Serena throws fantasy food party
Dave Rodney, Contributor
The world's top-ranked women's singles tennis player, Serena Williams, scored a big win in New York City last Thursday night. But it was not on the court, but at her annual 'Taste of Tennis' party at the W Hotel. Just before the start of the US Open, she brought together 25 of the hottest celebrity chefs in the city, and asked each of them to serve up a few of their signature dishes to more than 300 invited guests.
For three hours, from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m., it was a culinary fantasy wonderland as guests were free to roam, nibble, sip, savour and explore a sizzling kaleidoscope of exotic flavours inspired from all corners of the globe.
In New York City, food trends change like fashion. Last year's event was anchored by the man of the moment whom everyone wanted to meet - Marcus Samuelsson - the food guru at Harlem's trendy Red Rooster Restaurant.
This year that honour fell to the legendary Masaharu Morimoto - acclaimed for his flawless integration of Western and Japanese ingredients. He has opened numerous restaurants across the United States and the world, but his food altar in New York City is the world-famous Nobu which he opened in 1994. Together with Williams, they dazzled the audience with sushi demonstrations.
If the mouth-watering foods for the evening belonged to the chefs, then the vibes at the party were wholly owned by Destination Jamaica. The Jamaica Tourist Board was a lead sponsor of the event, and Marcia Bullock-Jobson and her team established a strong promotional presence at the entrance of the food court.
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A live reggae band churned out a catalogue of popular reggae hits that had the crowd jumping. A tropical beauty served Blackwell rum punch to eager takers, and the women almost lost their minds when they realised that they were being fed pumpkin-stuffed jerked chicken breasts from Secrets Resorts by Jamaican tennis star, Dustin 'Dreddy' Brown. "Guten Nacht", he grunted in German before flipping over to a warm "what a gwaan?" Jamaican greeting. Dustin is in New York for the US Open, but he is based in Germany and speaks fluent German.
It was a food lovers' paradise. There were literally hundreds of food items across the gamut of appetisers, entrees, salads and desserts that were up for sampling. Just about everything was attractively presented, and some food items incorporated the tennis theme, utilising edible racquets and balls. All the chefs were on hand to explain and break down the complexities of their creations. This year, cucumber reigned supreme, with several chefs using the vegetable as a base for hot and cold soups, salads and entrées.
At the end of the evening, some dishes were winners while others just didn't make the cut. Every single attendee was doing their own evaluation of the offerings, and I was no exception. Here are my top-five food picks chosen from the sea of gastronomic goodies.
1. Cold poached salmon and cucumber lime dashi from the Four Seasons, NYC.
2. Roasted hanger steak, jalapeno mashed potatoes gremolata from Lexington Brass.
3. Crab salad with Persian cucumber and buttermilk aioli from The Wayfarer.
4. Beets with goat cheese from The Cheesecake Factory.
5. Rasberry tart with bee pollen, marshmallows, salty cornmeal and passion fruit from The Monarch Room.