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The Art of Modern Pasta Making at Corton

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Recently, I had a revelation at Corton.

Namely, that chef Paul Liebrandt’s Smoked Pasta with Black Truffle and Aged Gouda—or Smoked Pasta, Black Truffle, Gouda as it’s written on the tasting menu—is the most amazing dish I’ve eaten this year. I don’t usually make such bold statements. But, this unassuming nest of pasta, truffles and cheese is worthy of a Best (capital B) title.

I feel that I’ve done my culinary due diligence in preparation for making such a proclamation, working my way through restaurants from Manhattan to Williamsburg. At Convivio, I hogged forkfuls of fusilli in a hearty tomatoey pork ragu drizzled with cacciocavallo fonduta (Italian cheese fondue). I capped off a wintertime meal at Le Cirque with an oversized goblet of the airiest îles flottantes (meringue mounds in crème anglaise), and at Back Forty gobbled up a plate of fried pork jowl nuggets with sweet-spicy red pepper jelly. I even waited over an hour for an amazingly buttery biscuit at Egg.

None of this could measure up to homemade pappardelle gently sauced with smoked butter, smoked salt and minced and shaved black truffle at Corton. Like all great pasta cooks, Liebrandt rests the boiled noodles in a bowl with the sauce ingredients and a splash of water. Residual starch from the pasta brings everything together. The genius of the dish, though, is the dough itself, which is made using flour and eggs that Liebrandt cold-smokes for 45 minutes over applewood chips and then fashions into long strands. The dish was rich but balanced, earthy and lusty. It had just the right amount of smoky flavor, and creaminess from the finely grated Gouda to finish. I had to restrain myself from eating it all in one forkful, à la Lucy Ricardo in my favorite episode of I Love Lucy.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

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