Sunday, May 22, 2005

On The Town, pt. 2

The whole reason for coming to NY, besides visiting Stephen and eating a lot of food I can't live without, was to attend a workshop with Sam Mason at the French Culinary Institute. Sam is the pastry chef at WD-50, a hot restaurant in NY. I had no idea what to expect from this workshop. I certainly did not expect an All-Clad whisk. The workshop started at 4:00, leaving plenty of time to eat way too much...

By the time we met up with Camilla, she had already gone to Magnolia Bakery, Chocolate Bar and I don't even know where else! We met at Lassi to eat something unsweet. Stephen and I had just eaten breakfast, and although I had just contemplated scarfing down a hotdog at Gray's Papaya, I really wasn't that hungry. We got a few things to share, including the Methi chicken, chick peas, beet-cardamom salad, rice, naan, and a lemon lassi. It was a great snack, and it all came in cute takeaway containers, perfect for a picnic. A bit on the steep side, though, if you ask me. I think our snack cost us $25. American.

We tried to go to Bonnie Slotnick, but she was closed. It's probably for the best. She runs a cookbook-only used bookstore. I can't afford to go into places like that.

We left Stephen and forged ahead to Fauchon. Thinking that it was one block from the subway stop we got off at, we had plans to go to a few more places afterwards, but it ended up being more like 6 blocks (long ones, at that). It was worth it, though, when we saw the spring collection of eclairs. Hot pink, bright yellow, green, and brown, these things were more than sparkly, and they called to us by name. Camilla chose the passionfuit one, but had a hard time saying no to the hot-pink raspberry. I got the raspberry tart with violets and balsamic vinegar. Both were excellent. I love that store. It's so pink!

Afterwards, we had to hurry back to Soho for our workshop. From the beginning of his demo, it was clear Sam Mason was not comfortable with this experience. I wouldn't be, either. It was held in a theatre, with a kitchen space in front. I felt like I was at a live cooking show. It was funny. He took us through a bunch of techniques and ingredients he uses, some of which are crazy. (e.g. versa-whip: turns juice into mousse.) It was full of shop talk and very fast-paced. We tried a lot of samples, some of which were good, like the miso ice cream. One was gross though: cumin caramel. I learned the most from his technique. He is super laid back and works intuitively as opposed to by the book. He is from the "looks good enough to me" school.

And as if that wasn't enough sugar for the day... We went to WD-50 to have the dessert tasting menu. Stephen met us there and we had a cocktail to start. Can I say how great the bartender was? I had a beet sangria with orange dust around the rim, delicious. Camilla had a quince cocktail, superb. Stephen got one of my favourites, a Pimm's cup, with cucumber foam--I think it was the standout, but I'm a bit biased.

We ordered a 5-courses dessert menu. Keep in mind, the only thing I'd had after the parade of samples at the workshop was a barbeque pork bun, which was super sweet. So much for balance.

First up was a fresh and light palate-cleanser in the form of a quenelle of grapefruit sorbet enveloped in grapefuit foam. We desperately needed our palates cleansed and it was excellent. Next up, a dessert simply called raisin toast: raisin puree with toast ice cream and a linzer-type crumble, accompanied by raisin toast paper. The ice cream was to die for. Quite funny and very good. My personal favourite, though, was the pine-braised pineapple with pinenut ice cream and pine gelee, with some outstanding micro cilantro. If you've never had micro cilantro, you've never had cilantro. Trust me. Next, an olive clafoutis with olive caramel, tangerine sorbet and a cherry-walnut emulsion. Good, but not great. The last course was a chocolate panna cotta with sweet corn streusel. The corn was delicious and worked very nicely with the chocolate. The whole combo was very well-grounded, earthy even. And then if that wasn't enough, as mignardises, they sent out some chocolate-covered marcona almonds. We ate them all even though by that time I couldn't even focus my eyes.

All in all, the desserts were excellent and not too sweet or rich. I must say that I was eyeing the savoury dishes as they went by, though, and if you make it to WD-50 for a dessert sampler, I would strongly recommend eating something savoury beforehand, not afterwards...

I had to take Stephen to my favourite dumpling/sesame pancake place for a non-sweet snack. We walked down to Dumpling House and ordered their unbeatable sesame pancake with beef. $1.50 gets you a warm, fresh sesame pancake sliced open and filled with thinly sliced beef, onion, cilantro, sauce and everything nice. A perfect nightcap. (Their chives and egg pancake is outrageously good, and is only $1. Don't overlook their dumplings, either. 5 for $1. I know, Fried Dumplings gives you a few more dumplings for the same low price, but these ones are tastier).

We crawled home and went to sleep.


Lassi, 28 Greenwich Ave, NYC, NY, 212-675-2688

Bonnie Slotnick, 163 W. 10th, NYC, NY, 212-989-8962

Fauchon, 442 Park Ave, NYC, NY, 212-308-5919

WD-50, 50 Clinton St., NYC, NY, 212-477-2900

Dumpling House, 118A Eldridge St., NYC, NY, 212-625-8008 (Open 7 days a week, 8:00 am-10:00 pm)


Anonymous said...

What a perfect post for a rainy night!

I hope we'll be in NYC together one day...


Anonymous said...

That's what I call indulging yourself!

Anonymous said...

Everything sounds delicious. We might just have to try WD-50 this weekend. Hmmm....