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Middle Eastern Choices with Einat Admony

Posted on June 1, 2014 08:50 pm

This guest blog post comes to us from food blogger Layla Khoury-Hanold of Glass of Rosé. Follow her adventures in eating, cooking and drinking on Twitter @glassofrose and Instagram @theglassofrose. 

Einat_Admony_DG.jpgChef Einat Admony is beloved by many, especially in New York City. Her crispy falafel at Taim garnered her the title of NYC Queen of Falafel and her "fancy, but not too fancy" restaurant Balaboosta, serving modern Israeli and Mediterranean cuisine, remains one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Einat just launched her third New York restaurant, Bar Bolonat, whose concept she describes as "like if you were eating in my dining room." It's a little more refined than Balaboosta, but absolutely has it's own menu and identity.

During her demo, Chef Admony shared tales from her childhood (her first kitchen job was as her mom's sous chef), talked about that time she cooked for five-star generals in the Israeli Army and spoke about her equally food-obsessed children.

The thing I love about her cooking is how directly it speaks to you. The flavors are so striking yet harmonious, and there's something really gutsy about the cooking, because you know it is Einat on a plate.

Most of the dishes are from Balaboosta, both her restaurant and her new cookbook (also filled with fabulous stories), including her legendary fried olives, which made the journey over to the West Village at Bar Bolonat. Here's how our dinner party feast with Einat went down.

Melon Gazpacho

I can't recall the last time I ate a more beautiful soup; the photo simply doesn't do it justice. Einat first had this dish at Market Bagel and loved it. Given her competitive nature, she knew she wanted to do it better. Her version is incredibly refreshing, dancing between sweet, acidic and spicy, and a textural delight to eat with toppings of crispy fried shallots, jicama and almond chili brittle. The key to getting that vibrant color is to let the soup sit once it's blended, so that the foaminess dissipates. And it's very important to serve it cold, so you should chill the bowls too.

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Fried Olives with Labne

This truly is the perfect snack; it's saltiness makes it especially well-suited for beer pairings or with a sparkling wine, like the brut rosé cava we enjoyed from Pere Ventura. Chef Einat typically uses pitted Kalamata olives, though she'll sometimes mix in Spanish Manzanilla olives as well. The olives get a triple dip treatment in flour, eggs and panko crumbs, before a quick frying in Canola oil renders them golden brown. The piping hot olives are plated with cool and creamy labne (strained yogurt) and a swirl of spicy harissa oil (made from North African chili pepper paste). It's a must order dish at both Balaboosta and Bar Bolonat.

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Moroccan Fish

This is a dish that Chef Admony serves in her home; unlike most chefs, Einat loves cooking at home and throws dinner parties several times a week at her house for a lucky group of friends. The tomato sauce that accompanies the seared snapper filets (grouper works well too) is a snap to make and so amazing, I could have licked my plate. Garlic, jalapeno, harissa, tomato paste, paprika, caraway and cumin, along with plum tomatoes (you can used canned in the winter), get cooked down until very soft and fragrant and then pureed in a blender until smooth. Raw shaved asparagus and a handful of Greek feta lend crunchy, fresh and salty, creamy elements, respectively. It is clear that Einat became a chef because she wants to feed people, and her heart and soul shone on this plate.

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Braised Short Ribs with Wine, Prunes & Harissa

The list of ingredients for this recipe took up well over half a page, and when we tasted the final dish it's easy to understand why. A mix of fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme), spices (star anise, sweet Hungarian paprika among them) and the surprising addition of orange juice lent the red-wine braised short ribs a gorgeous complexity. Braising is one of my favorite cooking methods; it cuts down on the time you have to stand at the stove but makes it seem like you spent hours slaving over it. Fluffy couscous made for a perfect accompaniment for soaking up some of the gorgeous braising liquid.

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Malabi with Mixed Berries

This traditional Middle Eastern dessert is like panna cotta; Einat's version uses gelatin sheets, heavy cream, milk, sugar and rosewater. And because "alcohol is always better" the mixed berries are sautteed with crème de cassis and a little sugar (if needed), just until the berries are broken down. It was a perfect not-too-heavy finish to an all together perfect meal.

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Feasting on French Classics with Matt Aita of Le Philosophe

Posted on May 26, 2014 11:27 pm

This guest blog post comes to us from food blogger Layla Khoury-Hanold of Glass of Rosé. Follow her adventures in eating, cooking and drinking on Twitter @glassofrose and Instagram @theglassofrose. 

Chef Matt Aita isn't trying to reivent the wheel, but he is absolutely making tracks. At downtown hotspot Le Philosophe, he takes classic French bistro dishes and adapts them for the modern palate, adding a little citrus here, a little chili pepper there. The resulting menu reflects his classical French training (he knows he wouldn't be where he was without Escoffier) and skills honed under the tutelage of Jean-Georges and Daniel, but the style of cooking is distinctly his own.

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This was apparent from the amuse bouche, a smoked duck breast on toast. It's a classic French hors 'd'oeuvres but Chef Aita adds lemon puree to bring brightness to the dish (a nod to his former mentors) and black garlic puree for a sweet-savory dose of complexity. When you get what a chef is about from one bite of food, I'd say they've made their mark and I'm willing to bet that Chef Aita is destined to join the ranks of one name chefs.

The dishes we learned how to make have a lot of components, but when the end results are this good, it's easier to push past your intimidation. Or if you know what's good for you, booking a reservation at Le Philosophe. All in the name of research and finetuning your cooking skills, right? Here are the courses the whole class enjoyed, along with Chef Aita's ultimate piece of cooking advice. 

Filets of Mackerel Venetian Style

We actually had rouget with this recipe, which is a very Provencal food stuff. It's poached in a court bouillon, a flavored liquid often used for poaching seafood, vegetables and delicate meats. The key to a good court bouillon is acidulation, which comes in the form of a crisp white wine and lemon juice; that, along with water, mirepoix and a smattering of herbs (like fennel seeds, thyme and tarragon) make up the poaching liquid. Pro tip: after the fish is poached, you can keep the broth and use it to cok vegetables, like artichokes or turnips. Here, Chef Aita plates the fish with a bright herb jus (made from steeping herbs like tea) and pickled chilies.

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Asparagus with Various Sauces

There's nothing that says spring more than asparagus, except when they're accompanied by morel vinaigrette. I'd make this dish for that vinaigrette alone - it's earthy, nutty, zesty and bright, all at once, thanks to green Thai chili, lemon zest, Banyuls vinegar (made from sweet wine) and walnut oil. Rounding out the trio of sauces was a sauce Maltaise, a creamy hollandaise flavored with orange, and herb jus. The asparagus was the perfect dipping vehicle and was one of my favorite dishes to eat; if only all vegetables tasted this good.

