Unfortunately I arrived late for Friday's Omnivore chef demonstrations, catching the end of George Mendes, the final presenter. I arrived early on Saturday in time to catch Carlo Mirarchi's demo. Mirarchi is the chef at Roberta's Pizza, a restaurant in Brooklyn that has received plenty of attention. Despite its name, Roberta's is much more than a pizza place, a fact made readily apparent during Mirarchi's demonstration. Chef Mirarchi explained that at Roberta's they cook what they like to eat themselves. Unfortunately, I have yet to dine there, but based upon this demo, I certainly would like to, as I think that I also would like to eat the same things that Chef Mirarchi likes to eat!
Saturday in NYC was insufferably hot and the Invisible Dog, the location in Brooklyn of the bulk of the Omnivore events other than "The Friendly Dinners." most of which were held in restaurants, was no exception. Lacking A/C, but equipped with powerful fans, the room required a trade-off of comfort vs. acoustics, as the noise of the fans made hearing the demonstrations difficult. The room's inherent acoustics didn't help matters either, as even without the fans, it was difficult to hear. Unfortunately, it seemed that the stifling heat had a negative effect on the turnout for both Friday and more so Saturday, as the room was quite empty while I was there. Due to another obligation, I couldn't stay much much past Mirarchi's initial presentation, which got a late start as it was.
Despite the challenges presented by the environment and the space, Mirarchi's demonstration was quite interesting. He prepared two dishes, with the first using a whole lamb carcass as the source for his dish, simply entitled "Breakfast." Mirarchi butchered the ribs and breast of the lamb, cut off pieces of meat from that and using transglutaminase, doubled it over to create a nice piece of "belly." He cooks the belly slowly sous vide and then finishes it in a hot pan. By virtue of the transglutaminase, the belly in the pan has a tendency to "spit" a lot, which he called "a lot of fun", especially when the kitchen is getting slammed. The belly is cooked in the pan until the exterior is sufficiently browned, It is then plated along with a perfectly cooked quail egg and various vegetables to create a beautiful plate.
Mirarchi sliced up some sea scallops and handed out pieces for audience members to taste in its raw state. He opined on how sweet and delicious these scallops are even without any accompaniment. He then prepared a dish highlighting the native flavor of the scallops. He created a "scallop water" from the generally unused adductor muscles of the scallop and used this concentrated flavor as a sauce vehicle for a scallop that was seared on one side only, with the other side remaining close to raw. Once again, this was a beautiful dish.
It's a shame that the Omnivore demonstrations didn't get more attention than they did. based upon Carlo Mirarchi's demonstration, which was the only one I witnessed from start to finish, it was worth paying attention to. The dinners were also of great interest, though I only had the opportunity to attend one. More on that will come soon!