Chef Notes for New York City

June 07th 2018

Chef Notes for New York City

What happens when chefs from around the world get together to talk flavour? They go out to eat!

McCormick Canada’s very own Executive Chef Juriaan Snellen talks to us about the McCormick global food summit in Baltimore and what happens when 30 Executive Chefs go on a ‘Food Safari’!

Every year, the chefs of McCormick from around the world get together to talk about food and flavour. Each chef shares what’s going on in his or her home country; what people are eating, and what new trends are gaining traction. We heard from chefs from Poland, Australia, Mexico, the UK, Italy, France, Singapore… about 30 chefs in all. It was very exciting to hear what’s going on around the world. As a group we really learn from and feed off each other.

The event took place at the McCormick Technical Innovation Center in Hunt Valley, Maryland, which is just north of Baltimore. Since Baltimore isn’t far (in a relative sense) from New York City, I helped arrange a food safari for the chefs for a fun team-building excursion. We love Baltimore, but New York is easily one of the most exciting centres for food in the world.

Saturday Night in the Village

We took the train to Penn Station on a Saturday and hit up a Filipino restaurant in the East Village called Jeepney. Filipino cuisine was called out in the 2016 Flavour Forecast as a trend to watch, and it’s exciting to see that it’s now starting to take flight.

If you enjoy the communal dining experience, then you’ll love eating Filipino-style. We were seated at tables covered in banana leaves. A mountain of rice arrived with food perched on top, and everything was served right on the leaves. Just reach in and grab what you want!

We loved the fried red snapper, adobo chicken, sausage, and fried plantains. But the highlight of the meal was the whole roasted piglet. Such beautiful crackling! Some of us even sampled ‘balut’ - cooked, fertilized duck eggs. It’s classic street food in the Philippines, but definitely not to everyone’s taste. Overall, our dinner was a great bonding experience, even for those who needed a few cocktails to really get comfortable with the whole thing.

Sunday Funday

The safari really got rolling Sunday morning. We began at Cafe Mogador, where we sampled breakfast favourites with a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern spin. We loved the labneh (a kind of strained yogurt) with pan bread, spiced lamb sausage, and a take on shakshuka, an egg dish featured in the 2017 Flavour Forecast.

Everything was delicious, and it highlighted how staple foods can get a flavour facelift from exotic ingredients and cooking styles. We basically ordered everything on the menu.

In true New Yorker fashion, we continued our safari with bagels. We walked down to Tompkins Square Bagels. If you love bagels, this place is heaven. Seriously, it’s unbelievable.

The owners told us they’ll serve about 5000 bagels on a sunny Sunday (which it was). Even with around 25 people working the line, it still takes a good half hour to get out with your bagel. Mind you, it’s still warm when you get it. That’s fresh.

They’ve got all the standard bagel flavours, plus a few fun ones like French Toast, and Pumpkin Seed. The array of toppings really took the cake, though. The cream cheese bar had at least as many options as there were bagels. And don’t even get me started on the pastrami salmon. Phenomenal. We snagged about a dozen bagels and ate them in a nearby park. That’s New York living!

Lunchtime found us at Oda House, an authentic Georgian restaurant. We ordered a variety of dishes, but most of the food had a heavy focus on cheese and other dairy. For example, we sipped on a yogurt-based soup with onion and dill called matsoni qotanshi served in a charming clay pot.

The feature dish for our meal was a boat-shaped bread they referred to as a “Turkish Pizza.” The oven-baked bread was served fresh with cheese and butter in the centre. They cracked an egg over the middle and whisked it in with the cheese and butter right at the table. The residual heat cooked the egg a bit and it all emulsified into a kind of dip. We ripped off pieces from the edges and dipped in the middle. A truly decadent experience!

It’s All About the Presentation

We enjoyed an early dinner at Le Turtle, an American/French bistro. Since they knew we were coming, the owners provided us with a very special experience, even trying out some new menu ideas on us. I was really impressed with the care and passion that showed in everything we ate, from the kale and kiwi salad with amaranth, to the melt-in-your mouth 90-day dry-aged beef carpaccio.

As the meal continued, they really pulled out all the stops. They served a freshly made cheese that reminded me of Mexican queso fresco. It came with pepitas , maple drizzle, and cranberry powder. It looked amazing, and the mix of tartness, sweetness, and creamy mouthfeel really worked.

You’d have thought the high-point of the meal would have been the 90-day dry-aged ribeye. It was cooked medium rare, showcased at the table, and then carved and plated in the kitchen. Amazingly, it was actually outdone by the flavour and spectacle of the roast chicken.

Try and picture this - a whole chicken (head and feet too) brined for 48 hours, dried for a day, slow roasted and served on a platter of flaming straw. Indoors, no less! It was quite a sight, and the smell of straw and chicken filled the room, making us all anxious for a taste. We weren’t disappointed. With skin as crispy as pork crackling, this was sincerely the best roast chicken I’ve ever eaten.

Dessert was cooked black rice pudding mixed with chai tea and ice cream. All delicious on their own, but magic when put together. Even the cocktail I had, made with blood orange and mescal with a dehydrated chorizo rimmer was amazing. Again, such a great blend of tastes.

The end of the meal was sweet sorrow. What else could we do but cheer ourselves up with ice cream at 10 Below? They serve rolled ice cream, a fun and trendy way to present this frozen treat. I went with a s’mores flavour, topped with caramelized marshmallow. A delicious way to end an incredible day of eating and enjoying some camaraderie with my fellow chefs.

Other than a lot of overfed chefs, what came out of our summit meeting? We discussed our experience in New York and talked about what might make its way into the 2019 Flavour Forecast. I can’t tell you what’s going to be in it, but I can say there’s another exciting year of flavour discoveries and innovations ahead!

That wraps it up for me this month. I look forward to sharing more of my food adventures with you in the future!

Chef Juriaan