Monday, March 23, 2015

The 2015 Lucky Rice NYC Feast – Mandarin Oriental Hotel, New York City – March 20, 2015

The 2015 Lucky Rice NYC Feast is a grand tasting event that brings together the best mixologists and chefs from the New York City Asian culinary scene.  Founded by entrepreneur Danielle Chang, this year marks the 6th anniversary of the annual Lucky Rice NYC Feast. 

For anyone not familiar with this event, the Lucky Rice Feast is not just a food festival, but a grand celebration of Asian culture – encompassing food, music, tea, and cocktails.  This year’s Lucky Rice Feast at the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel included live Chinese cabaret music and perfect panoramic views of Central Park.

Cabaret singer sings classical Chinese music accompanied to live piano music
This annual festivity showcases Asian cuisine by chefs from many of New York City’s top restaurants.  Participants included Morimoto, Clement, Asiate, Perry Street, Mokbar, RedFarm, Macao Trading Co., Pig & Khao, amongst many others.  

Beautiful re-interpretation of Chawanmushi (savory Japanese egg custard) by the chef of Asiate
Chawanmushi (savory Japanese egg custard) up close.  Like many dishes served at Asiate, the presentation is impressive!
As you may have guessed from this roster of participating restaurants, the Asian cuisine you’ll experience at the Lucky Rice Feast is not the traditional ethnic foods you’ll find in the average restaurant in Chinatown.

Instead, Lucky Rice is about top chefs bringing innovative, creative, and unexpected flairs to traditional Asian dishes.  Their influence and unique takes on Asian cuisine comes from having experience and training in both Asian and Western culinary traditions.  For example, Pichet Ong – a pastry chef who participated in this year’s event is not only an expert in Asian desserts, but has also trained under famed French chef Jean-George Vongerichten.  The dessert Pichet Ong showcased at this year’s Lucky Rice was a black sesame ice cream encased in light chocolate mousse, drizzled with chocolate oil – evoking both a French and Japanese influence.

Spicy cold fresh noodles with pork belly, crispy garlic rayu and sesame oil - by Morimoto
At the Lucky Rice Feast, guests get unlimited sampling of dishes from over 20 restaurants, and fancy hand-crafted Asian inspired cocktails made by mixologists from famed downtown establishments like Madam Geneva, The Manhattan Cricket Club, and Lumos.   Non-alcoholic beverages were also on hand for those who don’t drink – options this year included iced matcha green tea and artisanal ginger ale by Bruce Cost (after sampling every flavor, our favorite was by far the hisbiscus pomegranate!).

Refreshing iced matcha green tea from West Village Cafe Chalait
Toyota, a main sponsor of this year’s event invited pastry chef Pichet Ong over to showcase his dessert and sign autographs on his dessert book, The Sweet Spot.  VIP ticket holders were also treated to Pichet’s cookbook.  American Express, another sponsor of this year’s event had a photo-booth where guests can snap and print out instant pictures. 

Pasty Chef Pichet Ong signs copies of his dessert cookbook
Pichet Ong's dessert cookbook, The Sweet Spot - for guests of this year's Lucky Rice Feast
The Lucky Rice Feast is truly a nice of fine dining, delicious cocktails, music, and celebrity chef surprises!  Many of the dishes looked too beautiful consume and we experienced some of the best crafted cocktails we’ve had in NYC.  Highlights included the Saffron Chirashi (Clement), grilled Octopus with Romanesco sauce (Perry St), and the Crustacean Chawanmushi (Asiate).  From the cocktails category, Lumos served an impressive Sesame Colada made with Bombay Sapphire East Gin, mangosteen, white sesame paste, caramelized pineapples, rice wine, and agave.

Green curry and poached shrimp, with charred cauliflower and tomatoes by Pig & Khao - so light yet tasty!
Shrimp Dumplings by Red Farm - tasty rendition of a dim sum favorite!
This is the Oriental Breeze beverage served on Cathay Pacific's (also a sponsor of this year's event) business and first class seats.  This is a light and delicious mix of sour plum tea, cranberry juice, honey, rose water and lemon juice.
Filipino Restaurant Maharlika serves a chicken dish over cassava chips
The 2015 Lucky Rice Feast is also happening this year at Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  Tickets to all Lucky Rice Feast events can be purchased here, so if you’re in New York City, mark your calendars for the 2016 event next March!  More pictures from this years event can be found on #EatDrinkGetLucky .

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bent on Learning’s 6th Annual Inspire Gala - Capitale, New York City - March 10, 2015

Bridget Moynahan, Jessie Freschl, Stephanie Johnson at Bent on Learning 6th Annual Inspire! Gala
Bent on Learning, an organization that works to bring yoga to New York City public school students held their 6th Annual Inspire Gala on Tuesday evening, March 10th at Capitale in Manhattan.  The event raised over $350,000 to Support Yoga Programs in New York City Public Schools. 

The Bent on Learning Gala attracted renowned celebrity guests, such as actress and model Bridget Moynahan, actor Alec Baldwin, and actor Kevin Navayne.  Festivities for the night at the grand Capitale venue included cocktails, silent auction, dinner, and a on-stage yoga performance by students of New Design.  We must say that the most memorable part of the gala was hearing several NYC public school students speak to how yoga has improved their lives.

Hilaria Baldwin and Alec Baldwin
Bent on Learning supporter Dr. Frank Lipman introduced honoree Gopi Kallayil, Chief Evangelist of Brand Marketing at Google, to the stage where Kallayil gave a heartfelt speech about the value of yoga in schools.  Guests also had a chance to stand and join him in a brief yoga practice. Although only a few minutes long, guests in glamorous cocktail attire joined him for the first ever yoga session at a New York City Gala!

