Friday, October 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Chefs Gastronomic Picnic at The Invisible Dog, Brooklyn

My friend Tricia read about a "gastronomic picnic" at an art space in Brooklyn called The Invisible Dog.  My cousins (who are always up for good food) lived in the neighborhood, so I invited them along.  No one was quite sure what to expect, but costing only $20, it seemed worth checking it.

The event was part of an art exhibit and day of events celebrating French-American collaboration, so we were served a 5-course box lunch created by two chefs - French Chef Mathieu Rostaing Tayard from Le 126 in Lyon, France; and American Chef Brian Leth from Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn.  The Invisible Dog had a garden in back, and it was a great fall day, so we were able to eat in an urban picnic setting.

First course: Fennel Salad with saved fennel, currants, corignola olive oil, sherry, green peppercorns, dill and parmesan.

Second course: Braised squid with walnuts, cauliflower, Munamarra (red pepper) sauce, and peanuts.

Third course: Bacon and sea urchin with sauerkraut and hedgehog mushrooms.

Fourth course: Snail tempura with herb jus, green apple, daikon, ricotta salata

Dessert: Butternut squash and quince puree with vanilla meringue, roasted chestnut powder and lemon zest.
The general consensus was that everyone's favorite dish was the bacon and sea urchin.  The sauerkraut was delicious, and the "hedgehog mushrooms" were intriguing - no one had had mushrooms like that before (they almost seemed like tiny tomatoes).

Redneckhunter was probably the smart one eating his hot dishes first.  The rest of us tried to follow the courses as listed, so by the time we got to Snail Tempura the fried snails were no longer hot.  I like the dish anyway - that was my second favorite.  My only complaint was that if I was a judge on Top Chef, I would have said something about how it was difficult to eat the large pieces of apple radish in a picnic setting - needing to cut it while balancing a little cup on my lap.  Once I did cut everything up, I really liked how all the flavors worked together.  Perhaps my cousins didn't do the same as they didn't like the dish as much as I did.

After lunch, the chefs had a Q&A session, in which we found out that they didn't come up with the menu until Chef Tayard arrived in New York on Thursday (3 days prior).  They had no preconceived ideas, other than Chef Tayard wanted to try to use snails (or maybe it was the urchin, I can't quite remember).  The two shopped together for ingredients at the Union Square Greenmarket.  Chef Leth made the fennel salad and squid.  Chef Tayard made the snails and dessert, and they collaborated together to come up with the bacon sea urchin dish.

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