Posts Tagged ‘Aureole’

New York City – Cooking and Eating at Aureole

September 5th, 2008 at 5:54 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

As previously mentioned, one of the many highlights of our just-completed visit to New York City was spending time in the kitchen of restauranteur Charlie Palmer’s Aureole restaurant with Chef Tony Aiazzi.

We had wanted to arrange some sort of cooking class for The Traveling Richters while in New York, but had no idea how to find someone to spend time working with us.

That’s where Relais & Châteaux came in. Relais & Châteaux is an association representing fine hotels and restaurants all over the world, based in France, but with offices in London and New York City. Their affiliated lodging properties tend to be high quality inns and even castles, not traditional hotels. And on the dining side, their affiliate restaurants tend to represent some of the best restaurants in the world. In the last few months, the Relais & Châteaux restaurants we have dined at include The Fat Duck outside of London and Le Pre Catalan in Paris.

Linda and I are members of the Relais & Châteaux 5C Club, which provides VIP treatment at Relais & Châteaux properties, and more importantly, provides priority access for reservations at Relais & Châteaux restaurants. We even have a special concierge available to us to help arrange such reservations and other special events, which is how we got connected with Chef Tony at Aureole.

Aureole's chef, Tony Aiazzi, puts the finishing touches on the market sushi course, featuring yellowtail flown in from Japan witWe were told to show up at Aureole at 10am on Tuesday wearing comfortable clothes that we would not mind getting dirty. We did as we were told, and found Chef Tony waiting outside the restaurant for us. He guided us in through the delivery entrance (the restaurant was only open for dinner that day), along the way showing us various aspects of how a professional kitchen is set up. Aureole’s is actually on two floors, with desserts prepped in the basement, and the hot and cold kitchen on the second floor behind the upstairs dining room. That’s Chef Tony in the photo at right.

We were also introduced to Sous Chef Marcus Glendow-Ware (he’s in the photo with the pasta below), who actually ended up joining us for our cooking class as well – a pleasant surprise, as we were not expecting two chefs to be working with us.

Bas looks amused while Krystyana and Linda review their recipes for our five course lunch cooking lesson at Aureole in New YorkIn the upper kitchen we found four spots set up for us, each with an apron and a menu, and were asked to select the menu items we wanted to work on. The menu actually had five courses:

  1. Tuna Tartare with Ponzu Sauce
  2. Chilled Golden Tomato Soup with Piquillo Pepper, Melon, Fennel
  3. Market Sashimi with Fresh & Pickled Celery, Capicola, Black Lava Salt
  4. Caramelized Scallops with Fresh Linguine with Crab and Lemongrass Emulsion
  5. Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding with Figs

Jake and Bas stretch out pasta dough for the linguine course with Marcus at Aureole_Bas picked the Chilled Golden Tomato Soup, Krystyana the Tuna Tartare, Linda chose the Ponzu Sauce, and I started on the Lemongrass emulsion. The first quarter hour was spent chopping, cutting, measuring and blending, all under the careful supervision of the duo of chefs.

We ultimately each ended up doing a variety of tasks, learning along the way about a great way to make fresh pasta (use a cryo-vac machine to firm up the dough first), how to make a foam (use soy lecithin granulate, but make sure it’s not flavored), how to make fresh tortellini, and a variety of other tips and tricks we are certainly going to be putting to use in the coming months when we are home for a spell.

Marcus and Tony also explained how a commercial kitchen actually operates, including staffing, order processing and delegation to make sure orders are accurate and complete, how and when supplies are procured, and much much more. Anyone contemplating starting a restaurant without real hands-on experience should think twice – it’s not easy work. But Tony and Marcus have it all well in hand, which was even more obvious the following evening.

A special treat - Kobe beef carpaccio made by Tony at AureoleA cooking class in a top restaurant can be very rewarding, as we discovered when we got to sample the fruits of our various labors, and were also treated to two bonus courses: self-made ravioli and tortellini with a wonderful fresh ricotta filling and a Kobe beef carpaccio which Tony made for us using as a drizzle the Ponzu sauce Linda had helped prepare for our tuna tartare.

Chef Tony helps Krystyana make the dessert during our cooking lesson at AureoleHere are the sticky toffee banana puddings Krystyana made cooling out of the oven at AureoleAnd as a sort of kudo to Krystyana’s culinary efforts, the extra sticky toffee banana pudding that Krystyana help prepare was put aside to serve to the kitchen staff later as a special treat.

