Enjoying Disfrutar

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The legendary elBulli has passed into history. It is almost four years since the last meal was served there. With elBulli gone, its Vanguardist style of cooking has become largely overshadowed by the New Naturalism movement led by Rene Redzepi and others. A big reason for the eclipse is that the elBulli style of Vanguardism is very, very difficult to do well. It incorporates a special blend of technical wizardry, skill, culinary insight, creativity and perhaps most importantly, whimsy. A number of chefs who have developed their own Vanguardist styles still follow the path, but when it comes to the elBulli style, the field is very narrow when it comes to who does it and even narrower for who does it well. It should come as no surprise that Albert Adriá’s restaurants in Barcelona, especially Tickets and 41º do a great job of evoking the culinary spirit of elBulli and they make great substitutes for that experience. It should also not be a surprise that the new Barcelona restaurant owned and run by Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas, called Disfrutar (to enjoy), does it just as well. This is no surprise because this trio, along with Albert Raurich were, for years, the main men in the kitchen of elBulli along with the Adriá brothers. This trio of Casañas, Castro and Xatruch have done an outstanding job of not just keeping the past of elBulli alive, but in creating a whole new canon of dishes and techniques to extend the future of the movement and have done so with great style. Continue reading

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Home Cooking By Bill Telepan

20150109untitled-EF24-105mm f-4L IS USMBU4A1743073I have been fortunate enough to have had some chef friends come and cook in my home. This time, however, it wasn’t my home, but the home of my very good friends, Joe, and Donna. They along with Joe’s brother and his wife, won the dinner at a charity auction to benefit The Wellness in the Schools program in NYC. Their prize was a dinner for ten people cooked in their home by the noted NYC chef and restaurateur, Bill Telepan, a veteran of star NYC kitchens including Daniel, Le Bernardin, Gotham Bar & Grill, Judson Grill and his eponymous, Telepan. Largely under the international jet-set radar, Bill Telepan is a chef’s chef, a New Yorker’s chef, and after this dinner I understand why. Continue reading

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Back to Bodega 1900

20150210untitled-EF24-105mm f-4L IS USMBU4A9898003Bodega 1900, from the astounding Albert Adriá collection of restaurants, is one whose memory grows into the stuff of legend. I was there with my son a year ago and found it to be totally beguiling. One dish, the grilled Pluma Ibérica Joselito, was so good, that it stood for an entire class of grilled, fresh Ibérico steaks as my best dish of 2014. Finding myself back in Barcelona and focused on visiting restaurants new to me, I made a single exception to return to this one. This time, though, other than their house Vermouth and the same Pluma Ibérica Joselito, I did not repeat any dishes. I am thrilled to report, that this meal was every bit as delicious as the previous one. Continue reading

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A Chat With Paco Mendez of Hoja Santa and Niño Viejo

Paco Mendez, the chef of Albert Adriá’s two new Mexican restaurants in  Barcelona, Hoja Santa and Niño Viejo, sat down with me when I was there,  to discuss how the restaurants came about, some of the challenges and what the response to them has been. The chef has done a brilliant job translating the cuisine of Mexico to Spain.

A Chat with Paco Mendez from John Sconzo on Vimeo.

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Albert Adriá and Paco Mendez Make Mexican Magic in Barcelona – Part Two – Hoja Santa

Albert Adriá at Tickets

Albert Adriá at Tickets

Genius” is one of those words that gets bandied about, perhaps a bit too freely, in many cases diluting its meaning. One definition of the word from The Oxford English Dictionary is,

“A person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect.”

There are few, if any, people in the world of food more deserving of this descriptor than Albert Adriá, the pastry wizard and one of the creative masterminds behind elBulli. His work creating new techniques and amazing culinary preparations certainly fit the above definition, but fewer people may realize the extraordinary talent he has in creating restaurants. At the moment, Albert Adriá and his team are operating 5 distinct restaurants in a single neighborhood of Barcelona, with a sixth,  41º/Enigma,  in redevelopment and relocation, and a new project on the island of Ibiza in conjunction with his brother, Ferran, along with the Cirque du Soleil. Each and every one of the restaurants is truly exceptional in terms of the quality of the experience from food, to service, to environment. What really makes Adriá and his restaurants stand out, though is that while they share a consistent style and approach, they are, each and every one, totally different in culinary conception. I have been extremely fortunate to have experienced each of the existing restaurants as well as 41º before it closed for its overhaul. I recently had the opportunity to dine at Adriá’s two newest restaurants, both of Mexican provenance. It is Adriá’s ability to take wildly divergent culinary influences and create restaurants that channel authenticity with originality, creating outstanding dining experiences in each, that make me consider that the word “genius” may apply to him in this capacity as well as his capacity of directly creating food. Continue reading

