Monthly Archives: June 2014

Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” at Domino Sugar Factory

Kara Walker - exhibit bannerExhibit banner

For weeks, I’ve been hearing about how fascinating the exhibit by Kara Walker at the former site of the Domino Sugar Factory (soon to be converted into housing) is, but I hadn’t had an available afternoon to make it over to Williamsburg to get on line to see it.  This past Friday, I managed to carve out the time to take it in.  The show is in honor of the people who worked to refine and make the sugar that we’ve all enjoyed over the generations, with the centerpiece of the program being “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby.”

Kara Walker Domino exhibit - hall view“A Subtlety” – long view

Walking into the decaying structure, I was hit headlong with a smell that triggered a long-ago memory of my mother’s hobby of decorating cakes and making candy in our home kitchen.  A burnt-ish aroma of caramelizing sugar combined with an overpowering scent of fermenting sweetness in the air.  Remnants of the space’s former use were still in evidence, with piles of leftover sugar having accumulated on pieces of the factory’s support structures, which are still intact all around the space.

Sugar on the base of column - DominoSugar on the base of the columns

The scents and the remains of this industrial history emphasizes the starkness of the sugar structures dotted around the floor – the children with their baskets for collecting the harvest.  These pieces also share the effects the physical changes taking place in the space due to exposure to the strong seasonal sunshine.  They and the remains of the industrial infrastructure, along with the lingering aromas, are like long-ago ghosts whose hard work continues to echo in the vast, empty chamber, even now after the factory has been closed for so many years.

Kara Walker Domino - sugar statue moltingStatue of a child slave

Grains of sugar are bunched around the statues, as they are breaking down, while the baskets they hold seem to be filled either with the refined substance or a molten version of it, highlighting the different stages of production for this crop as it reached these shores.  There’s something sad and beautiful about these sculptures.  The largest piece seems to be looking over them, perhaps trying to guard them from a harsh fate or maybe she’s powerless to stop it.

Kara Walker - melted sugar sculptureA transforming sculpture

Unfortunately, however, the chemical effects of the sugar plus the heat plus time (something that we learn quite a bit about in cooking) means that these statues aren’t immune to collapse and crumbling.  Several of the smaller works were already in pieces when I saw them.  From a culinary point of view, it was also fascinating to see the several stages of disintegration of the works.  Some of the sugar turned to pools of syrup decorating the factory floor, while shards of sweet film seemed to resemble shredded cloth.

Kara Walker Domino - melted, fused sugar Sugar melting

More detailed aspects of the pieces had become obscured during the melting process.  The impermanence of it all and the decomposing of a few of the sculptures as a result of the environmental decay was a little disturbing, especially in a few cases where you could still recognize the humanity of the subject.  It was almost as though a worker had collapsed in the steamy, hot fields, mid-workshift.

Kara Walker Domino - SphinxThe main piece

Even with the largest sculpture, the “Sugar Baby,” time exposed to the elements of this industrial space has made it more transparent.  Drips of sugar hang from her headpiece, like saccarine beads of sweat.  Between her breasts you could see where the grains had fused together, as happens when moisture gathers in that spot on sweltering summertime days.  The statue kneels down on a bed of fine white grains, further tying together this exhibit with the former nature of this space.  Is it a statement on our dependence upon this import and its role in our society?

Kara Walker Domino Exhibit - entranceFactory exit

This is definitely not an exhibit to be missed for the works and their medium as well as for the space itself.  With so many of the older, industrial spaces in the city, especially in parts of Brooklyn, on the chopping block, it was also a unique chance to look inside the factory and to experience it un-retouched.  Below is a longer slide show of the pictures that I took, including some shots of the crumbling walls of this building, which seem to ooze sugar, a reminder of its previous existence.

