Inside 2021’s New York City Wine & Food Festival

After a pandemic-induced hiatus from live events last year, the New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF) returned this Fall with a vengeance. Presented by the Food Network & Cooking Channel, the 14th annual festival took place over a 4-day span this past weekend with all of our favorite events, and new ones, too.

For the first time, the festival’s beneficiary was the non-profit God’s Love We Deliver, along with long-time beneficiary Food Bank for New York City, both of which provide meals and hunger relief to New Yorkers.

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With over 65 events taking place throughout the four day span, it’s a lot of ground, and food, to cover. Comprised of an array of walk-around tastings, luncheons, intimate dinners, brunches, and late night parties, the NYCWFF brought its A-game. Here are some highlights…

Thursday evening brought us to the beloved Blue Moon Burger Bash, presented by Pat LaFrieda Meats and hosted by Rachael Ray. Often referred to as one of the best events of the festival, the bash took place at Pier 86, home of the Intrepid Museum, and showcased over 25 of the city’s most coveted burgers. Celebrity judges Josh Capon, CJ Mosley, Tyler Blevins, Neil Patrick Harris, and David Burtka had the challenging mission of deciding which burger was the best of the best, while festival attendees were tasked with voting for their own favorite. The people’s choice award went to the tasty barbecue burger from Mister Dips, while the judges voted for Black Tap to reign supreme. BELLA’s honorable mentions go to Gotham Burger Social Club, Shake Shack (they had a very indulgent black truffle burger), and San Matteo Cucina.

Saturday morning brought us to Farmer’s Market Brunch presented by White Claw and hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian as part of the LIVEHAPPilly series by illy caffé. Located at The Standard Biergarten, this event brought a much needed reprieve from Thursday night’s meat overload with plenty of farm fresh veggies. Regional farms, local restaurants, and fresh seasonal ingredients brought delicious sweet and savory brunch bites to attendees.

Goldbelly’s Best of New York, presented by Bucket Listers, and hosted by Joe Ariel and Rev Run, took place Saturday night, and had a giant array of restaurants and food to stuff your face with. Even the rain didn’t keep people away from Artichoke Basile pizza slices or chocolate babka from Breads Bakery. Rev Run got the party started up on stage with a live performance, people dancing with their umbrellas in tow.

New this year, ABSOLUT presented Drag Brunch this year as part of the festival, hosted by none other than David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris, along with special guests Detox and Murray Hill. Located at Iron23, the Sunday brunch was definitely one of the most lively and exuberant events that we attended during this year’s NYCWFF. The walk-around tasting featured sweet and savory treats from New York favorites and brands like Cookie Do, Fonda, and Zac Young’s Sprinkletown. The event culminated in a spectacular drag performance featuring Brie Bordeaux, Kimmi Moore, Kizha Carr and Nick Gaga. The crowd and the vibes were some of the happiest the city has seen in the past year, but that could’ve just been the Cosmopolitans’ doing.

One of the most underrated events of the festival, the Grand Tasting, also happens to be one of the best. Located daily at Pier 76, the enormous walk around tasting allows guests to taste and sample an ungodly amount of food, drinks and cocktails, from a plethora of selections from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits to Butterfinger Italian rainbow cookies. There was no shortage of fun to be had, with every big and little brand out there, including Knob Creek, Gerard Bertrand, Frickn Good Cookies, Qatar, Tindle, Jim Beam and even Good Humour. There were also live culinary demonstrations presented by Liebher Appliances with all of your favorite chefs, including Scott Conant, Andrew Zimmern, Molly Yeh, and Masaharu Morimoto.

Backyard BBQ, presented by Pat LaFrieda Meats and National Beef, took place Sunday evening and was hosted by Andrew Zimmern. The last event of the festival was pretty much all about the meat, and it didn’t disappoint. Highlights obviously included the presenting Pat LaFrieda’s tomahawk steak, as well as Zimmern’s tasty hot dogs. Another impressive standout was Big Papa Smoke’em’s pork sandwiches – but honestly, you couldn’t go wrong with any bite here.

Impressively, NYCWFF, along with its sister festival, SOBEWFF, have collectively raised more than $45 million to benefit charities, while also allowing chefs, restaurants, and businesses to promote and showcase their offerings. While following strict health protocols to ensure guests’ safety, the NYCWFF is always an event to remember. Make sure to mark your calendars for next year!

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