Essential Food Groups: Talks & Events Around NYC

By Alison Durkee

New York City has always been a haven for foodies, and with Restaurant Week going on through August 18, there’s no better time to enjoy the work of the city’s best chefs. It’s also a great time to go deeper into food and drink, with these upcoming tours, talks, and explorations of all things comestible.

One of the best places to learn about the culinary world is the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, which is offering a packed slate of events this August. Discover how taste and our other senses drive attraction and desire at Lust, Brains, and Taste on August 3, or delve into the lesser-known aspects of Hawaiian cuisine with Top Chef finalist Sheldon Simeon on August 17. On August 31, you’ll scream for From Sprinkles to Sundaes: The History of Ice Cream in America, which explores the creamy treat’s storied history in NYC and throughout the country – and then finishes up with an ice cream sundae party.

In addition to its talks, MOFAD will also offer several more social events this month, including a food and drink-themed trivia night on August 22 and MOFAD @ Night on August 18, which gives attendees the chance to snack and drink while taking in the museum’s exhibition Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant. On August 15, wine lovers can weigh in on the rivalry between the east and west coasts at the museum’s California vs. New York wine tasting.

Those who prefer learning more about some harder liquor, can head to the Prospect Heights Brainery on August 10 for the History of Scotch Whiskey, which will tell you everything you need to know about the most popular spirit in the world. If a gin and tonic is more your style, the Brainery will also offer a History of Gin on August 17, which looks back at the spirit’s storied history from its medicinal beginnings through trendy present.

There’s also plenty of history to discover when it comes to what’s on our plates. This August and September will feature a slate of events examining the 19th century’s culinary history, including a look at NYC’s culinary scene in the 1820’s at the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden on August 11. Later on in 1899, the city got its first celebrity chef, as J. Ranji Smile – the subject of a Brooklyn Historical Society event on August 10 – arrived and brought curry to the masses, making an indelible impact on American cuisine. On September 7, learn about what was going on further down South, as the 92nd Street Y explores the racial roots of Southern cuisine dating back to the age of slavery with The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South.

New Yorkers can also discover more about food from those who write about it at several upcoming food-themed book events this summer and fall. On September 13, famed cookbook author and educator Jacques Pepin will join Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern for a conversation about Pepin’s new book, A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey. For those who’d rather get some helpful tips on how to give food a spicy kick, Fiery Ferments author Kirsten Shockey will be on hand at the Prospect Heights Brainery on August 29 to offer some insights about fermentation – with some spicy samples to enjoy. Vinegar, meanwhile, will take center stage on August 10, as author Michael Harlan Turkell celebrates his obsession with the acidic ingredient in a conversation with TASTE Editor in Chief Matt Rodbard.

Of course, with so much amazing food to discover in New York City, sometimes it’s best just to hit the streets and see what the city has to offer. Learn about some of Chinatown’s hidden treats – and the neighborhood’s gritty past – at a walking tour on August 6 and 27, or walk up a few blocks for an East Village food walkabout on September 17. Further uptown, the 92nd Street Y will host a tour and tasting in Harlem on September 16, exploring the historic neighborhood’s sights, sounds, and diverse cuisine. Those who’d rather take in a drink, meanwhile, can join Untapped Cities for their frequent tours of Rooftop Reds in Brooklyn, the world’s first rooftop vineyard.

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