Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blossoms to Petals: One fun night of experimenting with flowers

We are going to take a different approach, include more images that accompany the story. If you have been following our flickr account you might have noticed that our pictures are definitely note worthy. We believe that they tell a great story, so here is our attempt to tell you the story of the night not only through words, but through pictures as well.

So as Tamy told us in her last post, we got the incredible inspiration to cook all plates with flowers. Its amazing how common it is to eat flowers. In Mexico its almos a daily staple. Its also incredible to see how many people do not know of the taste potential of a flower. I remember a couple of years ago, walking through a vegetable patch in Colombia, and seeing all the zucchini blossoms being thrown away because the farmers did not even consider this as food. For this dinner we bring you the subtle yet fragrant tastes of the flower
Fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese.
The sauce is a chipotle cream.
The batter that was used was a 1 cup of wine and one cup of flour
The parsley was added for presentation as well as an ode to the Italian dish
The main dish was a saffron risotto with shrimp and calamari with a coconut crème
You can see me prepping the dishes and in the background our 4 guests with smiles on their faces as they discuss the deep intricacies of life... that or just enjoying the wine.
Saffron comes from a beautiful flower and delivers an incredible taste reminiscent of a metallic honey. The mixture of saffron risotto and seafood creates a great balance in texture and flavor.
The dessert was a rosebud infused crème brûlée.
The secret to extracting the flavors of the rose, is to let the cream mixture and rose buds sit for about 30 mintues before cooking.
Guido was officially the first ever to take a doggy bag home. He needed extra points with the wife that night... what better way than with flowers in the risotto.

The night was again a true success. The combination of people created a night full of discussions and insights. The guests included a lingerie company executive (with a bag full of lingerie, we actually got a glimpse), a cousin on his way to begin his MBA, a sister-in-law that just became 100% American, and an Advertising executive and contributor to PSFK.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can we please borrow your brain for just a tiny bit longer?

This post is about dinner #12, but I will actually take you back to Monday night, three days prior to the dinner, the moment that gave birth to its theme: Flowers! It came from my sister in law who over a glass of wine on a Monday night was telling us about her experience as a Colombian who is now living in Mexico City. She was telling us how impressed she was of the amount of flowers used in the Mexican cuisine. Myself, being Mexican, hadn’t noticed but as soon as she said it, it actually made a lot of sense and seeing it in retrospect, I agree and in fact have eaten many, many flowers growing up! And there we had it! The theme for the our upcoming Thursday dinner. But even though the story of how many flowers and flower petals we have ingested in our past is a promising one, there is a bigger story to be told here, and that is the amazing ability this project has had to let people in. This experiment has really been a collective creative process filled with discoveries and surprises that has pushed us all to the limits of our imagination. And when I mean all, I really do mean ALL of us. In the same way my sister in law came up with the theme for dinner, right now, we have my mom creating the Worth Kitchen logo, my best friend Christina planning the future of the Worth Kitchen, Felipe’s cousin coming up with a business plan, friends contributing to dinner development brainstorms, friends who we use as guinea pigs to test new recipes, colleagues who send us recipes we can interpret, and the list goes on. It also has really opened up my relationship with Felipe to all who are very close to us, allowing them to participate, to see first hand our first months as a married couple, to capture those moments that are filled with just about every type of emotion. So I write this with much gratitude not just to previous guests, but to all who have followed us through this journey, opening up new roads for us, showing us some shortcuts, allowing us to see beyond one, two, even three streets down the road. I raise my glass to you all as we continue on this fascinating journey, hoping all of you stay on board!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From a Challenge to a Feast...


Well, we proved after our dinner #11 that it is possible to unite the most picky eaters in one table. To say that this dinner was a challenge is a great understatement. Not that I don't mind the occasional challenge, I actually love them, but this one set the bar high. These were the limitations for the night:
  • gluten free
  • lactose free
  • no shell fish or "anything that touched the ocean"
Now that i see it written up like this, I just realized I cooked my first kosher meal without even knowing it. Not 100% sure it would have been blessed by a rabbi, but nonetheless.

