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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.


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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.


The school just celebrated five years under the ownership and management of Salvatore Rizzo. He acquired it in 2008 after serving as the Director of the Italian Culinary Institute and Director of House Operations and Events at the James Beard Foundation. At De Gustibus, Sal is the consummate charming host. He keeps the chefs on schedule, the service staff attending to the students, and peppers the program with interesting questions and anecdotes.


De Gustibus is located in Macy’s Seventh Avenue Building on the eighth floor. It’s fairly easy to find and signs guide you through the wedding dresses, women’s coats, and gift registries that also share the floor.


When you arrive at De Gustibus, wait in line for your name to be called. They call names in the order in which you confirm attendance (you’re kindly asked to do so before and it opens online the morning of the class).

Once inside, you forget that you’re in a department store. The space is bright and seating is arranged in long, rectangular tables, which face an open demonstration kitchen (complete with mirrors for a better look at what the chef is preparing).


Quickly after being seated, I was presented with a glass of Cantine Maschio Prosecco. De Gustibus does a good job of including a packet with the recipes, information on the wines served (along with discounts if you wish to make a purchase), a pen for taking notes, a card for a free subscription to a choice of two magazines, along with other discounts and assorted information.


The board at the front of the room outlined the dishes that would be prepared this evening. We were anxious for a four-course meal plus an amuse (which changed from Bluefish to Fluke based on the availability of the fresh catch).


Tonight’s class was all about sustainable, locally caught seafood. It featured Chef Kerry Heffernan, who is an avid fisherman and staunch advocate for eating fresh and cooking what is caught that day. Chef Heffernan is also known for his years at Eleven Madison Park as Executive Chef (soon he’ll be taking the helm at Dylan Prime) and as a finalist on Top Chef Masters. I had the chance to meet Chef Heffernan last week at Taste of T (my recap here).


I found Chef Heffernan’s class to be informative and a lot of fun. As he cooked, he discussed the ingredients and methods that he was using.


The amuse was a Fluke Crudo served with fresh basil, Kaffir lime, and purple tomatillo. The just-caught fish was highlighted and not overpowered by these additions. Chef advised cutting against the grain on a 45-degree angle for the best texture.


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


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


The next course was Flash Seared Squid with Cauliflower Coulis and Lobster Sauce. It was topped with Pea Shoots from Koppert Cress. The squid was very tender and the lobster sauce was a nice accent.


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


This dish consisted of Top Neck Clams with Kale, Chili, and Buccatini. I’m generally not a fan of kale (a juice cleanse a few years ago kind of soured me to it) but this kale was nicely prepared. The clams were plump and flavorful.


Chef then began to work on the Black Sea Bass for the third course. He showed a cool technique for cutting by the gills to get the fish to stand up while being roasted.


The fish was rubbed with Gochujang (a Korean condiment made from chili peppers, rice, and fermented soybeans). It tastes like a cross between ketchup and kimchi, but not too spicy.


The third course: Whole Roast Black Sea Bass with Gochujang, Rice Cakes, and Romanesco. The fish was perfectly cooked and I liked the flavor from the Gochujang. The Romanesco was nicely caramelized. I wasn’t a fan of the rice cakes though. Mine were tough and a little too chewy.


Part of tonight’s program (in addition to the skillful culinary demonstration) was a discussion around sustainable seafood and what consumers can do to know that they’re making the best choices. Tim Fitzgerald of the Environmental Defense Fund shared some interesting stats. I had no idea that around 90% of the seafood that we consume is imported. Tim mentioned that cost gives you a good idea of whether or not an item is a good choice. The $4.99 lb. salmon or shrimp is likely not the best selection.


Also joining tonight’s class were Captain Ralph Towlen. Captain Ralph has a variety of permits and fishes for different species both with lines and a spear gun. He uses a device (developed by NASA) called a rebreather to sneak up on fish in their natural habitats and also leads diving expeditions to the area’s many sunken ships.


Captain Ralph is part of Dock to Dish. This company provides same-day-sourced wild, sustainable seafood to co-op members and restaurants. They’re looking to expand soon and offer this service with additional pick up locations in Manhattan. I think it’s a great idea - the farm to table of the sea. I wish them the best of luck with this venture. The waitlist is currently open for new 2014 members.

Chef Heffernan and Captain Ralph are also working on a mini series that takes viewers from capture to cooking to table. There is currently a YouTube channel and a DVD is on the way.


The fourth course was Crepes with a Quince Compote, Honey Thyme, and Creme Fraiche. The quince compote was super easy to make and something that Chef Heffernan said would last weeks in the fridge. It’s just quinces and apple cider, simmered, and then pureed. Yum.


Wines for each course were provided by Banfi Vintners. I enjoyed the Novas Sauvignon Blanc the most. It comes from an organic vineyard in Chile where the workers live and farm on the land.

