Miniature tasting plates were piled high with assortments of sweet and savory goodies at the second annual Taste Williamsburg Greenpoint.
The Sept. 18 tasting event, which raised money for the Northside Town Hall, a project to turn an empty firehouse into a community center, featured live music, free-flowing alcohol and creative interpretations of classic ethnic and American dishes.
We started our afternoon of gluttony at the Rabbithole with some of the Williamsburg bistro’s famous banana crème pie. The decadent dessert was creamy and sweet without being cloying, and the flavor of fresh bananas shone through. It was utterly delicious—and more than a bit addictive.
The bistro also served drinks like the agave sprig, a musky, sweet cocktail that combined tequila, St. Germain, Angostura bitters, lime and thyme.
Next up were the savory bruschettas from the Sweetwater Restaurant. Among the varieties on offer from the Williamsburg restaurant were roasted beet with ricotta cheese, butternut squash with spicy sausage and roasted eggplant sprinkled with goat cheese.
The squash was flavorful with just a hint of sweetness and spice, but the eggplant really stole the show. The crumbly cheese brightened the velvety vegetable in each mouthwatering bite.
The vegetable Vietnamese sandwiches from An Nhau were another highlight of the day. The sandwich was piled high with tofu, mushrooms, cucumbers and shredded carrots in a sweet and tart sauce that balanced out the blandness of the white bread.
The grilled veggie maki rolls with artisan goat cheese from the newly opened Fat Goose were also a hit with hungry patrons, who gobbled them up. Cucumber strips were rolled around eggplant, zucchini and goat cheese then topped with balsamic vinegar and tapenade. Zucchini, with its distinct flavor, was the star of this fresh treat.
“It’s elegant and flavorful,” said executive chef Jennifer Cole. “It’s healthy but satisfying.”
We were lured to the Trix booth by the scrumptious-looking kaffir lime panna cotta topped with strawberry compote and a caramelized lime. The dessert, while smooth and creamy, was surprisingly bland—though the citrus kiss of lime lingered on the tongue.
The Williamsburg restaurant’s smoked trout mousse with pickled onions and dill was much better, though it was reminiscent of the creamy onion dips found on the shelves of grocery stores.
The crispy pork skin from Calyer was an unexpected surprise. The crunchy snack, topped with Romesco sauce and red-chile-and-almond-garlic sauce, was airy and utterly addictive.
“I like to be able to utilize all aspects of a pig,” said sous chef John Ratcliff. “The skin itself is good. It’s kind of like chips and dip.”
The crab apple tartar with house-cured pork belly from Cafe Colette was another porcine standout. The apple lent the dish a sweetness that was nicely tempered by the pork.
The porchetta alla romana from Aurora was another hit. The whole pig was butchered in the restaurant, and portions of it were ground up, seasoned with fennel pollen, stuffed into the loin, and then rolled up. The finished dish was both hearty and delicious.
The roast beef sliders with horseradish au jus from the Two Door Tavern, another recent Williamsburg addition, were plump sandwiches stuffed with fall-off-the-bone-tender meat. The horseradish added a pleasantly hot zing to the slider but didn’t overpower the sandwich.
The white bean duck cassoulet was lovingly dished out by Le Barricou’s executive chef Jose Soto, who explained how the bird was stuffed and baked for two hours then cooled, de-stuffed and reheated. That process rendered the poultry tender, just a bit smoky and utterly delicious.
The squash and quinoa salad from Lighthouse was another favorite of the afternoon. The quinoa added a nutty crunch to the mixture of roasted kabocha, summer squash, walnuts and queso fresco, while the addition of jalapeños added subtle heat.
Chef Nicholas Cox said the dish was inspired by the changing seasons. “You really tangibly feel the end of the summer and the beginning of fall,” he said.
The mini pabellon criollo from Caracas Arepa Bar left us swooning. The shredded beef was tender with just the right amount of spice, while the plantains balanced the dish with their oozy sweetness.
The melon gazpacho from D.O.C. Wine Bar cooled our palates a bit. The smooth, sweet cantaloupe was complemented by crunchy onions that added an extra oomph to the chilled soup.
“There’s a sweetness balanced with a little bit of acidity and the tartness of peppers and onions,” said executive chef Stefano Baldantoni.
Additional reporting by Kelly Schott