Flavor Forays went to Portland to eat. True, there are numerous other attractions, but we were there to check out the vibrant food and wine scene. Read here to eat along.
Click below for our latest Flavor Forays Newsletter.
An amazing Russian tea created by the dean of Portland chefs Vitaly Paley was one of the highlights of Portland Potager, our recent Flavor Foray out West. Please enjoy the story on the Guide Michelin site.
Preserved lemons provide a wallop of flavor that chefs are embracing. The linguine at Tulio in Seattle is served with clams, preserved lemons, chili flakes and garlic breadcrumbs.
Photo by Margo Helgen.
Beverly Stephen, along with other FSR contributors, predict the hottest menu trends for the coming year.
By Beverly Stephen and Barbara Mathias
“Food Arts absolutely chronicled the American Food Revolution,” Ed Brown said when he introduced us at the annual meeting of Restaurant Associates chefs held at the Culinary Institute of America in October. “They did much more than report it, they helped shape it!”
We were honored to be able to take the chefs down that meaningful 25-year memory lane. Now, through Flavor Forays, we are bringing people who were Food Arts readers to see the people and places we reported on.
A lot happened in these last few decades. And for 25 years, Food Arts was at the front lines reporting on this Great American Food revolution: farm to table, the rise of women chefs, science and technology in the kitchen, the love of all things artisanal and heirloom and local, local, local.
As journalists we were excited by our scoops. We were the first to cover Ferran Adria at El Bulli, the Nordic manifesto which led to NOMA, Emeril before he was Emeril.
We can’t talk about Food Arts without talking about founding editor Michael Batterberry. It was his style and vision that made the whole thing happen. His background in art enabled him to put food and art together on center stage.
Michael and his wife, Ariane, believed there was a need for a new magazine celebrating the chef-led American food revolution and in 1988, they launched Food Arts. Their mission was to give chefs the respect they deserved as artists and business people. They believed that chefs needed information no one else was providing. This was before instant news on the internet, blogs, Beard awards. A chef in New York didn’t necessarily know what a chef in California was doing.
Working with Michael at Food Arts was like being seated next to the most interesting guest—at the kind of fabulous dinner parties most of us never get invited to. When chefs were in town they would come by to visit—Charlie Trotter, Jose Andres, Emeril, Susan Fenniger. Cookbook authors came to plug books—Nathan Myrhvold brought the page proofs of Modernist Cuisine to us first. Writers came to pitch stories, a duchess from Palermo described her palazzo turned bed & breakfast, young visionaries like Dave Arnold came to brainstorm his dream of a Museum of Food and Drink (now open in Brooklyn). We met with top writers and photographers who were willing to work within our rather modest budget—all for love of Michael.
Michael had props—a Venetian party mask, a Japanese samurai sword, a stuffed chicken all waiting their turn for whimsical cover photo shoots. A great raconteur, he had stories: helping Greta Garbo home after a late night in Rome, lunching with Isak Dinesen, hanging out with Julia or the Brennans, returning to the U.S. from England on an ocean liner which stopped at the statue of Liberty and Gene Autry came on deck on Champion the Wonder Horse, reared up and waved his hat in salute to Lady Liberty.
Accolades poured in after his death. Anthony Bourdin: “Michael was one of the first people anywhere to treat me like a writer. Back when I was an anonymous, line cooking journeyman, long before Kitchen Confidential.”
The magazine always had a sense of humor too. One of our best loved features was “Hits and Flops” where chefs could commiserate about the dishes nobody bought. For example, Paul Canales of Duende in Oakland decided to make a really classic paella with rabbit and snails. “It should have been a slam-dunk,” he said. “But The snails really freaked people out. …I may bring it back I still have five cans of snails.”
We’re proud that chefs today are not only respected professionals, you’re rock stars. In Food Arts you were bold face names just like celebrities in the gossip columns.
If there’s one person who shows that working hard and doing the right thing are the real keys to success, it’s Dominique Crenn. She's one of three female chefs in the United States with two Michelin stars. And yes, she was named World’s Best Female Chef by San Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016. But remarkably, she’s quick to point out that it’s important not to “let awards go to your head”—and she means it.
Blueberries are Julie Elkind’s madeleines. They trigger memories of childhood summer days spent picking berries and baking with her much loved grandmother. There’s the day she’ll never forget when the blueberry cobbler they were baking exploded all over the oven. “It blew the oven door open and splattered all over the walls and the floor. We were covered head-to-toe in blueberries. We just laughed and laughed hysterically, and then started eating it off the counter tops,” she recalls.
