Wednesday, May 25, 2011

FreshDirect Delivers NYC Cuisine From Tabla

Six Degrees of Separation may be the classic New York story of not being more than six friends away from another person, but somehow the idea of ordering gourmet food from any place other than the source chef or restaurant could seem, well, unseemly to most New Yorkers.
But that was so Kevin Bacon, so long ago. 
In fact, the award-winning New York-based actor Bacon (ok, resist the food puns) and his talented wife, Kyra Sedgwick, will find ordering from some of Manhattan’s best restaurants and chefs through FreshDirect is the way to connect.

What could be more Gotham than a marriage of convenience and talent?  

Top chef meals are just a few clicks away with Fresh Direct Signature meals.

From skeptic to advocate in four entrees, Celebrity Chef Floyd Cardoz will have you eating out his hand and begging for more. 
New Yorkers who love good food, loved Tabla. 
Shuttering the doors of one of Danny Meyer’s favorite gems in the constellation of his Union Square Hospitality Group was painful for him, as it was for food enthusiasts who embraced the exotic, yet healthy and delicious menu.

Lucky for New Yorkers, ten of Chef Floyd Cardoz’s artisanal culinary creations are available through FreshDirect

Offerings from other hallmark New York restaurant brands including Rosa Mexicano, Artisanal, and Chef Terrance Brennan (French) are available too: 79 meals in total. 
(Couldn’t tip that one more meal to an even 80?!)
All the food is made fresh every day.  There is a video on the FreshDirect web site showing the chefs and kitchen food prep. A FreshDirect Top-Chef of sorts.

Ordering is easy.  Although viewing the full menu from a branded chef or restaurant could be clearer with their names listed directly on the home page.  However, there is a home screen category “Easy Meals Prepared By Our Expert Chefs.  Here, images are labeled “Bakery, Ready to Cook, Heat & Eat, Catering and 4-Minute Meals.” 
Customers choose from these categories to view the offerings from all of the master chefs rather than an intuitive, restaurant-inspired, one page viewing for the selected cuisine. 

Two to three clicks will bring The “Tabla Ten” entrees to the screen.
Chef Cardoz and FreshDirect have curated Tabla’s award-winning menu items, presenting meals that are delicious, easy to prepare, healthy, and sure-fire winners for entertaining – or just for one.  
Fans of Tabla restaurant will be rewarded with its rich, textured spices and surprising bursts of flavor adding a harmonized taste to Cardoz’s distinctive cuisine. 

Especially recommended are the reviewed 4-Minute Meal signature dishes. There are a total of six to choose from.

·      Masala-Spiced Macaroni with Creamy Spinach and Paneer.  (Paneer is a fresh Indian cheese, not unlike a cottage cheese and a staple of South Asian cooking used in savory and sweet dishes.)  This is a hearty, dish that is a blend of pasta, cheese, zucchini, tomatoes, and peas in a yogurt spinach sauce.  It pops with a blend of spices and fresh, crunchy vegetables -- no mushy mix here. The cost is $6.79 or $7.99, depending on delivery location.  
·      Spiced Salmon with Black Quinoa, Tomato Chutney & Cauliflower.  If quinoa is unfamiliar, this nutty, grain-like seed is both delicious and nutritious and is becoming increasingly popular in recipes for good reason. The package notes it is a “tasty South American grain.” This Tabla entrée is an incredibly good meal that one could serve on a platter for an elegant dinner party.  The salmon is cooked perfectly; the quinoa is fluffy and crunchy at the same time.  The tomatoes hold their taste and form even when heated. Likewise for the steamed cauliflower.  The dish is satisfying – and at 500 calories – is shockingly flavorful.  Too good to be good for you! It is $8.49 or $9.99
·      Chicken Tikka Masala with Pea Pilaf rewards with a rich, creamy curry dish that is marinated in yogurt sauce with moist chicken thighs, tomato sauce and Basmati green pea pilaf.  Tikka Masala is often the first dish newbies to Indian food try and it is a good-will ambassador that seduces a food lover to succumb to charm of Indian cuisine, especially as prepared by Chef Cardoz.  It is $7.69
·      Coconut-Basmati Pilaf with Roasted Butternut Squash is really, really good and at $4.24 – too good!  It is described as “creamy pilaf with earthy-sweet cubes of roasted butternut squash with rich coconut milk and long, slender grains of basmati rice.”  It is “More Please.”  And a solid value.
·      The Tabla Banana-Leaf Wrapped Coconut-Cilantro Salmon wrapped in banana leaves is a Ready to Cook, chef-prepped item that is an ingredients-minded standout. The fish is thick, rich, and nicely flavored and indeed “slathered with Chef’s sweet chutney.”  I am not sure how they do this for $7.99. One suggestion here is to include the directions in the packaging.  The cooking instructions are on the FreshDirect website so the home cook can read how to grill, bake or microwave.  But for those who do not readily don the apron, it might be bewildering and a note to check the web site or include the cooking instructions would be a benefit.

