As someone who enjoys good food and fine dining, I was a bit skeptical about a cooking school invite. After all, the reason I write so much about food is because I'm usually sitting in a restaurant versus standing in the kitchen.
I just don't enjoy cooking. Mostly because I don't do it well. Any time I have attempted to make a meal for my family, there's usually a smoke alarm going off -that signals that it's time to call for delivery or take-out.
But..... I thought that going to this particular cooking class was intriguing, especially because of the reputation of the venue...
De Gustibus intentionally seeks out chefs who are usually well-known. The attendees don't *do* any of the cooking (at least not in the class I attended), so it's safe for the novice as well as the advanced on-lookers.
Chefs do the cooking in a state-of-the-art kitchen, while "students" observe, ask questions, and enjoy a five-course, four-star meal paired with wine. No getting up and down. No work. Just sit, listen and savor. On their website, they say, "De Gustibus is not just a cooking school; it's a culinary theater." Add to the fact that the wine pairings are included with the cost and ... well, I'm all in.
Most remarkably, De Gustibus Cooking School did something for me that I didn't think was possible: I became interested in the process. In fact, the demonstration class I attended, I was genuinely amazed.
Chefs do the cooking in our state-of-the-art Miele kitchen, while students observe, ask questions, and enjoy a five-course, four-star meal paired with wines. - See more at: http://www.degustibusnyc.com/#sthash.CKxTTucQ.dpuf
Chef Mark Lapico of Michelin-rated Jean-Georges NYC engaged the class in an informative, intelligent way. He has a knack for explaining very complicated recipes in a simple way. For example, instead of using heavy chicken stock and butter in various dishes, Chef specializes in making "teas" that act as a base for his risotto and peekytoe crab dumpling broth. The whole class practically gasped when he mentioned a secret ingredient to one of the teas was... (no joke)... burnt microwave popcorn!
Along the way, Chef would also tell side stories about how he recently climbed Machu Picchu with his wife and 2 year old daughter... He also shared that his version of risotto absolutely infuriated his Italian grandmother (even so she liked the taste, she disapproved of the untraditional preparation) and how the Jean-Georges restaurant sources a good deal of local ingredients -most notably from NYC's Union Square Green Market. And he even shared Jean-Georges nickname, that seemed to stay with him since childhood, "The Palate" - how appropriate!
Oh! But I should also mention that going in, I was very skeptical about the idea of the school being inside of Macy's - but once going through the classroom doors, you're completely transported into another space. You really forget that you're in one of the city's biggest tourist locations. It was tucked away from the bustling shoppers and made De Gustibus that much better.
All in all, I was really impressed. The whole experience was delightful and delicious. Personally, I would recommend this activity for tourists and locals alike. It is a great destination option for those who enjoy food and it would be a terrific "foodie" experience. If you decide that you want to check out De Gustibus, make sure you tell Salvatore Rizzo -the dedicated director and owner- that I, Victoria from NYC Foodie Girl, sent you. He'll make certain that your time spent in any of their classes is as appetizing as it is theatrical.
NYCFG would like to personally thank De Gustibus Cooking School for the complimentary invite (Salvatore and Hao *HUGE THANKS*), Chef Mark Lapico, Pastry Chef Joe Murphy and the entire cooking Jean-Georges team as well as the waitstaff for all of the hard work to make the evening a giant, tasteful success.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was a cooking school inside of Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. De Gustibus was started in 1980 by Arlene Feltman Sailhac with the purpose of providing a space for cooking demonstrations from some of the best chefs in NYC and beyond.
The school just celebrated five years under the ownership and management of Salvatore Rizzo. He acquired it in 2008 after serving as the Director of the Italian Culinary Institute and Director of House Operations and Events at the James Beard Foundation. At De Gustibus, Sal is the consummate charming host. He keeps the chefs on schedule, the service staff attending to the students, and peppers the program with interesting questions and anecdotes.
De Gustibus is located in Macy’s Seventh Avenue Building on the eighth floor. It’s fairly easy to find and signs guide you through the wedding dresses, women’s coats, and gift registries that also share the floor.
When you arrive at De Gustibus, wait in line for your name to be called. They call names in the order in which you confirm attendance (you’re kindly asked to do so before and it opens online the morning of the class).
Once inside, you forget that you’re in a department store. The space is bright and seating is arranged in long, rectangular tables, which face an open demonstration kitchen (complete with mirrors for a better look at what the chef is preparing).
Quickly after being seated, I was presented with a glass of Cantine Maschio Prosecco. De Gustibus does a good job of including a packet with the recipes, information on the wines served (along with discounts if you wish to make a purchase), a pen for taking notes, a card for a free subscription to a choice of two magazines, along with other discounts and assorted information.
The board at the front of the room outlined the dishes that would be prepared this evening. We were anxious for a four-course meal plus an amuse (which changed from Bluefish to Fluke based on the availability of the fresh catch).
Tonight’s class was all about sustainable, locally caught seafood. It featured Chef Kerry Heffernan, who is an avid fisherman and staunch advocate for eating fresh and cooking what is caught that day. Chef Heffernan is also known for his years at Eleven Madison Park as Executive Chef (soon he’ll be taking the helm at Dylan Prime) and as a finalist on Top Chef Masters. I had the chance to meet Chef Heffernan last week at Taste of T (my recap here).
I found Chef Heffernan’s class to be informative and a lot of fun. As he cooked, he discussed the ingredients and methods that he was using.
The amuse was a Fluke Crudo served with fresh basil, Kaffir lime, and purple tomatillo. The just-caught fish was highlighted and not overpowered by these additions. Chef advised cutting against the grain on a 45-degree angle for the best texture.
As Chef Heffernan cooked, he discussed some of his recent catches and some of the fresh ingredients in season and procured locally.
One of those ingredients was Amangansett Sea Salt. A jar was passed around for the class to see.
The next course was Flash Seared Squid with Cauliflower Coulis and Lobster Sauce. It was topped with Pea Shoots from Koppert Cress. The squid was very tender and the lobster sauce was a nice accent.
Chef Heffernan began steaming Top Neck Clams and slicing leeks for the next course.
This dish consisted of Top Neck Clams with Kale, Chili, and Buccatini. I’m generally not a fan of kale (a juice cleanse a few years ago kind of soured me to it) but this kale was nicely prepared. The clams were plump and flavorful.
Chef then began to work on the Black Sea Bass for the third course. He showed a cool technique for cutting by the gills to get the fish to stand up while being roasted.
The fish was rubbed with Gochujang (a Korean condiment made from chili peppers, rice, and fermented soybeans). It tastes like a cross between ketchup and kimchi, but not too spicy.
The third course: Whole Roast Black Sea Bass with Gochujang, Rice Cakes, and Romanesco. The fish was perfectly cooked and I liked the flavor from the Gochujang. The Romanesco was nicely caramelized. I wasn’t a fan of the rice cakes though. Mine were tough and a little too chewy.
Part of tonight’s program (in addition to the skillful culinary demonstration) was a discussion around sustainable seafood and what consumers can do to know that they’re making the best choices. Tim Fitzgerald of the Environmental Defense Fund shared some interesting stats. I had no idea that around 90% of the seafood that we consume is imported. Tim mentioned that cost gives you a good idea of whether or not an item is a good choice. The $4.99 lb. salmon or shrimp is likely not the best selection.
Also joining tonight’s class were Captain Ralph Towlen. Captain Ralph has a variety of permits and fishes for different species both with lines and a spear gun. He uses a device (developed by NASA) called a rebreather to sneak up on fish in their natural habitats and also leads diving expeditions to the area’s many sunken ships.
Captain Ralph is part of Dock to Dish. This company provides same-day-sourced wild, sustainable seafood to co-op members and restaurants. They’re looking to expand soon and offer this service with additional pick up locations in Manhattan. I think it’s a great idea - the farm to table of the sea. I wish them the best of luck with this venture. The waitlist is currently open for new 2014 members.
Chef Heffernan and Captain Ralph are also working on a mini series that takes viewers from capture to cooking to table. There is currently a YouTube channel and a DVD is on the way.
The fourth course was Crepes with a Quince Compote, Honey Thyme, and Creme Fraiche. The quince compote was super easy to make and something that Chef Heffernan said would last weeks in the fridge. It’s just quinces and apple cider, simmered, and then pureed. Yum.
Wines for each course were provided by Banfi Vintners. I enjoyed the Novas Sauvignon Blanc the most. It comes from an organic vineyard in Chile where the workers live and farm on the land.
De Gustibus offers an entertaining, informative, and delicious evening. Sal makes guests/students feel very welcome. It’s fun to watch a talented chef cook while talking about the meal preparation, ingredients, and more. I’d recommend this for avid home cooks and those that just want a good meal with a cooking show along with it. Thanks for a great class and the invitation to attend. I look forward to coming back again.
Disclaimer: There has been no monetary compensation for posting this content. I was the invited guest of De Gustibus but the opinions expressed are my own based on my experiences with the class.
Check out all the photos on Flickr.
General Manager Eamon Rockey and Executive Chef Bryce Shuman of Betony; Menu of the evening; Passing out glasses of sparkling wine; Amuse of beets, horseradish, goat’s milk foam
Two nights ago, the cool guys of Betony, Executive Chef Bryce Shuman and General Manager Eamon Rockey, were cooking dinner and holding a cooking demo atDeGustibus Cooking School found within Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan. Chef Shuman was formerly at Eleven Madison Park (here’s a group photo of the kitchen crew back then when I dined and met Bryce nearly 2 years ago) and Eamon Rockey recently worked at Aska and prior to that a few years ago, a captain at Eleven Madison Park.
As for DeGustibus, it is a recreational cooking school founded in 1980 Arlene Feltman Sailhac. It is now owned and run by Salvatore Rizzo, former Director of House Operations and Events at the James Beard Foundation. The school invites established chefs, rising star chefs, and sommeliers to serve and interact with food and wine enthusiasts.
When all of the guests got settled into their seats, we were treated to glasses of sparkling wine, a Pere Ventura Treson Reserva Brut NV, to kick off the evening. Not too shortly, our first wine pairing was sent out (I missed it when the staff said it out loud and it’s not in their notes). It’s similar to the cava but not as effervescent. Beautifully balanced, dry and fruit forward. (The partial reason why the amuse and its beverage pairing is pushed out on the early side is because Bryce and part of his crew of Betony were to cram five courses within two hours. That’s not including the time it takes to demonstrate the dishes and take Q&A from the attendees.)
The amuse was a refreshing, earthy, sweet, beets dish with grated horseradish lightened up with goat’s milk foam. It worked very well with both sparkling wines but the second was a better pairing as the bubbles and acidity isn’t as sharp on the palate.
My assortment of alcoholic beverages and Toasted grain salad with labne; Toasted grain salad with labne and sprouts, close up
When Bryce was demonstrating his first course of toasted grain salad with labne and sprouts, he deemed this as the most underrated item on his menu just because it seems no would ever think to love this grain salad. He proved all of us wrong and shocked us in the best way that his toasted grain salad is simply awesome. Even my friend who went with me (and not a vegetable lover), cleaned that plate.