By Beverly Stephen
Huron, Ohio--Some 250 culinary professionals gathered at the Culinary Vegetable Institute at Chef’s Garden for the 5th annual Roots Conference in late September. During the two-day conference, organized around the theme of innovation, participants listened and learned, shared their expertise, and networked with peers. Farmer Lee Jones called the conference “a successful, memorable and innovative event!”
The Chef’s Garden provides a magical setting. The farm is widely considered to be the leading grower of artisanal produce, one seamlessly devoted to respecting tradition while also focusing on innovation, developing new products, and pioneering food safety programs. A tour of the farm is a highlight of the event. An alfresco dinner, literally farm to table, and featuring vegetables, vegetables, vegetables, was served on tables set up in a spectacular wagon wheel formation to ease service.
Panel discussions ranged from business and employment nuts and bolts and the rise of fine casual to neuro gastronomy and the culinary diaspora.
Creativity, innovation, and always staying true to “soul” in the words of Steelite CEO John Miles, were the overriding takeaway.
Panelists grappled for solutions for staffing and paying cooks a living wage. “Why do cooks get paid less than the guys who give them tattoos?” asked Zane Holmquist, vice president of food and beverage and corporate chef of Stein Erikson Lodge Deer Valley.
Chefs like Bradford Thompson and Rich Rosendale who have left the restaurant kitchen for other venues proved that it is possible to reinvent yourself and “say yes to your dreams.”
The evolution to fine casual is a “huge wave” in the words of Brad Nelson, vice president culinary and global corporate chef of Marriott International “It’s more focused on quick service and has evolved into a real food play,” he said noting that “while it’s less formal” it still requires “quality execution.” Overall, he believes, “it’s the way people prefer to eat.”
John Miles says he first caught wind of the trend when he noticed prominent business people wearing expensive casual clothes rather than suits. “A lot of super creative chefs coming up recognized that. We’re very fashion driven. People were dressing differently and going different places to eat. Fine casual is where you would like to eat every day.”
Keynote speaker Dr. L. Tim Ryan, president of the Culinary Institute of America dissected the creative process in his keynote address and explained “how we can learn from the greats.” He noted that the creative spectrum runs from copying to new but cautioned that “It’s very rare to come up with something wholly new. Most of us play in the murky middle.” To illustrate, he gave examples of artists and popular songwriters being “inspired” by others and brought down the house playing snippets of popular songs that weren’t exactly original. “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley sounded strikingly similar to Mario Lanza’s “O Solo Mio.” In 1918 Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America” for the first World War. Kate Smith recorded another version for World War II. Woody Gutherie responded with “This Land is Your Land.” Bob Dylan’s “House of the Rising Sun” was inspired by Lead Belly. Then the Animals took it and had a big hit.
On the culinary front, he noted that Paul Bocuse’s iconic Truffle Soup served under a dome of puff pastry was inspired by Marc Haeberlin’s Truffle en Croute and an image of a chicken pot pie that popped into his mind. Thomas Keller’s idea for his savory Salmon Cornet was triggered by seeing the paper wrapped ice cream cones at Baskin-Robbins while his famed Oysters and Pearls dish came from a Eureka moment of seeing a package of tapioca pearls in the supermarket and thinking about pearls coming from oysters.
The takeaway: creativity is not a flash in the pan. It’s a process that involves “making the choice to be creative, focus, research and hard work, drafting and editing and evaluating and then finishing.” In short, the process is available to everybody willing to put in the effort and see it through to execution.
And that’s innovation.
Thank you one and all for joining Portland Potager, our Flavor Foray in Portland October 16 to 18, 2017. We enjoyed seeing old friends and making new ones and hope you will all come with us on future journeys.
Watch this for some serious pork chops!
Wasn’t Peter Cho’s Han Oak magical? As one of our chefs exclaimed, “That guy can cook!” And so can Earl Ninsom of Langbaan who wowed us with those perfectly cooked Duroc pork chops and that delectable Dungeness crab salad. Hats off to Troy MacLarty at Bollywood and Aaron Adams of Farm Spirit and Melissa McMillan of Pastrami Zombie and David Sapp of Park Kitchen for their stellar contributions. And what about David Martin’s xurros at 180 and Pip’s donuts!
