Saturday night's New York Wine and Food Festival dessert extravaganza, SWEET, wasn't a competition, but Anne Thorton's offering had people raving, and her table was cleaned out long before the night's end. So we're calling her the winner. Thorton's the pastry chef and event manager at Hotel Griffou, which has become both a trendy nightspot and critical punching bag (Pete Wells at the Times says, "I was treated worse each time I showed up.") We've never checked into Hotel Griffou, so we were pleasantly surprised to find Thorton's dessert—Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie—outshining chefs from such critical darlings as Locanda Verde and Per Se (not that their creations were anything to sneeze at, either.)
Thorton's banana pudding pie was rewarding all the way from top to bottom, where a salty crumbly crust awaited. Also noteworthy were the "Do-Goodie" brownies from Greyston Bakery, made from all-natural ingredients and benefiting a foundation promoting entrepreneurship in low-income communities. And we also liked what we tasted of chef Johnny Iuzzini's Godiva Chocolate Pom Gelee with Black Sesame. Unfortunately, it came on a stick and proved elusive; one bite sent the remainder crumbling to the floor.
There were fewer purveyors than in previous years (32 compared to last year's 43) but the Chelsea venue was still packed with gourmands willing to pay $175 a pop for unlimited treats and drinks. (100% of the net proceeds goes to benefit the Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength.) And the music—timeless soul and unobjectionable oldies spun by Brooklyn DJ collective Finger on the Pulse—was an infinite improvement over Samantha Ronson's irritating '80s assault last year. A good time seemed had by all, and nobody was seen collapsing in a sugar coma, at least not on the premises. The NYWFF ends tonight, leaving behind countless New Yorkers with tighter pants but, hopefully, some desperately-needed revenue for two worthy causes.