MIKLA Istanbul

Posted 21 Sep 2013 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Food Alert Trends, Full Service, Travel

Dusk View of Istanbul from MKLA

ISTANBUL AT DUSK – MIKLA Restaurant Roof Deck

Mehmet Gurs is a cool cat in Istanbul. Born in Finland to a Turkish father and Scandinavian mother, Gurs himself personifies the fusion of Asia and Europe. When I catch up with him he is cruising in his Range Rover in downtown Istanbul, we chat a bit and agree to meet later at MIKLA his restaurant perched atop a high rise building near the Beyoğlu distric of Istanbul. I promise to meet him around 8:00 PM and arrive a bit late but in time to see the incredible sky above the Asian side of Istanbul at dusk. MIKLA has a large deck outside the main dining room so we step out into the cool air while Maghrib prayers gently ring from each Mosque across the Bosporus flowing from south to north in sequence.

MKLA Kitchen Window

After a few minutes we are guided to our table just across from Gurs’ glassed in production kitchen. Our server provides us with a ten course tasting menu to review and we sit back ready for a great night. Gurs has a deft way of weaving classic Turkish dishes like Manti with items more than gently pulled toward Scandinavia. He exercises Turkish farm-to-table and can explain in detail the origins of the raw ingredients used in his cuisine and, quite often, the history.

Bread

The meal leaves me in awe not in the same way as my first meal at Jean Louis at Watergate or Alinea two decades later – it’s a different sort of awe, one rooted in the history cemented into the streets and countryside below us and the metaphor Gurs’ cuisine presents on the rooftop of the Marmara Pera hotel so many floors above.  I feel bathed in the ancient and modern at the same time.

 

 1 Lakerda, cured Bonito, Cucumber, Red Onion, Buffalo Yogurt

Lakerda – Cured Bonito, cucumber, red onion buffalo yoghurt

 2. Zetinyagli ~ Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil

Vegetables Zeytinyağlı

 3. Balik Ekmek Crispy Sardines, Olive Oil Bread, Lemon Mousse

Balik Ekmek – Crispy Sardines, Olive Oil Bread, Lemon Mousse

 4. Dried Beef Tenderloin & Hummus, Salted and Dried Beef Tenderloin, Humus, Antep Paste

Dried Tenderloin & Hummus –Salted and Dried Beef Tenderloin, Humus, Antep Paste

 5. Whole Wheat Vegetable Manti (dumpling), Yogurt, Tomato, Roasted Garlic, Sumac

Whole Wheat Vegetable Manti – Vegetable Manti, Yoghurt, Tomato, Roasted Garlic, Sumac

 6. Dentex (local Turkish Fish), Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Capers, Halhal Olives, Samphire, Chive-Fig Vinaigrette

Dentex – Cooked Dentex, Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Capers, Halhal Olives Samphire, Chive-Fig Vinaigrette

 7. Lamb Shank, Trakya Kivircik Lamb, Smoked Eggplant, Stew of Kayseri Sucuk, Peas and Chard

Lamb Shank – Trakya Kivircik Lamb Shank, Smoked Eggplant, Stew of Kayseri Sucuk, Peas and Chard

 8. Cheese & Honey, Anatolian Raw Milk Cheese & Honey

Cheese & Honey – Anatolian raw Milk Cheese & Honey

 9. Sutlac, Rice Pudding wiht Mastic, Sour Apple Sorbet, Crunchy Mulberry

Sütlaç – Rice Pudding with Mastic, Sour Apple Sorbet, Crunchy Mulberry

 10. Apricot & Bulghur, Ihsangazi Siyez Bulghur Ice Cream, Confit Malatya Apricots

Apricot & Bulghur – Ihsangazi Siyez Bulghur Ice Cream, Confit Malatya Apricots

 MKLA Istanbul

MIKLA
The Marmara Pera
Meşrutiyet Caddesi 15
34430, Beyoğlu, İstanbu

http://www.miklarestaurant.com/en

Osteria Francescana, Modena, IT

Posted 09 Oct 2012 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Uncategorized

