hey, so real quick...occasionally, i find myself at food events & eat a bunch of stuff & would love to give said gluttony a writeup now & again, but the tale doesn't usually fit into any of my existing columns. sayonora to that worry. the upside for you is that you get to enjoy this TOTALLY NEW, TOTALLY EXPERIMENTAL new column, where i go to food events & eat food & vent & yeah...FOODVENTS. [rim shot].
...so last week, i was kind of a high roller. i'm not really one who goes to press events & all but a kind blog buddy named amanda (read her blog yeah you're welcome or die, bitches) turned me on to a TOTALLY EXCLUSIVE heinz ketchup event going on in the city. i was all "hellz yeah. i love me some heinz ketchup." plus, eat!drink!snack! has NOT been giving ketchup its propers. three plus years & one ketchup post (about herr's ketchup chips) prior to this one? unacceptable. anyway. next thing i knew, it was an early evening on a thursday & i was knee deep in ketchup & ketchup-related items.
here's the deal: this year is heinz ketchup's 135th anniversary, so they've decided to go all peter gabriel BIG TIME. after a period where they've lagged behind the rest of the universe as far as their internet presence goes, they now have a corporate site, the fan-friendly myheinz.com (where you can make personalized ketchup bottles) & a heinz ketchup facebook page that has over 800K fans & has become a heinz ketchup shrine of sorts. basically, heinz realized that people love their ketchup & they ran with it & then last week, they unveiled their first new ketchup product in like a decade--balsamic vinegar ketchup.
...& although they didn't tell us what the new product was beforehand, said unveiling was the main reason they brought myself & a bunch of other food writers to the kitchen NYC, an event space in midtown. what they did tell us beforehand was that they'd be unveiling their newest flavor & that celebrity chef spike mendelsohn (of top chef: chicago fame and d.c.'s good stuff eatery & we the pizza fame) would be making a bunch of dishes using heinz ketchup. gotta be honest...going in, i had little to no idea who this spike dude was. about a month ago, i met with dale talde (who was eliminated in the round before spike on top chef: chicago) to talk about his new brooklyn restaurant. until then, i couldn't have named a single top chef contestant. now i can name two...& the staggering progress of modern civilization slowly creeps forward.
when i arrived at the space, i entered a lobby area done up with heinz memorabilia & ads & whatnot that were pretty much straight from the archives. in case you're wondering, that ad in the background DOES tout "FIVE DELICIOUS NEW WAYS TO SERVE CHOPPED MEAT." CHOPPED! MEAT! FIVE DELICIOUS WAYS! heinz has apparently always been about offering up recipes.
once everyone arrived, we began with a lil' heinz history lesson. as someone who got a degree in film BUT concentrated in u.s. history from 1900-present in college, i appreciated that. from there, we headed on into a heinz lounge of sorts, done up all in heinz colors, with heinz products all over the place. this is where the FOOD came in.
the first dish we got to sample was seared tuna with a vinaigrette made from the aforementioned heinz balsamic vinegar ketchup.
i'd eat seared tuna by the bucketful if given the chance & in this case, the ketchup worked well with it. as we ate, we learned about how heinz (who have ALWAYS been packaging innovators...think clear, glass bottles that let you see the goodness) has made some recent changes to their packaging. the first change is their "dip & squeeze" packaging, which we got to test out on some fries. it's a squeeze pack. it's a dipping tray. it's two in one. it's sort of cool...i guess. the second is a greener squeeze bottle. yay, planet...i guess. from there, we tested out some lamb smothered in a ketchup concoction.
i'm pretty sure that the last time i ate lamb it was with mint jelly at my grandma's house, so i may not be an expert on the subject, but this was some damn juicy & flavorful lamb...but it was just the beginning.
with the history & packaging lessons out of the way, we headed into the kitchen area, where the aforementioned spike was chillin' behind a sweet stove area. future research project: get on a stupid reality show that will remake my apartment with a badass chef's kitchen. he started us off with a "mexican-inspired" crab cake with chipotle heinz ketchup.
the crab cake itself was well done. more importantly, since i love using foods as a conduit for sauces, this sauce, comprised of mayo, ketchup, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce & lime juice, definitely did the trick. at this point, after eating seared tuna, lamb & crab, i was feeling like some sort of rock star. then spike gave us all a lil' cooking demonstration, grabbing a volunteer sous chef & taking us through the recipe for the next dish...
...a "fall harvest turkey burger with heinz balsamic vinegar ketchup." he paired it with a wedge cobb salad topped with a thousand island dressing made using, of course, heinz ketchup. at this point, each dish had become a game of "find the ketchup." i like games, so that was pretty cool.
the burger was the friggin' bomb. i guess it makes sense since mr. spike swept all three categories of some florida burger competition back in 2009. in this case, he combined ground turkey with apples, celery & scallions & then worked in a bunch of stuff like chiles, adobo & mango chutney before topping it with caramelized onions & a BBQ sauce made of the balsamic ketchup, molasses & hoison sauce. as for the wedge salad, it would definitely make claire dunphy proud.
but wait! there's more! to finish off this ketchup-laden feast, chef spike whipped up an apple caramel pie dessert that worked heinz balsamic into the mix.
this was another case of sauce conduit action. the apple pie was sweet & flavorful but the caramel drizzle on top took it to the next level. the moral of the story: you can make a ton of different dishes with ketchup.
as for the balsamic vinegar ketchup, heinz is releasing it as a limited edition, higher-end ketchup that, starting on november 14th, will only be available via their facebook page for a limited time. EMBRACE THAT INTERNET, HEINZ! after that, it'll be out in stores for a bit. after that, will it stick around? from what i see, only a scientific poll on some sort of 2012 presidential campaign-style viral website will tell.
i can't see why they wouldn't keep it around. replacing white vinegar with its balsamic cousin makes sense, especially since balsamic vinegar tastes better. personally, i got a bottle of it to bring home with me & i've used it a few times already, always as part of a meatloaf-like burger recipe i've been testing out. while the result's always been juicy & flavorful, i honestly don't notice that much of a difference between regular heinz & the balsamic version. i guess eighteen years of cigarettes will have that effect on your taste buds.
i don't know...prove me wrong. mark your calendar. hop on facebook & get some of the balsamic ketchup. make some of chef spike's recipes. tell me it tastes different. tell me to quit smoking. tell me what you think.