Monday, November 9, 2009

Wily Wylie, Wizard of Food

After having to wear a suit for lunch at Le Bernardin and after a vigorous walk through Central Park, Mr. Monkey was thrilled that our dinner destination was jeans-friendly. I was thrilled that we were meeting two of my best friends from college at wd-50.
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When we arrived, the Mayor was already sipping some wine at the bar. Yay! So happy to see her! My other pal, the Editor joined us shortly thereafter. Double yay!

As we waited for our meal, we noshed on see-through flatbread. Yummiest paper ever!
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And then I saw him. The Molecular Gastronomer himself. Chefarazzi! Cha, cha, cha!

I'd been wanting to try Wylie Dufresne's food since the first time I saw him on Top Chef years ago. His valiant efforts on Top Chef Masters this year only made me adore him more. So intense. So inventive. So talented.

We opted for the 12-course tasting menu ($140). Thanks to the Bacchus Bailout deal, each bottle of wine we had was half off. Woohoo!

Squab tartare, banana, smoked almond, hibiscus.
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This wasn't crrraaazy like I expected Chef Dufresne's food to be, but it was a tasty first morsel.

Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese.
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Now we have what we came for! Don't see what's so crrraaazy about this? Look more closely. Can you tell yet? That half-dollar-sized "bagel" cream! I SCREAM! Aaahhh! You could sew with the salmon! And the cream cheese was in the form of a chip! I felt like I was chewing the magical gum that Willy Wonka gave to Violet Beauregard -- so many different flavors in just a couple bites! It tasted like the real thing...except cold. Loved this. This is what it's all about.

Foie gras, passion fruit, Chinese celery.
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This course began the Surprise-in-the-Middle theme of the night. Looks like an unassuming slab of foie gras, right? Nope! There's something sweet and tangy inside! Surprise! Really good unexpected stuff.

Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, hamachi.
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It's breakfast! In a block! And a cylinder! And tiny cubes! Such an interesting melange of textures and flavors. I wasn't sure how I felt about this. It confused me. The mingling of egg, avocado, and fish was a little jarring. But I did adore the minuscule crunchy potatoes. The tiniest tater tots ever!

Cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco, caviar.
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Another surprising combination, but this one worked really well. Mr. Monkey said he would've liked this more had the fried chicken been warm, but it was damn delicious cold. In my mind, that made the dish even more impressive.

Snails, red lentils, juniper, orange.
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Not a strong dish. The citrus was nice, but this wasn't memorable.

Duck leg, popcorn pudding, kalamansi, lovage.
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I love duck! This was a tad on the salty side, but I enjoyed the pairing with the starchy pudding.

Lamb loin, black garlic romesco, pickled ramp, dried soybean.
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Very hearty. Very traditional. Well, aside from the dehydrated garnish.

Vanilla ice cream, balsamic, raspberry.
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Surprise! Remember the theme? There's something sweet and tangy inside! Again! So fun! This put a smile on my face.

Hazelnut tart, coconut, chocolate, chicory.
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I was glad that there was more hazelnut than coconut because hazelnut kicks coconut's ass. Not too sweet. I liked that.

Caramelized brioche, apricot, buttercream, lemon thyme.
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Mmm. The only thing better than warm fresh brioche is warm fresh brioche that's caramelized on top. Too bad this was so tiny. One bite. Gone.

Cocoa packets, chocolate shortbread, milk ice cream.
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Surprise! This time the insides weren't tangy. That's ice cream on the left. On the right is cocoa encased in an edible pouch made of kelp-based products. It was like eating a bag! Of cocoa! What a trip. Made me giggle.

After I went all chefarazzi as I sat down, our very friendly server asked if we'd like to tour the kitchen and meet Chef Dufresne at the end of our meal. I don't need to tell you our answer to that question.
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Chef Dufresne welcomed us into his kitchen and explained the different stations as he continued to cook and plate. He was especially proud of his skylight, which enables him to prep under natural lighting before nightfall. Wylie worked at a frenetic pace. There was a great energy in the kitchen.

