Yearly Archives: 2013

Smorgasburg Opening Day 2013

Smorgasburg – previous location

Smorgasburg – new location, just across the street

Spring seems to be taking its own sweet time getting started this year in this area, but that hasn’t stopped us all from longing for its impending arrival.  One such marker of the onset of warmer weather is the opening of the outdoor seasonal markets in the city.  Yesterday, Smorgasburg kicked off in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in their new location at East River State Park, just across the street from their previous venue which had been a vacant lot and is now slated for development.  It was a perfect, sunny day, if a bit crisply cool, to explore some of the treats on which local food vendors have been working to bring us this year.

Dough‘s display

I kicked off my day at the market with a donut from one of my favorite places (and that of many other folks, judging by the lines): Dough.

Dough donut at SmorgasburgDough donut – Passion fruit and Cocoa nibs

This year, it looks like there have a couple of new donut varieties, or at least ones that are new to me.  I tried the Passion fruit and Cocoa nibs which combined tropical flavors with a bit of a chocolately crunch.  Next time the Earl Grey and Chocolate version is on my list to try.  Can either of these unseat my usual favorite flavor, Hibiscus?  Only time (and more donuts) will tell.

Butter & Scotch – Bananas Foster Trifle

From reading market vendors’ posts on Facebook this week, I knew that one stand I couldn’t possibly pass up visiting was Butter & Scotch.  They’d mentioned something about making a Bananas Foster Trifle just for opening day.  Creamy, boozy, incredibly decadent, this is dessert made the way it should be.  In some ways, it was just fine that my friends were going to be late meeting me because that meant I didn’t have to share this with them at all.

Bellocq teas

Meandering through the food stalls, I enjoyed the new configuration where there’s two main rows with venders on either side without the space in the middle where some of the vendors were set up in the two previous years.  There seemed to be ample picnic tables and extra space on the grass where groups of folks were seated with their friends, enjoying the beautiful weather and great eats.  I also had a chance to pick up some things for my pantry, like the Afghani Chai from Bellocq teas.

Anarchy in a Jar jams

Another staple in my kitchen is the delicious jams from Anarchy in a Jar.  My refrigerator has been suffering from a deficit of them during these months, as I’d eaten my way through the stash I normally keep on hand.  I picked up a couple of jars to restock my supply, although it was really difficult to limit my choices, as there were all of these wonderful flavors.

Momo Dressing display

Aside from seeing friends and catching up on the latest news from vendors after not seeing each other over the last few months of the pause in the market season, there were also plenty of great new products (or at least new to me) that I also tried yesterday.  I had to restrain myself from picking up lots of these goodies to keep on hand for new recipes and summertime eating.  One condiment that I think I’ll need to find some room for on the shelf is Momo Dressing‘s Asian-inspired dressings and sauces.  They had a light Non-oil Shiso, a zippy Ginger, and nutty Sesame available to sample at the market.

Kalypso Greek Yogurt terra cotta pots

Artisanal yogurt was also a new item that I saw yesterday with two vendors launching their products in the market.  I tasted Kalypso Greek Yogurt and found it to be rich and creamy with a pleasant tanginess and none of the chalky backnote that I find that some yogurts have.

White Moustache Yogurt display

Another item on my shopping list for my next visit will be a pot of yogurt from the folks at White Moustache Yogurt.  I think some of this will work well with the granola-yogurt parfaits that I love having when the summertime berries come into season.

Nut Butters from The 3 Nuts

Like peanut butter?  Why not check out these nut butters from The 3 Nuts.  I really enjoyed tasting the Coconut Cashew and Salted Caramel varieties.  These would be perfect for snacking or making satays or adding to noodles.  Looks like there’s another item I need to find space for in my kitchen.

Floyd Beer Cheese

Another big hit for me and for a few others I spoke to at the end of the day was the savory, sharp, tangy Floyd Beer Cheese.  Served on a Ritz Cracker, this was a perfect snack, and one that I can see gracing the cocktail platters of many a retro-Southern-inspired party this summer season.  The only reason I didn’t take any of it home with me from the market is that I was afraid that I’d crack open the container and just eat it all in one sitting.

