Pizza, guac, and ice cream, oh my! On May 22nd, 2018, the Downtown Alliance and Fosun hosted the Dine Around Downtown Food Festival at 28 Liberty Plaza. The festival was held coincidentally just as Downtown Magazine celebrates the launch of its culinary issue this Spring. The festival was any foodie’s dream; with 39 of Downtown’s best restaurants, including places such as Delmonico’s, Insomnia Cookies, and Eataly, there was something for everyone to enjoy. As a vegetarian, I was pleased to find that there were many tasty vegetarian options being served at the festival. I sampled quite a few dishes from some of the most well-known restaurants of Downtown NYC, and I’m here to give you readers the heads up on some of the best dishes served at the festival.
First up is pizza, which, in my opinion, always deserves to be first. I was excited to find an Adrienne’s Pizzabar station, as I’ve heard many great things about this place. I decided to opt for the classic cheese square slice. Overall, I enjoyed this slice, but it certainly did not live up to the hype, in my opinion. I found the pizza to be a little too cold for my liking, and not quite as flavorful as some other New York slices I’ve tried. I did, however, enjoy the square shape of the slice, as it gave it a certain crustiness that not all slices achieve. Overall, I’d give this slice a 3.5/5 stars.
Next up, I tried the caprese sandwich from Parm of Battery Park. This spot is named after its signature dish, chicken parmesan, so I wasn’t expecting their caprese sandwich to blow me away, as it’s not their signature dish. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised. This sandwich was good; it was flavorful and had just the right amount of spice in a unique sauce that one does not typically find on a caprese sandwich. The mozzarella cheese tasted super fresh, as did the bread. I would rate this sandwich a 4/5 stars.
With all of these carbs, I decided it was time to try something a little lighter and healthier. I decided to go for the roasted cauliflower with pine nuts, raisins, and pecorino cheese from Underdog. Although it might sound like a simple side dish, this was one of my favorite things I tried. As a vegetarian, I’m a sucker for a vegetable dish with a twist. This dish was classic, with its own unique twist with the addition of the golden raisins. I loved the sweet and savory flavor combination of this dish, and the workers at Underdog were super friendly and fun. I rate this dish a 4.6/5 stars.
Now, time for a drink. I couldn’t resist trying The Tuck Room’s Heizenberg Farmer’s Market Rhubarb-Berry Lemonade. I have one word for this drink: YUM. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. It was the perfect combination of sour, sweet, tang and tart. It was the perfect refreshing beverage to break up all of the food sampling. One of the coolest things about The Tuck Room’s stand was the way they made their food; for example, the lemonade was made through a contraption that extracted the flavor from the fresh berries through a water-drip container (pictured below). They were even making fresh ice cream from liquid nitrogen. Super cool and delicious; I rate this drink a 4.8/5 stars.
I couldn’t resist Mad Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina’s stand when I saw everyone walking around the festival with the most delicious looking corn, chips and guacamole platter. One of my favorite cuisines is Mexican, and this dish hit the spot. The Mexican corn was so fresh and flavorful with its sauce and cheese toppings, flavored with just the right amount of zest and spiciness. The guacamole was as perfect as guacamole can get. This dish is the perfect food festival kind of meal. This might have been my favorite dish of all; I rate it a 4.9/5.
I just couldn’t resist the temptation to fulfill my sweet tooth before leaving the festival. I decided to try out Sprinkles Land’s Tropical Paradise Wine Glass Ice Cream. I mean – even the name sounds magical. This treat was the perfect instagrammable food, for all of you readers who can’t resist an insta-worthy meal. I chose to get vanilla ice cream, which is then placed over a mixture of strawberry and mango juices, as well as butterfly pea flower tea. In my opinion, the ice cream and the drink would taste best separately, as the drink was quite sour. It’s also important to note that this treat was a little messy and impractical, as it spilled and got sticky quite easily (pro tip: get napkins, and don’t wear white!). I will say, though, that the ice cream tasted really fresh and delicious. I could have done without the fruity drink part of this treat, but that’s what makes the dish so colorful and ‘insta-worthy’. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for a good shot, right? Overall, I’d rate this treat a 3/5 stars.
The Dine Around Downtown event was super fun and opened my eyes to all of the food trends of the moment. Just a tip, if you decide to attend next year’s event, I’d suggest getting there early to avoid long lines, and to make sure you get all of the dishes you like (some stands ran out of food quite early). Overall, the festival was a great time and was a perfect celebration of the growing culinary culture of Downtown NYC.