James Beard Award, Georges Duboeuf Award and
Gourmand World Cookbook Award-winning authors
ANDREW DORNENBURG & KAREN PAGE's Web Log
Named one of GourmetFood.About.com's "Top 10 Food Blogs"
"If you asked me what I came into this world to do,
I will tell you:
I came to live out loud."
—Critic and novelist Emile Zola (1840-1902)
"There is nothing under the sun better for man than to eat, drink, and be merry. Go, therefore, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with cheer.”
"Burn't goose" by cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 — How much do we love legendary cookbook author (The Cake Bible, et al) Rose Levy Beranbaum for sharing this photo with us of one of her biggest cooking disasters: a burned-to-a-crisp goose?
She added, "Paul Prudhomme's comment was, 'Blackening is one thing, but cremating leaches all the flavor out!' and indeed it did."
And with that, dear readers, we end our "Cooking Tip for the Day."
Our second weekly wine column — "The Precarious Balance of Oak and Yolk," on what wines to drink (and, perhaps more importantly, which not to drink) with eggs and egg-based dishes (from French toast to quiche to custards) — appears in today's edition of The Washington Post, which you can read online here.
Restaurant Update: OK, so we were away much of the fall on book tour with our latest WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT, then the holidays hit, and, well, we just hadn't made it back to August for a taste chef chef Tony Liu's cooking in many months.
That changed on Saturday night, when we paid a visit for dinner with Court TV anchor Rikki Klieman and LAPD Chief Bill Bratton.
From the tarte flambe to the pork belly and steak, every dish coming out of Liu's kitchen sang with flavor. August's Heather
and Ryan Ibsen couldn't have made the packed roomful of guests (who included chef Anne Rosenzweig, her daughter Lily, and their friends) feel more at home.
The restaurant was also kind enough to let us open the extraordinary bottle of filmmaker/winemaker Francis Ford Coppola's 2003 Rubicon Estate Cask Cabernet we'd brought to celebrate. We were amazed by the layers of incredible flavors that opened up over the course of its presence in our glasses, from cherries and plums to delicate sweet spices like cinnamon and vanilla. This is a true special occasion wine to enjoy with everything from cheese to red meats and game or game birds (e.g. beef, lamb, venison, duck).
August is at
359 Bleecker Street (near Charles), New York City. (212) 929-4774. www.augustny.com
Rubicon Estate is at www.rubiconestate.com.
LAPD Chief Bratton
Today's New York Post has as its lead editorial "Keep on Cracking Down," hailing the success of New York's crime-fighting efforts under the revolutionary "broken windows" approach to policing that was credited as "the visionary approach that Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his first police commissioner William Bratton took."
Chef-owner Jimmy Carbone behind the stove at Jimmy's 43
The candlelit dining room at Jimmy's No. 43 on 7th Street
The retro potted shrimp on water crackers at Jimmy's 43
Phillip cooks at Jimmy's No. 43 on his night off from wd-50
Jimmy's No. 43 host Matt will soon leave to pursue cabaret
"[At Jimmy's No. 43], the goals of coziness, affordability and deliciousness are neatly met. It feels like a decades-old hangout, a thriving relic of the old East Village.”
—The New York Sun
"#100: Jimmy's No. 43."
—New York magazine's list of the city's "101 Best Cheap Eats" spots
Saturday, March 24, 2007 — Chef-restaurateur Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy's No. 43 is a passionate guy.
Jimmy is the kind of guy who, moments after saying "I do" in front of pews full of family and friends, literally scoops up his new bride in his arms and carries her at a racing clip down the aisle of New York City's St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.
Jimmy is the kind of guy to whom fellow noted downtown restaurateurs such as Jack Lamb (Degustation, Jewel Bako, et al) turn for relaxed hospitality.
Jimmy is the kind of guy at whose restaurant we'd be happy to spend our hard-earned money just because he's such a good host and has got such a big heart.