It has taken almost a year but finally we are on our way to Osteria Francescana after several days of floating with the crows in Florence. The mid-day drive up the A1 is gorgeous, lots of sun flowers and clear roads cruising at 130kmh. We make it to Modena in record time, park along the Viale Vittorio Veneto and walk to Via Stella just a few minutes away. Culinary curiosity sends waves of thought through my mind as we feel our way toward the restaurant with high anticipation after being invited for a visit nearly a year earlier. Massimo Bottura and I met in New York at the 2011 Starchefs conference at Park Avenue Armory. I had been tracking him since Osteria Francescana broke the top ten of Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants in the World. In 2012 the restaurant is ranked 5th (behind Noma, Roca, Mugaritz, and D.O.M. in Brazil).

When Bottura spoke at the Armory he waxed poetic about the food of his youth, of Cotechino sausage and chicken embryos. His deep rooted connection to the culture and foods of his native Emilia Romagna radiated authentically while he spoke. Behind him his assistants used syringes to drain chicken embryos while keeping the exterior membrane intact and refilled them with warm ham broth forming gorgeous little yellow ham juice bombs, a new take on an old favorite. My first impression then was that of a mad scientist evoking culinary emotion; the core theme of Starchefs in 2011. And now we are walking toward the restaurant.

The entry is tucked down a narrow side street and is subdued enough that you could walk right past it if it not for the polished brass signage. Inside the dining room is divided into two rooms with wide spacing between tables and lots of natural light. The first room is small with six tables and seating for twelve. Further back is the main dining room with seating for approximately forty.

Tables are double draped with pressed white linen and napkins and silver tubular single stemmed bud vases. A fair amount of thought must have gone into the design of the dining room particularly the scale and lighting. Light from south facing windows is diffused through frosted glass in some places and white muslin draping in others softening the glow in the room to a bright but muted glow. Chairs are upholstered in black leather and the walls decorated with framed black and white photos.  It feels more like an art gallery than a restaurant interior.

From the moment we enter the front of the house team enrobes us with comfort. They know we are visiting for the first time, that we are American, that we met Massimo in New York, and that we have come to eat. Menus are presented as a formality so we can explore and discuss each item. Curiosities are explored, philosophy discussed and preferences defined. The quality of the food at Osteria Francescana would exceed my word limit but Bottura does a masterful job applying modernist techniques and interpretations to the traditional foods of the region. However the real surprise was the quality of service and the staff’s ability to draw us in and put us at ease. A defining moment came when we were asking questions about the menu and our options and our server stated “we are three Michelin stars but we are not a museum. We can make anything you like in our kitchen and would be glad to make what you want. It would make me very happy if you truly enjoy yourself.” We truly did enjoy ourselves and it was worth every ounce of effort it took to get to Modena. My favorite dish: Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano…put this dish on your bucket list.

Here’s a photo record of the 15 course menu we enjoyed!

1.      Memory of a Mortadella Sandwich with Garlic Cream

 2.      Sardine with Eggplant, Olive, Crispy Cracker

 3.      Razor Clam Reconstructed, Essence of Razor Clam Broth, Rice Cracker Shell

 4.      Plate of Salt Cod with Bread Crumbs, Green Tomato, Olive Broth

 

5.      Spaghetti with Brown Squid Broth and Caviar

 6.      Saba Lacquered Adriatic Eel with Mother of Balsamic, Polenta, Green Apple, Burnt Onion

 

7.      Tortellini with Veal and Pork, Parmesan Sauce

 

8.      Tagliatelle with Ragu

 

9.      Pork Ribs with Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Puree

 

10.   Vegetable, Porcini, Black Truffle

 

11.   Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in Different Textures and Temperatures

 

12.   Compression of Pasta and Beans

 

