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Flavors of the New York City Food & Wine Festival

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By: Cara Cannella
Flavors of the New York City Food & Wine Festival

Everyone has kitchen mishaps—even the longtime editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, it turns out. On the evening of Friday, October 16, from the center of a grand room at New York's Park Lane Hotel with floor-to-ceiling views of Central Park, Dana Cowin explained why she really learned to cook only recently. 

"I made terrible meals. Once I decided to fix that problem, I went to 65 of my chef friends and said, 'Please help me. It's bad,'" Cowin told the laughing crowd clustered at candlelit tables for Masters of the Kitchen , a New York City Wine & Food Festival event co-hosted by Cowin and sponsored by companies including Spice Islands® Trading Company to benefit the Food Bank for New York City and No Kid Hungry®. 

It was during the process of creating her 2014 book, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes, that Cowin—often referred to as "the first lady of food"—came to terms with all that she had to learn. After decades of popping into the Food & Wine test kitchen for tastings, and visiting restaurants for countless mouth-watering meals prepared by great chefs, Cowin's own culinary muscle needed some exercise. 

Four of the chefs who answered her desperate call for help—John Besh, Daniel Boulud, Jose Garces, and Andrew Zimmern—were on site to share stories and 

prepare the evening's meal using Spice Islands Trading Co. herbs and spices selected and harvested at their peak of freshness for maximum flavor, taste, and aroma. 

Between courses prepared by those chefs, with pairings provided by Southern Wine & Spirits of New York, each shared a story about his own kitchen mistakes. As we were served his Ecuadorian-style ceviche with tomato gelée, popped sorghum, and flowering cilantro, restaurateur Jose Garces—author of The Latin Road Home: Savoring the Foods of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru—described slicing his finger while competing on the Food Network's Next Iron Chef . 

"There was blood everywhere, and I was very scared," Garces said. Ultimately, medics tended to the injury, and he went on to win the battle and head to Tokyo for the title. In cooking and in life, he said, "You make mistakes, and you keep going and persevere. In the end, things work out." 

We asked Garces if he might have any instruction for home cooks who love to experiment with spices, and he offered this encouragement: 

"Spices are an easy and quick way to inject flavor into anything you're making. I make a lot of rubs and marinades with spices. I'll make a wet adobo rub with cumin and coriander with black pepper, and I also love adding spices to big batches of rice. Spices are key to how I approach cooking, and I use them to create layers of flavor. If I'm making beans or a stew, I like to take whole cumin seeds and toast them before grinding. That process pulls all the natural oils out. The toasting, plus the flavor of the spice, adds a lot of depth and makes a real difference. In my restaurant kitchens, I usually ask the cooks to use whole spices, and they grind them using a coffee grinder." 

Back at our table, we wrapped up the multi-course feast prepared by Garces and his fellow powerhouse chefs with poached pear wrapped in chocolate sponge cake, flavored by Spice Islands cardamom and ginger syrup. Fizzy with the rosé Champagne paired with dessert, we walked outside into the New York autumn night, inspired and empowered for our next season in the kitchen. 

Cara Cannella is a writer, editor, and teacher in New York City. She has worked as research editor for Bon Appétit and writes regularly about entrepreneurship for American Express OPEN Forum. She has an MFA in creative writing from The New School and teaches writing at Fashion Institute of Technology.  

Spice Islands® spices deliver high quality, authentic flavors from all over the world so you can put the most delicious meals on your table.

 

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