Well, here's a news flash: Bite for bite, Jimmy Carbone offers up some of the most delicious bargain-priced dishes in New York City.
Like its namesake, Jimmy's No. 43 has always oozed passion. Last night, it oozed something new: an elevated level of excellence in its robust home-style cooking.
It started with the potted shrimp: mounds of shrimp salad served on water crackers (a retro dish Jimmy told us doesn't sell, but which earns raves from everyone to whom he offers a taste, including us, $7).
It continued through a salad with goat cheese, apples and walnuts ($8), and — the day's special — an intensely meaty stick-to-your-ribs gumbo.
It concluded with a perfectly cooked sliced skirt steak, served with mashed potatoes and vegetables ($16).
After opening as a beer pub, the restaurant now boasts a nice list of well-chosen, gently-priced wines, including a half-dozen interesting options by the glass. Our favorite was the 2005 Albarino Burgans (Rias Baixas, Spain), the highest priced wine served by the glass at $10 — but as Spain's answer to a dry and minerally Riesling, it went nicely with nearly everything we ate last night and we appreciated the introduction to this delicious, well-made Albarino.
Truth be told, we decided to visit Jimmy's for the first time in months last night because we were craving a plate of Anne Saxelby's excellent cheeses ($9), which had wowed us on our last visit to Jimmy's. But in the end, we found we didn't have the room, so we didn't even order it.
No matter: We'll be back to Jimmy's No. 43 again very soon.
Note: On Friday nights, Phillip — who cooks full-time at wd-50, and attests that wd-50's pastry chef Alex Stupak (ex-Alinea) is (and we quote) the "baddest mother f---ing pastry chef around" — cooks with Jimmy at Jimmy's No. 43.
Note2: After telling Jimmy how impressed we were with the warm greeting we received at the door from host Matt, we were told that Matt had put in his two weeks' notice that very day to prepare for a cabaret festival into which he'd just been accepted. Break a leg, Matt!
Jimmy's No. 43, 43 E. 7th Street (bet. Third and Second Avenues), New York City. (212) 982-3006. www.jimmysno43.com Upcoming events include a cheese and beer tasting on Sunday, March 25th, at 3 pm, in celebration of cheesemonger Anne Saxelby's birthday. Happy birthday, Anne!
Wednesday, March 21, 2007 — Today marks the debut of our new Wine column in The Washington Post. You can read it online here.
Our congratulations to the Post's Food section's talented editor Joe Yonan and his very able colleagues on the debut of their newly-redesigned and enhanced Food section. We're proud to be a part of the team!
A sampling from our emailbox:
"What wonderful news about your column! The Washington Post was very lucky to get you, and all of a sudden I'm thinking…you are the DREAM columnists — why didn't this happen before?! Anyway, I am thrilled for you and it is always good to hear about food sections getting revamped....I am so grateful to be on your mailing list. Reading your newsletter, and being able to access your blog, reconnects this suburban teacher to the exciting food and wine world that she so loves and misses."
—Erica Cantley, teacher (Philadelphia, PA)
"Congratulations on the nomination and the new column. It's brilliant, by the way. The writing is clear, articulate and the subject — wines people can actually afford — is perfect for our time."
—Loraine Despres, novelist (Los Angeles, CA)
"I wanted to say congratulations on the Washington Post piece. It’s great to get the flip side of the coin and read about wine from a food lover’s point of view. I hope that this is a feature that will run with The Washington Post for some time."
—Brad Farmerie, chef, Public (New York City)
"What a great article!!...Congrats on the column. Can't
wait to read it each week."
—Ashley Garrett (New York City)
"Congratulations on the new column in the Washington Post! What a wonderful new adventure. I will always be grateful to you both for coming to Bottlerocket and doing an event. Thank you again."
—Tom Geniesse, founder and owner, BottleRocket
"Congratulations! Can't wait to go and check our your Washington Post column.