I cannot however, for all that is sacred in this blog, dedicate this post only to the food. It was an amazing dinner, delicious in all ways. But it was also a very special dinner due to the people that joined us. Not only did we have a very fun couple of Argentines (one who works with Tamy) but we also had my sister-in-law and cousin visiting from Mexico and Miami respectively. This would be the first of two consecutive dinner's where we would have family and friends visiting from far away (my sister-in-law will repeat two dinners since she is staying with us for a week). It is always a treat for us to have family join us on our dinners. I think it becomes very obvious for our readers that we are very close with our family, its part of who we are, and I think that translates to the experience.

Ok, so now back to the food! Full of challenges and all, Tamy and I set out to create an amazing dinner. Understanding all the requirements that we had, we set out to create the menu. We obviously struggled due to the fact that gluten, believe it or not, is very hard to avoid. It is in so many things that we eat on a daily basis, it has become a regular staple of our diet. So the menu we created after much contemplation and research (yes some twittering as well, thank you!) was the following:

Theme: Balsamic Vinegar

Appetizer
Goat cheese covered seared beet salad with arugula and pine nuts (for the lactose intolerant we removed the goat cheese of course)

Main Plate
Seared duck breast with balsamic reduction
Ying Yang Quinoa with wild mushrooms and asparagus

Dessert
Originally planned strawberries with balsamic reduction but finished with a Grape/Blueberry sorbet with balsamic reduction, garnished with peach slices

More on the dinner, the grocery shopping and the recipes shortly.

Top ten moments from our first ten dinners at Worth Kitchen



While this list could go on and on, since the first 10 dinners really signified the launch of what is now becoming an extraordinary project, we decided to stick to the 10 most memorable moments. It was hard to narrow down, but here they are!

10. Two of our guests meeting and finding out they are about to become next door neighbors

9. Mireia’s toast to our new project during the very first Worth Kitchen dinner

8. Finding out one of our guests worked at the same building as mine

7. Finding out two hours before a Thursday dinner, that we had invited two guests who had just a tiny bit of conflict between them

6. Seeing with my very own eyes, a Philipino dancing even better than a Colombian and a Cuban

5. Finding out there is such a thing as a closeted vegetarian

4. Patron makes a great dinner guest

3. Felipe’s toast to his parents

2. Showing my dad our new NY apartment for the first time, and doing that over a Thursdays at Worth dinner

1. Establishing what is now known amongst our guests as the Thursdays at Worth Street, “the morning after”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dr. Atkins Came Knocking at Our Door


For any of you that followed the Atkins diet fad some 6 years ago, diner #10 was your night!
There was meat in every plate, from appetizer though to dessert. Well, for this special night we had a two Argentine couples join us, so what better moment to try to recreate their national food. The night was one full of delicious food and even better companionship.

The meats came from the amazing butcher store in Chelsea Market, Dickson's Farmhouse. We purchased 5 different types of meat:
  • Palmillo
  • Picanha
  • Short Ribs
  • Pork fillet
  • House smoked bacon
The menu was the following:
Appetizer
Chipotle pulled pork and palomillo sopes

Main Plate
Three meats (palomillo, picanha, short ribs)
Three sauces (chimuchurri, bearnaise, balsamic reduction)

Dessert
Chocolate covered bacon with whipped cream

The Recipes:

Chipotle pork and steak sopes
1 1/2 cups of masa harina
2 cups of vegetable oil
1 cup of water
1 pork filet
1 steak (palomillo or skirt)
1 chipotle pepper with adobe sauce
1/2 cup of refried beans
1/2 cup of chopped lettuce
1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup of grated cheese (in this instance we used an aged ricotta and a provolone)

Marinate the pork in the chipotle pepper and sauce before beginning. Let sit for at least an hour.
For the torillas, mix the masa harina and the water until you have a nice batter. With your hands roll small balls about 2 inches in diameter and begin cooking in pan for about 1 minute on each side. Remove from pan and flatten with your hand. Begin pinching the sides so you make a small container (see pictures. and here is an example using characters \___/). Fry in preheated veggie oil for about 2 minutes until crispy and golden.
Grill the meats with sea salt. Once cooked, pull meats apart.
When serving, take on tortilla shell, place a layer of refried beans, then meat, lettuce, tomatoes and grated cheese.

