Monday, February 12, 2007

The Kitchen Travels to NYC

I just got back from several days of corporate leadership work on the East Coast. One of the growing offerings of Kirk's Traveling Kitchen is corporate development (ie. leadership training) programs involving food and/or wine. These programs are a fantastic opportunity for small or large businesses to develop communication skills, bond as a team or explore how working in a tight spot can empower their employees(think active kitchen with lots of sharp knives/hot pans and the deadline of being responsible for different parts of a meal that will be judged by trained chefs). In the global, multi-cultural work place these types of cooking programs are the "new golf" (and for most participants a lot more fun and rewarding).

Besides the time spent working I also got to spend a day with my sister (a purse designer in Chelsea with her own line raw-bags) exploring what's happening on the New York food scene. Here are my impressions:

Mary's Fish Camp This tiny, seafood restaurant in The Village is a reminder of the type of restaurant I crave most in my native St. Louis: the unpretentious neighborhood joint. MFC offers fantastic seafood of all kinds, and also runs a fish camp in Florida. Try the lobster roll, fried smelts or bouillabaisse.

Fatty Crab Another tiny restaurant in The Village (anyone catching a trend here), but Fatty Crab is a unique, Malaysian-inspired gem. Even smaller than Mary's Fish Camp and with an eclectic menu of crispy pork, crab & noodles. When you think Malaysian, think: shrimp paste, chiles, kejap manis and palm sugar. On there own they don't inspire reverence, but when these ingredients get combined (in one form or another) it's magic. One of my favorite features, besides serving the best Asian beer in the world: Hitachino Nest, is actually something they don't do. Fatty Crab doesn't have a dessert menu, rather they bring a few delicious coconut bars with the check. With the popularity and quality of New York's various "dessert bars", I give kudos to Fatty Crab for not trying to make Malaysian-inspired creme brulee.

Upstairs at Bouley The most casual installment of Chef David Bouley's restaurant empire (Bouley, Danube, Bouley Bakery, Etc.) is also one of the coolest second-floor restaurants I've visited. With a great, open kitchen and sushi bar they offer one of the most eclectic, quality menus in New York (burger, gnocchi, eel nigiri..what?). I highly recommend this route to trying the food of one of New York's best chefs. Gear-up for the wine list, however. It utilizes the offerings from the fabulous Bouley/Danube lists and has a median price of well over $100 per bottle. (Burger + First-Growth Bordeaux= Hardee's Commercial).

August As rustic as you're going to find in New York, this restaurant could easily be a Northern California transplant. A warm space, complete with a wood-burning oven and glass-enclosed atrium, I wanted to visit again when it was snowing. I had an incredibly creative, cubano-style, sandwich with chorizo, gruyere, dates & mustard. It's a 'wich I'll not soon forget.