Strategic Eating Tips For The Holidays
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
When you're at a holiday party or a big family buffet, you have to approach eating with a plan. You need to save room for seconds and be prepared to taste every kind of pie.
As NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports, to accomplish all that, you have to develop a strategy. She recently attended the Cadillac of gourmet buffets, an annual gathering called The Taste of New York, and she came away with some tips.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: New York's premier food-tasting event takes place in an 18,000-square-foot gallery in Manhattan's trendy SoHo district. It's all soft lighting and food booths, as far as the eye can see.
(Soundbite of crowd and music)
TEMPLE-RASTON: This is where literally hundreds of people throw elbows to get a fresh scallop or a marinated beef cheek prepared by one of New York's most famous chefs.
Ms. ANITA LO (Chef/Owner, Anissa Restaurant): Hi, I'm Anita Lo, the chef and owner of Anissa Restaurant in the West Village.
TEMPLE-RASTON: You may know her from something else.
(Soundbite of show, "Top Chef Masters")
Unidentified Woman #1: Previously on "Top Chef Masters."
Unidentified Man #1: I'm going to cry myself a river, I'll be here.
Unidentified Man #2: What are you, a wimp?
Unidentified Man #1: I'm a little bit of a wimp.
Unidentified Woman #2: Anita, you are this week's winner.
(Soundbite of applause)
TEMPLE-RASTON: Anita Lo actually made it to one of the final rounds of the television show "Top Chef Masters." She was eliminated because - and this is great - because she couldn't put together a buffet the judges liked.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. LO: Yes, I was eliminated from "Top Chef Masters" on the buffet.
TEMPLE-RASTON: So is this your ultimate revenge? This is like a buffet on steroids, isn't it?
(Soundbite of laughter)
TEMPLE-RASTON: To make the most of this monster buffet, you need to literally establish a mental map of what's available, and then you follow it.
Ms. GILLIAN DUFFY (Food Editor, New York Magazine): There's a lot of pork out there. There are a lot of meatballs.
TEMPLE-RASTON: That's Gillian Duffy, the food editor at New York Magazine. She provides some inside intelligence.
Mrs. DUFFY: One year I remember the editor-in-chief came, he said, there's a lot of octopus here this year. And there were about eight restaurants doing octopus. We're through the octopus stage, and now we've got more sliders and things like that, I think.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Check, locate the sliders. Sometimes you get lucky, and in the very next booth or the very next holiday buffet tray sits something you were hoping to eat anyway. In my case, right next to the lamb sliders was Manhattan's new queen of chicken.
Ms. ELIZABETH KARMEL (Executive Chief, Hill Country Chicken): I'm Elizabeth Karmel. I'm the executive chef of Hill Country Chicken. And I'm thrilled to be talking with you today and trying to dispel your feelings that chicken is boring.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Hill Country Chicken is the newest in the latest trend in Manhattan - single food restaurants. These are places that only serve meatballs or pork loin sandwiches or in this case, fried chicken. Karmel describes her dish.
Ms. KARMEL: Well, actually, what we're serving here tonight, the Texas hand roll, sums up a lot of what I cook in one bite at Hill Country Chicken. It's crispy fried chicken, it's creamy coleslaw, it's house-made hot pepper jelly and a little bit of sesame seed and sliced almonds are there for a little crunch. I say, you know, here's a little bit of South in your mouth.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Which brings me to another important tip. If you're going to be adventurous, do it early. That way if the adventure turns out to be a disaster, you can eat on top of it and get the taste out of your mouth.
At a food tasting, the best candidate for weirdest thing is usually described this way.
Ms. DUFFY: You have to go and look at it because it is so startling and beautiful.
TEMPLE-RASTON: I'll let you decide for yourself.
Are you the chef? So can you describe this dish for me?
Unidentified Man #1: Sure, it's a pickled egg. It's picked in, you know, beet pickling liquid. And then we make a mousse with the yolk with smoked whitefish, creme fraiche, and horseradish. So the pickling changes the texture of the white, but then the yolk will keep it rich and creamy.
TEMPLE-RASTON: That's right, a beet-pickled egg. To give you the visual, think bloodshot eye with a pale yellow pupil. It tasted only slightly better than it looked.
Now, in the interest of honesty, I didn't follow many of these strategies. Instead, I ate things as I saw them. And I ended up the same way most people do after a holiday party, feeling slightly sick and unable to eat for days.
Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News, New York.
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