In 1999 I fell in love with the culinary diversity of New York City. You can travel the world without leaving the city, eating authentic Chinese for lunch, Italian for supper and drinking some of the best coffee the globe has to offer all within a span of one mile.
I always negotiate with myself that I will take more of a balanced approach when I’m visiting, but the deliciousness and never ending food options in this 24 hour city constantly drives a hard bargain with me. This trip was no exception. I believe NYC won this match by a unanimous decision but I gave a hard fight for at least 7 rounds. Let’s explore my culinary highlights that I can fit into this blog and not a short book…
Setting the stage…I met Chef Marc Forgione in New Orleans in 2014 at a sorghum culinary event at the IFT conference. I immediately loved Marc’s approach to cooking and his mastery of the end to end experience for his guests. His mindfulness and detail to textures immediately resonated with me, as my first and fondest food memory was cheese. This memory was as much about the texture as it was the flavour. On this trip, I was staying in Tribeca, so I decided to have a NYC culinary adventure featuring three of Marc’s Restaurants: Khe-Yo; Marc Forgione and American Cut.
I had arranged to meet Jennifer and Margaret from Best Cooking Pulses at Khe-Yo the night before the conference at the New York Academy of Sciences. We were excited to try the Laotian-inspired Southeast Asian cuisine from Executive Chef Soulayphet Schwader. The wonderful hospitality of the staff and managing partner Nick Bradley was appreciated after a long travel day for all of us.
We started out with sticky rice and bang-bang. Margaret and I ordered the Beer Lao Dark and Jennifer ordered the Thai chili infused vodka cucumber cocktail. After reading the menu and peppering our server with numerous questions, we ordered the smashed green papaya salad and crispy Brussels sprouts (a special that evening) to share. The delicious combinations of flavours were incredible. Then we welcomed two tasting plates of chicken sausage and sesame beef jerky. The texture of the sausage was perfect – not too dry or chewy and the jerky was unlike any jerky I ever tasted – that’s a good thing!
Next up was the pork curry noodles for me, whole caramelized sea bream for Margaret and a customized vegetarian noodle dish for Jennifer. We shared bites and marveled at the flavours, presentation, colours and again for me…textures. After much consideration, we threw in the towel on the dessert round. I was staying in a small hotel close by the restaurant but decided to walk Margaret and Jen half way to their hotel to savour the NYC night.
Restaurant Marc Forgione
With staying in lower Manhattan for this trip, when I was making my restaurant decisions, I knew Restaurant Marc Forgione was at the top of my list. Again I was joined by Margaret and Jennifer on this culinary adventure. We arrived after a full day of learning, typical conference food and a rainy walk from 7 World Trade Center. I felt at home immediately in the restaurant. The atmosphere was easy yet worldly. I decided to order the mezcal cocktail with cranberry, orange infused cocchi rosa and citrus as I don’t usually drink tequila. It was good, however, I asked for more cranberry and inhaled two potato buns with compound butter (yes – I’m blaming the alcohol) because I can be a featherweight with the cocktails, even though I weigh in as a lightweight.
We started with a tasting plate that included smoked fish rillette wrapped in Persian cucumbers, dehydrated mushroom chips and apple-ginger juice. Followed by another of Sechuan buttons to heighten our palettes, then the kampachi which is lime infused avocado puree in a soy, lime, ginger and toasted pinenut sauce; topped with sliced raddish and micro-cilantro served with chips. Beautiful colour, presentation, flavour and texture.
For the main, I completely enjoyed the fresh sweet, salty and slightly bitter flavours of the swordfish with potato gnocchi and baby Brussels sprouts. I did share a few bites with Margaret and Jennifer. With Jennifer being a vegetarian, our server was more than accommodating to list some off menu choices including a roasted cauliflower and tortellini dish, which Jen ordered. The taste reminded me of Tuscany. Just when you think you are winning the battle of balance, the dessert menu punches a right hook of pumpkin bread pudding with pecans and cream cheese ice cream. Yes please – yum. At that point, we were fortunate to have Marc visit our table and describe how the recipe was an inspired adaptation from a childhood favourite when his Mother baked pumpkin loaf and served it with cream cheese. Thank you Marc for translating the recipe. Then to savour the evening, my final order, a cup of mint tea.
It was my third evening in NYC and the last Marc Forgione restaurant on my list. After a busy day of watching the Rockettes, lunch with a friend, walking blocks and some gallery viewing, I was ready to chill out. There I was sitting at the bar deciding between the beef short ribs and the burger, when I looked up and saw Muhammad Ali staring me in the face. Ok NYC – this was not a fair fight. Short ribs it was for this lightweight (hopefully still in that weight class). They were served boneless in a cast iron pot and were rich in flavour and portion size. When I thought I was ready to end the match, out of nowhere appears a crackerjack sundae, complements of the Chef. Yes, the savoury sweet combination of a crackerjack sundae was given to the lady who loves textures. Imagine chewy popcorn inside the hard caramel coating, with crunchy, nutty brittle, smooth ice cream and sticky caramel syrup all in one bite…diversity similar to NYC. Not a fair fight NYC, but you know I’ll be back for a rematch with a smile on my face!