Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Food, Glorious Food

My sister is crazy about Top Chef, so when I read that top judge Tom Colicchio was cooking small dinners every third Tuesday at an adjunct to Craft, I knew instantly that I had to take her to one as her belated birthday gift.

Reservations are taken six weeks in advance of each dinner at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays. As there are only a few dozen seats, it took several months to set it up. We went last night, and it was worth the trouble.

There were 11 delicious small courses (menu below) - standouts were the roasted scallop (I'd never had pine cone syrup before, and its Christmasy taste and resinous texture were a perfect foil to the sweet flesh of the perfectly sauteed scallop and the herbaceously crunchy slices of brussels sprouts), the plump gnudo festooned with porcupine-like black truffle shavings, the spiced rack of lamb and the chocolate caramel torte, which had an Earl Grey cream that amplified each flavor.

All of this was amplified by the lovely setting, the attentive service, and the wine pairings, which included a spectacular Hungarian gewürtztraminer, a delicate Seresin pinot noir from New Zealand and a Spanish Clos Erasmus Garnacha, which made me feel smarter just drinking it.

I've been privileged to dine in many fine restaurants, to have chefs Daniel Boulud, Wolfgang Puck and Charles Phan stop by my table, to visit Thomas Keller in his kitchen at the French Laundry and to have professional and amateur chefs cook remarkable food for me in their own kitchens. And I have eaten in many restaurants with open kitchens and admired the chefs' work in progress. But I have never seen anything quite as theatrical as the framing of Chef Tom and his large, gleaming head as he garnished, plated and directed his staff. Not surprisingly, the view into the kitchen reminded me of nothing so much as a very large flat-screen TV.

Which is to take nothing away from the very high quality of the meal. But it did taste like celebrity. You'll note that the menu is signed (it came that way). It's an expensive but very tasty autograph.

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