A New York State of Gastronomy.

I don’t normally write about food, I write about wine, in particular Bordeaux and even then I rarely share tasting notes preferring to talk about what is happening and what is changing in Bordeaux, leaving tasting to those with better palates or to allow you to make your own conclusions about wines when you taste them yourself.

 Today I am making an exception as I had an experience that was as exceptional as it was unexpected, and I just have to share it. Those of you who are hungry, turn away now.

 Mid-way through the hectic schedule of a 2 week US lecture tour on behave of the Wines of Medoc, I had a spare day earmarked for shopping in NYC. As everyone knows, shopping builds up an appetite and wandering back down Madison Avenue, on the look out for a likely place to stop for lunch, I just happened to find myself in front of the Carlyle Hotel.

 A light bulb went on and I remembered a wine tour 4 years ago when Chef Mark Richardson with his sister and brother-in-law toured Bordeaux with me. I had missed catching up with Mark once before when he was Executive Chef at the Four Seasons in San Francisco. Just as I planned to taste his fare, he upped and left for the Carlyle. Would I catch him this time?  Luck was with me; I popped in hoping to get a table for lunch and I got so much more.

 I was welcomed like a long lost friend, ushered to a table amongst the busy lunchtime crowd. The ‘feutré’ atmosphere of the restaurant is reminiscent of a elegant front room decorated with bookshelves and a fireplace, the English theme reinforced by a lot of British accents – the influence perhaps of the recent royal guests?

Mark worked his magic creating a spectacular lunch experience, he said likes to play so I handed myself over to his considerable skill.  What a treat. Proving that even in the centre of NYC you can source local ingredients, Chef Mark served up a menu with New York, Asian and European influences.

Local heirloom tomatoes and burrata,
Local heirloom tomatoes and burrata,

The menu started with a work of art; local heirloom tomatoes and burrata, beautifully fresh and perfectly seasoned with sourdough crisps. This was followed by Hamachi (yellow tail) tartar served with an Asian vinaigrette, topped with avocado and crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. The contrasting textures and flavours were perfect in both dishes.

Hamachi Tartar
Hamachi Tartar

 The Ricotta gnocchi that followed, served in brown butter and lemon, the citrus notes complemented by a few arugula (roquette) leaves, were cooked to perfection, creamy in the middle. When I asked how they remained so creamy with out having the doughy taste of undercooked pasta, he remarked that they were mainly just ricotta with hardly any flour.

New Jersey Scallops with bacon vinaigrette.
New Jersey Scallops with bacon vinaigrette.

 Then New Jersey scallops, impeccably cooked, served with confit aubergine slices, plums and bacon vinaigrette – a perfect paring with red wine – see below.

New York Strip-loin with deep fried green tomatoes.
New York Strip-loin with deep fried green tomatoes.

The finale was the New York strip just seared, meltingly tender over deep fried green tomatoes – a nod to his Kentucky origins.

 And the wines? They have an impressive and varied selection by the glass, American and international, but I have to admit I stayed with the French – I’m heading west on the next leg so Californian wines will come.

I couldn’t resist the Sancerre called French Blonde and a glass of Chateau Reysson Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc 2010. It is the Medoc that sent me over here, after all.

 The whole experience was remarkable and I was lucky, not just in finding Mark but in finding him just in time. After a year as Executive chef at the Carlyle, he is heading to pastures new, returning to his family in Kentucky to start a new venture.

New York’s loss, Kentucky’s gain!

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