I've been meaning to send you a little note to tell you about the raves
I get when I give your new book as a gift! Thanks for making me look
so smart & tasteful...It really is a fabulous book and perfect for
foodies and wannabe-foodies."
—Kelly Hughes, president, DeChant-Hughes & Associates
Public Relations (Chicago)
"Greetings! Saw the announcement in The Washington Post
this morning and was thrilled!"
—Irene Jillson, professor, Georgetown University
"About time The Washington Post put some literary columnists on staff!"
"I met you at Beckta [Dining & Wine, Steve Beckta's extraordinary restaurant] here in Ottawa a few years ago and have bought all your books – I have to say though that I am a particular fan of your WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT. Being the owner of many wine and food matching books, yours is the only one that actually ‘works'. Some of the suggestions fly in the face of suggestions in articles* and books – and they are RIGHT!! So thanks for the great book – it is an easy/quick and (most-importantly) accurate reference that I keep out and refer often to it. e.g. a recent [article] suggested with a fruit salad with lemongrass and Lychee Liquor a Gewurztraminer and Pineau des Charentes. Your book led us to try an auslese Riesling – with a group of 12 wine lovers – we tried the Pineau des Chantes and an auslese – the auslese was the best by far even though many are fans of the Pineau....So all that to say I love your book and have been recommending/buying it for my friends."
—Maureen Murphy (Ottawa, Canada)
"Congratulations to you both! You two really are superstars....
Big hug to you."
—Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen Fund (New York City)
"Congratulations on your wonderful new wine column. It made me want to go out and buy some. No kidding. I hope you are both well and enjoying the warmer vernal temperatures today. Best wishes,"
"...I suspect you may have worked in a more elite grouping than the
America Online article [on McDonald's most famous former employees] would lead you to believe.
Anyway, love your books and articles."
—Jozseph Schultz, founding chef, IndiaJoze (California)
"I loved [WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT]. Truly as good as [CULINARY] ARTISTRY. I've been busy. I am opening a 45-seat cafe in Weymouth, MA, next week — a lot of work. I'll send you the link so you can check it out. I hope to see you there some day in the future when you are in the Boston area....I used CULINARY ARTISTRY for inspiration to write our opening menu."
—Vincint Smith, chef, Blue Pointe Bistro (Weymouth, MA)
"...I adore your newsletter. I don't know why I wasn't getting it, but I'm glad to have it back. Really, yours is the only e-newsletter I ever read from start to finish. I just don't know how you have time to do it all. What a fabulous couple you are…keep up your great work!"
—Barbara Stanny, author, Breaking Through (Port Townsend, WA)
The Caesar salad at Lasagna Ristorante ($7.95)
Our respective lasagnas at Lasagna Ristorante ($11.95)
Lasagna is very proud of its rich, creamy tiramisu ($5.95)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007 — What makes a great restaurant great? Sure, food is number one...but sometimes a little soul makes up for a lot of everything else and, invariably, a lot of soul elevates even a modest neighborhood restaurant into its own sphere of greatness.
We'd first heard praise for Lasagna Ristorante from eminent authors Jill Krementz and Calvin Trillin, whom we found ourselves chatting with at a holiday party in December, and — given the source — we expected it would be great. However, as we entered its door at 941 Second Avenue at 50th Street on Sunday night around 6:45 pm, the restaurant struck us as merely ordinary.
We ordered. The Caesar salad? Good, if ordinary. The complimentary garlic bread at appeared on our table? The same. The wine selections (from which we chose the half-carafe of Chianti)? You guessed it.
But first impressions can be deceiving. Things took a turn when our entrees were placed before us. Their fresh-from-the-oven aroma was incredible, and each individual lasagna casserole was filled to bursting with the perfect ratio of lasagna noodles, cheese, tomato sauce, and Italian sausage or eggplant chunks. Each tasted as great as it looked. Or even better.
