Last weekend, (not far after I landed from London), I attended the New York Culinary Experience 2014 at the International Culinary Center in SoHo, New York.
As like my previous two years of participating in these weekends, this cooking weekend is always a blast. Certainly food filled (you will practically eat non-stop from morning to early evening). You will be enlightened by famous and well respected chefs (at least two dozen on the schedules) and get a sense of their personality as they teach you their recipes and you’ll meet individuals from around the country who love food and eager to learn and cook some of the dishes at home.
A few of the chefs I managed to see in action for classes during that weekend, Zachary Golper of one of the most respected bakeries in New York City, Bien Cuit on early Saturday morning. Where he brought and shared his amazing, eye-rolling inducing, delicious viennoiserie like his cherry and lemon danish or the unassuming pastry that looks like a twisted baguette with large craggy sugar crystals topped with it (the best of the bunch) before we get our hands dirty to make the dough.
Chef Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen (he earned the 2011 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant) & ABC Cocina cooks vegetable forward dishes, as in, isn’t necessarily vegetarian but mostly focusing on the beautiful and delicious seasonal vegetables that are growing and harvested at the moment. He demonstrated his famous pea toast that is generally simple to make but the details makes a huge difference. It’s primarily pea purée (for us home cooks, frozen peas are perfectly acceptable than peeling and shucking fresh peas) with fresh mint and basil, and jalapeño peppers and the entire toast gets topped with lardons (relatively thick cubes of bacon fried up). The results give you a sweet vegetal pea flavor with a hint of freshness from the herbs and a lingering heat at the end from the pepper and the smoky char from the thick cut bread. It’s truly magnificent.
A few others dishes he demonstrated were spice crusted monkfish, fava purée & carrot vinaigrette (sweet carrot and fava bean flavors with a spicy but not too spicy crisp monkfish and the carrot vinaigrette gives it a zesty pop of flavor), the asparagus salad with fried egg that would be fantastic for lunch (even though lunch is right after that class), and roasted asparagus with sweet spring onions brightened with lemon vinaigrette.
One of the lunches I truly enjoyed was seeing and hearing the legendary food writer, Ruth Reichl speaking/interviewed by Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the CEO and Founder of International Culinary Center. As a fan of her fantastic writing, she is a visionary of food trends and adores food like all of us present in the room. I am humbled to listen her background and how she develops her stories.
The other savory course I was excited attending was Executive Chef Matthew Lightner of Atera. After having an amazing, super creative birthday dinner the past November, this was one of my highlights of the weekend. Lightner does use pickling and fermentation of various vegetables and proteins to heighten or transform the typical flavor profile of that product.
His deceptively simple dish of Diver scallop carpaccio on a bed of sweet curry pickled cabbage was amazing (the dashi made a huge difference). The lacto-fermented leeks with preserved lemons and cured olive oil poached trout does require time and patience (but with the help of having these items prepped ahead of time since it is a weekend cooking school), the leeks were unreal. The fermented leeks were creamy, sort of tart but still retained it’s onion-like sweetness. It’s crazy good. His dessert of brown butter sautéed preserved sweet potatoes with yuzu marshmallow ice cream was very good too, especially that ice cream. The haunting, citrusy yuzu flavor elevated the dessert to another level my mind was blown.
On the sweet side of things, Executive Pastry Chef Ghaya Oliviera of the 3* Michelin restaurant Daniel was unique by utilizing different flavors and ingredients (like chia seeds and sunflower seeds) to make her deeply French rooted desserts. She is Tunisian which explains her background and her exploration to use her upbringing and tie it into her sophisticated, very French desserts. Her theme of these desserts are to be plated in a coupe (French for cup) and they were darling and delicious.
My main takeaway recipe from this particular class was the chia seed tuile. It’s stupidly simple to make and it’s unintentionally healthy — no butter, no flour, and very little sugar. Just a mixture of chia seeds, sunflower seeds, a little bit of sugar and salt, and water, let the chia seeds absorb the water for about 10 minutes. Then spread it thinly on a lined parchment or Silpat sheet pan and bake at 325°F until the edges are golden brown and the center is set. I would munch on these crackers or tuiles any time.
The other pastry class I took was with the very funny, charming, and flirtatious Chef Michel Richard of Pomme Palais and Villard Michel Richard (both places I’ve had their very good fare), learning to make puff pastry from scratch. Reasoning for me to take this class is because I know how to make a flavorful, tasty pastry but I keep screwing up the texture (too dense and overworked). I realized, while taking the class with Chef Richard, was that my technique was wrong that I do too many turns of folding and rolling.
He also demonstrated two ways of serving savory and sweet variations of using the same puff pastry. The savory was a wonderfully robust, curry mushroom feuillete and apple, pear, and blueberry tarts encrusted in clear, large coarse sanding sugar to give it a crunchy texture on the teeth.
As like any good thing, it has to come to an end but it still ends with a delicious note with glasses of wine or Champagne, and delectable and elegant passed hors d’oeuvres and a beautifully plated fruit platter just in case you’re still hungry.
This weekend is always a pleasure. The meeting of culinary minds who likes to teach us novices things that we could do at home and the meeting of food lovers (some were familiar faces and always fun to catch up) and surrounded with very delicious fare makes this weekend a memorable and fun experience. I look forward to next year’s Culinary Experience.
To view more photos of this visit, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE):
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New York Culinary Experience
International Culinary Center
New York, NY 10013