10 Savory Trends
New York City’s forward-thinking chefs continue to push the culinary envelope, always inventing new flavor pairings, sourcing the freshest, most sustainable ingredients and rethinking what and how they cook. In celebration of IN New York magazine’s first decade, we present a plateful of the tastiest trends.
1) Surprising Sweets
Boldly defying conventional dessert wisdom, pastry chefs are using hot peppers, vegetables and other unexpected ingredients in their magnificent confections. “I try to strip away whatever preconceived notions diners may have,” says Michael Laiskonis, pastry chef at Le Bernardin (155 W. 54th St., 1-212-554-1515). Featured on his winter dessert menu are sweet-potato sorbet served with chocolate cream and bourbon caramel; Greek yogurt panna cotta topped with jalapeño-infused apple gelée; and parsnip crème brûlée resting on a thin rectangle of milk chocolate, adorned with caramelized hazelnuts, candied orange peel and vanilla-infused sea salt. Salt is a favored ingredient of Pastry Chef Katherine Thompson at L’Artusi (228 W. 10th St., 1-212-255-5757), where her olive oil cake is often misunderstood. “It’s funny because people are reluctant to order it,” she says, “but we convince them, and it’s by far the most popular on the menu.” The exceedingly moist cake is prepared with extra virgin olive oil from Sicily, which she says has strong floral notes and a clean aftertaste, and is accompanied by a golden raisin marmelatta, a dollop of crème fraîche and, for contrast, a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt.
2) One Chef, Two Menus
Just inside the front doors at an ever-growing list of elegant restaurants are lounge areas in which the mood and menu are more casual and, often, less pricey than in the formal dining rooms in the back. Although all of the dishes come out of the same kitchen and are prepared with the same high-quality ingredients, the dining experiences in each are quite different. Case in point: The clubby, relaxed setting of Maze (The London NYC, 151 W. 54th St., 1-212-468-8889) is in dramatic contrast to the quiet elegance found in the adjacent room, Gordon Ramsay at The London (1-212-468-8888), and Chef de Cuisine Markus Glocker, who is at the helm of both, keeps the menus equally distinct. For example, his dry-aged steak at Maze is simply grilled, while at Gordon Ramsay, the same cut of beef gets an upscale twist. “We use an old Japanese technique,” he explains. “We sear it, then toss it with salt, sear it again, then wash it off with sake, then grill it again until caramelized.” Award-winning chef Tom Colicchio shares the same philosophy at Colicchio & Sons (85 10th Ave.,1-212- 400-6699). “Our Tap Room offers simpler food—pizzas, hamburgers and roasted dishes,” he says, while the formal dining room, open for dinner only, has a $125 tasting menu. Perhaps the first to split one restaurant into two rooms was Gramercy Tavern (42 E. 20th St.,1-212- 477-0777), which Colicchio co-founded with celebrated restaurateur Danny Meyer in 1994. Today, the popular contemporary American restaurant still leads a double life. Groups gather in the welcoming, no-reservations Tavern Room in front of the house, while birthdays, anniversaries and promotions are celebrated in the white-tableclothed back room.
3) Staying Local
Several New York City chefs, leaders in the locavore movement, favor farm-to-table ingredients sourced from the fertile lands in the Hudson Valley, eastern Long Island and nearby New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Among them are Dan Barber, executive chef of Blue Hill (75 Washington Pl., 539-1776), who is passionate about respecting the freshness and purity of produce from the restaurant’s own farm in Westchester, N.Y.; and Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of Savoy (70 Prince St., 219-8570), who uses honey from hives on the rooftop of his apartment building and carts fresh produce from the Union Square Greenmarket to his restaurant on his specially designed tricycle. Also adamant about keeping a local focus is Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at ABC Kitchen (ABC Carpet & Home, 35 E. 18th St., 1-212-475-5829), an über-green restaurant built with salvaged, reclaimed and recycled materials, where the culinary buzzwords are “organic,” “sustainable” and “seasonal.” Meat comes from humanely treated, pasture-fed animals; teas, coffees and spices are cultivated on fair-trade cooperatives; and a rooftop garden provides herbs and micro-greens.
