Tastes of the Week

14 Aug

August 7 through August 14th

Began this morning with a bowl of yogurt and a copious pour of raspberry-rhubarb birch syrup brought to me by a friend who just returned from Alaska. Apparently they use this brooding, deeply complex elixir, instead of honey, in many ways. Birch syrup is a unique flavor from Alaska’s forests and is apparently quite rare. It takes an average of 100 gallons of sap from paper birch trees to make 1 gallon of birch syrup (www.alaskabirchsyrup.com).

Great french fries at the Hotel Kitano jazz club where we heard the remarkable saxophonist Ted Nash and his quartet the other night. The burgers looked good, too — and so did the drummer! Ted Nash, is one of the country’s top jazz musicians — we met him a few weeks ago in Ravello when he was traveling with Wynton Marsalis.

I finally went to the Park Slope Food Co-op! It’s considered one of the best in the country and it’s only a few blocks from my house. Purple okra, bouquets of perky basil, wild fennel, and watermelon with seeds! 

Fabulous dinner at ilili– a very sophisticated Lebanese restaurant (Fifth Avenue and 28th St.) — whose chef, Philippe Massoud is becoming a rock star. Begin with a table full of cold mezze (the best labneh!) and follow with a round of hot mezze, (and fried sweetbreads!) and savory pancake “sliders.”  Baskets full of warm, homemade, ultra-thin pita.  Great pounded raw meat (kibbeh naya) that you place on the pita with a slice of onion, jalapeno and fresh mint!

An amazing tasting dinner at Eddie Schoenfeld’s new restaurant Red Farm in the West Village.  The bbq’d Filet Mignon Tart with curried vegetables & frizzled ginger was one of the best “first tastes” I’ve ever had!  Also great? Kumamoto oysters wtih meyer lemon-yuzu ice, grilled vegetable salad with artichoke-bean curd dip and amazing homemade “crackers,” and shu mai shooters, with carrot-ginger juice and fresh morels!

A great lunch, on one of New York’s most beautiful afternoons, at Mario Batali’s La Birreria on the rooftop of Eataly!  Sat outdoors and chomped down on a terrific sausage of pork and beef, flavored with coriander, a kind of half-cured chunky kraut, and a fabulous dish of maiitake mushrooms with asparagus and peas. I can’t wait to go back.

A morning snack of Sicilian pesto (made with almonds, tomato, very good garlic, and basil) at Arthur Schwartz’s house, followed by one of the year’s best caponata‘s (check it out in Arthur’s book “The Southern Italian Table“), eaten on crusty loaves of grain bread from Orwashers. I used to buy Orwasher’s bread for Mayor Ed Koch when I was the chef at Gracie Mansion — in 1978!

A peach so good
at Union Square Market that several people stopped me, as the juices were running down my arm, to ask me where I got it. I think they were from Breezy Hill Orchards. 

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