Each 4-Minute Meal comes packaged in its own microwaveable dish – which FreshDirect refers to as its pressure cooker.  It is noted with it’s own seal as 100% PBA-Free packaging and Freshness Guaranteed.
The outer packaging is colorful, with the image of the prepared meal, along with directions, ingredients and nutrition facts. 
And there is Chef Floyd Cardoz poised on the corner of the package, smiling, with a quote that he “is incredibly proud to share …the flavor of traditions of India…”   
Dining with Chef Cardoz is sublime.

Unlike being put on hold when calling for take-out delivery, FreshDirect allows the customer to choose the time of delivery. There is nominal delivery charge of $5.79 to $6.79 for a minimum $30 order for the outer boroughs and counties. There is a promotion with no charge for delivery to the Hamptons. 
Tipping is an option. 
The box comes wrapped with great care, and is clean and organized.

Simply enter the zip code and hit GO. To FreshDirect and Chef Floyd Cardoz. 
Tabla cuisine endures.

 James Beard 2011 Award Winner, Dan Kluger, ABC Kitchen, worked for Chef Floyd at Tabla and credits Chef Floyd for helping shape his  palate.  See interview with Restaurant Girl:  and @restaurantgirl, @abckitchen

Monday, May 16, 2011

Inside The James Beard Awards: On The Green Carpet and Avery Fisher Hall Gala Reception

The 2011 James Beard Award held Monday night, May 9th, at the center for the performing Arts in NYC: Lincoln Center.  
Here the best of the American Culinary Artists nominees, their restaurants and ultimately, the winners were honored and celebrated for their Art. 

Lincoln Center, NYC, JBFA at Avery Fisher Hall

Green Carpet at JBFA "Prepped" for Soon-to-Arrive-Celebrity Chefs

The theme for this year’s Award’s, the Ultimate Melting Pot, highlighted the diversity that is America.  And New York especially.
The unshakable truth is food is the universal lingua franca. 

My seat mates erupted when Outstanding Chef was announced!

Outstanding Chef Jose Andres Accepting Award says America will always embrace people who work hard.  "Food is the most powerful thing we have -- it can change people's lives."

The theme echoed throughout many of the winners’ acceptance speeches as was the thread that America offers unbridled welcome and opportunity; said with elegance by Outstanding Chef winner, José Andrés.  
Not surprisingly, Andres’ minibar restaurant is located in our nation’s capital, Washington DC.

This year also marks the premiere of the James Beard Foundation Scholarship for Immigrants in the Kitchen. 
Susan Ungaro, President, The James Beard Foundation who I followed scampering up the stairs to the Hall while a guard called after her for her ticket.  Not unlike Cinderella racing the clock, she called back, “I’m the president!” 
The floor above was laden with the Gala Reception’s food tables, glittering and expectantly waiting for the more than 2,000 guests.  
She stopped and kindly helped this reporter navigate the myriad entries and exits to locate my door before her stage moment. 
The program noted her nod to the rich place immigration holds for the restaurant industry. “Our country’s wealth of flavors, techniques, ingredients, and chefs has made it a dynamic place to live and, of course, to eat.”
The Food Network ( has provided funding for the scholarship.

Woody Campbell, Chairman, Board of Trustees, The James Beard Foundation announced the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards, saying it is “a program that will recognize visionaries and new leaders in the field of public health, nutrition, sustainability, and other important areas of our food system.”  Winners will be announced in the fall.