Pimento Cheese with jalapenos from Scharf & Zoyer

Pimento Cheese, another Southern culinary delight, made its debut yesterday at the market courtesy new food vendors Scharf & Zoyer, who were cooking up some tempting grilled cheese sandwiches.  This stuff was spice-y, maybe a bit too much so, but I could see it being a wonderful accompaniment slathered onto some creation or other.

Tuna Melt from Scharf & Zoyer

This vendor also had a Tuna Melt on an everything croissant that received high marks from several food scene folks who noshed on it.  It’s also high on my list of things to eat while there next visit, unless I get distracted by another of their amazing-sounding sandwiches.

Fixing up a brisket sandwich from Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque

There was some fierce competition yesterday for the longest line to stand on at Smorgasburg.  Usually, this honor goes to the folks at Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque for their brisket sandwiches.

Fried Chicken & Waffles from Buttermilk Channel

Buttermilk Channel‘s fried chicken and waffles might have actually taken first place in wait times this time around.  I had tasted this dish last year at the market and had enjoyed it.  It’s on the list to try again this year.

Short-rib Taco from Takumi Taco

Despite all the nibbling and tasting and sampling, after walking around checking out all the tables and stalls, I still had a bit more room left to try a little something.  At the indoor version of the Brooklyn Flea at One Hanson Place, I’d had a chance to eat Takumi Taco‘s Japanese-Mexican concoctions.  By the time I worked my way back to their table, they (along with many other vendors) had run out of some of their offerings, but their Short-rib Taco really hit the spot.

As usual on the open day for any of these seasonal markets, all the activity and hubbub are a lot to capture in just one short post so I uploaded lots of photos into Flickr to showcase the day.  There was such a positive energy in the air yesterday and whiff of anticipation for many more lovely summer afternoons to come.  I’m already looking forward to my next visit there and to discovering some more fantastic edible eats.

Buon appetito!

The Big British Invite with VisitBritain & British Airways

The Big British InviteThe Big British Invite

London is one of my favorite cities to visit in the world, so I was intrigued to receive an invitation to attend The Big British Invite, a collaboration between VisitBritain and British Airways to showcase some of the highlights of British culture that tourists might want to explore.  The Olympics last year as well as the Royal Wedding and anticipated arrival of the Royal Baby, have made the United Kingdom a very popular destination, with 3,000 people a day traveling between New York and London.  The city and the tri-state area generate the largest group of visitors.  This sold out pop-up last weekend in Soho was to display “a glimpse of what is new and now in Britain,” according to the organizers.

Estelle in British Airways‘ new First Class seats

Dan Stevens examining The London Candy Company‘s chocolate creation

For the press preview, we were able to interact with two of the UK’s current cultural exports: Grammy award winner Estelle and Dan Stevens, who appeared on Broadway after having left Downton Abbey.  With them walking alongside of us through the different displays of British food, fashion, and culture, this was a bit like sharing an afternoon discovering the delights of a city with your friend, The Insider.

Our “boarding pass” for this event – Oh, how I wish it had been a real one!

We were treated to a scarf-tying demo by the folks of Liberty of London, sampled treats from local gastropub Highlands NYC, nibbled on teatime fare from Sanderson Hotel‘s “Mad Hatter ‘s Afternoon Tea,” had a seat in a “London cab,” checked out the latest in punk fashions, and took in a few drinks at a pub, among other activities.  It was a terrific chance to dip into a bit of Britain while not having to pack a suitcase or to deal with Customs, but it did make me realize that I’m long overdue for a real trip to London to soak up some of the wonderful things going on over there.

A mock-up of the exterior of Liberty of London – one of the places I like to drop by on any visit

Demonstrating a way to dress up an outfit with one of their fabulous scarves

London cabbie ready to take you to your destination

Black cabs in jelly form for us to enjoy

Punk – part of their history, still influencing the present

A fashion as iconic as the red phone box

Mini sausage rolls with HP Sauce – prepared by Highlands NYC

Sips of Cullen skink – a Scottish version of a smoked haddock chowder

Shortbreads with Whiskey-Chocolate Drops

Bedford Cheese Shop display of Welsh cheese

A nosh of Welsh Rarebit

Then, time to drop by the pub for a Smoky Whiskey Drink called “The Bribe” (think whiskey + cigars)

The Bumbys give a fair and honest appraisal of your appearance – I was too chicken to let them do that!

