The second day of the StarChefs ICC has everything that the first day has, but it also has the cocktail party at the end of the day as well as a variety of top notch cocktails available throughout the day. The real beauty, though, is not just that there are cocktails available – any booze joint can provided that – but that the cocktails are made by some of the best in the business. Short of the annual New Orleans based tales of the Cocktail event, there probably isn’t a more concentrated gathering of cocktail illuminati slinging their stuff anywhere and all for no additional cost. With people like Audrey Saunders, Kenta Goto, Derek Brown, Juan Coronado, Joe Rayas and others delivering the libations how could it be anything less than a fantastic party?
The pastry chefs were at it early again with ten continuing on from the day before and only three, Meg Galus, Thomas Raquel and Sean Pera making it through to the next day. Where Day 1’s competition focused on pre-desserts, the second day featured plated desserts.
Bleary eyes came in early for the morning’s workshops and business sessions. The likes of Kevin Sbraga, Jeremiah Bullfrog and others discussed their experiences appearing on Chef oriented reality tv programs like Top Chef, while three different savory workshops competed for attention. James Beard award winner Michael Solomonov shared some of his secrets for making delicious Middle eastern dishes like he does at his Philadelphia restaurant Zahav. Focusing his workshop on using the ingredient tahini, Solomonov’s hummus was creamy and as delicious as any that I have ever tasted. He also featured a beet salad, whose flavors were made complex by tahini and a delicious rustic harrisa, all of which were served with freshly baked Israeli style pitas. Zahav has been on my personal radar for a while, but after this presentation, it has rocketed up my get-to list.
While Solomonov was finessing tahini, the station directly adjacent to his featured Chicago’s cooking Sheerin brothers, Michael and Patrick, waxed on about the joyous intricacies of frying. They have taken a scientific approach to the age old technique and have created dishes with great flavor and texture that go well beyond the usual fried norm, even when approaching such well known fried delights as tater tots. Their version, crispy on the outside with a creamy exterior is acidified with dill pickles and elevated with a colorful yogurt sauce made red by beets and savory with dehydrated onions and finished with their own cured chicken breast bresaola. A second delightful dish combined poached duck hearts and gizzards with livers and onions into a torchon that was frozen, cut and fried with a final plating that featured a variety of contrasting flavors and textures including an egg yolk “jam.”
The third savory workshop was no less interesting than he others. This one featured the modernist technique of sous vide in the preparation of both traditional and contemporary dishes as interpreted by Anthony Sasso of the NYC Spanish restaurant Casa Mono and James Briscione of the Institute of Culinary Education. The pair delved into the nitty gritty of the technique including temps and times for various items. The reward at the end of the session was some fabulous sous vide cooked venison racks as well as a few other delights.
My cocktail infatuation began early with the next set of events. Derek Brown, the classicist Mixologist from The Columbia Room in Washington DC has become infatuated with sherries to the point of opening another place, Mockingbird Hill, devoted to these wonderfully food friendly Spanish wines. I believe that sherries have been seriously under-appreciated for years and agree with Brown that they are poised for a resurgence. With Mario Hiraldo Regalado cutting Spanish jamones, Brown educated the audience on the complexities and varieties of sherries, both with tastes of sherries paired with Spanish jams and with sherries used in cocktails. His Adonis cocktail was a wonderfully delicious and balanced variation on a Manhattan substituting Amontillado Sherry for Rye or Bourbon. These are the cocktails poured in the photo at the top of this post.
Iberophiles faced a significant conflict as Anthony Sasso and Kerin Auth simultaneously paired Sasso’s dishes with a variety of Rueda Verdejo wine styles to highlight the different ways the grape is featured in the region.
The day on the Main Stage began with a couple of Oddfellows. The dynamic and ever entertaining duo of Sam Mason and Johnny Iuzzini discussed their way of making contemporary ice creams. Known for unusual flavor combinations that work as well as a flair for contemporary technique, the pair did not disappoint. Liquid nitrogen is a major tool that they used in one instance to freeze whiskey that was then incorporated in flavor packed pockets of the ice cream. Another example had mini marshmallows deep frozen then torched without becoming gooey and unworkable. Mason also achieves greatness using infusions – in one instance he infused cream with prosciutto and then incorporated deep frozen melon sorbet within the cream to create a prosciutto and melon ice cream.