As we savored our first bites, two human dramas unfolded around us demonstrating that lurking beneath the skin of ordinary people can be great souls. First, we saw a waiter run out the door to chase down three women customers (perhaps tourists?) onto Second Avenue. He returned breathless, and we asked if they'd forgotten to pay their bill. Even worse: "Their bill was under $50, and they left two fifty-dollar bills, so I had to catch them to give them back one of the fifties!" he told us. "Maybe they meant to leave you a big tip?" Karen countered. "No — I wasn't that good. Trust me!," he replied modestly, with a laugh.
A few minutes later, a woman wearing a heavy winter coat entered the restaurant and spoke very quietly to the silver-haired gentleman in charge. "I have breast cancer and I'm homeless. Could I get a small portion of lasagna for $1?" she asked in such a low voice that ours was the only table to overhear. Moments later, a stuffed to-go bag emblazoned with a smiley face and "Have a Nice Day" on its side appeared, which the silver-haired gentleman handed to the woman. When she tried to present her dollar to him, he refused it.
Now, based on our enjoyment of its lasagna alone, we would have happily suggested Lasagna to anyone who loves the restaurant's signature dish as much as we do (and Andrew in particular has had a thing for lasagna since childhood). But given this New York restaurant's extraordinary soul, we'll recommend it without reservation. Not only can you trust Lasagna to fill your stomach inexpensively with its rib-sticking namesake dish, but you can also trust its staff to truly look after you.
Lasagna Ristorante, 941 Second Avenue (at 50th Street), New York City. (212) 308-5353. "We bake to order over 17 different lasagnas and pastas of many nations." Each individual serving of lasagna (most priced $10.95-$13.95) is probably big enough to share, but doing so would deprive you the pleasure of enjoying leftovers the next day, as we did on Monday!
We were delighted to receive the news yesterday that our book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT had been named a Finalist for a 2007 IACP Cookbook Award.
Our sincere thanks to the IACP Cookbook Awards Committee for this much-appreciated recognition for our latest labor of love!
For a complete list of Finalists, click here.
From our emailbox:
"Congratulations on your IACP nomination.
I hope you win!"
—Corinne Trang, culinary author once called "the Julia Child of Asian cuisine in America"
"Just wanted to say a quick congrats on the IACP nomination
(and also on the great success of the book)."
—Michael Weisberg, publicist
"What great news! WHAT TO DRINK is a Finalist! Here's hoping!
Lots of love, "
—Esther Salzman (Australia)
"Okay...so it's my turn to offer up HUGE congrats on your IACP honor. I'm thrilled for you both! Your book is amazing — in fact, it's downright inspirational. Really. You have such a unique gift to inform and be friends with your readers!
Again, cheers to your well-earned honor!"
—Abigail (Abby) Johnson Dodge, author, The Weekend Baker
"Congratulations on your IACP nomination and Post column!
What a big week. You deserve it."
— Natalie MacLean, author, Red, White and Drunk All Over
"I wrote you a nice review on Amazon about the book [What to Drink]. I
loved it, truly as good as [Culinary] Artistry. I've been busy. I am opening a 45-seat cafe in Weymouth, MA, next week, a lot of work. I'll send you the link so you can check it out. I hope to see you there some day in the future when you are in the Boston area ...I used Culinary Artistry for inspiration to write our opening menu. Thanks and good luck in all you do."
— Vincint Smith, chef, Blue Pointe Bistro (Weymouth, MA)
"Congratulations! A well deserved recognition."
—Ruth T. Alegria, IACP Country Coordinator - Mexico
Wild Edibles' new oyster bar/restaurant at 535 Third Ave.