This was a cool way to experience the latest in the UK music scene – just put on the headphones and dance

It was time for tea with a Matcha Tea Mousse in a Chocolate Tea Cup

Or maybe one of their special tea blends

Or maybe something else from the “Mad Hatter ‘s Afternoon Tea” put together by Sanderson Hotel

This is a perfect use for all those teacups

But, really, what I fell in love with the most was this dazzling display of landmarks made of sweets courtesy The London Candy Company

Big Ben in Cadbury chocolates

Choco-Henge made of Mars Bars

Jigs Patel – owner of The London Candy Company (which is located on the Upper East Side)

Thanks so much to Extra Extra Creative for the invitation to this event.  Getting to taste and experience some of the flavors and fashions of what makes Britain a great place to visit just reminded me of how much there is to explore there in the culinary and cultural landscape.  Hopefully, I can get over there again before too long!

Buon appetito!

New York revisits the German Table at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Why does there seem to be a resurgence in German and Austrian food in New York City?  Biergartens are popping up in various neighborhoods, charcuterie plates appear on the menus of many restaurants, and there’s even a Sausage Slam with beers by the Brooklyn Brewery taking place tonight.  More elegant cuisine can be had at places like Wallsé, and a trip to the Neue Galerie would not be complete without soaking in a bit of Central European café culture with a coffee and a slice of cake.  At the Lower East Side Tenement Museum last night, Mimi Sheraton, Kurt Gutenbrunner, Jeremy Schaller, and Joshua M. Bernstein (photo L-R) explored this topic with the help of Jane Ziegelman, host of the museum’s Culinary Conversations series (not in the photo).

German Foods Tasting Menu

Ms. Ziegelman began the discussion of this “new fascination with German and Austrian food” by briefly reflecting upon the history that New York City has had with German immigration.   “Kleindeutschland” (Little Germany), she said was the city’s first foreign language enclave.  In the 1860s, it extended from Division Street (now in Chinatown) north to 14th Street and from the East River piers to the Bowery.  Over 200,000 people lived there, nearly a quarter of the population at the time.  Their “gastronomic stage,” she highlighted, was the Bowery, which was the home of the “biergartens.”  One of the largest of these, The Atlantic Garden (located between Canal and Bayard Streets on Broadway) had a bowling alley, a shooting range, an all-female orchestra, and a dance hall.  It could accommodate 3,000 people serving them salads with meat, root vegetable dishes, sausages, and, of course, lots of beer.

LES Tenement MuseumWindow of the museum’s new exhibit “Shoplife

Unlike other dining establishments in the city at the time, the German saloons were designed for families, not just for adults.  In addition to its more pungent cuisine with sharp sour, salty, and cured meat flavorings, the custom of lingering over the dinner table was also a puzzling one to the New York population, some of which would travel down to the Lower East Side to experience this culture, taking in a pint of lager and a plate of bratwurst.  Many German and Austrian food venues were set up in other parts of the city as well, including a rathskeller near City Hall and The Vienna Bakery at 12th Street and Broadway, which was famous for its coffee and Vienna rolls, added Ms. Sheraton.  These places stood out for their “convivial atmosphere and abundant home cooking,” explained Ms. Ziegleman.  One of the most well-known of these was the legendary Lüchow’s, which attracted luminaries and regular folks alike from all over the city.

Aufschnittplatte (cold cuts) from Schaller & Weber

East 86th Street was even known as “Bratwurst Boulevard,” added Jeremy Schaller, of butcher and charcuterie makers Schaller & Weber.  Being of Germany ancestry, I was really surprised to learn when I moved here that German and Austrian cooking and restaurants were once considered to be more haute cuisine than that of the French.  It wasn’t until I read William Grimes’ fascinating history Appetite City that I discovered this and began to appreciate more my culinary roots.  Part of the reason for this cooking falling out of favor, as was discussed last night, was due to Germany’s marred reputation following World Wars I and II.

