Saturday, March 28, 2009

Irving Mill

We went to Irving Mill last night on a recommendation by one of Mabel's fellow residents. She was having a bad day and needed to get out of the apartment.


We somehow got an 8:15 reservation an hour beforehand, showed up, waited the customary 10 minutes to be seated so that we'd buy a drink at the bar (not this time), and got shown our table. I liked the atmosphere, which was cavernous but warm, and the service.

We ordered fluke crudo, their small charcroute plate (for 2), a crispy pig's ear salad, and split an entree of bavette and beef cheeks. The crispy pig's ear salad was the real winner. The pig's ears were like croutons. Everything else was a bit too salty, way too salty for Mabel. You could say that they were trying to get people to order more drinks. They make good Manhattans.

Irving Mill
116 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003
212-254-1600

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

De Gustibus with David Chang

Today I went out with a few other people to De Gustibus to meet David Chang, creator of the Momofuku empire.

De Gustibus, a self-proclaimed "School of Good Taste," is located on the 8th floor of Macy's and hosts regular events featuring different chefs who cook and talk about their work. I've been to Macy's a lot, and have even shopped on that floor, but I never realized that beyond the peacoats was a door leading to a secret wing. Once you get past the surly guard, there is a room with rows of tables and a kitchen at the front with a mirror on the ceiling tilted so that you can get a good view of the cooking.

David Chang talked to the audience and fielded questions as he demonstrated the preparation of different dishes (the food we actually ate came out of another kitchen where his team worked). We had Fluke with Spicy Buttermilk (with Sriracha sauce giving a nice kick!), the ever famous and delicious Pork Buns, Slow Poached Eggs in Bacon Dashi (I think soft eggs are the most delicious way to prepare eggs), Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette (a subject of intense rumination and study in our household), and Braised Pork Belly with Daikon (with the daikon as this pleasantly thick round topped with pickled mustard seeds). We started with champagne (Taittinger Brut La Francaise), and also had a Chardonnay (Pouilly-Fuisse) and a Pinot Noir (Pommard). At the very end, they passed out these tasty cookies with corn flakes from Momofuku Milk Bar.

A few observations: David Chang was struggling with a head cold and breathing a bit loudly throughout the evening. It didn't detract too much from the event, but at one point, the four of us were mildly concerned about the work he was putting into his breathing. Although, if things had really gone south, he probably would have been just fine with two full-fledged anesthesiologists, a recovery room nurse, and an anesthesiology resident in the audience (I guess I would have been the person running around trying to gather any kitchen tool that remotely approximated airway equipment).

David Chang himself seemed like a pretty down to earth guy. He talked a lot about how some of his most famous creations evolved from accidents (mostly of forgetfulness), and how once he had a surprisingly tasty substrate, how that was thoughtfully constructed into dishes like the Pork Buns and the Shaved Torchon of Freeze-Dried Foie Gras over Rieseling Gelee with Lychee and Pine Nut Brittle. Our general sense was that he carried a touch of incredulity at his own success. Dr. R was gracious enough to obtain an autograph from David Chang for me!

The crowd, I have to say, was a bit tough. Not that they were giving him a hard time - there were only Pork Bun worshippers in that room - but the questions they dogged him on were...pretty annoying. I'll leave it at that.

And finally, pork belly is just awesome. I can eat it all day. One day, I will write an Ode to Pork Belly.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

August

Mabel and I went to August about 1.5 weeks ago. We hadn't spent more than a waking hour or so together all week, and it was a nice place to catch up. I would characterize August as a more romantic version of Home Restaurant.

Their main dining room is a covered garden. Mabel got suckling pig which came with pearl onions, Brussels sprouts, and some sort of sour condiment. I got cassoulet. Everything was very nice. To start we got Tart Flambe which I thought was going to be a flaming pie. It turned out to be a thin crust pizza with perfectly caramelized onions on top.

Anyway, this is my kind of place.

August
359 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 929-4774