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Filets de Soles Lady Egmont

Apparently Escoffier named a lot of dishes for people, but no one knew who this Lady Egmont was or why she had this dish named after her. What we do know is that she must've been one elegant dame with expensive taste. Dover sole is a notoriously pricey (but delicious) fish and one that screams refined French fare. For the delicate filets, Chef Aita employed the poaching method again, this time in a fish fumet (a from scratch stock made with fish bones, leeks, fennel and white wine), and plated with asparagus and morels sauteed in chives, lemon and butter (hey, this is still French cooking!). Whoever this Lady was, she made a fine muse.

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Poussin aux Morielles 

Poussin is quite literally a spring chicken. Well, it's technical definition is a young chicken, less than 28 days old before the slaughter. You could substitute a really good chicken here, but the preference is for this exceptionally juicy and delicate bird. Like many chefs, Chef Aita loves ramps, saying, "They're very aromatic. They're intoxicating; they have a smell that draws you in, like truffles." The prized (but fleeting) spring ingredient lent an herbaceous, grassy note to a robust cream, white wine and morel-based sauce, which played perfectly against the crispy skin and tender meat of the oven roasted poussin.

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Basil Blanc Mange

"Don't judge me. I love Fruity Pebbles." Believe it or not, Chef Aita was inspired by his favorite cereal to create this French-style panna cotta. The chilled vanilla custard gets his trademark touch of lightness from lemons and basil, while crushed almonds, ginger crumble, rhubarb-meyer lemon jam and Swiss meringue add textural components. I'm not judging, except to say that I wish I could've had another helping! But, that's another mark of a great chef - they always leave you wanting one more bite.

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And finally, Chef Matt Aita's ultimate piece of cooking advice:

"In cooking you have recipes but it's up to you to make it taste good. It's your experience and your intuition." - Chef Matt Aita

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Accidental Locavore: 9 ways Carla Hall was great at DeGustibus

Posted on May 9, 2014 08:48 pm

by ANNE MAXFIELD on MAY 5, 2014

  

Accidental Locavore Carla HallSometimes you just have to make a decision by not making one. The Accidental Locavore was invited to a class of my choice at DeGustibus at Macy*s and rather than pick something, I left it up to Sal Rizzo and his team to choose for me. They suggested Carla Hall, who you may know from her stints on Top Chef and/orThe Chew. It was exactly what I was hoping for – someone I normally wouldn’t have picked because they weren’t “exotic” enough and it turned out to be a great evening. Here’s why:

  1. The menu was international and eclectic. In four courses we covered Spain, Greece and the US, along with Asian influences. The menu consisted of gazpacho, cauliflower steaks with olive relish, fried chicken marinated in Thai spices along with an Asian noodle “slaw” and baklava for dessert. At first I questioned the inclusion of gazpacho, especially when the pallid tomatoes on the prep board just made me yearn for August, but she made it taste great by highlighting other (less seasonally sensitive) ingredients, including some fabulous looking fennel.Accidental Locavore Gazpacho
  2. The gazpacho was made with tomato water, which gives you some options. One is that you can make it when the tomatoes are fabulous, ripe and not expensive and freeze the water in case you have the craving for something summery in the middle of the next polar vortex. The other is that it makes a fabulous, and beautiful, take on a Bloody Mary (hint: freeze some of the water and add it instead of ice cubes, to chill it)
  3. I learned something. Actually two somethings. First of all, when you choose peppers, on the base end of the pepper they have an innie or an outie. The ones with the outies have less seeds (leading to faster prep). The second thing came when Carla was preparing the baklava for dessert. Instead of brushing the sheets of filo dough with butter, she sprayed the sheets with an olive oil spray. If you’re thinking olive oil Pam, fuggedaboudit, she prefers an organic olive oil spray from Whole Foods.Accidental Locavore Roast Cauliflower Steaks
  4. Not only does she respect your time in the kitchen, Carla also respects the time of whoever is cleaning up after you. This is a big contrast from say, Jamie Oliver, whose 15-minute meals always look great, but even my husband noticed that on one episode Jamie used four pans and a blender – definitely not a 15-minute cleanup! As Carla said: “If you spend 2 hours cleaning up for one little dish – it ain’t worth it.”
  5. She’s really high energy, funny and as you can see from #4, has a great sensibility about things. If I wasn’t so busy eating, I would have been able to write down some of the many funny lines that got bandied about.
  6. When she roasted the cauliflower steaks, she coated the baking sheets with olive oil and sprinkled that with salt. It’s a great idea, because as she said, you don’t have to worry about turning them and seasoning them on both sides. I’m definitely going to try that the next time I roast veggies.Accidental Locavore Cucumber Trick
  7. Another easy trick Carla used when she plated the gazpacho is to put some thinly sliced cucumber (I’m sure zucchini or similar vegetables would work well too) between the plate and the bowl to keep the bowl from sliding around.
  8. Her take on baklava was a big hit with the audience. In it she used three different nuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios and instead of rose water, she used an orange-infused syrup. I have to take the word of the person sitting next to me, who eagerly scarfed down both her serving and mine (I’m allergic to nuts).Accidental Locavore Baklava
  9. She gave us all two types of her new Petite Cookies to try and take home. What a great idea! Really mini cookies that pack a flavor punch in every bite. Perfect for when you just really want a taste of something sweet.Accidental Locavore Petite Cookies

All in all, a fun, delicious, inspiring evening! If you want, all the recipes are in her latest book: Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes From Around the World. Many thanks to Sal and the DeGustibus staff for inviting me. And a quick note to Carla, the French word for smothered is étouffe.

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A Vegetable Cornucopia with Chef Naomi Pomeroy

Posted on May 7, 2014 06:56 pm

This guest blog post comes to us from food blogger Layla Khoury-Hanold of Glass of Rosé. Follow her adventures in eating, cooking and drinking on Twitter @glassofrose and Instagram @theglassofrose.

Naomi_Pomeroy_-_hero.jpgYou may recognize Chef Naomi Pomeroy from her stellar performance on Top Chef Masters, an experience that she describes thusly: “It’s harder than it looks, which is saying something ‘cause it looks hard. You learn a lot about how to work well under pressure, and learning to just go with what you’re doing.”

Naomi has obviously done well to just go with what she’s doing – she’s a Food & Wine Best New Chef and this year marked the third consecutive year she was nominated for a James Beard Award as Executive Chef of her Portland restaurant, Beast. Third time’s a charm – on Monday she won Best Outstanding Chef in the North West.

So I knew going in that she’s got the culinary chops, but I was delighted to discover how gifted she is with vegetables. She transformed wild mushrooms into a savory pate, let carrots shine their brightest in velvety soup and made blistered Brussels sprouts practically dance off the plate with Szechuan vinaigrette.

