travel: another (wet) red carpet…

Corton
Corton, New York

Under a nagging canopy of weepy clouds, this year’s James Beard weekend came with its usual parade of press, big wigs, and restaurant indulgences.

My schedule was staggering: a five-day, seemingly non-stop roster of parties (including my friend’s Derby party. [Read: spoonbread, hot browns, and fantastic mint juleps.]), events, and meals.

I slept a collective 10 hours and managed to squeeze in a (lonely) 6 mile run one morning (New Yorkers really don’t get up before 7 a.m. on weekends, do they?).

In between sleep, friend-time, and party-hopping, I managed to squeeze in meals at:

The John Dory
The John Dory, New York

Aquavit
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Corton
Gramercy Tavern (Tavern Room)
The John Dory
masa
The Modern
Tocqueville

In addition, I managed to polish off an incredible amount of sugar. On top of the desserts I had at those restaurants, I dropped into the Trump International Hotel and Towers to get a late-night round of sweets. The kind soul, Mr. Iuzzini, sent out a round. * “Rhubarb” has appeared!

I also managed to swing around to Eleven Madison Park with some friends to check out Chef Humm’s new slate of pastries, which I’ve been itching to try. I’m not sure what was more exciting, the desserts or the petits fours selection of seven different mini macarons. They were all excellent. **

Macarons
Macarons
Eleven Madison Park, New York

Speaking of macarons, I finally sampled some of the meringue sandwiches at Madeleine Patisserie. They weren’t as bad or good as reported. Generally, they were a touch sweet for me. And the neon, day-glo effect was positively frightening. Back to la Maison du Chocolat.

I finally managed to pay ChikaLicious a visit. Three o’clock in the afternoon is definitely the right time to visit this otherwise crowded little dessert bar. I swear I’ve never had marshmallows so fluffy before in my life.

And, I couldn’t decamp before taking in an afternoon dip (or two, or three) of gelato at both otto (olive oil, salted caramel, and banana toffee) and l’arte del gelato (grape, pear, and caramel).

More on all of that later.

James Beard Awards, New York, New York (2009)
James Beard Awards, New York

Back to the James Beard Awards: This year’s gala was more colorful than ever. Celebrating “Women in Food,” the foundation painted Lincoln Center HOT PINK and featured an all-female cast of guest chefs. Stanley Tucci, Emeril Lagasse, and a pregnant and glowing Cat Cora presided over the ceremony.

I’m sure that the event has long since been blogged and twit, twit, twittered to death. I won’t bother summarizing the awards or my reactions (really, you couldn’t care less). You can review all of the nominees and winners by CLICKING HERE. Suffice it to say, this year’s show rivaled the Oscars in length (Did it seem particularly long this year, or was it just me?).

Jennifer Petrusky, Charlie Trotter's
Jennifer Petrusky and Mattias Merges (Charlie Trotter’s)
James Beard Awards, New York

There seemed to be less food this year and more drink, which was fine by me. I enjoyed the abbreviated experience so that I could scoot out early to the post-parties.

But I didn’t leave without eating. Among the dozen or so bites I sampled, three stood out far and above the rest.

Leave it to Michelle Bernstein (Michy’s and Sra. Martinez) to bewitch me with her Latina ways. Say it with me now: Sea Urchin Cuban Sandwiches. Yes, creamy, sweet pockets of sea urchin griddled between wonderful white Cuban bread with ham. On the side, she served a shot of “Coral Cortadito” a rich broth topped with milk foam. I didn’t bother to ask if was spiked with espresso.

Michelle Bernstein, Michy's and Sra. Martinez
Michelle Bernstein
Michy’s and Sra. Martinez (Miami)
James Beard Awards, New York

Then there was Debbie Gold (The American Restaurant), one of the two guest chefs from my hometown, Kansas City. She served an immensely satisfying “Freezer Cured Bone Marrow Torchon on Mustard Croutons with Parsley and Ramps.” The torchon was sliced (I believe the marrow was bound by foie gras), then cut into bite-sized cubes, and set on a toasted square of olive oil-brushed bread. The fatty cubes were blow-torched until warm – the tops just sizzling – and then topped with ramps and parsley. It was great.

And, for a surprise, Monica Pope of t’afia in Houston served “Beet Brownies with Veldhuizen Bosque Blue Cheese, Miss Van’s Honeycomb, and Swedish-Style Texas Pecans.” I never thought of using beets to bridge chocolate and blue cheese. But I suppose that’s why I’m not a chef. The combination was wonderful.

Kate Zuckerman, Chanterelle
Kate Zuckerman
Chantarelle (New York)
James Beard Awards, New York

Most of what I had was good (although Missy Robbins’s [A Voce] Terrina di Polpo was a bit hard to eat –without a knife with which to cut the sheet of thinly-sliced octopus, the entire thing peeled off the plate, spilling the contents everywhere and leaving me with a flap of octopus wagging from my maw), but not terribly memorable.

The rain cleared by the time I left the hall.  There was much celebrating to be done. Champagne flowed all night at a number of venues around town. I was lucky to catch a few drops of vintage Dom Perignon here and there.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners.  A big thanks to all of the guest chefs, cooks, and organizers.

And now, back to the restaurant blogging. As you know, I’m TERRIBLY behind. I seem to be stuck in Paris. Patience, my friends.

* We didn’t even get to order! I guess we didn’t have to. All of the desserts started to magically appear. We were charged for one. Needless to say, we left a nice tip.

** The staff at Eleven Madison Park tried to generously comp our entire bill. I left a hefty monetary thank you.

~ by ulterior epicure on May 11, 2009.

4 Responses to “travel: another (wet) red carpet…”

  1. alright enough dramatic pause bring on the reviews

  2. Best macaroon available in NY is the following (I was also unimpressed by those at Madeleine):

    http://www.itzybitzypatisserie.com/

    Currently only available at the Brooklyn Flea Market on the weekends (TAFU closed I believe a few weeks ago, which was the only store they were actually available in)

  3. “Leave it to Michelle Bernstein (Michy’s and Sra. Martinez) to bewitch me with her Latina ways. Say it with me now: Sea Urchin Cuban Sandwiches. Yes, creamy, sweet pockets of sea urchin griddled between wonderful white Cuban bread with ham.”

    WHAT, WHAT, WHAT! OMG! So jealous. Fantastic pictures, BTW.

  4. Thanks, adkim. That “Cuban Sandwich” was wicked. I could have just stood by Chef Bernstein’s stand all night.

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