Though there’s some work needed to boil the grains (quinoa, pearl barley, bulgur wehat, farro, and wheat berries) individually, drain them, and fry them. Serve it with dehydrated grains, salt, thick Greek yogurt, and fresh sprouts, it makes sense there’s so many varied textures of chewy, crunchy, and creamy. The tart and herbaceous breath when you get a small forkful of sprouts and yogurt with the grains, it’s vegetarian heaven.
The beer milk punch served with the toasted grain salad was pretty darn good and does pack a wallop. Eamon informed us that making his milk punch is relatively easy but it’s an experimentation. Essentially, it’s a mixture of Assam tea, lemon juice, IPA beer, simple syrup, heated whole milk, vodka and a brown spirit (e.g. bourbon or whiskey) to mix.
Poached striped bass with celery and potato rösti
Since Bryce and his team realized they are running short on time, they demonstrated the important parts of each dish. The poached striped bass with celery and potato rosti was a great, delicate fish dish. The bass was cooked perfectly (it was cooked sous vide) and the not too pungent, pastel green celery foam worked well with the light-bodied, flavorful fumet blanc. The delicate web of potato rösti added just enough crunch.
The beverage pairing was surprisingly non-alcoholic. They served us a bitter almond, celery genmaicha tea that tied with the delicate flavors of the fish. Eamon mentioned they want to introduce a better tea program since tea is around for a couple millennia and not everyone would want to drink alcohol with their food.
Bryce churning out the cavatelli; My serving of black trumpet cavatelli with black radish and ginger
Progressing on, Bryce demonstrated how to make the cavatelli by hand and told us a charming anecdote of one of the former chefs he worked with many years ago that he had to knead the pasta dough for at least ten minutes. (The concept of kneading it that long is to have the flour absorbing the water and forming enough gluten structure.) Then he cut them into thick strips and broke out the hand cranked cavatelli maker to churn out these small shell-like pastas.
The pasta will be incorporated into a mushroom-based stock and dashi, flavored with black allium oil, and black trumpet purée, a 60-degree poached egg (yes, he used the immersion circulator) and topped with black trumpet mushroom. Oh, this was (upscale) comfort food for me and it was perfect for that chilly evening.
The beverage paired with this dish was the stout shandy. This particular drink was my favorite of the night as it’s sweet (the honey with the Porter beer) but was offset with a subtle spice note and acid (cracked black pepper and sherry vinegar). I need to make this for one of my dinner parties.
Bryce showing his binchōtan charcoal; Smoking shortribs while grilling; the completed dish of grilled shortrib
My favorite dish of the night was the Pat LaFrieda sourced shortribs that was sublimely aged and marbled. What he did was to season and cryovac the shortribs with thyme, garlic, aged beef fat, salt and black pepper then sous vide it for 48 hours at 58°C. When it’s ready, the shortribs gets finished in a binchōtan charcoal grill to get the clean smoky flavors infused to that intensely flavored cut of beef.
The shortribs was plated with a cube of veal sweetbreads, lettuce-potato purée, aged beef fat, beef sauce, and a few fresh leaves of hearts of romaine. The intensely beefy, meaty, smoky bites of shortribs and creamy sweetbreads with fresh, crunchy bites of lettuce…words cannot express how good this was.
This dish was paired with a barley wassail. It’s basically a mulled wine but has a nutty, earthy depth from the barley infused.
Chocolate brownie with pecans, coconut and paired with hot chocolate
In case we didn’t have enough food, they cranked out dessert. The inspiration is the chocolate brownie but modernized by having cubes of brownies, a liquid nitro caramel and coconut ice creams, chewy coconut custard (the small white hemispheres on the plate), chocolate gel, pecan butter, pecan praline, and chocolate ganache. This was a fudge-y brownie sundae lover’s dessert.
To add more chocolate-y goodness on top of that dessert, they served hot chocolate that’s tinged with molasses to tame the sweetness. A good, non-alcoholic nightcap.
Bryce, Eamon, a few of the chefs of Betony and the staff of DeGustibus did a great showing of pushing out the ambitious five courses and an amuse (in about 3 hours rather than the scheduled 2.5) with five beverage pairings without any major flaws. It was an entertaining, delicious evening – and a bargain for $95 per person to attend this class.
For me, it’s a pleasure to see the men of Betony grow over the few years we’ve met and I’m definitely planning on dining at Betony soon. As for DeGustibus, I need to figure out which cooking class I can attend.
To view more photos of this event, CLICK HERE for my photo set.
Thanks to a very generous aunt, the Accidental Locavorehas had the chance to take a lot of classes at DeGustibus. When I can’t make up my mind about which one to take, Emmy, the booker, is always great about making suggestions. Food is always a criterion, but often we’ll discuss how handsome the chefs are. This time, she suggested Gabriel Rucker of le Pigeon in Portland (Oregon) and it was one of the most enjoyable nights spent on Macy’s eighth floor!
Most of the chefs are big names (and they know it) but surprisingly, many of them are not comfortable cooking in front of an audience. It’s an art form to be able to connect with an audience and cook a meal (without losing a finger or two), and Gabriel was able to make it all work.
After a couple of tense minutes getting used to the quirks of an electric stove, he pulled off his version of a grilled cheese sandwich – bone marrow butter and caramelized onions. The drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar made it a sandwich to remember!
On the things-to-remember list has to be the way he works with fois gras. He makes a cure for the fois gras and cures the lobe for 48 hours. When it’s ready, he rinses it off and shaves it with a (sharp) peeler. Amazing! It was such a good way of doing fois gras that I was looking up getting a lobe on D’Artagnan the next day. Gabriel used it to top a hamachi tartare with Oregon truffles and tangerine slices. Over the top and totally delicious!
Our main course was a rabbit sausage wrapped in bacon, or as he calls it “Rabbit in a Pig Blanket”. This was paired with an individual quiche of mustard greens and Gruyère. It was a great combination, made better with a sauce of vermouth, chicken stock and two types of mustards. Since I was the extremely fortunate recipient of the “demo” rabbit, I actually made his sauce to go with it. It was easy, a bit time consuming just because you have to reduce it, but totally worth the time. Thinking of the classic French and lentil combination, I served it with lentils de Puy and it was great!
After that was an interesting carrot preparation – baking the carrots and topping them with a sauce of crème frâiche and almonds. Since I have had nut allergies, I didn’t taste it, but it looked great and I might try it, substituting pine nuts for the almonds.
We finished off with cornbread made with bacon and dried apricots and topped with a maple syrup whipped cream. As dessert, it was good, but all I could think of was how amazing it would be for a special breakfast.
Apart from the food, a couple of things made this an outstanding evening. First, Gabriel was an interesting and generous chef. He was happily passing ingredients around for everyone to taste and smell (and with all the leftovers, for everyone to take home). He seemed to really be enjoying himself, not only with us, but with his trip to New York. I certainly sensed that a trip to his restaurant in Portland would be a great evening out. In lieu of that, his new cookbook, Le Pigeon, is really interesting and definitely worth checking out. I bought a copy to give to a friend and when I got home and perused it, wished I bought myself a copy. Is it wrong to give a signed and slightly used book? I’ll try not to spill fois gras on it.
French cuisine is making a comeback in New York. Not that it necessarily went away, but perhaps outside of the fine dining circles, many of the city's hotspots (and certainly its more casual ones) are not as decidedly French in heritage as Le Philosophe, nearing its one-year anniversary. But no matter, Chef Aita revels in the old school, both in terms of technique and in recipe. He approaches them with a combination of technical savvy and creative flourish that he sharpened in the kitchens of Daniel Boulud and Jeans-George Vongerichten, each with their unique approach to classical cuisine.
So our menu for the evening read as if off a streetside brasserie chalkboard in some Parisian arrondissement: gourgeres, leeks vinaigrette, trout Veronique, followed by duck a l'orange (with pomme mousseline), and ending in profiteroles. And yet, by the end, save for the last few bites of salted caramel ice cream, Matt's food kept us enthralled, untarnished and awake through what might otherwise have been a 5-course hammer of gluttony come to smite us all into butter-induced weariness. Here and there you catch glimpses of Boulud's restraint and of Jean-Georges' worldly balance, a real showing of lineage.
First in the gourgeres, where the acidity of the gooey Cloumage (a Shy Brothers' Farm cheese from Murray's) complemented the choux pastry. This paired with an Alsatian Cremant frin Dirler-Cade that was very bubbly and minerally, and built upon the slow texture of the Cloumage with licorice, orange peel, and cherry hints.
Then, Chef Aita demonstrated the seven-minute creamy egg, careful to keep the water on a simmer and not a rolling boil, and afterwards pulsing them along with olive oil in the VitaPrep after a short stint in the ice bath. The eggs were quite a nice, gussied-up alternative to a regular hard-boiled egg, lighter, more integrated with the tender leeks. What rounded out the dish was a scattering of butter-fried croutons which were then tossed in salt & espilette pepper. The crunch and gentle spiciness were a perfect foil for the creaminess of the dish. For this, T Edward Wines offered a steely, smooth Chablis "Broc de Bique" from Damien & Romain Bouchard. This balanced well with the tartness of the leeks, with a smoothness that ran parallel to the creamy eggs.
Next, Matt made what was the most beautifully composed dish of the night, a stunning trout Veronique that puts on display a colorful array of cauliflower florets and canadice grapes, and the aroma of brown butter splashed with Verjus du Perigord.
The duck a l'orange represented best what Matt has done at Le Philosophe, which is to take traditional French dishes and update them for a lighter palate without corrupting the flavors. There isn't an overload of fruit or orange peel, nor is the sauce very sweet. Instead you taste the spices through the caramel, and above all the seared skin and luxurious fatty meat of the duck, from which Matt has rendered already a good amount of fat by cooking it slowly on medium heat before finishing in the oven. With the duck, we had a Chateauneuf du Pape blend of primarily Grenache, a strong, sweet wine that tasted great with the spice and juiciness of seared duck.
For dessert, we had a relatively straightforward serving of profiteroles, cut in half and filled with salted caramel ice cream and then topped with chocolate & crushed peanuts. Simple, almost like a sundae.
Matt's food has succeeded in part because of a relentless focus on prime or smartly chosen ingredients, but also because he hasn't strayed that far from the ways of the old. Fish is still pan-seared in butter, the choux pastry is still airy and delicate, the pomme mousseline is still rich. He still adheres to the classic techniques, just with a careful eye towards subtle refinements.
Jeff Michaud spent three years in Northern Italy, a hands-on education in everything from a family-owned butcher shop to a Michelin-starred kitchen to a small inn nestled in the foothills. There, not only did he pick up the knowledge that has fueled his Italian-inspired restaurants, Osteria and Alla Spina, in Philadelphia, he also found his wife, the wonderfully cheerful and outspoken Claudia. He also gained a family of in-laws that include Pina, the matriarch (his mother-in-law), and Uncle Bruno, from whose unwritten recipe book he has liberally borrowed. These are the travels, lessons, and stories that populate Jeff’s new book, Eating Italy.
Part of what makes Italian cooking so interesting to me is how relatively simple the recipes are, but conversely the challenge is to bring those simple combinations to life. So it seems with this first recipe, an appetizer (‘stuzzichini’) of veal tartar, topped with shaved artichokes dressed with truffle vinaigrette. Supremely clean flavors, the creaminess of fresh veal – run, as the Italians sometimes do, twice through a meat grinder, instead of finely chopped.