The James Beard Foundation has strategically assumed the mantle of its leadership to drive awareness and positive change for these now compelling and more mainstream issues. 
Kudos. It takes guts to produce and promote these themes and leadership in the present political environment. 
In New York City, it might be an understatement to point out the city has always embraced and celebrated diversity.  It is a hallmark of its vibrancy and success. 

It’s no secret that aspiring artists from all over the world come to New York City to build their dreams. 

On the Green Carpet, Chef Thomas Keller said America is the land of opportunity. 
"Food is a world stage and the kitchen is the melting pot." 

Chef Thomas Keller on the Green Carpet & a row seat-mate at the awards!

Chef Thomas Keller wowing the Press with his shoes

Chef Keller's Shoes read "Death" & "Glory" It was All-Glory for him & Per Se restaurant, taking home Outstanding Service Award

Chef Jean-Georges pointed out the global melting pot starts with his marriage.  
His wife is Korean.  
See PBS “Kimchi Chronicles.”  
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichton
He remarked to us on the Green Carpet that he can’t live without chiles nor ginger! 

Later, Chef Jean-George and his team were awarded Best New Restaurant, ABC Kitchen in New York City.   

Chef Jean-Georges graciously accepting Best Restaurant Award, citing Team & Executive chef

ABC Kitchen Chef, Dan Kluger notes he is honored to serve fresh, local ingredients

Chef Dan Kluger all smiles enjoying the post event Gala

Chef Rick Bayless says he studies other global cuisines at the source. 

Chef Rick Bayless On the Green Carpet at JBFA

He explained he and his team will go and live in Mexico, for example, to better understand and interpret the food culture. 
“What’s fabulous about being a chef in America is we can take the terrific cuisines from around the world, learn from them and reinterpret them so that it resonates with the original,” says Bayless.  

Bayless noted he was honored to be among that first wave of chefs who celebrated regional, local cuisines.  When asked by Eat host, Jamie Tiampo,  “What’s the next great cuisine? Bayless replied, “If I knew that, I’d be a rich guy.”  Tiempo didn’t miss a beat, saying, “You ARE a rich guy!” 
Everyone laughed while chef Bayless said, “Hey, I’m still working in the kitchen!”

“Regionality is key here,” he explained a bit more seriously.   
Chef Bayless explained we are discovering new or unexplored cooking this way.

New Orleans' Tory McPhail, Commander's Palace
Chef Tory McPhail, Commander’s Palace, said he was honored to represent a New Orleans cuisine that is the original melting pot or fusion cuisine with African, French, Spanish, German, Creole influences. 
The city has more than 300 additional restaurants than it did pre-Katrina, chef McPhail proudly noted.  The chefs there are influenced by their fresh, local fish brought by the fishermen twice a day and the farmers who bring fresh food to the markets from the local farms.

At the 2011 Gala Reception, The James Beard Foundation recognized the dreams of national culinary artists.
Top awards were given to the best chefs for their creativity, cooking, and commitment to community, their growers, fishermen, and food artisans.
It was also the first time the event was LiveStreamed to audiences.

From the front row inside the Green Carpet to the front row of the awards inside Avery Fisher Hall, following is the inside peek at the chefs and the stage stars that make the James Beard Awards the respected and anticipated food event of the year.

Green Carpet:

Celebrity Chef & Restaurateur Drew Nieporte

Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern kicking up his heels before the big night!

Chef Jacques Pepin: A Classic & JBFA Presenter for Lifetime Achievement 

Chef Guy Savoy L, Chef Bobby Flay on the Green Carpet

Chef Nieporte (L) looks to be proving he has a seat at the JBFA event to Chef Pepin (C) and Chef Savoy!

Best Chef NYC Michael Anthony & his beautiful wife, Mindy.  Chef Anthony is a featured chef in my book, "Homegrown NYC" Chef Anthony did a shout out to his sous chefs

Ahh, Mindy betwitches Chef Savoy on the Green Carpet at JBFA! 