Georges Duboeuf Crus Beaujolais Vertical Seminar & 2013 Preview

Entry sign Beaujolais eventWelcoming sign

There’s been a bit of a gap in my posting cycle due to a few things, including a recipe testing project that I was asked to do for a cookbook soon to be published.  For weeks, though, I’d had a fixed time block in my diary for last Thursday where there was an invitation to attend a wine seminar and tasting event on behalf of Georges Duboeuf featuring different years of their Beaujolais along with a preview of the 2013 Crus served alongside small dishes of food.  It gave me a welcome break from the rest of my work schedule and provided me with some insights about this wine, which is much more versatile and flexible in terms of pairing with edibles than I’d previously realized.

Glasses for the tastingWines for vertical tasting

The first part of the program was a vertical tasting of different vintages of Beaujolais. Moderated by Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine, who walked us through tasting wines from 2013 as well as ones from earlier years, with the assistance of representatives from Georges DuboeufBeaujolais as a region was created in 1937 and includes 12 different wine appellations (a protected designation for a product), including 10 Crus (meaning from a specific vineyard or set of vines), with most of the production devoted to the Gamay grape.  As we were told, the area is as long as Napa Valley but “a wee bit narrower.”

Bottles on displayBeaujolais bottles on display

You might recognize the flowery Beaujolais-Village label.  Perhaps you’ve even taking part in a tasting or ventured to a restaurant that highlights the newest release with a special dinner.  I vividly remember the “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!” signs displayed all over Georgetown when I was still working in Washington, DC.  It impressed upon me the idea that this wine was meant to be drunk as soon as the most recent vintage arrived on our shores, a point that one of the panelists highlighted.

Beaujolais tasting notesTasting notes

These are “thirst-quenching wines,” he said, which creates the idea that they should be drunk in their early state.  Allowing them to age lets their structure develop, which doesn’t happen all that often, he added.  The vertical tasting was really eye-opening in this regard.  When I looked back at my tasting notes, I can definitely seen that progression.  The 2013s were “softer” and “rounder,” with lighter red berry flavors.  As we tasted the 2010 and 2009 vintages, my scribbles are more along the lines of “fuller,” “spice notes,” “deep purple berries.”  Sampling the wines that are just a few years old, I decipher the words “coffee,” “cocoa,” “amber notes,” “licorice,” “rich,” and “full.”  There’s even a side note on the Georges Duboeuf Moulin-à-Vent Cuvée Prestige 2005 that says “duck,” which highlights a possible, desired food pairing.

Kitchen getting everything readyKitchen getting ready

Or that could have been that I was ready for the walk-around and food and wine pairing portion of the program featuring the 2013 vintages from this winemaker.  This event was held at the Bouley Test Kitchen in Tribeca, so throughout the seminar, we could hear the sounds of wonderful dishes being put together for us to try later.  Chef David Bouley spoke to us about his own connections to the Georges Duboeuf family and Beaujolais, many of which derive from his time working as a young chef under Chef Paul Bocuse when they would head out and cook for the grape pickers.  “Beaujolais goes with any festive event here in the States,” he opined, citing it as a good Thanksgiving meal beverage.  He also mentioned that his French colleagues would chose the wine to go with their lunch, as it was light and went with whatever they had made for themselves to eat.

AppetizersAppetizers

To start us all off and get us moving up from the tables, the staff greeted us at the entryway to the kitchen with a glass of the 2013 Georges Duboeuf Macon-Villages Domaine Les Chenevières, made with 100% Chardonnay grapes.  After swishing-and-spitting and inhaling the aromas of a selection of red wines for the previous hour, it was a bit of a tastebud shock to switch over a white.  They had laid out for us an assortment of cheeses and meats, including pork rillettes (seen in the foreground in the photo), salami, prosciutto, and a fois gras terrine to wake up our palates and to have us see how fatty, cured meats and aged dairy paired well with the wine.

Plate of BlinisBlinis with Smoked Salmon, Wild Truffle Honey, and Salmon Roe

Following the progression of folks around the tasting tables, I picked up the first nibble of Blinis with Smoked Salmon, Wild Truffle Honey, and Salmon Roe.  From the photo, you can see that these were no ordinary blinis, with their pillowy, lofty heights.  One bite and the delicate casing gave way to a wave of oceanic salinity tempered by an earthiness and mellow sweetness from the honey.  These were paired with the 2013 Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuissé Domaine Beranger, also made with 100% Chardonnay grapes, which matched up beautifully to the combination of flavors from this small bite, leaving an impression of buttery richness on my tongue.