Jeff talked about broader differences between lifestyles in pastoral small-town Italy versus anywhere he’d lived previously (or since). A slower quotidian rhythm and a different thought process, particularly when it comes to food. Claudia recalled how her mother paired up with her aunt to buy an entire half-cow, which then the local butcher would break down into various cuts, ground, cured, or stuffed into sausages, pieces over which sometimes the two sisters would argue. The haul would be frozen and used economically over the year or however long each quarter-cow might last.
Claudia and Jeff shared the stage to make porcini zuppa with bra cheese fonduta, which is a cow’s milk cheese from Piemonte. Jeff used heavy cream to melt down the cheese; if the cheese had been creamier, he might’ve used milk. In any case, the dish was hearty and heartwarming, with porcini trifolati bristling with umami and the soft transition between the pungent fonduta (reinforced with white truffle paté) and the blended mushroom soup rooted in chicken broth. A perfect Thanksgiving dish, Sal volunteered.
The second wine pairing was a tasty Pinot Grigio (San Angelo, 2011, from our friends at Banfi Vintners), with a crisp citrus finish that resonated against the lush, creamy background of the soup. The wine’s acidity came from their provenance in Tuscany, giving good balance to the fruity sweetness.
Jeff and Claudia were incredibly down to earth, sharing stories of their families and upbringing. With a smile, Claudia remarked on their initial wedding in New Hampshire, where she was overwhelmed by the flood of in-laws, very few of whom she’d even met. Jeff’s grandmother had fifteen (15!) children, and his grandfather was one of sixteen. I can only imagine what the family gatherings look like. Perhaps he gets his friendliness from the Canadian side of his family, although not the French.
“I took 4 years of French, and I probably know just a few words,” Jeff said. “Not the good ones.”
For the next course, Chef Michaud seasoned a skinned half of a rabbit (simply, salt & pepper and a layer of grapeseed oil to keep the meat from drying), and put it on the grill. He, Claudia, and Osteria’s sous-chef Scott all took turns watching and flipping the rabbit.
After it was done, and after pulling and grinding the rabbit meat (together with mortadella, to add some additional fat and flavor), he mixed in egg & Parmesan, a relatively easy filling for agnolotti with pistachio sauce. In his dough, he uses a blend of semolina and double-zero flour (the semolina to lend structure and stretchability), and a ton of egg yolks (forty yolks per kilo of flour mix).
After adding dollops of filling to rolled-out and cut sheets of pasta dough, he did a gentle tri-fold of the dough and then neatly pinched off both sides around each ball of filling, squeezing out the air in each pocket. The pistachio sauce used Sicilian pistachios, which although expensive were incredibly rich in color and flavor. To buzz the sauce in the Vitamix, he used a mix of olive oil and neutral (grapeseed) oil, so as not to overpower the pistachio taste.
Next up was roasted duck with cabbage and moscato grapes. Jeff stuffed a whole Long Island duck with herbs and mirepoix, trussed the bird, then pan-seared it on all sides in a heated pan with no oil (as duck is generally very fatty and produces plenty of oil anyway). Jeff cooked chopped cabbage in some of the remaining duck fat, along with wine and then duck stock. And for a change, Jeff was peeling the grapes instead of his sous-chef.
The duck came out beautifully, and the cabbage flavorful and crisp. The flavors and richness of the bird worked well with a 2008 Poggio Alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino, which had a succinct tartness and a clean finish.
Claudia, the wonderful dynamo of an Italian woman, took the stage to make limoncello tiramisu, using her mother Pina’s limencello instead of espresso and rum (or whatever). She told the story of how her mother dated a man who smelled (and whose car smelled) of pure, intense, fresh lemons. A lemon-monger? Is there such a thing? She made a mascarpone mousse, fluffy, acidic, and sweet. Pina must have had a hearty tolerance because that limoncello had bite. As 100-proof vodka might.
What I loved about the class was the feeling of warmth and camaraderie and energy that Jeff and Claudia brought to the room, a warm and flowing candor filled with stories. And the roast duck and the Brunello helped, too. Just saying.
Last Thursday, Greg Majors, the beverage director at Tom Colicchio’s Craft, brought the team from Craft and led a blind wine tasting comparing five flights of wine from New York (Long Island and the Finger Lakes) and France. Joining him was James Tracey, the executive chef of Craft, Colicchio & Sons, and Topping Rose House, and Abby Swain, pastry chef at Craft. Right off the bat, Greg told us that he was going to fool us. I mean, sure. Who was I to think otherwise?
As an upfront admission, I am neither a knowledgeable wine drinker nor a voluminous wine drinker, so this was an education process. Our first flight was a pair of Rieslings. Retracing my notes, I tasted delicious grapefruit notes in the first; the second smelled of licorice, was more minerally, with a longer finish.
Of course, these didn’t help me differentiate between the two regions. Zero for one, a good start for me.
The rieslings both paired well with our first course, a marinated striped bass with orange, chilis, and microgreens. The brightness and delicacy of the dish was a departure from the Craft experience that I previously had (admittedly, a long long time ago), which I remembered for the hearty meats and the silky, buttery potato puree. Not that I’m complaining – the fish was very fresh, and the citrus flavors and crunch of fleur de sel combined nicely.
Next, Chef Tracey showed us how to make cured sturgeon with leek, oyster velouté, and American caviar. The velouté featured briny, freshly-shucked East Coast oysters (Chef Tracey was not a fan of West Coast oysters’ strength of flavor), further enhanced with the luxurious saltiness of caviar. The sturgeon was fatty, which tempered the weight of the chardonnays that comprised our second flight. The first wine, oakier in color and smoother in taste (vanilla) hailed from Santenay, and the second, a nuttier, funkier wine, was made in Bridgehampton. Zero for two.
For our third course, James broke down a guinea hen, wrapping the breast in caul fat to roast (guinea hen dries out easily on its own, thus the caul fat) and simmering the remainders of the hen to use later in a toasted cocoa nib puree. James talked about using Steen’s cane syrup as a viable substitute for the molasses listed on the recipe (or sorghum syrup, if you can find some). The roasted hen breast was delicious, flavorful and juicy, but the diced squash and squash purée that held a wonderful peppery amalgam (long pepper, pink peppercorns, espellete pepper, with coriander), energized by a rush of star anise. The peppers helped the purée offset the squash’s inherent sweetness and the molasses, so as not be too much like pumpkin pie.
With the guinea hen, we had a flight of pinot noirs, both of which held a decent amount of spice, plenty enough to stand up to the cocoa nib and star anise. Still though, zero for three for me.
The velvety fourth flight (merlot) handled the even richer fourth course, a splendid cassoulet, a classic French dish that starts with duck fat and pork sausages and along the way adds pork belly, other confit’d pork parts, Tarbais beans, and an array of herbs. After cooking down the meat (until the beans are done), Chef Tracey added a layer of breadcrumbs with minced shallots and tomato concassé (peeled and seeded and large-diced) in a cassoulet dish and put in the oven until the top is golden brown. So rich, so delicious.
Of course, I still didn’t guess the right origins for the merlots. Zero for four.
Lastly, Abby Swain, Craft’s pastry chef, took the stage and walked us through the maple pot du crème. Cheerful and sure-handed, Abby talked about the certainty with which she embarked on her path to becoming a pastry chef. Given how delicious the dessert was, I have no doubt that she chose the right profession.
The luxe maple cream, nicely chilled, was topped with spiced pecans, small cubes of caramelized apples, and whipped crème fraiche. Lots of crème.
Greg offered his philosophy on pairing dessert wines – go sweeter than the dessert. Otherwise, the two dessert wines both had notable secondary notes of petrol, but that surprisingly didn’t distract from how well they complemented the maple. The first dessert wine, a Seneca Lake riesling that had been affected by botrytis, a deliberately applied fungus that shrivels the grape on the vine, absorbing the water content and leaving behind a super-concentrated husk filled with sugar. The wine, in turn, is supremely ‘opulent” (Greg’s word, with which I completely agreed).
My friendly neighbor, Meghan (from Craft’s PR company), preferred the Sauternes Sémillon, which although less opulent was more complex in flavor. Greg also reminded us often of that element of subjectivity in wine preferences, and so I will gladly hide behind that (as opposed to my wholesome naivete). Zero for five. Touché, Mr. Majors.
The other lesson that Greg imparted to the class, in line with his earlier prediction of fooling us all, was the diversity and quality of wines coming out of our own backyard. It was a lesson well taught and well learned.
That Gabrielle Hamilton is a self-taught chef is almost unbelievable, given how sure-handed she seems in the kitchen and how confidently she carries herself. But then again, she’s been at the helm of her East Village restaurant Prune for fourteen years now and that she didn’t go to culinary school so many years ago is now just a part of how the legend began. That detail perhaps isn’t so important – instead, what’s important is that what Gabrielle has accomplished she has achieved her own way, to her own taste, and through her own sweat and tears.
That spirit was alive and well throughout Gabrielle’s class and in her recipes (still fresh from her not-yet-submitted manuscript, and which we won’t share until the book comes out in 2014). She pushed us to think about the ratios, the flavors, the techniques, what we thought might work and what we wanted to get out of the ingredients.
Her first two dishes revolved around an extended version of head-to-tail, in which zucchini stems and parmesan reggiano rinds became the kitchen equivalents of offal and head cheese. She started by making boiled zucchini stems, finished in a generous dose of kalamata olive oil. They were a really nice starter, surprisingly juicy bites that sang of olive oil. She also told us how she beat Bobby Flay in Kitchen Stadium when the secret ingredient was zucchini. Way to go, Chef.
The second dish involved boiling parmesan rinds to make a deliciously pungent base for the stracciatella. The soup tasted like the aroma of umami-charged water that remains after soaking dried shiitake mushrooms. The Tuscan kale was a nice textural addition to the pillowy egg, which reminded me a tiny bit of my mom’s egg drop soup. But what stayed with me was the soup base.
Gabrielle’s rind soup prompted the class to divulge their own innovative ways to use typically discarded parmesan rinds – the most interesting of which was as a stuffing inside the cavity of roast chicken. That one actually got Gabrielle's attention, too.
Gabrielle’s next dish also had the most range – the chewy crunch of rye crackers with a thin spread of butter, the fatty sweetness of capicola slices, the herbal savoriness of braised celery hearts victor, and the smokiness of the mackerel escabeche. She showed us how she filets a beautiful mackerel, first cutting off the head (so she can see what innards she's taking out afterwards) and using scissors to remove the bloodline.
The color in the escabeche marinade was incredible, an oily blend of herbs raucously rouged with paprika and red wine vinegar.
The dish had a interesting presentation, almost a mix-and-match, DIY sort of plate. I really liked the sweet capicola, even though Gabrielle later said it wasn't the exact kind she'd been looking for.
Chef Hamilton also shared some insight into what sparked her inspirational self-guided journey at Prune: the days spent in her youth with a Larousse dictionary deciphering her grandmother’s recipes, handwritten in French.
