Yup, I’m at it again! If you follow my blogs, you know my fondness for these talented Top Chef contestants. I got to indulge in three more meals over the past couple of weeks, which brings my total up to 28. With each meal I am more impressed and delighted! This blog could actually be named Top Chef in Brooklyn, because two of them are located in Brooklyn! These following dinners are in timely order, they were all equally amazing as usual….
La Rina Pacifico e Vino
Chef Silvia Barban, who is originally from Northern Italy, appeared on Top Chef in season 14. She was out in round 4, so we didn’t get to see much of her, but we loved her instantly with her passion and Italian accent. She now owns her own restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She recently had a collaborated dinner with BJ Smith of Washington State, who also appeared in season 14. He actually left the show right before her, but like Silvia, he made an impression that was impactful and lasting with his humble charm and drive. Lucky for me the two cooked a dinner together in Brooklyn, because I’m not really going to go to Portland anytime soon.
Their meal was a tasting menu, which was of course spectacular. The first course was a Smoked Beef Tartare with a poached quail egg and sea urchin, unbelievable. Next was an Arctic Char preserva with deviled egg yolk, radish and chicharrones. The following pasta course consisted of Nettle Fazzoletti with beef brisket sumo, green peas and pea shoots (this is where I almost licked the plate). Course number four was a Black Sea Bass with spigarello, fiddleheads, asparagus, ramps and pan carasau topped with broth. The dessert was an Olive Oil-Rhubarb cake with smoked chocolate and shiso.
Not only was every bite of this dinner incredibly delicious, but it was enormously creative, and the plates were soooo beautiful. I’m super grateful for having had the opportunity to indulge in this collaboration. (I also got to meet them both, and they’re as awesome as I imagined!)
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Just recently I attended Harlem Eat Up, a charitable Food Festival created by Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson. As part of this festival, dinners were held at Harlem restaurants with their talented chefs coupled with a celebrity chef. Stephanie Izard was the celebrity chef this year at Vinateria, a chic and popular restaurant uptown. Stephanie has been awarded a James Beard Award, and has several acclaimed restaurants in Chicago. She is a Top Chef veteran, and was the winner of season 4! I will eventually conquer Chicago’s culinary scene, but for now I was lucky she came to New York!
Stephanie collaborated with Vinateria’s own talented chef Mimi Weissenborn, and the result was just breathtaking. We were served reception snacks: Savory Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with tomato aspic and crispy capers, and Goat Meatballs with with English Pea Yogurt, plus a Tuna Toast. What a great beginning to an amazing dinner! We then started with a Crispy Beef Salad with a pickled relish with a Salted Caramel Crispy Short Rib (hands down my favorite that night). We followed up with pasta: Sheep’s Milk Agnolotti with grilled nectarines, crispy pancetta and pea shoots, which were just scrumptious. Up next was a Pan Roasted Halibut with Blueberry Nuoc Cham, Miso Marcona Almond Butter, asparagus and beech mushrooms, it was just unbelievable. Our pretty and delicious dessert was a Burnt Meyer Lemon Tart with Terragon-Mascarpone Gelato and Pistachio Crumble. I can’t say enough of this dinner, other than I didn’t really want it to end!
Season 15 is the latest of the Top Chef series, and it brought some amazing chefs to the forefront! One of them is Chris Scott, our very own NYC contestant. He’s passionate and traditional all at the same time; he comes across deeply honest and charming, an instant favorite. He went an impressive 12 rounds, and our New York hearts were broken when he was finally eliminated. Lucky for me he has 2 restaurants next to each other in Brooklyn, and Lord knows, I will tackle the New York subway for some good grub. And good it was.
His restaurant Butterfunk Kitchen is small, homey and unassuming. Pictures on the wall attest to tradition and family values. While his success on Top Chef catapulted him to celebrity chef status, he stuck to his guns, and kept this restaurant approachable and comfortable. The prices are almost sinfully low, including a 5 dollar children’s plate. I dined with my good friend Yvonne and we ordered everything but the kitchen sink (even though that would have probably been delicious too). We started with Crispy Deviled Eggs (with egg yolk mousse and cracklin’ greens) and Hoe Cakes (corn hoe cake with pulled BBQ pork and corn chow chow). Our sides were Corn on the Cob (cornmeal crusted with mole), Sweet Potato Mash with the unmistakable flavor of cinnamon and nutmeg, and the Mac’n’Cheese, shells drenched in cheese with a crispy cheese top. We shared the Drumstick Basket, an 8 piece basket of lemonade buttermilk fried chicken with the crispiest crust, while soft and yummy inside, accompanied by the most heavenly biscuits ever. I mean ever. We heard all about them on the show, and they are everything they’re cracked up to be. I loved absolutely everything here, tradition and heritage doesn’t have to be ordinary, it works amazingly well here.
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