Oh what a night! My oldest son, Alex, invited me to a spectacular event Monday evening─an extraordinary Jazz Age wine dinner. (Every once in a while, your children do show appreciation for the stress they put you through in childbirth. Not to mention when they were teenagers!) It was a tribute to both Ain’t Misbehavin’ and the Fats Waller Songbook, and was part of ‘Biodynamic Vibrations’─a series of “Musical Culinary Experiences” at Bouley Test Kitchen on West 21st Street in lower Manhattan.
First, let me tell you a little bit about Chef David Bouley. My daughter, Elise, and I met him several months ago at a press party for the iconic Relais & Châteaux Group. He designed a special meal that included sea scallops that were so delicious, Elise and I kept going back to the prep zone for more. I feared we ate the entire inventory and would therefore leave the rest of the media wondering whatever happened to their next course. (Thankfully, there were many more where those came from!)
Chef Bouley’s history is impressive. He has worked with a host of legendary chefs, including such three-star maestros as Roger Vergé, Paul Bocuse, Joel Robuchon, Gaston Lenôtre, and Frédy Giradet. But most importantly, he has taken the concept of using organic and biodynamic foods and transported diners to new and exciting culinary heights. My husband, the leafy-green-hating Lawyer, would rather starve than eat anything that tastes remotely like escarole. Yet, were he to try any course by Chef Bouley, even if it contained the dreaded kale, he would savor it, I am sure. Chef is a true genius. A superstar!
Back to Monday night. After the signature house drinks, wine, and divine canapés, the audience was treated to the concert by Benny Benack III and Emmet Cohen, two of New York City’s hottest young jazz virtuosos. Not surprisingly, they are frequent headliners at clubs like the Blue Note, Birdland, Mezzrow, Minton’s and Small’s. Benny’s trumpet playing─along with his electric singing─has rightly earned him the reputation as one of the most versatile jazz stars of his generation. Emmett, for his part, a multifaceted American jazz pianist and composer, is also one of our pivotal artistic figures. His hands flew over the keys like Usain Bolt going for the gold. Needless to say, they did not disappoint. They were both, in a word I am borrowing from my six-year-old twin granddaughters, “Awesome!”
After the concert, we sat at candlelit tables around the room and were treated to an exceptional five-course meal. It started with a sublime Organic Connecticut Farm Egg served with Serrano Ham with steamed polenta and artichoke in a coconut garlic broth. This was followed by a New England Bass with a Porcini Flan. Wild Montana Antelope (!) with wine glazed onions, fingerling potato purée and spinach was next. Then came chilled Coconut Soup with a Pineapple Granité and Sorbet of Ten Exotic Fruits. The coda was called 70% Valrhona Chocolate Frivolous─a little chocolate cake that seemed from Valhalla, not just the Rhone Valley, home of this French délice─kissed with Ganaché and Colombian coffee ice cream.
As we left, we were given a goody bag with Benny Benack’s III’s new CD, One of a Kind─which I urge everyone to buy─plus a loaf of Chef Bouley’s signature Tea Cake. I hesitated to bring it home lest The Lawyer get his hands on it. (PS. I did! And he didn’t!)
At the end of the day, I will have memories of the evening for months to come. But, alas, a few regrets as well: 1) Why did my parents ever allow me to stop taking piano lessons when I was a child, and 2) why didn’t I also learn to cook, so my kid’s fondest memories of my cuisine are not those little white boxes on the kitchen counter filled with General Tso’s chicken?
If you want to attend an event at the Bouley kitchen, or try the chef’s masterpieces in one of his restaurants, check out the upcoming schedule and the locations on BouleyEvents.com