I have been fortunate enough to have had some chef friends come and cook in my home. This time, however, it wasn’t my home, but the home of my very good friends, Joe, and Donna. They along with Joe’s brother and his wife, won the dinner at a charity auction to benefit The Wellness in the Schools program in NYC. Their prize was a dinner for ten people cooked in their home by the noted NYC chef and restaurateur, Bill Telepan, a veteran of star NYC kitchens including Daniel, Le Bernardin, Gotham Bar & Grill, Judson Grill and his eponymous, Telepan. Largely under the international jet-set radar, Bill Telepan is a chef’s chef, a New Yorker’s chef, and after this dinner I understand why.
Chef Telepan and his team of three including a cook, a waiter and a dishwasher, showed up at 7PM for an 8PM Friday night dinner. While the meal was to be cooked and served in the home, they brought everything already prepped out. My friend’s kitchen is built for cooking and is very well equipped, but it is still a NYC apartment kitchen. Watching Telepan and his team orchestrate the space and choreograph their moves with precision and finesse was as riveting as a well-produced work of theater. It can’t be easy moving into someone else’s kitchen, no matter how well used, and immediately own it enough to produce stellar food, but Telepan and his team did just that.
Joe and his guests, including my wife and I, supplied the wines, but Bill Telepan supplied the food and the muscle to prepare it. All of the serviceware belonged to my friends, but as with the wines, they could have been supplied by the restaurant as well.
The evening started with passed hors d’ouvres. First there were cheddar gougeres, light, fluffy and filled with cheesy flavor – cheese puffs for adults.
Cape May oysters were served with Meyer lemon and horseradish. The combination was startling. The horseradish was used with restraint, providing only enough kick to make the oysters pop, while the Meyer lemon added a sweet acidity to the oceanic brine. Usually, I’m a purist when it comes to oysters and though I might like particular oyster preparations, I typically prefer them au natural with just a squeeze of lemon. These, however, were outstanding, with a flavor that was noticeable and truly complementary to the luscious, freshly shucked bivalves.
A terrine of foie gras was sliced into manageable chunks and passed along with the other hors d’ouvres. The bites were rich, luscious and ever-enticing. By this time, it had become quite evident that we were going to be in for a very special evening.
The last of the passed hors d’ouvres was a tray filled with spoons of whipped goat cheese with balsamic cherries and almonds. These were good, but the least special of the hors d’ouvres. I would have liked a stronger flavor from the goat cheese itself, which was quite mild.
After the passed hor’ d’ouvres and a lot of conversation, we sat at the nicely appointed table for the first formal course. If the foie gras wasn’t enough of a statement, this showed there would be no holding back on luxury. House-smoked trout was served atop black radish sour cream and a buckwheat-potato blini and topped with an extremely generous dollop of fine osetra caviar. I’m not one that gets off on luxury ingredients for their own sake, but this really was luxurious with a truly decadent mouth feel and wonderful flavors. The trout was particularly superb.
It was extra fun watching the preparations happening in the kitchen. I was up from my seat on a number of occasions because I was truly interested in the act of food preparation. Besides, I can’t resist watching lobster tails being cooked by an expert. Telepan finished these on the stove with butter. They had been halved and prepped at the restaurant, but cooked in the kitchen.
The purpose of the lobster tails was to top one of Bill Telepan’s signature dishes – his Lobster Bolognese. I don’t eat a lot of pasta anymore, but this was one dish that I devoured. It had tremendous lobster flavor and was pure sin in every way. I loved it and worried later.
Telepan finished some beautiful Nebraska grass-fed rib-eyes in the apartment as well. I enjoyed watching him cook and slice the gorgeous beef.
Kistler Cuvée Natalie Pinot Noir made a superb accompaniment to the meat.
As much as I enjoyed watching the preparation of the main course, i enjoyed eating it even more. The dry-aged beef was cooked to a perfect degree of doneness and was saturated with deep, beefy flavor. It was served atop a bed of garlic potato hash and seasonal vegetables consisting mostly of brussels sprouts, spinach and mushrooms with a beefy sauce slathered on top.
My wife and I had brought down a few cheeses from The Cheese Traveler, a wonderful, small cheese shop in Albany, NY, for the dinner. The Rogue River blue was a particularly lovely match for the 1985 Fonseca Port.
Chef Telepan wasn’t finished, though. He still had a few desserts to put out. His Meyer Lemon and Meringue Pie with citrus and white chocolate salad was just lovely.
His Peanut Butter and Chocolate Gianduja was even more outstanding. Somehow, I remained a good boy and just tasted them. It wasn’t easy.
If this meal was any indication, Chef Bill Telepan’s food is not Vanguardist nor particularly trendy. It is, however, built from superb product and designed to satisfy. Bill Telepan IS a chef’s chef because he knows how to cook and does it very, very well, serving timeless, beautifully presented food that is just plain delicious. This was a dinner won at a charity auction for a charity near and dear to the chef’s heart. He pulled out all the stops on one of the busiest restaurant night’s of the week. My wife and I were very fortunate recipients of this bountiful benefaction with fabulous company and look forward to next time enjoying a marvelous meal at the restaurant!