Bob Tam is no longer corporate chef at PF Chang’s. That’s one of many things I learned last night when eating with a bunch of chefs and mushroom promoters at Blue Hill.
The mushroom board's publicist, my old friend Alexei Rudolf, had e-mailed me asking for suggestions for restaurants (“Strong mushroom capabilities preferred”) where he could take a collection of chefs. I didn’t suggest Blue Hill (I have nothing against the place, but my restaurant suggestions tend to be off-the-cuff and Blue Hill just wasn’t top-of-mind on that day), but Alexei picked it anyway and invited me to join them for dinner. So I did.
The last time I’d eaten at Blue Hill was for a media luncheon showcasing Kona Kampachi, another of Alexei’s clients.
I drank Gruner-Veltliner and Pinot Noir as I sat across from Bob Okura, Cheesecake Factory’s corporate chef (he tells me that their new Southeast Asian restaurant, Rock Sugar, is doing better than expected and is projected to gross $8-$10 million in its first year, which is a lot — but remember he’s the corporate chef, not the money guy). Sitting next to him was Monica Pope, chef-owner of t'afia, the politically correct, organic, sustainable green restaurant in Houston. It was nice to see her hanging out with the chain guys. She extolled the virtues of Momofuku Ssäm bar’s Brussels sprouts and the carrot salad at The Spotted Pig, while Bob spoke of many things, including his wife's love for Korean soap operas.
As the evening wound down Alexei moved over to my table, along with PF Chang's publicist Laura Cherry, with whom I'd worked over the phone for years, but we'd never met in person. So that was cool. We finished the wine as Blue Hill's staff closed up, and then we went next door to the Stoned Crow for a nightcap. Laura had an Abslolut Citron and soda, Alexei had an Absinthe. I had a Brooklyn Lager.
What we ate at Blue Hill:
A cold tomato soup that chef Dan Barber didn't want to call gazpacho, topped with a sort of foamy tomato water sorbet
Prosperosa eggplant Parmesan with portobello mushrooms
This morning's farm egg with local corn, roasted maitake and king trumpet mushrooms and Stone Barns Tuscan kale
Stone Barns Berkshire pork with shiitake and blue foot mushrooms, lima beans and tomatoes
Raspberries on cheesecake with raspeberry sorbet (and no mushrooms)