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A Week In New York

Michael Laiskonis

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Participation in the IHMRS and Chocolate Show allowed me the opportunity to spend a week in the city... a little work, a little PR, and a range of dining experiences that ranged from good to excellent.

I was excited to have finally met Steve Klc, Chefette, and Patrice in person, as well as a very brief introduction to Bux, his wife, and Suvir. I was happy to have dined with Cabrales, who had the time and was comfortable in doing so. To the group who made it to Rhone last friday, I tried, but it just wasn't in the cards. I had also wanted to meet Wingding, but I missed that opportunity as well.

I was mildly disappointed with my own performance at the IHMRS demo, though Steve's format was unique and fun and the interactive quality turned the individual contributions into something much more valuable.

I enjoyed my first role in the Chocolate Show, and the demo went well. Again, thanks to Steve for stepping in and being my "MC"! The overwhelming consumer aspect of the show left me wanting more for 'me', but I think it was a great forum to educate and elevate the craft and expose the public to new ideas and flavors. Perhaps next year I shall participate in the Chocolate Fashion exhibit. Very fun.

Monday brought dinner at Ilo, which had been on my list for awhile, but was missed on previous visits. I had a very good meal, with the simple prix fixe, a few extra desserts, and wines by the glass (or by 'measure' as the menu states... each pour is a third of a bottle- perfect for me for that night). I took in a nice sweetbread 'tartlette' and the pan roasted rabbit. With these I drank a Savennieres and a Pernand-Vergelesse. Pastry Chef Patrick Coston executed a beautiful (presentation and flavor) flight of desserts and petits fours. Interesting how we think alike in many respects, and we both come from the 'self taught' background, yet our desserts are quite different! Thanks to Patrick also for opening his kitchen and allowing me space and time to work on my second demo.

Le Bernardin came Tuesday. Eric Ripert has become a friend of the restaurant, and I was excited to revisit the Le Bernardin after five years. My first visit then was very memorable (the skate sautéed in goose fat still counts as one of my favorite dishes of all time), but, for whatever reason this recent meal rated just an overall 'good.' I was offered a tasting menu with wine pairings. I did not take notes (here, nor anywhere all week), but I did notice most courses were not part of the official listed menus. The standouts may have been the tuna and hamachi sashimi, a linguine with sea urchin, and halibut with mushrooms and orange/ginger infused dashi broth. I finally met Pastry Chef Oscar Palacios, with the restaurant for a little over a year, who sent six of the eight desserts on his menu. All simple, clean and promising of a good future. The service was surprisingly warm, perhaps due to the attention I was receiving from the kitchen.

While I can't point to any flaws necessarily, I found myself simply content, and not blown away by much of the meal. I admire Eric's cooking style and the strive toward simplicity, but this experience highlighted just how difficult that can be, and how special it can be in the hands of someone like Alain Passard. I’ve been following the recent thread on high-end New York restaurants, and I share some of the same feelings expressed there.

Earlier Tuesday, I finally paid a visit to Jacques Torres Chocolate in Brooklyn. Jacques was there, caulking a sink(!), but was gracious enough to share his time and show us around and give us a peek at his expansion/renovation. Enjoyed the spicy hot chocolate and a pain au chocolat- perfect for the wet, windy morning. I also stopped by Richart, just for look, but no purchases made...

Lunched Wednesday at a Korean restaurant on 32nd, the name escapes me, but it’s the place with the piano up near the cieling, and for the season, I assume, a very large inflated snowman. Though I’m not fluent in Korean cuisine (not much to be had here in Detroit), I enjoyed it- the various array of side dishes, a fried rice dish, and a hotpot which contained many unknown but tasty components.

