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I knew last night was going to be huge night for me. After all I live, breathe and sleep everything Food Network. Like hundreds of other fans I arrived an hour early with the hopes of being first in line for Chelsea After Dark, one of the kickoff events for Food Network’s second annual New York City Wine and Food Festival. My fingers were crossed that I’d spot a few FN hosts making an early entry into Chelsea Market but what I saw outside was nothing compared to what I’d experience inside.
It was a fan’s dream, come true: Once inside I would actually have the opportunity to meet and hang out with some of my favorite FN stars like Alex Guarnaschelli, Aaron McCargo Jr. and Next Food Network Star winner Melissa d’Arabian. Each FN host was down to earth and genuinely delighted to chat with fans, which only reinforced my love for all things Food Network (if I sound like a kindred spirit, check out the I Love Food Network blog).
Shortly after entering Chelsea Market we were greeted by none other than Sandra Lee. Let me tell you, she was incredibly radiant. She was cheerful and gracious as she signed autographs and snapped photos with fans (including me!). The sweet scent of freshly baked goods like red velvet cake from Ruthy’s Bakery and savory aromas of the Lobster Place’s chowder filled the air, pulling me through the market. Chelsea Market was filled to the brim with casually dressed fans and foodies alike but to my surprise I never waited more than a few minutes at each tasting or food station.
I stopped staring for a minute to enjoy a cup of Upstate Chili from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats; it was made with tender Hudson Valley Beef and soft Fingerlake navy beans with just a hint of smoky cumin. There I met Tony and Alice from Austin, Texas who made the trip just for the opportunity to meet and be photographed with Guy Fieri! I have to admit I, too, was hoping to meet Guy and before long the lure of Guy’s Big Bite and Bar captured my full attention. It was like being transported into the swankiest multilevel dimly lit lounge. Beautiful white sofas with plush red area rugs were carefully placed on the perimeter. At center stage was Guy, in true rock-star fashion surrounded by a crowd of screaming fans just waiting to get a glimpse of him. The lounge featured a full bar and a live rock band (Anne Burrell was bopping her head to the music).
Then there were the temporary tattoo stations and a Ninendo Wii where guests lined up to try their hand at Food Network’s Cook or Be Cooked video game. The energy in this room, as Guy would put it, was off the hook! I couldn’t have asked for more. Chelsea After Dark certainly exceeded my expectations and set the tone for an incredible weekend to come.
Check out this Flickr stream for highlights.
–Food Network’s superfan, Robin Koury