Smoked Trout Palatschinken from Kurt Gutenbrunner

I live in Yorkville, which was once one of the epicenters of German food culture in the United States, and to where much of the Lower East Side German population emigrated after the sinking of the General Slocum, attracting visitors to the neighborhood who wanted to experience a bit of this cuisine at one of the many restaurants that used to exist here. Sadly, changing demographics and economic influences mean only a few of these places exist today.  Some of the food and tastes that were considered ethnic and very Germanic at one point in our culinary history have also become more integrated into the everyday diets of many of us, so that more traditional dishes have been co-opted and morphed from what they were as they found a place on the American table.  Schaller & Weber and The Heidelberg Restaurant are only a few of the institutions that survive of this thriving ethnic enclave.

Sweetbreads w Celery Root Puree & Black Trumpets from Kurt Gutenbrunner

Kurt Gutenbrunner offered his views on these developments and of the resurgence of these foods among the younger generation of restaurant-goers.  He sees that people are “more interested in German and Austrian cuisine right now; it’s cool to drink German wine.”  This was, he said very different from his experiences when he first came to the United States, during the period when this type of cooking was way out of favor among diners.  He said he is proud to promote the cooking of classic foods like good Sacher cake, weinerschnitzel, apfelstrudel, and spaetzle alongside making dishes that reflect the ingredients of his new homeland.  As he pointed out, the techniques of making these foods are still very important. The adoption of the custom of gathering with friends to pass the time at a biergarten (like the one that he created at The Standard Hotel) is one that brings together the older culture with the newer people who are embracing it. There is a positivity with biergartens in America right now.  It is part of a dialogue of cultural communication of which he is also very proud, he added.

Slice of Poppy Seed Gugelhupf from Kurt Gutenbrunner

Several other forces taking hold in the food pathways in America might also be adding to this, too, as the panelists mentioned.  Top-quality charcuterie products have been becoming increasingly popular, as Jeremy Schaller pointed out.  The “meatavore” sentiment, as he put it, has had people sampling cuts of meat and food items that are outside what they have typically grown up with and eaten.  Younger Germans and Austrians have also been delving into their culinary pasts, bringing some of their traditions to the United States where they set up stands at the local food markets.  It was brought up that maybe they don’t feel as hidebound by older cultural restrictions and perceptions which perhaps makes them more open to exploring their culinary history.  Whatever the reason may be, it is interesting to see the food scene in New York City reflect upon and emulate some of the German and Austrian traditions that it held more than 200 years ago while bringing them up to date for today’s dining crowds.

Buon appetito!

Support the New Amsterdam Market

New Amsterdam Market Opening Day 2012

Regular readers of this website know that I’m a huge fan of the seasonal markets here in New York City.  They are the perfect way to kick around a different part of town on a sunny, weekend afternoon.  Taking a little stroll around the market stalls, nibbling on a sweet treat or noshing on a plate of something while enjoying people watching and the pleasures of the vibrant NYC food scene gives this bustling city a more relaxed, small town feel.  One of my favorite markets to visit is the New Amsterdam Market, founded by Robert LaValva.

New Amsterdam Market at the Fulton Fish Market

Right now, the market takes place in a parking lot on the site of the former Fulton Fish Market.  For years, Robert and his supporters have been requesting that they be granted space in the abandoned fish market buildings, the development rights for which are owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation, who also holds the lease on Pier 17 in the Seaport area.  I’ve attended two hearings about this project.  One of them was last week, where a large number of people gathered to show that they are in favor of the market being included in the redevelopment plans for the area. In fact, so many folks came to support the market that the meeting had to be postponed so that it could be moved to the city council hearing room at City Hall itself, and the room was still packed.  Here’s one article summarizing the proceedings.