JBFA Co-Host, Chef Ming Tsai, Ginger Restaurant

White House Chef & Gardener in Chief: Sam Kass at JBFA 
Chef Marcus Samuelsson gave new meaning to Chef Whites on the JBFA Green Carpet (whispers were he was wearing Valentino)

Saveur Magazine Editor, James Oseland talks about next big thing in food

Twitter Check:  Chef Tom Colicchio (R) with Food Network's Gail Simmons (C) & Ted Allen

Iron Chef judge & Celebrity Chef Tom Colicchio elegantly manages the press line and ...

Anne Burrell, Food Network all a-glitter on the carpet says food knows no borders.  She says her passion is pasta!

Chefs Burell & Kass compare styles on the Green Carpet at JBFA
and Chef Tom Colicchio as Co-Host

Dr. & Mrs. Allan Stewart. Restaurateur & Iron Chef Judge Donatella Arpaia looks ravishing on the Green Carpet at JBFA & in NY Times feature about their wedding:

Donatella looking equally gorgeous on stage during awards ceremony as presenter

Chef Daniel Boulud shows how to Prep -- for a Green Carpet Interview at JBFA!

Soon to be named Chef NE, Tony Maws (and very mediagenic!)

Chef Maws, Craigie on Main restaurant accepting award

Chef April Bloomfield, Best Chef NYC Nominee

Celebrity pigs on the Green Carpet!  Note to self to check the Gala menu later!

Eat's Jamie Tiampo conducts one last Green Carpet interview before ceremony  kicks off

New York took home at total of nine awards:

Best New Restaurant: ABC Kitchen (

Outstanding Pastry Chef Award, 
 Angela Pinkerton, Eleven Madison Park (

Outstanding Restaurant Award, 
 Eleven Madison Park  

Restaurateur Danny Meyer & Eleven Madison team accepting award for Outstanding Restaurant.  It is indeed...

Andy Cohen was a presenter. He had the audience smile when he came out asking, "Who is cooking for America tonight?"

Outstanding Service Award
 Per Se, chef/owner: Thomas Keller (

Outstanding Wine Service Award, 
 The Modern, wine director: Belinda Chang (

Gabrielle Hamilton remarks that if you add some topping to Triscuits, you have a signature dish!  Accepts Best Chef in NYC award
Best Chef: New York City, 
Gabrielle Hamilton, Prune ( 

Hamilton's book, Blood, Bones & Butter:  is a best seller - and the restaurant will be impossible to get into now...

Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America: Nick Valenti, chief executive, Patina Restaurant Group, New York City (  

Lifetime Achievement Award, 
Kevin Zraly (

Kevin Zraly came out to accept Lifetime Achievement Award doing pushups

Kevin Zraly, Wine Captain of the World, noted "Restaurant means to restore."  
He thought it no coincidence that there was a justice - a victory of sorts - with Osama Bin Laden's death the night before he received the JB Award. He honored those he worked so closely with who died at Windows on the World in the 2001 attacks. 
He claimed he always to be a teacher not a sommelier.  His classes remain well attended and his books are classic.
Zraly was poignant and hilarious too.  He said he shares the same birthday with Brad Pitt and Keith Richards: December 19th.  
At the conclusion of his acceptance, he rolled a speeded up credit with the list of names of everyone who helped him - and who he claims he ever knew!  Funny.  (And a LOT of people!)

