If you hit a lot of NYC's tasting events, you know there's a chance that the evening in its entirety might not blow your mind. Big events can be hard for some restaurants; they cost a lot of money to cook for, take staff's valuable time, and are vulnerable to unfamiliar equipment and the varying accessibility of venues. They're great for press and opening up the restaurant to a food-focused group of city-dwellers, but there's plenty to muddle the evening.
Somehow, the Taste of the Lower East Side nailed it.
The crowd flowed well at 82 Mercer, which has seen its fair share of tastings. There were definitely more cut suits and 4-inch heels than you'd expect at an event toasting the LES food scene, which generously stretched borders a bit to include the East Village and a touch of SoHo. The silent auction was not for the wallet-watching crowd. But as proceeds directly support Grand Street Settlement—which provides free or low-cost programs including early childhood and day care services, after-school programs, and support for adults and senior citizens living on both sides of the Williamsburg Bridge—you want to see the money rolling in.
Most importantly to those of us who eat seriously, the food was excellent. Chefs brought clean, well-composed, thoughtful dishes. Signature cocktails often sat beside them, and there was clearly thought put into the connections between those plates and cups. Portions were generous to the point that you could have tackled five tables and called it a night. (Except in no way would you have wanted to.)
Click on the slideshow for some of the best bites of the night.