The aforementioned board member met me for dinner on Wednesday. After much indecision, we settled on Blue Hill, which became the most anticipated meal of the week. Cabrales offered an excellent overview, to which I cannot add much. Many thanks to Michael, Maya, and Christopher for the wonderful evening. The restaurant lived up to all of the good things I've read and heard! Standouts were the mushroom ‘tart' (the similarity in presentation to an old Adria dish was noted by both Cab and myself), striped bass(?), and capon dishes. I appreciated the white truffle ice cream, though almost too subtle in flavor for me. In addition to the quince and pear foam dessert, we also tried the pain perdu, almost more of a charlotte in presentation, that Dan and Mike demo'd at the IHMRS and Cab described in detail elsewhere. And even face to face, Cabrales and I still found things to disagree on!

Reservations for Thursday had to be cancelled at the last minute due to an invitation to be a guest for dinner at the Beard House. The food was good, the wines OK, the company warm, and simply being there, whether cooking or eating, is inspirational. Having cooked there for the first time several years ago, it was fun to be a part of someone else’s big night at the House.

A trip to Kitchen Arts and Letters has become a must when I visit NY, but I feared the temptation of spending more than I can afford. I discovered a couple of the Japanese bookstores on my last visit, Kinokuniya and Asahiya. I’ve become a fan of a few slick, beautifully photographed Japanese pastry magazines, and stocked up on the latest issues, while skipping Kitchen Arts/Letters as well as my usual stop at Payard on the way back down Lexington.

I ended the week with what may have been the best meal I’ve had in well over a year, not counting a few in France. I’ve missed or had to cancel dinner at Café Boulud twice before and was hellbent on going this time. My reservation (made by someone else) was somehow screwed up, but Dante Camara was able to seat me (at albeit possibly the worst table, practically in the bar) almost immediately, at 8pm with a full house, no less. A glass of Cuvée Daniel arrived at once, and I was told that I would not see a menu as Andrew Carmellini had his own plans for me (despite the res. snafu, he knew I was coming). I was delighted and four hours later departed having been amazed with the following (no notes taken, but from memory)...

-An eight part amuse that included an oyster, smoked salmon, a ceviche, a fried brandade filled dumpling, an ‘arancia’ style truffled risotto, and more that I'm forgetting.

-A frothy artichoke soup with an oyster ‘surprise’ paired with an Alsatian Pinot Blanc.

-Bay scallops with celery, fennel, and tangerine with a California Marsanne.

-Black sea bass given a Thai-inspired treatment and a bright coconut based sauce with a New York state Chardonnay.

-Grilled hamachi and ... with a Meursault.

-Oxtail Ravioli and an Italian Sangiovese.

-A polenta and egg 'en cocotte' with a generous portion of shaved white truffle.

-Partridge with cabbage and a foie gras based sauce with a Chateau Meyney 199?.

-Apple soup with fresh grated apple and sorbet.

-Quince and goat cheese layered ‘napolean’ style with a Sauternes.

-A delicate chocolate mousse dome and a duo of ice creams.

- Warm madeleines, a digestif, and shop talk with Andrew.

Regrettably, I missed seeing Pastry Chef Remy Funfrock, but his desserts are also some of the best I've ever had in NY. The experience joins meals at Clio and French Laundry as the best in recent memory. A perfect end to an inspiring week. There is always too much to do for the time I get to spend there. Now I just need a lucrative job offer so I can move to New York. I'm only half-joking!


Michael Laiskonis

Pastry Chef

New York


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  • 1 month later...
Lunched Wednesday at a Korean restaurant on 32nd, the name escapes me, but it’s the place with the piano up near the cieling

Kum Gang San.

It's a fun restaurant, specializing in kalbi and bulbogi (meat you grill at the table yourselves). But to be honest, I'm not knowledgeable enough about Korean food yet to know the difference between kalbi and bulgogi.

Michael aka "Pan"


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  • 10 months later...
Dude, this was from last year! You must have really had to dig for this one!

Ahhhhh, sorry, ML.

My mistake. Was looking for something and this came up.

I usually find the 'gullet search engine kind of frustrating, but...


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hey i just found your thread too! haaaaa! you probably wish you were there now huh! sounds like a great week! sorry i misseed it last year too! i was just there in october and trying to hook something up for thanksgiving weekend. any good recommendations?? :wink:

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