Gopi Kallayil, Chief Evangelist of Brand Marketing at Google speaks at the Gala
Joining co-founders Anne Desmond and Jennifer Ford at the event were Alec and Hilaria Baldwin, actor Kevin Navayne, Ms. Ange Kagame, First Daughter of Rwanda, former Miss Teen USA Kamie Crawford, Event Chairs Jessie and Mark Freschl and Amanda Mintz, Vice Chairs Bob O’Leary and Paul Johnson and Lisa and Alex Binderow, and board members Jill Bauman and Bailey Gimbel, among others.

Hilaria Baldwin leading NYC public school students for an on-stage Yoga performance
Co-founder Jennifer Ford, Gopi Kallayil, and co-founder Ann Desmond
Janice and Dr. Frank Lipman at Bent on Learning 6th Annual Inspire! Gala

Bent on Learning brings yoga to New York City public schools and transforms classrooms into healthier, more compassionate learning environments where kids can thrive.  For 15 years, the organization has been an important treasure in New York City, providing free yoga programs to schools during the academic day, serving 18,000 children to date, and paving the way for making health and happiness an integral part of the curriculum of our schools.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Afternoon Tea at the Pembroke Room – Lowell Hotel, New York City

The Pembroke Room at the Lowell Hotel has everything that makes it the perfect place to have afternoon tea in New York City – a beautiful quiet surrounding with fresh cut flowers, a Victorian living room setting, super attentive service, a delicious menu with vegetarians and gluten-free options, and fine selection of champagnes and cocktails.

Cozy and elegant dining space of the Pembroke Room
Situated on the second floor of the Lowell Hotel, we had to get to the Pembroke Room by entering the lobby of Lowell Hotel on Madison Avenue.  We knew we were in for a special treat and experience when we walked in and were greeted with the scents of giant fresh white lilies on display in the lobby.   

The marble lobby was warm, bright, and inviting – even though the elevators were slow to arrive, that was fine, because this sets the tone that the time stands still here; rushing and hustling about is left to the outside world. 

As we got off the elevators and entered the Pembroke Room, we were greeted by a hostess who led us to a table with couch seating.  The dining room is quiet, elegant, and classy; decorated with fine china, artwork, fresh cut hyacinth flowers, lush green indoor plants, crystal chandeliers, beautiful window drapes, and ornate mirrors. 

The menu of afternoon tea at the Pembroke Room has three options you can choose from.  The first classic set option has tea, sandwiches, scones, and pastries.  The second Pembroke Royal Tea option has sparkling Rose or cocktail. For a more luxurious afternoon tea experience, you can choose the Lowell Imperial Tea option – which comes with champagne and an elaborate plate of American organic caviar paired with colorful toppings and toast wedges.  

Alcoholic beverages options on the menu can be replaced with fresh juice (we chose the pineapple with mint which was superb!).  There are also vegetarian and gluten-free options available on all the afternoon tea sets.

Bell jars decorate the counter with previews of the afternoon tea treats to come 
Flowers so fresh you can smell them!
The Pembroke Royal afternoon tea set with pastries, finger sandwiches, and foie gras canape
You can substitute tea sets with alcohol w/ fresh juice - we recommend the fresh pineapple mint juice as a healthy and refreshing option
The tea menu has a variety of premium Dammann Freres teas to choose from; if you’re not sure which teas you’d like you can ask the server to bring you different choices of teas to smell and see before you decide.  We chose the Anichai and Jardin Des Tuileries Oolong, which both went very well with milk and brown sugar cubes.  There are many non-caffeinated options as well.

The server starts you off with tea, and a set of pastries and sandwiches.  Tea comes with cream and brown sugar cubes, reminding us of the cafes of Europe.

Servers starting us off with our first cup of Anichai tea
The Anichai tea we chose paired perfectly with milk and gourmet brown sugar cubes
The pastries are fresh and not too sweet – the macarons, berry tarts, petit fours, and ├ęclairs were all delightfully tasty. 

This is one of the few places in New York City where you can find a gluten-free afternoon tea set.  All the desserts and sandwiches shown here are gluten-free, we tried them and could not tell!
We love the selection of their gourmet and very healthy finger sandwiches  – it comes with poached shrimp, foie gras, egg salad, turkey, cucumbers with watercress, and smoked salmon topped with caviar.

Light and delightfully tasty finger sandwiches - poached shrimp, smoked salmon w/ caviar, foie gras, egg salad, smoked turkey
For the option that comes with caviar, you eat the caviar by mixing and matching a variety of toppings over toast wedges.  You can get creative and make wedges that are too beautiful and colorful to eat!

The organic caviar set with toppings that include capers, chives, egg yolks, egg whites, onions, cream ; all served chilled over ice
You spread toppings and caviar over toast wedges - there's no limit to how creative and beautiful this can come out!
The warm fresh out of the oven scones are perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside – pair them with the marmalades and Devonshire cream for a nice burst of flavor.   

Fresh warm scones with lemon curd, marmalades, and Devonshire cream
What’s wonderful about having afternoon tea at the Pembroke Room is not just the quality of the food and drinks but that it’s an escape from the rush of time and the city life; there are no clocks visible and no rush to leave.  If you’re done with tea, the server will refill your kettle with more hot water and if you’re done with pastries & sandwiches you can request more scones.   

The experience of having afternoon tea and conversations at the Pembroke Room lets you leave feeling relaxed; which is not just an experience but a state of mind we can use more of in NYC.

Afternoon Teas at The Pembroke Room run every day from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. For reservations call 212-605-6825.