Martha Stewart and a Big Fish Hit the Tin Building Fête

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Wednesday night was the night of haute cuisine at the Tin Building, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new “culinary destination”In (read: food hall). South Street Seaport. The restored space, which was once a wholesale fish market, is now home to a mix full-service restaurants, fast casual counters, specialty shops and bars. Nightclubarea, all “personally curated” by Mr. Vongerichten himself.

The space has been open to the public for weeks, but to honor its arrival, New York’s best-dressed foodies gathered early Wednesday evening to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an elaborate 50-chef procession through the cobblestone streets led by an aggressively bronzed Jean-Georges and his giant toque. A giant wire fish sculpture was also set up by the chefs outside the building.

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The fête continued inside, where I overheard someone describe the situation as a “haunted house, but fun” — not far off. Each area was themed according its cuisine, and each person sampled a small menu. Everyone also took photos with the many stilt-walkers in costume. As a barely functioning home cook, I cannot review the food, but I’ve scored every other aspect of the evening on a scale of 1 to 10 toques.

The big fish.
Photo by Madison McGaw/BFA.com

Seemingly capitalizing on the Tin Building’s landmarked status, there was a vague historical theme to the event. Two separate actors dressed up as Bonnie and Clyde took photos outside, near a collection of vintage cars. A group of costumed “fishmongers”I yelled out “Extra! Extra!”At the entrance, they handed out pamphlets in newspaper format about the venue. Everywhere I looked, someone was wearing a colorful pantsuit and waving at me from the stilts. One woman dressed up as Eliza Doolittle stood out in a huge, color-coded floral display. Score: 8 toques.

Upon entering, I selected a rosé cocktail from a tray, which I quickly swapped out for an hibiscus-encrusted margarita. It became apparent that each station had its own themed cocktail. I was able to try an espresso martini from a tray, several flavored Margaritas, a shot sake from a sushi restaurant where a woman played a Shamisen instrument above my head, and a gin & tonic from the upstairs bar. I also used the Fiji water bottles that were available. Near the circus-y candy shop and gelato station, I encountered a fish-shaped ice sculpture that turned out to also be an ice luge — two bartenders standing behind the ice sculpture funneled a pre-mixed tequila cocktail directly through the fish and into a plastic cup.

Two women held up plexiglass contraptions that seemed to be built around their bodies, and were loaded with caviar dumplings, at what appeared like a $15 customizable breakfast-sandwich store. I skipped the salad-in-a-cone (which admittedly looked very appealing) and wandered past the fish display to find a dizzying candy bar filled with JG-branded toffees, gummy bears, and other confections.

Photo by Rupert Ramsay/BFA.com

Upstairs, a ’50s-style baking demonstration was happening inside a darkened room with an ON AIR sign outside that also contained a bar serving dessert wine and a marble table piled with cakes and French pastries that Marie Antoinette might have deemed excessive. Next was the packed taco shop, where I enjoyed a blue corn-tortilla taco with chips and salsa. Also lacking for elbow room: the vaguely Orientalist, East Asian–themed nightclub half-hidden behind a curtain in Mercantile East, a tea-and-noodle shop with candy-red walls. There was also fresh pasta and pizza at the Frenchman’s Dough stand, a shockingly tasty Brussel’s-sprout situation at the plant-based café, hunks of bone-in steak in a brasserie-esque zone, and mini-cones of gelato with toppings. Score: 9 toques, minus 1. This was for a square of unpleasantly cold focaccia-corn pie that would have been perfect with a heat lamp.

I was among the influencers & foodies pushing their way between stilts. I managed to miss Martha Stewart, Luann De Lesseps and Questlove. Brooke Shields is a friend of mine, who I later learned had all passed through. I wonder what Martha thought about the prosciutto. Score: 7 toques

Photo by Rupert Ramsay/BFA.com

A man with a small bouquet of flowers told me that he needed to “suck somebody’s balls”It was easy to grab it from the display down. I was also able to hear another woman in the packed taco bars kiss her friend on both her cheeks and assure her. “We’re not in Paris anymore. We’re in España or something!” Score: 2 toques

I was unable to hear much of the DJ booth’s music over the chatter and chomping. Score: 5 toques

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