I wanted to interview Gray Kunz for an article I'm working on for our special NRN 50 issue.
I hadn't really met him before. Oh sure, I've been introduced to him at parties and book launchings and so on, but unless you manage to imprint yourself on someone's memory, such encounters don't count.
His publicist, Stephanie Faison née Crane, suggested we have lunch at his restaurant in the Time Warner Center, Café Gray, and then I'd chat with him afterwards. Fine with me.
I'm not sure what you call the opposite of a media whore, but Gray Kunz is pretty much that. I don't think he's intentionally press-hard-to-get. He just seems to prefer cooking and supervising the kitchen over talking to me about Thai basil or pickled green papaya or whatever.
Many people have complained about the fact that the best views in his restaurant of Columbus Circle and Central Park are from the (open) kitchen. Perhaps it was not the wisest business decision, but I think the chef wanted a nice view for himself and his staff. He's an intelligent man; if all he wanted to do was conduct business he could have gotten an MBA and been done with it. Chefs are otherwise motivated.
During the interview we sampled some items being planned for Christmas dinner, like oysters topped with red and green tobiko (cute, right?) and shrimp cocktail with traditional cocktail spice spiked with ginger.
That was nice, although I was full from lunch.
Here's what we had:
Small bites of faro salad with pine nuts, red currants and Parmesan; peaky toe crab in mango emulsion with a plantain chip, and duck confit with beets, walnuts and crème fraîche
Shaved white truffles with parsnip purée, quail egg yolk and white truffle bouillon
Chestnut agnolotti in black truffle broth with shaved black truffles
Chapuy Blanc de Blancs grand cru brut reserve Champagne
Rice flake crusted lobster in green curry broth with parsnip and salsify
Pearl noodles with young ginger, lemon grass and other spices Gray Kunz likes, topped with some lobster meat.
2002 Domaine Baumann Mandelkreuz Gewürztraminer, Alsace
Spice crusted venison with Brussels sprouts and Asian pear, riebele pasta with sour cherry sauce and kohlrabi
2002 Domaine de Bonserine La Sarrasine Côte Rôtie
Roasted pork loin with crispy pork belly and sauerkraut with apples and bacon
2004 Viña Pedros Ribera del Duero
Stewed cassis berries with Champagne sorbet in cassis soup with a splash of rosé Champagne
Kaffir lime pie with schlag and orange zest in kaffir lime sauce on chocolate cookie crust
Passion fruit chocolate cake with pomelo and chocolate sorbet, finished with pistachio
2004 Domaine de Fenouilet Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
2004 Tomaso Bussola Recioto della valpolicella classico
And because the topic of seasonal sangrias came up (doesn't it always?), we sampled sommelier Matthew Conway's winter creation made from Casorzo, a red slightly sparkling wine from Piedmont, Pyrat rum and rosemary muddled with orange peel. That's served in a glass that has been rinsed with amaretto. Added to it are kumquats and, as garnish, a cinnamon stick and a rosemary sprig.