May 15, 2010
The Los Angeles Times just contacted me, asking if I thought that the foie gras croque monsieur at LudoBites might be the California pizza of this decade. Pondering that, I began thinking about what the pop-up restaurant phenomenon represents, and it occurred to me that while the food is endlessly fascinating, the restaurant’s importance transcends that. Because this is a whole new way of thinking about what a restaurant can be.
It’s the American incarnation of the movement that began in Paris in the late nineties when the most talented young chefs turned their backs on the three-star track. They wanted to feed their peers, not the endless parade of rich people who sat down in those fancy rooms night after night. And so they began opening modest restaurants where they served fabulous food at very modest prices. In his new guerilla restaurants, Ludo is taking this one step farther.
Why does this matter? Because it’s a sign of a serious shift. If you look at the current location of LudoBites – a little sandwich shop in a grungy part of town – it is the ultimate statement about the supremacy of food over ambiance.
But it’s much more than that. LudoBites is a harder reservation than Spago ever was; you can’t just call up and get a table. The restaurant exists for a limited period of time, making every meal more precious. Ludo’s created a new kind of exclusivity, one which speaks to the new status of the foodie (for want of a better word), and the power of social media. LudoBites is really a private club for the Twitterati, who pride themselves on being in the know.
Looking around the very small room, you see one more important shift: This is a new demographic. The important currency here is youth, not money. And curiosity, not complacency. These are food people (and hip celebrities), eager to eat whatever the chef wants to set before them. Ludo’s people don’t want the same old successes; they are in search of edible thrills. Risk-takers, they are donstatnly urging the chef to push the boundaries.
Which means, I guess, that in the end it’s about the food after all.
May 11, 2010
THE CHEFS of OMNIVORE NEW YORK 2010
- Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana – Modena, Italy)
- Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère – Mandelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)
- Nuno Mendes (Viajante – London, UK)
- Petter Nilsson (La Gazzetta – Paris, France)
- René Redzepi (Noma – Copenhaguen, Danmark)
- Gilles Choukroun (MBC – Paris, France)
- Eric Guérin (La Mare aux Oiseaux- Saint Joachim, France)
- Philippe Hardy (Le Mascaret – Blainville-sur-mer, France)
- Gregory Marchand (Frenchie – Paris, France)
- Jean-Luc Tartarin (Jean-Luc Tartarin – Le Havre, France)
- Dan Barber (Blue Hill at Stone Barns – Pocantico Hills, NY, USA)
- David Kinch (Manresa – Los Gatos, CA, USA)
- Paul Liebrandt (Corton – NYC, USA)
- Maximo Lopez May (Wall & Water in the Andaz Hotel – NYC, USA)
- George Mendes (Aldea – NYC, USA)
- Carlo Mirarchi (Roberta’s – NYC, USA)
The Omnivore New York Happenings
1/ The Professional Master Classes
Five European and American chefs will show their stuff to students of the French Culinary Institute, the most respected training center in NYC, as well as to some of the city’s best chefs. Space is limited and is reserved for professionals and New York chefs.
- When? Friday, June 4, 10 am-4 pm.
- Where? The Invisible Dog Kitchen
- Who with? René Redzepi, Paul Liebrandt, Nuno Mendes, George Mendes, Dan Barber.
2/ The Public Master Classes
Six chefs pass the baton for the entire day, Omnivore Deauville-style, for a culinary show that lets the general public see and savor their creations (samples made by the FCI).
- When? Saturday, June 5, 11 am-4 pm
- Where? The Invisible Dog Kitchen
- Who with? Petter Nilsson, David Kinch, Alexandre Gauthier, Carlo Mirarchi, Massimo Bottura.
3/ The Friendly Dinners
It’s only their second year, and these dinners are already stuck to us like glue. The Friendly Dinners, buddy dining sessions bringing together chefs from a colorful spectrum of horizons
Friday, June 4 – dinners (Wines included)
- Alexandre Gauthier – Carlo Mirarchi at Roberta’s (98$ pp)
- Massimo Bottura – Dan Barber at Stone Barns (195$ pp)
- Petter Nilsson – David Kinch at Invisible Restaurant (180$ pp)
- Grégory Marchand – Maximo Lopez May at Wall & Water
Saturday, June 5 – dinners (Wines included)
- Nuno Mendes – George Mendes at Aldea (135$ pp)
- René Redzepi – Paul Liebrandt at Corton (350$ pp)
4/ Live Cooking Night
Omnivore is dispatching a “French Young Cuisine Brigade” from France just for this special party at The Invisible Dog. The kitchen that was created especially for the pro and public master classes will serve as the “ring” for the “Friendly Fight Night” as the French chefs duke it out with a smile. Music will spice this evening up even more for the 500 happy few.