What’s also remarkable about Naomi is that she’s completely self-taught; that, along with her sense of humor and no-nonsense advice makes her an extremely approachable teacher. Her best advice for elevating your cooking game is to taste. “What makes us chefs different than home cooks? We’re tasting all the time.” Never has cooking advice been more practical – or delicious.

Here are the veggie-centric dishes we enjoyed and some of Naomi's top takeaway tips.

Hazelnut and Wild Mushroom Pate

The base recipe yields a delicious and versatile vegetarian pate – it can be spread on crostini for an elegant entertaining appetizer, makes the perfect addition to a fall or winter cheese plate and is equally at home inside a savory tart. The recipe calls for a mix of wild mushrooms like – Chanterelles or Morels – and Crimini, sautéed in butter with shallots, garlic and finished with Marsala. When adding mushrooms, Naomi advises that you should always blast the heat – they have high water content, so the high heat helps to dry them out. The mixture then gets blended with toasted hazelnuts, melted butter (“fat is flavor”) and both apple cider and 30 year aged balsamic vinegar, for a supremely well-balanced and round flavor. Naomi likes to serve it on crème fraiche dough for a bite that’s rich, but not overly. 

Takeaway tip: “Always taste the wine you’re cooking with. Everything that goes in comes out in cooking.”

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Curried Carrot Soup with Tarragon Sauce Verte

When making vegetable-based soups, Naomi prefers to only add water and/or diary to highlight the flavor and seasonality of the produce she’s using. Unbelievably, this incredibly velvety carrot soup had no dairy whatsoever! The carrots’ natural sweetness played perfectly with the curry powder (Namoi makes her own by toasting over 10 different spices, including brown mustard seeds, fenugreek, dried ginger and turmeric and fresh ginger. Naomi is a devout fan of Vitamix; blending the soup in it helps yield that creamy, smooth consistency that lends this soup such a gorgeous mouthfeel. When she demonstrated how to make the sauce verte, we learned that you should keep the shallot vinegar mix separate from the herbs until the last minute. Otherwise, the acid from the vinegar will turn the bright green herbs yellow.

Takeaway tip: “Taste your food all the time. Taste for balance: salt, acid, possibly a pinch of sugar – you want it to feel well-rounded in the mouth.”

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Blistered Brussels Sprouts, Napa Cabbage & Mint Salad with Szechuan Vinaigrette, Peanuts & Fried Shallots

This dish is a great example of the kind of food Naomi serves at her bar, Expatriate; it’s the kind of dish that can stand up to cocktails. The symphony of different crunchy textures – frizzled shallots, hardy cabbage and toothsome sprouts – married perfectly with salty, creamy peanuts and a zesty, funky Szechuan Vinaigrette laced with spicy pot sauce, Red Boat fish sauce and rice wine vinegar. In the summer they do a refreshing variation with cabbage, mint and shredded watermelon, sprinkled with a little toasted rice powder.

Takeaway tip: “The best way to toss a salad is with your hands. I’m old school like that.”

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Lentil Pastry with Ramp Remoulade

This is another dish that Naomi and her team make at Expatriate; and she loves it for its versatility. These samosa style pastries can be filled with anything: potatoes, chickpeas, delicata squash or even lamb. Ours combined slightly crispy lentils, mirepoix and umami boosters like anchovy paste, tomato paste and 30-year aged balsamic vinegar. The hardest part to nail down is forming the pastries, which Naomi advises shaping like a little hat, or a pastry bag. As a bonus, these can be made ahead of time, frozen and thawed about half way before frying.

Takeaway tip: “Always caramelize your tomato paste. It’s very important.”

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Roasted Rhubarb & Brown Butter Crepe

Crepes are one of Naomi’s favorite things to make, which is a good thing considering she made 1,200 of them as part of an appetizer for the James Beard Foundation Awards gala! The trick to super light crepes is to allow the batter to sit on the counter for two hours – when you actually make them, you should make two or three ‘practice’ ones to allow the pan to settle into itself. Roasting the rhubarb, instead of cooking it, gives you more control and you don’t have to worry about it turning into a sauce. It’s an ingredient that plays exceptionally well in desserts, further elevated here by orange zest and vanilla sugar.

Takeaway tip: “Cardamom is the most underrated ingredient.” (It was used in the whipped cream here).

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Ramped Up Tapas with Casa Mono’s Andy Nusser and Anthony Sasso

Posted on April 28, 2014 06:55 pm

This guest blog post comes to us from food blogger Layla Khoury-Hanold of Glass of Rosé. Follow her adventures in eating, cooking and drinking on Twitter @glassofrose and Instagram @theglassofrose.

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When you taste the cooking of chefs who are disciples of Mario Batali, you expect the food to be consistently delicious and the ingredients to be of the highest caliber. What you don’t expect is just how much fun the chefs have with cooking. And that fun was on full display during Andy Nusser and Anthony Sasso's class; it was treat for not only the class, but the chefs as well.

You see, Andy has been busy growing a mini pizza empire called Tarry Lodge across Connecticut and Westchseter, so it was a rare treat for him to be behind the stove cooking with Anthony, a seven year veteran of Casa Mono, the last five of which has seen the restaurant earn a Michelin star.

The pair reunited to serve up Casa Mono’s unique twist on tapas; it’s Spanish at its core, but the dishes draw influence from sources as disparate as New York’s Chinatown to Ibiza. Here’s a play by play of the tag team effort, featuring some of their greatest hits made uber seasonal by incorprating one of spring’s most coveted ingredients, ramps.

In case you’re not drooling by the end of this post (and making a reservation at Casa Mono, stat), the lovely lady next to me, who has been attending classes at De Gustibus for 15 years, said this was the most amazing meal she had ever had.

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Local Fluke Crudo with Ramp Ash, Purple Potato Chips, Meyer Lemon

This playful and refined take on fish and chips featured raw local fluke dressed with Meyer lemon juice and olive oil and finished with super thin fried slices of Peruvian potatoes and chopped pickled ramps, for a one-two texture punch. The white part of the ramp, a wild leek, is more garlicky than the green, so it’s great for pickling – you can even put pickled ramps in martinis, or so he says. And because Andy likes to “keep things simple but doesn’t know how to stop”, the dish is finished with Meyer lemon zest, ramp ash and ramp oil. The flavor combination made for a perfect harmony of spring flavors and is a dish I could see eating well into the warmer months.

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Burrata “Ibizan Lifeguard Style”, Spanish Anchovy, Ramp Pesto, black Olive Crisp

Burrata, a luxurious, uber creamy mozzarella cheese, is one of my favorite foods, but I’m pretty sure that neither I nor the burrata have ever had it so good. This dish is a great example of the rule bending that the chefs take – one wouldn’t typically pair fish with cheese, and it might even be frowned upon. But when you take local burrata (from John Fazio Farms), drape it with Don Bocarte’s oil-packed Spanish anchovies (deemed the best in the world by many, and likely the most expensive at $100 wholesale per tin!), and dress it with the mild onion-flavored pesto and the briny “Ibizan” puttanesca-style sauce, it adds up to something exquisite and out of this world delicious.  A tip on serving burrata: Anthony advises waiting to cut it until right before serving, so you don’t let any of the creamy goodness escape.