And, because we are dorks, Mr. Monkey and I told Wylie that we were rooting for him on Top Chef Masters and thought his final dish was a good comeback even though it wasn't enough to propel him to the next round. Quite chipper, Wylie replied, "I tried my best! Thanks!" Love this guy. He is like a wizard of food. Culinary sorcerer, if you will.
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Happy Wylie fans are we.

The night wasn't over. It was time for Second on Second.
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I heart karaoke. Any time. Any place.

We shared a cab with the Editor and decided to take a short walk back to our hotel from Times Square. We wanted to take in the lights one last time before we left the Big Apple.
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There's the back of my old building. Mr. Monkey and I hung out of my window on New Year's Eve and watched the ball drop from afar five years ago. It was a great way to experience Times Square without having to brave the insane crowds below.

Next: Another Michelin three-starred lunch.


  1. I've always wanted to try Wylie's food. I love that he's so clever with his dishes-- I feel like his food is very intelligent but lighthearted. So cool you saw him in the kitchen too, looks like it was a delightful experience!

  2. My brain will not understand that the bagel is ice cream (I've been staring at if for like 5 minutes and still just see normal bagel), but I believe you :) Clearly I'm not prepared for such creative food.

  3. Wow. What a fabulous last nite in NY. I adore Wylie. His priceless reaction to Betty's criticism of his Dr. Pepper reduction "F@#! F$%! F*$#!" He seems so real. And in dire need of a chill pill. So likeable! As for karaoke, eye of the tiger is one of my favorite songs. I like singing it when I'm eating breakfast. Good choices all.

  4. we've loved him since top chef. he has always been so down to earth and fair when he was a judge. i love all the pics esp. the mini everything "bagel"---so cute!

  5. So my SF friends are eating their way through the city at all the top restaurants. I wish we lived close enough to do something similar!

  6. Great food, great company!

    I STILL talk about this dinner -- especially the everything bagel!

  7. At some point, I'm going to need to see this ice cream bagel and cream cheese chip for myself.

  8. The salmon threads made me think of pork floss. Hey! So the Chinese & Vietnamese were the original molecular gastronomers? :P

  9. The salmon threads were *totally* like pork floss...except bright orange. :)

  10. I soooo want to do a tasting menu somewhere.

  11. utterly fabulous. the faux bagel is blowing my mind.

  12. Next stop on the molecular gastronomy tour, ALINEA!!

  13. What a fun night! And an amazingly unique meal. So jealous :)

  14. This is one of the more interesting meals, so unique, that I can remember you blogging about. Cooking really does seem like art in so many ways with some chefs, no? Great NYC pictures too, looks so exciting. We don't get those kinds of views in MV.

  15. I cannot believe you met him!!!!!

    What a great post! Loved reading about your meal. The bagel ice cream is insane.

  16. So freaking awesome!! I'm totally jealous. :)

  17. What a fantastic trip! I, too, heart Wylie.

  18. Aw... this makes me happy. :) I'm looking forward to our meal.

  19. so unbelievably jealousE! as usual, I suppose.

  20. STARSTRUCK!!! We are planning on going to wd-50 in January.

  21. P.S. If we ever hang out IRL we are so karaoke-ing.

  22. I too have heart'd Wylie since he was first on Top Chef years ago, doing a breakfast episode! So I wasn't surprised to see TWO potential breakfast courses in your meal. Pigeon tartar? Blech. Everything else? Omnomnomnomnom!!!

  23. I loved Wylie on Top Chef Masters too! I'm so jealous you got to meet him and be all gushy to him about how great and tangy he is. What a fun meal!

  24. i love wd-50. i haven't been back since 2007 but plan to take J there next time we're in new york city. if you're still there in NYC, you should try Yakitori Totto – some of the best yakitori i've ever eaten.

  25. aw man ... and here I thought I have my NYC trip/food all planned out, but but maybe ... I can insert this one in too. Looks like a fun meal.


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