Next was a savory roast quail, with a mild spiciness coaxed from a marinade that includes a mix of chili flakes (d’arbol, urfa, and aleppo), with some buttery shellbeans and cardoons.
Maria Helm Sinsky of Robert Sinsky Vineyards flew in from her Napa digs to talk to us about the evening’s wine pairings. The hard-to-find Pinot Noir ‘Vin Gris’ was a delicious direct-pressed rosé, and the ‘POV’, a Bordeaux blend that comes bottle-aged for four years, matched nicely the quail’s spice and richness. I liked hear Maria’s talk about her wines – you could tell that her and her husband were incredibly passionate and skilled winemakers, in touch with the land, focused on producing interesting wines (like the Vin Gris, of which T Edward Wine sold out of their allocation in a month and a half).
For dessert, Gabrielle made black licorice granita, which packed a double kick of strong licorice and star anise flavor. I normally don’t like black licorice (or licorice candies), but this was a very clean licorice flavor, made enjoyable by how cold the granita arrives, and balanced out with sugary molasses and the herbal notes of anise, as well as the spoonful of orange cream on top.
Throughout the class, Gabrielle’s advice was to be confident. While at the time she was talking about the fileting and grilling of mackerel, it sounded like a statement with bigger context. Gabrielle spoke with deliberate cadence, one of thoughtfulness but also constant examination. She tossed out recipes and ideas for the group to ponder, left wiggle room in the instructions so that whoever was cooking (including herself) can make some meaningful decisions along the way.
“I’ve been shot!”
That’s how Barbara Lynch started her class - a champagne cork had gone off backstage in the prep kitchen, putting her improv skills on full display.
The hilarious, dynamic duo of Barbara Lynch and Kristen Kish stopped by De Gustibus to make a few dishes from Barbara’s Boston restaurant Menton, where Kristen is the chef de cuisine. You may also recognize Kristen’s name from Season 10 of Top Chef. Which she won. No big deal. At the beginning of the class, they were talking about the craziness of their recent travels together: “we should make a show together!” I would watch that.
Barbara has an amazing (and inspiring) life story, which you can read about here. She is the definition of grit and hustle and determination. She’d just returned from some time abroad, at MAD Symposium in Copenhagen and some time in Turkey (where she picked up the recipe for one of the night’s dishes). Unfortunately, she also came back with a broken rib (from barrel surfing with David Chang). There could be less interesting ways to break a rib, I suppose.
They started the class with a delicious butter soup, which is exactly as the name suggests. Of course its other components – shellfish, caviar, foamed milk & honey – were important, but the butter is still the crux. Barbara owns a free-range cow (not surprised), so she gets amazingly fresh buttermilk. For the rest of us that don’t own cows, store-bought premium butter is a good alternative.
The soup, only served in an amuse-size portion, packed a ton of flavor – the rich but subtle sweetness of melted butter plus the brininess of the seafood and caviar. Not only that but the visual composition was fantastic, a tiny smorgasbord of bright colors. The name Menton recalls all the idyllic beachside glamour of Cote d’Azur: vibrant colors, cool breeze, fresh seafood, crisp wines. This one amuse encapsulated a lot of that aesthetic. Really powerful kick-start to the meal.
The next amuse was a very simple fig en croute, which showcased the seasonal fruit.The next amuse was a very simple fig en croute, which showcased the seasonal fruit.
After the amuses, the next course was foie. I don’t know about you, but whenever a meal begins with butter, fig, and foie gras, you know it’s going to be a good night. What we had was a foie terrine (which is roasted and then refrigerated to set), but seared foie works just as well. With a pan (heated til smoking), Kristen showed us how to sear and baste a beautiful slab of A grade foie gras, marinated for about an hour in dessert wine with salt & pepper. Kristen confided that basting is one of her favorite things to do in the kitchen. Basting A Grade foie gras – I could get into that.
Next, Barbara walked us through the process for manti, tiny Turkish lamb dumplings the size of one’s fingertip. Using basic pasta dough (she uses all-purpose flour), she piped small drops of filling (ground lamb, grated white onion, dried mint, salt + pepper) onto small squares out of a thin sheet on a flour-dusted board. Two pinches got you the four-corner fold. Then she toasted the little dumplings a bit to better seal them. After boiling (til they float), she topped them with a tomato sauce and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Clean flavors, especially from the tomato sauce and yogurt, which help keep the dumplings moist. The onion and mint also balance out the flavor of the lamb in the filling.Clean flavors, especially from the tomato sauce and yogurt, which help keep the dumplings moist. The onion and mint also balance out the flavor of the lamb in the filling.
The last savory course was a steamed halibut with celery puree and roasted chanterelles. Kristen showed us how she twice-cooks the mushrooms in sauté pans to get the moisture out, and Chef Lynch zested and seasoned a beautiful Cape Cod halibut filet (which she then wrapped in foil and baked in the oven). The dish was garnished with a bit of snow fungus (or white jelly mushroom), which is almost all gelatin, another agar of sorts, great for absorbing flavors from the celery cream, while providing flakes of subtle crunch.
Dessert was a combination of citrus and meringue – Menton lemon (jelly), topped with squares of meringue and blueberry sauce (simply made: boiled + strained, with half the batch blended).Dessert was a delicious combination of citrus and meringue – Menton lemon (jelly), topped with squares of meringue and blueberry sauce (simply made: boiled + strained, with half the batch blended).
In addition to the food, T Edward Wines paired our dishes with some great wines, especially the Santenay 1er Cru Beauregard, which we had with the steamed halibut.
Beyond the food, Barbara and Kristen both led the class with such personality and candor – it was easy to get a sense of their deep respect for each other’s cooking as well as their passion for (and discipline in) the kitchen. Kristen talked about how her close friend, Stephanie Cmar (sous-chef at Barbara’s No. 9 Park), turned her onto Barbara’s then-budding restaurant group and how she used to hang around Stephanie for a chance to meet Chef Lynch. In turn, Barbara gushed about how delicious the first meal that Kristen made for her was. Lots of chef love in the De Gustibus kitchen. But just so you know that these are two serious people in their kitchens, they also described their working philosophy. “If you can lean, you can clean,” was the Menton motto, meaning that anybody lazy enough to slouch can just as well be wiping countertops and mopping floors. Oui, chef!
Something else that Barbara talked at length about was her new foundation, and the challenges (and rewards) of educating Boston’s schoolchildren about food. The Barbara Lynch Foundation’s first project revolved around building a greenhouse for Blackstone Elementary School in Boston’s South End, where a few of her restaurants are located. The foundation threw a fundraiser in February: “we called it the Blizzard Bash. Guess what we got?” The foundation continues to raise money for upcoming educational projects, something that I could tell from our one class that Chefs Lynch and Kish would make into unforgettable experiences for Boston’s kids. It was great to hear the passion in Barbara's voice talking about her projects.
Afterwards, I asked Kristen about her thoughts on her first class ("it was great!") and her Michelin-star goals ("I'm going to make them come to Boston!"). I wouldn't put it past her.
A few weeks ago we went back to school with our most exciting roster of culinary talent yet! One such pedigreed chef that joined us during opening week was Dan Kluger.
ABC Kitchen. Food & Wine Best New Chef Dan Kluger. Sold out classroom. I expected nothing less than a buzzing crowd for such a buzz-worthy chef.
But even though his introduction was peppered with a dizzying list of accolades, Chef Kluger remained humble and showed us firsthand how he keeps it all about the food. Though the motto at ABC Kitchen is to “become organic,” relationships with farmers are more important to Dan. In fact, it was at the Greenmarket where Chef Kluger first met Jean-Georges Vongerichten and the concept for ABC Kitchen was hatched.
The evening’s five-course menu reflected that seasonal farm to table approach and allowed Chef Kluger to demonstrate a variety of techniques – including roasting, braising, poaching and baking/frying – that let the food be the star of the show.
From the onset of the class, it became clear that Chef Kluger is also an excellent teacher. He started by demystifying breaking down a whole chicken, which laid the foundation for two of the night’s dishes, including the first course: Roasted Chicken with Braised Summer Market Beans in Tomato Sauce. One bite in and the room became filled with a chorus of “it’s so juicy” and “delicious!” Tender beans elevated by an aromatic sofrito and a kick of dried chili flakes acted as the perfect complement to the golden, crisp-skinned chicken – one of those deceptively simple, but absolutely delicious dishes.
Braising was also the technique of choice for our next course, Black Bass with Braised Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes. Late summer zucchini and bursting-with-flavor tomatoes were braised together with tomato juice to create a beautiful broth. After Chef Kluger demonstrated how to get that cracker-crisp texture on the bass’ skin, he finished cooking the fish atop the braised vegetables. It was one of those elegant, seemingly effortless dishes that I know I’ll want to recreate all year. During colder months, Chef Kluger suggests braising a mix of hearty kale, spinach and potatoes.
Chef Kluger returned to roasting for our third course, this time showing us how to perfect Roasted Pork Loin. Chef Kluger is a fan of Flying Pigs Farm at the Greenmarket, but says to spend your money when you have company over. Less expensive cuts of meat like pork shoulder can be braised. He served the perfectly roasted pink slices with glazed peaches laced with zesty lime juice and smoky dried chipotle.
Our roasting tutorial was completed with just-charred broccoli topped with an insanely delicious and aromatic pistachio mint vinaigrette, plated alongside succulent poached chicken. Besides using homemade chicken stock (putting those bones and scraps good use), the secret ingredient in Chef Kluger’s poaching broth is kombu, a dried seaweed that acts as a natural MSG and imparts umami, that savory, meaty flavor.
For the sweet finale, ABC Kitchen’s pastry chef Melody Lee whipped up a batch of pillowy, mouth-watering seasonal donuts. She demonstrated how to make the dough using a mixer and a healthy dose of patience. You can tell when the dough has come together by employing the “rubber chicken test” – when you hold the dough up, it shouldn’t fall apart and the resulting visual should look like a rubber chicken. The donut holes were rolled in a vanilla sugar mix (which Chef Lee makes by blending sugar with dried vanilla bean skins) while the donuts were dipped in a vibrant Concord grape glaze. I seriously considered finishing my neighbor’s leftovers. Who leaves unfinished donuts on their plate?
I certainly didn’t. In fact, there was nothing left on my plates or in my glasses; Spanish wines selected by T. Edwards New York rounded out the delectable evening including a gorgeous ruby Rioja that I promptly ordered additional bottles of from Gotham Wines.
I think I can speak for everyone in the class when I say that I left fully satisfied and utterly charmed by Chef Kluger’s stories but with a lingering hunger to get back to ABC Kitchen as soon as possible. But in the meantime, I’m armed with an arsenal of Chef Kluger’s cooking tips and techniques to try out at home.
What’s cooking this week at De Gustibus? How about the same thing you’re making at home? We know many of you enjoy dazzling your friends and family by nonchalantly whipping up one of the amazing recipes you’ve seen a featured chef demonstrate in class. Now we’re making the “nonchalant” part even more convincing, through our new partnership with Plated.
