September 9, 2011

Tasting Table Expands Its Reach

Last night afforded me a glimpse into one configuration of the new food media landscape. The event was the cocktail party launch of Tasting Table's new test kitchen and dining room, a sleek brick-walled, fabulously outfitted loft space on the second floor of a non-descript Broome Street building

Guaranteed to evoke kitchen envy in all New Yorkers, the Eric Cheong and Loren Daye-designed space signals the eating and drinking e-mail list's entry into the big time. Plans include major content generation, master classes, recipe development, partnerships with large-name business (Williams-Sonoma, MasterCard and Jenn-Air, which supplied the appliances for the new space), and the beefing up of big city bureaus. They're moves that make MTV founder Bob Pittman's investment in the site look as canny as his Daily Candy buy and sell.

The site is no Yelp or (the recently purchased) Zagat, explains Kai Mathey TT's director of communications, because it relies on the judgement of seasoned critics. It's no Urban Daddy, because its not about being first to broadcast the latest arrivals on the scene. In fact, in content and scope, it sounds a lot like the old fashioned magazine. The difference, of course, it that the old three to six months' lead times are gone, and as with online news, the cycle is 24-hour and non-stop.

TT has brought on as its executive chef Brendan McHale, formerly of Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar and Barbara Lynch's The Butcher Shop in Boston, who is excited about a series of "artisan access" dinner he's designing that include cheesemonger Anne Saxelby and the purveyors of heirloom grains Anson Mills.

The pace of TT's growth and the scope of its plans are dizzying, although the source of my vertigo could have been the influence of  mixologist Franky Marshall's (The Clover Club) dreamy Royal Sparkler (a pretty concoction of St. Germain vodka, champagne, simple syrup, lime, English cucumber and raspberry), and McHale's addictive pork belly croquettes.

These are big plans backed by big money, but I hope there is still room for the quality independents in the field, such as the meticulously curated Cravings, where yours truly is a contributor.

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