Wild Edibles' impressive selection of pristine fresh oysters
We loved the crust
of our oysters Rockefeller pizza
The best fish and chips we've had in recent memory
Wild Edibles' lobster roll: Don't expect Pearl Oyster Bar's
Saturday, March 17, 2007 — Rebecca Charles of Pearl Oyster Bar may not have invented the lobster roll, but she's probably done more than any other chef-restaurateur to win them a place in New Yorkers' hearts and to inspire countless imitations of her gold standard-setting version, not to mention her popular hot spot's casual-hip "lobster shack" feel.
We've already checked out one of Manhattan's newest casual seafood restaurants to open its doors. Debuting just four nights ago in Murray Hill is Wild Edibles, the first restaurant venture of this high-end seafood market (which supplies the likes of Alain Ducasse and Le Bernardin). After two visits, we've experienced some hits and a couple misses — but the hits were not only high but out of the ballpark, so we're already planning to head back again soon to eat our way through the rest of the menu.
Not-to-be-missed dishes include a half-dozen fresh, raw oysters with a tasting of three different (all organic, all Long Island) wines for just $15. Our favorite wine the other night was the 2004 Lenz Gewurztraminer, which is a modest $8/glass, and the Original Sin Cider ($5) is very nice, too. We only have raves for the fish and chips ($12), which was an enormous portion of deliciously crunchy battered and fried pollock on a bed of perfect French fries.
Our idea of the ultimate lobster roll is the one served at Pearl Oyster Bar: a buttered, toasted rectangular roll filled to overflowing with lobster and mayo, period. Anything other than that simple recipe was bound to disappoint, so the minute we saw this version packed with lettuce and tomato, we frowned. Gone, too, were the perfect fries of the other night, replaced with crunchy potato strings we didn't enjoy as much. (We were told that the menu is still being tweaked, which is understandable in any restaurant's opening week.)
Taking a tip from the Mermaid Inn downtown, dessert is served on the house. One night it was a chocolately mousse, the next a New York cheesecake with a drizzle of chocolate.
We've long bought top-quality fish and seafood at Wild Edibles, and can still do so from the take-out fish counter in front. (We haven't celebrated the holidays without a taste of their smoked salmon or American caviar in years.) But on those nights we don't feel like cooking or eating in, we're wildly excited to have a comfortable, casual spot like Wild Edibles' new restaurant in our neighborhood. After just four nights in business, this low-key, friendly place shows enormous promise, and just might be the most exciting Murray Hill opening since Darna.
As there are merely 16 seats at tables and 4 at the bar, we hope you'll only tip off your closest seafood-loving friends to its existence. You'll be in good hands with resident seafood aces Richard, Rob, or "Poli" (who recommended that we sample the skate on our next visit).
Wild Edibles, 535 Third Avenue bet. 35th and 36th Streets, New York City. (212)
213-8552. Hours: Mon - Fri, noon - 9 pm. Sat, 11:30 - 7 pm. Sun, noon - 7 pm.
We can't send enough thanks and love to our author friends Stephen Mitchell and Byron Katie for their incredibly thoughtful and astoundingly timed gifts out of the blue this week of Katie's new book A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are and Stephen's Tao Te Ching: A New English Version. They arrived at the perfect time — but of course Katie and Stephen and anyone familiar with The Work already knows that!
Byron Katie is at www.thework.com.
Stephen Mitchell is at www.stephenmitchellbooks.com.
Silhouettes against the fountain on East 53rd Street
Fellow former Michigander Gregg
Sutter's Farmer Jack card
Karen's & Gregg's favorite desk calendar
features Elmore Leonard on its 2007 cover
"All the information you need in a book can be put in dialogue."
— Elmore Leonard, as quoted by Jill Krementz in The Writer's Desk
Sunday, March 11, 2007 — On our walk to The Modern last night to meet friends of friends visiting from Los Angeles for drinks and appetizers, we didn't stop to smell any flowers, but we definitely enjoyed the scenery — including the sight of the fountain on East 53rd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues.
