NYC: wd~50 (Apr. 2013): 10th Anniversary Dinner!
Authors: Victor and Monte
Exec Chef: Wylie Dufresne
Sous Chef: Sam Henderson
Pastry Chef: Malcolm Livingston II
Date: April 9, 2013
Dinner: 10th Anniversary!
While in New Orleans, Monty and I learned that wd~50 was having its tenth anniversary. We made reservations ASAP once they were available, and before we knew it we had a reservation and a wonderful meal planned for today!
For wd~50’s tenth anniversary dinner, Chef Dufresne invited back a lot of wd~50 alumni to have a collaborative dinner, including (but not limited to) big names like Alex Stupak, Christina Tosi, and Mario Carbone. A lot of the chefs featured are doing some pretty amazing things right now. Stupak is running Empellón Cocina and Empellón Taqueria, Tosi is doing her Momofuku Milk Bar stuff, Jon Bignelli is running Alder, Carbone is one of the head chefs of Torrisi Italian Specialties and Carbone, and so on.
Each course was made by a chef or two, so this meal was very much like a meeting of the minds. (I was especially excited to see what kind of desserts Chefs Stupak and Tosi would come up with!)
The menu illustrates just how much work and thought went into this anniversary dinner, and all of the participating chefs even signed the back of every menu! (The signatures were slightly different for each menu, too; Monty and I checked hahaha.)
The meal was AMAZING, and I am really, really grateful to have had the opportunity to eat such playful and delicious food. This was definitely an experience that I’ll never forget. Everyone was happy and celebrating, the environment was exciting, and Chef Dufresne even gave a heartfelt speech at the end.
This was truly more than just a meal, and the celebratory atmosphere really made it an EVENT, and a fantastic event at that. It seemed like Victor and I, as just enthusiastic diners, were a minority in the room in the sense that it seemed almost everyone in the room had some connection to the restaurant industry. Drinks were flowing, the food was mind-blowing, laughter filled the dining room, and congratulatory handshakes and hugs were freely exchanged with the kitchen staff. Chef Dufresne really knows how to throw a great party.
Sesame flatbread chips
Victor: I didn’t bother taking a picture of the flatbread chips. You can see them in our previous wd~50 post, though.
Monte: I still think they’re awesome. How do they make it so thin?!
Pike roe, chamomile, brown butter, and pumpernickel toast
Chefs: Sam Henderson and JJ Basil
Monte: Such a funky but whimsical dish, with some familiar flavors of a new york bagel, and then totally flipped. The “roe” (I use quotations because I think wd-50 has so much fun being creative and playful that I’m never quite sure if what they’re describing their food as is the complete picture) was very floral and not briny at all, although it was still salty. It was fun to eat. I think I’ll probably be repeating that throughout this post.
Piquillo pepper, iberico belly, and celery oil
Chef: Kevin Heston
-The texture reminded Monty and me of eggplant.
-Taste-wise, the start reminded me of eggplant, and it started to taste like pepper around the middle.
Monte: I think it started off eggplanty (texturally tender) and then somehow went to an even more tender porkbelly-like texture later on. But the flavors were spicy from the pepper, and smokey from the other elements in the dish. I could’ve eaten three more of these, it just melted in the mouth and had great flavors.
Foie gras with sesame, date foam, orange-honey crisps, and orange-honey sauce
Chef: Sam Mason
-The foie gras itself was wonderfully rich.
-Overall, though, the dish actually felt VERY light. First, flavor-wise, Monte and I thought that the acidity from the orange and dates cut through the richness. Second, the crispy texture of the orange-honey crisp helped to cut through the richness. Third, the sesame tempered the richness of the foie by adding another flavor, preventing it from being one-dimensional.
Monte: This is one of the most enjoyably refreshing foies I’ve had. Like Victor said, the bright acid and textural contrasts prevented this foie from being completely one note, and complemented the rich foie very well. The flavors were definitely enhanced, and it’s not like the foie faded into the background – it was still the main star, just very well dressed!
