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I love Food. Cooking it. Eating it. Experiencing it. As a result, that's what this blog has evolved into: A journal of my gastronomical journeys abroad, as well as my culinary creativity at home. I hope you enjoy what I have to say, and I'd love to hear your comments... Cheers!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Finally, Faustina!

This is the third in my recent trifecta of "A Day in New York" culinary excursions...
My admiration for, and friendship with, Scott Conant has been well-documented in the annals of this blog. Every meal at Scarpetta is a revelation at best, and memorable at worst. And so it was, the other night, that I finally, begrudgingly, left Scarpetta behind, if just for one night on my short stay in Manhattan. The consolation, of course, was that I was not going far, figuratively or literally, en route to Conant's other NYC outpost, Faustina...
The space @ the Cooper Square Hotel is hip and sleek and sexy. The clientele seemed distinctly European...but I digress. I wasn't there to people watch.
I met some old friends for dinner, and we were immediately treated to two items from the "Bread & Olives" portion of the menu (Scott is nothing if not generous). I was ambivalent to the Olives, Warmed & Herbed, but couldn't wait to try the Grilled Ciabatta with a Poached Duck Egg Fonduta (see the bottom of this post for recipe). Both plates arrived very rustic-looking, which shows how Scott accomplishes his vision of "Alta Cucina meets Cucina Rustica," the food philosophy he once explained to me. This is fine dining, but it is decidedly not stuffy. The olive dish was as good as I've ever experienced olives; the delicately crunchy breading and herbs surrounding it a fine balance to the saltiness of the olives themselves. The shining star on the table, however, was undoubtedly the duck egg fonduta. Big hunks of crusty bread, gorgeous grill marks all over. The perfect accomplice to the luscious, cheesy fontina mixture next to it. And once the yolk, immersed in the liquefied cheese, was punctured, all the better. Ironically, this is why Scott calls his flagship Scarpetta -- because he wants his customers to sop up the goodness on the plate (it's an old Italian slang saying) -- and that is exactly what we did, and with brio! I honestly could have had four courses of just that...
Next for me was Oven Roasted Tomatoes with Proscuitto Cotto, and Oil-Cured Olives (so much for not being an olive fan), from his "Antipasti della Fattoria" selections.
I knew I would tear through this small plate, as tomatoes and prosciutto are among my favorite things to cook with and eat, especially together. This style of prosciutto was new for me, though. It had more of the texture of ham, and not quite the smokiness I was used to. It was delicioso, nonetheless.
I then couldn't resist the "Appetizer" offering of Short Ribs, Spaetzle, & Horseradish. This was a surprise offering for me, as I wouldn't associate this with Italian cuisine a la Conant, but hey, give the guy points for an expanding repertoire. I've become a big fan of spaetzle in the past year, and his was moist and scrumptious, as it propped up the tender, medium-rare short rib medallions.
My entree was the Roasted Halibut with Snap Peas, Organic Radish & Truffle. The fish was perfectly cooked and simply seasoned; the snap peas were firm in texture, almost like beans. It was an entree that begged for you partake in every component with each mouthful, and I was happy to oblige.
Scott once again outdid himself by delivering us a gratis dessert, Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta, with Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote & Yogurt Sorbetto. This was the best panna cotta I've ever had, so creamy & light, yet still bursting with flavor and freshness. We added on the Gianduia-Banana Tart, with Chocolate-Caramel Mousse, & Mocha Ice Cream. Sinfully good, yet not overly filling, which is a noticed hallmark of Conant desserts. The gianduia, I learned, is an Italian chocolate hazelnut paste; what us mere mortals would refer to a Nutella. And I would bet my mortgage that ice cream was made in-house (if you've seen Scott question the participants on his "24-hour Restaurant Battle" episodes, you'll know what I mean!)...
After all that food; the plentiful wine (and port), and the great friends on hand, you could understand my penchant for overzealously raving about my time at Faustina. But what I've come to learn about Scott and his food is that he is not satisfied with the status quo. Yes, he will always keep certian favorites on the menu -- why mess with success? But he is always looking for new and exciting things to add, and it's those little surprises, that show up in a subtle yet substantial way, that keep customers like me appreciating his passionate efforts... and keep us coming back again and again.
Is it Scarpetta? No. But Scott never intended it to be.
He's ok with that.
And clearly, so am I...

Duck Egg with Fontina Fonduta and Grilled Ciabatta
Serves 4

For the fonduta
2 oz fontina cheese, semi-soft, not the aged
3 oz milk
1 tsp chopped preserved black truffles
1 tsp truffle oil

1. Cut the fontina in to bite size pieces and place in a blender.
2. Add the truffles and a little salt.
3. Bring the milk to a boil and add to the blender. Puree the mixture until smooth and the cheese is melted.
4. Slowly add the truffle oil to the blender.
5. Adjust seasoning if needed.

For the egg
2 ea duck eggs (4 ea if you don’t want to share)
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch Maldon sea salt

1. Bring the water to a boil and add the vinegar.
2. Poach the duck eggs in the liquid until just set.
3. Transfer the eggs to small bowls and ladle 2 oz of the fontina fonduta over the egg.
4. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the egg and finish with some sea salt

For the bread
1 ea large ciabatta loaf
extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut the ciabatta in to thick slices about 1 inch thick.
2. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.
3. Grill or broil until crispy and slightly charred.

1 comment:

  1. I had the luck of ordering the duck egg fonduta at D.O.C.G. in Las Vegas last week, never heard of Scott Conant or his restaurants.

    I don't usually go back to the same place twice for a meal when on holiday but we had to make an exception as this dish was so nice we couldn't resist going back for more.

    I shall be attempting to recreate this wonderful dish for my friends on New Years eve! I just hope they sell fontina cheese in the UK.