Friday, May 29, 2009

Crazy May

May 29

May is typically a crazy month for New York food writers, as restaurants rush to open and promote themselves before Memorial Day comes and everyone leaves during the weekends, no one dines out, no events are planned and I can try to lose some weight.
O.K., that was an exaggeration, even for typical years. But now anything goes, really, and either in spite of the lousy economy, because of it, or maybe for other reasons I don’t know about, restaurants here seem to be promoting themselves with more vigor than they have in years. I have some really spectacular-sounding parties coming up: Gourmet’s hosting a preview of the new Aureole, The Four Seasons is turning 50, The American Pork Board is hosting a lunch at the New York Stock Exchange (feel free to comment, especially about that last one, below).
And in the past couple of weeks I’ve received two (2) invitations made out of aluminum. I hadn’t seen one of those since before 9/11, when ridiculous overspending on things like aluminum invitations was the norm. Really, it was.
The May, 2000, opening of the Tribeca Grand hotel comes to mind.
Here’s a little excerpt from the story I wrote about it:

Invitations were ... sent out to rich and influential movers and shakers as well as to plenty of models, dancers, actors and folks who just looked great in black. A good 2,000 of them braved the rain to witness the launch of this new haven for the young and fashionable. They ate 6 kilos of Iranian osetra caviar.

Now that was a good party.
Speaking of 9/11, The Tribeca Grand, which is about 10 blocks from Ground Zero, became something of a refugee camp at that time as it provided temporary housing for displaced families in lower Manhattan. Rob Miketa, the chef at the time, responded to the need of the displaced children for grilled cheese sandwiches by warming the naan he had on hand for a mezze platter (bread purveyors were having trouble getting south of 14th Street — you might remember that lower Manhattan was cordoned off for a number of days) in butter and stuffing it with cheese.
(Rob, a fellow Coloradan — from Pueblo, of all places — now lives in Belgium, where he works as a private chef).

The past month or so has in some ways felt kind of September 10th, which is weird, because people are broker and gloomier than I remember them being, and businesswise, May has been pretty bad for a lot of restaurants here — worse than March and April by many accounts. Perhaps not as bad as January. But of course it depends on the restaurant.

At any rate, they’re keeping me busy, from a Cinco de Mayo dinner at Cabrito (which was packed, by the way — I mean four or five people deep at the bar packed — with people who seemed to think they absolutely needed to have Mexican food on that day), to the opening of a wine bar on the outskirts of the Meatpacking District called Entwine (the sommelier moonlights as a wine equipment merchant, meaning they have state-of-the-art technology for their wine-by-the-glass program), and George Mendes’ new restaurant, Aldea (which I already wrote about). Rink Bar opened at Rockefeller Center, too, but it does that every year.
I had a really extraordinary dinner at Eighty One with a group called the International Academy of Gastronomy, an organization I’d never heard of before. They had declared chef de cuisine Juan Jose Cuevas “Chef of the Future” and were having dinner there to celebrate.
Juan made something the likes of which I’ve never eaten before. It was a horseradish sorbet topped with a "granola" made out of dehydrated root vegetables, which sounds like a stupid, nasty-tasting dish, but it was, in fact, delicious and hard to figure out, in a really fun way, with bright, refreshing and very tangy sorbet and crunchy little vegetable cubes, served as an appetizer.
The dish got a round of applause at the end of the evening.
I also had dinner at Dirt Candy with its publicist, Philip Ruskin.
Dirt Candy’s a vegetarian restaurant, but at the moment has just one tofu dish (served crispy with a vegetable ragoût and a kaffir lime beurre blanc), because the whole point of the place is that vegetables are delicious — the candy of the earth. Hence the name.
So we ate the requisite jalapeño hush puppies with maple butter, and the portobello mousse that chef Amanda Cohen has submitted for PETA’s foie-gras substitute competition (Amanda herself is not a strident PETA-file, but that doesn’t mean she can’t enter their contests), a Greek salad with preserved lemon mayo, golden beet pappardelle with yogurt, pistachios and honey, and stone ground grits with a tempura poached egg.
Among the desserts we had was a popcorn pudding, served in a mason jar.
Serving food in mason jars is all the rage these days, by the way. My colleague Elizabeth Licata recently wrote about it.
I also had a Beard House dinner, as guest of the Denver Five, which meant I all but missed a drunken not-quite orgy at Pranna celebrating World Cocktail Day (May 13). It looked like it had been a good party, and it was still plenty full when I got there, but conversation was difficult due to the general drunkenness.
It’s a funny thing about professional drinkers. They can remain just on the edge of speech-slurringly drunk for hours without quite falling over the edge into oblivion. It’s very impressive.
Some cocktail experts, in fact, maintain high levels of sobriety much of the time, because it’s not like you have to guzzle a cocktail, and a wise drinker doesn’t shy away from water, either. I mean, it’s not like they’re drinking competitively.
And then last Sunday I finally made it down to Tommaso restaurant in Brooklyn, the 36-year-old restaurant of my new friend Thomas Verdillo, an opera singer, wine expert and aficionado of medieval symbolism. The private dining room is perhaps worth the trip to Dyker Heights just to look at the mural of a medieval Italian countryside, with unicorns and scarabs and other symbols of the day.
On the door back into the main dining room is a quote from Dante that I love. No, it’s not "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here," you rude, cynical bastard. It’s
Segui il tuo corso
Lasciare dir le genti

