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Bite Club: NYC Dinner Club


Nina C.
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If you've noticed Daniel's signature in recent weeks, read Megan's food blog, or read New York Magazine's Grub Street blog, you've heard a little bit about Bite Club, the new private dining venture of Daniel and his sweetheart, Alicia.

But we've heard relatively little about this from the man himself. I'm wondering how it's going? Are you having fun? What have been the best and worst parts of it so far? It seems ambitious to have two dinners every weekend, in addition to the other little dinner parties you throw here and there. Are you exhausted? Envigorated?

And last but certainly not least, tell us about the food! I love your contributions to the Dinner! thread, I'm wondering what new things you've discovered/invented recently.

edited to fix html.

Edited by Nina C. (log)

The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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We had the pleasure of getting the Bite Club experience when we were in NY in mid-December. Lots of fun. They're both very talented in the kitchen, and their passion comes through in the food. I think it's pretty rare that you'll meet two young people with no formal training doing such ambitious and creative food. :smile:

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We had the pleasure of getting the Bite Club experience when we were in NY in mid-December. Lots of fun. They're both very talented in the kitchen, and their passion comes through in the food. I think it's pretty rare that you'll meet two young people with no formal training doing such ambitious and creative food. :smile:

Thanks Ling - you should post about Cache too!

The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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Nah, we're not going to shill or advertise. I am already getting complaints that our dinners sell out too quickly.  :wink:

Oh I didn't mean to shill - after all, lots of egulleters don't live in Vancouver or New York. I meant more a response to the questions I asked above, giving the curious among us - and those who might think of doing something similar - an insider's view. It's a pretty cool thing.

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Nina Callaway

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  • 1 month later...

Sis and I went on Sunday night -- the atmosphere was welcoming, and the one thing I kept saying about the food was "this is out of control." The dish I was most looking forward to delivered completely, a spaghetti with lobster and sea urchin "butter" served in a sea urchin shell. Also of note was the accompaniment to an apple rutabaga soup (those BOWLS!), foie gras "cookie" sandwiches with pastry made from foie gras, and stuffed with foie mousse. Um. Yeah. Totally out of control. And amazing. Thank you, Daniel and Alicia. :smile:

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So happy that we were able to meet you guys.. It was a lot of fun and thanks so much for coming.. You know, the lamb chops and belly were especially for you guys, but I am happy the Pasta worked out too.. It was a really fun night..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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Nah, we're not going to shill or advertise. I am already getting complaints that our dinners sell out too quickly.  :wink:

Oh I didn't mean to shill - after all, lots of egulleters don't live in Vancouver or New York. I meant more a response to the questions I asked above, giving the curious among us - and those who might think of doing something similar - an insider's view. It's a pretty cool thing.

I agree, I'd like to hear from Ling, Daniel and anyone else doing these supperclubs with their insights. We've heard from the eaters, now let's hear from the cookers! :wink:

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  • 1 month later...

I ate at Bite Club last night with a group of a dozen. A five-hour long racuous dinner party that I'm only beginning to recover from (all those pours of wine might have had something to do with it)...

began with an assortment of Sullivan Street breads, served with butter, chicken liver pate and truffled cream cheese. (that cream cheese was addictive)

then an amuse of pea soup (sort of a foamy "cappuccino") surrounding a chunk of butter poached lobster. these played off each other nicely...the texture of the soup was satin, and not slimy, and the lobster was cooked perfectly.

first course was cauliflower flan with caviar. the flan was simple, cauliflower, cream, gelatin; the caviar providing the necessary saltiness and contrasting crunch. at first I thought the cauliflower needed a little more salt but upon further reflection the caviar was sufficient for that. I think it could have done with one more flavor element (but a very light one so as to not overwhelm the delicate balance between the cauliflower and caviar)...maybe a whisper of dill?

the following beet ravioli was well-prepared and tasty, if not of special interest.

tuna tartare in endive was terrific. this could easily be a hackneyed dish, but the use of citrus to give the tuna some pop worked well here...

soft shell crab appeared to have been lightly pan-fried and served as a nice setup for the:

carmelized pork belly in a rhubarb sauce. (yeah, this sounds terrific, doesn't it? it was!)

unfortunately, the lemon, campari and tarragon granita was too sweet to function as a proper palate cleanser.

the "prince noir" baby goat (an eight-month old kid fed only its mother's milk) was a succulent chop, cooked slightly rare (i.e. perfectly), accompanied by "grilled cheese" and rancho gordo beans. the goat was superb, the beans even better (they had been cooked in a proscuitto broth before being pureed).