4) Wine-focused Foods
It’s en vogue to be an oenophile. New York is seeing a surge in menus in which the wines are as important as the cuisine and servers have encyclopedic knowledge of the dishes, as well as the grapes. At Tolani Wine Restaurant (410 Amsterdam Ave., 1-212-873-6252), small and large plates on the global menu—Malaysian goat curry, Cuban roast pork loin—are designed to be shared, as well as paired with selections from the impressive wine list, available by the bottle or glass. Meanwhile, Joe Campanale, sommelier and partner at dell’anima (38 Eighth Ave., 1-212-366-6633), personally selects each food-friendly bottle for the intimate 50-seat enoteca. At Modern-French restaurant Corton (239 W. Broadway, 1-212-219-2777), the cellar caps out at about 400 bottles, with rare options dating back to the 1940s. “The focus of our wine program is to provide wines that complement Chef Paul Liebrandt’s food,” says Sommelier Shawn Paul, who oversees a list highlighting the diverse wines of France and the Corton Grand Cru. Thus, he works closely with Chef Liebrandt. “There’s an extraordinary complexity in every plate, so there’s a kaleidoscopic space in which to pair wines,” he explains.
5) Popularity of Pork
Pork shoulder, pork belly, pork loin, pork ribs, pork butt, pork sausage, not to mention bacon, lardons, fatback, trotters, jowls, scrapple and headcheese ... No matter how you slice it, pig is big on menus across the city and is especially prominent at The Breslin Bar & Dining Room (Ace Hotel, 16 W. 29th St., 1-212-679-1939), a meat-centric gastropub, where Chef April Bloomfield venerates all things porcine. Boiled peanuts fried in pork fat are an addictive bar snack. Delicately smoked pork belly lies beside mash (velvety mashed potatoes) and cabbage with bacon. Braised, breaded and deep-fried pig’s foot for two also makes an appearance on the menu, and a whole suckling pig dinner, a snout-to-tail feast for groups of eight to 12, served at a special chef’s table, requires a reservation made at least two days in advance. At Perilla (9 Jones St., 1-212-929-6868), Chef Harold Dieterle’s Mexican-influenced Hampshire pork tasting includes three cuts: the chop, glazed with a mole marinade; the butt, served inside a Mexican flauta; and the belly, which is “cured for 24 hours, then braised before we take off the skin and crisp up the top layer of fat until it develops its own crust,” says Chef Dieterle. For breakfast at The National (The Benjamin Hotel, 557 Lexington Ave., 1-212-715-2400), a recently opened American bistro, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian offers Berkshire pork belly Benedict, an indulgent serving of the tender, unctuous meat with a poached egg and pickled onions on an English muffin, glistening with rich béarnaise sauce.
6) Sustainable Seafood
Most locavores are also strong proponents of cooking with and consuming only sustainable seafood—fish found in abundance and caught in ways that do not harm their natural habitats. “I think there is just an overall growing awareness and mindfulness of the importance of all our natural resources,” says Ben Pollinger, executive chef at Oceana (120 W. 49th St., 1-212-759-5941). His philosophy is to “source as much sustainable fish and seafood as is feasible, with the lowest impact on the environment.” On average, the restaurant goes through 300 to 600 pounds of fish per day, which hails from as far away as the South Pacific and as near as the shores of Long Island. That includes lobsters straight off boats from Maine and Gulf shrimp from New Orleans. His bouillabaisse incorporates a mélange of rare sea robin caught locally, Nantucket Bay scallops and Gulf shrimp in rich saffron fish stock, served with Sardinian couscous, black olives and shaved fennel salad on top.
7) Cocktails with Dinner
Despite the time-honored tradition of pairing wine with food, mixologists are now matching handcrafted cocktails—concocted with top-shelf liquors, fresh seasonal fruits, house-made bitters and other artisanal ingredients—with cuisine. Similarly, Chef Julia Jaksic of Employees Only (510 Hudson St., 242-3021) designs bold dishes (bone marrow poppers, elk loin, Serbian charcuterie platter) to complement the spirited drinks conceived by head bar chefs Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas.
