- All the chocolates are hand made daily at her shop: she mixes the chocolates, makes the molds. She adds no sugar to the chocolate
- All the filling recipes are her own creation, (“I never looked at a recipe and I don’t share,” she said. She uses top-quality, local ingredients – herbs and fruits – from Chinatown and NY Greenmarkets.
- The “crack” or “snap” one senses biting into the ultra thin shell is critical
- Good, pure chocolate has its own shine (and not an oil-based sheen)
- Clean finish; no after taste
Thursday, March 24, 2011
American Chocolate Week
March 21 through March 25
Seriously? Isn’t every week chocolate week?
No need to ask any chocolate lover twice for a reason to indulge and celebrate the food of the gods.
Bring on the heavenly, storied, melt-in-your mouth confection.
Aphrodisiac or health food? Who cares!
A Cliff Notes dip into the history of chocolate reminds us chocolate is truly a Native American treat.
The Mayans of Central American cultivated the seeds of the cacao tree. The warring Aztecs conquered tribes and demanded restoration and payment in cocoa. Aztecs believed wisdom and power came from eating cocoa “fruit” and that the tree was stolen from paradise.
The Native Americans, by and large, drank their chocolate thick and unsweetened.
It was bitter by our standards.
But the early Spanish explorers saw the value of the cacao: it was used as monetary exchange and currency among the peoples and nations of American cultures.
It was also shockingly, temptingly, delicious. Heaven and stars in the mouth.
Once the exotic, American chocolate discovery landed in the royal circles and upper crust European gentry of Europe, they couldn’t resist having their cooking staff add sugar to sweeten the chocolate.
Fast forward more than a few centuries and head Downtown to Kee Chocolatier on Thompson and Spring Street in New York’s SoHo or Midtown (inside HSBC) and the center of the universe is yet again where chocolate reigns supreme.
No less authorities than The New York Times hailed Kee’s as “Hands down, the best chocolates in New York. Maybe the World.” And Martha Stewart reported: “One taste and you’ll be over the moon.” Zagats perennially votes Kee the best chocolatier in New York.
Proprietor and chocolatier goddess, Kee Ling Tong, presides over her chocolate kingdom, albeit small at 350 square feet, she is not unlike the early Aztecs with regard to a dedication to purity.
The shop is simple and unadorned. No pretense.
There are just two glass cases.
One is filled like a Cartier jewel box, tiered with the variety of balled and intricate-shaped bon bons; nestled in carefully stacked Collections.
The other is a flat-topped case showcasing the petite, colorful macaroons, with chocolate-dipped fruit such as apple and orange and lemon peels, along with macadamia nuts dipped in chocolate.
Subtly, this makes the focus on the chocolates all the more pronounced.
One might think they stepped into a place of transition. And in a matter of speaking, that is not so off the mark.
The chocolates are so in demand, the contents of the cases are replenished at least a dozen times a day.
Constant change. Always fresh.
And the concept of transition and change is also a metaphor for the alchemy Kee orchestrates phasing the chocolate from a pure block to the one of a kind, exquisite chocolate recipes she creates.
Kee inserts her handmade, locally-sourced fillings. After cooling, she hand breaks the molds in order to retain the thin, pure shell that "snaps" when one bites into the chocolate bon bon.
Then the team rolls the outer flavors and herbs:
While enjoying a successful Wall Street career at JP Morgan and Bear Stearns, this native New Yorker was stubbornly determined to follow her passion.
She enrolled in professional training at The French Culinary Institute.
She claims she wasn’t exactly the best student at thinning and making chocolate. Hard to believe! Maybe because she was going to make chocolate in a new, special way all along…
In 2002, upon graduation, she found the space at 80 Thompson Street. “It drew me in” she says.
It served as both retail and production space until she got the space across the hall three years ago where the production is now.
Kee doesn’t have far to go for work. She lives upstairs.
“I can roll out of bed and work my 12-14 hour days.” She jokes.