Three Grilled Meats & Three Sauces
1 Palomillo steak
1 Picanha (Brazilian cut)
6 Short ribs

Very much in traditional Argentine manor, I believe that the best part of the meat is the taste... the all natural juicy and sometimes fatty taste. You can marinate it to add a little bit of contrast in the taste, it might add to the flavor... but my opinion, the best addition to any meat is sea salt and only sea salt.
Start with the palomillo, very similar to the skirt steak, a long thin steak. Very tasty especially due to the thin layer of fat on the bottom. I prefer to grill this steak, about 7 minutes on each side on medium high heat. There are various ways to know when the meat is ready, the tell tell sign is when the top starts to bleed, its exactly medium.
The Picanha is a bit different. It is a very thick cut, known for having a round layer of fat on one side. I seared it on all sides with about 3 tablespoons of butter, 1 mintue on each side. With the oven preheated at 400°, place the pan directly in the over for abou 10 mintues.
The short ribs are very easy. since they are so thin, just place them on your grill and leave them for a nice long time. The ribs are very easy to cook and DELICIOUS!

The three sauces... when I use recipes from other sources, I must give them credit when due:
Balsami Vinegar suace: Reduce any balsamic vinegar sauce to about 1/2 of the quantity, will turn the vinegar into a sweet thick sauce.

Chocolate Covered Bacon Candy
12 strips of bacon
2 tb spoons of honey
4 tb spoons of sugar
4 tb spoons of bittersweet chocolate
1 cup of heavy cream
2 tb spoons of confectioners

Cook the bacon strips in a pan until crispy.
Clean the pan of any grease and add the honey, sugar and chocolate until a nice syrup has been created. Place the bacon in the syrup and mix until completely covered.

To create the whip cream, mix the sugar and the heavy cream in a mixing bowl and whisk until cream has reached the correct consistency.

Serve the strips of bacon with a little bit of cream on top.

What do you bring to the table?

Part of the magic around Thursdays at Worth Street is detecting what people bring to the table. I am not talking about food or wine here, I am talking about the emotions, thoughts and feelings people bring over with them, and how these end up playing a crucial role in defining the experience of the night.  And don’t get me wrong, we love taking all of these emotions in! Whether these are feelings of happiness, sadness, tiredness, forgiveness, whether a guest has a grudge to hang on to, a moment of disillusionment or a guest who just wants to seat back and enjoy a hopeful moment, there is a space for all these emotions here at the Worth Kitchen. I am not sure whether its the food, or the wine, or the fact that these happen on a Thursday, a timeframe when people are already loosening up to the weekend, but one doesn’t have to pull very hard for all these different emotions to pop out. Maybe its food therapy, music therapy, wine therapy, or just sharing all of this among friends. Maybe it’s the fact that we keep calling this an experiment, so all the thoughts and emotions people bring with them float around in limbo, not hitting one hundred percent reality, but also not hollow enough to not create some impact, like emotions that get handed out on test tubes. Well, whatever the reason may be, we love it and look forward to that every Thursday. What will our next guests bring to the table? And will these feelings change or be able to turn a corner after passing through our kitchen? Whatever the case may be, every Thursday, we hope that people leave with a full belly and hopefully a happy heart. And at the very least, I hope our guests leave knowing that its better to just lay it all out on the table before calling it a night. Thanks to all of our guests for bringing so much to our table and making each and every one of our Thursdays a truly memorable experience.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's not called a dinner if it doesn't have an experience...



Dinner #9 was a perfect example of those very special times, when the experience gets right up there with the food, both equally delicious. Our guest had brought over spectacular bottles of wines and the night and all its guests caught complete and utter flow. The experience itself was so good, that at a certain point in the night I had forgotten that we still had to eat dinner, and that the very reason why all six of us where there in the first place, was for a delicious dinner. This doesn’t mean that the dinner is only the excuse for connections to happen and for people to get together, it means that the emphasis is split right in the middle, without sacrificing one for the other – both the experience and the food become king. The fun challenge is, how to excel in both, and that is the challenge for all of our Thursday dinners at the Worth kitchen. I have to say that this dinner was one of the nights to come so close to perfection in both aspects, the experience and the food. Best of all is that two of the invitees were our neighbors and great friends of ours. Funny thing is, they called themselves the “default” invitees, there in case we have a last minute cancellation and where they could just come up a couple of floors and join us. Well, I have to say, this was everything but a default dinner and will probably go down in the Worth books as one of the most memorable ones. So here is to the “default” couple, for managing to up the ante on our dinners and always bringing fun and entertainment to the experience!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Some Change Makes for a Little Excitment


So with the pork vs duck fiasco behind us, the pork meat actually made for a delicious dinner. Not only was the diner fantastic, but the guest had an amazing time. I think this was the longest Thursday we have had up to now, 1:30, especially considering that one of the guest had to wake up at 5:30. (as a follow-up to this, he woke up at 8...)