And the wines! What an honor to have Veronique Boss-Drouhin herself lead our tasting at Domaine Drouhin and Chris Cullina certainly pulled out all the corks on the bubbly at Argyle. We also appreciate the wines both poured at our dinners. The Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission couldn’t have picked a more scenic location to show off their berries than Domaine Serene. Plus who knew Oregon produced olive oil before we went to the Oregon Olive Oil Mill at Red Ridge?
Many thanks as well to Aria Gin and Bull Run Distillery for their cocktails and to Christian Di Benedetti of Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery. And who knew you could get Sangria in cans before we met the guys from Portland Sangria?
Have you ever been to tea in a hotel that rivals the Samovar Russian Tea Service Vitaly Paley created for the Heathman drawing on his Russian heritage?
Don’t you love all the energetic artisans? Ben Jacobsen started his company with just him in 2011 hauling salt water in the back of his pickup truck from Netarts Bay to Portland. Now he sells his salts and other products nationwide. The antique oyster-trailer-turned-table, set with sparkling Krysta Sequence Collection wine glasses provided by ARC Cardinal, seated our entire group for a welcome dinner in his loft. Salumist Elias Cairo put Olympia Provisions on the map as Oregon’s first USDA approved salumeria. Sarah Hart was inspired to start making those delectable Alma chocolates in 2005 because she couldn’t find an acceptable chocolate Easter bunny. Matt Higgins started Coava coffee roasters in his garage in 2008. These are the makers who are making Portland a special food scene.
Many, many thanks to all our wonderful sponsors: IMS/Bigelow Tea, Jade Range/Beech Ovens, Smithfield Foods, Chefwear/Landau Uniforms, ARC Cardinal, the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission. We couldn’t have done this without you.
Thanks to Oregon expert Judiaann Woo (@judiaann), a former colleague at Food Arts, who introduced us to so many of these wonderful locals.
We couldn’t have enjoyed a better home base than the Dossier Hotel. Thanks to Stephen Galvan and the wonderful staff for taking such good care of us.
All along the way, our terrific photographer Nannette Bedway was on the job making memorable pictures. She’s happy to share if you need anything.
Barbara Mathias and Beverly Stephen
I can be old school. I like phone conversations, handwritten notes, and a drink (coffee or cocktail) with someone, rather than Skype, text or email. The latter are efficient, but I sometimes wonder if we lose personal connection with the kind of connection that technology empowers?
Berlin's iconic street food, the doner kebab makes its way to Brooklyn food halls in Industry City and the new DeKalb market. Beverly Stephen wrote about it for The Daily Meal
Internet sensation Avocaderia built a whole menu around avocados—and New Yorkers are loving it. Avocaderia hopes its Brooklyn location will spur many more in the years to come.
Many restaurants have a love story behind them. But Avocaderia’s romance is an unusual one.
Founder Francesco Brachetti fell in love with avocados when he was living and working in Mexico City. He had never eaten one in his native Italy, where they are not part of the pantry. He was taken with the avocado’s creamy texture and admired its health benefits. He was so enamored with the fruit that he convinced a friend, Alessandro Biggi—who had immigrated to Seattle and was disenchanted with the lunch options available—that they should open an avocado bar.
“I believed we could fill the gap with healthy fast food people our age are interested in. Avocados have the good kind of fat, and they fill you up,” says Brachetti, the 29-year-old entrepreneur who exudes a kind of casual charm reflected in the “Hi, I’m Francesco” printed on his business card.
He enlisted the help of his chef cousin, Alberto Gramini, to develop a menu that would go beyond the trend unleashed by wildly popular avocado toast. When it came to location, the business partners picked the epicenter of emerging trends: Brooklyn.
“If you can prove your concept here, you can do it anywhere,” he says, acknowledging that he hopes Avocaderia’s first location, which he believes is the world’s first avocado-only café, will be the incubator for a fast-casual chain.
The team settled on a 450-square-foot space in the food hall of Industry City, a colossal development in the far reaches of Brooklyn that encompasses 19 former warehouse buildings on 35 waterfront acres. The food hall is housed in Building 2 of the vast complex, which welcomes a mix of big-box stores, tech start-ups, work spaces, art galleries, and small retail.
Some 7,000 people already work on this futuristic campus and supply a steady stream of lunchtime business. Avocaderia is feeding about 250 people a day, which requires at least 25 cases of avocados a week.