13.   Wood Pigeon, Red Turnip Sauce, Fresh Radish

 

14.   Foie Gras Crunch with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

 

15.   Oops! Broken Fruit Pie

 

16.   Friandise

 

 

 

 

Osteria Francescana

Via Stella, 22

41121 Modena, Italy

059-210118

Osteriafrancescana.it

WD-50 NYC, Good Night

Posted 31 Jul 2012 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

Wrapping up my commentary on a recent trip to Gotham, it’s late at night, or early in the morning depending on how you look at it, and I am bouncing around in the village. On a lark, I head over to see if Chef Wylie Dufresne is at his station at WD50; he’s there. The restaurant is nearly empty and there are seats at the bar so I belly up and relax for a while, enjoy the cool air, and have a quick nightcap before heading up country (to 89th and Lexington).

Wyllie’s’ maître d’ greets me at the bar and after a long shift he’s turned out in a perfect grey suit, pink shirt and salmon tie, hipster hair parted to the side and a huge smile. He’s a musician doubling as a two Michelin star host and carries himself like a mixture of the two. Cool cat indeed. After a chat, I slip to the back kitchen and catch Wylie doing his final rounds before he packs it in (its 1:22 am). His wife is eight months pregnant and he is headed out the door soon. However, there is no pressure for us to leave so I aggregate with a group of folks by the bar. One never knows what to expect late night in New York.

It strikes me as odd that there’s a guy at the bar wearing a tuxedo with real bow tie, French cuffs and L.L. Bean rubber boots. Heading toward the bar I get a full profile of the guy, he’s wearing Phil Donahue glasses with his hair slicked back. Turns out he’s a D.J. visiting with a couple of friends one of which is a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia in food science. They came to W.D.50 because of her, straight from one of the D.J.’s gigs.

Now we are all at the bar and Dufresne’ s long time bartender starts making custom cocktails, carbonating them to order using an industrial sized cylinder of CO2. I start with an Averell Damson gin liqueur and carbonated grapefruit. Crisp and refreshing it goes down easy. With a refill, I take one more trip to the back. The kitchen crew is now ending the day with a final round of desserts coming of the pass.  Three pastry cooks shuffle to clean up the station and write a final prep and purchase list for later in the day.  I finish my drink and watch as the lights in the dining room are dimmed, the custom red flame lanterns on either side of the kitchen casting a warm glow through the room. Another restaurant day is ending.

Dufresne reappears in green cargo shorts, black back pack and helmet with flashing red light in front. He unfolds a Swift Folder bicycle, the kind of bike where you pop the pedals off, store them under the front handlebar, pull a pin and flip the thing in half. In New York where space is at a premium, it makes total sense. Headed for the door, he turns on the flashing helmet light, a taillight, and handlebar lantern and heads to the curb. Like a flashing Christmas tree, Dufresne rides off into the city at 2:05 a.m., headed home to his young son, pregnant wife and a short night of sleep before starting it all over again. This is the back end of a restaurant experience that most people never see; the final part of the day when things come to an end and an exhausted team of cooks head out into an existence that runs polar opposite the rest of the word, circadian rhythms upended. Their 2:00 a.m. is your 5:00 p.m., but the world offers nothing this time of night other than an underground world known to professional cooks and others who share this temporal existence. Nowadays I am just a visitor to this dimension and I too head out the door, grab a lonely late night cab and head north, my 2:00 a.m. is still 2:00 a.m.

WD50

50 CLINTON ST. between Stanton & Rivington on Manhattan’s Lower East Side
212.477.2900

Stumptown Coffee: NYC

Posted 30 Jun 2012 — by S.E.
Category Quick Service

 

Stumptown coffee serves one of my favorite cups in Manhattan. Located at West 29th and Broadway at the Ace hotel, this location is the only East Coast outpost of this artisan operation. I love the slick design, the huge glass storefront, the minimalist menu and the craftsmanship at the counter. The Baristas are clad with requisite short rimmed fedoras or bowler hats, waiter’s vests and body art; the style of the current era. Customers represent all walks of life.

