Dining Out: Annual Taste of Fifth takes over Grand Prospect Hall

It’s one of those times you barely notice the over-the-top decor of the elaborate and ornate Grand Prospect Hall.

Why would you, given the temptation surrounding you at every turn, during the annual Taste of Fifth, a pig-out on a grand scale orchestrated by the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District that not only showcases the strip’s many and varied culinary options but also serves as a fundraiser for a myriad of local groups from PTAs to CHiPs food pantry to the Old Stone House?

The April 10 event had dozens of food and beverage purveyors on hand, and one was more appealing than the next.

That said, the eyes were clearly bigger than the stomach for this writer, at least — for everything I sampled, there was so much more I would love to have tried, if I could have.

I started with pre-sert — a few dense and addictive cookies from Buttermilk Bakeshop which lured me as I entered the ballroom, and particularly enjoyed the salted chocolate chip.

Then, it was on to guacamole from Chela/Varrio 408 — a creamy and cilantro-spiked green dream — before the sweet and savory delights of Negril BK’s jerk chicken, smoky and spicy, wafted me to Jamaica, momentarily at least.

Benchmark, which specializes in modern American cuisine, served up gorgeously sautéed shrimp on a bed of cheddar-inflected polenta garnished with a rich and luscious tomato sauce, and Prospect Bar & Grill followed up with more shrimp, this time perched provocatively atop a slice of avocado toast alongside a golden-tinged mound of four-cheese mac and cheese, one of the eatery’s specialties, and for good reason.

The V-Spot specializes in vegan cuisine; for this iteration of A Taste of Fifth they offered up two varieties of empanada. I enjoyed the Philly style, stuffed with mushrooms, onions, peppers, vegan cheese and seitan and doused with a spicy mayonnaise before moving on to more sinful options, including the mandorla (almond) gelato from Terre BK/albero dei Gelati, which was incredibly dense and creamy.

While I was getting full, I couldn’t resist Los Nopales’ flavorful grilled corn on the cob, Mexican-style, slathered with lime and cilantro-spiked mayo and sprinkled with cotija cheese. It’s the way corn is served on street corners around Mexico, and brought me back with a sense of delight to my own recent visit there.

Tambour’s root vegetable tagine easily evoked the sultry spices of Morocco. The restaurant, a recent entry along the strip that creates French fusion cuisine, also served up two quiche variants, the fillings encased in crispy puff pastry.

What did I enjoy most? That was pretty much determined by whatever I was chowing down on at any given moment, and I certainly wish I could have sampled more — from Calexico, Maya Taqueria, Palo Santo, Bogota Latin Bistro and Empanada Loca, among others whose spreads tempted even as reality set in.

The good news, of course, is that there’s always next year.

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