Trends: The NYC Restaurant: Past, Present and Future
A sort of meeting of the minds went down Saturday at the Bumble and Bumble Theatre. The topic? New York City restaurants. The players? GQ critic Alan Richman, chef Bobby Flay, restaurateur John McDonald, restaurant publicist Jennifer Baum (of Bullfrog & Baum) and moderator Ben Leventhal of Eater.com. Topics ranged from the city's best Italian chef (Michael White, with a few dissenters plugging Scott Conant) to the biggest problems plaguing the current restaurant scene, which Richman noted were rising rents and the loss of the "middle class" restaurant. "I can't afford most of the wines on the list at most restaurants. It's like the restaurant is telling me: I don't want you here," said the longtime writer.
Bobby Flay reflected on how excited he was upon the opening of the now-closed Bolo back in the early ‘90s while mentioning how he'd like to reopen it with a different name but similar concept: robust, gutsy Spanish cuisine. Richman was skeptical such a restaurant would succeed. "I've never had a good meal in Spain," Richman quipped.
On the subject of molecular gastronomy, one audience member pointed out Chicago's success and noted the relative unpopularity of MG in New York. Leventhal's explanation: "New York diners don't want to have to work for their meal, they just want to be full and satisfied." "Chicago is the Second City so maybe they want to work for it!" joked Baum. "New Yorkers want to crave something," Flay added. "If I eat something and I don't crave it afterwards, I don't want it."
Times Talks: Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay, known for his brash and intense TV persona on shows like "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares," can be surprisingly charming when he's not kicking garbage cans or throwing dishes. At Saturday's Times Talks, hosted by Times food writer Kim Severson, Ramsay was polite, eloquent and at times pithy and hilarious in front of a packed audience of foodies and fans, where they discussed everything from Ramsay's family, to his NYC restaurant and the importance of Michelin stars. "An actor wants an Oscar, a chef wants Michelin stars," the chef admitted. Ramsay currently has 12 Michelin stars, and owns restaurants in New York, London, Dublin, Tokyo and Dubai.
Severson showed clips from "Kitchen Nightmares" and "The F-Word," some of which contained Ramsay hunting and cooking with his young children. "I've got a face like a shar-pei dog," Ramsay joked after the clips ran. Severson also discussed Thomas Keller's kitchen at Per Se, and described it as a quiet, focused environment to which Ramsay laughed in disbelief and quipped, "Get a dick!" to Keller, whom he also noted that he immensely admires. "You think when shit hits the fan that no one's getting upset?" Ramsay asked. Severson also touched on the somewhat disappointing Frank Bruni review of Ramsay's New York restaurant three weeks after its opening. "You've got so much going on, getting it totally right in the first three weeks is just not going to happen, although that's no excuse."
Times Talks: Nigella Lawson
Domestic Goddess, TV personality and cookbook author Nigella Lawson was the subject of a Times Talk called "A Passion for Food." Host Lynn Hirschberg barreled through a variety of topics with the British gastro-star, including the therapeutic properties of cooking, her views on dining alone, the gastroporn quality of Lawson's shows and her quasi-sex-symbol status. "I've never been very coquettish," Lawson conceded, even with her show "Nigella Bites" pioneering what many consider to fall under the category of "gastroporn"—sensual, intimate camera work paired with indulgent, full-fat recipes. A short clip highlighted Lawson whipping up some luscious-looking lime and tequila-flavored ice cream.
What's her perfect day of food, one audience member asked? "I'd start with and egg soft-boiled on some thick, heavily buttered, whole grain bread. Lunch would be linguini with clams in a light sauce. For dinner, roasted chicken with roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes and French fries."
Tequila Tasting at Los Dados
When Sue Torres first started out as a chef, her idea of Mexican food was "taco night with the Old El Paso taco kit." But after helming the kitchen at Rocking Horse Café in Chelsea, Torres (owner of restaurants Los Dados and Sueños) slowly but surely became an expert on Mexican cuisine, and naturally, a tequila pro. At Saturday's tequila-pairing event at Los Dados, Torres discussed the three major types of tequila: Silver, Reposado and Añejo and provided corresponding samples and food pairings for each.
The first tequila sample was El Tesoro Silver and was paired with a corn and black bean sope. El Tesoro Silver’s peppery quality which Torres noted “smells like fresh agave plants,” paired up well with the sweet and spicy sope (a small circle of fried corn meal soaked in lime and topped with beans and cheese, onions and tomatillo). Next was the Frida Kahlo Reposado (created by Kahlo's niece), which has a slightly more buttery quality to it than a Silver and was paired with a spicy shrimp with avocado, topped with lime-soaked onions atop a fried corn chip.
The final sample was Casa Noble Añejo, which was certainly the smoothest selection for sipping purposes—and costs $20 a shot. Paired with deep-fried churros with both chocolate-mulato and dulce de leche dipping sauces, it was a perfect capper to the mini-meal.
Culinary demo: Masaharu Morimoto
“Mmmm, I am a genius,” joked Masiharu Morimoto upon tasting his marinade in front of a packed audience at the Highline Ballroom at this weekend’s NYC Wine & Food Festival. Culinary demos from TV chefs like Iron Chef Morimoto were among some of the most popular events of the weekend. Morimoto worked quickly and quietly, pausing only to crack jokes when appropriate, especially during the Q&A session.
First up, he created a hand-chopped beef tare-tare, made with a spicy mayo and garnished with Asian pear, mango, jalapeno, caviar, mascarpone and cherry tomato. Next: a unique Italian-inspired beef salad featuring a panzanella mix of bread, tomato, mozzarella, basil and cucumber, marinated in sake and other traditional Japanese ingredients. “My mother was Italian,” Morimoto kidded. The chef also served a dish of “Steak Two Ways”: seared steak topped with freshly grated wasabi and steamed steak with a toasted rice coating.
Photo by Tod Seelie