Open since 2009 in New York, the Portland, Oregon based company has a total of eight locations including five back in the “City of Roses” and two in Seattle as well. Somehow, the company has remained small enough to keep its artisan feel.

Talking with my barista, it is clear that the crew is trained and passionate. We speak about the flavor nuances of the various varietals that Stumptown roasts and the conversation quickly escalates technically to a level beyond my own knowledge base. She knows her stuff and is excited to talk about product.

The menu is minimalist with fourteen items in total with a few (latte and mocha) offered in small, medium and large sizes. Prices are fantastic for this level of quality; a cappuccino is just $3. This is the coffee lifestyle; an ethical cup at the far end of the supply chain handled with skill and care.

Unless you ask for coffee to go, your cup comes in a nice rolled-edge rust colored ceramic cup. I grab a cup from my hipster barista (cash only) and head to the seating area in the lobby of the Ace Hotel just behind the storefront. The lighting in the Ace is low and the crowd so cool that I move up a notch just sitting here.  What a relaxing way to spend a late afternoon.

Stumptown Coffee

18 W 29th St.

New York, NY

10001

Hominy Grill ~ Charleston South Carolina

Posted 24 Jun 2012 — by S.E.
Category Full Service

Fine dining in major metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco has evolved to a point where, aside from certain local ingredients, there’s a common stylistic and technical thread that ties all these cities together. Great chefs are preparing “local foods” with sustainable sensibilities and fantastic technique in a casual and affordable setting in such a manner that it’s hard to distinguish restaurants in one city from the next based on food alone. This is great except for the fact that the advance of American cooking has also resulted in a gradual demise of the classic regional specialties that once defined these venerable cities. However, deep pockets of regional cuisine remain in the U.S. and my recent trip to Charleston in search of classic as well as modern low country cooking proves that both can exist and prosper.

Hominy Grill sits on the other end of the cuisine spectrum from McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina. Chef Robert Stehling is a master of southern cuisine served in a clean and attractive but classic style.  He’s a James Beard Best Chef Award winner (2008) just like Sean Brock and both deliver some of the best cooking in the country. Hominy Grill looks the part and is smack in the center of Charleston on Rutledge Avenue in a restored storefront and adjacent courtyard. Pulling into the parking lot, guests are greeted by a billboard sized “grits are good for you” painting on the side of the building including a 1950’s era waitress with grits in hand.

The interior is bright with large storefront windows and white paint. I reflect for a minute and consider how this cuisine, although similar to some of the foods served in the deep south including New Orleans, is so uniquely its own. The flavors and sensibilities are different, they’re not as complex as New Orleans nor are they so globally influenced. In a sense, they are lighter although the cuisine itself isn’t light at all. Looking around, the dining room is full and people are happy; low country cuisine couldn’t be more popular.  

Each table is adorned with a mason jar perforated on the top, filled with water and used as a bud vase. The lilies in the jar offer a splash of color against the white painted wooden paneling. Across the room, a set of three large black chalk boards listing menu specials sits on a shelf. Right off the bat I notice a fantastic selection of items including grits, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, mac and cheese, red rice, mashed sweet potatoes and okra with tomatoes. Enticing items include a pit roasted beef brisket sandwich but the shrimp bog with sautéed shrimp in a low country rice stew with ham, creole vegetables, cream and sherry has my name on it. This is where I get into trouble with my restaurant visits; I always order way too much. In addition to the shrimp bog, orders are placed for shrimp and grits and shrimp creole. Words can’t express how delicious Stehling’s cuisine is or how friendly and comfortable the setting and service are.