which means, "Follow your own path, ignore what people say.”

Tom would like more people to know about his restaurant, of course, and to head out to Dyker Heights to eat there, but he already gets a fair share of press (some of it’s posted on the restaurant’s web site, if you’re curious), and the people I’d have him contact to check out the place already seem to know about it.
“Oh yeah, Tommaso’s. That place is great! It’s been around forever,” is what they tend to say.
Soon-to-be-former New York Times critic Frank Bruni included it in a round-up of old-school Italian restaurants, and he described the food as being kind of existentially dusty — good for people seeking culinary nostalgia rather than adventure. That might have been true then, in 2006, but Thomas has done a fair amount of innovation, although it seems to me that he still stresses traditional dishes over avant-garde ones. He travels regularly to Italy to learn about the food of his ancestors — he recently added a Roman pasta dish to the menu called caccia e pepe, straight up spaghetti with Parmesan cheese and black pepper, mixed at tableside into a sauce using a smidgen of pasta water.
Tommaso’s likely to get some more attention soon. Comedy Central’s Michael and Michael recently filmed there for their new series.

What I just wrote about was not, of course, all that I’ve done since the Beard Awards, but some things in life should remain a mystery.
Not what I ate at the Beard House, though.

What the Denver Five fed me:

Hors d’Oeuvre

Ahi tuna-lobster rolls with charred jalapeños, kumquats and ramp salsa
Wild pheasant confit-filled tamalitos with apricot-güero chile jam
Braised chile-cured White Marble Farms pork belly with huitlacoche, duck egg salad and tomato-ancho chile sauce
Korean barbecued foie gras with corn shoots, cilantro, coconut rice fritters and nori-infused caramel
Mont-Marçal Brut Rosado Cava NV


Sweet and crunchy softshell crab with pork and adzuki beans, ginger ale ramps and chinese garlic mayonnaise
Oriel Palatina Riesling 2004

Crispy Hawaiian moi with roasted Olathe corn, Pueblo asparagus, lightly smoked trout salad, and truffled kabayaki dressing
Stonestreet Upper Barn Chardonnay 2006

Colorado lamb albóndigas with heirloom bean chile verde, smoky duck chorizo, nopale–fiddlehead escabèche and duck cracklings
Oriel Courant Côtes du Rhône 2003

USDA Prime New York strip steak with dinosaur kale–wrapped veal cheeks, smoked goat cheese–potato flan and morel jus
Martin Ray Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Honey-caramelized apples with chocolate crème chiboust and saffron cream
Santa Julia Tardio 2007


Thursday, May 28, 2009

What’s MUFSO? What’s MUFSO!?

