Top 10 Tastes at C-CAP Benefit 2007

Here are ten Xs on my tasty treasure map from this year’s C-CAP benefit. Theme ingredients emerged as always, despite perennial attempts to diversify the offerings. This year Perigord trumped the porcine, as pickup Teams Truffle and Foie Gras replaced last year’s Pork Belly and Kumquat crews.

1. Foie Gras Rice Krispie with Fruit Accompaniment: Compass
Compass’s John Fraser proves once again that he’s the most creative chef on the Upper West Side. Captaining Team Foie, Fraser offered the standout treatment of the luxury ingredient and a glorious reminder of why New York will always beat Chicago—we ban transfats, they ban goose fat—when it comes to fine food. Surprise quickly yielded to sense that combination was inevitable. Of course, yesterday it wasn’t.

Oceana made good use of the fatty stuff in a wintery periwinkles and bacon ragout, and Café des Artistes turned a nice PB&J pun into a fun if unoriginal foie and wine reduction dish.

2. Fluke and Halibut Crudo: Esca
Pasternack’s crudo remains the best in the city. Most revisited of the savory stations and for good reason. Likely one of the more talked about offerings as well. Loved the bonus beverage (Spanish sherry) he kept on hand for those inclined to linger a bit by the windows while gazing at New Jersey’s shoreline.

3. Lime Custard, Flame-broiled Meringue and Candied Kumquats: Aureole
Amar Santana and Rachel Lansang have the best palates of any C-CAP alums, and watching the results of their collaboration was a pleasure. This sweet treat was a gourmet’s key lime pie. It also slyly evoked C-CAP of yore when kumquats were everywhere. A top contender for the clean plate club, i.e., no halfsies left on the cocktail tables.

Neighboring Modern’s Panna Cotta with Mangos, pistachio macaroon and fruit gelée was gloriously overambitious—Victorian trifle in a cocktail glass—but offered some beautiful color and bracing citrus that cut through some of the fat overload from Teams Foie and Truffle. Worthy of repeated attentions as well.

4. Wild Mushroom and Morel Flan, Truffle Oil, Mushroom Broth: Payard
A surprise winner for Team Truffle. Perhaps the richest dish of the night bite by bite. Tasted more luxurious than anything I’ve eaten in a long time. Long finish of truffle, earthy mushroom and general deliciousness.

5. Braised Lamb, Peas and Wilted Lettuce: Beacon
Waldy Malouf and Carmen Quagliata at Union Square Café were two of the few to take spring preview seriously in theming their selection. Both used peas brilliantly, Quagliata for a light salad and Malouf for a signature savory meat preparation. He’s always a top hitter at this event. Stop by on the way in and he’ll have you at “Hello.”

6. Chestnut Bisque, Fresh Black Truffles and Vin Jaune: Town
John Johnson’s restaurant may intimidate with its hyper-fashionable servers and almost too-beautiful setting, but out of house he offers unpretentious seasonal luxury. Part of Team Truffle, his easy to eat soup lingered on the palate like Payard’s Flan and made me far more willing to brave the full-Windsored waiters on a return visit to Town.

Gotham’s pigeon-broth ravioli offered similar Falstaffian fun. Great to see Portale inventing so effortlessly 20 years in.

7. Black Cherry Ice Cream Float: Olives
Alfred Stephens, another C-CAP hall of famer, brought this top contender from 2006 back to triumph again in 2007. People shamelessly ordered seconds and thirds for phantom dates or openly doubled and tripled down. Layers of flavor, layers of fun in the glass. Sad to know it will be gone by next year, excited to discover what Stephens comes up with next.

8. Beef Cheeks with Endive Salad and Beet Gelée: Aquavit
Marcus Samuelsson always brings a special treat—homemade infused aquavit— which makes the line at his station that much easier to bear. The food was worth a journey as well, especially for those who thought his creativity ended with fish. A colorful rich and complex bite best bookended by liquid refreshment (the shots aren’t full size anyway).

9. Morimoto Fishwich of Fried Cod, White Truffle Garlic Mayo and Cheddar on a Bun
Morimoto shows real humor with this fun spin on a McDonald’s delight. Cheddar was perfect sharp counterpoint to Portugal-worthy cod and punchy aioli. Another top player on Team Truffle. Pedantry-free food.

10. Steak Tartare and Herb Salad: Patroon
A surprise hit and the perfect portion for party eating. I was halfway down the center aisle with tartare well swallowed before I realized how good this plate had been. No fudge factor stunt ingredients, just perfect balance. Fortunately, circling round for seconds was taken as a compliment by the chef. Thirds were greeted with bewildered but generally benign tolerance.

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4 Responses to “Top 10 Tastes at C-CAP Benefit 2007”

  1. Ira B. Says:

    Great list. I disagree with you on foie gras, which I thought a bit too “cutsie” and not really that great. I would also add the soft quail egg ravioli and truffled butter from San Domenico, which I thought was great. Like your site!!!

  2. tigerdog Says:

    Yes, San Domenico’s ravioli was an ungodly devil’s dumpling: lubricious, slithering soup-dumpling like texture plays plus satiety defying richness of dairy fat, ovum and musky truffle. Probably the most lustful and lust-inducing dish of the night. I only omitted it because I failed to share my plate with my date and thought it best not to rub it in.

  3. stewie Says:

    I thought the food in total wasnt as great this year as years past but i must say the best thing i had was the black cherry float; it rocked the house as the best dessert there. Great site!

  4. C-CAP Benefit 2008: A Taster’s Digest « Fat and Happy Food Slut Says:

    […] Fraser’s 2007 foie and Rice Krispy masterpiece, I knew his stars (had two, has  three) were on the rise.  This […]

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