Last week, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. and Baron Ambrosia hosted Taste of the Bronx, a sampling of restaurants from around the borough. The Baron, whose real name is Justin Fornal, is the Bronx’s official culinary ambassador and self-proclaimed “quaffer of culinary consciousness,” who rose to fame as a local TV celebrity, which he then parlayed into a show on Cooking Channel. Ambrosia and Diaz Jr. welcomed guests including actor David Sayers, Esquire’s John Mariani, the New York City Hospitality Alliance’s Andrew Rigie, and All’Onda’s Zach Chodorow. Both hosts thanked Coca-Cola and Glaceau for holding the event at their midtown headquarters, and for donations that have benefited the borough. Ambrosia waxed poetic about the Bronx’s strong sense of community, and spoke of the love he has for its diverse culinary offerings, encouraging everyone to try as many things as possible. “I’m a traitor,” he lamented, when asked where he’d purchased his purple shoes. “I can’t find them in the Bronx anymore. I have to go to Newark for these.”
Guests were greeted by friendly faces from the newly established Gun Hill Brewing Company and led upstairs to the main room of vendors. Bangladeshi restaurant Neerob served a variety of vorta, mashes of vegetables and seafood. There were baby lamb chops and bacon-wrapped scallops from Artie’s Steak & Seafood on City Island, and samples of fresh ricotta from the Arthur Avenue market and its just-opened beer hall. And although the spicy turkey sliders we tried from said beer hall had unmelted cheese and cold filling, such a mishap should only be chalked up as a consequence of catering — plus, there aren’t many places in the borough that exclusively serve beer from New York State breweries, which is something to champion.
Jake’s Steakhouse from Riverdale was carving meat to order paired with creamed spinach, and in the small but well-equipped Coca-Cola break room, the Bronx Brewery doled out cans of its pale ale. Known for her traditional, lye-dipped pretzels (which help the baked good achieve an exemplary, dark crust), Alexis Faraci of the Bronx Baking Co. had an enticing display of hung pretzels and baskets of pretzel sticks. She sells locally to retail markets and several establishments throughout the five boroughs, including Pianos on the Lower East Side; her bacon-wrapped pretzel are a favorite. Tremont’s new Cabo restaurant was offering a serious plate of rope vieja over rice with shrimp and chorizo, but the heavenly smells failed to attract a crowd. Port Morris Distillery on the other hand, couldn’t fill enough cups with Pitorro — sugarcane-based moonshine with roots in Puerto Rico.
With the evening bordering on humid, plenty of people had cups of Delicioso Coco Helado’s icy treats, and other desserts were in abundance. Lloyd’s Carrot Cake served full-on slices of plain and nut-filled cakes, and 60-year-old Baychester outfit the Golden Glow Cookie Company set out an arrangement of Italian cookies, although its layered combination of chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, and cheesecake was particularly rich and filling.
Check the next page for photos of the event.