This post was created in partnership with JCPenney, who provided me with the opportunity to attend this event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
Summer may officially be over, but grilling season was still in full swing on Friday night in the Big Apple. The 2014 Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival's 7th Annual Blue Moon Burger Bash was hands down the most delicious place to be in all of Manhattan. The event was hosted by Rachael Ray and judged by Anne Burrell, Adam Richman, Nick Mangold and Andrew Zimmern.
My husband and I enjoyed a night of delicious burgers, refreshing beer and wine, sensational live music and oodles of acclaimed chefs.
When I first saw the map of burger tents, I knew that we needed some sort of game plan. There were 32 contenders, so realistically we wouldn't be able to taste them all. I decided that we had to try the Ramen Burger from RAMEN Co. (made with signature ramen noodle bun, prime ground chuck, Keizo's secret shoyu sauce, scallions and arugula). We beelined for their tent to grab a taste. Rachael Ray and her team tasted it right before we got to the front of the line, so there was a pretty big buzz right from the get go. I was glad that this burger lived up to the hype that had been surrounding it. The ramen noodle bun was such a fun way to sandwich the flavorful burger, and the sauce was outrageously good - no wonder it's a secret!
We stopped by Hudson Malone to grab the El Burger next (served with Nana's potato latkes with DQ Au Poivre sauce). This burger was made from a dry-aged beef blend and sat on top of a big, juicy pickle. I love a good pickle, and this one complimented the burger so perfectly. The sauce that went with the latkes was really nice as well.
The next burger we sampled was Robert Irvine's Bavarian Burger (Black Forest pork belly, caramelized onion and apple jam, Gruyère cheese, pickled red cabbage and spicy mustard dijonnaise on a Martin’s Famous Potato Roll). It was served with a delicious dill-studded potato salad. The entire plate knocked our socks off. The burger was tender and super flavorful. And the pork belly... just... wow. This one really got our attention, and we later ended up giving him our votes for the People's Choice Award.
After grabbing The Red Burger from Rouge Tomate (housemade kimchi, avocado mayo, arugula, tomato and red onion on a Martin’s Famous Potato Roll), we realized that there was no way we were going to be able to keep eating one full sample each. We shared samples of a few other burgers while walking around the spacious rooftop soiree. We sampled the Dirty Burger from The Dirty Chef (coated with Dirty spice and finished with honey on a Martin’s Famous Potato Roll) and got to take home a sample of his "Dirty Dust" spice blend, The Burger from The Little Beet (cheddar, caramelized onions, cheesy potato crunch and special sauce served with super crispy and delicious truffle fries) was up next, followed by, The White Label Burger from Costata (dry-aged beef blend with bacon marmalade), and the Parisian Santa Fe Burger from Butter (Pat LaFrieda beef, melted Gruyère and roasted garlic fondue, potato skin chips and serrano chilies on a Martin’s Famous Potato Roll) which was absolutely delicious. The best part was eating it while Chef Alex Guarnaschelli was joking around with the crowd. She was absolutely hilarious!
One of the coolest things at the event was the esurance SavorBands that we wore all evening. You just tapped them at each booth that you stopped by to keep track of what you sampled, and also got to use it to cast your vote for best burger. One of the times that Dino tapped his, he was notified that he won a meet & greet with Chef Marc Murphy! We hadn't tried his LAMB-MARC burger (spiced ground lamb burger with mint chimichurri on a Martin’s Famous Potato Roll) yet, so when we met up with him he had his team send two out and he described them to us himself. They packed a ton of flavor - we really loved the chimichurri with the lamb. It was a bold burger, so it's no wonder it won top honors from the judges! He was cracking jokes with us, gave us the inside scoop on the logistics of the event, and was a pleasure to chat with!
We did manage to sneak in a few desserts - cake pops from William Greenberg Desserts, and the most adorable dessert burger I've ever seen - the Mac Stac from ilili (sesame macaroon, with smoked chocolate-hazelnut ganache, served with waffle fries, pineapple mustard and hibiscus ketchup). I ended up grabbing a second one of those cuties, because they were ridiculously good.
In between rounds of burgers, we decided that we need a bit of respite from the swarms of people, so we headed over to the JCPenney lounge. They had a cozy, Halloween-themed display at the far end of the event, full of cozy couches, tricks and treats. All of my friends know that I'm a huge fan of Halloween fun, so when I saw the adorably spooky treats on display, I was like a kid in a candy shop! They did a lot of little things that really upped the specialness of their items - I loved the face decals on the candy jars, and the spiderweb over the cheese. Too cute!
They also had a lot of appliances and dinnerware on display. It's all stuff you can buy over at JCPenney.com or in their stores. They have a huge selection of items from a slew of beloved national brands such as KitchenAid, Calphalon, Cuisinart, Cake Boss, Keurig, Pfaltzgraff and Rachael Ray. In fact, one of the most used tools in my kitchen arsenal has been this Rachael Ray 5-qt. Hard Anodized Covered Oval Sauté Pan. I've had it for yeeeeears now, and I favor it over all of my "regular" round skillets. I've been considering buying the 3-qt. Covered Oval Saucepan and/or 8-qt. Covered Stock Pot, too, because I love how un-crowded my stovetop is with an oval pan. And things like spaghetti fit in it lying down without sticking up out of the water. I also like to do things like caramelize onions in the pan, slide them over to one side and cook a nice piece of meat right there in the same pan while the onions stay warm. It's super handy.
One of the other fun things at their display was the beautifully intricate papercut artwork from Mr. Chen. He wowed the crowd with his speedy and precise renderings of anything and everything that was requested of him! My family is going to be dressing up as penguins for Halloween this year (my toddler LOVES penguins!) so we asked if he would make a penguin for us. He snipped away for what seemed like no time at all, and revealed an adorable penguin family. It made for a really beautiful souvenir!
We had an absolutely fantastic time. I was thrilled to be able to sample so many delicious burgers and meet so many culinary icons. The weather was beautiful, the music was great, and I got to enjoy a pretty sweet date night with my husband. What an amazing opportunity!
Do you want your own JCPenney burger package? To enter to win, leave a comment below describing your favorite burger. Winner will receive one Cooks Contact Grill ($40 value), one Charcoal Companion® Stuff-A-Burger® 2-Pc. Set ($50 value) and one Charcoal Companion® Deluxe Mini Burger Set ($50 value) from JCPenney. The contest will close on Friday, November 14, 2014 at 12 noon (Eastern Standard Time). One winner will be chosen via random.org and will be contacted via email to get mailing information. U.S. residents only. Good luck, everyone!
UPDATE – The winner has been selected via random.org – CONGRATS to Lori!