Saturday, August 20, 2011


I recently returned from my summer stay in New York where I can honestly say I've never had so much good food at every turn. Doesn't matter the time of day, or type of food, almost everything there tastes good, if not for the sheer reason that it's New York. Eating a cupcake in the park is like heaven, Kati roll at 4 am is transcendant, and those special, one-in-a-lifetime tasting dinners make you feel like you can die happy. Luckily for me, I've experienced all three and much more this summer, including a culinary journey into the Mecca that is Wiley Dufrense's wd-50.  

Lauded as one of the leading American proponents of molecular gastronomy (a term which many despise but nonetheless is necessary), Wiley Dufresne makes the impossible possible with his edible eggshells and aerated foie gras. Dining at wd-50 is like attending a Cirque de Soleil show, you'll be awestruck and inspired, while simultaneously appreciating the food you're eating, and reveling in the fact that you're dining at a Michelin star restaurant with it's "star" concocting away in the kitchen. There was no way you could go to wd-50 and not get the tasting. Yes ordering off the menu would have been slightly cheaper, but the variety and experience you get from the tasting menu will stay with you for eternity...
Spanish mackerel, parmesan, plum, radicchio
Extremely interesting starter to say the least. I have never really been a fan of small fish that look like they came out of a tin but the way this mackerel was cold smoked was delicious. The parmesan was crispy yet airy at the same time and was definitely a great way to start the meal.

Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese
This tiny little bagel looks like a bagel doesn’t it?…WRONG. It’s ice cream. Soft, creamy, chilly, wonderful everything bagel ice cream. Again, with crispy cheese you can never go wrong. Things at this point were definitely looking up.

 Foie grass, passionfruit, Chinese celery

I’m sure there are some of you who are wholly against foie gras due to the slightly controversial nature with which it is procured. ::If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, see here.:: However, it’s buttery, delicate taste is unmatched by anything else so if you’ve never tried it, I would definitely recommend. However, the foie gras here, though delicious, sort of missed the mark. The passionfruit filling inside was way too overbearing and sweet and counteracted the savoryness of the foie in an undelectable way. Though, my hopes were still high for the remainder of the meal. I mean, everyone makes mistakes right?

Poached egg in the shell, pumpernickel, Caesar dressing, bean sprouts

Edible eggshell. Yes, believe it. And it was crunchy and wonderful. The pumpernickel was a good breakfasty way of experiencing the egg, and makes total sense given Wiley's egg fetish. However, as I said before, the tasting experience was slowly declining due to the EXTREME anchovy flavor in the Caesar dressing. It was so potent that I had to pull the separate pieces of the dish onto another plate and try to wipe off the dressing so I could finish eating the dish. But on the bright side, I'm no fan of runny egg yolk but this egg was cooked to 63 degree perfection that I didn't even mind yolk running everywhere on the plate. Though I won't lie, I didn't mind at all when the yolk ran into the dressing...made it a lot easier to not feel bad about eating part of the dish.  

King oyster “udon,” sweetbreads, banana-molasses, pickled ginger
Sweetbreads, like all offal, are a very interesting concoction. I won't tell you what they are and let you enjoy that little gem for yourself. However, these were deep fried and tasty enough that you forget what you're eating. The "udon" noodles were made out of king oyster mushrooms and though I'm also not a fan of mushrooms these were pretty good in the beginning. Though, throughout the course of the dish they turned more and more mushroomy and as the heat started to dissipate the noodles left sort of a bitter taste in my mouth. So yeah, things were definitely looking to good at this point, I was becoming more and more disappointed and wondered if the next dish could save the dish before it...and that didn't happen until the very end. 

 Tai snapper, onion tart, coffee, Asian pear
I'm not going to lie...I don't remember this dish at all, which probably means that it was underwhelming and didn't fall on either side of the spectrum. Except I do remember those perfectly brunoised pieces of pear. 

 Quail, nasturtium yogurt, sunchoke, nutmeg
All you have to do is look at the color of the supposed "deep-fried quail leg." It's still bleeding. Not only that, do you see those little white pieces of tendon...yeah, sick, I know. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed at this point and couldn't help but feel hatred for Wiley and sadness that my culinary idol (second only to Johnny Iuzzini) was letting me donw. The sunchokes were good, though.  

 Lamb loin, “red beans & rice,” chayote squash

And again with the undercooked protein...why? But I guess with lamb it's a lot more bearable. Quite possibly the only thing on this plate that was cooked properly was the red beans and rice, and thank god, because uncooked beans would have been ghastly. 

 Celery ice cream, verjus, pistachio
Celery ice cream is definitely creative and had an interesting flavor. It was good for the first few bites but after about 3 you realize it starting to leave a strange after taste in your mouth. But the verjus, though, was so so light, refreshing and wonderful, and it was at this moment that I realized the rest of the tasting was turning around. It just hit a slump (albeit a big slump with the major dishes) in the middle and was now rebounding with a medley of palette cleansers and desserts. 

 Apricot, buckwheat, rhubarb, green tea

So so good. The green tea foam was so wonderful and those green specs are matcha powder which added to the overall green tea flavor of the entire dish. The buckwheat ice cream was a little grainy but hearty, and after not eating for the entire meal, the buckwheat was filling me up, so it didn't feel like a total loss. 

 Soft chocolate, beet, long pepper, ricotta ice cream

Undoubtedly the best dish of the whole night. And I may be biased because I love desserts...but look at the artistry of the plate. Who knew you could make beets so beautiful? And I don't even like beets! But this beet-blood juice whatever it is complemented the chocolate perfectly. There's also nothing greater than the two things I love combined into one: ricotta ice cream. So good. Ricotta lends itself to a lot of different uses and I really think the addition to the ice cream and chocolate ganache balanced the dessert in a good sweet/savory way. The chocolate was amazing - smooth, velvety, and even though you can tell it was altered with chemicals to give it that flexible, yet somehow brittle look, it didn't take away from the taste of the chocolate at all. 

 Rice krispy treats

Not only were these crispy and fried, but the marshmallow was LIQUID...and ON THE INSIDE. OMG. It was so good, I wish I could literally eat these every single day. So delicious, and definitely the best way to end a not so satisfying meal. The desserts made the whole tasting menu worth it. 

So, all-in-all, definitely worth experiencing, and in the pursuit of culinary mastery there's bound to be ups and downs; in the words of another idol or two, this just about sums up how I felt about the whole thing: " Omar Little, street philosopher, almost-superhero, stick-up man extraordinaire -- the most memorable character on the best dramatic series in the history of television, The Wire, articulated the Code of the Streets perfectly. While gleefully sticking up a drug dealer, he takes time to explain the brutal logic of what's happening. "It's all in The Game, yo! It's all in The Game!" What Mr. Little means, presumably, is that in the day to day ebb and flow of his victim's chosen profession (in this case, slinging dope on Baltimore street corners), one must anticipate the occasional unpleasantness. Like Mr. Little shoving a large caliber weapon in your face and taking all your money and product. Nobody is more aware of the rules than Omar himself. He lives his life knowing full well that in all likelihood, he too will fall. And that when it comes it will be fast, unexpected, probably from behind -- and decidedly "unfair."" - Anthony Bourdain


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