So for the recipes of the night:

Chilled Avocado Soup with Truffled Buttermilk Foam
1 1/2 cup of buttermilk (chilled and well shaken)

3 ripe avocados
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 chopped chipotle chili
1/2 cup of crumpled pan fried panceta
3 table spoons of whit truffle oil
Salt & pepper

In a food processor add the buttermilk and the chopped up avocado and begin to mix. slowly add the heavy cream and the chipotle. As soup begins to thicken, turn power up on the processor and leave mixing for abou 2 minutes to make it smooth.
If you have a espresso machine at home, or if you have a whipper, add about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of additional buttermilk with the truffle oil. Create a foam that will go on top of the soup for additional flavor when served.
Sprinkle the panceta over the soup.

Pork Sirloins with Malbec Reduction Sauce
6 Pork Sirloins
1 bottle of Malbec wine (don't go for the cheap stuff, if you won't drink it don't cook with it)
2 shallots
4 tb spoons of butter

Sauce:
Melt 2 tb spoons of butter in a saucepan and add the chopped shallots. Stir until soft. Add one entire bottle of malbec wine and let reduce for about 20 to 30 minutes over medium heat. The wine will reduce by 3/4.

Pork:
Preheat the oven at 350°. Melt the remaining butter in a large pan over high heat and place the salted pork loins. Sear them for about 1 minute on each side. Place in over for about 10 minutes until well done. Remember pork should never be pink inside, always white.
To serve, cut the pork into inch thick slices and serve on plat in fan style. Then add the wine reduction over the meat. Sprinkle some sauce around the plate for added decoration.



Red Quinoa with Tomato, Avocado & Mozzarella
1 cup of red quinoa
2 chopped avocados
1 halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup of fresh mozzarella chopped in cubes.
2 cups of chicken broth
2 tb of butter
Previous to cooking the quinoa, rinse the quinoa thoroughly with water. Once clean, place quinoa in the pot under medium heat, add some salt and pepper. Begin by adding ¾ of a cup of chicken broth into quinoa and let it absorb the liquid. Continue to add more broth until the quinoa has slowly risen and absorbed all the liquid. Approximately 20 minutes.
Once cooked, add the tomato, avocado and mozzarella and stir in . The heat of the cooked quinoa will absorb the flavors of these ingredients and make a delicious dish.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Live a Little, Trust a Little!



Things changed a little bit on this Thursday, in preparation for dinner #9. A little bit of role reversal if you will. You see, Tamy has been wanting to participate much more in the prepping stage of each diner. This time around I gave her perhaps the most important role… grocery shopping. It might be a personal thing, but I love buying the food I am going to be working with that night. Its like an artist buying the paint he is going to use on the canvas, its personal. But I trust her with my life, so of course I will trust her with our kitchen. So it was agreed one day before that Tamy was going to try a new location to purchase the food, Chelsea Market. Man was she excited.

That Thursday started like any other. Tamy left to work way before me, a little stressed about her workday and also about her latest responsibilities with the groceries. I was writing up in an email all the grocery list so she could print it out at work, then I got ready to leave. While turning off the lights before taking off, I found a very particular item that Tamy had left behind… her cell phone; this was going to be a problem. I have to be honest, I was considering pulling the plug and going on my own to the market. What if one of the important ingredients was no where to be found? How would she get a hold of me and ask what to do? (she doesn’t even know my phone number without her cell phone) The plan for that night was to cook duck breasts in a wine reduction sauce. Duck is not the easiest meat to find… but I had to be strong and have faith in her capacity to know what to buy. And I did, Tamy went that afternoon to Chelsea Market all by her self, with no cell phone, confident that she would get everything we were looking for.

