Friday, January 20, 2012

Cotton Candy for Breakfast! David Burke's Fromagerie

I ate cotton candy for breakfast.


Having enjoyed an over-the-top delicious, whimsical luncheon for the second time during the holiday season at chef David Burke’s Garden state restaurant, Fromagerie, there was just a wee bit too much of the happy desserts.  

So the sweet, sparkly, spun sugar confection was coming home with me.   The cotton candy looks just like sweet tutus.  They are eye candy: fun and flirty. Like schoolgirls, we giggle every time the wispy, pastel-colored melt-in-your-mouth magic pirouettes onto the dining table.
And there was no way I was not taking some home.  

Truth is, every one of Chef David’s restaurants I’ve dined at possess his inimitable style and stamped with his unmistakable personality.  
It’s that alchemy of élan, spunk, and theater that makes eating there a remarkable theatrical culinary experience.   

Chef David Burke manages a portfolio of award-winning restaurants and food service enterprises that delight and surprise and elicit more than a fair share of oohs and ohh wonder at the food creations and presentations to bring out the sophisticated gourmand – and the kid – in all of us. (

Fromagerie is chef David’s fairytale, hometown homage restaurant.
It’s a venerable gastronomic icon that adorns a diminutive, size-0 intersection in Rumson. 
Long acknowledged as more of an auberge – fashionably snuggled and operated within its own oasis of a French countryside, Fromagerie, was and remains a culinary transgression – an act of love and respect on chef David’s part, having taken it over in 2006.
He grew up here, established his chef roots before taking flight and becoming one of the culinary world’s most imaginative, creative, entrepreneurs to shine in the culinary constellation.
I know his fizzy, irreverent and hard-working biography intimately; chef David is a special part of my New York Homegrown cookbook.

In addition, I interviewed him when he opened David Burke Kitchen and DB Garden.  I Love that concept: chefs and their gardens!

Townhouse has long been a favorite and classy place to dine and meet friends for cocktails.

The culinary world knows him from Top Chef, The Today Show and his cookbooks, products, cooking techniques and creations. 
Hello, bubble gum whip cream and gourmet cheesecake lollipop tree! pretzel encrusted crab, and restaurants: eight and counting.

The Garden State locals know and love chef David from his early days.  He hasn’t forgotten them either. 
The siren song of the Two Rivers’ beauty and charm continues to seduce other homegrown luminaries including Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Kevin Smith, to name a few. 

The day of our very special holiday luncheon, hosted by my garden design muse and fairy godmother, Maria, joined by my mother.  

We three were surprised and elated to meet David’s father.  

We didn’t know the pedigree of the craftsman hard at work, determined to fix a railing by the front steps.
Truthfully, the drilling buzz was a bit intense for the place and time of day and when we asked if the work could wait, we were met by an apology and later, after the bill floated onto the table by our friendly and professional waiter, we learned of the complimentary cappuccinos, courtesy of chef David’s father: David!   

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree it seems. 
The elder David is charming too.

We were delighted to chat it up a bit with him. 
In turn, he treated us to a respectful and family-fueled pride about chef David’s early foray into cooking.

David the elder’s eyes sparkled and he laughed while telling us of his son’s determined, early efforts to break into the world of cooking.
“He told me he wanted to be a chef,” he sighed.   
“All I could think of was a McDonalds cook and well…“  

We could sense he was fondly retelling a timeworn family tale of an awkward discussion that is now the first chapter in a successful, star-studded career.

We learned it was soon after his aspirational culinary wannabee confession that David the younger, told a perspective employer he could cook.  
That David charm and confidence fueled his earliest ambitions and not surprisingly, he got the job.
But he really needed some fast, hands-on training!  See, he didn’t really yet “know” how to cook. That would come later.
His father told us David asked the nearby restaurant to show him how to cook a steak.  
David is and was a fast trick.  
He inculcated his new-found knowledge of cooking steak to his new job.  

Still laughing at the memory of what is clearly a long-standing family legend, we learn about David taking the steak out of the oven only to have tilted the dish a bit too much -- so that it hit the corner of his head and the steak went flying off, landing on the floor.

Not to be deterred, David recovered his confidence – and the steak. Further he worked hard, attended culinary school and learned from the great European chefs while living and studying there. 

His homegrown and innate talent accelerated David’s fast lane meteoric rise to celebrity chef. His ability to balance culinary creativity and down-to-his-roots, never-forget-where-you-came from humility and common sense is what keeps chef David grounded and motivated.
David’s dad and our table agreed.

Fast forward to our winter luncheon.
Dining at one of David’s restaurants is not unlike going down the rabbit hole. 
Things are not always what they seem to be.

For starters, (or for no “starters!”) there is no menu heading of “Appetizer.”
There is, however, the word JARS taking top billing. 
After twice ordering the JARS, I can confirm what it is. 
JARS is genius.  

JARS are delicious; small old-fashioned mini bottles filled with flavors and textures.
Twice, I ordered the maple syrup ricotta, ginger and autumn squash JAR. 
It’s almost too cute to eat. 
Diners pick it up and look at the creamy, golden brown layers before affirming they can mix it up and spread it on the toast points.  Wow. 

The other JARS offerings are bouillabaisse saffron, rouille and a foie gras, cassis gelee. 
All three are innovative, memorable and a tasty overture to the meal that follows.  Oh, and the amuse bouche was downright delightful too.

At this luncheon, our host Maria suggested we had to try the short rib grilled cheese sandwich.
We were richly rewarded. 
Bite-sized, home-made bread slices embrace finely shredded, robust pork, hugged by caramelized onions and fontina cheese.  

The pretzel-crusted crab is outstanding.

A head-slapping why-didn’t someone-think-of-this sooner favorite.
The salty, crunchy pretzel is a balance to a sweet meaty crab packed “brick” with grilled shrimp that is surrounded by a Lego-log of pretzel sticks coating, kissed with avocado, tomato, frisee and pimenton remoulade.

The Montauk Lobster roll was a winning favorite on both luncheon outings.  Thick, sweet, lobster overflows and oozes into the soft bread roll so that every bite or forkful is full of salty, meaty, fresh lobster salad. 

As an important aside, The Mad Men Lunch of  “Angry Lobster,” Ribeye with two classic martinis has our name on it – but for another day. We did have the pleasure of witnessing two VERY happy women extolling the joys of that particular menu choice on our first luncheon visit.  I love that dining exuberance.

The oysters were crisp and fresh and briny and local: just perfect.

The dessert though, topped it all.

The towering pops and the cotton candy and the toffee confection.  

This is entirely too much fun with food as art and theater for one afternoon. 
Pure indulgence.

Oh, and be sure to stop and admire the Dale Chihuly red glass sculpture art as outsized red-twigged dogwood stalks in garden pots that frame the red canopy doorway.   

If they eyes eat first as the French claim, the entrance, the restaurant design and the food presentation are spot on.



  1. This is an amazing posts - I am devouring all those pics :D
    Awesome blog!

    Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself
    Latest: Healthiest Natural Sugars Muesli Bars

  2. Thank you so very much, Guru Uru! The food at any of @DavidBurke restaurants are sassy and charming and delicious - and very good at styling for the camera! So glad you enjoyed and took the time to write. The welcome mat is out to you to visit Master Chefs & Their Gardens frequently & to subscribe :) I am looking forward to Following you on @GoBakeYourself. How cute. Cheers.