April 30 through May 7, 2012 Embedded in this week of extraordinary tastes was a "gourmet safari" conceived by my friend and colleague, Rashmi Uday Singh from India. Rashmi writes for The Times of India and the Robb Report and was intent on discovering the newest, coolest, trendiest restaurants in the city to write about. It began one beautiful night when Rashmi met me for the 100th birthday celebration dinner at Benoit NYC (more about that later). We hightailed it to Salinas to experience the imaginatively delicious food of Chef Luis Bollo, who hails from San Sebastian, Spain, considered by many to be a gastronomic mecca. We drank the essence of spring from the end of our spoons with the chef's Gazpacho de Temporada, silken from green tomatoes, cucumber and spring onions. Then on to a signature offering of Rossejat Rapida , crisped noodles cooked like rice, and studded with chicken, fava bans, chorizo, cockles & saffron aioli. Deep intoxicating flavors and a compelling texture from this unique method of cooking pasta. Dessert was a mesmerizing portrait of white and dark chocolates topped with manchego foam. I want to go back just to eat this! From there we went to RedFarm to sample most of the menu, including an awesome sampling of the city's best dumplings -- including the first-rate Pan-fried Lamb Dumplings -- from chef Joe Ng, and what has to be the world's most beautiful salad! Take a look at the RedFarm website!
The 100th Anniversary dinner at Benoit: Here is the beautiful menu, linking the past with the present. Duck foie gras terrine with toasted Parisienne brioche (prepared by Alain Ducasse and Philippe Bertineau); Spring vegetable "pot-au-feu" in duck consomme with fleur de sel (by Chef Michael Anthony); Olive-oil poached east coast halibut in brodetto di crostacei (by Chef Michael White); Larded filet of beef with crispy bone marrow (by Chef April Bloomfield), and an amazing Nougat glace of pistachio ice cream and passion fruit (prepared by Alain Ducasse and Jerome Husson.) I will be writing more about this -- my past memories at Benoit in Paris and the meaning of the new "French restaurant" today -- on the Huffington Post.
A wonderful inexpensive lunch at Aldea: How do they do it? A beautiful three-course menu for $24.07. Rustic pork & duck terrine with muscat wine gelee and market greens, skate wing "a la plancha" with slow-roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and caper-butter emulsion, and walnut date cake with mint-infused citrus, vanilla sauce, and lemon sherbet (loved seeing the word sherbet on a menu...so recherche!)
Another beautiful lunch, also reasonably priced at Ciano: My lunch market menu consisted of a crisp, ultra-fresh Shaved Vegetable Salad with mixed greens, fennel, peppers and ricotta salata, penne with ragu of braised veal, prosciutto and smoked pecorino, and a sorbet of Bosc pear with biscotti. Perfect.
Lunch today? At my house...with wine expert Carol Berman. We're having a fanciful salad of ten-spiced yogurt chicken, moroccan carrots, blue cheese, charred red peppers and a garam masala vinaigrette. Homemade wine cake (made with lemon, red wine and rosemary.) Wonder what we'll be drinking? Maybe fresh mint tea with mint pulled from my window box. (Although I do have a nice bottle of gewurztraminer chilling right now.)
Enjoy your own tastes of the week. Be mindful and enjoy!