I'm not a cheese person, but the four or five cheeses in this course were well received.

vanilla bean poached pear with cassia ice cream and a poire william caramel sauce was excellent (I was especially partial to the ice cream).

this was followed by a trio of rose-based desserts. I'm not a dessert person, but these all seemed quite good.

all in all, an absolutely fantastic meal, on par with some of NY's top restaurants. kudos to our hosts.

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I was also one of the party who dined at Bite Club on Sunday evening. Bite Club was my first significant meal of the summer and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that. More than a meal, however, a visit to Bite Club is a holistic experience. Yes, there's the innate appeal of the underground and of the uncommon, but my favorite part of the evening was being able to interact with our hosts and all the other guests.

I also feel that I can speak to this meal from a relatively unique perspective, in that I've been in our hosts' shoes for the past 9 months, hosting similar parties of my own. Although our cuisines are different, the goal of creating an intimate, hospitable, and delicious experience is very much the same.

I arose from the subway and began walking toward the destination but had forgotten the exact address on my desk. As I phoned home to confirm the location, I passed by a building that looked promising. A well-dressed young woman was outside, also on the phone. "I'm here. I'm at the place. Can you come down and get me?" I overheard her say. Not sure if she was to be one of my dining companions, I slunk into the building behind her without saying much of anything. It would soon become clear that we were both bound for the same table and would actually be seated next to one another. This seemingly random assortment of semi-strangers thrown together in a somewhat bizzare culinary context is a big part of the appeal of Bite Club. We were also supposedly pretty close to getting Bruni himself to come, but apparently he had to back out relatively last minute.

The culinary scope of Bite Club is quite ambitious. As Nathan posted, our meal was eleven courses long. I actually thought that the amount of food was slightly overwhelming, but then again I cleaned all eleven of my plates, so I suppose I shouldn't be complaining. Pretty much everything is made in-house and the sourcing of the ingredients is diverse to say the least. Crabs from Citarella, produce from the Greenmarket, cassia bark from a local ethnic grocer, spices and wines straight from Canada of all places, etc. The Sullivan St. breads along with the chicken liver pate, truffle cream cheese, and butter were also appreciated. Serving bread in a context like this is a risky proposition because assholes like me keep asking for more. I don't serve it and I know Shola at SK didn't either. Then again, I don't have easy access to a great bakery. In general, the dining room is quite attractive, painted in a deep red and decked out with quirky art. The table setting was very attractive though not as formal as my tastes dictate.

Without going into too much detail regarding the food, I enjoyed most all of it. It wasn't the best I've had, but it "worked" and was well-prepared. It was made explicitly clear to me in private conversation that our hosts were not trying to reinvent the wheel. "The food I like to eat, with a little bit of creativity," is how it was summed it up, and I wholeheartedly agree. With that in mind, there were also some standout dishes that I really, really liked. I thought the cauliflower was great but do agree just one more flavor dimension would've been nice beyond the clever salinity from the caviar. I've already got ideas for a modernized version. Also loved the beet ravioli, a very subtle dish. Only suggestion there would've been to brown the butter sauce for more nuttiness to foil the sweetness of the beet. It also explained that the goat was poached in butter, effectively a beurre monte. A very nice preparation that tasted of a cross between spring lamb and veal. While I very much enjoyed the rare meat, I think just a bit more cooking would've made the dish objectively better. The Rancho Gordo beans, pureed with proscuitto broth, were pretty damn delicious. I plan to steal this idea and employ it liberally. Also loved the tres leches cake, something I'd never had before, much less made myself. The Cuban-style recipe was quite nice, though perhaps the rose essence was a bit too subtle.

A good deal of wine was enjoyed by most everyone, some choosing to imbibe more than others. I found some of the wines on the front half of the meal to be a bit flat, but the pairing with the goat was very nice. The sparkling wine offered before dinner officially began was also a classy touch to serve as something like an apertif.

All in all a great experience. If I sound like I'm being overly critical it's because I figure our hosts will eventually read this at some point and I want to offer my honest feedback. I would go again without hesitation. Perhaps the one called Ulterior Epicure will post or link to pictures.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Rancho Gordo grows and sells many different kinds of beans. Any idea which variety was used?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I think that, as he usually does, Bryan captured it perfectly.