- When? Saturday, June 5, 9:00 p.m.
- Where? The Invisible Dog Kitchen
- The Young French Cuisine Brigade
* Gilles Choukroun (MBC -Paris, France)
Eric Guérin (La Mare aux Oiseaux- Saint Joachim, France)
Philippe Hardy (Le Mascaret – Blainville-sur-mer, France)
Gregory Marchand (Frenchie – Paris, France)
* Jean-Luc Tartarin (Jean-Luc Tartarin – Le Havre, France)
- Music by : DJ Justine D.
Justine D. is a native New Yorker, record collector and DJ for twelve years. Throwing some of the largest and most successful Rock and Roll parties in NY somehow parlayed into a love of late night baking which then led her to the Classic Pastry program at The French Culinary Institute. She intends on successfully meshing the worlds of music and pastry together.
5/ La Cocotte gourmand books selection
A cook bookshop and a brand, La Cocotte team will be at Omnivore New York with their eclectic selection of gourmand books, their textile creations around food and art of living, and launching their new sweets : the Chic Chicks Booksignings will be planned during these three days at their booth as well as a special event with the food-blogger Pim Techamuanvivit
6/RATES AND RESERVATIONS
- Professional Master Class : $45 (including wine tasting)
- Public Master Classes : $30
- The Live Cooking Night : $30 (including food and cocktails)
- Public Master Class and the Live Cooking Night : $45 (including food and cocktails)
- Natural Wines tasting : $6 /glass
- Booking available from april 26th on www.omnivore.fr
- Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org
Reservations can be made by phone to each restaurant no more than 30 days in advance. Concerning Kinch/Nilsson’s dinner (Friday 4th) reservation on www.omnivore.fr, Please do not call the restaurants before that.
The Omnivore chefs
Blue Hill at Stone Barns (NYC, USA). Dan Barber is the chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. A board member of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, he has addressed local food issues through op-eds in the New York Times and articles in Gourmet, Saveur and Food and Wine Magazine. In 2009, Dan was named James Beard’s Outstanding Chef.
Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy). Proud of the culinary jewels of his native land, the Emilia-Romana region, Massimo Bottura integrates his surrounding and offers an innovative cuisine inspired by italian and regional dishes. He is an iconoclast, a creative free thinker, an agitator.
MBC (Paris, France). Up to date. At 54$ for dinner, this is the best place in Paris. When some people reproach him not to be up to date, he responds with his favorite dessert — Dates, mint, rice in a pastilla milk, cinnamon — that he has been waiting for nobody to move rules and lines. Respect.
La Grenouillière (Madelaine-sur-Montreuil, France). All year round, good vibrations came back to us : “fabulous!”, “crazy dinner!”, “one of the rare creators in France!”. And all year round we smile, happy to hear what we already knew about this young chef since we discovered him in 2005.
La Mare aux Oiseaux (Saint-Joachim, France) Is it rural? No, urban? No, land, a swamp, an island? That’s how it is all dinner long. Guérin tries everything, overloaded dishes and sober ones, the Frenchman and the tramp. But we eat, and enjoy. This chef gave himself the keys of his own freedom. Exemplarity you say?
Le Mascaret (Blainville sur Mer, France). Beyond being a chef and a hostess, Philippe and Nadia Hardy are above all two wonderful associated human beings. Generous and full of emotion. Surrounding them, a circle of virtuous fishermen and farmers. And there’s where Philippe goes to the source for his sea bass, elms, oysters and turbot.
Manresa (Los Gatos, CA, USA). Intensely interested in the production of vegetables and fruits, David Kinch knows how to establish a relationship with the eater. The soil or rather the understanding of his living environment combined with the European techniques he learned, make him one of the most respected chefs and teachers in the US.