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Quail and Cocks Combs, Ramp Jus, Black Fermented Garlic Puree, Grilled Ramps

Andy discovered Cocks Combs, the crest on top of chickens’ heads, in Barcelona and he knew he wanted to put it on the menu (though it’s since been bumped in favor of other dishes). He rediscovered them in Chinatown with his son (who I don’t think knew what he was eating!) and finds them to be an underrated ingredient. Because they’re all gelatin and no bone, he cooks them long and slow until they become tender, like sautéed mushrooms.  It’s a great complement to the quail, which has a gaminess that chicken doesn’t have, along with the earthy notes of the fermented black garlic and the grilled ramps. Another reason Andy likes quail? “You can eat more and more, they’re so tiny!”

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Ramp Stuffed Lamb Belly with Buttermilk Ramp Puree and Blood Orange Radicchio

This dish was the piece de resistance. This is an ambitious project for any home cook; while I would kill to have this dish again, for me it’s best left to the pros. At Casa Mono they employ whole animal butchery to make the most of the whole goats, pigs and lambs that grace their kitchen. While they leave nothing to waste, lamb belly in particular needs a lot of attention. Anthony explained, “Lamb fat is scary, it’s not as delicious as pig fat. You need to do a lot of trimming. And you need to cook it a long time.” After a quick sear in the pan, the belly gets stuffed with a sautéed mixture of onions, ramps, golden raisins and tomato paste (deglazed with Sherry), then tightly rolled and tied into a roast. After a couple hours in the oven, it’s ready to serve with wilted radicchio tempered with blood orange juice, blood orange segments and a buttermilk ramp puree, which lends a sour note to tie all of the components together.

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Spanish Olive Oil Cake, Olive Oil Ice Cream, Rhubarb Marm and Blood Orange Crema

Diego Moya, Casa Mono’s doubly talented pastry chef and right hand cook, whipped up this tender cake using La Vallé olive oil, an Italian olive oil from Spain (how fitting!). “Olive oil makes cake really tender,” explained Diego, “it helps retain moisture even if you accidentally over whip.” Plated with olive oil ice cream (made by the talented Meredith Kurtzman at Otto),  rhubarb marm (similar to a compote) and a blood orange crema, it was the perfect cloud of heaven that dessert should always aspire to be. What to do if you make these cakes and should somehow find yourself with leftovers? Diego suggests making French toast with it. Hear that? It’s the sound of my mind being blown.

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Laotian Cuisine with Chef Phet of Khe-Yo

Posted on April 17, 2014 08:48 pm

This guest blog post comes to us from food blogger Layla Khoury-Hanold of Glass of Rosé. For serious foodporn, follow her food adventures on Twitter @glassofrose and Instagram @theglassofrose.

Chef_Phet_Steamed_Sticky_Rice.jpgThe best compliment Chef Soulayphet Schwader, better known as Chef Phet, ever received was from his mother. You might say she’s biased, but after an 18-day eating trip throughout Laos and Thailand, she told him that she likes what he cooks better.

Lucky for the rest of us, we can get a taste of Chef Phet’s skills at his restaurant Khe-Yo, New York City’s first Laotian restaurant which he opened with Marc Forgione. So what distinguishes Laotian cuisine? For Chef Phet, it’s sticky rice. And while there’s no wrong way to eat it, Chef Phet believes there’s just something about eating it with your hands that makes it taste better.

We had ample chances to test that theory as he steamed beautiful baskets of the “sweet rice” (also known as Thai glutinous rice) to serve family style with each course, starting with Khe-yo’s answer to bread service: sticky rice, smoked eggplant and bang bang sauce, a very spicy and vibrant dipping sauce.

The meal certainly started off with a bang but was a mere prelude to Chef Phet’s excellent interpretation of the Laotian cuisine he grew up eating in Kansas. Here’s how the rest of the meal went down:

 

Smashed Papaya Salad, Purple Cabbage & Chicharones

Chef Phet can’t live without his mortar and pestle, and that’s no exaggeration. He and his team make 60-70% of Khe-Yo’s dishes in it, including the smoked eggplant, bang bang sauce and this smashed papaya salad. Though papaya is a fruit, they treat it as a vegetable in this pounded salad laced with garlic, chilies, sugar, shrimp paste, lime juice, fish sauce and The Funk. The Funk is a fermented fish sauce that every Laotian household makes (even in Kansas!) and whose family recipe is jealously guarded. This dish exemplifies Chef Phet’s mastery of balancing sweet, sour and salty flavors.

As for the impossibly light chicharones (pork rinds) served as garnish, Chef Pet trims the excess fat, boils them for three to four hours, dries them in the oven at 200 for a couple more hours, then quickly fries them at 350. I think they could sell them by the bagful!

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Crunchy Coconut Rice, Kaffir Lime Sausage

Speaking of marketing opportunities, these crunchy coconut rice balls could be the next big thing in food trucks. They already have a cult following at the restaurant, where the chefs fry up 50-60 orders every night. In addition to red curry and fish sauce, the key to these flavor bombs are freshly grated coconut, which Chef Phet insists upon, “I could buy frozen but I prefer fresh. It’s like making your own pasta if you own an Italian restaurant.” The staff grates two quarts daily; Chef Phet demonstrated how he gets the super fine, powdery soft snow consistency by using a rabbit, a traditional stool-scraper hybrid that Laotian women sit on while they grate. Traditionally, the rice balls are topped with uncured sausage, but at the restaurant they’re served with cooked kaffir lime sausage and garnished with honey sambal.

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Steak Tartare, Bone Marrow & Sunchoke Chips

Another flavor bomb from Khe-Yo’s menu is this steak tartare featuring modern flourishes like bone marrow and sunchoke chips. Chopped skirt steak gets an explosion of textures from jalapenos, red onion and Thai chilies, requisite saltiness from fish sauce, plus an herbaceous burst of cilantro, mint and Kaffir lime leaf. The split and roasted bone marrow makes for an impressive presentation, at once refined and Flinstonian, while toasted aromatic rice lends it a certain je ne sais quoi. Chef Phet cautions that it’s important to make this dish super fresh so that the meat doesn’t oxidize – in fact, they keep the steak on ice at the restaurant.

