Friday 13 July 2012

New York, New York.......

My new book Irish traditional Cooking was launched in New York over St Patrick's Weekend, a busy few days, lots of interviews with food editors, radio and TV including an early morning appearance on CBS on St Patrick's Day.

In between I was batting for Ireland as ever and spreading the news at every possible opportunity about the artisan renaissance in food production, farm house cheeses and farmers and country markets. Many Irish products are now widely available in the US, including Kerrygold butter, Irish Cheddar cheese, Odlums flour, Barry's tea, Kilbeggan porridge.......

The prestigious Manhattan store Dean and Deluca has increased it's list of Irish products from two in 2011 to eleven in 2012, while I was there I was delighted to see that they were doing a brisk trade in Ballymaloe country relish , Dubliner cheese and Burren smoked salmon. Sarah Grubb was over to promote the launch of Cashel Blue Cheese in the US and Sean Hyde was charming everyone with her irresistible smile and a spoonful of country relish.

The head buyer from Dean and Deluca was high in her praise of Bord Bia and the Market place event they organised for food buyers last year which she insisted was the best she ever attended. However she was quite alarmed to learn that there was a possibility that Ireland was considering doing trials of genetically modified potatoes which if passed would mean the loss of Ireland's GM free status. The perception of Irish produce in the US as in many other countries is of wholesome, clean food they can trust. Why would we want to loose our precious clean green image on which so much depends when there are already several varieties of blight resistant potatoes that could be further developed instead. With GM, if something unexpected goes wrong and there are already numerous examples of unintended consequences with GM crops, it's not a question of product recall, once the 'genie is out of the bottle' there's no going back- you only loose your virginity once!

Well, a girl has to eat and in the midst of it all I fitted in as many delicious breakfast, lunch and dinners as I possibly could, all in the spirit of research. The cutest breakfast place was Buvette, Jody Williams gastroteque in the west village. Delicious orange juice, freshly squeezed there and then. Tiny homemade croissants and pain au chocolat still warm from the oven with a spoonful of clotted cream and strawberry jam, good strong freshly brewed coffee and poached eggs with kale, grilled bread and pecorino. American breakfasts really scare me but Clinton St bakery does a brilliant job with people queuing around the corner for their fluffy pancakes with maple syrup and crispy bacon.

Egg, out in Williamsburg also serves a super delicious breakfast, I particularly loved the biscuit (scone to us) with heritage ham, grits and tomato and chilli jam. A breakfast like that sets you up for the day but when I could manage it I had a bite of lunch as well.

Most memorable was lunch at The Green Table in the Chelsea Market with eight women artisan bakers. We'd just had a tour of Amy's bakery and tasted several of her breads including her famous fennel and sultana. They were up to their eyes making soda breads for St Patrick's Day, Amy's version was particularly rich and delicious with lots of raisins and caraway seeds.

Mary Clever's Green Table closely has been known for its home made pies and sourcing local for over 30 years and now serves 'crop to cup' coffee.

We enjoyed a variety of sharing plates (very NEW YORK right now!) including a selection of devilled eggs which are having their 15 mins of fame once again.

Chicken liver pate served with marmalade, caramelised onion brittle and grilled bread turned out to be very successful if bizarre sounding combination.

Virtually every bakery is expanding at present. Joseph Leonard is a neighbourhood place in the West village, once again the menu is very focused on local seasonal produce and heritage meats from traditional breeds, I had a delicious burger with house made (another magic word) with great fries and tomato and chilli jam.

Most memorable dinners were at Boulod Sud, Daniel Boulod's new venture on West 64th St, vibrant Mediterranean food.

Food trends may come and go but the enduring appeal of Italian is still undiminished. Meatballs are everywhere in New York and I particularly loved Cianos roasted veal meatballs with creamy polenta and truffle pecorino.

Two of the toughest reservations in Manhattan at present are Dutch and Redfarm, the latter doesn't actually take reservations and the night I was there.

There was a three hour wait for a table, fortunately I inveigled a stool at the bar after a mere 20 mins and the Kumamoto oysters with Meyer lemon and yuzu granita were worth the wait alone. People were happy to virtually sit on each others knees to get a table.

Brooklyn is another whole super cool food scene, lots and lots of creative young people and exciting start ups. Apart from restaurants and cafes, there are a growing number of gardens on rooftops, backyard hens and bees and a lot of great graffiti!

It doesn't take long to get out from Manhattan and it's totally worth it plus there are some totally brilliant food businesses of which more anon.