ICC’s have always incorporated visually dramatic presentations such as the one done on the prior day by April Bloomfield’s team as well as those in past years from Morimoto. This time, Elias Cairo from Portland Oregon’s Olympic Provisions broke down an entire Australian Lamb. Using knives and a hacksaw, Cairo separated the carcass into four sections – the front, which includes the neck and the forelimbs, the rack, the saddle and the rear legs. At each point Cairo illustrated potential uses of each cut and described curing a leg, Greek style to arrive at a type of ham.
As Cairo was finishing his Main Stage demo, modern mixologist Juan Coronado of barmini, the cocktail bar associated with Jose Andres’ minibar in DC was starting his workshop. Coronado is all about creativity, complexity, deliciousness and surprise in his cocktails, with tastes offered up to the audience throughout. Ultimately, the cocktail is all about enjoyment and fun. A prime example was Coronado’s “Poor Man’s Pretension,” a cocktail that put together spirits made from the ingredients that also comprise beer. Served in a beer bottle, it was clever, delicious, refreshing and fun.
Lunch was no less enticing than the previous day with highlights including fabulous sepia croquetas right out of the fryer by Dani Garcia, pastas prepared by Shola Olunloyo and the most incredible donuts ever – Peruvian picarones, amongst a myriad of other delights!
Main Stage presentations resumed with Bryan Voltaggio of Range in DC, who created a cornucopia of creative pasta flavors and shapes using the Arcobalena pasta extruder. In one dish, he used Asian flavors of gochujang and kim chee to create a pasta that he paired with scallops, uni, soy, mirin and lemongrass. It gets me hungry just writing it. Another pasta was made a pumpkin shaped pasta that was sauced with a tangy pumpkin puree, turkey tails, gochujang, and shiitakes.
It was readily apparent from her exhibit of edible food art on the floor of the Products fair, Janice Wong of 2am Dessert Bar in Singapore can make food look artsy and beautiful. With the samples of miso-caramel, miso-yuzu ice cream, and mustard crumble that she passed out to the audience during her presentation, it was clear that it could also be delicious and inventive. Wong was this year’s presenter, who new to me, caught my attention based upon her level of creativity. With one book published and a second coming, Wong freely shares her creative ideas. Now, how to get to Singapore?
After a short break and some more nibbles from the likes of Francis Derby and Shuna Lydon and sips of beer from Single Cut Beersmiths, it was back to the Main Stage for the energetic and educational demo from Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot, the team that are the creative duo behind Ideas in Food. Having just published their second book, Maximum Flavor, their presentation was all about, you guessed it, maximizing flavor, something they are indeed, exceedingly good at. In this case they demoed a preparation that they made the night before for the StarChefs presenters and sponsors party. Using a whole beef ribeye, Aki broke it down, while Alex manipulated it and did most of the talking. In addition to maximizing the flavor of the dish, they maximized the usefulness of the cut as they utilized every aspect of it in creating their dish. For detailed descriptions of their technique, I could not do better than link to their own website. Unless you are a brand new reader of my blog, you will likely be quite familiar with theirs.
The last presentation of the day belonged to Dani Garcia of NYC’s Manzanilla and Spain’s Calima. Garcia utilized the Vanguardist techniques that he has become well known for to create dishes that showed finesse and flavor. Using Japanese rice paper, he made a wafer that was both delicate and impeccably crisp while holding on to deeply delicious shrimp flavors. It was a fun and entertaining way to finish the day’s presentations before wandering through the always fun and delicious StarChefs ICC cocktail party.
With beverages from Audrey Saunders and Kenta Goto, Derek Brown, Juan Coronado and others, the party was rocking and rolling, creating the perfect segue for more dining and fun.
For more photos please see my Flick’r Photoset.