gastronomy

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September 20, 2014

American Arcadian

Photography Duo Andrea Gentl and Martin Hyers Document an Ode to the Season in the Catskills

On a recent Saturday in the rural Catskills, a coterie of American chefs, farmers and epicurean friends celebrated the local bounty with a foraged late-summer feast at Table On Ten, the 28-seater restaurant in Bloomville, New York owned by Justus and Inez Valk-Kempthorne. In today’s visceral series by husband-and-wife food and travel photographers Andrea Gentl and Martin Hyers, all the ingredients—from the chicory to flowering chocolate mint, the bee balm, duck and even the pesky “immature sunflower”—were procured from within 25 miles of the restaurant. “The dried mushrooms were from a shoeless man living in a hut in Big Indian,” says John Poiarkoff, chef of The Pines in Brooklyn, who conceived the nine-course menu, helped in the kitchen by The Pines owner and chef Camille Becerra of chic New York seafood restaurant, Navy. With Table On Ten, the Valk-Kempthornes have built a sanctuary and fellowship inspired by soil and harvest, celebrating hyper-local gastronomic camaraderie over Campari-laced cocktails and pizza from their wood-burning oven.

Text by Tarajia Morrell, founder of food blog The Lovage and contributor to Huffington Post, The Aesthete and various other publications.


Menu
Tomatoes, corn, whipped ricotta, garlic croutons, flowering chocolate mint and anise hyssop

Beet-stuffed napa cabbage, potato and yogurt puree, potato broth, wood sorrel

White pine roasted carrots, immature sunflower and white pine pistou, chicory, pine oil

Roasted and pickled cauliflower, Miranda cheese and roasted onion béchamel, jalapeño, flowering thyme

Trout, dill creme fraiche, charred leeks, dill flowers, black mustard greens

Shitake ciriole, braised rabbit, roasted garlic, bee balm

Duck breast and leg, cranberry beans, pepper and rosehip chutney, nasturtium

Ouleout ice cream, peach and beer compote, granola, honeycomb, beer caramel

Corn custard pie, pickled blueberries, poor man's pepper

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Dinner Musings

Acclaimed Author and Critic Stephen Bayley Hails the Sophistication of No-Frills Eating

As 2013 kicks off a proliferation of new gastronomic trends, the question is not simply where to dine, but how to dine—and British design critic and cultural commentator Stephen Bayley responds with a personal morsel of culinary philosophy written exclusively for NOWNESS. One of the UK’s most authoritative voices on contemporary aesthetics, Bayley is a Contributing Editor at GQ and has authored more than a dozen books including Taste: The Secret Meaning of Things, Sex: A Cultural History, A Dictionary of Idiocy, and his latest release, Ugly: The Aesthetics Of Everything. As a food-and-wine enthusiast he also appears regularly in Vanity Fair, The Financial Times, and The Daily Telegraph. His thoughts on the future of dining are here accompanied by an illustration courtesy of Toronto-based Frank Viva, who regularly drafts covers for The New Yorker:

Dinner Musings:

“Restaurant” is an idea whose time has gone. But it has had a good run since the concept of serving food to complete strangers emerged just after the French Revolution, when chefs dispossessed of their roles in country houses looked for work in Paris. Only people with severe psychological problems nowadays want fawning service by paramilitary regiments of liveried flunkies and all the preposterous cloche-lifting and crumb-sweeping and bowing and scraping that go with it.

The more sophisticated you are, the less likely you are to want the faux-sophistication of a traditional restaurant. You will prefer a dive, a burger stand, a bodega, a bacaro, a cervezeria or a winkle stall. Obviously, no one wants to eat filth, but style and success in the matter of eating out are matters of social competition and cultural modeling, not gastronomy or nutrition.

Thus, Russell Norman’s Polpo formula is exactly right for the tenor of the times. The Beak Street, London, HQ has been roaring since it opened three years ago. The food is cleverly conceived, but, to be honest, a bit erratic in its execution. Service is charming, but hopeless. And I always go back. That Russell Norman came from a family involved in architectural salvage and once taught drama are significant. The Polpo interior is high-concept crud, but achieves an intimate theatricality, which is endlessly attractive. It doesn’t feel like a laboratory. It feels like a party.

And no one except insiders knows who cooks at Polpo. This is exceptionally clever because the suggestion, quite correctly, is that the restaurant as a whole is much more important than the sun-dried ego of the annoying big-head chef. If Polpo’s chef walks, who’s to care? The menu is a reliable formula, which any semi-competent could replicate. It’s the ordinary thing extraordinarily well done.

This is what I want to see more of this year: the higher ordinariness. Less fuss. In food as in all things, simple is not the same as commonplace.

As the novel and biographies tend to decline, so travel and cookbooks are in ascent. There’s a fundamental link between the two genres. At a silly level, people buy books about places they never intend to visit (I recently bought a 50s classic about eastern Afghanistan) and books about food they never intend to cook (I have one example of preposterous French ambition with a recipe calling for five liters of veal stock and two of single cream).

But, more interestingly, food and travel, especially food and travel literature, are about journeys. Real or conceptual, it doesn’t matter. As Picasso said, if it can be imagined, it’s real.

So it is with restaurants. Eating out is an invitation to a voyage. You don’t get fed, you get transported. I only ever eat the cooking of places I want to visit. I only drink wine made in places I want to be. Yes, of course, I know about the excellent wines coming out of New Zealand. But I want to pull the cork on a dark red fantasy about a sun-baked cabanon in the Minervois with Laetitia Casta expected for lunch. I don’t want to unscrew the top and release a Sauvignon Blanc nightmare about sheep-farmers in knee socks, creaking Land Rovers and bungalows.

On the small Soho street where I have my office I can go to a Seville bodega, a US Interstate Diner, a noodle shop resembling the canteen of Nanking Technical University, a New Zealand dive bar and a barbecue pit that would look at home in West Texas. Never mind what you actually eat and drink, these premises are mind-altering substances.

Yes, this sort of architectural fantasy threatens to become kitsch, but if kitsch involves appropriation, collages, quotations, reflections, echoes, pastiche, fakery, charlatanism and ventriloquism, then kitsch is very interesting.  In this interpretation, Venice, Paris, London and Rome are kitsch. Turns out, it suits me very well.

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Spotlight

Bay Leaves

Californian Chef Leif Hedendal Forages a Micro-Seasonal Meal

San Francisco-based chef Leif Hedendal creates an exclusive meal for NOWNESS with ingredients foraged locally in the Bay Area, from Laird’s Landing in Point Reyes and Slide Ranch in West Marin. In the resulting photo series by Jake Stangel, the delicate petals and leaves of pennyroyal, lemon balm and bachelor buttons feature alongside the more robust flavors of lardo, abalone and oysters. Hedendal has always operated across both food and art worlds, exploring those points where the two converge. This August he is taking up residency on artist-run Rabbit Island, in Lake Superior, and in September he will be feeding those artists aboard Doug Aitken’s cross-country train project, Station to Station. The chef has staged in the kitchens of Noma and Chez Panisse, and in 2008 created Dinner Discussion, a bi-coastal dinner series where invitees have included designer Yves Behar, his partner, the art advisor, Sabrina Buell, and food-centric artist, Jennifer Rubell. "The next one will be hosted by Alice Waters, which is pretty special,” he says. "I want to put together a curatorial project where I commission new work by artists doing dinner-based work.” Shot at the J.B. Blunk House, with its majestic views of the Pt. Reyes seashore, our shoot looks at those flora that form the basis of Leif’s signature dishes. "These days it would definitely be wild flowers and medicinal herbs. You will be eating ingredients you have never heard of before.”

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