The cheerful, colorful space is decorated with Moroccan tiles. The founders didn’t want to give the impression that Avocaderia is a Mexican restaurant.
“We want to be international,” Brachetti says. Guacamole is the only Mexican thing on the menu, and even that is served with baked pita chips. The restaurant offers salads, smoothies, and a best-selling “Avoburger” whose “bun” is a whole avocado, while the fillings are salmon, herb yogurt, watermelon radish, and arugula. The other best seller is a Mediterranean sourdough toast with tapenade, avo mash, cherry and sundried tomatoes, feta, and pistachio dukkah. All menu items, with the exception of the burger, are made with half an avocado. The average price of a sandwich is $10.
All of Avocaderia’s organic pebbly-skinned Hass avocados are sourced from a free-trade cooperative in the Mexican state of Michoacán, which is the avocado capital of the world. The founders schooled themselves in the cycles of ripeness, which can be frustrating for avocado lovers.
“You can’t ripen one in two hours,” Brachetti says, but he adds that you can speed up the ripening process by wrapping the avocados in newspaper with a banana, and you can slow it down by putting them in the fridge. “The ideal temperature to ripen is 65–68 degrees Fahrenheit.”
He recalls that when buying an avocado in a market in Mexico, the vendor will ask whether you want to use it right away in guacamole, have it firm for slicing, or wait a few days for it to ripen—a service not performed in U.S. supermarkets.
Avocaderia opened on April 10 with two employees. In short order, the restaurant added another 10 workers, most of whom have some restaurant experience. It ran out of avocados on the first day. On Memorial Day weekend, 1,000 hungry customers swarmed the restaurant. A video went viral and increased business by 80 percent.
But Brachetti, who has a solid footing in finance, feels things are progressing smoothly now—so much so that the team is already scouting a location in Manhattan.
Written by Beverly Stephen for QSR https://www.qsrmagazine.com/exclusives/avocado-based-restaurant-ready-more
Hotels are bringing the spa and wellness experience into the privacy of the guest bathrooms.
“We’ve had the mattress wars and the pillow wars,” says Don Genders, CEO of Design for Leisure, a company that builds spa and wellness facilities around the world. “Once they’ve given you a good night’s sleep, hotels are going to the wellness and relaxation elements.”
The Royal Monceau has jumped on the current Parisian rage for hammams and installed them in 20 larger rooms and suites. In the Park Hyatt Istanbul, the traditional Turkish bath, offered in 25 spa rooms and four terrace suites, provides an authentic local experience. General Manager Gözde Eren compares in-room spa treatments to “ordering room service.”
A private sauna can double as a piece of furniture or be built into the room, as at the Hotel Forsthofalm in Leogang, Austria. The 200-square-foot bathrooms at the Bardessono in Yountville, California, double as private spas. Massage tables are cleverly concealed in bathroom cabinetry, and the massage takes place in the bathroom. When the treatment ends, the guest is conveniently close to the steam shower or the adjacent outdoor shower. Very California.
Written by Beverly Stephen for Hotels Magazine
By Beverly Stephen, June 3, 2017
James Bond has his iconic Martini, shaken not stirred. Sex and the City’s Samantha catapulted the Cosmopolitan into the stratosphere.
But I’ll take a Negroni any day of the week. It’s not a manly drink, nor a girlie drink—a fitting drink for our gender neutral times. It’s as pretty as a Cosmopolitan but packs about the same wallop as a Martini.
It’s believed that the Negroni was invented in Italy 1919 whenCount Camillo Negroni asked the bartender at the Hotel Baglioni in Florence to fortify his Americano with gin. It has gained cult status in recent years, perhaps because Americans have learned to love the Italian penchant for bitter flavors. So popular has this Italian apperitif become that there’s now aNegroni week June 5 to 11 with a portion of the proceeds benefitting various charities.
Bars all over the world will be saluting the Negroni but none more seriously than Dante in New York City’s Greenwich Village which has a comprehensive 12 deep list called the Negroni Sessions and décor to match with shelves lined with Campari, Aperol, and various vermouths. When the venerable 100 year old Caffe Dante was recently reimagined as a contemporary Italian inflected restaurant, barman Naren Young, an alum of Saxon and Parole, was brought on to develop a distinctive bar program. Turning the spotlight on an Italian inspired cocktail fit the bill perfectly "because our whole concept is European apperitivi," Young says.