Main Dining Room

Hominy Grill Menu

Shrimp and Okra Beignets

Fried Green Tomatoes

Shrimp and Grits

Creole Shrimp

Shrimp Bog with Cream and Sherry

 Hominy Grill

207 Rutledge Avenue

Charleston, SC 29403

(843) 937-0930

McCrady’s ~ Charleston, SC

Posted 12 Jun 2012 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

Last month I bumped into Sean Brock twice; once at McCrady’s in Charleston and again just before the start of the James Beard Awards in NYC as he was setting up his station for awards gala celebration. We had a chance to talk for a bit and he reflected on his trip last year to Japan for “Cook it Raw”, what it was like surrounded by the likes of Rene Redzepi, David Chang and ever opinionated and phallicly focused Anthony Bourdain. Brock was awe struck while quietly confident and clearly on the verge of moving to the highest levels of the culinary profession. His ascension remains on his mind, a sense of positive anticipation hanging in the air as we talk.

Sean is a great guy and the critical acclaim and attention couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. His ideals are as indelibly stamped on his core as the vegetable tattoos on his arms. He isn’t full of crap, seeking fame, or engaged in some sort of narcissistic self-promotion.  Instead, he is trying to create fantastic locally sourced, historically based, low country food from his heart, an approach to food he was engaged in long before it became popular. And so it makes sense that a guy like Sean is headed to the highest echelons of the profession.

 

It has been ten years since I last visited Charleston. Arriving at McCrady’s to catch up with Sean, I nearly walked right past the alley leading to the entrance. Charleston has such a historic southern feel to it and strolling down the brick and cobble stone alley to the restaurant’s front door felt much like walking a back street in eighteenth century London. Once inside I am quickly escorted to the private dining room in the back for a sampling of Sean’s latest inspirations. He joins me at the table to talk and to describe each dish, what inspires him and where he is headed. The influence from his trip to Japan is pronounced and profound.

Crudo of Carolina Striped Bass, Rhubarb, Bullrush, Dill and Ginger

Green Garlic Soup with Fried Oyster

Grilled Local Mussels with Ramps (the mussels were a recent discovery that Sean’s favorite fisherman sourced from local waters)

Salad of Killed Baby Spinach, Pickled Quail Egg, Crispy Potatoes

Duo of Berkshire Pork, Cabbage Roasted in Embers (Brock takes great pride in raising his own hogs)

Laural Aged Carolina Rice Pudding, Citrus, Rooftop Herbs

(the herbs are from the roof top garden and the dish itself the most representative of Sean’s trip to Japan)

Sean’s chioggia beet tatoo and a chioggia beet from my plate too

McCrady’s

2 Unity Aly 

Charleston, SC

29401

(843) 577-0025 

Momofuku Saam Bar Revisited

Posted 28 May 2012 — by S.E.
Category Full Service

Saam Bar masters the art of the small plate within a deep rooted yet flexible Asian theme. David Chang and his crew keep the food fresh and delicious even after attaining star status and expanding globally. On this trip I notice a trend for the first time: the menu offers a hint of wild seasonal botanicals that are unusual even for New York.  Sweetflag (a wetland grass with edible leaves and rhizome) is served with Santa Barbara Uni and knotweed is used as a garnish over chicken liver mousse with olive berry and Maitake. The sweet flag probably found its way onto the Saam Bar menu from the Chinese medicine cabinet where its use is common. The knotweed is a large perennial plant considered invasive that is in season in spring. My guess is that the use of knotweed is connected to Japanese Sansai (traditional mountain foraging) although my first thought was Chang riffing on the Scandinavian foraging aesthetic so in vogue right now.

Perhaps Chang has taken the Redzepi foraging movement and turned it eastward to make it his own. His team of thinkers and culinary tinkerers continually earn their stripes by finding vague and obscure ingredients, innovating from broader trends, and drawing in inspiration from global travels all without losing focus on their purpose. These weeds aren’t added for simple effect, they fit a broader theme and philosophy. I am excited to sample!