May 28

Sorry I’ve been such a bad blogger since the preview of DBGB. I’ve been so busy I haven’t even had time to ask what is wrong with you that none of you are attending MUFSO.
Okay, maybe many of you are, but of the six people who responded to my poll asking if you were attending, two said maybe, two said no, and two asked, "What's MUFSO?"
Oh, for goodness sake.
I admit, it’s not a pretty name (it’s pronounced MUFF-so, not MOOF-so) and it stands for Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators. It’s NRN’s annual conference of restaurant operators. It’s mostly attended by chain operators, it’s true, which might be why you don’t know about it, but speakers have ranged from Union Square Hospitality Group’s Danny Meyer (himself a multi-unit operator, if not a chain operator), to author, TV star and self-proclaimed bad-boy Anthony Bourdain, to Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser (who in fact quoted in that book a speech that our recently retired group publisher, Jim Doherty, gave at MUFSO). Jay Leno has done stand-up comedy there. George H.W. Bush was a keynoter a couple years back.
It’s a terrific conference, especially for networking, which is so crucial in this stupid economy.
If you register in the next month by clicking here and following the instructions, I think you get a 50 percent discount.
Click here to learn more about MUFSO, Or you could just ask me.

Stay tuned to this blog for more tales of my culinary adventures, I promise not to be such a slacker.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


May 16

It's smart to invite people to look at a restaurant before it opens. It makes them feel like insiders, and like they have a personal emotional investment in a place. So if you invite the media, they're already predisposed to like you. The media's predisposed to like Daniel Boulud, anyway, but why chance it?
A couple of years ago, when Bar Boulud was about to open, Daniel and his people had to test out the charcuterie that they were serving there, so it made sense to invite people to share their endeavors. It was a good party, and when I wrote about it this blog got more traffic in a single day than ever before (or since), even more than when I wrote about what kinds of tips Hooters girls get (about 45%, so I'm told).
I doubt this blog entry will generate that much traffic, because many bloggers were at the sneak peek of DBGB, Daniel's new eighty-seat brasserie near the Hell's Angels headquarters on Bowery (between 1st and Houston). DBGB is of course a reference to the famous club CBGB, and it means "Daniel Boulud, Great ..." fill in the blank: burgers, bangers (that's British for sausage), beer, what have you.
The space is big and festive, the culinary focus really more sausage than burger. They'll start with 14 sausages on the menu and go up from there. The beer program will be about as extensive as the wine program and will include 22 beers on tap and another 50-60 in bottles. There will be about 100 wines in bottles, and two on tap. They'll be about as local as New York City can get for wines. The wine itself is from Long Island. It will be blended and poured into kegs in Brooklyn. Beverage manger Colin Alevras, the man behind The Tasting Room, said he hasn't set a firm price on the house wine, but it will likely be more than $5 and less than $7.
What else? Oh! There will be many desserts, but a highlight will be a sundae cart, with many choices of ice creams, sauces and toppings. That'll be a hit.
Among the design elements is Daniel's copper pot collection, donated by chefs from all over the world for the restaurant. So there's a Victorian jelly mold from Heston Blumenthal, a fish poacher from Tom Colicchio, an ancient, ancient looking stock pot from Alain Ducasse, a chestnut roaster from Mario Batali.
They're planning on opening "at the end of the first week of June," but of course a place isn't open until it's open.

After the party, Daniel flew to Chicago for the national restaurant show, and he spoke about how DBGB fit with the current economic times. click here to read about what he said.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Not at the restaurant show

May 15

I’m not going to the National Restaurant Association International Hotel/Motel show in Chicago this year. And if you’re not either but would like to know what’s going on there, my capable colleagues are on it. Click here not just to read their blog, but to catch the live news feed that all of them are tweeting into. It should be a good read, and I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

over the transom

May 14

Time for a bit of housekeeping and news reportage
Thanks to the 42 people who participated in the poll asking what type of blog entry you prefer to read here. A solid 16 percent said you like news, so here we go:

Item 1) For national readers, and people in Baltimore, my friend E. Michael Reidt has a new job. He has joined the San Francisco-based Kimpton Group to be the executive chef of B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore, scheduled to open this July.
I sent E. Michael an e-mail about it, and he replied, “Sssshhhh!! Don't tell anyone! It's a secret.....” but as I did, in fact, get the information in a press release I’m going to go ahead and report it.
B&O will be Kimpton's first restaurant in Maryland, and apparently the menu will be “approachable American brasserie” food, plus a pizza oven.
E. Michael's background is varied and interesting. He’s a New Englander who also spent time in Miami before heading out to California. He has a particular passion for Brazilian things (food, spouses), and recent travels include an extended excursion to Southeast Asia. He’s a Food & Wine Best New Chef, class of 2001. We met several years ago in Aspen, where I bonded with him and another 2001 Best New Chef, Randy Lewis, which leads me to