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Lemongrass Spare Ribs, Smashed Long Bean Salad

As someone who grew up in Kansas, Chef Phet loves his barbecue; this dish is the stuff that summer BBQ dreams are made of. These Berkshire St. Louis ribs are marinated overnight in a mixture of lemongrass, oyster sauce, garlic powder, sugar, pepper and fish sauce, given a nice char on the grill, then roasted in the oven for an hour with any leftover marinade. The result is an exceptionally flavorful, caramelized exterior and succulent, slightly chewy meat. A smashed long bean salad – made in the mortar and pestle like the papaya salad – is a refreshing, crunchy counterpoint that once again showcases Chef Phet’s deft ability to balance of sweet, sour and salty.

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Coconut Rice Pudding, Caramelized Bananas

“We don’t have a pastry chef at Khe-Yo. We can’t afford one!” laughs Chef Phet. One bite of this heavenly coconut rice pudding for dessert I say, who needs one?! Chef Phet cooks and constantly stirs Arborio (risotto-style) rice, Tahiitan vanilla bean and coconut milk over low heat until the rice is soft and becomes this insanely creamy texture. It’s topped with caramelized bananas, candied cashews and drizzled with caramel. And it was a glorious finish to a most special meal.

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De Gustibus Cooking School & Bubby’s

Posted on April 15, 2014 03:48 am

Here is a guest post from Anthony Losanno, who has a fantastic blog at Eat Along With Me.  Follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

This was my third time at De Gustibus for a cooking class (my last classes here and here) and each time as soon as I enter I know that I’m in for a night of great food, fun, and to learn some new techniques from some of the best chefs today. Owner Sal Rizzo makes every student feel at home while keeping them learning and laughing.

When I was invited to this class, I was excited. Bubby’s makes some of the best pies I’ve ever had and their menu features dishes that are comforting and familiar while having some creative twists. I’ve visited the Tribeca and High Line locations in the past but also learned that there are now several in Japan. Chef/owner Ron Silver mentioned that he is looking to expand to Paris and maybe Berlin in the near future.

Bubby’s mission (in addition to providing great meals) is to defend the American table. They buy from responsible and sustainable sources and make most of what they serve in house from curing their own bacon (800 pounds a week) to freshly baking brioche, Bubby’s does it all.

The meal started on a light, springy note with Asparagus marinated in Apple Cider Vinegar. The tender asparagus and slight acidity of the vinegar were a nice opener.

Ron and his staff walked the class through five dishes and spent a good amount of the time sharing secrets to making amazing pies. They like to use lard and feel that the key to flaky pie crust is in nice big pieces of fat. Pie dough can be frozen for short periods of time and the key to good pie crust - cold hands and a warm heart.

This packed house is thinking one thing: PIE.

The next course just made its way on to Bubby’s menu this week. Grilled Shrimp with Garlic Butter, Lemon, and Almonds brought another bite of freshness and spring. The garlic and almonds were subtle and played well with the lemony shrimp.

The third course was one of my favorites. Classic Macaroni and Cheese. The dish is simple but so delicious. Someone in the class asked about adding lobster, truffles, and other ingredients. You won’t find that at Bubby’s. They serve it in its original form and have perfected it. No need to gild the lily.

The entree was Pepper Crusted Pork Chops with Apple Pear Sauce and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes. The pork was tender and the “sauce” was a great counter to the pepper crust. Ron mashes his potatoes by hand. I asked about using a ricer and he said that he only likes that tool for gnocchi. (I disagree as I like my mashed potatoes super smooth but these were very good.)

After dinner, it was time for what I came for (and had been smelling baking all night) - Pie. On the menu tonight was Strawberry Rhubarb. It was simple and it was perfect. Bubby’s pies are all delicious and Ron’s cookbook has around 100 pie recipes. He shared that during Thanksgiving they sell over 450 pies. Wow.

Ron and his crew worked their way up through the restaurant business and bring creativity and skill that can only be learned from long hours on the line. I look forward to my next meal at Bubby’s.


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Chef Rawia Bishara Talks Tanoreen, Tradition and Tahini

Posted on April 2, 2014 03:37 pm

This guest blog post comes to us from food blogger Layla Khoury-Hanold of Glass of Rosé. Follow her food adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

Chef Rawia Bishara was born into a food-loving Palestinian-Arab family in Nazareth and learned to respect food and ingredients from an early age. She opened Tanoreen in NYC in 1998, as a tribute to her mom and her cooking, with just 10 seats. It has since expanded to a sprawling space, her daughter Jumana (also a partner) works by her side and it has become Zagat’s highest rated Middle Eastern restaurant in NYC.

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Her latest labor of love, a hot off the presses cookbook called Olives, Lemons & Za’atar, features not only recipes but also stories and memories of her family. Rawia said, “Our family were foodies before the word was even invented.”

As we learned firsthand from her demo, her restaurant, cookbook and food philosophy all reflect her refreshing approach to bending tradition. Her main piece of advice? “Don’t be committed to what’s in the book. You need to be able to bend the rules, adjust to the quantity, taste or vegetable you’re in the mood for.”

Rawia actually means storyteller in Arabic, so it should have come as no surprise that her demo was so lively and warm. She transitioned flawlessly from mezze to main dishes to macaroni cookies and the class was so jam-packed with tips and advice, that I’m devoting this post to the best nuggets! Your hummus will never be the same.

 

On Tahini

  • “Tahini is a million times better than mayo” – and there are almost as many uses for it in Rawia’s book, like Yogurt Tahini with Chickpeas.
  • “The lighter the tahini, the better it is” – if it’s darker, it has been roasted (instead of raw) or made from peanuts (instead of sesame).

On Spices

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  • Season as you go – spice food first and season as you go, not just at the end.
  • Store your spices with care – spices should be well-sealed (vacuum or as much as you can) and kept in the fridge.
  • Sumac (the ‘c’ is silent) – it is actually an herb, not a spice, and can be used when you want to add lemon flavor without adding liquid.
  • Give yourself a flavor boost! Pick up a jar of Tanoreen’s signature spice blend, a mix of 9 spices including cardamom, cumin, Allspice, nutmeg, coriander, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper.

On Hummus

  • “I don’t believe in cans” – Chef Bishara prefers to use dried chickpeas for her hummus, and buys a mix of California and Mexican varieties.
  • Soak your chickpeas – the more you soak them, the easier they will be to boil (true for all beans). Plus, soaked chickpeas with fresh water (bottled, please!) keeps for up to a week in the fridge.
  • Boil your chickpeas in bottled water – not tap! Boiling the chickpeas yields an extremely smooth hummus consistency.
  • Add baking soda – 1 tsp for about 1 lb of chickpeas (not more or it will become bitter) shortens the boiling time. This tip works for any beans recipe.
  • Freeze your hummus! You can freeze it in a Ziploc bag; when you’re ready to eat it, let it thaw at room temperature for 30-60 minutes, add olive oil and serve.
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Purist's Hummus, Streetloaf & Twice Fried Chicken with Chef Michael Solomonov

Posted on March 25, 2014 08:07 pm

This guest blog post and lovely recap of Chef Michael Solomonov and Chef Steve Cook's demo comes to us from food blogger Layla Khoury-Hanold of Glass of Rosé. Follow her food adventures on Twitter and Instagram

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James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav, Philadelphia’s renowned modern Israeli restaurant, returned to De Gustibus to teach us how to transform simple ingredients into extraordinary flavors. For the first time, he also brought chef Steve Cook; with their hilarious good cop-bad cop dynamic, the pair shared stories and whipped up a menu of best hits from their Cook+Solo restaurant empire, which includes Zahav, Federal Donuts, Percy Street Barbecue and forthcoming projects Abe Fisher and DizenGoff. 