Lobster DishChatham Day Boat Lobster with Red Wine Sauce

Red wine with fish.  I know, it seems to break those “pairing rules” we were all brought up with, right?  At this tasting, a 2013 Georges Duboeuf Chiroubles (made with 100% Gamay grapes) was teamed up with a lobster dish that featured a red wine sauce and meaty mushrooms as garnish.  This shows that when put together with the proper components, even seafood can play well with red wines.

Gougeres with Comte'Gougères with Comté

Gougères are just the perfect little nibble to offer at a drinks gathering.  They are flexible and can be dressed up or down depending upon the cheese and other ingredients used to make them.  My beverage selection for these is usually something with bubbles (Prosecco, Cava, sparkling wine).  Here, they were accompanied by a 2013 Georges DuBoeuf Brouilly Château de Nervers (made with 100% Gamay grapes), which was a more robust pairing that my usual choice but still went well with these small bites.

Chicken Baked with Alfafa and Clover HoneyChicken Baked with Alfafa and Clover Honey

See that green dollop on the bottom of this bowl?  That is an interesting, piquant component of this dish that went really well with the soft, delicate chicken.  It is also a flavor that could prove challenging in a wine pairing.  There were two different wines to sample with this dish:  a 2013 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie Château des Déduits and a 2013 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents (both made with 100% Gamay grapes).  My preference was for the former vintage over the latter.  I just felt that it handled the sauce better without being overwhelmed by its strong taste while balancing out the other elements of the dish.

Grilled Marinated Duck with Pruneaux d'AgenGrilled Marinated Duck with Pruneaux d’Agen

As I mentioned above, I’d made a food pairing note about one of the wines as something that might go well with a duck dish.  The chef must have read my mind with this plate of grilled marinated duck served on a bed of creamy polenta and dressed with a sauce of Pruneaux d’Agen (a type of French prune).  This was a hearty but not overly heavy offering was presented with three different wine pairings to try.  My favorite match was the 2013 Georges Duboeuf Morgon Domaine Mont Chavy for the way that it picked up the dried fruit notes in the sauce as well as complementing the delicate flavors of the meat and the caramel notes of the cooked duck skin.  The other wines to sample with this were also of the Morgon label (all made with 100% Gamay grapes): a 2013 Georges Duboeuf Morgon and a 2013 Georges Duboeuf Morgon Jean-Ernest Descombes.

Kuzu Crisp with Black Truffle Pate' and AligoteKuzu Crisp with Black Truffle Paté and Aligote

This next small bite actually came with an advisory from Chef Bouley.  He and his team had been working on a gluten free cracker that they could use to serve with hors d’oeuvres – something light, yet substantial enough to support (physically and taste-wise) a variety of toppings.  He found it by using kuzu, which proved to be a delicious base for his black truffle paté with Aligote.  The 2013 Georges Duboeuf Juliénas Château des Capitans (made with 100% Gamay grapes) was a great pairing, taking on the creaminess of the sauce as well as the meaty, woodsiness of the truffle.  Those words of warning?  They were that we’d love it so much that we’d want everything to be served on this instead of on regular bread or crackers.  After eating these, we all agreed that he had been entirely correct.

Assorted Bouley Chocolate TrufflesAssorted Bouley Chocolate Truffles

After quite a few savory dishes, it was now time to sample the wines with something sweet.  A tray of assorted truffles, with different fillings, had been put together by the chef.  For me, I couldn’t decide if I enjoyed the chocolates more with the 2013 Georges Duboeuf Moulin-à-Vent Domaine des Rosiers or the 2013 Georges Duboeuf Moulin-à-Vent Rochegrès (both made with 100% Gamay grapes).  For me, they seemed to pair equally well.