Maximo Lopez May
With the opening of Wall & Water, Chef Lopez May returns to New York after spending five years in his native Buenos Aires, where he served as chef de cuisine at Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. Throughout Chef Lopez May’s career, he has hosted several cooking shows on Latin American food network El Gourmet. He also served as head chef at the prestigious La Corte in Las Cañitas, Buenos Aires, launched the exclusive Soho House as senior sous chef and spent time at Azul Bistro on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Corton (NYC, USA). Paul Liebrandt has both worked for esteemed chefs (Pierre Gagnaire, Raymond Blanc, Marco Pierre White…) and royalty before opening his Tribeca restaurant, Corton. An Englishman at heart, New Yorker by residence, and Frenchman in technique, Liebrandt finds balance in all these identities with his modern, playful, elegant cuisine.
Frenchie (Paris, France) Marchand’s parisian restaurant Frenchie is today’s and tomorrow’s gastro-can- tine. An elegant and unpretentious spot, haute couture dishes with prêt-à-porter prices and a little but selective wine cave. For 22$ at lunch and 37$ or 45$ at dinner you can reach for the moon.
Aldea (NYC, USA). Before opening his first restaurant, Aldea, in May 2009, George Mendes spent several years working with renowned chefs in the United-States and overseas who taught him to respect the seasonality of the ingredients and to add personal flair to traditional recipes. George Mendes emphasize now his Portuguese he- ritage in his acclaimed restaurant which serves a variety of seasonal shellfish, rice dishes and his twist on modern Portugese.
Viajante (London, UK). Nuno Mendes is making sensation in the british food capital. Nobody doubts that his kitchen without blindfolds, free for movements, will offer us for quiet some time dishes as impressive as « Porcini with pine nuts and whipped lardo-creme; choke-soup with honey wine». Very far from reducting clichés of british cuisine!
Roberta’s (NYC, USA). One of 2009’s best discoveries for Omnivore. To the passerby, Roberta’s is a great pizza place in an assuming Brooklyn neighborhood. Which in fact it is, but it’s also one of the most awesome restaurants in New York piloted by an autodidact eager to evoke emotions from his heartfelt Italian influenced cooking.
La Gazzetta (Paris, France). In 2009 we were speechless in front of the hair-raising creativity of his dishes. This year, we discover the fundamental principles of the chef. A infernal precision in cooking the elements, a dish which delivers the essential, a sweetness of textures and colors. Seducing because elegant.
Noma (Copenhaguen, Danmark). Between Great North and universal folklore bewitched with childish perversions – cream cheese, hazelnut puff paste and watercress sauce, like a sweet-sour velouté – Noma is the utopia that centuries of victorian gastronomic ruling tried to erase from our imagination.
Jean-Luc Tartarin, (Le Havre, France). Here is a secret to discover if a chef trims a lot. Take the cheapest and most unpre- sumptious dish in the smallest menu. And try. You’ll rapidly see if the guy is trying to cheat, or on the contrary takes you on an adventure. Tartarin doesn’t know how to lie, and even doesn’t consider it.
The Omnivore places
The Invisible dog
51 Bergen Street Brooklyn, NY 11201
between Smith & Court Streets
31 W 17th St
New York, NY 10011
Wall & Water at Andaz Wall Street
75 Wall Street, NY
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Road
Pocantico Hills, NY 10591
914 366 9600
239 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
261 Moore Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206
May 1, 2010
Lying in bed with my foot above my heart, I've had a lot of time to think about what I'd be eating if I were anywhere but here. At first I thought about pork belly.
These days it's hard to find a modern restaurant that doesn't serve the stuff. David Chang kick-started the trend, at least in New York, by slipping fat chunks of pork belly and slim slices of cucumber into pale buns slathered with hoisin. This seductive combination of sweet, salty and smooth catapulted this hitherto cheap meat into instant fame. Before long we were being offered slabs of uncured bacon on every menu.
Gordon Ramsay flattens it. Jamie Oliver roasts it with vegetables. Emeril glazes it with tangerines. Dan Barber cures it with cumin, coriander and fennel. Eric Ripert likes it with skate, and Daniel likes it in his burgers. April Bloomfield smokes it. Alain Ducasse candies it. But last week, a waiter offered me pork belly braised in Coca Cola, and that was it for me.
So I've been dreaming of sea urchins. They're the sexiest seafood-thorny, fragrant and complex. With their intense orange color and soft, sensual texture, they're the kind of food that a chef can have his way with.
