Lucky Rice Grand FeastSunday, May 05, 2013
In a fantastic opening salvo to a weekend of gluttony, I ate, I drank—but mostly, I got lucky. Thanks to my friend Mitch, I ended up with a highly coveted ticket to the Lucky Rice Grand Feast: a hedonistic spread with Asian-inflected food from over 20 high profile restaurants, as well as an array of beer, wine, sake and cocktail selections—all to be savored 36 storeys above Central Park from the Mandarin Oriental ballroom.
Lucky Rice is a festival that brings Asian flavors to a global, food-savvy audience. Now on its 4th year in New York, Lucky Rice has spread to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco, as well. This year's New York festival featured 11 culinary events over seven days, including a Filipino Feast at the James Beard House sponsored by the Philippine Department of Tourism, and featuring chef Lea Cohen of Pig & Khao and chef King Phojanakong of Umi Nom and Kuma Inn.
With a Culinary Council of heavy-hitters including chefs José Andrés, David Chang, Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain, Lucky Rice doesn't fall short of star power. At the event on Friday, chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Susur Lee were milling about the crowd, while Top Chef Season 3 winner Hung Huynh served up spicy chicken tacos for The General.
With a ticket to Lucky Rice's Grand Feast comes unlimited access to every bite and every sip that you can fit into your stomach—or at least, until supplies run out (I was stuffed to the gills long before that happened). There were a lot of inventive and yummy bites, although for some the "Asian influence" may have been a stretch. Public whipped up one of my favorites: pig's blood popsicles with tomato chili jam and toasted peanuts. I also enjoyed Ngam's Thai pomelo papaya salad, authentically prepared using a mortar and pestle. I loved how Miss Korea came in full Korean costumes to serve up clay pot galbi strips wrapped in shiso and topped with a strawberry sliver. Steamed buns have become so ubiquitous in the food scene that I almost skipped the stands that had them—but I didn't, and ended up enjoying some cool twists on the Asian hipster staple: Morimoto's were filled with eel and foie gras terrine, while Sakamai loaded theirs with roasted duck, lardo Iberico DeBellota and foie gras mayonnaise. Kittichai's lovely hot and sour broth laden with Manila clams and flavored with turmeric and dill was a perfect counterpoint after all the rich bites (and, to me at least, worth struggling with prying clams off the shell while grappling with a glass of rosé). To cap it all off, Spot Dessert Bar served up the cutest little matcha azuki: green tea mousse with red bean filling and a tiny scoop of green tea ice cream.
The stand we returned to the most, however, did not serve food but one delicious libation: D'ussé VSOP Cognac's Yoshino Blossom Fizz, made with D'ussé VSOP Cognac, St. Germain liquor, lemon juice, lychee juice, grapefruit bitters, soda and egg white, and topped with a beautiful orchid blossom. Despite the fact that there were multiple tables giving away sake, wine, champagne, and gin cocktails, we came back to this table time and again, patiently waiting as the bartender continuously shook up magic.
Eat, drink, get lucky—Lucky Rice's mantra that pretty much spelled out our Friday night. Thanks, Mitch, for one heck of an epic girl's night out!