Could the world be any smaller? Over conversation with two fellow Michigan natives, we learned that Gregg Sutter (who is still a card-carrying Farmer Jack shopper, even after having moved to Los Angeles) shared the same favorite desk calendar as Karen — and that nationally-syndicated columnist Amy Alkon shared a similar avid admiration for its creator Jill Krementz's photography since the days more than three decades ago when Amy and Karen each subscribed to American Girl magazine.
The food in the Bar Room at The Modern was in fine form, with chef Gabriel Kreuther visible expediting behind the line...and the restaurant couldn't appear to be in better hands than under the watch of one of Manhattan's very best-dressed and most gracious pros, Ana Marie Mormando.
The Modern is at 9 West 53rd Street, New York City. (212) 333-1220. You can pretty much close your eyes and point to any dish on the Bar Room menu and leave happy. Highlights last night ranged from the liverwurst to the beignets.
Amy Alkon is at www.advicegoddess.com. Her column is syndicated nationally through more than 100 newspapers. And her birthday was Thursday!
Good news / bad news: The 2007 Calendar The Writer's Desk by Jill Krementz is sadly sold out. However, the 2008 Calendar should appear at Barnes & Noble stores starting in October. We'll keep you posted!
Thanks to a great group discount on orchestra seats, we were among the 85 lucky Northwestern University alumni and their guests to find themselves in the audience for "My Fair Lady" at Avery Fisher Hall on Friday night to witness one of the single best live performances we've ever seen. Kelli O'Hara, Kelsey Grammer and Brian Dennehy were all extraordinary.
In thinking back on some of the other best live performances we've ever seen, Brian Dennehy comes up again for his star turn in "Death of a Salesman." We were also blown away by Christopher Plummer in "Barrymore," Zoe Caldwell and Audra MacDonald in "Master Class," and fellow Northwestern alum John Cameron Mitchell in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
Home smoked lobster with warm herb and lime butter by
chef Andrew Fairlie, Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland
Chardonnay, Littorai, Charles Heintz Vineyard, 2002
Roast organic chicken with stuffing and truffles by
chef John Campbell, The Vineyard at Stockcross, Berkshire
Pinot Noir, Littorai, Thieriot Vineyard, 2002
Caramelised banana with vanilla couscous and passion fruit
sorbet by chef Eric Chavot, The Capital Hotel and Restaurant,
Furmint, Kiralyudvar, Cuvee Ilona, Tokaji, 2001
"Most Used Cookbook: CULINARY ARTISTRY. It seemed to pull together everything that was missing in my ideology of food."
—John Campbell, chef, The Vineyard at Stockcross (Berkshire)
Friday, March 9, 2007 — We welcomed the British invasion that hit Eleven Madison Park restaurant the other night, when three Michelin two-star chefs collaborated on a dinner for guests in the private room celebrating the launch of Silverjet, "The 1st British Exclusively Business Class Carrier."
What impressed us most was not to be overfed on a Monday night. After a Champagne reception featuring 1999 Dom Perignon and just a few passed amuses-bouche, the chefs restrained themselves and served just a single delightful course each. Our favorite of the three was the perfectly simple roast organic chicken with stuffing and truffles served by chef John Campbell, with the savory stuffing almost the consistency of a jam that could be used like a condiment (e.g. dotted on one's chicken for the meek, or spread on with abandon).
In fact, it was seeing John Campbell's name on the invitation we'd received that led us to accept. Even during a very busy week, we couldn't miss the opportunity to meet the chef who'd given such glowing reviews to our book CULINARY ARTISTRY. John was absolutely delightful in addition to being a gifted chef, and made us promise to pay him a visit one day at the Vineyard at Stockcross in Berkshire. It's a promise it will be a pleasure to have the opportunity to keep.
P.S. Our congratulations to prolific Chinese cooking author (including of the new My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen) Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, whom we learned at the reception, via her proud husband Fred Ferretti, has just been awarded Food Arts magazine's Silver Spoon Award.
