Robert Irvine Wins People's Choice Award at Sandwich Showdown
From Cuban-inspired meatballs to IPA-braised pork belly, the New York City Wine & Food Festival’s fifth annual Stacked event featured some serious gourmet fare served between two pieces of bread. During this walk-around lunchtime soiree, guests sipped on moonshine-spiked cocktails while contemplating their most-recent bite and strategizing which dish to try next. And while some of the lines were long, taste testers didn’t seem to mind. Participating in the competition were more than a dozen of today’s top chefs who take the concept of a sandwich very seriously. Restaurant: Impossible’s Robert Irvine was both the host of the tasting as well as a contender in the sandwich showdown.
Each roll, bun and biscuit was filled with an exceptional, and sometimes unlikely, combination of ingredients. Meat-lovers were pleasantly surprised by the cauliflower and pickled beets at the No. 7 Sub station, and we found it hard not to return for seconds from Empire Biscuits, where flaky biscuits came with duck liver and grits spread, green tomato chow chow and a sunny-side quail egg.
In an effort to defend his people’s choice title from last year, Chef Michael Ferraro from Delicatessen dished out pan-roasted chicken thigh sandwiches with olive pesto, sweet pepper aioli and Burrata cheese. Ferraro explained that along with balance of flavor, texture, and execution, choosing a theme is key to any good sandwich. The Mediterranean flavors of his dish were definitely popular among the crowd, but the chef he feared most at the showdown was Robert.
FN Dish caught up with the Food Network star, who explained that it all comes down to each component — the bread, what goes in the sandwich and the accompaniments — and how they work together to “really hit the taste buds.” Inspired by the spirits of the afternoon, he served smoked espresso-rubbed brisket sandwiches with grilled onions and horseradish aioli: “Coffee interacts really well with moonshine,” he explained. And because he’s all about the texture, he paired the BBQ sandwich with a crunchy celery root slaw. Spicy, sweet and smoky at all once, his sandwich was a delicious success and ultimately earned him the people’s choice award for Best Sandwich and $5,000 to donate to his charity of choice.
Keep coming back to FN Dish all weekend long for continued coverage of the 2014 New York City Wine & Food Festival.