Meanwhile, I was in the apartment getting ready for her arrival to begin cooking. I made sure the apartment was presentable. So I began to prep the kitchen as much as I could before the food arrived. The counter was squeaky clean, my knives were sharp, the food that we already had in the fridge was out, the onions were cut. Tamy was still no where to be found. I picked up the phone to call her, quickly remembering that her phone was in the room next to me in the same place she had left it that morning. 20 minutes before the guest arrived, Tamy triumphantly walks in with three bags of groceries. I knew at once that there was something wrong. She had that nervous face on. A little smirk, her left lip raises a bit, giving a small sense of false security, but since I know her all to well I knew something was off. And then came the confession…

They were out of duck breast. The key ingredient to the diner was gone. I had a feeling that something was going to happen. But instead, the fine people at Dickson’s Farmhouse Meats recommended we use pork sirloins instead. This came after about 30 minutes of a nervous Tamy explaining to them what the plan for the dish was and the importance of the duck breast. Apparently one of the people at the store said this would probably taste even better than duck. And even though I was very doubtful of that comment at the beginning, I was extremely pleased with the results. Tamy did a great job her first time buying the ingredients for a Thursday diner and definitely a special props is needed for the great service at Dickson’s Farmhouse. The duck will have to wait for another night.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Night to Remember... with our First Video!

To all the die hard loyalist and fans of our project... it is with great pleasure and joy that I present to you the latest in our multimedia effort to bring the world into our kitchen. One of the privileges of working within the advertising world is that we work with some very brilliant creative minds., one of those minds decided to create a video about the experience. I give you all the first ever Thrusday at Worth St video brought to you by the very talented Raul Mandru & Michelle Burgess

Thursdays at Worth St. http://twitter.com/worthkitchen from Raul Mandru on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What is Creativity?

This was one of those days. You know the type… struggling to get through the day. In meetings from 9 AM to 5 PM straight non stop. Sometimes wondering what on earth is it that I am really doing here. I know it happens to a lot of you. Sitting through a conference call and all you hear is the voice of Charlie Brown’s teachers “whah whah whah!” People complaining for the sake of complaining; “You’ll ruin the concept.” “We cannot remove that line, it’s the only thing holding that creative idea together!” “This concept is off strategy!” “This strategy is off brand!” “We need the TV spots ready in one week!” This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the ad world has come to. Forget those days when things looked like they did on Mad Men, that show is fiction and so is that life. The glamour of advertising is gone. Creativity through advertising is not necessarily dead but it tinkers on the edge of a long abyss.

Creativity in these modern days has taken on a whole new dimension, or rather it has evolved from what it used to be. The internet gives the inspiring author a place to write and be read, the proliferation of digital cameras allows everyone to become a photographer, and anyone with a computer and a kitchen can become an aspiring chef and restaurateur. And, well, that’s where we come in. Food creation is, in my opinion, still to this day a creative dimension that transforms everyday. People love experiences, and being creative with your food and its presentation is only half of the challenge. The experience in itself needs to be just as creative. You can place a table with 4 chairs around it and call it a restaurant, but the ones that succeed are the ones that have a concept and a solid strategy to them. And to succeed you need to be creative.

Worth Kitchen has been an experiment in creativity for us. Our concept is very straightforward. Through the kitchen and the table we offer you an amazing dinner with completely different people every time in the most intimate of settings, our very own living room. This blog allows us to share the experience with everyone. We have officially set a deadline of 15 dinners to begin working on where we are taking this towards. What is the next level for us? We feel the concept we have built is very fun, and has received a lot of praise. So now, starting dinner #10 tomorrow, we have 6 more dinners to figure out our next steps… and loving every second of it!

Felipe's Rant...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Here is to those who have inspired us

We wanted to take a short commercial break and pay homage to some of the NYC restaurants that have inspired the Worth Kitchen. Whether through their food, the restaurant experience they are able to achieve, the unassuming decoration, the extraordinary service or the creativity achieved through the dishes. Here is to all of you, for making us nostalgic about Latin America and jealous for not coming up with those dishes first, for reminding us that food can be magical and for keeping us guessing what the hell is going on in the kitchen.