Here’s a play by play of my favorite dishes with a few tips, drool-worthy descriptions and stories sprinkled in.

Hummus Masbacha and Pita

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When it comes to hummus, Chef Solomonov is a purist – it should be pale in color, rich and nutty in taste and have a whipped consistency. The secret to keeping it light and fluffy is adding ice water during the blending process. This helps prevent the heat from the whirring from agitating the mixture too much and overworking it. 

Another key factor for great hummus is using a high quality tahini, or sesame paste. Mike and Steve are both big fans of Soom, a Philly-based company lauded for an exceptionally smooth and aromatic product. The hummus we sampled, paired with fresh baked pita, was nearly enough to move me to tears; it reminded me so much of my gram’s freshly baked pita and Lebanese-style hummus (which tends to be a bit less nutty and rich than its Israeli counterpart).

The folks at Palm Bay Wines paired this course with a Recanati Chardonnay; this just might be my new favorite food-wine pairing! This Israeli winery produces a most full-bodied and harmonious Chardonnay; it exhibits a gorgeous creaminess and delicate tropical fruit flavors, without any of the cloying sweetness that I typically associate with Chardonnay.

Korean Fried Chicken Biscuits

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The fried chicken on this sandwich is Federal Donut’s signature version, battered, seasoned and twice fried until it’s super light and extra crispy. Just how crispy? “We wanted it to cut glass, that’s how crispy it is,” says Chef Solomonov.

At Percy Street Barbecue, the bird gets the royal stoner treatment (though Michael swears this dish was not invented in a late night munchies attack). The chicken gets coated in a tangy dill pickle glaze with fresh dill, topped with a slice of melted Swiss cheese and is housed on from scratch buttermilk biscuits. Chef Steve made these biscuits look super easy to make; he advises making sure your butter is as cold as possible so as to achieve a supremely tender and flaky biscuit.

Fried chicken is also something I haven’t yet attempted at home but plan to this summer. The not-s0-seceret double frying method means frying the pieces in vegetable oil for 10 minutes at 300 degrees, then removing and allowing them to drain before increasing the oil temp to 350 and frying for an additional 5 minutes. As an added bonus, you can even make the chicken ahead and fry them from cold, which is almost better for achieving that shatteringly crisp exterior.

Duck Kebobs with Carrot Saffron Rice

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At Zahav, they serve a duck version that’s mixed with foie gras and pistachios – I don’t think I’ve ever had a more luxe-tasting kebob! Besides adding cinnamon, ginger and parsley, they add a little bit of baking soda which helps give it a little bit of lift and makes it chewy, but in a pleasant way. Once the kebobs have been formed, Chef Solomonov recommends letting them chill and then grilling over charcoal. The kebobs were such a hit that De Gustibus owner Sal Rizzo insisted they launch a food truck – “Yeah, we’re going to call it ‘streetloaf’!” quipped Michael.

The accompanying huckleberry sauce was perfect for cutting through the richness of the duck and the foie gras, but you could also use blueberries. If you want to go more Persian with the dish, Chef Solomonov recommends throwing in some rose or orange blossom water into the sauce.

The key to a perfect pilaf is patience; that, and using enough fat. Michael stressed the importance of giving the onions enough time to break down, being gentle with the grains, building layers of flavor through steady seasoning, and letting the rice rest with the lid on. This last step is crucial for letting the rice open, puff up and do its thing.

Bacon Egg Cream

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Oh. My. God. You guys, this was the most insane ending to a meal, possibly ever! This sweet thing was a sneak peek into what Steve is planning for the desserts at Abe Fisher and I’m seriously considering a road trip for opening night!

The marriage of ridiculously velvety custard, a foam of cocoa seltzer syrup topped with a bacon cookie crumble made for a playful and indulgent dessert. All you could hear around the room were spoons clinking against glass, and all that could be seen were longing glances as some contemplated licking the dish, myself included.

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Cheers to a Delicious New Year!

Posted on February 1, 2014 04:36 pm

A wonderful guest blog post from our friend, Layla Khoury-Hanold at Glass of Rosé:

Being that it’s the time of year everyone makes resolutions, why not take a moment to reflect on your culinary resolutions? What will you tackle in the kitchen this year? What chef will inspire you to return to their restaurant? And most importantly, how will you ever decide among the amazing new class line up at De Gustibus this season?

In the spirit of resolutions and my own resolve to conquer more challenging cooking projects, I’ve culled through my notes from Chef Florian Hugo’s November session to bring you these helpful sound bites and tidbits of advice.

Chef Hugo was part of last season’s French Proficiency section, but his class could’ve easily been called French Charm School. He regaled us with tales of cooking under Alain Ducasse, dished on Victoria’s Secret supermodels scarfing down croissants at his restaurant Brasserie Cognac and told us about that time he wrote a cookbook in homage to his ancestors (he’s a descendant of Victor Hugo!). With the recent launch of Brasserie Cognac East, Chef Hugo has an even wider audience with whom to share his signature dishes (often incorporating Cognac) like his lighter-than-air cheese gougères, beef tenderloin flambé and his fabulous tuna tart.

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If I’m able to channel a fraction of Chef Hugo’s easy charm, classic French technique and focused approach, I think 2014 will be a delicious year indeed. These tips are sure to help me on my way – read on!

On your culinary approach:

1. If you love cooking, you will be a fantastic chef.

2. If it doesn’t look good, half the time it won’t taste as good as it should. The visual aspect is 30% of the pleasure of eating.

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3. It’s very important to drink while cooking – it’s inspiring! Then when you sit down with your guests, who’ve been waiting for the food, you’re on the same level.

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4. Choose simple menus for dinner parties, ones that allow you to prepare 50% of it in advance.

5. Pride yourself on portraying ingredients in their best light.

On ingredients:

1. Anything that incorporates herbs and acidity needs to be fresh.

2. French butter is real butter.

3. Butter connects flavors together.

4. Beef is better with beef (use beef trimmings as a sauce foundation to be paired with a beef filet, for example).

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5. Oven-dried grapes are a great addition to many dishes. Drying them out in a 200˚ oven with olive oil and salt makes them savory and concentrates their flavor.

