By Sophia Hsu
Following the line around the building, I make my way into the Sheraton LaGuardia East in Flushing. I get upstairs to the ballroom to fi nd the space packed with chefs, platters whizzing by, and booths ready for selling. I ask one of the hotel personnel what the line around the building is for, and he tells me that it is for the food fair. The first Asian American Restaurant and Food Fair seems to already have quite the following.
An ice sculpture swan is carted in to sit atop the registration table and lit from below. The swan was sculpted by one of the chefs who organized the food fair. I learned that he will later be giving ice sculpting demonstrations during the course of the event. The food fair consists of two sessions. Each session provides a different group of attendees the opportunity to experience all of the signature dishes that the New York Asian restaurants have to offer.
Tables are lined up both sides of the hallway, around the entire ballroom, and outside on the patio for the grilled foods. The rainbows of noodles provided by TMI Trading, the marinated meats fresh off the grill provided by Lee Kum Kee (USA), and the flurry of attendees trying to just get a taste of the chefs’ beautiful creations mark an extremely successful first food fair. San Soo Kap San of Flushing provided Korean bulgogi and jap chae while Lucky Plaza Restaurant of Chinatown provided more traditional Chinese fare.
Kevin Wong, the executive chef at the Sheraton LaGuardia East, was kind enough to spend some time speaking about the association. His booth provided a taste of East meets West. Teriyaki roasted fi let mignon, roasted rack of lamb basted in sa cha sauce (a type of Chinese barbecue sauce), and plantain chips with a cilantro lime salsa were up for tasting at his table. He hopes that having the Asian American Restaurant Association, which has been in operation for about three years, will bring the understanding of Asian foods to a new level here in New York.
Fascinated by the live demonstration at one of the booths, Sato is firing up woodchips and herbs in a pot. On a long plank towards the edge of the table, there are three wine glasses turned upside down trapping smoke and salmon together. I watch as one assistant lifts a glass, has the sampler waft the herbed smoke to his nose, places a dollop of sour cream on the fish, and has the sampler immediately savor the fish after the noseful of smoke. There are quizzical looks around the table, but those who are in the know understand that your sense of smell is 50% of taste, so the smoked salmon was meant to be an entire experience for the senses. The event was not just a feast of flavors, it was a feast for all of the senses. If you were not able to make it this year, there is always next year.