NAM street sign

The time to act on this project is now, while the City Council is in the public review process.  Here’s how you can help:

    • Sign the petition the New Amsterdam Market website.  Add your name to those of the thousands of other New Yorkers who would hate to see this market go away
    • Contact your city council member to let him/her know that you would like to see this market continue and to have it find a place in the re-development plans for the Seaport area.  (At the meeting on Thursday, March 14, the council people who spoke said that their constituents had told them how much having this market in the city adds to their quality of life, and is it a revenue generator and job creator, which is also important to the council)
    • Participate in the rally at City Hall tomorrow, Tuesday, March 19, from noon until 1:00 p.m. to add your voice to the others that would like to keep alive this valuable public assetRally postponed due to inclement weather.

See what chefs and others who support the market are saying about it.  Hopefully, we can all pull together to find a permanent home for the market and to have it as a integrated part of a new, dynamic South Street Seaport area that all New Yorkers will want to use.

Buon appetito!

St. Patrick’s Day Menu Ideas – Colcannon Cakes with Fried Quail’s Egg & Irish Bacon Crisp

Colcannon Cake w Back Bacon & Quail EggColcannon Cakes with Fried Quail’s Egg & Irish Bacon Crisp

With the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations kicking off this weekend, I wanted to share this recipe that I created for my culinary school menu project.  When we were assigned this task to design a dinner party, of no fewer than four courses to serve eight guests, I decided to explore the culinary traditions of the Emerald Isle.  You see, unlike other folks, I don’t have any traditional, cultural family recipes handed down through the generations that tug at the ethnic heartstrings.  This project gave me a chance to research the cuisine of Ireland and to pair it with some of the beverages for which that country is perhaps better known.

Colcannon cakes cooling on a rack

No menu featuring Irish cooking would be complete without at least one potato dish like this one. Colcannon, meaning “white-headed cabbage” in Gaelic, is a mix of mashed up potatoes (sometimes leftover from a previous meal) combined with cabbage, kale, leeks, and/or scallions. I found several different versions of this recipe in my menu research and was told about others from friends and contacts of mine, all of which included potatoes mixed with one or several of those vegetables. The main differences in these recipes tend to be regional or familial and dependent upon individual taste preferences.

Irish back bacon

Traditionally, this dish is served for Halloween, originally celebrated as the Celtic feast of Samhain (then it was co-opted by Christianity as were many previously pagan celebrations), which signaled the end of the Celtic year and of the harvest season. According to superstition, a young, single woman who found a ring hidden in the dish could expect to be married before springtime while the young, single woman who found the thimble faced spinsterhood.  (I’m not necessarily recommending that you continue that tradition!)  Colcannon is also considered to be a quintessential Irish comfort food.  For my menu project, I paired this with Harp Lager, but you could serve it with the beverage of your choice.

Ingredients for Colcannon cakes with Fried Quail’s Egg & Irish Bacon Crisp

Prep Time: about 1 1/2 hours

Serving Size: 8 portions (1 Colcannon cake, 1 slice back bacon, 1 quail’s egg per person)

Ingredients:

For the Colcannon Cakes:
3 large Russet or Idaho Potatoes
4 large Kale leaves
4 large White Cabbage leaves
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, plus 3 Tablespoons to cook the Colcannon cakes (I used Kerrygold.*)
3/4 cup Whole Milk
2 teaspoons Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup Flour

To serve:
8 slices of thick-cut Irish back bacon
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter for frying eggs (I used Kerrygold.*)
8 Quail Eggs
1 Tablespoon Scallions, finely minced, for garnish

Assembly:

Steaming hot potatoes

To prepare the Colcannon Cakes, first cook the potatoes in their skins. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan or pot filled with cold water that just covers the potatoes. Bring the water up to a boil, turn down the heat and let the water simmer. The potatoes are finished when a knife can be easily inserted into the thickest point. Set aside to cool for a moment. (If you have leftover mashed potatoes, you can re-purposed those instead for this recipe.)

Steamed kale

Clean kale leaves of any dirt or grit and strip the leaves from the tough stems. Chop up the kale into thin strips. In a pan of boiling water fitted with a steamer basket. Steam the kale for about four minutes until just tender. Remove the steamer basket from the pan and let the kale drain in a colander.

