I've experienced that anywhere I go where I am greeted with a cold Guinness Draught from the tap normally turns out to be a pretty good time. That adage was, yet again, proven true at the Taste of Forest Hills 2009 on Saturday. The Guinness, generously poured by The Tap House, definitely started the mood out right for this event, the third annual supporting children's programs at the Community House. Although lacking in flare this event provided a wide variety of foods and beverages from a good selection of our local Forest Hills restaurants. We arrived at 1pm, the starting time listed, at which point many of the participating restaurants were just getting there as well. This provided us a bit of time to mingle and check out the facilities, which were impressive. After it seemed that everyone was setup we started our grazing at the first vendor which was Austin street's Tap House. It took me a couple minutes to consume my tasty Guinness beverage and then we sampled a nice version of Shepherds Pie which was homemade and not too greasy like many a Shepherds Pie are. I passed on the wings as not to fill up too quick.
Pampas Argentinas was next and we tasted both beef and chicken empanadas and a chorizo sausage with mixed peppers. The empanadas were excellent and had a very juicy and tasty filling though a bit dough heavy on the sides. The chorizo seemed to be grilled then cut into bite sized pieces and mixed with the peppers and onions and was good but could have been grilled a bit longer for my tastes.
Next was La Tavernetta. There was eggplant ravioli with ricotta that was made very uniquely almost like a shumai crimped at the top rather than the edges, in a light tomato sauce. They also had a thick bucatini or perciatelli pasta with a very good bolognese sauce. The sauce was probably not as traditional as an original bolognese as it had a heavy tomato base but this is how I make mine as well (adapted from a recipe from my Italian chef friend Carmella in Rome) I would rate the sauce a 10 out of 10 that beats most bolognese sauces I have tasted outside of Italy. They also had a good but plain sausage and peppers with chunks of chicken. No complaints there but nothing spectacular.
Next was Danny Brown. Now let me say that I have eaten at Danny Brown and I know others that have as well and we have all raved about the food, atmosphere, staff, etc. I suppose that it is much harder to make great food then to have to transport it and I think this is where Danny Brown may have gotten lost yesterday. They served a nice gazpacho with a dollop of creme fraiche, a pate on crostini, a gorgonzola stuffed fig and a seared tuna chunk on cucumber slices. Each of the items was just fine but not what I expected out of DB's. The gazpacho was zesty and fresh but lacking some taste and could have benefited from some chopped chives or scallion on top. The same for the pate. It was good, tasted light and airy like a goose pate but again, lacked something. I was thinking I may have drizzled a drop of honey on top. The stuffed figs, in my opinion, should have been lightly heated so the gorgonzola was a bit melty. The tuna tasted good but on the cucumber was not as appealing both taste wise and visually. If in fact the cucumbers were very crunchy, maybe the skin should have been left on, then it may have worked for me yet, alas, they were not crunchy. I look forward to going back to Danny Brown and enjoying what they do best, and better than most, - kitchen to table service in their own restaurant.
The next table was my favorite of all. MoCA Asian Bistro had a very appealing spread of sushi, rolls, spring rolls, calamari and all of the sauces and dips to accompany each. Not only was everything meticulously presented and explained but was also delicious. My favorite item on their table, and the event as a whole, was the salmon carpaccio. Granted this is not something very difficult to prepare nor so original BUT their adaptation and preparation was flawless. Very fresh and colorful thin salmon slices were wrapped around some micro greens and a light sauce was drizzled on top. I would go to MoCA just for this item but all of their others were great as well especially the duck spring rolls with their sweet dipping sauce.
Among our other favorites was Q Thai Bistro who served several dishes including their crisp walnut chicken, London Lennies who served an extraordinary seared scallop over fresh corn, and Bonfire Grill who made one of the best barbecue sandwiches and slaw I have had north of Virginia.
Overall the event was a hit. Although the cost was a little much for what you get, a comment I have seen by other attendees over the years. At $40 per ticket, $30 for community house members, I think that there should have been more offerings including at least a full glass of wine, some take away items, etc. $20 seems more in line to me but the money goes for a great cause for Forest Hills Community House Children's programs and the opportunity to eat, meet and mingle on this perfect Spring Saturday afternoon in Forest Hills made it worth the while.