August 27, 2009

One Taste Is Never Enough

With the U.S. Open just a few days away, some of the brightest stars in tennis showed up for another cause tonight -- the tenth annual Taste of Tennis was held at Manhattan's W Hotel, with proceeds from the event going to benefit the Food Bank of New York.

Current top-ten players like Andy Roddick, Victoria Azarenka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as well as legend Billie Jean King paired up with chefs at some of the city's prime restaurants to serve up some quality eats from citrus marinated hamachi to chilled summer corn soup, miso chocolate brownies to waffles with adult beer floats.

Puerto Rico's star chef Roberto Trevino of Budatai told me why he was so excited to be at the event:
"Other than it just being ultra fabulous, and it being in the absolute capital of the world, if you ask me, in New York City. It brings together people here at the W with great food. Chefs aren't usually paired with tennis players, so for me it's a great pleasure."

The "Green Carpet" rolled out on Forty-Ninth Street on one of the (thankfully) most beautiful nights of the summer so far as every manner of celebrity showed up. Melissa Joan Hart, promoting her run on this season's Dancing With the Stars, the Mets' Carlos Delgado and reigning beauty queens from Albania and Kosovo were all in attendance.

"Real" New York City housewife Bethenny Frankel (who is, by the way, not a housewife at all) was surprisingly refreshing and clear about what brought her to midtown:
"I'm bartending with Andy Roddick, so I have high priorities...I made all my Skinny Girl cocktails and Skinny Guy cocktails using the Rums of Puerto Rico. It's cool that all the tennis players are going to be cooking...with all the pressure of the tennis games coming up. It's a little light, a little fluid, a little eat, drink, and be merry."

As for the players themselves, they were excited not just about the Open, but about testing their chops in the kitchen. Newly domesticized Roddick said that married life didn't bring him any cooking skills, and seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva confessed her affinty and longing for a cake her mother used to make while she was growing up.

And with the start of play only a few days away, the athletes were keeping their upcoming battles in perspective.

Charleston champ Sabine Lisicki faces Aravane Rezai in her debut match: "Every round is difficult. It's a Grand Slam, so nothing will be easy. Everybody wants to win, so I'll just focus on one round at a time and we'll see." Meanwhile, Aleksandra Wozniak reflected on her defeat of Svetlana Kuznetsova at Eastbourne: "It's definitely a life experience. You compete against the best players in the world every week, and each win makes you feel like you belong there. It makes you feel like you can achieve more, and it gives you more belief and confidence."

And for me the entire night just whet my appetite for what's to come in the next few weeks in Flushing Meadows. As always, the U.S. Open somehow becomes the most exciting Grand Slam of every year -- and I can't wait for the action to start!

By the way, thanks to the WTA for this much more extensive footage! (Yup, that's me in the background!)

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