David Pasternak at Esca, is a more is less kind of guy, and I've been thinking about the way he serves them -simply on the half shell. Dave likes to add olive oil, but I think it's unnecessary. David Chang, a more is more kind of guy, nestles them into a froth of whipped tofu, hiding chewy little balls of tapioca in the bottom of the bowl. It's a meditation on texture, three kinds of soft in a single bite, and I'd give anything to be eating that right now.
Michael White's sea urchin bruschetta at Marea layers rich onto richer, hiding little piles of fluffy orange roe beneath a slick layer of melting lardo. It's the ultimate surf and turf so ridiculously delicious it's almost impossible to eat without a twinge of guilt. I'd like some right now please.
The uni panino at El Quinto Pinto – a slim ficelle slathered with butter and slicked with mustard oil – would also make me very happy. The bread is crisp and warm, the sea urchins cool and creamy, the mustard oil just a bit of zing at the end of your tongue. I think it's the best sandwich in the city.
I've been dreaming about uni chawan mushi at Sushi Zen too. Toshio Suzuki emphasizes the wobbly softness of sea urchins by cradling them inside the slight tightness custard and tucking a few creamy ginko nuts and some sweet shrimp in among them. Spooning it up is a wonderful way to make any day seem better.
But while I'm fantasizing, why not go for Eric Ripert's surely sea urchin linguini? He melts the roe into butter, tosses it with linguini, adds a bit of parmesan and a touch of pepper, then tosses caviar on top. I can almost taste it.
So what if I can't walk for a week? I'm eating virtual food – and having a very fine time.
April 18, 2010
“Don’t buy me flowers anymore,” my mother said when I arrived at her house with a bouquet of Lilies of the Valley. It was her birthday, and I’d looked everywhere to find her favorite flower. “They’re only going to die. It’s so depressing.”
Mom’s birthday was last week; she would have been 102. I spent the day missing her – and being grateful that I didn’t have to think up any more presents. Because once she’d lain down the present rules, things got very complicated. What do you get for someone who:
- Says she has too much stuff and doesn’t want one more thing cluttering up her house.
- Will buy her own books, thank you very much.
- Never once wore anything purchased by anyone other than herself.
- And has very little interest in food.
Despite item number four, if you’re me, you cook. The question is, what?
The year after the Lilly of the Valley disaster, I baked Mom a cake. It seemed like a reasonable solution; after all, she could invite people over to share it. I even brought along a few candles.
Mom called a few days later. “I’m adding cakes to my list of forbidden gifts,” she announced. “It was delicious, but it was so much work! I decided to invite a few people over for dinner, since I already had the cake. And since it was a large cake, I ended up having ten people. So please, no more of that.”
“Okay,” I said, “no cake.” The next year, after a great deal of deliberation, I decided to bake her a giant brioche. She’s always been partial to those rich buttery rolls; in fact we once had a cat named Brioche. I delivered it – and waited for the inevitable phone call.
Sure enough, brioche had joined the no-gift list. “It was wonderful,” she said, “but do you have any idea how much weight I’ve gained? Please don’t do that to me again.”
I spent the following year worrying over what to make Mom for her birthday. In the end I was certain that I had the perfect solution. One early April morning I showed up at her door with a gallon of homemade chicken stock, neatly packed into two-cup containers ready for the freezer.
“That,” she said the following week, “was the best present anyone has ever given me. It’s a great comfort to know that it’s there, just sitting in my freezer. Let the storms come; now I feel ready for anything.”
Mom’s no longer eating chicken soup, but every year on her birthday, I make a memorial batch. Then I find someone to give it to; it really is the perfect present for just about any occasion.
Recipe for Chicken Stock
Cover 6 lb pounds of chicken parts with about four quarts of cold water in the tallest pot you’ve got. Add a spoonful of salt, and bring to a boil.
Skim off the froth. Add 1 whole onion, unpeeled, a rib of celery and a carrot. Toss in a handful of peppercorns, a few sprigs of parsley and a bay leaf. Let the pot come back to a simmer, turn heat down very low, and let it cook at a bare burble for about 4 hours.
Strain. If you’re fussy about clarity, strain again through damp paper towels.
Chill overnight, or until the fat has solidified into a stiff white cap on top. Remove it.
Divide into small containers. This will keep well in the freezer for a few months.
Makes about 2 quarts.