What’s Plated you ask? Well we like to think of them as a magic recipe (pun intended) for producing homemade gourmet dishes in 30 minutes or less. Here’s how it works: you choose the meals you want and order online, then Plated delivers a perfectly portioned set of ingredients directly to your door. It’s like waving a magic wand to create your own mis-en-place, but without the waste and without the wait. Each week Plated features a new set of chef-designed meals. And yes, that‘s where we come in…
Beginning next week, De Gustibus will partner with some of our featured chefs to bring you a series of simple, elegant recipes that you can preview yourselves in class, and then prepare at home later, with Plated standing in as your own personal sous-chef. We’re kicking the series off tonight with some enticing recipes created by GABE THOMPSON, executive chef and co-owner of new East Village hot spot L’Apicio, as well as a few of our perennial West Village favorites: dell’anima, L’Artusi and Anfora.
You can catch Gabe and his wife—talented executive pastry chef Katherine Thompson—demonstrating these and other recipes during their much-anticipated return to De Gustibus today, Monday, March 18th.
But even if you can’t make this evening's class, don’t despair: PLATED will offer Gabe’s recipes for home delivery during the week of April 8th, 2013. And, if you input the code DEGUSTIBUS when checking out, they’ll give you 10% off your entire order, just for mentioning our name.
Keep your eye on this space for a sneak preview of some of the specially designed recipes that De Gustibus and Plated will bring you this season. And in the meantime…
Today’s class at De Gustibus featured Chef Michael Laiskonis, the creative director at the Institute of Culinary Education. Chef Michael has an impressive resume, including a James Beard Award and executive pastry chef of Le Bernardin, which earned four stars in The New York Times and three Michelin stars. The class was a treat for someone like a sweet tooth like me, but we also learned a lot about various techniques and recipes to make fresh pasta, blini, crepes and tarts. I need to take this class again – I learned so much and I know there is still more for me to learn.
The first course served was a blini with smoked salmon, trout roe, crème fraiche and dill. A perfect first bite - it was so creamy and savory finished with a pop from the roe. It was delicious and a great way to start this meal!
Chef Michael started showing us how to make the tart for the second course, a bacon, mushroom, and duck confit tart with a red wine reduction. I was shocked how much butter he used – no wonder it was so good. A great tip regarding salted vs. unsalted butter – most people in the class assumed you should use unsalted butter because then you can control the seasoning of your dish, which is true, but another reason is because salt is a preservative, so unsalted butter is usually more fresh. The biggest lesson (and the reason behind the name of the class) was that Chef Michael really wants to rid the world of cup, tablespoon, teaspoon, etc. measurements – it’s much more accurate to use the metric system! And all of his recipes used the metric system so I guess I finally need to invest in that scale!
The tart dish was so delicious – it had truffle, bacon, duck and wine – practically all of my favorite things on one plate. The creamy parsnip foam and tart reduction really balanced the dish. This would be a great dish for entertaining – it can be served room temperature, the ingredients can be changed, and the presentation is adorable. So good – I literally licked my fork and knife clean.
The third course gave us a chance to learn about making fresh pasta with a pasta carbonara. I loved that Chef Michael made some mistakes like cracking the egg shell in the bowl – he was very humorous and showed us how to correct mistakes as we go along. And a great tip for removing the shell – use the shell to remove the shell – it won’t slide away the way it will when you use your fingers! The carbonara was basically pasta water, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes – it looks so simple but had so much flavor. And homemade pasta really makes a difference – the flavor of the pasta was so fresh and it also holds the flavor of the sauce made it so much better than the boxed version.
The next course was a crepe of elderflower mouseline, roasted pears and pistachio. Again, Chef Michael was hilarious by pointing out that the first crepe will always be crap because you need to figure out the temperature to get it right. Isn’t that so true (even with pancakes, eggs, etc.)? Another tip of the night – always have pastry cream in your freezer – similar to the way you always have ice cream in your freezer. People in the room were commenting about the crepe being “heavenly”. The cream was dense, but gently sweet with “intense vanilla flavor” (quote from Sal).
The second dessert (of 3.5 desserts over the meal!) was the “Paris Brest” – the best way to describe this was a flaky cookie with a nutty cream topping. Again, this dessert was not overly sweet – it had a slightly savory taste with the pate a choux.
The final course and third dessert of the night was a warm chocolate tart – the signature dessert at Le Bernadin. The chocolate was warm and saucy – not as heavy as a typical molten cake. It was the perfect dessert to end a big meal, especially for chocolate lovers
And just when we thought we were done and on a nice sugar high, Chef Michael treated us to a canelé at the end of the meal. My friend, Virginia from Perfect Bite NYC literally freaked out when she saw the canelé – it’s literally one of her favorite foods so she made sure to meet Chef Michael to get some tips on how to make the perfect canelé at home!
It was great talking to Chef Michael after the class – he also writes a food blog and he gave me great tips both on cooking and writing. His tip for the home cook – run your apartment kitchen like a restaurant kitchen – stay organized (label your containers, plan ahead, multitask). And try to taste as you go along (even sometimes raw food – although he noted he has an iron stomach, so take that tip with a grain of salt).
Overall, I felt like I want to take this class again – as I mentioned before, I learned so much but know there was so much more to learn. Hopefully Chef Michael will back soon so I can take the class again!
Hiroko Shimbo and Chikara Sono
by Ishita Rapino
DeGustibus had a Japanese twist this week with the dynamic duo of Hiroko Shimbo (author of Hiroko’s American Kitchen) and Chikara Sono (Chef of Kyo Ya – New York Times 3-star restaurant). They offered a mini kaiseki menu that combined seasonal dishes from Kyo Ya and easily created Japanese small plates from Hiroko’s cookbook. Overall, I felt this class expanded my stomach and my brain – we learned so much about the history of Japanese cooking which has clearly been an influence on modern day cuisine.
Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese dinner of small plates served in a progression. Likely, this is the inspiration for modern Chef tasting menus. The number one rule of kaiseki is that order is the most important (the whole class knows this now since Chef Hiroko quizzed us on it later in the class – she truly has a wealth of knowledge and was a great teacher). My husband joined me for the class and kept telling me to take notes – I felt like I was back in grad school because there was so much to learn, but it paid off because I do feel like there is a lot of information that will be interesting for the blog (hope you readers feel so too)!
On to the menu – a 6-course treat (7 if you count the delicious sweet and savory nut mix we were given at the start of the class):
The first course was Sumiso glazed baby back ribs. We learned the art of using 3 items (not 4, which is a bad omen). I was surprised this would be the first course of the meal, but it was such a small portion that it was not overly heavy or rich.
The next course was a Sasamaki-zushi (sushi rice with cured salmon in a bamboo leaf). Literally, this was a present to each guest – it was a stunning presentation!
But like most presents that are beautifully wrapped, you eventually have a craving to just rip it open to get to the goodies inside!
The sushi was perfectly balanced – the rice had a great acidity from the rice vinegar and pickled ginger to match the smoky cured fish. The pickled radish on the side was shaped like a chrysanthemum flower to represent the fall/winter season. We were not sure if we should eat the radish, but with the hidden pepper inside, it added a nice crunch and heat to the sushi.
Random Fact: Chef Chikara Sono was a mechanic for Toyota in Japan and worked part-time in a sushi restaurant. Now he runs the kitchen of a 3-star restaurant in Manhattan. And he was such a cool guy – my husband commented that he wants to hang out with him and when I told Chef Chikara this, he loved it and invited him to hang out one day! Don’t you love stories like that?
Back to the food. Chef Chikara spent some time butchering the fish. If you read my blog from Chef Mike Price, you’ll know I’m a convert. This was really fascinating because we were eating the fish basically raw. A great tip for prepping fish – let fish sit with salt at room temperature in a plastic wrap for 30 minutes to get rid of the odor – it’s a critical step and most people in the room were not aware of this! Then rinse the fish with water to remove the salt, dry with a paper towel, and prepare according to your recipe.
The next course from Chef Chikara was a Miso Black Cod, which is a popular dish amongst many high-end Japanese restaurants. To quote the review in the NYTimes, “No matter how many times you’ve had this dish, the version here can still make you shake your head in amazement.” Looking back at my notes, I literally wrote “WOW WOW WOW” – what an explosion of flavor. The fish literally melted in your mouth. I really wanted more, but I think that’s the beauty of kaiseki – the portions are small enough that you really appreciate every morsel.
Chef Hiroko was back on the stage, preparing her next course of sake braised short ribs with winter vegetables. I’m so glad my husband was with me because he has missed the short ribs I’ve been indulging in without him. We were in for a treat with the amazing knowledge that Chef Hiroko imparted on us that really came together in the dish. Japanese cooking focuses on five elements which often drive the cooking techniques and colors in each dish: wood, fire, metal, water, and soil. The meat in this dish was so tender with a beautiful, sweet broth – I love sweet and savory dishes and this had a great balance. The kale provided a nice bitter crunch. The one thing that came up over and over again in each course was the attention to detail - the kale on this dish was stacked into a small square and the meat was precisely cut for eating with a chopstick. I literally drank the broth when I finished the dish (I kept it classy by using my spoon, which meant I couldn’t get the last few drops). I wasn’t alone though – everyone was commenting that the broth needs to be bottled and sold!
The last savory course was chorizo and shrimp rice – a Japanese twist on paella. This dish did come together as a fusion dish – it was lighter than most paella dishes, but still had the bold flavors of the chorizo, shrimp, and saffron. Surprisingly, it reminded me of a dish my mom always makes for me called kitchari, which is Indian comfort food.
The final course was Mineoka-Tofu with Strawberry sauce. A weird thing happened to me yesterday – I was day-dreaming and craving this dish all day, but I could not remember where I ate it. It was bothering me to the point that I had restless sleep and kept dreaming about the texture and flavors and I still could not remember where it came from, and I felt so sad about it. Then I started uploading my pictures today and saw the image, and I was so happy and relieved! That is how hauntingly good this dessert is. It tasted and had the texture of a marriage between tofu and cheesecake, but also like nothing I could describe. You could taste the sesame paste in each bite and the strawberry added a touch of sweet. I can’t give this dish the credit it deserves – please just go to Kyo Ya and try it, because it was amazing.
Overall, I was really impressed with how intricate, delicate, and bold each dish was. It was so fun to get to experience the various techniques of Japanese cooking and progression of a kaiseki. I was equally impressed with Chef Hiroko and Chef Chikara – I was shocked that neither had taught at DG and they had never worked together in this way. The class felt so seamless and the transitions between the chefs were so natural. When I interviewed them after the class, they were so fun with each other and played off each others’ answers and comments. Their advice for trying Japanese cooking in your own home seemed simple – you need basic Japanese staples in your kitchen, including miso, sake, mirin, and soy sauce. You can make stocks and sauces and use these to cook various dishes. Their advice to home chefs was to just be adventurous, use common sense, and enjoy the experience. It’s important not to think too hard and be willing to change and adapt. The most important thing was to add love to your dishes and it will always taste good – how sweet! I really enjoyed both of them and I know they both had a great time teaching the class!
