George Mendes turns beets into a delicious meringue.
I’ve already heard declarations that “the Great Pork Decade has ended”, and as carnivorous foodies prepare to crown the next It beast for the coming decade, my hope is for vegetables to rival—if not surpass—meat as chefs’ newest obsession. Already, one of my most remarkable dishes of the new year was a vegetable-centric dish: George Mendes’s brilliant beet meringue at Aldea in NYC. Mendes cleverly juices fresh red beets, adds egg white powder and aerates it; he then dehydrates the mixture overnight at 145 degrees before topping the bite-size meringues with crème fraîche and American Hackleback caviar. Though just an amuse-bouche, Mendes twisted my perception of what a beet can be in terms of flavor and texture. And in today’s New York Times Dining section, Melissa Clark praised the unglamorous rutabaga and provides a delicious-sounding recipe that I plan to make this weekend. Maybe 2010 will be the year that some ordinary vegetables reach pork bun or fried chicken status.
© Philip Greenberg
The Guggenheim's futuristic new restaurant, the Wright.
As F&W's travel editor and someone with a serious case of wanderlust, it’s rare that I’m home for more than a few days at a time. But I promised myself I’d start off the new year in NYC and kicked off 2010 with a megadose of culture paired with some great meals. Here, a mini winter arts cheat sheet for Manhattan:
*MoMa has put together a brilliant, mind-bending retrospective of Tim Burton’s work that includes slightly disturbing teenage doodles, 3-D monsters and a showing of Burton's films. After, go to the bar room at the Modern and eat chef Gabriel Kreuther’s Alsatian thin-crust tarte flambé with crème fraiche, onion and applewood-smoked bacon and his decadent slow-poached farm egg served in a mason jar with Maine lobster, sunchokes and sear urchin froth.
*I dare anyone not to get dizzy as they wind their way around the Guggenheim viewing Wassily Kandinsky’s wild, geometric paintings. The museum’s new restaurant, the Wright, offers more sensory overload with a sleek space designed by British artist Liam Gillick that makes you feel like you’re riding Disney’s Space Mountain roller coaster. The food, from David Bouley-alum Rodolfo Contreras, is appropriately gorgeous with delicate dishes like roasted red and golden beets topped with sheep’s-milk cheese, citrus and pistachio and a fantastic spiced pumpkin and chocolate cake with pumpkin-seed-oil ice cream.
*I may never look at paper the same way again after viewing Slash: Paper Under the Knife at the Museum of Arts and Design. Drop by late and then have dinner at the just-opened restaurant Robert. The comforting Italian dishes like chicken cooked under a brick and papparadelle with wild boar ragu are delicious. Also amazing: the Central Park views and the room’s funky art and Jetson-esque design pieces (there’s a video-art piece by Jennifer Steinkamp and Barbie-pink acrylic lighting designed by Johanna Grawunder).
© Palm Place Hotel
Kerry Simon takes the fried chicken trend retro with TV dinners.
While other star chefs are opening flashy, over-the-top restaurants in Las Vegas, chef Kerry Simon is going the opposite direction and offering TV dinner–inspired comfort foods for room service at Las Vegas's Palms Place hotel. Meals like meatloaf with mac and cheese, peas and carrots, and chocolate cake, and Southern fried chicken and mashed potatoes, are delivered in cafeteria-style compartmentalized trays.
© Jed Haas
New Orelan's Green Goddess serves a phenomenal brunch.
After a marathon night of cocktail tasting, I started my second morning in New Orleans with a hangover-curing brunch at the fantastic new restaurant Green Goddess. This supertiny spot has a bit of a hippie vibe, but the food is seriously delicious, and surprising for New Orleans: cactus chilaquiles topped with a poached egg, smoky pulled pork, blistered nopales and Creole queso fresco; tea-smoked mushrooms covered in gravy and served with sweet-potato biscuits and orange-honey butter; and a killer roasted-yellow-tomato Bloody Mary with pickled okra and green beans.
Revived, I checked out the farmer’s market until I had worked up an appetite for the legendary Galatoire’s. Here, I was introduced to fried eggplant dipped in béarnaise sauce and powdered sugar (unexpectedly addictive and delicious), tried the signature shrimp remoulade and stuffed myself with oysters en brochette (when I told my waiter I was full, his response was, “Nonsense, you just need a glass of wine to help you finish that off”).
My dilemma of the night was where to take a group of five rowdy guy friends for dinner. The answer: John Besh’s casual brasserie Lüke, where we snacked on house-made charcuterie (and my poor friend Jay learned that head cheese is not really a cheese) before diving into the monster-size burgers topped with Allen Benton’s bacon, caramelized onions and Emmentaler cheese.
© Christopher Downs
St. Francis restaurant in Phoenix.
I recently came back from Phoenix, where everyone is buzzing about a new restaurant called St. Francis
. Chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin (who trained with Michel Richard, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Nancy Oakes) spent nearly three years searching for the perfect spot, finally buying and renovating a midcentury Harold Ekman building on Camelback Road. With the help of his dad and brother, he’s created a hip, industrial-style space with a two-story, window-faced garage door that opens the bar to the outside. There are homey touches, too; his grandmother's old silver spoons are embedded in the stone walls and chairs from San Francisco's old Rubicon restaurant space. There's also an enormous wood-burning stove. The affordable menu balances healthy dishes, like the sweet-and-spicy Forbidden Rice Bowl
, with decadent ones, like a French Onion Burger topped with an onion ring, smoked bacon, Gruyère and homemade French Dip. With Pizzeria Bianco
just a few blocks away, uptown Phoenix may be Arizona’s next cool food 'hood.
© Christopher Downs
Chef Aaron Chamberlin.
© Marlo Hunter
Eating Their Words reinvents dinner theater.
The dinner-theater concept sounds like a throwback, but director Marlo Hunter is trying to make it hip again with Eating Their Words. Hunter enlists noteworthy writers and actors for an evening of short plays to be performed at a top NYC restaurant. As part of the action, the actors sit at a table and eat a dish; immediately after the performance, the audience is served everything they've just seen the actors enjoy. The next Eating Their Words event, on Monday, October 19, will be at Tocqueville restaurant, with works by Pulitzer Prize finalist Theresa Rebeck and playwrights Jonathan Marc Sherman and Sam Forman. Tocqueville chef-owner Marco Moreira has created a menu to complement the plays, including schmaltz roasted country chicken and a bittersweet chocolate tort. Tickets must be purchased before Sunday, October 18.
On a recent trip to Boston, I stayed at the adorable Beacon Hill Hotel, tucked away down Charles Street. Its 12 rooms are right above its street-level restaurant, the Bistro, which is run by Barbara Lynch alum Jason Bond. In addition to the excellent complimentary breakfast, which included vanilla pancakes and a thick French toast topped with spiced crème fraîche, chef Bond makes some of the best ice cream in town. My friend Katherine and I tasted our way through flavors like Ligurian Olive Oil and Banana Rum, but the flavor that had us coming back at midnight for a second scoop was the Chocolate Almond–Smoked Sea Salt, with a pudding-like texture and crunchy bits of cocoa nibs and toasted slivered almonds. Bond shared his secret: Valrhona Guanaha chocolate and Norwegian smoked sea salt. Thank goodness ice cream wasn't on the breakfast menu.