Here she is with her sales associate: Josie.
Like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, Kee found her calling.
“I like making tiny, pretty, intricate things,” she says, in case staring at the exquisite, mesmerizing confections reflecting through the glass left any doubt.
Key to her distinctive art are a few elements:
Kee has 48 flavors in her eclectic chocolate portfolio, with about 35 in the case at any one time. Four are white chocolate, including Green Tea, Almond, and Pistachio.
Gleefully, one can select from bon bons filled honey, jasmine, ginger and saffron; coated with chile, white and dark sesame; a dark chocolate ganache; Black Rose with dark chocolate truffle with black tea infused with rose petals; Blended Peppercorn with four different peppercorns with dark chocolate ganache; Elderflower – dark chocolate ganache with elderflower and Coconut with dark chocolate truffles coated with toasted coconut.
Kee offers four seasonal fillings, two in the spring: pineapple lychee and mango green and two for the winter: honey kumquat and yuzu.
According to Kee, her best seller is the crème brulee. It sells out early too.
She just added a new flavor: Lotus Flower, a gift from a friend who had traveled to Vietnam. Kee waved her magic wonder wand and next thing you know – a new exotic Kee chocolate creation.
Kee makes 22 flavors of the glamorous macaroons including key lime, shiso, green tea with jasmine, rosewater lychee, kaffir lime and truffle oil.
Looking ahead, she is considering making pate te fois, or jelly-coated fruit with sugar. Another eye candy treat for sure!
In fact, it’s hopeless. Just a taste, renders one under the spell of Kee’s magical chocolate spell.
Kee tempers all her chocolate, makes her molds and “eyeballs” the ingredient measurements for the fillings. There are no exact or precise renderings. It’s all Kee’s artisanal culinary talent.
At the same time, she says it’s all “A learning process” -- from the making of the chocolate to the business management.
Kee is a hands-on, artisanal chocolatier, dedicated to the highest quality hand made chocolate who is front and center for her customers, (“How are the twins?” she asks of a customer”) to her staff, Josie and international clients, (“I’ll do my best” she confirms to a London caller.)
There is no finer example of American Chocolate, than Kee Chocolatier
to see a full listing of the divine, exquisite specialties.
Monday, March 21, 2011
New York Chefs and Restaurants Named to James Beard Foundation’s 2011 Chef and Restaurant Awards Finalist Nominees
Finalists in the James Beard Foundation's 2011 Nominees Announced
This Year’s Theme is: The Ultimate Melting Pot
The Award Show and Gala Announcing Winning Chefs and Restaurants: Monday, May 9th, Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, NY.
Cookbook, Media & Journalism Awards Award Show: Friday, May 6th, Espace Restaurant, New York, NY
New York City hosts the James Beard Foundation Awards 2011 Gala.
There could not be a more divine and appropriate event theme.
Few would disagree that New York City is arguably the penultimate Melting Pot – of people and cuisine.
We all know Gotham is an unparalleled cauldron of class that can serve up the most exciting and delicious culinary compass.
Following is a list of the Big Apple’s James Beard top finalists in the restaurant and chef categories; with the Cookbook, Media and Journalism Award finalists list after that.
The lists of the NYC hosts for both gala events will help New Yorker’s better help the home team navigate the award shows.
So, break out the champagne. Cheers and kudos to our New York Homegrown finalists.
Best New Restaurant NY Finalists:
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen (NYC)
Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi’s Torrisi Italian Specialties (NYC)
Outstanding Pastry Chef Award NY Finalists:
A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries, or breads and who serves as a national standard-bearer for excellence. Candidates must have been pastry chefs or bakers for at least the past 5 years.
Angela Pinkerton, Eleven Madison Park (NYC)
(Should have included Claudia Fleming, North Fork Table and Inn)
Outstanding Restaurant Award Finalists:
A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard-bearer for consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere, and service. Candidates must have been in operation for at least 10 or more consecutive years.
