Ok, so there was some interesting stuff this time around.
We started in Rat's and worked our way to the other end. Rat's new chef was there dishing out steak with a corn foam, smoked porcini mushrooms, red pepper sauce and arugula. It was phenomenal. And he very kindly cooked one of the slices to well done for one of the folks in our group. The Rat's pastry chef is not new and he was walking around with the same delightful chocolate rats with raspberry filling that he does every year. I love those, and I saw one lady grab a handful, wrap them in a napkin and then stuff them in a coffee cup to take home!
The Blue Bottle Cafe was there in the restaurant with braised beef short rib nachos that were just delicious. Eli Zabar's bread was represented at another table - yummy but not any better than Witherspoon Bread Co., imo. There was a charcuterie table, but I'm squeamish and avoided the creative looking sausages. I'm told they were good.
One 53 was there from Rocky Hill. They had salmon tartare on a homemade potato chip. I don't really like fish, but this was very pleasant, so I'm definitely looking to try what else is on their menu.
On the way to the other end of the gardens, we had a steak sample from Ruth's Chris along with a slice of seared tuna. The steak was great, of course, and the tuna was quite lovely according to the folks who eat fish. I really liked the ricotta-filled mozarella from Piccolo Italia in Ocean and the samples from Buddakan - an incredibly flavorful chicken potsticker and a well-executed edamame ravioli in a savory sause.
The Bent Spoon was not there, to my disappointment, but it was replaced by "Piece Of Cake" which supplies desserts to Rat's apparently. The white chocolate raspberry and death by chocolate ice cream flavors were definitely superior, but I still prefer the ingenuity of the Bent Spoon's flavors.
The Bobolink Dairy, however, was back again. Their Frolic cheese was tasty, and the cave-aged cheddar was simply excellent. I haven't had cheddar like that before. The big news though is that they are moving to Milford from Vernon, which is a much closer location for those of us in the Mercer County area!
Brothers Moon had an interesting Chicken Terrine topped with apricots (I think) and a blueberry. I liked how the sweet flavors paired with the salty/smokey terrine. They also had their excellent chocolate mousse (though I missed the shortbread moon-shaped cookies they used to bring with them).
Yardley Inn had a smoked ham (very like prosciutto) on biscuits with peach preserves and some kind of cheese. Very tasty, with a great flavor combo (sweet, smokey, salty- YUM).
Continental Mid-town, Eno Terra and Parc (Philly) were also there. I can't remember anything spectacular from them, but I was a little overwhelmed, so don't use that to rule them out.
In the big Seward Johnson center, Marsha Brown was already shut down when we got there. I don't even know what they were offering, which is disappointing. I'd love a reason to try them out, but I've heard too much "meh" about the place to pony up the cash for dinner there. Chez Alice had a full spread, with a sample chicken skewer, roasted veggies and a dilled orzo and tomato salad. Good stuff, but nothing that put me over the moon. It was just very simple and well-executed food.
The caterers associated with the Main Street Bistro were also there with a layered cake that featured cappuccino filling and flourless chocolate cake. Really good, but really really rich. I just about went into a sugar coma right then and there. Provence Catering and Temperance House were there, but once again, I forget what they were serving.
Sorry for the jumbled nature of my recall and the light specifics. But it was a wonderful time, and I look forward to next year!