One last thing I wanted to mention was that at the end of the night, I met a young man named Mike who also writes a great food blog (Foodie Finders NYC). I was so happy to see that we had a lot of the same insights and thoughts about the class. You can learn even more about Japanese kaiseki from reading Michael’s blog here.
by Ishita Rapino
Welcome to the kick-off event for De Gustibus’ fall semester of 2012! This is my first official food blogging post and what a way to start my culinary journey in writing and experiencing amazing food. For those of you who don’t know, De Gustibus is what I’m dubbing “New York foodie’s best kept secret”. Hidden in the depths of midtown’s Macys, this gem is so unexpected when making your way through men’s cologne and women’s designer ball gowns. After you’ve made your way to the 8th floor and find the private dining room with a custom high-end kitchen with all the bells and whistles, you’ll completely forget where you are and feel like you are “in-the-know” of a really cool secret. Customers sit classroom style, while celebrity chefs stand in the front cooking 5-6 course meals for the class with wine pairings, teaching tips and tricks, regaling patrons with their stories, all while the class enjoys the amazing chef’s creations at the same time. There is absolutely nothing like it in the city and you are truly in for a treat if you have a chance to snag one of these hot tickets.
The class kicked off as per tradition, with Sal (the current owner) and Arlene (the former owner) introducing the class to the evening’s event. These two are a true comedic duo – they opened the class and season with a very warm and hilarious welcome. The class was very “well-attended”, filling the room end-to-end with a crowd of foodies and Dan Kluger fans.
The semester kicked off with DG regular, Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen, who could not have been a better chef to start the year given his multitude of recent accolades, including James Beard Best New Chef (2x), Food & Wine’s Best New Chef, Time Out’s “Chef of the Year” amongst others have raved about Chef Dan’s farm-to-table concept and simple cuisine. His theme for the evening was “A Few of My Favorite Things”, which quickly became a lot of everyone’s favorite things. Dan really came across as warm and humble, and extremely relatable. During the night, Dan shared stories with the group about tricking his kids into eating new foods, the importance of herbs as an ingredient, doing his senior project on BBQ sauce, and a very touching story on Cookies for Kids Cancer.
The menu for the evening was a six-course treat
Most of these dishes are on the ABC Kitchen menu so luckily if you are reading this and salivating, you can head over there to experience these simple, yet complex dishes. I can’t begin to explain the experience of sitting and watching Chef Dan cook, while the aroma of his dishes fill the room, and when your senses are about to explode from desperate hunger, the well-organized and friendly staff of culinary students magically appear with this amazing food. Each of these dishes were really simple, made with easy to find ingredients with bold flavors combining heat, acid and salt with textural contrasts of crunchy and creamy. The second course of shaved raw summer squash with parmesan dressing was one of my favorites because it was so refreshing and I learned something new that I will be definitely using at home.
It’s avocado. It’s squash. It’s avocado squash!
I literally felt like I was doing my body a favor from eating the dish. I told myself at the beginning of the night not to finish each dish, but I felt like it just would not be right to leave anything on the plate. Sorry Weight Watchers!
I could go on and on about each course – every dish was so light and fresh, but exploding with flavor. It was almost a trick to my body because I could not help myself and ate everything and then realized that I was extremely full. It was worth it. Even Chef Melody’s dessert - zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting - sounded heavy, but the lime zest made this cake light and airy – I could have had two slices.
Although I do believe you could make a lot of these dishes at home, watching Chef Dan and Chef Melody was truly witnessing art come to life. It made me have such an appreciation for what these Chefs do each day and the love and care they put into thinking about each ingredient and crafting each dish.
At the end of the night, there was literally a line of people waiting to thank Chef Dan for a wonderful meal and take pictures with him. I realized that everyone felt so comfortable with him, like an old friend, because of he’s just so…normal. Throughout the night he gave easy tips and tricks (the guy really LOVES Oxo brand products) and was realistic about the constraints for home cooks (buy the dressing if you can’t make it). I asked him what the biggest mistake home cooks make and he gave great advice - it’s really important to read a recipe properly, prep and shop in advance for the ingredients so you can stay organized – that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all this time! If you are like me, and feel like chefs are celebrities, you would be happy to know that he really is a nice guy who worked hard and has a real appreciation for food and foodies like him. At the end of the day and after all of the awards, all Chef Dan wants is to do provide for his kids and spend more time with his family. Who can’t relate to that?
by Ishita Rapino
Quality Clam, Mike Price’s new venture, is opening next year on Hudson and Leroy. You heard it here first even before the NY Times posted the name of the restaurant!
Mike Price from Market Table gave us the opportunity to go back to his childhood in the Chesapeake Bay by enjoying a menu of delicious seafood dishes. Some of these dishes were honestly some of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten, and I have some experience with seafood from growing up in the bayous of Louisiana, where crawfish boil parties were all the rage.
Seriously Emmy – you are an artiste!
Although this was a seafood tasting, we started the evening with stuffed ham biscuit – it was so cute and a perfect bite of salty and buttery, with a hint of mustard.
On to the seafood – we enjoyed a trio of “stuffies”, first being the clam dip. If you read my Ted Allen blog, he gave me a tip about balancing an entertaining menu with dishes at room temperature, and this clam dip is on the list for my first party! This dish was a really elegant party dip, with huge chunks of clam and it was served with homemade potato chips.
This serving was supposed to be for two, but I basically ate the entire thing myself.
Next up were the other two “stuffies” – on the half shell and a baked clam. Sounds simple, but I cannot describe in words how surprising and delicious these clams were! My friend Diana joined me for this class and she was so excited about the clam on the half shell, since it was served with a Bloody Mary cocktail sauce, and the girl loves her brunch cocktails. This version was made with Sir Kensington’s ketchup, which is apparently all the rage. The dish had a nice heat with the crunch of the celery and the clams were very fresh. Even though Diana and I truly enjoyed the Bloody Mary clam, the baked clam had us going crazy. Wow! It had chopped chorizo and was so spicy and flavorful – I literally licked the clam clean. My in-laws are Italian and we always have baked clams for Christmas Eve, and I am going to make this for my father-in-law – he will love this recipe!
Hidden beneath that breadcrumb is a real blast of flavor!
Next up was the Oyster Stew, which was Mike’s grandmother’s recipe. He really gets inspiration from his whole family (many of whom were in the audience), who encouraged Mike to cook from an early age (starting at 5 years old). As I was writing this, the room started to smell like bacon, and I knew this was going to be good. And boy was it good – I would argue it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. As I told Chef Mike after the class, I eat soup almost every day so I have some experience in this area, and this was so creamy, with the salty and crunchy bits of bacon. The best part was the huge pieces of oyster that tasted like bursts of the ocean. Another plate licked clean.
Check out that whole oyster!
Next up was the Rockfish stuffed with Crab Imperial. Chef Mike showed everyone how to butcher the snapper and I didn’t think it would be that interesting since I personally do not ever plan to butcher a fish or meat, but it was truly fascinating. It was like watching a surgeon – the precision and care he took to take extract all of the meat and removing the bloodline was really mesmerizing. I’m sure it doesn’t sound appealing, but to know that the chef cares so much about those details – those are the restaurants I want to eat at. The dish was really flavorful, especially when you got a bite of the creamy crab with the acidic Imperial sauce. The broccoli side dish was also delicious (even his 3 and 4-year-olds eat it), and would go well with steak.
The final dish was a baked apple with sour cream gelato, which was the first dessert Chef Mike ever made. The dish was adorable – it had a great presentation and was delicious. The stuffing was nutty and just perfectly sweet, and paired really well with the tart and savory gelato.
Talking to Chef Mike at the end did feel like talking to a friend, which was kind of true since it turned out that we had some people in common in our lives. When he told me he actually loves Popeye’s, everything kind of just came together for me. Growing up in Louisiana and then moving to New Jersey, my family would drive hours to find a Popeye’s, so I can totally relate to a love of their fried chicken and rice and beans. The best tip I got from Chef Mike was making sure to get the pan hot when cooking, but even more helpful was to combine canola and olive oil when cooking so the oil doesn’t burn too quickly. Thanks Chef Mike for introducing me to your Oyster Stew – I will be seeing you at Market Table soon, and Quality Clam next year!
by Ishita Rapino
by Ishita Rapino
I have to start this post by saying that I LOVE Chef Justin – he is so cool.
This was the first time Chef Justin Smillie of Il Buco Alimentari E Vineria (same owners as Il Buco and right down the street), taught at De Gustibus. He seemed nervous in the beginning (he was!), but within 10 minutes, he fed off the excited crowd and really got into a groove. I can tell he will be a regular at DG, because there was such camaraderie between Chef Justin and the guests, it was like being at a really fun dinner party. And his initial nervous energy actually helped set the tone – it made him less intimidating as the “expert” and more like a really knowledgeable friend - this made everyone feel completely comfortable asking him any question that came to mind. And as everyone started asking questions, he started feeling more comfortable, and it made the night fun and relaxed. And how can you go wrong with a guy named Smillie?
Il Buco is known for their homemade salumi (they actually got in trouble years ago for making it in-house and decided to make the operation legit). The new location is a restaurant and store, selling high-end oils and vinegars, cured meats and many delectable Italian treats. Might be more fun than Eataly since you may see (and hear) Chef Justin in the kitchen.
If you knew me personally, you’d know this menu is right up my alley (particularly the Pappardelle):
I need to give a shout-out to Emmy here because she has started this new venture of painstakingly writing the menu and matching the Chef’s logo – I think it’s awesome and looks really cool. It also helps me not have to type out the menu!
The night started with an amuse of bruschetta with local grapes and mint, and Il Buco’s olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Now I understand the importance of good olive oil – you could taste the deep olive flavor, which paired really well with the sweet grapes and creamy ricotta.
Next up was the Panzanella of Heirloom Tomatoes, which included house-cured sardines and rustic croutons. Side note: Justin recommended using a mortar and pestle to grind ingredients (instead of a blender) to coax flavor and have a more sensual and interactive cooking experience. To my single friends – take note – invest in a mortar and pestle! I was really excited (read: nervous) to try this dish since I’ve actually never had sardines as a main component of a dish (I’ve only had it in a sauce or dressing). The sardines were really interesting and not fishy at all. They actually looked and felt like an orange fruit roll-up that was really salty. Overall, the dish was really flavorful with that fun crunchy and chewy texture when your bread soaks up a delicious sauce.
Seriously – would you think the orange strips were sardines?
As I mentioned earlier, I love Pappardelle, and this was made with Rabbit Sugo, which surprisingly didn’t seem too difficult to make, especially given the fancy name (particularly since you can substitute chicken legs for the rabbit). This dish was delicious, but I have to say that I was actually more excited about the fact that Chef Justin invited Austan, an adorable young lady who was there from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to come to the front and make the pasta with him. No offense Justin, but Austan kind of stole the show. She was really well-versed on food, and clearly was a foodie in the making (although arguably, she probably knows more and has experienced more than me based on the things she was saying). I got to chat with her and her family for a while, and I can’t tell you how adorable she is and I know she was so appreciative to Sal and Chef Justin for inviting her on stage to learn about making fresh pasta. The best part was that you could really see how patient Chef Justin is – he was so calm and collected while he taught Austan how to prep. No wonder his 5-year-old wants to be a chef like his daddy! Best tip of the night – pasta water should be salty like the sea. Wow, I knew the rule of salting your water since it’s the only time you get a chance to season your pasta, but I did not realize it was supposed to be that salty. Definitely something I’ll need to change asap.