The complete list of awards:
Best New Restaurant 
(presented by Mercedes Benz): ABC Kitchen, New York City; chef/owner: Jean-Georges Vongerichten; owners: Paulette Cole, ABC Home and Phil Suarez.
Outstanding Chef Award, 
José Andrés, minibar, Washington.
Outstanding Pastry Chef Award, 
Angela Pinkerton, Eleven Madison Park, New York City.
Outstanding Restaurant Award, 
Eleven Madison Park, New York City; owner: Danny Meyer.
Outstanding Restaurateur Award, Richard Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Chicago.
Outstanding Service Award, 
Per Se, New York City, chef/owner: Thomas Keller.
Mr. Van Winkle's associate scooted me into a photo with the Award-Winning Distiller. Fun!
Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Award, 
Julian P. Van Winkle III, Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, Louisville, Ky. 
Outstanding Wine Service Award, 
The Modern, New York City; wine director: Belinda Chang.
Rising Star Chef of the Year Award, Gabriel, Rucker, Le Pigeon, Portland, Ore.
Best Chef: Great Lakes (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio)
Alex Young, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (Washington, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia)
Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia.
Best Chef: Midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin)
Isaac Becker, 112 Eatery, Minneapolis.
Best Chef: New York City, 
Gabrielle Hamilton, Prune, New York City.
Best Chef: Northeast (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York — excluding the five boroughs of New York City)
Tony Maws, Craigie On Main, Cambridge, Mass.
Best Chef: Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington State, Wyoming)
Andy Ricker, Pok Pok, Portland, Ore.
Best Chef: Pacific (California, Hawaii)
Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco.
Best Chef: South (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi)
Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon, New Orleans.
Best Chef: Southeast (Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia)
Andrea Reusing, Lantern, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Best Chef: Southwest (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah)
Saipin Chutima, Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas, and Tyson Cole, Uchi, Austin, Tex., (tie).
Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America Inductees; 
Jonathan Gold, writer, LA Weekly, Los Angeles.
Lee Jones, farmer/ owner, Chef’s Garden, Huron, Ohio.
Charles Phan, chef/owner, The Slanted Door, San Francisco.
Frank Stitt, chef/owner, Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, Ala.
Nick Valenti, chief executive, Patina Restaurant Group, New York City.
America’s Classics Awards, Chef Vola’s, Atlantic City, N.J.; owners: Louise Esposito, Michael Esposito, Michael Esposito Jr., Louis Esposito.

The adorable Food(ography) Mo Rocca earlier in the press room, presented the American Classic Award to Crook's Corner
Crook’s Corner, Chapel Hill, N.C.; owner: Gene Hamer.
Food)ography) Mo Rocca Announcing Crook's Corner Classic Award win

Gene Hamer, Crook's Corner (Warren Buffet doppelganger!) & Tarheel's Pride 

Noriega Restaurant and Hotel, Bakersfield, Calif., owners: Linda Elizalde McCoy and Rochelle Ladd.
Le Veau d’Or, New York City; owner: Robert Tréboux.
Watts Tea Shop, Milwaukee; president and chief executive: Sam Watts. (Very cute with Watts grandmother on the video - and couldn't ID the famous rock group who ate at the restaurant! Restaurant is an 80-year family tradition. 
Lifetime Achievement Award, 
Kevin Zraly
Humanitarian of the Year,

Friday night, May 6th, the James Beard Foundation honored the Media Awards.

I have to point out that Brian Halweil -- who I am honored to note wrote the Foreword for my upcoming book, "The Long Island Homegrown Cookbook," was nominated for a James Beard award in the Profile category for his work:  "Joan Gussow, Teacher of Teachers”   (
Who can't help but LOVE  Gussow.  (I will blog about her book soon...) 

Brian is also a senior researcher at Worldwatch Institute and author of "Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket." 
At the same time, Brian is the editor of Edible East End, publisher of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. And works with Lindsay Morris, photographer for Edible East End the Long Island Homegrown book!

A full list of the Award Nominees is here:

The full list of winners is here on the James Beard site:

Food Reception Gala following the Awards Ceremony. The Avery Fisher Hall reception area and the outdoor terrace were buzzing with food & drink loving foodies and celebrity chefs.
After the Awards Ceremony - onto the Gala food reception! 

Chef Emeril at the Gala and...
as Presenter for JBFA 
Food Network's Gail Simmons at the Gala in glamorous one-shoulder dress enjoying tastings with...

You know who & deeeliicious treats!
Foodie-loving guests spill out to Lincoln Center Avery Fisher Hall terrace to enjoy food & drink & friends...
THE best cocktail confection from the experts at Pegu Cocktail Club  

Long Island Bedell Cellars Vineyards Richard Olsen-Harbich winemaker, proud to showcase his world-class wines at JBF Gala in Cutchogue, NY

One of the two best food treats at the Gala. This one is Octopus carpaccio.  I know, I know, but simply sublime! prepared by Miami restaurant, Sugarcane

And the food revelry and celebrations continued.  (and long after the beauty and glamour of Lincoln Center was a distant dream ...)

Thank you, Mr. Beard.