Like most nights, the bar is packed, people are happy and the food and drink flows in simple rhythm. Elbow to elbow at the bar I am next to a young lady and her chatty sister on one side and a distinguished couple on the other. Seating is tight at the bar and personal space gives way to an intimacy among strangers that is pleasant and engaging if you are ready for it. Everyone is talking about and gawking at the food. With space this tight it’s hard not to hover over each other as servers drop off plates meant for sharing. The mood is expectant, jovial, and electric at the bar yet quieter and more reserved at the tables along the wall. There are more than a couple happy children seated at the tables with their parents.

Like WD50, Momofuku is not an architectural or design gem but it is beautiful. The restaurant is simple and sleek, a rectangle of solid wood walls and ceiling. The service crew is delightfully casual, well informed and attentive and the food arrives promptly and steadily. Everything is delicious.

Out the door now after a great meal headed to the next adventure. Just outside, I pass the graffiti tagged exterior Saam Bar wall along E. 13th street. It’s a splash of creative color (graffiti as high art) that is beautiful but deceptive to the uniformed. Further to the left there’s a huge tank of hissing liquid nitrogen adjacent to the side entrance of Booker and Dax, Chang’s experimental modern bar with mad scientist Dave Arnold. Chang is to be admired for continually sharpening the cutting edge.

Saam Bar Graffiti

Long Island Fluke, Kumquat, Cilantro, Green Peppercorn

 Santa Barbara Uni, Sweetflag, Sea Beans, Chawanmushi

Pickled Vegetables

Steamed Pork Bun, Pork Belly, Hoisin, Cucumbers, Scallions

Selection of Country Hams, Finchville Farms, Benton’s Smoky Mountain, Broadbent, Edwards Wigwam Ham

Dry Aged Sirloin Tar Tar, Watermelon Radish, Spinach, Nori

Chicken Liver Mousse, Olive Berry, Knotweed, Maitake

Spicy Honeycomb Tripe, Ginger Scallion, Celery, Pickled Tomato

Corn Ice Cream ,Mango, Thai Basil

Tri-Star Strawberry Sorbet, Celery Root, Ritz Crunch

Momofuku Saam Bar

207 2nd Avenue

New York, NY 10003

(212) 254-3500

momofuku.com

Momofuku Milk Bar

Posted 08 May 2012 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends, Pastry & Dessert, Warms My Heart

Milk Bar Cold Case

Momofuku Milk Bar isn’t fancy. The minimalist design including strand-board casework, small front counter, simple packaging, and chalk board menu suggest a place staged with simplicity and profit in mind. Fact is, I have never been overly impressed with the interior of Milk Bar and probably wouldn’t seek one out except for the fact that I am completely addicted to Chef Christina Tosi’s strawberry lemon cake truffles. Her candy bar pie is incredible too but the truffles draw me in whenever I am within a block of a Milk Bar outlet (usually the one in midtown). My trips to New York always place me within walking distance to the store on West 56th street, lucky peach indeed.

W56th St. Milk Bar

So it was with great joy that I watched Christina Tosi edge out some of the best chefs in the country to receive the 2012 Rising Star Chef of the Year from the James Beard Foundation. The honor is awarded to “a chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in years to come” according to the foundation web site. That she is so talented, heads a growing empire of stores, is teamed with one of the most recognized chefs in the country in David Chang, and leads a team of folks mostly under the age of 25 is a testament to her talent. That she does all this in one of the most competitive and hyper food markets in the world is monumental. She deserves this recognition (even though I am a huge Dave Beran fan!).

Chef Christina Tosi (2012 James Beard Awards)

On stage, Tosi looked radiant in a black sleeveless dress with red pumps, her shoulder length hair straight and parted. Relaxed, she accepted her award with grace as chef Grant Achatz looked on (he won the award in 2003). She made sure to thank the Beard Foundation and, more specifically, to thank her extended team (as any good leader would). She showed tremendous poise and humility while also exuding great confidence. What a great role model at such a young age.