Pictured right: A charcuterie platter at Employees Only, which includes chicken liver paté, kulen (Serbian sausage), dried beef, garlic-rolled pork belly, Hungarian salami, ajvar (pureed red pepper) and homemade focaccia is accompanied with a Quiet Storm.
8) Chefs as Celebrities
New York City boasts a constellation of celebrity chefs who, thanks to their television shows and cookbooks, have developed legions of fans so devoted they rival many movie stars. Among the kitchen stars are Bobby Flay, who presides over his Southwestern institution Mesa Grill (102 Fifth Ave., 1-212-807-7400), as well as Bar Americain (152 W. 52nd St., 1-212-265-9700). The handsome Todd English, known for his dimples (he was recently one of People’s “50 Most Beautiful People”), has a new venue, Ça Va (InterContinental New York Times Square, 310 W. 44th St., 1-212-803-4545), a spin on the classic French brasserie, as well as Olives New York (W New York-Union Square, 201 Park Ave. So., 1-212-353-8345). And the sweetheart of foodies everywhere, Chef David Chang first gained notice with his pan-Asian noodle bar Momofuku Noodle Bar (171 First Ave., 1-212-777-7773), where crowds gather for a taste of his ramen. He has since spawned five local restaurants, the newest being French-Vietnamese-inspired Má Pêche (Chambers Hotel, 15 W. 56th St., 1-212-757-5878).
9) Fancy Fast Foods
At the forefront of the dressed-up, humble fare trend is celebrated chef Daniel Boulud, who threw epicureans a curveball in 2001 when he introduced his gourmet db Burger, a sirloin hamburger stuffed with short ribs and foie gras, and topped with shaved truffles, at db Bistro Moderne (City Club Hotel, 55 W. 44th St., 1-212-391-2400). At DBGB Kitchen and Bar (299 Bowery, 1-212-933-5300), Executive Chef Jim Leiken continues the gourmet fast-food crusade with his confit-pork-belly-topped burger (a.k.a. the Frenchie) and housemade charcuterie, such as the DBGB Dog, a refined street hot dog cushioned by sautéed sweet onions, topped with a spicy mix of pickled daikon radish, carrots and frisée, and finished with a swirl of Dijon mustard-ketchup. At the recently opened BK Whopper® Bar (561 Seventh Ave., 1-212-997-5122), flame-broiled burger fans can feast on specially crafted sliders and choose from mix-’n’-match sauces, toppings and cheeses. At the Oak Room (The Plaza Hotel, 1 W. 59th St., 1-212-758-7777), Executive Chef Eric Hara’s playful take on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich: a tourchon of foie gras between slices of buttery brioche toast, on which is spread macadamia nut butter and strawberry-vanilla jam.
10) Gourmet Food Courts
Chefs are catering to the hectic schedules of visitors and residents by introducing updated, upscale versions of mall food courts. Reminiscent of European food halls, The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English (The Plaza Hotel, 1 W. 59th St., lower level, 1-212-986-9260) features offerings from savory to sweet at eight stations—The Ocean Grill & Oyster Bar, The Bakery, The Cheese & Charcuterie Counter, The Wine Bar, The Grill, Pizza, The Dumpling Bar and The Sushi Bar—each with counter seating. Celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and her son, Joe, recently opened Eataly (200 Fifth Ave., 1-212-229-2560), a 42,500-square-foot Italian emporium that’s part wine bar, part bookstore, part market, part cooking school and houses seven restaurants, each with a singular focus. A short walk away, FoodParc (Eventi, A Kimpton Hotel, 845 Sixth Ave., 1-646-600-7140), a 15,000-square-foot, high-tech setting for dining in or taking out, features five food stands offering such crave-worthy treats as high quality burgers, artisanal bacons, milk shakes and Chinese dumplings, barbecue and noodles. In true 21st-century fashion, customers place their orders at touch-screen computers and receive text messages when their food is ready.