Scrambled Duck Egg with Black TruffleSoft-scrambled Duck Egg with Black Truffles

Mini Gnocchi with Black Truffle SauceMini Gnocchi with Black Truffle Cream Sauce

I didn’t really have a chance to dwell on the chocolate-wine match for long, as the chef had the waiters bring out two additional, specially prepared, dishes from the kitchen. During his introduction, Chef Bouley had mentioned that he’d just received a shipment of truffles from Australia.  With them, he made those two luxurious dishes that you see in the photos above.  I filled my glass with some of the 2013 Georges Duboeuf Moulin-à-Vent Prestige (made with 100% Gamay grapes) to go along with them. It was an ideal combination. The wine held up to the richness and creaminess of both of the dishes as well as to the funkiness of the truffles that can sometimes drown out a lesser beverage.  These were the perfect dishes on which to end the afternoon’s tastings showing the breadth and depth of how wine works to enhance our enjoyment of food.

Buon appetito!

Thank you so much to the team at PadillaCRT for including me in this event.  The opinions on the wines and food and their pairings are mine alone.  For more information on Georges Duboeuf Wines and their company, please visit their website.

Radish and Chive-Butter Crostini

Radish and Chive Butter CrostiniRadish and Chive-Butter Crostini

This past weekend, I hosted a couple from Virginia for a short visit to the Big Apple.  When I asked them what they’d like to see/explore/do/take in on their brief trip up here, he replied, “What do New Yorkers typically do on Saturdays?”  I said that sometimes we head to the Greenmarket to pick up seasonal produce, before correcting myself and responding, “Actually, the first thing we do is to check the MTA website to see what subway trains are running, and then we figure out what we’re going to do that day.”  With so many subway lines under construction or repair alerts these days, the latter statement is much closer to the truth.

Onion chivesOnion Chives

The intermittent subway disruptions plus my kitchen work schedule have made Wednesday my usual day to visit the market at Union Square.  Now that we are past the bleakest of the winter months and charging full speed ahead into summertime’s seasonal bounty, more colorful and vibrant products are appearing each week.  A couple of weeks ago, I designed a few small plate items for the menu, taking advantage of some of them.  These gorgeous Onion Chives were just begging to be purchased.  What to do with them, I wondered?

Radishes - slicedSliced radishes

A pile of red finger nail polish-colored radishes had caught my eye when I’d been roaming around the market earlier.  Knowing that we had a bunch of bread that needed to be used for crostini sitting in the walk-in refrigerator at the restaurant, this dish started to form in my head.  It is a spin on a French-style snack or breakfast of radishes dipped in sea salt and then served with a luxurious slash of rich, cultured butter on a fresh baguette.  For our menu, I figured that mixing up the onion chives with Ronnybrook Farm‘s (also a vendor at the market) unsalted butter then topping that with the radishes and a few pea shoots would make a nice version of that treat.  These small bites got a big thumbs up from the staff who graciously offered to taste test it.

Radish and Chive-Butter Crostini

Prep time: Less than 30 minutes

Serving size: Makes about 1 pint of chive butter, enough for 40 or so crostini

Ingredients:

1 Baguette or a couple of mini baguettes

Extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter (good quality butter is best), softened

2 tsp. Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp. Black Pepper, freshly ground

1 1/2- 2 Tbsp Onion Chives, chopped finely

1 bunch Radishes (red, white, red and white – your preference)

2 oz. Pea Shoots (I used Dwarf Grey Sugar Snow Pea Shoots from Windfall Farms)

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place however many pieces of bread you are planning to serve (allow 3-4 per person) on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.  Using a pastry brush, dab each piece of bread with olive oil.  Bake for 5-10 minutes until lightly colored and crisp.

Pay close attention to these as, depending upon your oven, they can go from unbaked to burnt quite quickly (see the Eddie Izzard routine about making toast, as it is very apt).  Remove from oven and set aside to until ready to use.  As you don’t want the butter to melt into the crostini for this recipe, you’ll want them to cool off before you put them together.  (These can also be prepared in advance, per this Kitchen Witch Tip.)