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Cooking with Class at De Gustibus

Posted on November 16, 2013 03:39 am

Here is a guest post from NYC Foodie Girl, who has a fantastic blog here.  Follow her on Twitter!

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.

Cheers!

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De Gustibus Cooking School & Immersion in Seafood Class

Posted on November 14, 2013 09:25 pm

Here is a guest post from Anthony Losanno, who has a fantastic blog at Eat Along With Me.  Follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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As Chef Heffernan cooked, he discussed some of his recent catches and some of the fresh ingredients in season and procured locally.

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One of those ingredients was Amangansett Sea Salt. A jar was passed around for the class to see.

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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.

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Chef Heffernan began steaming Top Neck Clams and slicing leeks for the next course.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bryce Shuman & Eamon Rockey of Betony at De Gustibus Cooking School

Posted on November 5, 2013 08:52 pm

Here is a guest post from Tina, who has a fantastic blog at The Wandering Eater.  Follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

Check out all the photos on Flickr.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Gabriel Rucker at DeGustibus: Food & Fun!

Posted on November 5, 2013 07:53 pm

Here is a lovely post from one of our guests, Anne Maxfield, who blogs at Accidental Locavore as well as Huffington Post.

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 Pigeonis 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.

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Revisiting the French Classics with Matt Aita of Le Philosophe

Posted on November 4, 2013 06:38 am

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hao Wang manages De Gustibus' social media and also keeps a food & travel blog at houseofhaos.com.  Follow De Gustibus on Twitter at @degustibusnyc and Hao at @haoinamerica.

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The Michauds’ Italian Kitchen

Posted on October 20, 2013 05:15 am

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hao Wang manages De Gustibus' social media and also keeps a food & travel blog at houseofhaos.com.  Follow De Gustibus on Twitter at @degustibusnyc and Hao at @haoinamerica.

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Culinary Theatre at De Gustibus

Posted on October 15, 2013 06:29 pm

A wonderful post from our friends at T Edward Wines (thanks, Karen!):

“We’re always looking for the new chefs,” said Sal Rizzo, of De Gustibus.  ”It’s a rite of passage.  When you come to De Gustibus, you’ve really made it as a chef.”  Established in 1980 by Arlene Feltman Sailhac, (the wife of Chef Alain Sailhac, who earned the NY Times’ first ever 4-star review at Le Cygne) and rebranded by Sal in 2008, De Gustibus is the oldest cooking school in the country, where chefs from New York and beyond come to perform before a discriminating audience.  ”It’s a stage and the chef is a star,” he added, noting the wall of fame that supports the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Kurt Gutenbrunner, Jean-Georges, Naomi Pomeroy, André Soltner and more.


With a state-of-the-art Miele kitchen located at the front of the class, De Gustibus can host up to 80 students who come to witness the preparation of a four to five course meal, which is then served to the class complete with wine pairings, which for many of this year’s classes will be supplied by T. Edward Wines.  ”Arlene created something magical 30+ years ago,” said Peter Cassell, our Director of Operations, “and we love the way Sal is carrying on the tradition and culture that she started.  It was an honor for us as a company to be asked to participate.” 

Playing an integral part of every meal, the wines inform the cuisine; and if a winemaker can attend, then this too is arranged.  This fall, we have Kevin Kelley of Salinia Wines speaking to the class on October 7th, which will be led by Wylie Dufresne and Jon Bignelli of WD-50 and Alder.  And on October 9th, Maria Sinskey, a chef in her own right, will present a selection of Robert Sinskey wines alongside Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune.

“The chef entertains the audience, showcasing tips and techniques,” said Sal.  ”You get a sense of who the chef is; there’s a lot of interaction.” And not only do the students get to meet the chef, they are also encouraged to ask for the chef when dining at his or her restaurant, by way of the De Gustibus connection.

Taking over De Gustibus in 2008, Sal organizes and hosts the classes, alternating with Arlene who is still very involved.  ”She’s forever an integral part of the school as a founder,” said Sal.  ”She’s my confidant, my best friend, my everything. Arlene was the first to get Rachel [Ray], and Batali called her to do a class.  She had the Marios, and I got the Gabe Thompsons [ofL'Apicio]. I started bringing in the new blood.  Dan Kluger [of abc kitchen & abc cocina] started in 2010 and wants to open every fall, and Marc Vetri [of Philadelphia's Vetri and Osteria] is returning.”

Described by Sal as “a marriage of media and the kitchen,” the classes are an intimate experience for chefs who are media savvy.  ”Josh Eden of August said it’s the best PR you can get.”

An intimate experience not just for chefs and students, Sal spoke of some memorable moments that included having Jean-Georges with his wife, his son Cedric and Cedric’s wife on stage before a packed house.  ”Jean-Georges was like a teenager,” he said, “he was so happy.”

So moved by the experience, one couple got engaged during a session last year.  And just before Sal and his partner wed, Arlene announced to a class that the wedding was upcoming while Dan Kluger brought out a sheet cake and Champagne.”  When Laurence Edelman of  Left Bank led a demonstration, his mother attended.  So enamored that her son was on the stage, at the end of class “she grabbed his face crying and said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’  I started bawling,” said Sal and laughed.

And because education is the gift that keeps on giving, De Gustibus further extends one’s pleasure by also offering featured wines for a discounted price at the end of each class.

For a schedule of upcoming classes, read here.

In addition to Wylie Dufresne and Gabrielle Hamilton, TEW is happy to be partnering with Alfred Portal of Gotham Bar & Grill; Dan Kluger; George Mendes of Aldea; Henrique sá Pessoa of Alma Restaurant; Mark Lapico of Jean Georges; Barbara Lynch and Kristen Kish of  Menton; Ed Cotton of Fishtail; Matthew Aita of Le Philosophie; Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon; Cedric Vongerichten of Perry Street; Jason Hua of The Dutch; Florian Hugo of Brasserie Cognac & Cognac East; Damon Wise of Lafayette; and Christopher Hache of Les Ambassadeurs.  We hope to see you there!

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Photo credit: T Edward Wines

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New York or France? A Blind Wine Tasting from Craft New York

Posted on October 13, 2013 10:56 pm

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?

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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.

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Of course, these didn’t help me differentiate between the two regions.  Zero for one, a good start for me.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hao Wang manages De Gustibus' social media and also keeps a food & travel blog at houseofhaos.com.  Follow De Gustibus on Twitter at @degustibusnyc and Hao at @haoinamerica.

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Gabrielle Hamilton Tests Some Recipes at De Gustibus

Posted on October 13, 2013 10:56 pm

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The color in the escabeche marinade was incredible, an oily blend of herbs raucously rouged with paprika and red wine vinegar.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Hao Wang manages De Gustibus' social media and also keeps a food & travel blog at houseofhaos.com.  Follow De Gustibus on Twitter at @degustibusnyc and Hao at @haoinamerica.

