This past weekend I had a number of stellar experiences, all food related, and all quite different. That's what I love about being in New York City, the never-ending adventures to be had around every corner. And of course, the bagels!
ABC Cocina, Union Square, NYC
Jean George Vongerichten has always been one of my favorite chefs. From the first time I ate at JoJo's (which I believe was his first NYC restaurant) with my parents, I fell in love with his take on French cuisine. At that point, he was replacing the heavy butter- and cream-laden sauces with vegetable and fruit infused oils and juices and it produced amazing results. Jean George is also a master at combining Asian and French influences. He has gone on to be an international brand, bringing excellence and innovation to all his projects and I have enjoyed eating at many of his establishments. So I was very excited to dine at ABC Cocina with my fabulous foodie friend on Saturday. The room is fantastic, the lighting creative, fantastic use of materials, but I must say a bit noisy. I arrived a few minutes early and waited near the bar. A lovely young waiter came over to me welcomed me and gave me the menu du jour. He explained they had some special brunch cocktails made with a sage syrup from sage grown on their rooftop garden. We started a lovely chat about gardening and got to the fact that I was a chef who had just returned to NYC and I told him how kind Jean George had been to me and my father years ago at JoJo's. Then my date arrived and we were seated and ordered some drinks from our handsome young waiter. Next thing I knew, the head chef Ian and the manager came out to greet us, welcome us, and tell us how happy they were to meet us, and then the 5 star treatment began. They showered us with complementary menu items — it was over the top! We felt so special and everything was amazing. The food is a combination of farm-to-table with a latin touch. Some of the items we had: fresh pea guacamole; shaved Fluke ceviche; simple grilled veg and brown rice with Chimichurri sauce; and Garlic roasted shrimp. I have never been treated so well! This restaurant is super hot so reservations are a must. And then you can go shopping at ABC Home, what a great afternoon!
ABC Cocina, photo by Daniel Krieger for Eater NY
Kara Walker at the Domino Sugar Factory, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
On Sunday, I walked over the Williamsburg bridge to meet friends at the Domino Sugar Factory, a local landmark soon to be demolished to make room for more overpriced condos. Everyone who has ever lived in Williamsburg has wanted to get inside this famous structure. I remember hearing stories from friends who lived on Kent Avenue about the weird bugs that would arrive with the raw ingredients coming in from all over the world and end up in their lofts. Now that it is slated to be demolished, Creative Time, a group that stages art in public spaces, organized this exhibition. It's free and open to the public on weekends through July 6th. All you have to do is sign a release form (because you are entering a construction zone), wait in a four-block-long line of hipsters, hipster children, and tourists, and you're in! The first thing you notice is the sweet smell of caramelized sugar which coats all the walls.The space is enormous and kind of spooky. The art installation consists of a number of sculptures made out of caramelized sugar which looks like amber of children in different stages of slave labor and then the main attraction, a giant — and I mean giant — sculpture of Sphinx like Aunt Jemima made out of hard foam which has been saturated with sugar syrup. I expected it to be covered with decay and bugs but it's so cool in the building it is very well preserved. This piece is lit naturally by a skylight in the roof of the building and looks amazing. If you find yourself in Brooklyn, check it out.
SOS Chefs, East Village, NYC
This is a tiny little spice shop in the East Village that a fellow chef turned me on to. The walls are covered with shelves full of jars of spices, bags of rice and grains, oils and infused vinegars, and ingredients for molecular gastronomy. The selection of unusual ingredients blew my mind. They had a fantastic price on the Verjus (an unfermented grape vinegar) from the South of France that I had been looking for. I also tasted the orange vinegar which they make in house which was fantastic. The whole time I was there the owner was on the phone doing business and all I could hear her saying was "yes chef, yes chef, yes chef." As soon as I have my own kitchen again, I will be going back to stock up.