The Vineyard at Stockcross is at
Silverjet is at www.flysilverjet.com. Low-fare "green" business flights between Newark and London, from $899 each way. Each flight offers 30-minute check-in, 100 flat beds, and personal service.
On Thursday, March 22nd, why will New Yorkers want to pay $1 for the tap water they typically enjoy for free in restaurants?
To support The Tap Project on World Water Day, which seeks to raise money to bring clean water to children around the globe. Will a buck here and there really make a difference? UNICEF says $1 is enough to ensure a child of safe drinking water for 40 days:
"Lack of clean water is the second largest killer of children under five. Over 21 percent of children living in developing countries do not have access to clean water. That's more than one billion people, or one in five children. Eighty percent of all illness and infant mortality is due to waterborne disease.
UNICEF works in more than 90 countries around the world to improve access to safe water and sanitation facilities in schools and communities, and to promote safe hygiene practices. Over the past 15 years, more than a billion people gained access to improved drinking water and sanitation facilities. UNICEF's goal is to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water and basic sanitation by 2015.
A little goes a long way — for example, with $1 UNICEF can provide 40 liters of safe drinking water, which is enough to give one child safe drinking water for 40 days, or forty children safe drinking water for one day. In an emergency when clean water is particularly scarce, $1 can enable UNICEF to provide 100 water purification tablets to provide safe drinking water for children in crisis situations."
We admire the spirit of the organizers and participating restaurants in raising awareness of this important issue. But what if we all just ate at our desks that day and instead sent a check for the cost difference to UNICEF? New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers alike can do that, too (or instead), right here.
For more information, visit www.tapproject.org
For a list of participating New York restaurants — which ranges from Alto to Zona Rosa — click here.
Back row: Varietal manager Claude Bastide, Andrew, pastry
Jason Casey of Jean Georges - Shanghai, pastry chef
Johnny Iuzzini of Jean Georges - New York City
Front row: Olyia Mimkho of Ralph Lauren Collection, Karen
Johnny Iuzzini's Citrus Dessert Tasting at Jean Georges
Lower right: Meyer Lemon, Chocolate Chiboust, Earl Grey, Praline
Lower left: Citrus Salad, Calamansi Noodles, Toasted Sesame, Red Shiso
Upper left: Biscuit Mirliton, Frozen Margarita, Kumquates, Citron
Upper right: Lemongrass Sorbet, Dehydrated Grapefruit, Crispy Tangerine, Lime Curd
Our best wine pairing of the night was the Citrus Tasting accompanied by a glass of Jurancon, which elevated the overall experience of this tasting to Karen's favorite.
Johnny Iuzzini's Winter Dessert Tasting at Jean Georges
Lower right: Warm Sweet Potato Cake, Cranberries, Dates
Lower left: Roasted Squash Ice Cream, Crispy Pumpkin Seeds, Sage
Upper left: Chestnut Sugar Tart, Creme Fraiche (Karen's single favorite item)
Upper right: Granny Smith Apple Sorbet, Quince, Quinoa, Pecans
Johnny Iuzzini's Late Harvest Dessert Tasting at Jean Georges
Lower right: Crispy Spiced Chocolate, Beet Parfait, Yogurt Powder
Lower left: Warm Semolina Pancake, Poached Pears, Cumin
Upper left: Sauteed Apples, Olive Oil Sponge, Maple Brown Butter Ice Cream
Upper right: Pomegranate Sorbet
Johnny Iuzzini's Chocolate Dessert Tasting at Jean Georges
Upper left: Jean-Georges' Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Upper right: Brioche, Gianduja, Fontina, Black Olive
Lower right: Warm Bitter Chocolate Doughnut
Lower left: Hot and Cold Chocolate, Pearls
Thursday, March 1, 2007 — On Tuesday morning, we sat down in the informal dining room at Jean Georges (after saying hello on our way in to Tim and Nina Zagat and Relais & Chateaux President Jaume Tàpies, who were having breakfast) for a conversation with 2006 James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Award winner Johnny Iuzzini, who also wins the award for being the fastest-talking chef to whom we've ever spoken.
