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Kee’s Chocolates (NY) – Best in America?

Are Kee’s Chocolates the best artisan chocolates in the United States? One woman, Kee Ling Tong, makes the chocolates in a tiny store-front in Soho (though I have seen helpers from time to time and the single store-front has now expanded to two small store-fronts.) This isnt the assembly line with marketing acumen of Vosges or Jaques Torres, nor the Paris-pedigree of La Maison du Chocolate and Richart; there’s only the shopkeeper (and helpers) with her name on the front of the store.

Manhattan adores her too – lines are frequent and if you arrive too late, you’re out of luck.

How good are they? Read the rest of this entry »

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Doughnut Plant (NY) – Beware of the Waistline

You could start your own doughnut plant, right around your waist, if you visit Manhattan too often.

My first visit to Doughnut Plant left me wondering what the hype was about. Sure, more-artisinal-than-normal ingredients for a doughnut but the end result left me unsatisfied. The doughnuts are made by hand with natural ingredients – fresh fruits, sea salt, fresh milk, fresh butter, and unbleached unbromated flour. Glazes follow the same formula. It’s a study in dialectics – healthier junk food and hoity toity doughnuts that are affordable for nearly everyone.

It’s an easy story for the media to latch onto (and they did) so I viewed the place with some scepticism after that first visit. (And there are others who believe the popularity has led to a decrease in quality.)
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Jean Georges (NY) – Unbalanced Lunch

“I found it absolutely dreadful. Unbalanced flavours, dreadful conception in some dishes, good conception but dreadful execution in others. Some average ingredients.” – Moby

These words, from a comment in a previous post, echoed in my head the day leading up to my Jean Georges lunch. JG was my first “high end” meal five years ago and it stood head and shoulders above everything else for some time (French Laundry, Ron Siegel’s Masa’s, La Folie, and others.) I remembered a nuanced and subtle cuisine permeated by ginger, lemon, and lemongrass essences. The memory of that meal was so positive I found myself reluctant to return on subsequent visits to New York. Well, it was time to brave those waters again.

I met Alex and Aki from Ideas in Food, two of my favorite chefs in this country (see my previous Keyah Grande reports.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Momofuku (NY) – The Revolution Will Be Eaten

I’m just makin’ my play
Don’t try to push your luck, just get out of my way

- AC / DC – “Back in Black”

It blares through the loudspeakers at Momofuku and it’s oh-so-appropriate. Momofuku, and Chef David Chang, are at the forefront of a movement that’s injecting a good dose of rock’n'roll rebellion and Schumpeter’s creative destructionism into fine dining across the country – small format restaurants, fused with personality, that serve seriously good food.

Talented chefs are leaving the factories and creating casual eateries at lower price points – while using the filtered-down techniques of the culinary elite. You could call it a democratization of fine dining. The lower price points and casual atmospheres attract a larger crowd unconcerned with the normal pretenses of fine dining – servants, hushed tones, “civilized” dress codes, and wine programs that flaunt unattainable $3000 bottles of wine. It’s an attempt to translate the essentials of fine dining (ingredients and technique) to a youth culture format.

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Degustation (NY) – An Unlucky Meal?

Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. Degustation has been getting raves from nearly everyone in NYC. Degustation serves small plates in a Prada-black sushi bar setting – quality small tastes in a less formal atmosphere – a model that’s proven rather successful for restauarants like Craft, Momofuku, Fatty Crab, Tia Pol, and others. The reviews have been nothing but glowing so it seemed like a no-brainer for this trip.

And then you get unlucky. There’s quite a few things that can go wrong with a restaurant visit:

  • The ingredients may not be up to par for that day (but the chef has to serve something.)
  • The chef, or an important assistant, may be out, not feeling well, etc.
  • The restaurant may be busy and execution may suffer (that is why Wed & Thurs dining often yield the best meals.)
  • And plenty more.

It’s a human business afterall – people must bring ingredients to the restaurant, people must prepare the food, people must cook it, people must serve it, and people must eat. That’s a scary chain considering how dependable people usually are.

The Menu:

1. Smoked Bacon / Apple Croquettes

A good start – these are neither Manresa nor Bastide quality – but the smoky bacon definitely tipped the scales. Pretty Good.

Degustation (New York) - Smoked Bacon / Apple Croquettes

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