The thing to emphasize is how much fun these things are. (And what great hosts those guys are.)

To me, the standout was the goat. I've simply never had goat like that. It was like a whole new meat.

I learned two things from this dinner, personally:

1. I need to drink less wine with dinner.

2. It's sort of a waste to bring a date to some event that will only end up sending her into a food coma. (I remember some blow-out anniversary dinners with my wife that were like that. We always ended up wondering whether we were defeating the whole purpose.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...
Perhaps the one called Ulterior Epicure will post or link to pictures.

Sorry all, it's taken me a full 2 weeks to recoup from my trip.

Bite Club was great fun. I echo, almost bite-for-thought, what BryanZ wrote upthread. Pictures can be found on my flickr.

Just some thoughts:

1. Portions, on a whole, were rather large... I know that most people will complain when portions are too small, so I guess I shouldn't complain. I know D & A are gracious hosts who want to show their generosity. But, I could have done with half the portions of most courses.

2. Cauliflower "flan" needed more caviar - not enough saltiness to spread around the generous cut of flan. Otherwise, it tasted just like Keller's "Cauliflower Panna Cotta" - which was D's inspiration for the dish. I told him he hit the target.

3. I'm being very picky when I say that I found the soft shell crab a bit more mature than I like - the skin had gone papery - beyond the tissue-thin screen that is optimal. D said he sourced them from Citerella, so I'm sure they were high quality, but they were just older than I prefer.

4. Wines were very interesting on their own, but (admittedly a neophyte to wine, take my comments with a grain of the proverbial), very few pairings worked for me. I thought the Chateau le Casenove Cote du Rousillon "La Garrigue" overwhelmed the goat. I especially enjoyed the Canadian vin gris more on its own than served with the dessert(s).

5. A is a worthy pastry chef. The poached pear with cassia ice cream dessert rocked. I love rose-flavored sweets, but I found them weak in her "Flight of Rose" - none had a very pronounced rose flavor.

6. The Casunziei (beet ravioli with poppyseed) could have used more butter, or some kind of moistener. I also would have liked some cheese grated over it, or some crunchy sea salt.

7. Cheeses are great, but as a cheese fanatic, I would have appreciated more precise references. Epoisses was the only one I recognized. I wished that they would have been presented according to name. Of course, I got them from Daniel after the dinner in an email request. :smile: Thanks, D!

8. Pork belly was, hands-down, my favorite course. It tasted not unlike Cantonese char sui pork - but infinitely more succulent - it was belly, after all. :raz:

Fun was had all around and I was glad to be included (I understand I was Bruni's replacement). The food was fantabulous. I don't know how D & A are able to pull off all of this in their kitchen. Admirable.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Perhaps the one called Ulterior Epicure will post or link to pictures.

Sorry all, it's taken me a full 2 weeks to recoup from my trip.

Bite Club was great fun. I echo, almost bite-for-thought, what BryanZ wrote upthread. Pictures can be found on my flickr.

Just some thoughts:

1. Portions, on a whole, were rather large... I know that most people will complain when portions are too small, so I guess I shouldn't complain. I know D & A are gracious hosts who want to show their generosity. But, I could have done with half the portions of most courses.

2. Cauliflower "flan" needed more caviar - not enough saltiness to spread around the generous cut of flan. Otherwise, it tasted just like Keller's "Cauliflower Panna Cotta" - which was D's inspiration for the dish. I told him he hit the target.

3. I'm being very picky when I say that I found the soft shell crab a bit more mature than I like - the skin had gone papery - beyond the tissue-thin screen that is optimal. D said he sourced them from Citerella, so I'm sure they were high quality, but they were just older than I prefer.

4. Wines were very interesting on their own, but (admittedly a neophyte to wine, take my comments with a grain of the proverbial), very few pairings worked for me. I thought the Chateau le Casenove Cote du Rousillon "La Garrigue" overwhelmed the goat. I especially enjoyed the Canadian vin gris more on its own than served with the dessert(s).

5. A is a worthy pastry chef. The poached pear with cassia ice cream dessert rocked. I love rose-flavored sweets, but I found them weak in her "Flight of Rose" - none had a very pronounced rose flavor.

6. The Casunziei (beet ravioli with poppyseed) could have used more butter, or some kind of moistener. I also would have liked some cheese grated over it, or some crunchy sea salt.

