When I saw the word “Armory” in the invite, I thought it was one of those kitschy names that some marketer had cooked up for the venue. It wasn’t until I showed up at the 4th annual Choice Eats put on by the Village Voice and saw this…
… that I realized they weren’t kidding. The Armory is actually short for The 69th Regiment Armory, which was built at the turn of the last century by the National Guard to train and marshal soldiers. The massive drill hall made for an interesting backdrop to the gluttony that was taking place under it’s 130 foot high arched ceiling.
The evening started with access to the “VIP” room in the basement of the armory where a few vendors had setup booths. Cathy Erway from Not Eating Out in New York was there with her dandelion pesto, made with young spring dandelions that she’d picked that morning.
Upstairs in the main hall, celebrity chef Marc Murphy was at the Ditch Plains booth serving up his mac and cheese hotdogs. I could have done without the bun, and even the dog, but their mac and cheese is second to none. I’m also a fan of the creamy taffy they usually send along with the check, but at this event could be found piled around their table.
One trend I noticed emerge was pickles. Not some fancy highfalutin brined vegetable, but run-of-the-mill dill pickles and gherkins where appearing on everything from pulled pork, to terrines, to this oddity, whereby a shot of whiskey was chased by a shot of pickle brine, which was followed up by a slice of pickle.
By this point I’d gone half way through the stalls and although I’d abstained from eating starch (I always toss bread, potatoes and rice at these events to save room for tastier things), I’d probably stuffed a weeks worth of sodium and saturated fat into my gob. This may have been why I didn’t enjoy the pig’s face sandwich from Resto as much as I should have. That said, the raspberry Rugelach from Court Street Grocers, one stall over, was amazing!
Here were my top picks fromt he evening:
Sloppy Joe from Black Shack Burger – This was serendipitously the first thing I put in my mouth as I walked in the door. Sloppy joe’s were a piece of comfort at the school cafeteria during a period I’d rather forget. While nostalgia is great and all, this sloppy joe wasn’t just a trip down memory lane, it was seriously good!
Eggplant and Chocolate from Del Posto – there’s no other word to describe this than amazing! I got in line for this twice, and twice abandoned it for shorter lines nearby (like Luke’s Lobster). But somehow I found myself drawn back by the crowd, and 20 minutes later I had this plate of goodness. An eggplant and chocolate dessert, who’d have thunk?
Main Shrimp Rolls from Luke’s Lobster – This was the only starch I willingly ate all night (yes, that means I ate the bun). For those of you that have never had one of Luke’s Lobster rolls, the bread is this sweet pillowy layer of perfection that’s pan-fried in butter. It’s just thick enough to retain its contents but not so thick as to get in the way of delivering seafood into your mouth. Yes, I was a little bummed that they decided to forsake their namesake and go with shrimp, but it was still pretty damn good. The kicker is the celery salt thats dusted on top of each roll that adds a kick of salty vegetal flavor in each bite.
Pesto di Noci from Gottino – What got my attention here wasn’t the wheel of parmesan from which they were dishing out walnut pesto. It was the gentleman wearing a bright red shirt and bowtie; the kind of getup you’d imagine Steve Buscemi wearing around the set of Boardwalk Empire. And it worked! As full as I was, I stopped to pick up a plate and scraped the pesto off the bread. The sweet and earthy pesto reminded me a bit of Kinzanji miso and suddenly I was craving fresh veggies to dip in it.
Beef belly from Takashi – I’ve eaten at Takashi before and haven’t loved it, especially for the price, but I have to admit the grilled beef belly stuffed with chives was pretty good. This booth was my last stop (when I was ready to pop a button), and yet the tender marbled meat made me pause as I headed out of the Armory wishing for a second helping.