From 4:00-8:00pm on Friday evening, The Altman Building in Chelsea saw hundreds of hungry New Yorkers looking to kick-start their weekend with a feast.  Sponsored by Connoisseur Specialty Foods, Dish West showcased an eclectic mix of NYC’s dining scene, allowing attendees unlimited samples of food and drink.

The large venue was crowded yet not uncomfortably so, and music played at just the right volume to evoke a fun atmosphere without detracting from conversation.  I found little time to engage in dialogue, my focus entirely on mapping out the places I wanted to hit first.  The crowd was comprised of primarily young professionals dressed in their casual Friday best, clustered in couples and small groups of friends.  Restaurants, sponsors, and other vendors lined the perimeter.  Everyone accumulated in the center, bumping elbows while happily chowing down on shrimp cocktail.

Dish West was not without faults; I saw opportunity for a few essential tweaks.  My three grievances: Somewhere along the way, a giant line formed from the entrance throughout half of the room.  Rather than manageable lines forming at each station, this super line created anxious, impatient, and hungry people.  I received many an evil-eye just for hovering nearby.  Full disclosure: I did cut in for my third helping of mac n cheese.

Said mac n cheese was my personal favorite bite of the night.  Prepared by Say Cheese of the Upper West Side, this creamy dish was worth weaseling your way to the front of the line time and time again.  I’m a vegetarian, but my friends really enjoyed the pork belly that came with it.  Say Cheese also prepared “deconstructed s’mores,” which involved marshmallows penetrated by pipettes filled with chocolate.  I was cheesin’ pretty hard after tasting those–yum!  Two other memorable desserts were Westville’s blueberry pie and a coffee-tasting panna cotta.  Dish West definitely delivered big time in the sweets department.

A secondary complaint of mine was that wine had already run low when I arrived around 6:00pm, and beer was gone shortly after 7:00.  This problem is not unique to Dish West but seemed worth mentioning.  After all, this was my Friday happy hour, I wasn’t planning on sticking to Pellegrino the whole time…

My final issue, perhaps most important of all, was the lack of vegetarian options.  At similar food events I’ve attended, vendors who provide an option with meat also prepare one without.  Here, this was too often not the case.  I suppose I can forgive places like Baconery; serving anything but meat would indeed be blasphemous.  Magia, a flatiron restaurant known for their meat-centric, Italian-style tapas, fed me a delicious breadstick and measly cube of cheese–but this was all I could sample from their extensive display.  I commend Atomic Wings’ vegetarian chicken wings, although I am still wondering what those bones were…

Personally, Dish West was not my favorite of food festivals.  A few samples were delicious, but I didn’t leave feeling like every bite was such.  The website boasted 40 vendors: upon scouring the room, this did not seem accurate–and I made several laps around to make sure.  At $23 a ticket, thanks to a Gilt City promotion, though, I definitely got my money’s worth (regular tickets were priced at $50).  My eyes are significantly bigger than my stomach, so I left full and content.

At the end of the day, would I attend again?  Probably…but only with the discount.

By: Emily Giove