Young offers the house Negroni “on tap”, the Americano, and the Sbagliato or “mistaken Negroni” –so called because there’s no gin. There are also classic variations such as the Old Pal which is made with rye and the Bourbon-based Boulevardier. But Young lets his imagination run wild with out of the box creations such as a chocolate Negroni with crème de cacao and chocolate bitters; a Negroni Coffee Swizzle with mescal and cold brew; and a Frappe with “fluffy” orange juice. The most unlikely creation of all is the Unlikely Negroni with a banana pineapple shrub and chili. "We wanted to show just how diverse the template can be so we created a wonderful mix of old classic recipes mixed in with our own modern interpretations," Young explains, who says the Negroni Sessions have been a "runaway success."
A classic Negroni is easy to make with equal parts of gin, Vermouth, and Campari. Young, however, after much experimentation, has settled on a slight variation on the traditional formula, choosing to measure only three quarter ounces each of Vermouth and Campari to one ounce of gin to deliver a cleaner, less sweet drink. Many bartenders are experimenting with various Vermouths and bitters and even substitutes for Campari. But Young insists that Campari is the standard and the brand on which the cocktail is based. He prefers Bombay Sapphire gin and Martini & Rossi vermouth but he feels okay about other standard brands like Noilly Prat and Cinzano while many of his peers are out chasing more exotic, more expensive vermouths.
And yes, they are stirred, not shaken--Bond’s preference notwithstanding. The idea is to maintain the integrity of spirits forward drinks and prevent dilution. That’s the same reasoning behind using a super size ice cube.
From 4 to 7 every day the drinks will be a very affordable non New York price of $9. I’d love to try all 12 but there are only 7 days in Negroni week.
Not to worry says Young. At Dante the Negroni Sessions will be in session year round.
Salt on the side, a bartender garnishes with style.
By Beverly Stephen
Salt or no salt? That’s the usual question when a Margarita order is placed. There’s no need to make that decision at Cosme, Enrique Olvera’s upscale Mexican restaurant in Manhattan.
Beverage director Yana Wolfson moistens the sides of glasses with a lime and imprints them with a stylish slash of salt on one side. The other side is plain. “It gives people a choice. It’s a way of suggesting without forcing,” says Wolfson “and it’s not supposed to fall into the drink.”
This is not just any salt. Her beautifully garnished tequila and mescal cocktails require a wardrobe of salts—absinthe, grapefruit, chili, bee pollen, even worm salt. The salts are colorful—salmon pink, slate gray, pure white, pale yellow.
Infusions are made, some salts are balanced with a touch of sugar, ingredients are dehydrated, crushed, ground down.
For example, Wolfson takes grapefruit peel that’s been soaking in sugar syrup to make soda, dehydrates it, blends it to a powder and incorporates it in salt creating a rub. The perfect foil for a Paloma (Cimarrón Reposado, house made grapefruit syrup, lime, soda).
Bee pollen salt graces the Anti Histamine, a play off the holistic idea that local honey or bee pollen can help with allergies. It’s made with Don Julio Reposado, Liquor Strega, honey, lemon.
On the Striptease (Cosme is housed in a Former strip club) absinthe salt plays well with Vida Mescal, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, guanabana, and lime.
For the Scoville sour Serrano or Guajillo or Arbol infused Siete Leguas, lemon juice, and agave is garnished with a chili salt-spiced cucumber spear. “It’s an homage to the Scoville units,” Wolfson explains. “We rotate the chilis.”
And then there’s the mysterious worm salt. “I can’t really compare it to anything,” she says. “It’s such an interesting flavor. It tastes like it comes from the earth but it’s not like having sand or powdered soil in your mouth. I’ve not had much experience eating bugs but this is interesting and beautiful.” She serves it Mexico City style on a plate beside a shot of Mescal (there are 30 on her list) with two slices of orange for dipping as a palate cleanser. The source? Wolfson smiles enigmatically. Presumably somewhere in Mexico.
The salts are a sophisticated finish for very sophisticated cocktails as is fitting for a very sophisticated restaurant and a sister to Pujol, widely considered the best restaurant in Mexico City.
