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Most popular ingredient: Pork belly. We saw it at Mendocino Grille’s table, sitting atop a ginger-cabbage slaw, at Charlie Palmer Steak in the form of a “belly” BLT, and at Vidalia capping a spoonful of roasted polenta with pickled Vidalia onions and rye-whiskey jus.
Most popular table: PX, Todd Thrasher’s Old Town speakeasy, which made its name with intricate cocktails and a healthy dash of exclusivity—only 34 people are allowed in at a time, and only when the blue light is on outside—had a table at the event. The line for fresh-basil-infused cocktails remained five to six people deep all night.
Most popular cop-out: Crostini. There were at least two tables offering fava-bean crostini topped with a Parmesan shaving. That’s at least one too many and a big tip-off that these spots were just phoning it in. Still, one crostini stood out both in flavor and creativity: BLT Steak’s duck-rillettes crostini with charred onion, date marmalade, and baby-fennel pickles. Yum.
Most impressive showstopper: Molecular gastronomy might be so 2006, but it’s still fun to watch. And if it tastes delicious, all the better. Butterfield 9 chef Michael Harr dipped a mixture of black peppercorn, lavender honey, and bleu cheese into a smoking cauldron of liquid nitrogen and poured it over a dollop of beet purée. Next to him, pastry chef Manabu Inoue popped disks of white-chocolate espuma into the liquid nitrogen, then plated it with a black-cherry sauce and sprinkled it with dark-chocolate flecks.