I am home from our trip across the country to the James Beard house in NY. An almost surreal week of eating, walking, getting lost, and sleeplessness. Too many things to touch about in one post so I will continue to gather my thoughts and photos in an effort to break the trip up in a few different sections. Melissa and I flew out from Sea Tac airport on Sunday the 9th of October. Our trip in was really uneventful and upon landing we were greeted by what our cab driver said was abnormally hot weather in the mid 90's. With little to no effort on my part we were checked into our hotel room at the Affinia Dumont on 34th and Lexington. It was getting late, and the time change made it feel even later and we were both starving so upon a recommendation from my sister we headed out to find a small pizza shop named Grimmaldis. Originally under the Brooklyn bridge we were not feeling like we were ready to make that trip yet so we found another location and started out on foot. Wearing flip flops. Both proved to be bad ideas. I had always heard about the excessive walking, and had better shoes packed. A few hours later we still had no idea where we were going and I was having an almost impossible time trying to figure out my bearings. Are the streets counting up or down, and why do some have numbers and some have names? We were both getting blisters and after walking by the same buildings more then a few times decided to give up on the cell phone GPS and use the map our concierge had given us. Finally we made it to a small standing room only pizza joint. We patiently waited for a table and were sat within a foot of another couple already enjoying their pizza. No names were taken, barely any English was spoken, and we loved every minute of it. It could be partially due to our famished state at this time but the trek was far worth the prize, and easily one of the best, if not the best pizza I have ever had. Simply ordering "normal" in NY will give you a pizza with a super thin crust, fresh mozzarella, torn basil leaves, and less of a sauce but rather simply crushed tomatoes. Apparently it is the NY original, the same pie we call the margherita in every other part of the country. The cheese was hand pulled on site, and Grimmaldis really sends it over the top pushing what they call the only "coal" fired pie around. Was interested in that, and am going to try to do some research because I just assumed it was charcoal fired, but at some point was led to believe otherwise. We finished our entire pizza, some assorted salamis, and with a touch better idea of where we were going we headed back to the hotel.
Monday morning we we awoke and quickly got going. Every time I sat in my hotel room I felt like I was wasting such a great experience that I immediately got up and figured out what to do next. If I want to sit in a hotel room I will go to Pittsburgh or something, not New York City. Still alone as most of the others in our group were flying at various times on Monday we walked to the Empire State Building on our way to Times Square and Rockefeller center. I was beginning to get the hang of how the city blocks were aligned. Almost a full day later we returned to the hotel and hooked up with a few of the other chefs in the group and decided that a trip to East Harlem was in order. We bought subway passes and rode uptown in hopes of getting a table at a Marcus Samuelson restaurant called "The Red Rooster". Upon arriving it was near 8pm and we were told that the wait would be near an hour. We set out again wandering the Harlem streets recalling all of the things my mother taught me about not wearing my hat backwards, or making eye contact with strange people. It proved to be perfectly fine and we returned for our table right on time and ordered a vast plethora of the menu. The restaurant specializes in American comfort/soul food and it didn't disappoint. Marcus Samuelson (top chef master fame) is Ethiopian by birth, then raised in Stockholm and now lives in NY. So you see touches of all of those things on the menu. Lingonberry jam for example came out with our bread, the Swedish staple that you can find in Ikea stores. Everything that we had was amazing, and we sat outside on the patio watching the Harlem traffic pass us by. It was about 10 pm and a perfect 70 degrees. We found the subway again, and even saw a few huge subway rats, and were able to get home without any issues at all. We quickly discussed our meeting time to venture to the James Beard house for our day before prep, and the much anticipated receiving of the overnighted goods from the restaurant here, to the kitchen there. All in all about 7 boxes were entrusted to the fine people at FedEx containing every piece of equipment and every ounce of product we needed to pull the dinner off. The heaviness of that was doubled by the fact that just a few weeks before another local chef had made this exact journey and 80#'s of frenched lamb racks (about $20/#) had mysteriously not made the journey. A nightmare for him to track down the lamb (his entree course) in a place where you don't know anyone, and are already under pretty serious pressure to pull the rest of your meal off. It was decided that we needed to be awake and dressed, ready to hit the kitchen and in the lobby by 7AM.