I do love Paris. I do love NYC. Paris in NYC? With the Le Fooding D'Amour at P.S. 1 Contemporary Arts Center in Long Island City this past weekend, I had the opportunity to find out. The whole process started with a particularly obtuse way of having to secure tickets. One had to keep an eye on affiliated websites and when they posted a code one could take that code to the Le Fooding website. For each posting there were only so many tickets allotted and of those only a very few $60 VIP tickets that would allow for early admission and unlimited Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne for that additional hour.
Just as I was about to give up and say to hell with it, I was alerted that a code was available. Once I retrieved it, I entered it and lo and behold there were still tickets available, although only the regular $30 variety. I bought a couple for the Friday night and my friend Joe managed to get a couple for the Saturday event.
At the beginning of the week, I received an unexpected email from Action Against Hunger, the organization that was the principal beneficiary of the event, offering a time sensitive upgrade opportunity for my Friday evening tickets. Though it cost an extra $30/ticket, it turned out that I had one a lottery of sorts. It was money very well spent.
Friday evening was cool and crisp, perfect for an outdoor event if one had a sweater or a jacket. I did. I arrived about 15 minutes before the scheduled 6PM opening and met my friend Joe. There were separate lines for the VIPs entering at 6 and the regulars who would enter around 7PM. We were surprisingly towards the front of the VIP line, which surprisingly never really got that long. It took a little while to check id's against a guest list, but the doors finally opened around 6:15 allowing the line of VIP's to stream in.
The courtyard of the Arts Center was filled with what looked like mohair covered tents that reminded me of a combination of Mongolian yurts and an oversized egg crate. The setting was pretty cool. For that initial hour we were free to roam through the space with minimal food lines and plenty of champagne to wash the food down. As an added bonus the champagne was served in cool, high quality plastic flutes that were quite collectible.
The event was a picnic. While none of the food absolutely wowed me, the reality was that most of it was quite good and for those of us lucky enough to score VIP tickets, the event was quite a bargain. It was cool to be served the Bo Ssam directly from David Chang, who commented on how simple they were to prepare. They must have been because they had no problem staying ahead of a line despite their popularity. simple or not, they were quite tasty.
Even at that early point of the evening, some of the other stands could not avoid developing a line. Christophe Pelé of Bigarrade in Paris served barbecued sirloin steak with some fish in a novel attempt at surf and turf, but it took him and his stuff enough time to put the dish together so that a relatively slow-moving line formed fairly quickly.
Wylie Dufresne offered "grilled chicken necks, yuzu marmalade, delﬁno," a somewhat messy, but delicious dish that rewarded those with enogh patience to gnaw the meat off the complex vertebral structure. Wylie enjoyed doing something completely different from what he would serve in the restaurant, doing so without a single modern flourish other than the combination of ingredients.
In the same courtyard as Dufresne, William Ledeuil of Paris' Ze Kitchen Gallerie made palate dancing "grilled marinated pork ribs, “Teriyaki Pineapple” lemon grass" with eggplant puree that proved to be one of my two favorite dishes of the evening. The pace of production was such that the supply matched the demand with ribs arriving hot and fresh off the grill before a quick finish by the chef. They were truly delicious.
The last stand in that courtyard belonged to Sean Rembold of Brooklyn's Diner who prepared the amazingly delicious "fried corn with scallop butter" using fresh corn from long Island. The corn received a quick dip in the deep fryer before being slathered with the scallop laden butter and some greens. The lines here were quite short early, but grew quickly once word got out.
My only real disappointment of the night was Yves Camdeborde's "Mini Henry IV casserole with creamed cow’s cheese," a soup that while decent, really was not that much better than a decent canned soup (decent and canned not ordinarily uttered in the same breath by me) I found the dish to be lacking in depth and flavor and was the only one that I did not return to for seconds. That this would come from the legendary Camdeborde, former chef of the groundbreaking Regelade and currently of Le Comptoir du Relais, was something I did not expect.
The vibe changed considerably once the floodgates opened and the rest of the crowd entered. No longer was access to the chefs, food or champagne so easy and in the case of the champagne, so cheap. Alcoholic beverages were now sold with a bargain of three drinks (a glass of wine, a glass of champagne and a cocktail) available for $30. Individually, each drink was now $12. Despite the crowd, the event maintained a sophisticated vibe with great tunes playing and hidden spots to sit, eat, drink and talk available for discovery.
As good a time as we had, it was apparent to Joe and I, that we would be unlikely to have as good a time the following night without the upgraded VIP access, so we were able to transfer our entry to a charming young blogger we met and chatted with for part of the evening.
As for Paris in New York, the event incorporated some of the more hip features of contemporary Paris as well as contemporary N.Y. to result in a unique and fun evening. Of course, it doesn't replace a real trip to paris, but then one wouldn't have the NYC blend. I went into the evening thinking that it would likely be great or a disaster. It certainly was not the latter. While I would hesitate to bestow the word "great", it was fun, unusual and a worthy way to donate $60 to a worthwhile charity.