At this point, I’m full. We still had a short ribs course and dessert, and I (again) went on my word of not finishing each dish. All I can say is that my husband would be very jealous that I was eating these short ribs because that is always his dish of choice when we go out for dinner, and this one was particularly delicious because of the addition of walnuts. The best way for me to sum up this dish is to quote one of the guests who literally moaned in delight, looked over at me with her empty plate and exclaimed “it’s just so good”. Exactly.
Last, but certainly not least, was the Crostada of Roasted Pears. First, I have to mention that Karen, the pastry chef, is delightful! She used to work in digital animation (major career change!) and compared it to dating a guy – it was ok, but not the one! Karen and Justin had a great rapport and it was fun to see them together. Ok, moving on from my girl crush, this dish was a perfect end to the meal. It was gently sweet, with thyme flavor throughout the warm and crispy crostada. It really was a great dessert for a group, particularly if some prefer salty and some prefer sweet at the end of a meal.
I did get a chance to catch up with Chef Justin at the end of the night and I think he had a really great time and he was someone I would totally be friends with. Sometimes when I meet chefs, I am so intimidated because I don’t speak the lingo or I’m worried that my love of my mom’s famous “dump cake” (canned peaches and pineapple, with boxed yellow cake and butter on top – trust me, it’s a crowd pleaser) is not always sophisticated enough. Well, Chef Justin’s high consumption levels of Coca-Cola (sorry if this was “off the record”) and love of chili con queso just goes to show you can love the high-end and low brow. This was a great night and I look forward to going to Il Buco to hang with my new friend Justin soon!
This De Gustibus event featured Spanish food from the Chefs of CASA MONO and BAR JAMÓN in New York City along with wines from Bodegas RODA in Spain. There was a full wine tasting from the classic wine-producing region of Rioja. Gonzalo Lainez is RODA’s oenologist and exporter. He explained that wines from Rioja tend to be very smooth so when RODA was creating their namesake wine, they wanted to produce a smooth wine but still have a very fruity and modern taste. They use a blend of Tempranillo and Grenache grapes from 30-100 year old vines by producing 17 single vineyard wines before creating their blends. Gonzalo paired the RODA wines with five courses of food prepared by Chef Andy Nusser and Chef Anthony Sasso. The vertical red wine tasting started with wines from 1999 and moved forward to 2003.
Chef Brandon Kida is the Chef de Cuisine of Asiate Restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. He was raised in Los Angeles and came to New York City after graduating from the CIA. He trained at Lutèce and joined the opening team of Asiate in 2003. During De Gustibus’ Asian Festivities event, Chef Brandon Kida prepared a menu that represented the cuisine of Asiate. He served a tuna tartare amuse-bouche made with spear-caught Bluefin Tuna from Block Island. The first course was a Kabocha Squash Ravioli with Stavecchio broth. Stavecchio is a hard cheese made in Wisconsin that closely resembles Italian Parmesan cheese. He created a Seared Scallop and Coconut Herb Broth dish with a Hearts of Palm and Granny Smith Apple Salad. Chef Kida’s final dish was a Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with Smoked Potato Puree, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and a Blackberry Port Wine Reduction. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef Paul Nolan demonstrated a rich and creamy Flourless Double Chocolate Mousse Cake with Caramel Passion Fruit Sauce. The Kobrand Corporation paired the wines for the evening.
Chef Ed Brown is the Chef-Collaborator at Ed’s Chowder House on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He prepared a tasting of seafood-focused dishes paired with wines from the Kobrand Corporation. We started out with a bowl of Ed’s Loaded Shellfish Chowder and their famous biscuits. This is one of the traditional chowders on the restaurant’s menu. The loaded chowder is a white clam chowder base with the addition of scallops, shrimp, lobster, and crabmeat. The first recipe demonstration was a Marinated Hamachi with Yuzu, White Soy and Ginger “Milk”. Chef Ed prepared a Salmon Fillet Poached in Olive Oil with a fresh Tomato Mint Salad. The best part of the menu was Ed’s famous Scallop and Foie Gras Ravioli with Yellow Wine Beurre Blanc. This is a traditional item that he’s used at his previous restaurants. It was derived from a bay scallop ravioli that he learned to make while working in Paris. The foie gras comes from the Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm and he used wonton wrappers for the ravioli. Executive Chef John Miele joined Chef Ed on stage to prepare the dessert dish. He made an Apple Tart, which was an adaptation of a traditional French Tarte Tatin.
After leaving D’Artagnan five years ago, George Faison joined the Sarrazin family at DeBragga, New York’s quality meat purveyor, with a main interest in working with heritage breed animals. The heritage breeds are harder to raise and it takes longer to raise them, which means they cost more, but it gives the farmers an opportunity to get back into the agriculture game because they offer a much better product that’s most importantly something that can’t be mass-produced. George demonstrated the butchering and explained the particular poultry or meat in each recipe. He described where it came from, how it was raised and a little bit of information behind it. Chef Jason Hall, the Chef de Cuisine from Gotham Bar and Grill along with his team, created a wide variety of meat-focused dishes with the products provided by DeBragga.com.
Interview by Allison Beck, De Gustibus Blogger I had been the Executive Sous Chef at Union Square Café in 2003, and moved over to Tabla in 2004, and was looking for the next challenge for myself. I wanted to work at an established restaurant, a place where I could break out and hit the ground running, leading a 3 star restaurant to even higher heights. At the time, I had been cooking for 16 years, and wanted to put that experience to work in a place of my own.
Interview by Allison Beck, De Gustibus Blogger I had run into Jean-Georges at the Greenmarket, and it was sort of an “ahh” moment – we both very much loved the fresh produce, and the sheer variety, available at the markets, and conversation of course naturally flowed to nature’s bounty that surrounded us. I was originally slated to open The Mark, and then this nebulous project that was to be in the ABC Kitchen space, but it was delayed. In the interim, I helped Jean-Georges open four other restaurants around the nation, and consulted on the menu for Pipa, the other restaurant at ABC Home. When the vision for ABC Kitchen was [finally] complete, I was eager to be on that team – and here we are, the concept has finally come to fruition!
Interview by Allison Beck, De Gustibus Blogger How would you describe the cuisine at Perry St? The cuisine of Perry St is American, French, Asian contemporary cuisine. It is seasonally inspired, too, as we change the menu as produce and product availability changes with the seasons.
Interview by Allison Beck, De Gustibus Blogger How did you two meet? After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, CA, Hasty had the fortunate and rare opportunity to work for Jacques in New York City. After a couple of years of formal training and experience opening and running Jacques’ new shop, she was ready to move back to L.A. to fulfill her dream of opening up her own shop. Yet, Jacques was not quite ready to let her go. They dated for a couple of months before Hasty moved back to the West Coast, and fell in love. We married three years ago, and the rest is history!
Interview by Allison Beck, De Gustibus Blogger You are the culinary masterminds behind Elderberry Catering. When and why did you launch the catering business? We first started working in the kitchen at the German Mission to the UN, cooking lunches for visiting diplomats from 20 different countries. Over time, many of these same diplomats began asking for us to cook for them for various private events. Eventually, we decided to formally create a catering company - Elderberry Catering - with which we could handle these, and other requests, exclusively.
What was your favorite meal growing up as a child? My mom used to make skillet pork chops with caramelized onions. Did anyone specific influence a culinary career or encourage you to attend culinary school? Not really. My first job was a dishwasher, so it was a natural transition. I started chopping and cooking while dish washing in high school. Afterward, it seemed like the right choice to go to Johnson and Wales.
"Chef, I don’t think this is going to work,” De Gustibus General Manager Amaral Ozeias tells guest chef Fabio Trabocchi. Amaral is pouring a spinach spatzle dough he’s prepared through a food mill with a large-hole disc. The dough is somewhat of a thin consistency and is not producing the results he’s expected. Chef Fabio takes a look. “No, it shouldn’t look like this,” he shakes his head. He pours the dough back through the food mill to double check and frowns. No good, and the class begins in 30 minutes.
Interviewed by De Gustibus blogger Susan Streit How did you first become interested in wine? I had worked throughout college and high school in restaurants. I originally wanted to be a diplomat, and was studying to take a foreign services exam. When I came back to the United States after studying abroad in France, I decided I liked wine. Wine gave me the opportunity to be social.
Interview by Susan Streit, De Gustibus Blogger Growing up in New Orleans, a city with such rich and unique culinary roots, what were some of the foods served in your family home? My dad was a naval officer and I was one of seven children. We were born everywhere from Rhode Island to Key West, Florida. We lived in Holland for three years before we moved to New Orleans. My mom is Danish, originally from South America, and those roots really influenced what we had for dinner on a daily basis. Dishes I remember were her Indonesian bami goreng, meatloaf, red pork, Danish red cabbage, and waffles. There was always quite array-we never knew what would be on the table. As a family, our favorites were the Indonesian dishes my mother learned to cook while living in Holland. We didn’t grow up eating New Orleans food; it was not a huge part of my culture as a child. Mom cooked all our meals at home and we didn’t go to restaurants much. There was no gumbo or jambalaya. I later came to discover New Orleans food while going out with friends in high school and working in restaurants.
Interview by De Gustibus Blogger Susan Streit When did you know you wanted to be a chef? I was a waiter in a restaurant and I was a bus boy for years before that. When I was 14 years old I forged my working papers to get that first bus boy job. While in college, I was working as a waiter in restaurants and using the money to pay for school. One day I came into the restaurant with a shaved head and they fired me. I told them they couldn’t fire me so they put me in the kitchen. I started cooking and then realized it was what I wanted to do. I no longer wanted to pursue what I was doing at school.
Interview by Susan Streit, De Gustibus Blogger You’re a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, but did you always intend to go to culinary school? I always did. You opened your restaurant, Sfoglia, on Nantucket Island, and then a second Sfoglia in New York City. What led you to open a new location at that time, and not an entirely separate concept? We had such a strong following at the time on Nantucket. Part of our clientele [in Nantucket] lives on the Upper East Side in New York City, so we felt that it was the next-best step. It was a shoe-in.
Interviewed by De Gustibus blogger Susan Streit How did you begin cooking professionally? After I dropped out of high school in Japan, I did all kinds of work. Working in a restaurant was one of the first things I tried. I started as a dishwasher, then worked as a busser, and went on to be a kitchen helper. I really liked working in restaurants.
Interview by Susan Streit, De Gustibus Blogger Did you grow-up in a very food oriented environment? Yes and no. Not professionally. I grew up in Princeton, Vermont and also in Massachusetts. We always ate seasonally. I definitely grew up in a family that cared about food. My mom cooked as required; she loved to entertain. My father had his own business and she entertained for that. My great-grandfather, whom I didn’t know, he was a caterer in Newark and had an ice cream store in Ocean Grove, a Methodist community on the Jersey Shore. My family would summer there and we’d make and serve ice cream. My mother grew up in Baltimore and my grandmother, during the depression, went to run the dining room at the school her children attended. She was born a Southern lady, so she took her cook with her. She planned and organized the menus and while her cook cooked.