Congratulations Christina and the entire Milk Bar and Momofuku team…

Milk Bar Cookie Baskets

Strawberry Lemon Cake Truffle

Strawberry Lemon Cake Truffle Interior

L-R, Compost Cookie, Chocolate Chocolate, Cornflake Marshmallow Cookie

Candy Bar Pie

NEXT: El Bulli

Posted 03 May 2012 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Food Alert Trends

Next week, I predict that NEXT restaurant in Chicago will win “Best New Restaurant” at the 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards and that Chef Dave Beran will win “Rising Star Chef of the Year”. My rationale for this prediction is based primarily on the incredible success Beran, Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas have had launching what I consider to be one of the most innovative and technically successful new restaurants in American history.

If you follow NEXT you already know that to dine there you have to buy tickets for the menu being offered, that only sixty four seats are available each night and that tickets for each three month run sell out in minutes. Pretty innovative huh (albeit old news now that Kokonas and Achatz have proven the model). The food community also knows that Beran and his team execute each menu flawlessly (there have been three menus to date: Paris 1906, Thailand, Childhood and now El Bulli (Sicily and Kyoto are soon to follow). Each time NEXT offers a new menu the creative team at the restaurant completely reinvents the experience, resetting the entire table top, service ware, menu, production and service. That these guys can shift themes every three months from Paris 1906 to Thailand (including a rave review by the N.Y. Times), turn the corner and take on Achatz’s and Beran’s memories from childhood in the 70’s and 80’s in menu form and then run a 29 course El Bulli menu three months after that (to extreme accuracy) is unheard of; a feat of super-culinary capacity and sheer determination. NEXT is the best new restaurant in the U.S. and, probably, one of if not the most innovative restaurant in the world today.

NEXT Restaurant Kitchen

Recently, I had an opportunity to enjoy the El Bulli menu and visit with sous chef Rene Deleon (Beran and Achatz were in Kyoto conducting research for that future menu). Deleon and the rest of his culinary crew are all fresh faced, young and of fighting weight. They hustle with kinetic energy in the kitchen while performing their roles with precision. They love what they do and covet the experience. Deleon in particular praises the opportunity to work at NEXT and the incredible leadership provided by Beran and Achatz. He relays his perspective while filling his purchase order for the following day’s comestibles, sitting at a table at 1:10 am in the morning as though it’s 4:00 pm in afternoon (his work day is nearly done). He lives the nocturnal life, the life of a cook where daylight is for sleeping (it off) and nighttime is for work and play; where you go home when the sun is rising not when it sets. A life the public rarely ever sees but one that serves as the basis for an underground culinary culture that we all love or have learned to love to be successful.

And that’s my point. NEXT thrives as a restaurant, a business, an art-form and aesthetic within the culinary realm. And it delivers. Beran, Achatz and Kokonas will receive the recognition they deserve at the 2012 James Beard Foundation awards. Kudos and congratulations in advance, I know of no other team that could pull off such a wonderful launch as these guys and the women and men who work for them. What an incredible American culinary and cultural asset. I can’t wait to see what’s NEXT.

Nitro Caipirinha with Tarragon Concentrate

Dry Snacks: Puffed Rice Black Pudding, Nori Cracker, Black Olive Butterflies, Puffed Coffee Polenta,