News item 2) From SF Weekly’s Sfoodie blog, Randy is going to head up the kitchen at Tavern at Lark Creek in Larkspur, Calif. I actually met Randy before meeting Michael. He spent some time as corporate chef for Kendall-Jackson winery, which for awhile was the wine sponsor of the National Pork Producers Council’s national cooking competition, Taste of Elegance, which I attend with enthusiasm whenever I can, less for the pork than for the chefs, because as great as the pork is, the chefs are greater. Mostly Midwestern salt-of-the-earth guys. Randy's not Midwestern, and he’s certainly more high-profile than most of the chefs at Taste of Elegance, but he's a good guy all the same.
And a busy guy. He’s also involved in a would-be burger chain called Best-o-Burger. It just has one unit now, so it’s not a chain, but Randy says they have signed a lease for a second location, are working on a third and are trying to move forward with licensing deals for 50 locations in Los Angeles.

Speaking of burgers, for New Yorkers, news item 3) Elevation Burger, a chain based in Arlington, Va., that serves organic hamburgers (made from grass-finished, free range cattle, thank you very much) and French fries cooked in olive oil, has its sights set on lower Manhattan. It has signed a franchising deal with Fabian Rosario and John Harris.
It might take awhile, though. Elevation Burger currently has just three locations (in Falls Church and Arlington in Virginia, and in Baltimore), but has signed deals to open 40 more throughout the mid-Atlantic as well as in Texas and Florida. It is unusual for all such deals to bear fruit. Then again, Fransmart has been put in charge of the development plans, and that’s the same company that has helped Five Guys Burgers & Fries expand so rapidly. So, you never know.
Rosario and Harris are Brooklyn restaurateurs. Rosario co-owns the Brooklyn IHOP, and Harris owns The Spot American Bistro in Prospect Heights.

Okay, finishing up, the results of my latest poll:


Quick news about restaurant openings and chef changes: 7 (16%)

Gossipy items about who shows up at what parties: 3 (7%)

Meandering think pieces on food and life in general: 11 (26%)

Personal reminiscences and thoughts of family and friends: 2 (4%)

Entries that let readers live vicariously through a New York food writer: 4 (9%)

Travel pieces: 0 (0%)

All of the above: 15 (35%)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Aldea opened

May 13

Sometimes it takes me a really long time to realize the obvious. Three years, usually. I think that's how long I lived in Thailand before I came to understand that rainy-season downpours are preceded by strong winds that let everyone know they should pack up their wares and go inside. I’d look around and wonder where everyone was running off to and then I’d be drenched. I finally put two and two together around 1995.
It also took me about three years to realized that many pastry chefs are gay. I had been in this job for around that long when I went to a party called the Pastry Jam, thrown by a supplier during one of the Javitz Center trade shows, and it was the gayest party I’d ever been to, with nearly naked men in body paint adorning many of the tables. Nice guys. Then I thought about the male pastry chefs I know and how many of them are gay. For awhile after that realization I used to make that observation to people in the restaurant world and they’d look at me like I was an idiot for not having noticed before. It probably took me three years to stop voicing that observation.
I don’t know how long it has taken me to realize that if you go to a restaurant opening that starts at 9pm, you're not going to be able to just pop your head in, kiss a couple of people on both cheeks, turn around and leave, because the party’s simply going to be too fun for that.
Because if a restaurant opening starts at 9, chefs are coming.
That was for sure the case on Monday, when Aldea, George Mendes's new place on W. 17th St., opened its doors. George was actually in the kitchen for much of the night. You know, cooking. It's an open kitchen, so he could briefly pause, say hi and get back to work.
For awhile it was low key. I met Txikito chef-owner Eder Montero, tweeted once, because it seemed like the right thing to do. (If you look at the time stamp, you’ll see that the message didn't actually escape my phone until I left the party) and discussed many small matters with Julian Alonzo of Brasserie 8 1/2. Then I fell in with Oceana chef Ben Pollinger and pastry chef Jansen Chan before an unusually energetic Dave Arnold, the French Culinary Institute's director of culinary technology — possibly the only director of culinary technology anywhere — bounded in with Nils Noren, the school's vice president for culinary and pastry arts. Dave's future business partner, Jean Georges pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini (not gay, by all accounts) might have arrived with them. He did appear around the same time, but I can’t say for sure. I asked Dave when he and Johnny were going to open their much anticipated bar, and he said they were still tracking down funding.
So, if you want to invest in a bar run by Dave Arnold and Johnny Iuzzini, let me know.
I’d heard that Wylie Dufresne was downstairs while I was upstairs talking to Ben and Jansen. Paul Liebrandt was there, too, but we didn’t talk. Cesare Casella came with his signature rosemary bunch in his sport coat's breast pocket, which he told me he left with George for good luck.
Wearing rosemary seemed like such a good idea that I considered starting to do it myself, but I was told that everyone would know I was copying Cesare and that I would therefore be dubbed lame, which is probably true. So I changed the subject to another fashion goal of mine. I'd like to be able to convincingly wear a cape.
Of course the problem is that I’d probably look like an idiot, and it would take me three years to realize it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Not the Oscars