Chicken-and-eel terrine, uni sauce, endive gelée, crispy chicken skin (in the form of crackers), and dots of kimchi sauce
Chefs: John McCarthy and Ben Freemole
Victor: My thoughts immediately after finishing this course: “I don’t know what I just ate.” There was so much going on in this course!
Monte: The chicken was really tender, and almost sausage-like, but with the great salty sweet unagi in the middle. The cracker tasted really fatty and it was only afterwards that Victor told me it was chicken skin! Oh wd-50, you fooled me again…
Squid noodles, fried parsley, Ritz crackers, banana purée, and brown butter powder
Chef: Francis Derby
Victor: Banana purée and brown butter powder… They’re really having fun with the textures here haha.
Monte: This is like calamari… except it kicks the ass out of any other calamari that I’ve had. I don’t know what it is about this dish that made me think it was so Vietnamese, but it was just simply amazing. The squid “noodles” were incredibly tender and pleasantly salty, with the fried parsley providing for a great crunch. The brown butter powder added a strange richness to the dish, even though it was just…powder. 0_0
Rabbit terrine made from rabbit saddle and a sausage made from rabbit leg. The terrine was seasoned with a bit of sumac. It’s served with seasoned carrot and caramelized carrot consommé, arugula, and arugula flower.
Chefs: Justin Hilbert and Owen Clark
Victor: I just want to add that, while eating this dish, Monty (pretty loudly) said, “THIS SAUCE IS AMAZING. IT’S BLOWING MY MIND RIGHT NOW.”
Monte: “PBfffffthhhhhh” …that’s the sound of my mind being blown, I guess. The carrot and rabbit worked well together with the sweetness of the carrot and richness of the rabbit. What caused the aforementioned blown mind though was the sauce. The sauce reminds me a lot of hoisin sauce with its sweet salty smokiness. I don’t know how you get a sauce that flavorful without being thick and syrupy though. Normally I’d imagine you have to reduce it so that it coats a fork when you dip it into the sauce, but this sauce was much lighter and thinner, almost brothy/consomme-like! There really shouldn’t have been so much flavor and deliciousness in such a watery “sauce.”
Smoked brook trout with charted kale salad, pickled red onion, brown butter oatmeal crisp, and pine nut ice cream
Chef: Jon Bignelli
They prepared the trout by cooking it sous-vide, removing the skin, and then flashing both sides a la plancha.
-The brook trout was AMAZING. It had all the flavor of smoked trout, but it wasn’t dry at ALL.
-I’ll just add here that Monte clapped loudly when he had his first bite. It was pretty hilarious. Then again, I think that all the wine he was drinking was starting to take effect here.
Monte: Um, isn’t clapping is a universal gesture for appreciation of a noteworthy event? This trout was a noteworthy event! It’s super smokey, and the sweetness of the crisp and pine nut ice cream made it all balanced, almost like the way sweet bbq beans work with smoked meats. Also, I’ve never had pickled onions, and it worked wonderfully!
Curry gnocchetti (whole wheat gnocchi) with beef ragu (Jamaican-style)
-With cardamom, cumin, and anato
-With pickled habanero chili pepper and goat cheese ricotta on top
Chefs: Mario Carbone and Dan Hoar
-To start, the pasta was PERFECTLY cooked. This dish had a bunch of different flavors that changed over time. The spiciness of the curry was very strong, but it gradually transitioned to a sweetness. There was also a lingering spicy aftertaste.
-I LOVED THAT GOAT CHEESE. It paired with the curry SO WELL and helped to ameliorate the spiciness.
-No individual ingredient was really that sweet, but there was an overall sweetness that resulted from the sum of the parts.
