Friday, February 26, 2010

C-CAP and other parties

February 26

It has been a busy week. Lot's of parties, which doesn't seem normal for a blustery week in late February.

Before I go into detail, though, let's start with the news: A new pastry chef is starting at Aquavit on Monday. Candice Chia, formerly pastry sous chef at Café Boulud, will be executive pastry chef there. And Marcus Jernmark, who last time we heard, was running the kitchen, but hadn’t been promoted yet, is now executive chef.

That’s all according to Aquavit owner Håken Swahn (Marcus Samuelsson’s business partner). He’s the gentleman in the picture at the beginning of his blog entry, standing next to Rita Jammet, a former restaurateur and very proud mother of Nicolas Jammet, partner in the burgeoning Sweetgreen salad and frozen yogurt chain.

I learned all of that on Wednesday at the annual C-CAP benefit. But the week started, as weeks do, on Monday, when D’Artagnan, supplier of foie gras and other goodies, threw a big party at Guastavino to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

I invited my friend Blain Howard, the ultimate combination of video game geek and cool guy. It was interesting to watch him as he talked about video games with Autumn, a friend of Will Blunt of Starchefs.

She asked him what his favorite video game was, and he said Super Mario Bros. 3, and then went into details as to why, and how that was his favorite of old-school games but his favorite new game was Bioshock, which is apparently a really scary one.

And then he really geeked out on all the details and I lost track.

It’s fascinating to see someone who once worked at Abercrombe & Fitch as one of those models/salespeople talk like that. Such poise and confidence while also being so phenomenally dorky. It’s charming.

So we ate ribs and foie gras and cassoulet while drinking wine from Southwestern France and sharing opinions about Caprica.

On Tuesday I went to the launch of Burger King's new batch broiler during lunch and then stayed at work late to finish writing about sourcing obscure ingredients — a story you'll get to enjoy a couple of weeks from now.

Wednesday, as you know, was the always awesome C-CAP fundraiser, which you can read about here (complete with slide show).

The second picture in this blog entry is of John Fraser, executive chef of Dovetail, and Gramercy Tavern pastry chef Nancy Olson. John gave me the scoop on a big, exciting change underway at Dovetail and then asked me not to tell anyone.

So I won’t tell anyone, but be on the look-out for an excellent announcement from John in early March. Second Monday of the month maybe.

Last night was a really fun party at the Astor Center celebrating the 10th anniversary of Gastronomica, where the irrepressible Dave Arnold, director of culinary technology at the International Culinary Center aka The French Culinary Institute, was making cocktails out of local rye whiskey, and also serving up amazing little passion fruit puffs, made by adding a little bit of one of those methylcellulose compounds to passion fruit purée, puffing them up and then freezing them in liquid nitrogen.

Dave said this was an old trick, possibly developed by Sean Brock, but he wasn’t sure, after the gang in molecular gastronomy world realized that things that didn't contain much moisture were easily eaten even right after they'd been frozen with liquid nitrogen.

So he poured liquid nitrogen over the little passion fruit puffs, popped one in his mouth and then blew what looked like smoke out of his nose. Like a dragon.

Of course it was vapor from the liquid nitrogen, but it was awesome.

Pavia Rosati ate her passion fruit puff seductively and elegantly, blowing vapor out of her mouth like she'd just smoked a cigarette and then French-inhaling it again up her nose.

She’s marvelous, that Pavia. She really is.

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