De Gustibus offers an entertaining, informative, and delicious evening. Sal makes guests/students feel very welcome. It’s fun to watch a talented chef cook while talking about the meal preparation, ingredients, and more. I’d recommend this for avid home cooks and those that just want a good meal with a cooking show along with it. Thanks for a great class and the invitation to attend. I look forward to coming back again.

Disclaimer: There has been no monetary compensation for posting this content. I was the invited guest of De Gustibus but the opinions expressed are my own based on my experiences with the class.

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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.





General Manager Eamon Rockey and Executive Chef Bryce Shuman of Betony; Menu of the evening; Passing out glasses of sparkling wine; Amuse of beets, horseradish, goat’s milk foam

Two nights ago, the cool guys of Betony, Executive Chef Bryce Shuman and General Manager Eamon Rockey, were cooking dinner and holding a cooking demo atDeGustibus Cooking School found within Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan. Chef Shuman was formerly at Eleven Madison Park (here’s a group photo of the kitchen crew back then when I dined and met Bryce nearly 2 years ago) and Eamon Rockey recently worked at Aska and prior to that a few years ago, a captain at Eleven Madison Park.

As for DeGustibus, it is a recreational cooking school founded in 1980 Arlene Feltman Sailhac. It is now owned and run by Salvatore Rizzo, former Director of House Operations and Events at the James Beard Foundation. The school invites established chefs, rising star chefs, and sommeliers to serve and interact with food and wine enthusiasts.

When all of the guests got settled into their seats, we were treated to glasses of sparkling wine, a Pere Ventura Treson Reserva Brut NV, to kick off the evening. Not too shortly, our first wine pairing was sent out (I missed it when the staff said it out loud and it’s not in their notes). It’s similar to the cava but not as effervescent. Beautifully balanced, dry and fruit forward. (The partial reason why the amuse and its beverage pairing is pushed out on the early side is because Bryce and part of his crew of Betony were to cram five courses within two hours. That’s not including the time it takes to demonstrate the dishes and take Q&A from the attendees.)

The amuse was a refreshing, earthy, sweet, beets dish with grated horseradish lightened up with goat’s milk foam. It worked very well with both sparkling wines but the second was a better pairing as the bubbles and acidity isn’t as sharp on the palate.



My assortment of alcoholic beverages and Toasted grain salad with labne; Toasted grain salad with labne and sprouts, close up

When Bryce was demonstrating his first course of toasted grain salad with labne and sprouts, he deemed this as the most underrated item on his menu just because it seems no would ever think to love this grain salad. He proved all of us wrong and shocked us in the best way that his toasted grain salad is simply awesome. Even my friend who went with me (and not a vegetable lover), cleaned that plate.

Though there’s some work needed to boil the grains (quinoa, pearl barley, bulgur wehat, farro, and wheat berries) individually, drain them, and fry them. Serve it with dehydrated grains, salt, thick Greek yogurt, and fresh sprouts, it makes sense there’s so many varied textures of chewy, crunchy, and creamy. The tart and herbaceous breath when you get a small forkful of sprouts and yogurt with the grains, it’s vegetarian heaven.

The beer milk punch served with the toasted grain salad was pretty darn good and does pack a wallop. Eamon informed us that making his milk punch is relatively easy but it’s an experimentation. Essentially, it’s a mixture of Assam tea, lemon juice, IPA beer, simple syrup, heated whole milk, vodka and a brown spirit (e.g. bourbon or whiskey) to mix.


Poached striped bass with celery and potato rösti

Since Bryce and his team realized they are running short on time, they demonstrated the important parts of each dish. The poached striped bass with celery and potato rosti was a great, delicate fish dish. The bass was cooked perfectly (it was cooked sous vide) and the not too pungent, pastel green celery foam worked well with the light-bodied, flavorful fumet blanc. The delicate web of potato rösti added just enough crunch.

The beverage pairing was surprisingly non-alcoholic. They served us a bitter almond, celery genmaicha tea that tied with the delicate flavors of the fish. Eamon mentioned they want to introduce a better tea program since tea is around for a couple millennia and not everyone would want to drink alcohol with their food.



Bryce churning out the cavatelli; My serving of black trumpet cavatelli with black radish and ginger

Progressing on, Bryce demonstrated how to make the cavatelli by hand and told us a charming anecdote of one of the former chefs he worked with many years ago that he had to knead the pasta dough for at least ten minutes. (The concept of kneading it that long is to have the flour absorbing the water and forming enough gluten structure.) Then he cut them into thick strips and broke out the hand cranked cavatelli maker to churn out these small shell-like pastas.

The pasta will be incorporated into a mushroom-based stock and dashi, flavored with black allium oil, and black trumpet purée, a 60-degree poached egg (yes, he used the immersion circulator) and topped with black trumpet mushroom. Oh, this was (upscale) comfort food for me and it was perfect for that chilly evening.

The beverage paired with this dish was the stout shandy. This particular drink was my favorite of the night as it’s sweet (the honey with the Porter beer) but was offset with a subtle spice note and acid (cracked black pepper and sherry vinegar). I need to make this for one of my dinner parties.