Chopped chives added to butterChives added to the butter

While the bread is toasting, chop up the chives.  Once the bread is out of the oven and cooling, you can turn your attention to mixing the ingredients for the chive butter.  Add the salt, pepper, and chives to the butter and combine thoroughly.  This is a good task to do by hand, as it just takes a few minutes to come together.

Trim the green tops from the radishes or have them do it at the farmers market.  These would also be delicious pan fried with a bit of the butter and served as a side dish.  Slice the radishes very thinly.

Slather a bit of the butter on the now-cooled crostini.  Add a few radish slices on top of that and then sprinkle a couple of pea shoots on top of the radishes.  These make a perfect appetizer or snack and can be prepared a little bit ahead of serving (not more than 30 minutes).

Radish and Chive Butter CrostiniRadish and Chive-Butter Crostini with Pea Shoots

Buon appetito!

New Taste of the Upper West Side – Best of the West

Best of the West programChecking in at Best of the West

For a week there, it was a busy stretch of food events plus kitchen work cooking at other food-related gatherings and special dinners, so I’ve just now managed to sort through all of my photos from the New Taste of the Upper West SideBest of the West, to which I was kindly invited by Key Group Worldwide.  Looking back on pictures from the evening, I was reminded of what makes a great food and drink event in this city where there are so many of them every weekend.

Tito's Beverage - pouring drinksTito’s Handmade Vodka pouring cool drinks

It wasn’t just about the dishes presented by the chefs or the specialty cocktails, it was also about the vibrant mood that the organizers created, complete with a band that kept the audience and the participants dancing (I saw a few chefs here and there grooving to the tunes.), a venue where everyone could circulate easily, and tables and chairs where everyone could relax and enjoy the festivities.  There were, of course, quite a few beverage stations set up, with tastings of wine, spirits, and beer, as well as several water stations, which also seems to be a more frequent (and welcome) feature at food events.

Chef Daniel Boulud thanking everyoneEvent Honoree Chef Daniel Boulud

Another aspect to the evening that made it a very special day, was the honoring of Chef Daniel Boulud, who has several restaurants in the area.  Taking the stage, Chef Boulud thanked all the culinary participants and the folks who cooked the dishes that we were all about to enjoy.  He also asked us to tweet about the event in support of City-Meals-on-Wheels.  Then, the chef signed copies of his cookbook Daniel for guests and chatted with party-goers.

Aerialist - handing out champagneServing champagne

It’s also not every evening or even at every food gathering that you have someone handing out champagne while hanging from the ceiling.  This was a terrific touch and captivated many of the attendees.

'Cesca - Housemade Stracciatella with Rhubarb Compote‘Cesca – Housemade Stracciatella with Rhubarb Compote

As expected, the food was a central feature of the event.  With neighborhood restaurants featured, at each table, it was possible to taste the wide variety of flavors and cuisines available within just a few short blocks of each other.  As this is a part of town I don’t normally visit all that often, it was nice to see some east side names over here as well as to discover some new west side venues to add to my “to try” list, like ‘Cesca, who brought one of my favorite bites of the evening.

There were so many delicious small plates to try that it’s difficult to list all of my favorite ones.  I’ve attached this slideshow of the pictures that I took at as many of the tables as I could visit.  The Poblano-Wild Mushroom Taco from Candle Cafe West (which also has an east side location) was one stand-out dish.  Calle Ocho served warm, pillowy Sweet Corn Arepas topped with silken house-cured salmon, crema, and salmon roe.  It was a perfect salty-sweet bite.

Best of the West - exterior shotOutside seating area

Having a gorgeous NYC evening (a brief rainstorm had passed through earlier in the day), with clear skies, helped create the festive atmosphere, too.  Most of all, this just felt like a relaxed, large-scale block party to celebrate the neighborhood, accompanied by really, really terrific nibbles.  This is definitely a food event to add to your list for next year as well.

Buon appetito!

Thank you to which I was kindly invited by Key Group Worldwide for inviting me to take part in this event.  It was an amazing evening!  All opinions on the dishes and commentary about the event are mine.

