A New York Week

The Park Avenue Armory

A New York minute is the equivalent of an instant anywhere else. New York just moves at such a fast pace and so much gets packed into a period of time. Such was the case with the week I just spent in the City in conjunction with the 7th Annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress. I was there for a week, but packed a good month or more of eating and dining experience into that week.

The Kitchen at Governor

My week started out on Saturday night with a visit to Brooklyn to eat at the new restaurant helmed by Bradford McDonald, Governor. McDonald’s experience at noma shows as does the Mugaritz experience of his Executive Sous, Greg Kuzia-Carmel. The food can be broadly defined under the New Naturalism heading, but it doesn’t need any pigeon-holing. It was well presented and delicious! Celery root with grated Clothbound cheddar and egg yolk was particularly delicious and noteworthy (Flick’r Photoset).

Amazing lamb jerky from Border Springs Farm at the StarChefs International Chefs Congress

A big reason I was able to experience so much was that the reason I was in the City in the first place was to attend and cover the Seventh Annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress held at the Park Avenue Armory. Regular readers of this website will, of course, already know that. The ICC is great for following the latest trends and getting the inside scoop on what is happening now in the world of food as well as socializing. Just as importantly, though, is that it is a wonderful Congress for tasting so many outstanding food products as well as dishes prepared by some of the very best in the business. The sponsors can always be counted on for providing great bites prepared by top chefs and this year’s ICC incorporated a new program, EAT@ICC with  pop-ups by the likes of Matt Lightner, Katsuya Fukushima, Jordan Kahn, Michael Laiskonis and Dominic Ansel and food carts by chefs like Ken Oringer, Jennifer Carroll, Paul Qui, Richard Blais, Jeremiah Bullfrog, Sara Jenkins and more. Amongst the sponsors, some of the real standouts for me were the Iberico products from Spain (both cured and fresh), the American lamb jerky from Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm (I’ve never tasted more delicious jerky), the farmed (yes, farmed) New Zealand salmon from Ora King, Sam Mason’s flavored mayo products from Empire Mayonaisse Co. and Hong Cho vinegar drinks. There was plenty of great stuff to drink including beers from Chimay, Ommegang and others, wines and Natura water that kept me well hydrated as I ran here, there and everywhere around the armory. None of this even counts the tastes available at the various workshops and demos (e.g. fresh Montanara pizzas, sushi by Morimoto, Alexandre Gauthier’s creations, Angela Pinkerton’s desserts and Francisco Migoya’s bon bons). (Flick’r Photoset)

I had three full dinners in association with the ICC. On Sunday, I went to a Presenters party at the Andaz Fifth Avenue Hotel and feasted on a voluptuous Louisiana seafood raw bar prepared by Brian Landry of Borgne Restaurant in New Orleans. I’m not generally partial to eating Gulf oysters raw (I typically prefer those from the Northeast for their higher salinity), but the oysters shucked by Chef Landry were huge, pristine, full of natural salinity and simply outstanding. Landry also prepared blue crab “lollipops”. The crabs had been separated and cleaned so that one simply had to pick up the claw and feast on the body meat still attached. I also thoroughly enjoyed dishes from Woodberry Kitchen, Richard Blais, Marc Forgione and Robert Truitt and sumptuous cocktails from Audrey Saunders and Kenta Goto. I left my Canon home for this, so if you want to see the photos I took, please follow me on Instagram (docsconz).

Jose Duarte of taranta in Boston holding my two cocktails as well as his own.

After the always incredible StarChefs Monday evening cocktail party (where else can one carry a cocktail made by Dave Wondrich in one hand and one made by Dave Arnold in the other?), I attended a sponsored dinner at the lovely Peruvian Restaurant Raymi featuring dishes by StarChefs presenters Virgilio Martinez of the London, England restaurant Lima, Marilu Madueño Martinezof the Lima, Peru restaurant Huaca Pucllana and Raymi chef Jaime Pesaque. Peruvian flavors are so delicious and exciting. This dinner brought back wonderful memories of my own trip to Peru, where I had the pleasure of dining at Huaca Pucllana.

Jordan Kahn, Mathias Dahlgren and Francis Derby at The Andaz Wall Street Hotel.

