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We've come to truly enjoy food events. Where else can you sample a bunch of the restaurants you've had on your list all in one night and do it all in the name of a good cause like City Harvest? So of course we were excited to attend New York Magazine's Taste of New York. The thing we didn't count on? The booze. So much booze. And not just cheap well drinks, but fantastic, inventive cocktails. And that's not all. Several of the restaurants prepared dishes that had booze as part of the dish, or at least as part of the experience of that particular dish. This threw our entire food event strategy entirely out of whack.

2004_11_food_3olives.jpgIn preparation for the event, we had eaten somewhat lightly, so when our first stop of the evening turned out to be the Three Olive martini, we knew we were in for the long haul, and we knew we had a lot of eating to do, lest we fall over in the line of duty. We ditched half the martini and headed straight for the number one spot on our list: Dinosaur Barbecue. Now we had visited these guys up in Rochester, so we knew we were in for a treat, and their mini pulled pork sandwiches -- smoky, tender, and dabbed with a dose of their signature sauce -- did the trick and soaked up enough of the martini to stablize us for a while. Onward we pressed.

2004_11_food_lomonaco.JPGAt this point, we took a lap around the Puck building, just to take in the festive and friendly atmosphere and to decide what to taste next. We love seafood, so paused at RM for some spice-crusted tuna with pickled vegetables and a caviar and champagne vinaigrette, and then headed to Aquavit, our first booze-paired treat: their beautiful and tasty oysters came with a shot of horseradish-infused Aquavit. Quite a refreshing combination. Continuing the seafood theme, we visited Michael Lomonaco and his crew at Guastavino's for a perfectly seared diver scallop with lemon-barley risotto, drizzled with ancho chili oil and sprinkled with spinach chips. After relishing the sweetness of the scallop, we quickly realized that it had been way too long since we had gotten a drink.

2004_11_food_employ.jpgThe fun-loving folks at Employees Only served us a Ginger Smash -- fresh cranberries muddled with ginger and sugar, shaken with Beefeater Wet, Berentzen Apple Liqueur, and lemon juice, served over ice. We were thrilled with the cocktail, but disappointed to learn that we'd have to wait until mid-December for the restaurant to open in order to have another round in their native setting. In the meantime, we wandered around sipping and searching for our next bite.

5 Ninth, also high on our list, was another restaurant that had opted for a food and booze pairing, serving pork belly fries with a Panama cocktail. As we ambled over, we overheard David Wondrich explaining the recommended procedure, "from our focus group results." We had him repeat it -- first a pork fry, then the shot, followed by the remaining pork fry. "Sort of a deconstructed sandwich." The Panama cocktail, he explained, is a drink from the 1900's, basicially a shot of whiskey and Tabasco. Suprisingly, it went down pretty smoothly in between its pork-belly-fry bookends.

2004_11_food_asiate.jpgLooking for something on the lighter side, we found the sochu-marinated pheasant sausage with shisho-yuzu vinaigrette and smoked tofu at Asiate. Chef Noriyuki Sugie, who always looks for new ways to marry French and Asian flavors, selected this dish for its seasonal appeal, and we had to admit that the pheasant paired with the smokiness of the tofu was a pefect fit for fall without being heavy enough to make us hibernate for the winter.

Winding down, we were ready for dessert. We had a nibble of Junior's cheesecake (we couldn't resist), but ultimately finished off with a Navan Fire and Ice cocktail -- warmed Navan vanilla-infused cognac served with a dollop of ice cream. Sweet, delicious, and the perfect finale to our boozy, food-filled evening. We wobbled home stuffed, happy, and eagerly awaiting our next Taste of New York.

More pictures can be found at Sweet Blog o' Mine: Taste of NY and at Greek Tragedy: taste.