Cooked cabbage

Peel off ragged, damaged outer leaves of the cabbage to get at the more tender inner ones. Clean cabbage leaves of any dirt or grit. Chop the cabbage up up into small chunks. Melt one tablespoon of the butter in saucepan. Put cabbage in pan and cover with a lid. Cook the cabbage until it becomes tender and translucent. Take the pan off the heat and allow the cabbage to cool down a bit.

Fluffy mashed potatoes

By this time, the potatoes will have cooled off enough to be handled. Peel the potatoes by using a paring knife to remove the skins gently. The skins should come off easily. Mash up potatoes using a fork or a potato ricer. Heat the milk until it just reaches the boiling point. Pour the milk into the potatoes and stir it into the potatoes together with the remaining three tablespoons of the butter, salt, and pepper. Mix together until the potato mixture is smooth. It can still contain some lumps, but it should be mostly smooth and fluffy. Add the steamed kale and cooked cabbage to the potatoes.

Colcannon mixed together

Mix together the kale and cabbage with the mashed potatoes. Taste the mixture and adjust it for seasoning, as necessary. Form potato-kale-cabbage mixture (Colcannon) into eight rounds. Pour flour onto plate. Dust Colcannon cakes with a little bit of flour to aid them developing a brown crust when cooked.  While Colcannon cakes are cooking, finely mince scallions. Set aside to be used when assembling the final dish.

Frying up Colcannon cakes

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt two teaspoons of butter in a large skillet.  Place four of the Colcannon cakes in the pan and cook on one side until golden brown and crispy.  Flip over and cook them on the second side in the same manner, adding extra butter, if needed.  Remove the Colcannon cakes from the pan after they have become brown and crispy on both sides. Place on a rack until ready to serve.

To serve:

Reheating Colcannon cakes and bacon

Heat an oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Wipe the skillet clean after cooking the Colcannon cakes. Place the bacon in the skillet. Cook bacon on both sides until the edges become slightly crisp. It will not become completely crunchy-chewy like American-style bacon, as it has less fat overall. Remove the bacon from the pan and place on a rack.  Place the Colcannon cakes and the bacon on a baking sheet to keep warm while preparing the quail’s eggs. You could also make the Colcannon cakes in advance, refrigerate them, and then reheat them in the oven prior to serving them.

Frying up quail eggs

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Crack three to four of the quail’s eggs in the skillet (depending upon the size of the skillet), taking care not to let their whites overlap. Cook until the white is firmly set, the edges are a bit crispy, and the yolk is still mostly runny. Set aside on a warm plate. Repeat with the additional eggs, adding more butter as necessary.

Colcannon Cake with Quail’s Egg & Irish Bacon Crisp paired with Harp Lager

Place one of the warmed Colcannon cakes on each of eight plates. Top each with a fried quail’s egg. Place one piece of the bacon alongside the Colcannon cake. Sprinkle with a bit of the chopped scallion. Serve while everything is still warm, alongside a beverage of your choice.

Buon appetito!

*A few months back, Kerrygold invited me to be a part of their blogger network.  As a long-time fan of cooking and baking with their butters for its taste and texture and ability to deliver consistent results, I accepted their offer.  I had designed and tested these recipes (as well as many others on this website) using Kerrygold well before they reached out to me.  You can use whatever butter you wish.

Duck-off at Jimmy’s No. 43 to benefit Food Systems Network NYC

Third Annual FSNNYC Duck-offFood Systems Network NYC’s Third Annual Duck-off

One of my favorite food events to attend every year just for the sheer creativity of the entries, and because I’m a big fan of duck, is the Food Systems Network NYC’s Duck-Off.  Competing cooks are supplied the duck, and then can make what ever concoction their imagination inspires them to do to showcase this product (see 2011 and 2012 entries).  This year, Hudson Valley Duck Farm supplied the duck.  Participants could request to receive duck breasts, duck legs or entire ducks to create their dishes.  It was my pleasure to have a more active role in this year’s gathering, when Jimmy Carbone, owner of the host location Jimmy’s No. 43, asked me to judge the event.