2014 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Sculpture for top 10 pastry chefs

I know that I mentioned last week that Brooklyn Uncorked is one of my favorite food events of the year.  Well, another annual gathering about which I get equally excited is the Dessert Professional Magazine Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America ceremony and dessert tasting, which was held this past Monday night.  I have a massive sweet tooth, and, as I generally work on the savory side of the kitchen, getting to eat and see incredible confections from some of the country’s (and the world’s) most talented pastry chefs is a real treat.  For one evening, I get to hang out in Willie Wonka’s workshop!

Richard Grausman - 2014 HonoreeRichard Grausman – Founder & Chairman of C-CAP

Before the dessert tasting starts, however, there is the awards ceremony which recognizes the hard work and dedication of all of the chefs who were selected.  In the audience, I spotted some past winners, maybe a few potential future nominees, as well as other well-known pastry chefs.  Each year, too, one person is recognized for his or her significant contribution to the industry.  This year, Richard Grausman, the Founder and Chairman of C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program), was inducted into the Hall of Fame.  He also announced that, starting in 2015, his organization would be awarding an annual scholarship to be applied to any pastry and baking program at The Institute of Culinary Education (the event host).

Table with mixing bowlsMixing bowls from KitchenAid engraved with each chef’s name

After the formal part of the program, we get to visit each of the kitchens where the chefs have set up their tables laden with desserts for us to taste.  Do I really eat all of this dessert?  Well, honestly, I try to sample most of them.  It does get to be a bit overwhelming sometimes.  Fortunately, I found a few friends who were willing to share plates with me, so none of us was completely overloaded with sugar.  I also captured some pictures of the prep and plating of the desserts, which are visible on my slideshow below.  As this was also the 21st anniversary of the event, cocktails as well as sweets were served at many of the stations.

Georges Berger, MOF, Owner of Chocolate Fashion (FL)

Georges Berger - sign

Georges Berger - Pistachio Brittle & White Peach Mousse

Georges Berger - White Peach-Vodka Cocktail

Ebow Dadzie, Pastry Chef at NY Marriott Marquis and Pastry Instructor at Monroe College (NY)

Ebow Dadzie - sign

Ebow Dadzie - Coconut Lime Dacquoise w Mango Olive Jelly, Banana Lime Sorbet

Ebow Dadzie - Sorrel beverage

Della Gossett, Executive Pastry Chef at Spago (CA)

Della Gossett - signDella Gossett - White Chocolate Crottin with Surinam Cherry Preserve

Katzie Guy-Hamilton, F&B Director and Corporate Pastry Chef at Max Brenner Worldwide (NY)

Katzie Guy-Hamilton - sign

Katzie Guy-Hamilton - Suntory Chocolate Torte

Katzie Guy-Hamilton - chilled chocolate drink

Cher Harris, Executive Pastry Chef at The Hotel Hershey (PA)

Cher Harris - sign

Cher Harris - Mandarin n' Chocolate Hazelnut Sponge

Joshua Johnson, Executive Pastry Chef at Vanilla Patisserie (IL)

Joshua Johnson - sign

Joshua Johnson - Chocolate Mousse Chocolate Cremeux Cherry Compote Chocolate Pound Cake

Joshua Johnson - corn macaron with jalapeno jelly, corn cream, arugula

Ghaya Oliveira, Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Daniel (NY)

Ghaya Oliveira - sign

Ghaya Oliveira - The Cherry Tart

Derek Poirier, École du Grand Chocolate Pastry Chef Western USA – Valrhona USA (AZ)

Derek Poirier - sign

Derek Poirier - To The Five Boroughs

Derek Poirier - Chocolate Cocktail

Rudi Weider, Master Pastry Chef at Hilton San Diego Bayfront (CA)

Rudi Weider - sign

Rudi Weider - Chocolate Espresso Creme Brulee

Jennifer Yee, Executive Pastry Chef at Lafayette (NY)

Jennifer Yee - sign

Jennifer Yee - eclair display

2014 Top 10 Chefs Dessert Pro Mag2014 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America

For my re-caps of the event the previous for the previous two years, please visit these links on this website:

2013 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Ruskin International for inviting me to participate in this event.