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).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.
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)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) 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) 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) 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. 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) 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.