May 6

“Who are those two skinny fucking bastards?”
That was Myriad Restaurant Group chief Drew Nieporent, on stage at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on Monday for what some people insist on calling the Oscars of the restaurant world. They are, of course, the James Beard Foundation Awards, and they’re not the Oscars, not least because it’s perfectly fine for Drew to call Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich skinny fucking bastards at them. Because these are the awards for the restaurant industry, and restaurant people talk like that.
Well, not all of them. If Danny Meyer does talk like that, he doesn’t do so on stage.
Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich have trimmed down in recent years, especially Bastianich, and they had just announced that Drew had been named Restaurateur of the Year. So I imagine that Drew was giddy. I imagine that he also was sorely disappointed, because, minutes before, his restaurant Corton was not named best new restaurant. David Chang’s Momofuku Ko was. (I also imagine Drew reading this and asking me why I didn’t just call him and ask him how he felt, but that takes all the fun out of it).
“Next he’s going to say, ‘Fuck you. David Chang!‘” I said to John T. Edge, an extremely engaging man whom I’d never met before but whose company in the press room I availed myself of and enjoyed very much — particularly in the mysterious absence of Bon Appétit restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton, who had told me the night before at Chefs Night Out that he’d be in the press room.
And Drew pretty much did say that to David Chang, but much more tactfully, by saying the very hard-working chef, Corton’s Paul Liebrandt, deserved recognition.
These were my eleventh Beard awards, and I thought of skipping them. My boss, Pamela Parseghian, was there taking pictures, and I knew I’d get a press release in the morning listing the winners even if I didn’t feel like following any of the live tweets of the legion of people who were tweeting the winners (Lockhart Steele, looking unusually bleary eyed, was typing away at a laptop; and Amanda Kludt of Eater seemed to be alternately interviewing, blogging and tweeting, which is appropriate).
(I tweeted random observations until my cell phone died. you can follow my tweets here if you’re curious.)
But the Beard Awards are still a good party. And I like the fact that most of the chefs don’t seem to feel comfortable on stage. The men mostly look awkward in their tuxedos. The women mostly don’t look like they enjoy walking in heels. They’re back-of-the-house people and that’s where they feel most at home. And that’s why the Beard Awards always will be different from and better than the Oscars.
The press room has become something of a madhouse, although it was either less of a zoo this year or I simply anticipated that it would be more of a zoo than it was. While the audience in Avery Fisher Hall sat and starved over the several hours that the awards ceremony lasted (I lost track of time), we sampled cheese and drank cocktails, Champagne and coffee.
The awards are traditionally followed by a large reception, but this year, for some reason, they started serving early, and people left the ceremony without listening to the speech of Dan Barber, who at the end of the evening was named this year’s outstanding chef. I thought that was mighty rude.
I didn’t eat much at the reception, because I like to let the paying guests eat. I did have a cocktail, some wine, a bit of duck hot dog with foie gras mustard, some cheese and another nibble or two.
So I had a miniburger at the after-party in the basement of Bar Boulud, plus some cruditées and aïoli that were in a room on the left side of the basement. The middle room and the room on the right were packed, but for some reason people had stayed out of the room with the cruditées. It was strange.
Then I went with my new friend, food scientist and aspiring writer Rachel Zemser, and her brother Robert, to Terroir, which had been nominated for a design award but didn’t win. Not to be dismayed so easily, they threw a party anyway, and I hung out with their operations manager, my friend and fellow Coloradan David Flaherty, husband of my other friend, Bullfrog & Baum’s own Katherine Bryant. That’s her back there, on the left. She’s standing next to Katie Grieco, wife of Terroir’s co-owner, Paul Grieco.