Between Johnny's lightning-quick descriptions of his intricate dishes (when discussing his forthcoming cookbook for Clarkson Potter, we learned that each of his desserts requires as many as five different recipes for its various elements) and their reliance on cutting-edge techniques, we weren't sure that even with pens blazing through our notebooks and a tape recorder whirling that we'd be able to "get" it all. That's when culinary research demands a hands-on approach.
After attending Jàume's presentation and an R&C information fair at Restaurant Daniel, we returned to Jean Georges 12 hours after we'd arrived that morning for a tasting of the desserts Johnny had described to us, joining his former sous chef Jason Casey, who now serves as pastry chef of Jean Georges - Shanghai; Claude Bastide, former manager of Jean Georges - Shanghai who now serves as manager of the new wine-themed restaurant Varietal on West 25th Street; and Ralph Lauren Collection designer Oliya Mimkho, whose artistic talents and interests extend beyond knitting to once taking a very memorable pastry class with Johnny at the French Culinary Institute. This time, we also had the pleasure and privilege of running into uber-chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten himself, not to mention wine director Bernie Sun, who's featured in our book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT. (We even ran into our dear friend Deborah Pines with Gail Koff on their way out, after their self-described "amazing" dinner.)
Johnny is known for his dessert tastings which offer a provocative take on a theme, whether "Citrus," "Winter," "Late Harvest" or "Chocolate." Each tasting features four different desserts, which Johnny aims to have reflect a range of flavors, textures, temperatures, and presentations. While he aims to please, he also aims to challenge.
In addition to challenging the customer, it's a challenge for the sommelier, too, to pair wines to such wide-ranging flavors. However, Bernie Sun's team nailed it with their choices, with our favorite pairing of the night being the very first of a Jurancon with the Citrus tasting.
Speaking of favorites, Andrew's was the Late Harvest dessert tasting. He was blown away by the harmonious combination of chocolate and beets (which we learned was inspired in part by Olyia, who is a native of Russia), and by the tiny color and flavor accent of the baby beet greens against the two. This tasting plate of four desserts contained other flavor combinations that were innovative, surprising if not downright shocking, and — best of all — immensely pleasurable.
While Karen also loved the Late Harvest dessert tasting — and would highly recommend it as one of the best ways to experience the breadth and depth of Iuzzini's talent at Jean Georges — she reserves her highest praise for the Chestnut Sugar Tart with Creme Fraiche, which was one of the most extraordinary desserts she's ever tasted in her life. Such delicacy of texture is rarely matched by such depth of flavor in a dessert anywhere, but to taste its simple brilliance on a plate filled with more complex flavor combinations made its perfection stand out even more.
Johnny Iuzzini's dessert menu at Jean Georges and Nougatine is a mightily ambitious one, for which he sets the high aspiration that anyone encountering his creations never become "bored." Indeed, you'll find that a bite of his Warm Sweet Potato Cake has an earthy deliciousness while the next of his Granny Apple Sorbet with Pecans has flavors that reverberate with earlier ones while also elevating your palate to a new and refreshed height.
With Johnny Iuzzini overseeing your desserts? Never... Not on your life!
By the way, you can catch Johnny at a number of Macy's locations across the country conducting sensory-enticing cooking demonstrations. Our Florida readers can meet him this Sunday, March 4th, in Aventura at 1 pm, where his cooking will be inspired by the fragrance of Juicy Couture.
Johnny Iuzzini is the pastry chef at Jean Georges, which is at the Trump International Hotel at One Central Park West (near Central Park South), New York City. (212) 299-3900. Web: www.jean-georges.com. On Johnny's personal Web site, you can find a really fun photo of him covered from neck to waist in what looks like marshmallow fluff.