 After the conclusion of the ICC, I had the opportunity to dine at a special dinner at the Andaz Wall Street restaurant Wall and Water joining two seemingly disparate talents as Jordan Kahn of Red Medicine in Los Angeles and Bocuse d’Or winner Mathias Dahlgren of his eponymous restaurants in Stockholm, Sweden. Truth was, their styles meshed beautifully with both creating food that was interesting, creative and tasty.It was a special way to end the Congress. (Flick’r photoset)

Kelly Hughett – Chef de Cuisine of Le Cirque

I stayed a few extra days in the City. Pete Wells recently took down the classic Le Cirque. A restaurant like Le Cirque is not typically on my dining radar, as I usually spend my time in NYC visiting restaurants I hadn’t been to before, but it had been quite some time since I had dined at Le Cirque and when I had, it was Le Cirque 2000. Had the quality really dropped? Curious, I wanted to see for myself and visited along with my sister. At my request, we were seated at the kitchen table, where we were treated like royalty. Though it was not the kind of dinner that I could or would want to eat every night – it was quite rich – the food and service were sublime. The sweetbreads, in particular, were so good, I could not take a sip of wine, lest I wash away their lingering sensual delight. Sitting in the kitchen, we were also able to observe the flow and attitudes of the staff. While certain to be on their best behavior, it is difficult to hide bad habits and none were observed. I was saddened to learn the very next day that Chef Olivier Reginensi was to be replaced as head chef in the wake of the Wells review. I will post further on this meal. (Flick’r Photoset)

Red Rooster – A Restaurant With Personality

The next day was a big food day. I took the A Train up to 125th St in Harlem for lunch at Red Rooster. This is a sharp restaurant that blends the disparate influences on Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s life into a seamless and tasty whole. His “Fried Yard Bird” has rightfully engendered a reputation for being delicious and unique within the fried chicken constituency, but it is far from the only wonderful dish on the menu. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Shrimp and Dirty Rice. (Flick’r Photoset)

White Roses – Centerpiece at Jungsik

That same evening I went downtown to Tribeca for dinner at the newly minted Michelin starred, Korean inflected Jungsik, which has totally revamped the space that was formerly the legendary Chanterelle. Jungsik does the space proud. The Korean influence is strong, but the food is clearly fine dining, prepared and served with  sophistication and elegance. There was heat in some of the dishes, but the burn was controlled and never hindered the development and exposition of flavor or texture when it was present. It wasn’t the prettiest dish or the easiest to photograph, but the Korean Risotto may have been my favorite. It combined a variety of great flavors and textures into a truly delicious and fun experience, keeping my attention through its kaleidoscopic journey over my taste buds. (Flick’r Photoset)

Troy Sidle Pouring a Ribbon at Pouring Ribbons

I followed dinner with my second visit of the week to the sensational new cocktail lounge, Pouring Ribbons. Run by the rock-star super-group of Toby Maloney, Troy Sidle and Joaquin Simó, the cocktails are delicious, inventive and fun and the setting ideal for conversation and sipping. It’s a bit out of the way for the rest of Manhattan, but it’s East Village location was easy for me to return to my comfortable hotel, The Maritime, just across town in Chelsea.

Fresh Fish – Chinatown

The next morning was perfect for strolling all over lower Manhattan from the Highline Park to Chelsea Market, where I had the one down bite of my week, a terribly tasteless and dry shrimp “ceviche” from the usually reliable The Lobster Place. I continued to Union Square for the Green Market and down to The World Trade Center and back up through Chinatown, Soho and into the East Village for an extraordinary dinner at Empellón Cocina featuring the wonderful Enrique Olvera in the first of what promises to be a superb collaborative dinner series at Empellón Cocina called “The Push Project.” The next one will feature Alex Stupak’s former co-worker and former pastry-now-savory chef, Jordan Kahn of L.A.’s Red Medicine. (Flick’r Photoset)

Enrique Olvera and Alex Stupak in the Kitchen at Empellón Cocina

In this dinner Stupak, his wife Lauren Resler and his agave expert brother-in-law Matt Resler, teamed with Olvera to create an utterly delicious and star-studded dinner. Though the dishes were creative and not clearly traditional, they were undoubtedly “Mexican” in their influence and spirit. Olvera’s Chilpachole de Almejas y Raiz de Cilantro was but one unforgettable dish to come from this dinner, which appropriately ended this memorable week as my wife and I drove back to our upstate home upon its conclusion.


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