In Nation’s Restaurant News: NYC restaurants take top honors at Beard Awards
Plus: a slide show from Pam!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Getting better

May 5 (happy birthday Mom!),

I did slightly better at predicting the Beard Award winners this year than I have in previous years. I guessed eight out of 19 correctly. For the previous two years I’d gotten seven right each year. So my batting average has gone from .368 to .421.
I guessed correctly that Jean Georges would be named outstanding restaurant, that Drew Nieporent would be named restaurateur of the year, that Momofuku Ko would win the best new restaurant award and that Le Bernardin would win for wine service. I correctly guessed that Tim McKee would win in the Midwest, Jose Garces in the Mid-Atlantic and Paul Bartolotta in the Southwest.
I hope to give you more observations once I finish my regular work. in the meantime, the full results for the restaurant awards can be found here, and the results for all of the awards (cookbooks, journalism etc.) are here.

Friday, May 01, 2009

the new team at Gilt

May 1

Chris Day messed up his ankle. He was practicing some sort of Japanese sword play, as he does, and it gave out.
So he was hobbling around on crutches (quite ably, I must say) at Gilt, where he’s the restaurant director. He bound through the restaurant’s front door to greet me, escorted me to the bar, took my drink order (following his suggestion, I ordered the Mariposa, a sort of smoky Margarita made from high-end mezcal and flavored with candied violets).
I told him to get off his feet and go home. He could have told me that I’m not the boss of him, because of course I’m not, but he said he would leave soon. Then he continued to zip around the place, picking up dropped napkins and otherwise displaying considerable skill in maneuvering on crutches.
My guest, Yishane Lee, arrived 14 minutes late, except that she’d told me she’d be 15 minutes late, so she was right on time.
Chris escorted us to the dining room and introduced us to beverage director Patrick Cappiello.
Patrick had a lot to prove, because he was replacing the talented, engaging and quite tall Jason Ferris, who left to study for the master sommelier exam. I think he’s still looking for work, in case you’re looking to hire.
I think Patrick’s pretty tall, too, but I don’t really know because (a) I was seated most of the time when talking to him and (b) everyone seems tall to me.
Chris then took his leave, and I hope he went home.
Yishane — freelance writer, mom, and friend from my Bangkok days (which means we have known each other for 14 years, believe it or not) — and I were there to sample the food of Justin Bogle, who like Patrick had a lot to prove, as he replaces Chris Lee, a Food & Wine Best New Chef, James Beard Rising Star Chef, and fun person to drink with. He had been hired away to be executive chef of Aureole. Justin had worked under Chris Lee, and I expected his food to be similar, but it wasn’t, not at all.
Chris’s food, as I remember it, is comparatively earthy. Refined, but in an accessible, modern-American sort of way (click here if you’re curious to know what I ate at Gilt when Chris was the chef).
Justin’s food seemed more cerebral, with unusual flavor combinations and textures that in some ways harkened back to Chris’s predecessor, Paul Liebrandt, who is currently enjoying much more success as executive chef of Corton than he managed to do at Gilt.
Speaking of success, Gilt seemed to be doing fairly well. The dining room was about half full, which is good for New York these days, and the bar scene was hopping when Yishane and I left some time after 11.
11! you exclaim.
Well, we didn’t sit down until around 8:30, and Justin and Patrick (and pastry chef David Carmichael, who met Chris Lee when they both worked at Oceana) had quite an evening in store for us. So did Chris Day, who had left instructions to finish our meal with a tasting of five different teas. They were mostly oolongs, including an aged one, vintage 1994, but one was a Japanese sencha.
I’m not sure why Gilt’s tea menu hasn’t gotten more coverage than it has. It’s so much more extensive than any other tea menu I’ve ever seen, and that doesn’t even include the reserve tea menu, which they present if you ask for it. Chris Day is in charge of all of that.