Blue Hill (NYC)
Blue Hill is a remarkable restaurant and Dan Barber is an unsurpassed leader and standard-bearer, influencing our national food agenda and inspiring a new generation of chefs. Dan is the poster child for homegrown, field to table, exciting food. Chef Dan Barber is a featured chef in my upcoming book: Homegrown New York City. I couldn’t be more thriled. I am honored to know him…
Eleven Madison Park (NYC) Love this restaurant!
Oversight Award: Not naming a New York finalist to the Outstanding Chef Award category. Really??!!
Outstanding Restaurateur Award
A working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship. Candidates must have been in the restaurant business for at least 10 years. Candidates must not have been nominated for a James Beard Foundation chef award in the past 10 years.
Bruce Bromberg and Eric Bromberg, Blue Ribbon Restaurants , NYC
Phil Suarez ABC Kitchen, Co., Gigino Trattoria, Gigino Wagner Park, Jean Georges, JoJo, J&G Steakhouse, Market, The Mark Restaurant by Jean Georges, Mercer Kitchen, Perry St, Pipa, Prime Steakhouse, Spice Market, and wd~50 Various Cities
Outstanding Service Award
A restaurant that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service. Candidates must have been in operation for at least the past 5 years.
La Grenouille , NYC Owners: Charles Masson and Gisèle Masson
Per Se NYC Chef/Owner: Thomas Keller
Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Award
A winemaker, brewer, or spirits professional who has had a significant impact on the wine and spirits industry nationwide. Candidates must have been in the profession for at least 5 years.
Paul Grieco , Hearth NYC – LOVE this restaurant. Hearth and Chef Marco will be featured in my Homegrown NYC book
Outstanding Wine Service Award
A restaurant that displays and encourages excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, a knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine. Candidates must have been in operation for at least 5 years.
The Modern NYC Wine Director: Belinda Chang
Rising Star Chef of the Year Award
A chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in years to come.
Christina Tosi , Momofuku, Milk Bar (NYC)
Best Chefs in America
Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Each candidate may be employed by any kind of dining establishment and must have been a working chef for at least the past 5 years. The 3 most recent years must have been spent in the region where the chef is presently working.
Best Chef: New York City (Five Boroughs)
Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern – The best and last word in master chefs is Michael Anthony. Michael is the supreme culinary artist – elegant in his demeanor, management, recipe development, execution, and devotion to local, fresh food. And a pillar of the food community – devoting time and expertise to food programs in local schools. And yes, I could go on. Chef Michael is a featured chef in upcoming Homegrown New York City book.
April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig. LOVE this restaurant. Hope April is featured chef in upcoming Homegrown NYC book.
Wylie Dufresne , wd~50
Gabrielle Hamilton , Prune
Michael White , Marea
Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY STATE, RI, VT)
Gerry Hayden, The North Fork Table & Inn, Southold, NY: Chef Gerry Hayden is a dedicated, passionate field to table, creative culinary genius who is a key player in making the North Fork of Long Island a food destination. His wife Claudia Fleming, pastry chef at North Fork Table & Inn is Chef Gerry’s accomplished and powerful partner. Her book, The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern – is a must have for anyone who is in any way serious or just plain gobsmacked about sweet confections.
Speaking of cookbooks, the James Beard Award Winner Profile Nominees for Cookbook, Media and Journalism Awards include favorites:
The Essential New York Times Cook Book: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser (W.W. Norton & Company) – LOVE this cookbook tome. Amanda and food52 and their real-time help and daily fun, food frolicking is just too good to miss. (see earlier blogs for more complete review)
Writing and Literature
Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg (The Penguin Press): LOVE this book. A must-read.
Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location
Top Chef: Season 7 Host: Padma Lakshmi Network: Bravo Producers: Tom Colicchio, Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, and Dave Serwatka
Barry Estabrook The New York Times Magazine “The Catch”- See the Four Fish
Brian Halweil Edible Manhattan “Joan Gussow, Teacher of Teachers” – Brian Halweil, Editor of Edible East End and Edible Manhattan, and a Project Director, 2011 State of the World, Innovations that Nourish the Planet and Senior Fellow, Worldwatch Institute Board of Directors is the genius, Green Revolution advocate who is more than helping to create awareness and lead the way to ending hunger; promoting sustainability; and implementing a true field and fin to table movement. Brian also wrote the Foreword to the upcoming Homegrown Long Island cookbook.
And one cannot say enough about the inspirational, organic food leader, Joan Gussow. Her new book is Growing Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables. Read what Michael Pollan says about Joan J
For a full list of the James Beard Award Finalist Nominees, go to: http://www.jamesbeard.org/jbf-nominees.pdf
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2011 Shows Agriculture Innovation
Is Key to Reducing Poverty, Stabilizing Climate
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
You can't make this up.
If anyone told me that as I was just about to hit the "Send" button for the final, Author's Edits, that I'd get a call that hold on. My editor said she was instructed that management would like to, needs, to add 10-12 more chefs.
We had completed all the edits, approved the photos and were good to go.
Not so fast, as NBC must've said to Conan.
Of course I will do it. Gladly. Joyfully. I relish the opportunity to meet and get to know even more inspiring chefs from Long Island.
More food experiences? Bring it on!
Maybe I will write a book about writing a book...
With the exception of those who have written a book, I know it's difficult for anyone to get beyond the romance of book writing.
However, it is indeed a business. And I embrace and understand that element.
My only regret in moving the publishing/release date back six to seven months is that the chefs who worked so hard with me to provide their recipes and plant lists and fact check their profiles -- all while they manage their restaurants and culinary art and their relationships with their farmers and fishermen and artisanal food producers - and their customers -- will have to wait...
But as I wrote to them all to inform them of the new direction, "Publishing, like gardening, is a humbling endeavor."
To a chef, they were all supportive and understanding with most offering suggestions for the added chefs. That gracious, expert offer and my own research, yielded a most fabulous list of additional chefs.
As I told my editor, there were about five or six chefs from my original list that didn't make it into the final manuscript because of communications snafus or scheduling.
So I started with them.
Then expanded to new restaurant openings and chef assignments since the time we started the book.
So chef Joe Isidori and chef James Carpenter who may be Long Island master chefs are now in new locales with an energized, field to table menu.
I have already conducted the interviews with the additional chefs and I am very impressed.
Each and every chef has an inspiring, intriguing story to tell. Book readers will find their background and style sparks them to make their delicious, mouth-watering, unique recipes.
Who are the new field to table Long Island chefs for the book?
I could ask you to submit your suggestions... But I will tell you. But do feel free to make a suggestion or two.
In no particular order, here is the list of master farm to table chefs that will be featured in the Long Island Homegrown Cookbook:
1.Robby Beaver, The Frisky Oyster
2. Kevin Penner, 1770 House
3. Deborah Pittorino, Cuvee Bistro & Bar, Greenporter Hotel
4. Tom Schaudel, Coolfish, A Mano
5. Eric Lomando, Kitchen A Bistro
6. James Tchinnis, Swallow
7. Guy Reuge, Mirabelle
8. Rosa Ross, Scrimshaw
9. Joe Isidori, Southfork Kitchen
10.Gretchen Menser, Fresno
11. James Carpenter, Maidstone
Maybe Michael Mandleur, Jamesport Manor Inn or Christian Mir, Stone Creek or Elmer Rubio, Chachama Grill as the last chef candidate...
What do you think?
I am very, very excited to work with this outstanding, brilliant roster of chefs.
Clearly, the book will benefit from their inspired culinary craft.
Some already have cookbooks and restaurant books.
For example, Chef Rosa Ross has two books under her toque:
New Wok Cookbook
365 Ways to Cook Chinese
Chef Tom Schaudel has one:
I will post some teasers and news about the interviews. On deadline now!