Archive | 11:27 am

James Beard Foundation Pop-Up: David Chang and Iñaki Aizpitarte

8 May

When I heard that the James Beard Foundation was doing pop-ups in Chelsea Market, and one was featuring David Chang, I was ecstatic.  Luckily, GiltCity was doing a special where you could buy tickets before they formally went on sale, so we jumped on it. 

They are also doing a number of events in Chelsea Market.  It’s only through May 14th, so get going!


When we got to the event, it was decorated beautifully with lights strung on the ceiling.  The earlier seatings were finishing their meals in shifts.



While we waited, we were served some champagne and nuts.


I took the waiting period to walk around the room and photograph some of the fun displays they had.

They had a number of programs listed and a nice Angus cow to show it off.


They had a bar in the back with a number of fun colored jugs. It added to the festive feel of the room.


They had a Julia Child display that was fun.


Especially when you’re a ham like I am…


Since the JBF Pop-Up is a limited time event, for only 27 days, all the staff were wearing shirts where they crossed off the days left.  We were day 22!


Our table was set up beautifully, just waiting for us to eat.


And there was a large chalk board to feature the dining experience.  While David Chang was definitely the draw for us (I have professed my love for him on this blog before), I was excited to try the food of Iñaki Aizpitarte from La Chateaubriand in Paris. 


The menu changes daily, but this was the menu for our meal.  We began with chicharones, which were like fried pork rinds.  (Sorry, forgot to snap a pic!)


Next up was white asparagus with mozzarella, sorrel, finger lime, and parmesan.  This was cold.  Super cold.  So cold you could hardly distinguish the flavors.  It was definitely lacking in punch of flavor and everyone around us was muttering the same thing.  Bummer.


The next dish was kimchi jelly with fresh garbanzo beans, english peas, asparagus, ramps, fava beans, and herbs.  I couldn’t try this one because the kimchi had red peppers, but everyone around me was very dissapointed by this dish.  One diner next to us mentioned that he thinks it would have been okay as an amuse bouche, but not as an “entrée.”  They said it was lacking in flavor and depth and was just a really strange dish to be served by David Chang.  At this point, everyone looked around nervously and you could just feel the “this is IT!?” fear in the air."

(We also felt pretty rushed… the 6:30 seating was still wrapping up when we got our main course… and we sat at 8pm.  Hmmmm)


But then… there came the lamb.  WOW!  This was milk fed lamb on charred eggplant, with some pickled fruit and onions.  What I LOVE LOVE LOVED about this dish was that it was a lovely piece of lamb plus some more exotic cuts, which I’m pretty sure was lamb belly and liver. 

It was also paired with an EXCELLENT wine.  I enjoyed the wines along the way, but this one was awesome.  Montgras Carmenere Reserva, Chile 2008 is now on the short list!


This was perfection.  Absolute perfection.  (Note to self: When in France, go to Chateaubriand. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.)

Every bite was savored and the full table of 20 seemed to say “mmmm” at the same time.


At this point in the meal, the chefs came out and thanked each other.  Unfortunately, there was no mic so we couldn’t really hear what they were saying.  


I did go up to David Chang afterwards and literally thanked him “for being awesome.”  He was very humble and thanked me for being a fan of his food.  It was a love fest.  A David Chang love fest!


We had spotted Jeffrey Steingarten, the usually grumpy judge on Iron Chef, when we first entered (scroll up if you want to play Where’s Waldo and find him in some of the room shots above.)  He came up and spoke with David Chang for a while.


While they were chatting, dessert came out.  I can’t say it sounded all that exciting: Poached rubarb with sweet potato vinegar, sicilian pistachio, goat butter, and goat milk from Momofuku Ko.  This was surprisingly delicious!  I didn’t have great expectations, but the flavors blended marvelously.  Very enjoyable!


We all left this meal a little confused.  We went because we loved David Chang, but the consensus when we spoke to other diners was that the 3 things from him (the chicharones, the kimchi jelly, and the dessert) were just not what we would expect from Chang.  Perhaps he was trying to blend well with the French chef?  I’m just not sure… but the main dish he made (the jelly) just wasn’t very good according to Mike and our fellow diners. 

The lamb, however, almost made this worth every penny.  It’s pretty impressive when one dish can make the meal. 

Either way, it was exciting to be there.  I wish it were a bit more, but I’m glad to have been able to attend.

There are only 4 days left, so go stop by!