I spent this morning at the Marriott Marquis judging a gingerbread house contest with a panel of people who are much more impressive than I am. They were architect and restaurant designer Larry Bogdanow and three pastry chefs: Pichet Ong, Florian Bellanger and Steve Evetts.
Steve is the hotel's executive pastry chef. Pichet used to work for Jean-Georges Vongerichten — he was opening pastry chef at Spice Market — and will soon have his own place, P*ONG. He hopes it will open right around Christmas.
Florian used to be the pastry chef at Fauchon and then was at Le Bernardin. He just started his own pastry wholesaling company, Mad Mac, which sells his madeleines and macaroons. He told me that the Fauchon shop on Park Ave. sells $200,000 in imported macaroons a year.
Now this is interesting because over the weekend I went to a truly excellent party thrown by writers Greg Lindsay and Sophie Donelson in their Brooklyn apartment. I swear every single person at that party was interesting. I met a glassblower and a guy who was wearing a moustache for charity. I met many cool editors and writers and agents, and I met Greg's old friend Bridget who just completed the pastry program at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (an alma mater of mine) and is looking for work. In particular she's interested in making macaroons in America, because up to this point they're all imported.
I asked Florian about this and he said that, yes, indeed, except for his macaroons they are all being imported from France, for no reason.
Florian says business is good and he will be hiring in January, so I e-mailed Bridget.
All of the judges signed the pastry cookbooks that were given away as prizes. I have never autographed a cookbook before. I felt like it was an odd thing for me to do.
I got back into the office with about 20 minutes to spare before meeting with David Gingrass, the owner of Hawthorne Lane in San Francisco. David's in town eating and drinking as he plans the next phase of Hawthorne Lane. He's closing the restaurant at the end of the year, remodeling it and (he hopes) opening it two weeks later as a more casual place called Two. The reason for the change, he says, is a shift in his own personal taste regarding what restaurants he likes. He says he's no longer interested in drawn-out, fancy meals and simply wants (more or less) great food at decent prices without all the hoopla. So Two's menu will be tasty food that people like to eat, drawing from the California cuisine of 20 years ago that was more about using great ingredients rather than complicated preparations or flavor combinations.
So mostly during this stay in New York he is visiting more casual restaurants, but he also went out for sushi, because he loves it and he says Japanese food in San Francisco isn't very good (LA is a different story completely).
Now this is interesting because I'd just been e-mailing with Akiko Katayama, a food writer whom you might have seen as a judge on Iron Chef. She was looking for a miso expert in the Bay Area and David suggested the owner of Ochame in Berkeley.
So I e-mailed Akiko.
Another thing David plans to do at Two is to offer a house wine from a barrel.
Now that's interesting because wine-from-the-barrel also is being done in a restaurant in Atlanta.
That restaurant's name is Two.