May 4, 2011

Duckathon? What’s that, you say? One of the best kept secrets in the NYC restaurant and food world! And the best time I’ve had in ages. A party like you’ve never seen before, unless you happen to reside in a village in the southwest of France. From what I’ve googled, festivals of silly events make up a good part of the summertime fun in Gascony. Leave it to the brilliant, charming Ariane Daguin to bring that joie de vivre to these shores. Ariane owns D’Artagnan, a sponsor of Charcutepalooza, and the leading purveyor of all-natural and organic meats (as well as charcuterie, wild mushrooms and truffles!)

Team Cercle Rouge with Ariane Daguin and Leonard Lopate.

I was so thrilled to be invited to the 6th Annual D’Artagnan Duckathlon last weekend. As the invitation said, “It’s a gastronomic obstacle course where teams from top NYC restaurants compete in an action-packed tour of the Meatpacking District’s hottest haunts.” I arrived at Chelsea Markets and the JBF PopUp Space to find a buzz of activity. Red T shirts indentified the D’Artagnan team, all with clear intentions, clipboards, and stickers. This was a party planned with military precision!

As a judge, I was given a very important looking badge. I joined Bob delGrosso, Chef King Phojanakong (Kuma Inn), and Leonard Lopate on the judging panel, as well as fellow bloggers – Mary from The Culinary Librarian and Erika from Life’s Too Short To Skip Dessert – and several others. There was a folder full of information detailing my job as Judge. My favorite part  – “You make the rules.”

The Competitors began to arrive. Teams, costumed. Ready to rumble. They had spent weeks – okay, days – practicing. The teams were selected for their mad skills, Duckathlon skills, that is.

Check out the stellar representation – Beacon, db Bistro Moderne, the Bird Brains (some very funny women, food writers, who came to the party armed with an original song, set to La Marseillaise,) Cercle Rouge, Colonie Restaurant, Daniel, Feast & Fetes, Great Performances, Green Grape Provisions, Jacques Torres, Le Bernardin, Le Cirque, Northeast Kingdom, Picnic, Restaurant Jean-Louis, Team Annisa and Team Balthazar.

Great Performances - on the High Line - heading to the forager

The teams studied their path, made plans, strategized. Posed for the cameras.

The Events. Kitchen-centric. Always with a sense of humor. A little bawdy. Here are just a few examples guessing the weight of a suckling pig,

Identify spices while blindfolded.

Taste fresh milk from Bobolink Dairy. What did the cows graze on? (Answer: wild garlic … I was stumped.)

Identify the beef cut, and where it came from on the cow. (Winner? Le Bernadin!)

How many crepes will the team flip in 2 minutes?

Slice Mangalica paper thin … with a fish knife. (Le Cirque did beautifully.)

It was a glorious day to wander from Chelsea Markets to the Meatpacking District, back and forth on the High Line.

Down at Hogs and Heffers, the famed “Sausage-Dangler” event… Team Annisa won! (But here’s the Le Bernadin entry – well done!

And ‘Duckie Get Your Gun’, here the Bird Brains give it their best shot. (Great Performances took home the prize.)

Crowds gathered at the D’Artagnan truck where two identification events stumped many, but others sailed through.

First, identify the birds – or A Flocking Good Time.

And Balls to the Wall, or identifying the, um, balls.

Loved the way some teams interpreted the challenges and as a judge, immediately gave them extra points for effort.

Team Annisa juggling the balls for extra credit.

Some neighbors were particularly interested.

At 4:30 we gathered for the judging and awards, and some fantastic fare – terrines, patés, duck breast from D’Artagnan, and cheeses and breads from Bobolink. Champagne, wine and beer flowed freely and music played.

The awards ceremony was hilarious – every event had a winner, each of the four members received terrific prizes from all the sponsors, and especially from D’Artagnan. Foie gras, sausages, paté, steaks, hams – all their glorious specialties.

And, as expected, the Best Dressed Award went to Cercle Rouge.

Lily Hodge, D'Artagnan, hands off the methusalem of Champagne to Cercle Rouge. Ariane Daguin, right.

The Gold Trophy Duck went to Team Annisa, for the 3rd time in four years. (Silver: Le Bernadin, Bronze: Cercle Rouge.)

Team Annisa working the James Beard challenge.

The Leonard Lopate Spirit Award was awarded to the Bird Brains.

Merci mille fois, Ariane et D’Artagnan!

16 Responses to “Duckathlon VI – D’Artagnan’s Hot Ticket”

  1. Janis

    Ohmygod does that look like a fun time! I love your recounting the day. I feel like I was sorta there….no, no I don’t. You are lucky.

  2. Mrs. Larkin

    What a hoot! That’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time, and I wasn’t even there! I especially enjoyed the, um, juggler.

  3. Jac Willis

    Guess the bird is team Picnic! My favorite! I’m sure Chef Christine Nunn did great. Loved theit t’s “Foie You”

  4. Christine

    Fabulous fun to even read about. Can’t imagine actually being there. You’re laughing muscles must have hurt the whole train ride home!

  5. Kim

    Great account of what looks like a great day. Inspiring, we’ve got to do something like that in Copenhagen :-))


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