Lobster & Pumpkin Bisque from Millesime
Given the Michelin star and fine dining pedigree of Chef Laurent Manrique of Millesime, I don’t believe that his cooking is bent towards “comfort food”. But his dish of lobster and pumpkin bisque with tarragon foam was the absolute perfect comfort food for fall. It was like a warm blanket of soup, recalling not only delicate lobster flavors but pumpkin pie, hot mulled ciders and falling autumn leaves.
Crab “Cake” from Le Bernardin
I’m sure that almost every attendee of this event had sky-high expectations of what Chef Eric Ripert and his crew at Le Bernardin would bring to the table. Their offering of a warm crab “cake” with tequila guacamole with potato crisps and an aji pepper and lime emulsion not only met my expectations, but hit the ball out of the park. At these high-volume events, one typically doesn’t expect generosity or polish, but these deconstructed crab cakes received an extra heavy dose of sweet, gorgeous crab meat. Opponents of the deconstruction technique may scoff at this dish but close your eyes, take a bite and… yes, that’s a crab cake and a damn fine one at that.
Organic Beef Sliders from Bare Burger
There were understandably many many varieties of sliders on hand at the event, as they tend to be crowd-pleasing, quick to assemble dishes. Of all the sliders, I the single bite that held my memory was the ridiculously juicy and beefy sliders from Bare Burger.
Fluke Crudo from The Standard Grill
Raw fish was also a popular item, and various forms of crudo and sushi graced many a table that evening. Not that these chefs are playing it safe, for its easy to overpower or overcomplicate such a delicate and clean dish. I found that Dan Silverman’s team from The Standard Grill struck some good notes with their preparation of fluke, which was introduced to a bit of minced shallot, sumac, mint and a nice zing from a sliver of jalapeno.
Yellowtail Crudo from Scarpetta
I don’t know if it was the super clean flavors of freshly sliced yellowtail, the ever-so-fruity Olio de Zenzero that graced the fish which had been flecked with flaked sea salt, or the fact that Scott Conant himself confidently handed me this plate of food—but I was a fan of this dish.
Shortbread with Sheep’s Milk Ricotta from A Voce
Anytime Chef Missy Robbins introduces a dish with sheep’s milk ricotta, I want to be around. At A Voce, it exists in welcome forms from appetizers to her cappelletti pasta course. At this event, she whipped it into an airy spread—think Cheez Whiz on steroids—and slathered it on house made black olive and sea salt shortbread sprinkled with spicy soppressata. Simply a fantastic bite of food.
Trippa Malaysiana from Fatty ‘Cue
Zak Pellacio of Fatty ‘Cue may not have served everyone’s favorite dish of the evening, but he certainly wins awards for the most daring dish. His spin on trippa alla fiorentina re-jiggered with Southeast Asian flavors was boldly flavored and well cooked. But just as importantly, it was a tongue-in-cheek ballsy dish that I doubt the overwhelming population was willing to stomach (har har).
Acciughe al Verde from Sorella
The stunning Emma Hearst of Sorella was on hand to serve her dish of acciughe al verde, briny Ligurian anchovies dressed in lemon butter, salsa verde and hazelnuts on her homemade flatbread. I’ve been a longtime fan of her homemade grissini, which make perfect bar snacks while enjoying a bottle of Piedmontese wines at Sorella; luckily there were plenty of those on hand as well.
Beef goulash from Telepan
“This is my third bowl of goulash”, a rail-thin, well-dressed woman gushed to me as I plucked a bowl from the table. I could understand the basis of her praise after tasting the tender egg noodles, which Chef Bill Telepan lavished with an ultra-rich beef goulash. For the sake of conserving stomach space, I didn’t return for seconds (or thirds, for that matter), but I’d certainly order it with confidence at the restaurant.
Nduja Bruschetta from L’Artusi
Like bacon, nduja is almost a wash. It’s a culinary mulligan, and almost anything, ANYTHING, is immediately awesome with this spreadable sausage. At the event, Gabe Thompson of L’Artusi served up the slightly spicy spread on crisp crostini and mellowed it with a smear of ricotta and olive oil.
Marinated Octopus from Recette
Chef Jesse Schanker of Recette didn’t play it safe with his dish of marinated octopus topped with a bracing crunch of fennel, and elevated with black garlic and basil. The cephalopod takes skill to cook under normal circumstances, and cooking en masse in a portable kitchen would give any lesser chef fits. Amazingly, it was perfectly executed—tender, sweet, and cleanly flavored throughout.
Toro Taquitos from Toloache 82
On the other hand, Chef Julian Medina served the culinary equivalent of a chick flick and frat pack movie all in one—tuna belly tacos with sweet onion salsa. It’s a dish that might not be the most sophisticated or technical of the bunch, but the crowd can’t help but love it.
Quail Leg from Balaboosta
Of almost all dishes that I tasted that evening, Einat Admony’s dish almost made me leave the event and take the nearest taxi to the progenitor restaurant. Although Ms. Admony is gifted in the arts of the vegetable—if you ever need to turn a carnivore on to the merits of hummus and falafel, take them to Taim—she treated the delicate legs of quail with the utmost respect. And she treated them to a bath of pomegranate walnut sauce and a warm bed of the most succulent and well cooked Israeli couscous I’ve tasted in recent memory.
Confit Black Cod from Bar Basque
Bar Basque had the unfortunate circumstance to be located in the most hard-to-notice, far flung crease in the room. With food this good, I think they’ll get a higher place on the pecking order in future events, for their confit black cod was out-of-control good. The confit technique left the flesh unbelievably tender, and dialed-up the sweetness of this pricey fish to an 11. A bed of baby smooth cauliflower puree and smoked caviar added even more welcome notes of sweetness and brine.
Pickled Peppers & Chorizo from Gramercy Tavern
Some of the dishes at the event were elaborate, plated affairs that were beautiful on the plate but frustrating to eat while trying to hold a glass of wine. And some of the dishes were one-bite flavor bombs, such as Gramercy Tavern’s pickled peppers and chorizo. Ever-so-piquant chorizo was meticulously pressed into bite sized squares and placed on house made crackers. One bite. No mess. All flavor and all smiles.
Forono Beets with Blue Hill Yogurt from Blue Hill
Events such as these tend to lean heavily towards animal proteins as they tend to be crowd pleasing and easy to get right. Thankfully Chefs such as Jehangir Mehta of Mehtaphor, Amada Cohen of Dirt Candy and Dan Barber at Blue Hill were present to balance out the meat heavy event. And leave it to Dan Barber to conceptualize a whimsical cup of sweet beet puree over yogurt, topped with a crispy cheese cracker and micro greens. One of the better bites of food, vegetarian or otherwise at this event.