SEXY AND SUMMERY VEGGIES
Refreshing crudité with addictive dips star on menus
By Beverly Stephen
Fashions come and go in food just as they do in clothes. What we once called carrots and celery, as Nora Ephron wryly observed, became crudité. That was about the same time we fell in love with Julia Child and embraced brie and baguettes. And weren’t we sophisticated to be calling humble vegetables by a French name! As time marched on, crudité trickled down to supermarket packages of pre-sliced carrot sticks and celery spears with the occasional broccoli floret and cherry tomato. Cutting edge, they were not.
But now that vegetables are moving center stage, a whole new world of crudité has opened up. It’s as if everyone suddenly woke up and said, “OK Mom, we’ll eat our vegetables.”
Refreshing crudité presentations, including uncommon vegetables such as lovage, Treviso, broccoli rabe, kohlrabi, and Harukei turnips snuggling up to pedestrian carrots, are showing up on menus everywhere—sometimes as bar snacks, sometimes as appetizers, sometimes as a communal dish for the table. And the spreads at weddings are not your grandmother’s buffet. Who knew from kale? Then there are the dips where chefs really let it rip whether they are updates of classic dressings or riffs on exotica like Muhammara or hummus.
Caterer and cookbook author Ted Lee, who imparts a taste of Southern summers, with his butter bean hummus dip, sees this “as the third wave of crudité. They are no longer an afterthought. People are really paying attention to seeing that the vegetables are fresh and chilled and the dipping sauces are amazing. It’s a good test of whether there’s intelligence in the kitchen.”
Santina, a New York City restaurant from the same group that revitalized red-sauce fare at Carbone, is so enamored of its supersized Giardinia crudité for the table that it’s pictured on its home page with its three sauces—one red, one white, one green, just like the colors of the Italian flag. One can almost think of it as a terrestrial version of the French plateau des fruits de mer.
At Acme, a contemporary bistro in New York City, diners might be treated to an amuse of tiny raw vegetables with a smoky onion aioli or they can order a larger version of this treat as a bar snack. John Fraser, at his new vegetarian restaurant NIX in Manhattan (which just received two stars form the New York Times), calls a spade a spade and offers a snack of “raw veggies” with a choice of dips such as red pepper and walnut or labneh and marinated cucumber. Chef Graham Dodds at Wayward Sons in Dallas does an all vegetable riff on a charcuterie board with artfully sliced root vegetables mimicking cured meats, pickled turnips, house made giardiniera pickles, sunchoke pate, and potato leek terrine. Real men eat these vegetables. The garden “charcuterie” has become one of his most popular appetizers.
Food & beverage leader Achim Lenders recently served a refreshing all green bouquet of Persian cucumbers, fennel, mint, and sugar snap peas wedged into a beautiful bowl of crushed ice. He flavored a dip of crème fraiche with grated freeze dried white truffles and white truffle oil. It was summer in a bowl. On another occasion, he even redeemed the carrot. He shaved ribbons of multi colored carrots on a mandolin and tossed them over a few others cut in chunks. The dip was a carrot puree. Carrots squared.
Lenders believes the new crudités are part of the movement to celebrate heirloom vegetables. “People are taking a different approach and making the presentations more modern and youthful. We’re doing more in our restaurants and events to showcase the products,” he says.
Few chefs have done as much to celebrate fresh from the farm vegetables as Dan Barber at his Blue Hill restaurants both in the city and at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. He cleverly impales perfect baby radishes, Hakurei turnips, squash, fennel—whatever is popping up in the garden at the moment, on a “fence” of stainless steel spikes on a wooden block made exclusively for Blue Hill. He sprays them lightly with a lemon vinaigrette and serves them as a passed hors d’oeuvre.
“In the past people may have needed convincing, “says Blue Hill vice president Irene Hamburger. “We don’t have to do that sell anymore. People understand the work and effort that goes into raising the vegetables and then making them look beautiful. When people choose to have an event at Blue Hill, they’re expecting that they get to showcase the farm to their guests as well.”
The fence, she says, is always part of a wedding. But “especially at Stone Barns every meal begins with a variety of vegetables in their own form–everything from baby fennel with pistachio nut crust to tiny white Hakurei turnips thinly sliced less than a quarter inch served with poppy seed puree and a sprinkle of poppy seeds on top. It’s all part of the first onslaught of vegetables.”
Caterers such as The Cleaver Company (left) and Great Performances (right) feature the freshest of the season.
