Edible Garden Festival and Mario Batali Cooking Demo

Roger, the winner of the Edible Garden Tickets, did a guest post for us with a great recap:

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Hi ChubbyChineseGirl Readers,

My name is Roger and I’m a university student new to NYC from Vancouver on an internship. I was lucky enough to win the tickets to the Edible Garden Festival and Mario Batali cooking demonstration this past Sunday at the New York Botanical Gardens!

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What a beautiful day for eating! It was a great experience getting to learn about cooking with homegrown produce and local products.

The Edible Garden Festival portion of the event included some stalls from local food vendors selling their wares (including homemade granola, organic all-natural baby food, and dried fruit chips) as well as a showcase of the ‘edible gardens’ featuring produce grown for Mario Batali’s restaurants.

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Of the foods present, perhaps the most unique was The Royal Vegan and their Faux Gras, a toasted walnut and lentil pate. The pate was smooth and full of lentil and walnut flavor with a slight hint of sweetness as if candied walnuts had been used. Later did I found out that mirin (a sweet rice cooking wine) had been added as a healthy alternative. Certainly the spread lacked the buttery richness and umami of foie gras but it’s a great alternative for vegans and the health-conscious and would be great with sandwiches or crackers!

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I could smell the freshness of the ingredients in these gardens from a mile away! The people at the event did a great job of explaining which vegetables were fresh and in season, and kids got to get their hands dirty planting seeds and making their own chefs hats. It was great to see a variety of plants from around the world planted, ranging from rhubarbs to bok choy!

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Now onto the celebrity appearance! Mario Batali, owner of Italian institutions across the city like Eataly and Babbo, showed off his culinary prowess with three recipes: 1) Bruschetta of White Beans and Broccoli Rabe, 2) Ricotta Ravioli with Tomato Sauce, and 3) Chicken Thighs with Snap Peas. Some cool/interesting points I took home from this demo were:

  • Mario Batali is a great entertainer in person! He keeps the show interesting and the mood light even when things don’t go as planned.
  • Substituting any of the ingredients used (e.g. broccoletti) in his recipes with fresh produce is key!
  • Recipe #2: Instead of a sage/butter sauce, Mario used fresh chopped tomatoes as a light salad-like sauce. The secret? Using the pasta sauce from cooking the ravioli to lightly cook the tomato chunks, add flavor to the sauce, and thicken it with the starchy pasta water. This reminded me of Japanese adding soba-yu or soba water to cold dipping sauce to drink as a soup. What a delicious combo!
  • Mario repeated again and again how important it is to not overwhelm your dishes with flavor or fillings! Whether it was the white bean and broccoli topping on the roasted bread or the ricotta and parmesan filling for the ravioli, putting too much of your supposed ‘main’ ingredient takes away from the simple goodness of the other components of the dish.
  • “It’s not burnt; it’s charred. The difference? I can charge $10 more when I call it charred.” – Mario Batali, marketing genius

Thanks to the New York Botanical Gardens putting on this fun and informative event and to Chubby Chinese Girl for the tickets! I’m really happy to be able to share my experience with all the readers here and hope you enjoyed my guest blog too!

Roger