Puffed Saffron Tapioca, Parmesan Crackers, Lotus Flower Chips, Pork Rinds

Hot/Cold Trout Roe Tempura

Spherical Olives

Coca of Avocado Pear, Anchovies and Green Onion

Iberico Sandwich

Golden Quail Egg

Black Sesame Spongecake and Miso

Chicken Liquid Croquettes

Orange and Cardamom Bitters for Malaga Moscatel

Smoke Foam

Carrot Air with Coconut Milk

Cuttlefish and Coconut Ravioli with Soy, Ginger and Mint

Savory Tomato Ice with Oregano and Almond Milk Pudding

Hot Crab Aspic with Mini Corn Cous-Cous

Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc

NEXT Diningroom

Cauliflower Cous-Cous with Solid Aromatic Herb Sauce

Suquet of Prawns

Potato Tortilla by Marc Singla

Trumpet Carpaccio with Rabbit Kidneys

Red Mullet Gaudi

Nasturtium with Eel, Bone Marrow and Cucumber

Civet of Rabbit with Hot Apple Jelly

Rabbit Civet up close

Gorgonzola Globe (Gorgonzola bechemel siphoned into a balloon, frozen via rotation in liquid nitrogen),

topped with fresh grated nutmeg tableside

Foie Gras Caramel Custard

Spice Plate (guests play a game of identifying each of the 12 flavors placed around the perimeter of the plate)

Mint Pond (Mint Powder, Muscovado Sugar, Macha Tea Powder)

Chocolate in Textures

Chocolate Donuts

Creme Flute and Puff Pastry Web

Morphings:

Jules Verne Lollipops, Chocolate and Puffed Rice, Yogurt Croquant and Raspberry Lolly, White Chocolate, Lemon and Coffee Lolly, Star Anise and Mandarin Lolly, Raspberry Kebab with Balsamic Caramel Cloud

Passionfruit Marshmallow – The Farewell

NEXT Restaurant

953 West Fulton Market

Chicago, Illinois 60607

(312) 226-0858

The Macintosh: Charleston S.C. ~ Brunch

Posted 29 Apr 2012 — by S.E.
Category Full Service

It’s spring time in Charleston, South Carolina and the trees are turning green. The travel gods have smiled on me once again and I am here for a couple of days on business which in my case means several nights of excellent dining with exceptional company. Of the many cities in the south that I love, Charleston has to be near the top of the list. It is one of the best restaurant cities in the country with more high quality dining establishments per capita than many a city twice its size. My first stop upon arrival is brunch at The Macintosh, the newest addition to the highly acclaimed Indigo Road Restaurant Group and recent 2012 James Beard Awards nominee.

Antebellum Tree

Charleston is made for walking and my hotel is one block north of Market Street and the center of town. I quick step down to Market Street and head west toward King Street taking in the sights. The architecture is so lovely and well preserved that a true Antebellum aesthetic settles over me. It’s still early (10:30 am) and the streets are moving with people but not overly so. Along the way I click a few photos with my point-and-shoot and make a right hand turn to the north onto King Street toward The Macintosh. After a leisurely stroll down the far side of King Street I find myself in front of the old American Theater and notice The Macintosh directly across the street, its large plate-glass storefront clearly pained with the restaurant logo.

Confederate Museum Steps Detail

Once inside I meet General Manager Andrew Fallis, (a graduate of Johnson & Wales University) and congratulate him on the Beard nomination; he is elated. Fallis reminds me of a stylish Keith Urban, he is smooth and gentlemanly with the guests and floats us over to a power-table for brunch. Settled in, I gather my senses and take in the room. The interior is rustic and informal with exposed brick, ductwork and ceiling joists. You won’t find white linen here (no need to waste precious resources on a linen contract), instead hardwood tables are set with black woven placemats, black cloth napkins, stainless flatware and short stemmed glassware. Fallis and his team are managing their resources well.

View Toward King Street

The menu is a single printed legal-size sheet clamped onto a hardwood clip board. There are four starters, ten main dishes and six sides priced from $5 – $13. Although limited in scope and scale, the menu represents real value at these prices.

 The Macintosh Menu

Triggerfish Brandade, Alabama White Sauce

Eggs Over Easy, Sweet Potato Hash

Chicken & Waffles

“Mac Attack” Pork Belly, Bone Marrow Bread Pudding, Poached Eggs

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The Macintosh

479-B King Street

Charleston, S.C. 29403

843-789-4299