork’s Sparkling Pointe, New York State’s only winery dedicated solely to the production of sparkling wine, filled the need for bubbly throughout the evening.

•Along with showing off their gorgeous spec kitchen, Farrell Building and Gary Ciuffo of Ciuffo Cabinetry handed out some lovely wood-handled ice cream scoopers to lucky guests.

•One guest, wearing retro-checkered Vans slip-ons (he’s bringing the look back!) told Dan Rattiner he throws the best Hamptons parties!

All of this is just a “taste” of all that was on offer at GrillHampton and Dan’s Taste of Two Forks. We hope to see you there, taking it all in, next year!

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