Wednesday, March 28, 2012

IACP Inspires NYC Chefs to Reinvent Bagel + Lox

Chef Ryan Tate's gorgeous 'bagel + lox'

I'm involved with the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the world's largest culinary organization. This week, the 34th annual conference takes place in New York City. As part of the festivities, we challenged five top NYC chefs to welcome IACP members with a signature bagel + lox dish. The results were as inventive and playful as ever. 
The Contenders:
Russell Moss, Cafe 92YTribeca executive chef
Ryan Tate, former Savoy executive chef
The Results:
A classic from Zucker's
Most Authentic – Matt Pomerantz has been making bagels for more than 20 years, so it’s hard to mess with a classic. Fresh plain Zucker’s bagel, cream cheese, fine Scottish salmon, Lucky’s tomatoes, red onions and capers made for the perfect deli bite.

Most Inventive – Hands down, Moss’s warm potato pancake with house cured gravlax was the most unexpected culinary delight. The hearty pancake created the perfect bed for layers of caraway and coriander crusted salmon.  Topped with crispy capers and Swedish mustard dill sauce, the dish disappeared in seconds. 
Moss's house cured gravlax
The Work of Art – Tate’s deconstructed plate was almost too beautiful to eat, but my fellow judges and I devoured it nonetheless. A canvas of red cabbage gastrique artfully held a tender cube of milk poached lox, grilled cucumber, an everything bagel ‘cannoli,’ and fromage blanc.  Creative genius.
The Decadent Gut Buster – Spangenthal’s “Rascal” took the cake for pure indulgence. Fresh poppy seed bagel layered high with baked salmon salad, Nova Scotia salmon, tomatoes, onions, chive schmear, and crowned with a dollop of salmon roe. Served with fries! An outrageous Borscht Belt classic.
Spangenthal's guilty pleasure
Pacifico's classic bistro fare
The Classy Bistro – Pacifico’s dish oozed class. Smoked salmon, tossed with fresh greens, capers and preserved Meyer lemons, accompanied a toasted bagel topped with house made cottage cheese and one perfect, crispy poached egg. Clean flavors and elegant simplicity.
The Locations:
Back Forty West, 70 Prince St.
Café 92YTribeca, 200 Hudson St.
Kutsher’s Tribeca, 186 Franklin St.
The conference is hosting a variety of foodie events open to the public, including the largest ever Book + Blog Festival, to meet your favorite culinary authors, on Sunday, April,1. Check the website for details and tickets.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gimme Shelter

Neighborhood nostalgia: East Village, circa 1979, Fruit Exchange corner of 1st Ave + E 7th St.
Courtesy Michael Sean Edwards.
I've been lax on posting.

To be honest, my obsessive pursuit of great neighborhood eats recently took a back seat to the worst activity known to New Yorkers: the apartment search. It's all consuming and soul destroying. Especially today when the rental inventory is next to nil and the prices are sky high. I came this close to leaving my beloved East Village, where "value for money" and "apartments" don't appear in the same sentence. Even though it's always been my home while living in New York for the past 5 years.

But after a month of brokers, tears, lack of appetite, and sleepless nights, on the day I literally put in an application on a Gramercy apartment, wondering how in the world can I continue an EV food blog when I don't even live here, my phone rang. Management office. Brand new listing. Not on the market yet. There it was. In the heart of the hood. Near the police station. Around the corner from Empellon Cocina and The Toucan and the Lion, coincidentally top of my list of hottest must trys.

In the end, my stomach won out. It's time to feast again. The old neighborhood is waiting.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sao Mai Comforting East Village Vietnamese

Perfect for sharing: Sao Mai Khai Vi platter

While unassuming from the outside, Sao Mai, which translates into 'early morning star,' is top of mind now for an East Village Vietnamese fix. Just a block from my favorite Vietnamese carry out BaoBQ, Sao Mai offers traditional fare in a warm dine in setting.

Sao Mai means 'early morning star'
Softly lit interiors have been upgraded from the former drab but popular vegetarian restaurant Quantum Leap. Consistency, freshness and service keep me coming back. Did I mention great value? Packed on a recent Saturday night, the reputation has caught on since its December opening.

Start with the delicious house appetizer ($16.00), a sharing platter of make your own lettuce wraps. Fill them with a selection of grilled meats, pickled veggies and freshly plucked mint leaves. For something more substantial, the bun Sao Mai ($9), rice vermicelli noodles scattered with grilled shrimp, pork and spring rolls, is especially good.

Lunch special: grilled pork banh mi
Other tasty basics range from a steaming bowl of pho (traditional noodle soup) to soft shell crabs ($16) and salt and pepper lobster ($24). At lunch only, the selection of banh mi is also worth trying. And Sao Mai just started a weekday $10 lunch special including a choice of appetizer, main and drink.  There's no liquor license, so instead opt for a creamy avocado smoothie.

203 1st Ave
Between 12th+ 13th Sts.
212 358 8880
Mon - Sun 11am - 11pm
Delivery available

Sao Mai on Urbanspoon