Monte: This might be my favorite of the night? Texture-wise, the pasta was chewy with a bite without being crispy or crunchy at all – the perfect al dente I suppose. The smokey spicy curry flavor is very strong, but it’s also kind of sweet. Taste-wise, this dish has everything – in addition to the aforementioned curry flavors, the pasta was also sour, salty, and even slightly bitter in the middle (similar to the bitterness found in lemongrass). The cheese was also wonderful, and it helped to temper the spiciness of the curry. This is one of the very few pasta dishes that I’ve had in the states that can go toe to toe with the pastas I tried in Italy.
Aged Peking duck breast served over red onion beet yogurt with roasted beet salad, “beet jerky”, beet slices, and mandarinquats
Chef: Mike Sheerin
Victor: The duck tastes very gamey. It’s very chewy. I actually like the beet salad as much as the duck. There were varying textures and levels of flavor intensity. The beet jerky tasted just like actual jerky—it was one of the weirdest and most amazing things I have ever eaten!
Monte: This was a really fun dish, and while the duck was good, I think the more interesting component of the dish was the beet jerky. It was like a prune and beef jerky had a baby. Odd, and delightful.
American cheesecake with a white bread sauce, candied white bread crumble, and green tomato sorbet
Chef: Christina Tosi
Victor: This wasn’t so much a dessert revolving around cheesecake but a dessert revolving around the white bread crumble. The white bread crumble had excellent “crunch”—it’s that feeling you get when you bite into something and when the physics in your mouth as well as the flavor explosion work together to deliver gastronomic euphoria.
Monte: The “bite” of the crumble and all the other elements of the dish is very reminiscent of Momofuku Milk Bar’s Compost Cookie. It was very buttery and caramel-like, and while I didn’t think the dessert tasted like a cheesecake overall, it was definitely distinctively Christina Tosi’s dish. Overly sweet, creative, and fun.
Vanilla ice cream, panela (called “piloncillo” in Mexico), rhubarb, and yogurt
Chef: Alex Stupak
You have vanilla ice cream at the bottom and vanilla sorbet on top. The pink is poached rhubarb compressed with citrus jus, and the mushroom-y brown things are panela (also known as “piloncillo” or unrefined whole cane sugar). There is a rhubarb tuile on the top.
-Alex Stupak is one of my favorite chefs right now. He’s made some of my favorite desserts of all time, and he’s doing some pretty great things at Empellón Cocina and Empellón Taqueria right now. Stupak tends to have pretty crazily-shaped tuiles on his desserts; it seems to be a signature thing of his. Anyway, this dessert was WONDERFUL. I’ll let Monty rave about it!
-Speaking of Monty, while eating this dessert, he actually couldn’t stop smiling for a few minutes and wouldn’t even talk to me. He just had this big, foolish grin on his face—he’s done this for really delicious dishes involving, for instance, ōtoro, but he had never had that reaction to a dessert before. That was how amazing this dessert was. Stupak, you are a dessert maestro.
Monte: This dessert didn’t seem overly complicated when it came out, but there’s some kind of magic voodoo going on where one bite just rendered me stupidly happy. I don’t know how the tuile is made so that its shape is so free-flowing like a jellyfish, but it was awesome. The crisp cinnamony/brownsugar-like panela had such a pleasantly crispy and airy texture to it, and the rhubarb’s tartness balanced the sweetness perfectly.
Brown buttermilk ice cream enclosed in a hazelnut dehydrated wafer. There is a layer of crepe at the top and below, and there’s also a little Maldon sea salt.
Chef: Malcolm Livingston II
Victor: They used a waffle iron on both sides to create that shape. This was basically a seemingly simple but incredibly complex ice cream sandwich that was extremely delicious and that served as a great finale to a wonderful meal!
Monte: I love sweet and salty things and this last dessert was not disappointing at all. It capped a wonderful meal and I feel so lucky to have been able to take part in the celebration. :D
Victor: This truly was a great experience. I had great food and great company, and I have to give my thanks to Chef Dufresne and all of the other chefs and staff at wd~50 for organizing such an amazing event!