Gathering at Jimmy’s No. 43

With my internal reserves of duck fat on the wane after having evaluated the Cassoulet Cookoff back in January, I gladly agreed to spend my Sunday afternoon munching on duck-inspired creations.  I joined Matt Igoe, Proprietor of Hudson Valley Duck Farm, Nancy Matsumoto, Food Writer & Editor, and Jonathan Forester, Food and Beverage Writer & Consultant, in figuring out whom among these talented and innovative cooks would take home the winning prizes.  The decision was not an easy one, and we deliberated quite a bit before the final slate was confirmed.  The key factor was which dish showcased the duck the best, or had the most “duckiness,” if you will, as well as other, balanced flavor components.  Here’s some of my thoughts on the dishes that were served at this competition.

Adrian Ashby 

Duck Burrito Pie

A previous competitor (and past People’s Choice winner), Adrian went the comfort food route with his entry.  Richly flavored with lots of layers of taste and texture and just a kick of heat, this was a dish of which I could curl up on the couch and devour a whole trayful.  I would like to have seen more duck in it, as I felt like the meat was a bit lost amongst the other ingredients, but this was definitely a tasty offering, if not as far out there as his Chocolate Donuts with Fois Gras Frosting and Duck Bacon from last year.

Marina Berger

Roasted Duck Breasts in the Style of Porchetta

Her inspiration for this dish, Marina explained, was Sarah Jenkins‘ porchetta recipe.  I’m a huge fan of Porchetta‘s rich, fatty, meaty, herbacious sandwiches, which are the perfect treat to pick up while perusing the city’s markets, but I didn’t quite get that here when I tried Marina’s entry.  For me, the duck breast was over-cooked (probably due to carryover cooking and having to keep it warm for serving to the guests), and the slice I had was too thick and unwieldy, with a blob of fat and chewy skin.  I heard from another guest that he felt that the spice mixture that she used (fennel, anise seed?) overwhelmed the duck.  Other folks really enjoyed it, however, and she went home with the Second Place People’s Choice Award for the event.

John Bondurant

Dumpling “Blood” a l’Orange

By way of full disclosure, John is a culinary school classmate of mine.  Jimmy had mentioned to me that he still had a few spots open for judges, and, as I knew that John had showcased duck for our recently-due menu project, I suggested to him that he consider entering this competition.  He did a riff on a wanton/soup dumpling combined with the French classic Duck à l’Orange.  This dish had a bit of everything: chewy dough, sharp peppery greens, meaty center, citrusy sauce, and pop of salt to finish it.  I thought it was a great, composed bite, although, as with a few entries, I really wished for more duck at the heart of it.  John won the tastebuds of the guests, however, proving that sometimes the officials and the attendees are looking for different things, and took home the First Place People’s Choice Awards.

Patricia Clark

Duck Duo Taco with Cherry & Caramelized Onion Salsa

Returning to compete after the Cassoulet Cookoff, Patricia created a dish that had lots going on in it.  The cheese-duck meat combination was not a favorite with everyone, and some felt that the nutty earthiness of the parmesan overshadowed the duck.  For me, this was probably the moistest of the pulled-duck recipes, which was lovely, although I’m still not completely on board with the pairing with dairy.  I also felt that the cherry and caramelized onion salsa, which I was so looking forward to tasting as Patricia spooned it on my plate, got lost a bit somewhat.

Cathy Erway

Duck, Duck, Cheese!

Another Duck+Cheese entry was Cathy Erway’s version of mac-n-cheese with duck, thyme, scallions, and a garnish of crispy duck skin.  This was a terrific-tasting pasta dish, but the duck seemed like the outsider trying to get in to join the noodles and dairy party without much success.  It didn’t quite work for me, although I’m now curious to see, with two dishes trying to combine these flavors, if duck and cheese is the culinary “new black.”