Bryce showing his binchōtan charcoal; Smoking shortribs while grilling; the completed dish of grilled shortrib

My favorite dish of the night was the Pat LaFrieda sourced shortribs that was sublimely aged and marbled. What he did was to season and cryovac the shortribs with thyme, garlic, aged beef fat, salt and black pepper then sous vide it for 48 hours at 58°C. When it’s ready, the shortribs gets finished in a binchōtan charcoal grill to get the clean smoky flavors infused to that intensely flavored cut of beef.

The shortribs was plated with a cube of veal sweetbreads, lettuce-potato purée, aged beef fat, beef sauce, and a few fresh leaves of hearts of romaine. The intensely beefy, meaty, smoky bites of shortribs and creamy sweetbreads with fresh, crunchy bites of lettuce…words cannot express how good this was.

This dish was paired with a barley wassail. It’s basically a mulled wine but has a nutty, earthy depth from the barley infused.



Chocolate brownie with pecans, coconut and paired with hot chocolate

In case we didn’t have enough food, they cranked out dessert. The inspiration is the chocolate brownie but modernized by having cubes of brownies, a liquid nitro caramel and coconut ice creams, chewy coconut custard (the small white hemispheres on the plate), chocolate gel, pecan butter, pecan praline, and chocolate ganache. This was a fudge-y brownie sundae lover’s dessert.

To add more chocolate-y goodness on top of that dessert, they served hot chocolate that’s tinged with molasses to tame the sweetness. A good, non-alcoholic nightcap.

Bryce, Eamon, a few of the chefs of Betony and the staff of DeGustibus did a great showing of pushing out the ambitious five courses and an amuse (in about 3 hours rather than the scheduled 2.5) with five beverage pairings without any major flaws. It was an entertaining, delicious evening – and a bargain for $95 per person to attend this class.

For me, it’s a pleasure to see the men of Betony grow over the few years we’ve met and I’m definitely planning on dining at Betony soon. As for DeGustibus, I need to figure out which cooking class I can attend.

To view more photos of this event, CLICK HERE for my photo set.

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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.


So our menu for the evening read as if off a streetside brasserie chalkboard in some Parisian arrondissement: gourgeres, leeks vinaigrette, trout Veronique, followed by duck a l'orange (with pomme mousseline), and ending in profiteroles.  And yet, by the end, save for the last few bites of salted caramel ice cream, Matt's food kept us enthralled, untarnished and awake through what might otherwise have been a 5-course hammer of gluttony come to smite us all into butter-induced weariness.  Here and there you catch glimpses of Boulud's restraint and of Jean-Georges' worldly balance, a real showing of lineage.


First in the gourgeres, where the acidity of the gooey Cloumage (a Shy Brothers' Farm cheese from Murray's) complemented the choux pastry.  This paired with an Alsatian Cremant frin Dirler-Cade that was very bubbly and minerally, and built upon the slow texture of the Cloumage with licorice, orange peel, and cherry hints.


Then, Chef Aita demonstrated the seven-minute creamy egg, careful to keep the water on a simmer and not a rolling boil, and afterwards pulsing them along with olive oil in the VitaPrep after a short stint in the ice bath.  The eggs were quite a nice, gussied-up alternative to a regular hard-boiled egg, lighter, more integrated with the tender leeks.  What rounded out the dish was a scattering of butter-fried croutons which were then tossed in salt & espilette pepper.  The crunch and gentle spiciness were a perfect foil for the creaminess of the dish.  For this, T Edward Wines offered a steely, smooth Chablis "Broc de Bique" from Damien & Romain Bouchard.  This balanced well with the tartness of the leeks, with a smoothness that ran parallel to the creamy eggs.

Next, Matt made what was the most beautifully composed dish of the night, a stunning trout Veronique that puts on display a colorful array of cauliflower florets and canadice grapes, and the aroma of brown butter splashed with Verjus du Perigord.


The duck a l'orange represented best what Matt has done at Le Philosophe, which is to take traditional French dishes and update them for a lighter palate without corrupting the flavors.  There isn't an overload of fruit or orange peel, nor is the sauce very sweet.  Instead you taste the spices through the caramel, and above all the seared skin and luxurious fatty meat of the duck, from which Matt has rendered already a good amount of fat by cooking it slowly on medium heat before finishing in the oven.  With the duck, we had a Chateauneuf du Pape blend of primarily Grenache, a strong, sweet wine that tasted great with the spice and juiciness of seared duck.


For dessert, we had a relatively straightforward serving of profiteroles, cut in half and filled with salted caramel ice cream and then topped with chocolate & crushed peanuts.  Simple, almost like a sundae.


Matt's food has succeeded in part because of a relentless focus on prime or smartly chosen ingredients, but also because he hasn't strayed that far from the ways of the old.  Fish is still pan-seared in butter, the choux pastry is still airy and delicate, the pomme mousseline is still rich.  He still adheres to the classic techniques, just with a careful eye towards subtle refinements.



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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