How were you inspired to become a chef? Actually, when I was young, about 12 years old, I saw a “Good Housekeeping” magazine article. It looked very challenging. I thought to myself, “wow, you have to buy ingredients and cut them and chop them,”- it was for a stir-fry recipe. That really triggered something in me. I felt that I really wanted to cook.
Interviewed by Susan Streit, De Gustibus Blogger You grew up on a farm in New Zealand. How did that first influence your cooking? We were encouraged [by our parents] to do a lot of cooking on the farm–dinners, baking. I did a lot of baking. We weren’t allowed to purchase lots of biscuits or cakes, they were expensive, so we baked those at home. Cooking can be very time consuming, and that kept me out of trouble. My mom did a lot of pickling and other sorts of things that were easy and cheap. We were on a budget. We killed our own animals on the farm, but got butchers to take care of the rest.
Interviwed by Susan Streit, De Gustibus Blogger Are any of the elements of the food you grew up eating in Australia in your cooking here in New York? No. I do not think there are any individual elements of Australian food in my cooking. Traditional Australian food comes from a broad range of ingredients from many cultures. Influences from the English and other traditional European countries play a role, but there is such a large range in the cuisine. The ingredients include lots of fresh seafood, given Australia’s location, and fruits and vegetables, and many Indian and Asian spices. I would have to say that there is more Indian and Asian influence in Australian food, and less traditional European.
Interviewed by Susan Streit, De Gustibus Blogger What led you to realize the connection between disease and poor diet? When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, they did a radical mastectomy. They took off so much skin muscle. It came back 11 years later in her bones, brain, lungs. She had a very bad prognosis. My dad had read an article about a doctor that healed his own cancer through a more natural diet. We started to incorporate a more natural diet, eating more macrobiotic, natural foods. My mom’s health was slowly getting better. She had more energy, clearer skin. I began to notice it in my own body, too. That was my first connection. Eating real food as opposed to food from a box was foreign. My mom eventually died. I told myself though, if I get sick, I will try changing my diet first. That was the first connection and then I was diagnosed with thyroid disease hyper. I used diet first instead of radiation treatment. I dropped 20-25 lbs, and my health got much better.
Interviewed by Susan Streit, De Gustibus Blogger You are of both Jewish and Argentinian heritage. What was the Bernstein kitchen like while you were growing up? Always warm, always smelling good! I was always waking up hungry to the smell of cooking. We had many old-style Jewish recipes, whether it be the best stuffed cabbage ever to creamy polenta with tomato sauce and mozzarella. A lot of chicken came out of the kitchen. Growing up it was a rough time, financially speaking, so chicken was the go-to protein. Beef was too expensive to have, despite the fact that many South American cuisines focus on their beef. But there was always a big mix food in the kitchen. We also loved going out to dinner. My parents always took us out. In my family, food was how you came together.
Interviewed by De Gustibus blogger Susan Streit At one time you were pursuing an acting career. What led you to cooking professionally? I always found cooking to be extraordinarily creative and fulfilling. I made the leap, went back to school and trained. I decided I wanted to be a chef for the creative aspects, and to get into hospitality to touch and reach people, and do something for people–which is pleasurable. And food is pleasurable.
A conversation with Chef Gavin Kaysen, Executive Chef at Café Boulud for the DeGustibus Cooking School blog. Interview by DeGustibus blogger, Renée Restivo: In a recent cooking class about Café Boulud at DeGustibus Cooking school, students enjoyed tasting the following dishes by Chef Gavin Kaysen: For “Le Voyage,” Hamachi Crudo with Compressed Watermelon, Jalapeño, Cilantro, Celery Hearts and Ponzu vinaigrette, for “Le Potager,” Chilled Spring Pea Soup with Rosemary Cream, for “La Saison,” Hand rolled Picci Pasta, white wine clam sauce, spring garlic & Newsom’s Ham, for “La Tradition,” Pancetta Wrapped Veal Loin, Pommes Anna, Asparagus, Morel Mushroom Jus, for “Le Dessert” Coffee and Chocolate Palet, Cappuccino Gelée Chocolate Powder, Nougat Ice Cream.
A conversation with Chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern for DeGustibus Culinary Theater. Interviewed by Renée Restivo. You are known for preparing memorable dishes. I know you prepared many during your class at De Gustibus. Can you tell me about one of the recipes you presented at DeGustibus? One of the dishes that were fun to focus on was an egg crepe with crab and rams. It’s an interesting dish because it shows off our very simple approach to cooking the food at the restaurant. It’s very approachable. It’s memorable. The idea with our dishes is to celebrate local producers, focus on seasonal and put the dishes together that make them memorable. That memory should be anchored to a particular season.
A conversation between Chef David Waltuck and writer Renée Restivo for the De Gustibus blog. I read that you call Chanterelle “a fantasy of a restaurant, dreamed up by a little, food-loving kid, that somehow, magically, came true.” Can you tell me more about that? To go back in time, we first opened in SOHO in 1979 in a very small space. We had 30 seats and a small kitchen and it was a very beautiful room, pressed in ceiling and old mirrors. Corner with big windows very open to the street. I would say that what my wife and I did is that our experience of great restaurants - especially my experience of great restaurants in Europe and France, interpreted as Americans who were not really schooled in that style. We experienced it and absorbed it in our own way. That carries on to where we are now, a beautiful corner in Tribeca. Windows where you can feel the street is outside. Very much the same feeling. The menu is fairly small and changes every four weeks (completely). The food is a personal version of French cooking and it’s very much whatever I feel like doing. It’s all of that and it’s personal and is driven by what I feel like making. The service (still to some degree unique) was really unique in ‘79. A mix of formality and informality. We teach people the way WE do things, not the way a lot of other people do things. The person who is your waiter will clear your plate, take your order and do everything. Our menu cover changes about two times a year. Different artists have done the menus over the years.
An interview with Chef Alexandra Raij of Txikito in New York City: Can you tell me how you chose the menu for your Locavore Improvisations class at DeGustibus? I chose the dishes because they were dishes that we were able to produce around local ingredients. It was still greenmarket season. At the time in the restaurant we were evolving our dishes around proteins - whether it was a dry pantry ingredient (like chickpeas) or local cod. That is what localized it. All the other dishes were chosen to highlight really good proteins. The furthest away that anything came from was the day boat cod from PA.
Chef Scott Fratangelo of Spigolo is known for preparing honest Italian dishes with Mediterranean flavors. Here is our interview with him for the DeGustibus blog: What was the menu for the class? It was a lentil salad, cavatelli with sea urchin carbonara and balsamic marinated grilled quail. For the sea urchin carbonara, how did you come up with that and what did people learn in the class? It sounds tricky. The ingredients are egg yolk, pork fat and pancetta and a generous amount of black pepper. The idea came because the sea urchin is an egg yolk color. It’s rich and salty and to me, and I identify that with carbonara. I take egg yolks and mix it with Uni (sea urchin roe) and push it through a sieve. Once you have this mixture you want to use it right away. I put it in a bowl with pasta water and I start to mix it like making a hollandaise sauce…over a double boiler.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Bistrong of Braeburn Restaurant in NYC this past week. Here is our interview: I know your restaurant Braeburn is known for “comfort food.” Please tell me about the menu. My food is approachable. I’ve worked in a lot of higher end restaurants and the attention to detail can be perceived as precious. The food is more approachable and heartier, and the ingredients you’d find in any four star or five star restaurant. It’s seasonal. My menu definitely changes.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Patrick Connolly while he was on his way up to the wine fest in Nantucket. Here is the interview: You prepared duck during the class at De Gustibus Cooking School. Can you tell us what techniques you demonstrated when you shared that recipe? In the class I talked about scoring the skin. If you order duck and it’s a memorable one a lot of it has to do with the crispiness of the skin and that the fat is badly rendered. People enjoy the experience but it can taste too fatty. In order to score it, you make a sixteenth of an inch cross hash in the skin of the duck, then when you start to sear the duck, it opens up the fat in the skin so that it can render. It renders at the same rate and gets crispy but not tight — so it does not overcook but it is crispy.
In March, DeGustibus Cooking School arranged an on-location cooking class with Chef Martin Brock of Atria. Named for the dramatic atrium–which soars eight stories above the dining room and features a stunning modern art installation by up-and-coming New York artist, Shaun Acton–Atria fuses luxury, warmth and value to create a versatile dining experience.
Born in Israel, raised in America, Executive Chef Michael Solomonov traveled all over his home country, tasting the best hummus, eggplant dishes, breads, kebabs before opening Zahav in Philadelphia. Now, his favorite flavors and traditions from Israel make up his menu. In March, Chef Solomonov taught students about modern Israeli recipes and traditions at the DeGustibus cooking school. This week, we spoke to him on the same day he was named the Rising Star Chef of the Year Finalist from the James Beard Foundation. Interview by Renée Restivo with Chef Michael Solomonov for the DeGustibus blog.
Located in the heart of Tribeca in New York City, Corton is the collaboration of the restaurateur Drew Nieporent and Chef Paul Liebrandt. Named for the largest area of Grand Cru in Burgundy, the restaurant highlights selections from Corton on its wine list. The New York Times named it one of “10 Best Restaurants in 2008.” Chef Paul Liebrandt was the youngest Chef to receive 3 stars from the New York Times. Chef Liebrandt’s modern French menu melds the tradition of classical cuisine with a contemporary approach to ingredients and technique. He describes Corton’s cuisine as “joyful and playful, yet deeply rooted in traditional French cuisine.” For his appearance at DeGustibus cooking school this past month, Chef Liebrandt prepared the following
Chef Daniel Angerer of KLEE was part of DeGustibus cooking school’s “Brasserie & Bistro Scene” in March, when he shared recipes for “perfect salmon” sous vide, “instantly” smoked shrimp sausage (using his favorite kitchen tool). He and his fiancé Lori Mason own Klee together and call it “their first baby.” Chef Angerer’s career has taken him from Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany to the kitchens of New York’s elite dining establishments. His cooking style has been described as “taking butter from lettuce and sugar from peas.” Last week, Renée Restivo interviewed the brilliant, fun-loving Chef Angerer for the DeGustibus blog, and here is their conversation for you to enjoy.
An Interview with Chef Alain Allegretti for the De Gustibus Blog Chef Alain Allegretti is known for flavors and dishes that emphasize fresh, authentic ingredients of his native region of Provence. At his first signature restaurant, he presents his cuisine in a setting to match the classic elegance and comfortable charm of the French Riviera. The New York Times included Allegretti on its “10 Best New Restaurants” list in December of 2008. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Alain Allegretti for an interview for the De Gustibus Cooking School blog this week. Here’s the interview
On opening night at De Gustibus, we enjoyed the food of Chef Dominique Crenn, named “Best Chef of the Year 2008” by John Mariani in Esquire magazine. Chef Dominique Crenn celebrates California’s farm fresh cuisine and traditional European techniques in her dishes and is known for creating menus that emphasize high-end artisanal, sustainable, and seasonal New American cuisine with diverse influences. Dishes she prepared on Opening Night are Salsify Soup with Coco Nibs and Oyster Beignet, Seared Scallops with Sunchoke Veloute and Braised Mushrooms, Pork Belly with Caramel Onion and Fried Sage and Nutella Pot De Crème.