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Reflections on The Bocuse D’Or 2015

Bocuse d'Or 2015Day TwoSIRHALyon, FranceJanuary 28th, 2015

The winners – Tessier (USA – silver), Johannessen (Norway – gold) & Myllymaki (Sweden – bronze)

I have now attended each of the past four Bocuse d’Or competitions in Lyon starting in 2009 and each has been special in its own way, filled with hope and promise. This last one was best of all as the hope and promise translated into success and standing on the podium with the United States earning the Bocuse d’Argent (2nd Place silver), the very first medal and podium stand ever for the United States. Couple that with a thrilling third place for the United States team in the Coupe du Monde de Patisserie, the pastry equivalent of the Bocuse and the United States has a lot to be proud of and excited about for its culinary future. Continue reading

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Albert Adriá and Paco Mendez Make Mexican Magic in Barcelona – Part One- Niño Viejo

20150124untitled-EF24-105mm f-4L IS USMBU4A1907011The magic of Mexican food depends a lot on the indigenous ingredients of Mexico and has, until recently, outside of a few special places in the United States (e.g Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo and Frontera Grill), been extremely difficult to reproduce with high fidelity elsewhere. In recent years, as the availability of key ingredients has improved, the quality of Mexican cooking within the United States has increased exponentially with excellent quality popping up throughout North America. New York City has been the epicenter of this new development led by the likes of Alex Stupak with his burgeoning stable of both creative and traditional Mexican restaurants and the recent arrival of Enrique Olvera’s marvelous modernist, Cosme, amongst others. Europe would seem to present a much higher degree of logistical difficulty, but over the past year or two, Spain, in particular, has witnessed the opening of a number of high profile Mexican restaurants. None, however, are higher profile than the two opened in Barcelona by Albert Adriá and Paco Mendez. The germination of these restaurants occurred about six years ago when Mendez, who hails from the Distrito Federal (Mexico City) was working at elBulli. He and Albert Adriá thought it would be fun to open a Mexican restaurant in Barcelona. Since that time, the duo have been doing research throughout Mexico and over the past two years or so, have put the idea on the front burner, opening not one, but two Mexican restaurants within the past six months. The results, as with anything touched by Albert Adriá, are astonishing. Continue reading

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The USA Takes Silver at the 2015 Bocuse D’Or!

I’ve bee to this and the previous three Bocuse d’Or competitions in Lyon, France and the United States has always gone in with a strong team and high hopes, only for those hopes to have been dashed. Not so this year, as The French Laundry sous chef Philip Tessier along with his commis, Skylar Stover,, under the direction of Coach Gavin Kaysen along with the Team President, Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud, did not disappoint, coming away with a major upset only 10 measly points away from the Gold, which was won by Norway. Sweden, the heavy favorites going in, took the Bronze. Here is my view of the announcement,

Bocuse d”Argent 2015 from John Sconzo on Vimeo.

There will be plenty more to come from this blog in the 2015 Bocuse competition and the US gaining of the podium.

In the meantime, here is a link to the full results of the competition.

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It’s Time! Bocuse d’Or World Finals 2015!

Logo Bocuse 2015 JPEGWhile the northeastern United States will be busy digging out from a monster snow storm, a storm of a different sort is about to descend upon the Eurexpo Pavilion and the SIRHA show in Lyon, France – the world finals of the Bocuse d’Or 2015! (Click on the link for more detailed background info). Continue reading

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Clear Ice With Eamon Rockey

If you follow my Instagram feed it should be apparent that as much as I enjoy drinking a nice cocktail every now and again, I also enjoy making them. While I have managed to put together a pretty versatile and quality home bar, I have been lacking one of the items that help to make a cocktail soigné – clear ice. While working on a video with Betony General Manager and  barman extraordinaire, Eamon Rockey, we also had a discussion on how to make clear ice. Here’s what Eamon had to say.

Clear Ice With Eamon Rockey from John Sconzo on Vimeo. Continue reading

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