July 7, 2013
Francis Lam and Chrisine Gaspar were married last night, in the most moving wedding ceremony I've ever attended. We gathered on a New York rooftop for the vows, and their love for each other shone so brightly that I'm pretty sure the skyline grew momentarily blurred for all of us.
Afterward we trooped downstairs for a menu prepared by some of America's most celebrated chefs. The food was wonderful, but what really struck me was that looking back, say fifty years from now, this menu will speak volumes about how we were eating in 2013.
This dish, by Grant Achatz, Dave Beran and Eric Rivera, was the first to hit the table:
It's grilled octopus with cauliflower. Doesn't look like much, but it danced joyfully about in the mouth, a little waltz of flavor and texture.
This was the second:
Next came this:
"Oyster salad" it featured salsify, which is sometimes known as "oyster plant" because the cream-colored root has a flavor so surprisingly saline you could be convinced that it came from the sea.
We went on to braised seaweed with tofu and pumpkin, another little dance of textures, and broccoli rabe with dried tomato and lemon, a refreshingly bitter mouthful. That was followed by quinoa with mushrooms and chickpeas, courtesy of Andrew Carmellini and Zach Dunham.
I imagine you're getting the theme: the food was walking along a vegetarian path, with a few deviations (extraordinary roast pigs and ducks from Yi Lee).
The menu offers a remarkable snapshot of the way America is eating at the moment. It's not just that the food reflects the differing backgrounds of the bride and groom – his Chinese ancestry, her Portuguese – but also how many of the guests eschew meat and worry about gluten. The result was a menu that was ethnically diverse, primarily plant based, borrowed from many cultures – and utterly original.
There was nothing traditional about the service either: it was done Chinese take-out style, a raft of little white boxes arriving on the tables with each course. This dish, my favorite, was the exception: it came in little plastic tubs.
Danny Bowien's pea shoots were in a pumpkin broth so deliciously intense that, despite the weather (it was 90 degrees outside), I couldn't stop eating it. I also loved the schmaltz rice he and Angela Dimayuga made; it looked innocent, but the rice was laced with chicken fat, sparked with lime and zinged with little rounds of radish.
The wedding cake? Surely you weren't expecting a multi-tiered white confection with a tiny bride and groom on top. What we got were more little white cartons, each containing a salted chocolate buckwheat cookie (gluten-free) nestled beneath the perfect culinary marriage of China and Portugal: rich, flaky, utterly classic egg custard tarts, the dim sum that arrived in China via Macau, courtesy of the Portuguese.
Leaving we were each handed another little white take-out container. This is what it held:
Pimento cheese from Chef Ashley Christensen. It made a fantastic breakfast.
Merry marriage Francis and Christine: may your life together be as delicious as the wedding feast.
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