Article and Photographs By Dina Ribaudo
The dream starts with me sipping a glass of Nicholas Feuilatte Champagne. I glide hazily into a large warehouse filled with enticing smells and swarms of chattering people. The crowd parts for me creating a clear path to who I recognize to be Chef Masaharu Morimoto. As I approach with a smile he respectfully bows his head, and unexpectedly shoves a spoonful of Mini foie gras chawan mushi into my mouth. It is at this moment that I realized I am not only awake, but one of the luckiest women in Manhattan. I am at New York magazine’s Tenth Annual TASTE.
Culinary Editor Gillian Duffy gathered 40 renowned chef’s from New York City’s finest restaurants, and a few special guests, to represent in one room. All the sensations were overwhelming at first, so I attempted a plan of attack using the provided map. That lasted all of twenty minutes.
My favorite experiences were so diverse. Per Se, with the exquisite Hudson Valley moulard duck foie gras with prune marmalade in brioche from Chef Jonathan Benno, was truly love at first bite. There was swine as far as the eye could see, but Chef Damian Sansonetti of Bar Boulud stole my heart by preparing the Berkshire pig with brussel sprouts and radishes. It did tug at my conscience a bit to have a pig stare at me while I indulged, so I turned my back on him.
Craving seafood I headed toward Chef Tom Aikens of Restaurant Tom Aikens; an exciting import from London whose self named restaurant is Michelin Starred. I believe his dish, Salt cod brandade with cucumber and herb salad, to be my favorite of the evening as it has held my palates memory the best. He wasn’t the only Londoner about, Chef Anthony Demetre owner of Michelin Star restaurants Arbutus and Wild Honey caught my attention not only with his food, but with his warm and friendly personality. Chatting openly about his ups and downs of the evening, he stated that his one regret was missing a taste of the Smoked haddock chowder with homemade crackers by Chef April Bloomfield. Wanting to give something back I made my way over to The Spotted Pig table and managed to return with enough chowder for Chef Demetre, Chef Aikens and some of their crew.
As I was chatting the boys up about my upcoming trip to London I couldn’t help but spot a head of handsome dread locks from across the room. In my mind it could only be one of two people, Michael Franti of Spearhead, or Chef Govind Armstrong of Table 8. Given the style of this event I went with the latter assumption and excused myself to confirm or deny the fact.
I was pleasantly surprised to find myself face to face with Chef Govind for the second time in four years.
He was a gracious and welcoming host, serving Crisp goose breast with chestnut dumpling, cipollini confit and pomegranate. It was an inspired change from all the pig in the room. He was another chef in need of sustenance, but of the bubbly kind. Easily manipulated, I brought him a glass of Feuilatte and he told me of his new endeavors. Table 8, of L.A. and Miami fame, will open in The Cooper Square Hotel on Manhattan, while the L.A. location is moving down the street from its original spot on Melrose.
In its place is his new concept, a gourmet burger bar called 8 Oz, that has a menu that simply demolishes any other burger joint hands down. Not to mention the release of his first cookbook in 2007; Small Bites, Big Nights; Seductive Little Plates for Intimate Occasions and Lavish Parties. This man can manifest some big ideas.
I next visited Bacardi whose election themed drinks made me smile. With the stress of voting looming the next day, mixologist Jonathan Pogash created the Maverick, using Bacardi 8 and El Presidente for Change using El Presidente Bacardi. Chef for Bacardi, Carmen Gonzalez shared a recipe for Pork Bites with Bacardi O Drunken Chimichurri (found below).
Another memorable dish was Octopus carpaccio with celery, spiced gelee and sweet potatoes, prepared by Chef Marco Canora, owner of Insieme in The Michaelangelo Hotel. The octopus was perfectly tender and delicately, yet affectively flavored. Nearby, Chef Bill Telepan, of Telepan, served a delightful Dried fruit and duck sausage with an autumn panzanella.
Searching out more cocktails, I am pleased to find a familiar and welcoming face in Giuseppe Gonzalez at the Flatiron Lounge table. Along with mixologist and Co-Owner Julie Reiner he presents me with a refreshing and palate cleansing Lima Sour made with Barsol pisco, lemon juice, demerara syrup, yellow Chartreuse, egg white, muddled strawberry, and a dash of Angostura Bitters.
They explain that while he used to be at her Manhattan location, Flatiron Lounge, he is now at the newer Brooklyn spot Clover Club. I am thankful to know this, as it is rare to come across a bartender as passionate and knowledgeable as Giuseppe. He even wears the traditional barman’s sleeve cuffs that belonged to his father in the days before tailored sleeves.
My last surprise was the presence of PDT, one of my most frequented speakeasy’s in town. With a secret entrance and required reservations, those in the know are in for a treat. Today they’ve made a cocktail with one of my preferred Italian digestivos; Strega or “Witch’s Potion”. They’ve named it the drink The Witch’s Kiss, combining the Strega with Platino Tequila, lemon juice and apple butter.
The Hazelnut croustillant with orange granite from Chef Sandro Micheli for Adour, Alain Ducasse seemed like the logical place to end my dream sequence, and I did not regret it. I wanted a second bite, but by now had no room in my stomach.
I took a load off of my favorite heeled, open toe ankle boots in event sponsor Virgin Atlantic’s makeshift first class. Sales Representative Sean Patton showed me all the amenities from the ability to share a table for dinner to creating a complete bed out of your seat.
I made sure to pay a visit to their charity sponsor City Harvest. Serving New York City for more than 25 years, City Harvest is the world’s first food rescue organization. This year, City Harvest will collect 23 million pounds of excess food from all areas of the food industry, including restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers and farms. This food is then delivered free of charge to more than 600 community food programs throughout New York City using a fleet of trucks and bikes as well as volunteers on foot. Each week, City Harvest helps over 260,000 hungry New Yorkers find their next meal.
Thank you to Lauren Starke at New York Magazine for the opportunity for Swell City Guide be in attendance at such a wonderful event.