Caterers, such as The Cleaver Company, are finding increased demand for lavish vegetable displays both at weddings and corporate events. Mary Cleaver has long been an ardent supporter of sourcing from local farmers and celebrating their produce. But, she says, “vegetables are indeed on the upswing and we are pushing them hard. One of my favorite salads is what we call the Farmers Market Salad, which is essentially a crudité of shaved vegetables with a whipped yogurt dressing on the plate. The vegetables and flowers change according to the season.”
Great Performances chef Mark Russell says that for him “crudités are the in-between bites that refresh. Plump, ripe, raw vegetables clean the palate and subtly stimulate the taste buds, preparing you for what may come next.” He has the good fortune to receive most of his produce from the company’s Katchie Farm in Kinderhook, NY. “Peak season is peak flavor,” he notes, “here crudité is all about highlighting the unique textures, colors, and tastes of the season’s best produce.” He waxes poetic over “gangly asparagus and plump tomatoes in an infinite variety of shapes, sizes, and nuances; lettuce and greens, some spiked, some soft, some crisp; radishes sharp and peppery.”
Why now? Probably for the same reason that vegetable focused restaurants like Dirt Candy and Nix can be showered with stars. That farmers’ markets are flourishing everywhere. That tomes celebrating vegetables like John Folse’s “Can You Dig It?” and Michael Anthony’s “V is for Vegetables” are flying off the cookbook shelves.
“Vegetables in their purest form are the most beautiful. Over the last few years chef’s have taken a much greater appreciation for vegetables and want to showcase great, seasonal produce,” says Jesse Schenker of The Gander in New York City. Chef Lisa Giffen of Brooklyn’s newly opened Sauvage agrees: “This dish is so popular now because the produce is so incredibly fresh that they are absolutely delicious raw, and require very minimal accompaniment.”
At New York City’s NoMad there’s a stunning bowl of crudité on ice with chive cream but executive chef James Kent also takes the idea of crudité one step further by spotlighting a single raw vegetable–butter-dipped radishes with fleur de sel.
“The radishes are a wonderful dish, in our opinion, because they are something so traditional and simple, but we’ve tweaked the execution, sourced some impeccable product, and I like to think we’ve elevated them to something really delicious,” says Kent. “They are very popular at the restaurant–I believe the guests appreciate them for those same reasons, as well as the intention and care we put into sourcing the best produce we can.”
Instagram worthy presentation is crucial and chefs pull out all their artistic instincts whether potting their veggies in black olive “soil” or displaying them on shimmering beds of ice. And yet one has the sneaky suspicion that the more caloric dips may often be the real draw. Mark Russell suggests choosing “dips that have big flavors and compliment the produce. A fennel frond vinaigrette accents batons cut from the bulb and utilizes the whole plant. Olive oil adds spice. Goat cheese, slightly warmed, bathes with a subtle acidity. Pair vegetables with contrasting yet complimentary flavors, for example, peppery radishes with something creamy and smooth; sweet sugar snap peas with something savory.”
Left: NoMad’s crudite with chive cream. Right: Achim Lenders’ all green display.
Many chefs find that flavored aioli works well. Jason Stanhope at Fig in Charleston whips up a basil scented aioli for his early summer vegetables. Mike Lata at The Ordinary in Charleston accompanies shishito peppers with a benne and paprika aioli.
Variations on traditional dressings and vinaigrettes also abound. Paul Reilly at Beast + Bottle in Denver concocts a green goddess dressing for baby zucchini and roasted beets. Almost anything resembling a vinaigrette works well. Hugh Acheson (The National, Athens, GA) accompanies green beans with tomato fenugreek sauce; kale and kohlrabi with Vidalia vinaigrette but few chefs have gone to the lengths that Eduard Frauneder (Freud, New York City) has with his deviled bone marrow emulsion. What? It’s roasted bone marrow whipped with mustard, guajillo chilies, fermented turnip juice and grilled beef stock. It has a texture like a thick vinaigrette.
The dips are as fashion forward as the vegetables they’re dressing whether they’re incorporating outré ingredients or reimagining the classics.
If there’s one place where food and fashion are sure to intersect it’s Ralph Lauren’s Polo Lounge in New York City so it’s no surprise to find crudities, there both as a snack and a vegetarian appetizer. But Ralph, always on the lookout to nod to the spirit of the West, serves ‘em with a homemade Ranch. Buckle up your concha belt and dig in.
We just finished a custom one and a half day Flavor Foray for Marriott culinary, f&b, and event leaders in the Bayou and New Orleans. Take a look at the flavor packed program here: