No weekend-long food festival — the 2011 NYC Wine & Food Festival  included! — would be complete without a trip to the grand tasting. This year's epic pavilion included over 60 exhibitors, more than 70 featured chefs, and dozens upon dozens of alcoholic beverage options (the festival is sponsored in part by Southern Wines and Spirits, the largest distributor of alcoholic beverages in the country). It was hard to make room in my head and my stomach for them all, but here are a handful of items I've still got on the brain.
Inside the Tasting Pavilion
The grand tasting was housed inside Pier 57 off of New York's West Side Highway — a location that was as jam-packed as it was enormous.
Crab and Avocado Corn Cakes
I wasn't blown away by the Hurricane Club's corn cakes, but I did appreciate chef Lawrence Knapp's crab and avocado topping. The addition of cilantro microgreens and radish added another dimension of flavor and texture, which led me to realize: those four ingredients alone would come together to make an incredible salad.
Chef Brandon Chavannes of 5 Ninth created a flatbread topped with oxtail ragu, a lush Idiazabal cheese sauce, and rucola microgreens. I was a fan of the flavor and texture, minus the baby arugula. It reminded me vaguely of a really high-end cheesesteak crostini — in a good way.
Food Network's first-ever wine label , Entwine, was on full display in the grand tasting pavilion. I tried the $12.99 Pinot Grigio .
Porchetta  isn't the only way to enjoy stuffed pork: Paul DiBari of Stuzzicheria wowed with a pork braciole filled with spirals of Swiss chard and provolone cheese. The whole slice of pork was enveloped in a spicy, tangy-tart tomato sauce.
Tuna Tartare Tartlet
Qi Bangkok Eatery chef Pichet Ong is wildly talented with pastries. Exhibit A: avocado, soy, shallot, and Thai herbs held together with a rich, short tartlet crust made of rice.
Figenza prides itself on being the "world's best fig-flavored vodka." In theory, the spirit — which is infused with fig, then distilled — sounded incredible. In reality, it had medicinal, syrupy quality that I couldn't get behind. It did, however, leave me pondering the idea of infusing my own fig vodka  at home.
Hemant Mathur at Tulsi served the best dish of the tasting: savory banana dumplings stuffed with figs and cashews, then doused in a tomato-fenugreek gravy. The gravy — a masala-like sauce with no shortage of spice — was a wonderful flavoring for the dish's quinoa base.