Linda enjoys the excellent tuna tartare with ponzu sauce we helped prepare in the kitchen at AureoleWe spent just over two and a half hours in the kitchen prepping, cooking, learning, and eating, and could have not been happier with the way it all worked out. Tony and Marcus were both enthusiastic, helpful, knowledgeable and charming. We learned that they had actually never had a small (four person) cooking class in the kitchen before – only cooking presentations where they did the work with an audience looking on, so this was as much of a first for them as it was for us. And it was executed splendidly. Close-up of the caramelized scallops with fresh linguini with crab and a lemongrass emulsion I helped make at Aureole

Before leaving Aureole after our cooking session, we ended up making reservations for a chef’s tasting dinner the following night.

And when we showed up Wednesday evening we got the full red carpet treatment, including some special courses – sashimi four ways, three cheese ravioli, butter roasted Maine lobster, country ham crusted pork tenderloin, and a phenomenal grilled lamb with charred eggplant (and is an appraisal from a person who does not generally enjoy lamb). Great wine pairings made the meal even more special.
The night after our cooking class at Aureole we went back for a chef's tasting menu and Tony and Marcus treated us to a Grand Dessert
We also had personal visits to our table by both Tony and Marcus, and were provided a grand dessert tasting featuring six different plates of sweet delectables (including the best trio of creme brulee we have ever had – see photo at right, center of table). Capping off the evening was a present to Linda of a bottle of verjus (which was an ingredient used in making the ponzu sauce) and then to top that, we received a personal tour by Marcus of the fully operational kitchen at night.

While the cost of the cooking class or the subsequent dinner were not insubstantial, we felt it to be a very worthwhile investment as this truly was a remarkable and educational experience we would have otherwise not had, nor likely have ever been able to experience if it hadn’t been for Relais & Châteaux.

So, in summary, if you’re looking for an excellent fine dining experience in New York City, definitely visit Aureole – they are presently on the lower upper East Side (61st Street near Madison Avenue) but moving to Times Square later this year. And tell them The Traveling Richters sent you. I can’t promise that you can get cooking classes though. But if you can, jump at the opportunity. You won’t regret it.

Click on the above photos to see larger versions in our photo gallery. You can also see all of our photos from our experience at Aureole on Flickr.

 

Doing Uncommon Exploring In New York City

September 4th, 2008 at 5:39 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

When we first decided back in July that we wanted to spend a couple of weeks in New York City last month, we knew we wanted to do things we had not done before during prior visits. That meant we didn’t need to go to the top of the Empire State Building, see the permanent exhibits at the Natural History Museum or Metropolitan Museum of Art, or gawking in Times Square.

However, finding out-of-the-ordinary things to do in New York City was a bit of a challenge. Our American Express Concierge service could only come up with a helicopter tour of New York City. And posts on various travel sites also didn’t elicit anything particularly stellar, except for one thing – a suggestion to get in touch with Context Travel.

Context Travel specializes in scholar-led walks of a number of “great” cities, including Rome, Paris, and New York. If only we had known about them when we were in Paris a couple of months ago… We had first heard of Context Travel in a magazine from American Express just recently, and thought they only covered European cities. They were highlighted as having helped director Ron Howard get a private tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel in preparation for the forthcoming movie “Angels & Demons”. So when the folks at Indagare suggested we check out their New York City offerings, we jumped at the idea.

Ultimately, we arranged four tours with Context Travel – I will go into those in another blog entry. But I will say all were very informative and educational, and we’re very glad we partook of the tours.

Another uncommon thing we managed to arrange through our contacts at Relais & Châteaux (where we are members of something called Club 5C), was a private cooking lesson with Chef Tony Aiazzi of the famed Aureole restaurant in New York City. And we also attended a presentation on cooking with liquid nitrogen at Astor Center. More on both of those later too.

We also managed to have dinner in the La Cave cheese cave at Artisanal Bistro, found a last minute table at Per Se (well, actually about two weeks in advance of our dinner), enjoyed dim sum and Peking duck in Chinatown, afternoon tea at The Peninsula’s Gotham Lounge and at The London NYC, Korean BBQ in K-town, and a few other culinary delights.

While we were looking for the more unusual experiences, we also did partake of the more ordinary delights of New York, including visiting various museums to see special exhibits, and a personal first for me – visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. That was an especially emotional and moving day for me because of my roots as a first-generation American. We also caught an off-off Broadway performance, saw a couple of movies, and walked and walked and walked.

There also was business to take care of – we spent our first couple of days in New York at the New York International Gift Fair searching for new products to off in our on-line store at www.BonaireStuff.com. And I had a client meeting for my patent-related consulting business too.

All in all we had an excellent time in New York City. The weather was perfect just about all the time, we had a child sitter service available to us at our great hotel (we had two adjacent rooms at the all-suite The London NYC), and we ate very very well. The only downside to our trip was the markedly higher number our bathroom scales showed us upon our return.