Gramercy Tavern

Duck Pastrami with Sunchokes & Aji Dulce Pepper Jam

The First Place Prize by the judges went to Micah Mowrey and Andrew Gumpel of Gramercy Tavern.  They also picked up the Third Place People’s Choice Award for the event.  For me, this was the best bite I had all day.  The pastrami was lightly smoked, keeping the hearty duck flavor at the forefront.  The pickled vegetables and aji dulce pepper jam only heightened the taste of the meat, contrasting with the smokiness, with the duck-fat fried sunchoke chip working in even more duck tones into the dish.  I was sad to see that they were cleaned out of these when I went back after the results were announced, but I consoled myself by snacking on more of those decadent sunchoke chips.

Emily Hanhan

Pulled Duck Sliders

Emily incorporated duck components into almost every aspect of this dish, she told me.  Duck fat even went into the light, airy biscuits, and melted duck fat was stirred into the mayonnaise.  I enjoyed the soft meat contrasting with the crunchy slaw all nestled in a pillowy biscuit.  My serving maybe could have used a bit more of the mayonnaise to give it extra pop of flavor.

Margrethe Horlyck-Romanovsky

Cured Duck Breast with Caraway Cabbage

For me, this dish had a little bit of everything.  The cured duck breast showcased the tender meat.  The lightly-cured caraway cabbage still had a some bite and tang, and the crisp of fried duck skin just pushed it over to salty-smoky-meaty wonderfulness.  I could have eaten several of these.

Laura Luciano

Duck Confit Tart

As the winner of both the Judges’ and People’s Choice Awards at this year’s Cassoulet Cookoff, I was definitely looking forward to seeing what Laura Luciano would be bringing to the Duck-off.  Her Duck Confit Tart was awarded the Third Place Prize by the judges.  The buttery crust held a layer of succulent duck confit combined with the  mild sweetness of caramelized pears, fennel, and onion, and confit of garlic.  This was a delicate-yet-rich composed dish.

Jamie Saurman

Confit of Cumin & Coriander Duck Legs

Inspired by the flavors of India, Jamie created a dish that combined spice notes from that country along with mung beans, a pappadum cracker, and pomegranate seeds, giving it taste and texture contrasts.  Scooping up a bit of everything on the cracker, I was able to be transported to a more exotic environment than the Lower East Side.  I just wish that maybe the whole dish was served in a cup made of the pappadum so that every bite could have been that complete.  Jamie took home the Second Place Prize from the judges.

Micah Mowrey and Andrew Gumpel of Gramercy Tavern – First Prize Judge’s Choice and Third Place People’s Choice winners

Congratulations to all the participants and the winners for contributing to such a delicious event.  In the end, it was the most successful Duck-off ever, raising $2,150.00 to support the educational and advocacy programming of Food Systems Network NYC.  Thank you to Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 for inviting me to take part in deciding the winners.

JB - 1st Place PCJohn Bondurant – First Place People’s Choice winner

After being asked to judge a few of these events, I have to emphasize that it is never easy to select the top three candidates at any of them.  As always, it amazes me to see the phenomenal plates that everyone creates and the wonderful flavors that the participants think to combine – and that sometimes just completely come together in one magical bite.  Here’s a complete list of the winners, although, at an event like this one, there really are no losers, only full bellies and happy hearts.  See you next year!

Judge’s Choice

  • 1st Place, Judge’s Choice – Gramercy Tavern (Micah Mowrey and Andrew Gumpel), Duck Pastrami with Sunchokes & Aji Dulce Pepper Jam
  • 2nd Place, Judge’s Choice – Jamie Saurman, Confit of Cumin & Coriander Duck Legs
  • 3rd Place, Judge’s Choice – Laura Luciano, Duck Confit Tart

People’s Choice

  • 1st Place, People’s Choice – John Bondurant, Dumpling “Blood” a l’Orange
  • 2nd Place, People’s Choice – Marina Berger, Roasted Duck in the Style of Porchetta
  • 3rd Place, People’s Choice – Gramercy Tavern (Micah Mowrey and Andrew Gumpel), Duck Pastrami with Sunchokes & Aji Dulce Pepper Jam

Buon appetito!