7. Cheeses are great, but as a cheese fanatic, I would have appreciated more precise references. Epoisses was the only one I recognized. I wished that they would have been presented according to name. Of course, I got them from Daniel after the dinner in an email request. :smile: Thanks, D!

8. Pork belly was, hands-down, my favorite course. It tasted not unlike Cantonese char sui pork - but infinitely more succulent - it was belly, after all. :raz:

Fun was had all around and I was glad to be included (I understand I was Bruni's replacement). The food was fantabulous. I don't know how D & A are able to pull off all of this in their kitchen. Admirable.

But I always thought you were Bruni! :raz: Seriously, nice report with good constructive criticism. Seeing your photos and reading the descriptions has whet an already strong desire to try the offerings of Bite Club.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 3 weeks later...

Does anyone have any notes from a more recent dinner? I'm particularly curious about the setup.

Is it always done in the same apartment, or do the venues change?

How many people typically per dinner, and how many tables are set up in the room?

Are there actual waiters employed for the evening?

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Does anyone have any notes from a more recent dinner?  I'm particularly curious about the setup. 

Is it always done in the same apartment, or do the venues change? 

its done in their apartment except when people request it done elsewhere...

How many people typically per dinner, and how many tables are set up in the room? 

about a dozen. it can be one large table if it's a group or they've also split it up if it was several small groups.

Are there actual waiters employed for the evening?

no.

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Does anyone have any notes from a more recent dinner?  I'm particularly curious about the setup. 

Is it always done in the same apartment, or do the venues change? 

How many people typically per dinner, and how many tables are set up in the room? 

Are there actual waiters employed for the evening?

I'm going Saturday with a group of 12...report to follow. I'm really looking forward to more of D & A's cooking, especially with the greenmarket produce I've been seeing for spring!

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I know that the Bite Club has had a waitress helping them for some time.. I have been to a Bite Club dinner in Hells Kitchen. At my dinner, there was a total of 18 people.

Edited by figs (log)
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if they catered a meal somewhere else for 18 people...I would imagine they would hire someone.

at our meal for about a dozen...they hired someone who assisted on various matters....but she wasn't simply a waiter.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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if they catered a meal somewhere else for 18 people...I would imagine they would hire someone.

at our meal for about a dozen...they hired someone who created (I think)  some of the desserts and assisted on other matters as well...but she wasn't simply a waiter.

IIRC, our hired "server" took care of pouring wine, clearing dishes, and general bussing. The only food item I recall that she was "in charge of" was our cheese coures.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Just a thought.  How integral are the wine pairings to the whole experience?  For example, what if diners were to bring their own bottle(s)?

I don't think they claim to be oenophiles. I would ask them.

My understanding is that they discuss the planned menu in detail with someone from Moore Brothers, who selects wines to match. Having been twice, the pairings tend to be quite well done and an extraordinary value compared to wine service in a restaurant. Given that the person selecting the wines has never actually tasted the food, the quality of the pairings is pretty remarkable; while the six wines poured with dinner last night (there was also a Champagne aperitif) ranged, on their own, from just alright to very good, every single one of them enhanced the dish it was paired with and many significantly so.

On the other hand, the only truly extraordinary wine I've been poured at Bite Club was a Tokaji with dessert on my first visit that was not originally on the menu and I'm pretty sure was not purchased at Moore Bros. with the rest of the wine. (Perhaps one of the other guests brought it? I should have asked.) I mean, $100 for a 7 course tasting menu plus wine pairings can only go so far.

Overall the Bite Club wine pairings tend to come in very similar to the ~$75 wine pairing you might order with a tasting menu at a restaurant--the wines are interesting and well-chosen, but they're not necessarily going to be profound (or carry a high retail price). If you think you can source from your cellar better than Moore Bros. can source from its <$20 bottles, talk to Daniel and get his thoughts on BYO.

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I was served a tocaji at my last dinner in Hell's kitchen. It was a 1993 Chateau Megyer 5 Tokaji. Daniel explained to me that he gots it at some Hungarian store in Brooklyn. I don't know if this is the same bottle you had at your last dinner. However, having been to 3 dinners, two with a cheese course and one without (I believe he pairs the Tokaji with Cheese), I have to say that the dessert wines he chooses have always been very nice. The dinner where there was no cheese course, there was a really nice 10 year port served with one of our dessert courses.

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