Last night, Top Chef alumni held a Hurricane Sandy Relief Dinner at Angelo Sosa’s restaurant, Añejo Tequileria, in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Joining Sosa were former contestants Jennifer Carroll (Season 6), Kevin Sbraga (Season 7 winner, and owner of SBRAGA Restaurant), and Dale Talde (Season 4). All proceeds from the $100 four-course tasting menu with cocktail pairings (by mixologist Josh Wortman) went directly to the Red Cross to help with hurricane relief efforts.
I’d actually heard about the event just yesterday morning through Vancouver foodie Jonathan, of Food and Tell, and after discussing it with my roommate, we decided to make a reservation. I’ve never been to the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood, and it was a great opportunity to not only check out a new restaurant and area of Manhattan with delicious food and cocktails, but also to help contribute to those who were affected by one of the worst storms in US history, especially after experiencing it firsthand.
Once we arrived, we could tell that most of the people in attendance were friends of the restaurant and chefs, and we were actually asked a few times how we had heard about the event. The room was quite sexy and intimate, with dark red lighting over the bar and deep reds making up much of the restaurant decor. Tables were packed closely together, and there was seating on high tables with stools, along the bar to one side, and on regular small tables throughout.
The first course, by Angelo Sosa, was Baby Carrots with Spiced White Chocolate and Mole. This had a definite spicy kick to it and was delicious, especially when paired with the cocktail.
The Ponche Vida, with Riazul Silver, Sorel Liqueur, Rum, Lemon, and Oaxacan Spiced Pumpkin was my second favourite cocktail of the evening. I loved the hint of pumpkin in this one and could have easily had another (although I’m glad I didn’t, as by the end of the night I’d had a total of 7 tequila cocktails).
Next up was Jennifer Carroll’s creation, the Ora King Salmon with Potatoes, Kabocha Squash, and Warm Squid Ink Vinaigrette. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I always have low expectations when it comes to salmon in other parts of the world, especially as I’m a huge proponent of the wild versus farmed variety. However, this was quite good regardless, although the potatoes kind of just reminded me of tater tots.
The second course was served with the Mendoza, with Herradura Silver, Passion Fruit, Grenadine, and Cava, shaken. Passion fruit is one of my favourite food items that exists, as I love it’s tartness in everything from desserts to shakes from Thailand. This cocktail was no exception.
For the Third Course, by Kevin Sbraga, we had the Crispy Chicken Thigh with brussel sprouts, polenta and truffle condiment. I’d have to say I’ve really been enjoying my brussel sprouts lately and have eaten them at quite a few NYC restaurants over the past few weeks of my time here.
The Vida Flora cocktail was my absolute favourite drink of the evening. It was made up of Herradura Reposado, Amontillado Sherry, Orange Curacao, Lemon, and Orange Blossom, shaken. There were three distinct tastes that stood out for us, including a sweeter start, a bitter middle ground, and then the amazing floral blossom to finish things off. Once I’d had a sip of this, I was trying to think up what other creations could be made with the orange blossom.
To complete the meal, we had a divine Chocolate Pudding with Pomelo and Hazelnuts and basil leaves. This. Was. Amazing. All I know is I’d love to find out how I can get the chance to eat this again!
Another great pairing was made with the Mole Noche, with Herradura Reposado, Jack Daniels, Sorel Liqueur, Mole Bitters, and Arbol Chile, stirred. This was quite the strong cocktail, and somehow I ended up with two of them. At this point, I was definitely feeling the effects of all the tequila and warming up as we were sitting by the floor to ceiling windows and it was a very brisk evening. In fact, I was enjoying it so much that I even forgot to take a picture.
Once we had finished our meal, we sat and chatted awhile longer, and the crowd started to dwindle. We were at the later seating, and it was getting closer to 10:30 at this point. We signed the event guest book and then sidled up to the bar to enjoy another cocktail, as we still hadn’t tried the Añejo Margarita, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Sosa came by for a quick chat at this point, and we talked with a few of the other remaining guests at the bar and bar manager Josh Wortman. Overall, it was a very enjoyable evening with great people and excellent food, all for a good cause.
I’ll have to get back to Hell’s Kitchen again sometime soon and check out the regular brunch or dinner menu. Although based on the cocktails I tried, I’ll definitely want to go in the evening.
Food: N/A (as the meal was cooked by a variety of chefs – see individual dish ratings)
Service: N/A (as it was a special event)