What Justin Bogle, Patrick Capiello and David Carmichael did to us (I mean that in a good way):

Cured Wagyu beef with Parmesan gelato, pine nut dust and arugula
Crispy escargot with black truffle vinaigrette and parsley (and some sort of crushed mushroom and chocolate “dirt,” an addition that’s all the rage these days)
NV Pierre Peters Brut Blanc de Blancs, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Champagne

Bay scallop ceviche with pink grapefruit, hearts of palm, ginger, yogurt and shiso
2007 Lafage Grenache Blanc, VDP, Roussillon, France (Patrick’s a big francophile, but he did serve us an Austrian Gruner Veltliner along with the Champage — a 2006 Sighardt Donabaum, “Aztberg” from Wachau)

English pea ravioli with ricotta, pickled ramps, speck, buttermilk and mint
2007 Weinbach Pinot Blanc reserve, Alsace, France

Halibut with spring vegetables, horseradish, oysters and American caviar
2007 Boisson Côtes du Rhone Villages Cairann “L’Exigence,” France

Pancetta spiced foie gras with kumquat mostarda, candied black olive, fennel and pine nut
2001 Cauhape Jurançon “Noblesse du Temps,” Southwest France

Lamb loin with wihte asparagus, Vadouvan, black sesame paste with squid ink, preserved lemon and duka flavored chick peas
2006 Luis & Michel Bronzo, Bandol, “Le Bastide Blanche” Provence, France

Strawberry sorbet with frozen buttermilk strawberries
Mint chocolate chip stacked with thin crispy meringue, topped with strega gelée and a fine mint chiffonade
Chocolate soufflé with caramelized chocolate almond cake
Neapolitan sundae
2006 Clos de Paulilles Banyuls, Roussillon, France

Tru dat

April 30

“The table doesn’t make you. You make the table.”
Isn’t that a good line? That was Penny Trenk quoting Myriad Restaurant Group grand poobah Drew Nieporent. Penny loves going out, she loves restaurants, she loves having a good time, and she's never sat at a bad table. She doesn’t know what one looks like.
Neither do I. If you get to sit down and people bring you food and drink, that, to me, is a good table.
Last night Penny, one of Drew’s investors and more importantly an all-around great dining companion, and I were having dinner with about eight other people at table #5 at the James Beard House.
I’m pretty sure that I’ve sat at all ten dining room tables in the Beard House — including the long table #1 on the ground floor, and table #10 in the room with mirrored ceilings that was once James Beard’s bedroom (if you think mirrored ceilings are weird, don’t even ask me about the bathroom). I’ve eaten in the board room, too, and at the supplemental tables sometimes set in the foyer (or is it a parlor?). But usually I am seated at table #5, which is generally reserved for the press and/or friends of the restaurant.
Last night I was there to enjoy the food of Tru restaurant in Chicago. Chef-owner Rick Tramonto was there, although his business partner Gale Gand was in Louisville, making desserts for the Kentucky Derby.
But we were there to sample the culinary stylings of the restaurant’s executive chef, Tim Graham, and executive pastry chef Meg Galus. Tim Graham, apparently being a good Chicagoan, likes to play with the molecular gastronomy quite a little bit, so the Margherita Martini cocktail had a spherified globule of mozzarella floating in it that exploded in the mouth. Also on offer was a creamy apéritif that was supposed to taste like an Alsatian tarte flambée.

What else we ate and drank:
tête de cochon with truffle powder and lentil salad
white gazpacho with grape
smoked dome (that molecular gastronomy again) with cauliflower and caviar
charred fluke sashimi with corn pudding, pickled leeks, popcorn and nasturtium
2007 Auvique Cuvée Hors Classe Pouilly-Fuisseé

Artichoke consommé with spring flavors (that included cinnamon and mustard and a variety of other things you wouldn’t have expected — but not in a bad way)
Lustau Papirusa Manzanilla Sherry

olive oil-poached salmon with daikon noodles and long peppercorn jus
Duchesse de Bourgogne Brouwerije Verhaeghe (that’s a rich Belgian beer, much loved at my table)

Braised beef short rib with unagi, miso emulsion and scallion pistou
2004 Cadozos Tinta Fina y Pinot Noir

Smoked Valrhona guanaja crémeux with mandarin orange, vanilla salted hazelnut and stout caramel
1999 Château Pajzos Takaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos

Mignardises, including salted caramel, macaroons and pâte de fruit