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Boston Flavor in New York - Barbara Lynch and Kristen Kish

Posted on October 12, 2013 09:42 pm

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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Hao Wang manages De Gustibus' social media and also keeps a food & travel blog at houseofhaos.com.  Follow De Gustibus on Twitter at @degustibusnyc and Hao at @haoinamerica.


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Chef Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina

Posted on October 10, 2013 04:39 pm

A wonderful guest blog post from our friend, Layla Khoury-Hanold at Glass of Rosé:

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.1186223_10151867551548750_2092173067_n.jpg

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.

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What’s Cooking at De Gustibus?

Posted on March 18, 2013 01:44 pm

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…

 

Alla salute!

 

Sal

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Michael Laiskonis “Replacing Recipes with Ratios” by Ishita Rapino

Posted on January 8, 2013 04:48 pm

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

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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! 

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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!

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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). 

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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.  

 

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 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

 

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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!

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HIROKO SHIMBO and CHIKARA SONO EXOTIC ASIAN

Posted on January 8, 2013 04:47 pm

Hiroko Shimbo and Chikara Sono

“Exotic Asian”

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.

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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):

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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. 

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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!

 

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But like most presents that are beautifully wrapped, you eventually have a craving to just rip it open to get to the goodies inside! 

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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. 

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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!

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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.   

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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.

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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.  

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Dan Kluger - A Few of My Favorite Things

Posted on November 26, 2012 08:59 pm

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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Mike Price_Pristine Seafood

Posted on October 26, 2012 06:00 pm

 

by Ishita Rapino

SPOILER ALERT: 

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.

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Seriously Emmy – you are an artiste!

 

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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. 

 

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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.  

 

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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!

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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.

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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. 

 

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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. 

 

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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!

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Ted Allen Lively TV: Food Network

Posted on October 26, 2012 04:32 pm

by Ishita Rapino

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Justin Smillie - Chefs with Gusto

Posted on October 26, 2012 04:29 pm

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):

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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De Gustibus Carnival of Wine & Food event with Chef Andy Nusser and Gonzalo Lainez

Posted on January 26, 2011 11:45 am

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.

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DE GUSTIBUS / ASIAN FESTIVITIES

Posted on November 17, 2010 11:50 am

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.

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DE GUSTIBUS / SEAFOOD EXTRAVAGANZA

Posted on November 17, 2010 11:46 am

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.

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De Gustibus Gala Evening: The Chef & The Purveyor

Posted on November 17, 2010 11:43 am

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.

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Ben Pollinger, Executive Chef, and Jansen Chan, Pastry Chef, at Oceana in New York City

Posted on November 11, 2010 11:54 am

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.

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Dan Kluger, chef at ABC Kitchen in New York City

Posted on October 6, 2010 11:50 am

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!

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Cedric Vongerichten, Chef, Perry St in New York City

Posted on September 27, 2010 11:55 am

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.

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Jacques and Hasty Torres, Master Pastry Chef and Chef, Chocolatiers, Owners of Jacques Torres Chocolate in New York City and Madame Chocolate in Beverly Hills (and husband and wife!)

Posted on May 14, 2010 12:58 pm

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!

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Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder, chefs at Seasonal in New York City

Posted on May 14, 2010 11:58 am

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.

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Ryan Angulo, chef at Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn

Posted on March 30, 2010 12:03 pm

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.

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De Gustibus Behind the Scenes, In the Kitchen with Amaral

Posted on March 30, 2010 12:01 pm

"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.

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Eric Zillier, wine director at Alto

Posted on February 8, 2010 12:07 pm

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.

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Susan Spicer, chef/owner of Bayona in New Orleans, and author of Crescent City Cooking

Posted on February 8, 2010 12:05 pm

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.

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Jimmy Bradley, chef/owner of The Red Cat and The Harrison, and author of The Red Cat Cookbook

Posted on February 8, 2010 12:04 pm

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.

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Chef Ron Suhanosky, co-owner of New York’s two-star Sfoglia, and author of Pasta Sfoglia

Posted on January 21, 2010 12:09 pm

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.

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Chef Tadashi Ono, executive chef of Matsuri, and co-author of Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals

Posted on January 21, 2010 12:09 pm

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.

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Mary Cleaver, owner/executive chef of The Cleaver Company and The Green Table in Chelsea Market.

Posted on November 25, 2009 12:12 pm

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.

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Barbara Lynch, owner/executive chef of No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters, The Butcher Shop and Sportello in Boston, and author of Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition

Posted on November 25, 2009 12:11 pm

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.

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Interview with Josh Emett, Chef de Cuisine at Gordon Ramsey at the London, NYC

Posted on October 23, 2009 12:15 pm

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.

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Interview with Craig Hopson of Le Cirque in New York City

Posted on October 15, 2009 12:17 pm

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.

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Interview with Andrea Beaman, Top Chef season one contestant and author of The Whole Truth: Eating and Recipe Guide

Posted on October 15, 2009 12:16 pm

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.

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Interview with Chef Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s and Sra Martinez in Miami, and MB in Cancun, and author of Cuisine a Latina

Posted on October 14, 2009 12:23 pm

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.

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Michael Lomonaco, Executive Chef of Porter House New York, and author of Nightly Specials and The “21” Cookbook

Posted on October 9, 2009 12:13 pm

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.

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Interview with Gavin Kaysen of Cafe Boulud in New York City

Posted on September 3, 2009 12:24 pm

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.

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Interview with Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern in New York City

Posted on September 3, 2009 12:23 pm

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.

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Interview with David Waltuck of Chanterelle in New York city and author of the New Chanterelle

Posted on June 12, 2009 12:22 pm

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.

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Interview with Alexandra Raij of Txkito in New York City

Posted on June 4, 2009 12:25 pm

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.

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Interview with Scott Fratangelo of Spigolo in New York City

Posted on May 22, 2009 12:27 pm

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.

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Interview with Brian Bistrong of Braeburn in New York City

Posted on May 19, 2009 12:28 pm

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.

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Interview with Patrick Connolly of bobo in New York City

Posted on May 15, 2009 12:30 pm

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.

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Interview with Martin Brock of Atria in New York City

Posted on April 29, 2009 12:33 pm

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.

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An Interview with Michael Solomonov of Zahav, Philadelphia PA

Posted on March 30, 2009 12:37 pm

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.

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An Interview with Paul Liebrandt of Corton, New York City

Posted on March 30, 2009 12:36 pm

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

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An Interview with Daniel Angerer of Klee Brasserie, New York City

Posted on March 30, 2009 12:34 pm

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.

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An Interview with Chef Alain Allegretti of Allegretti in New York

Posted on March 17, 2009 12:38 pm

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

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An Interview with Dominique Crenn, Executive Chef at Luce of the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco.

Posted on March 6, 2009 12:39 pm

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.

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