Located on the 8th floor of Macy's, hidden like a priceless gem is the De Gustibus Cooking school. I mean, even some employees of the store did not know it was there and it took me a couple of inquiries to find my way to what would be a wonderful evening, where my friend Malini, The Restaurant Fairy, brought me along, generously sharing the experience with me and Cindy, from the food blog Chubby Chinese Girl.
Created in 1980 by Arlene Feltman Sailhac who was our host, and now owned and run by Salvatore Rizzo, former Director of House Operations and Events at the James Beard Foundation, De Gustibus redefined cooking demonstrations before it started to be popular on TV, making them more fun than starring at a screen: there, you can watch directly the invited Chef(s) make dishes, interact with him/her/them and...taste the dishes! I mean, it is always nice to see people cooking, but tasting their food is even better. I like the setup of the class with its large screens that allow to clearly see the countertop and observe what the Chef is doing.
And the evening was presented by the founder of the school herself, Arlene Feltman Sailhac:
So, that day, the theme was All Star Asian with Chef Hooni Kim from Danji and Hanjan who crafted a menu inspired by Seoul street market. Know that some of these dishes are served at his restaurants.
I appreciated the fact that it was not just about the dishes he was making, Chef Kim talking about his childhood, especially when visiting his family in Korea, as well as other personal details I did not know about him. His food was of course the main topic and we were there for a treat! It started off with homemade tofu with soy perilla vinaigrette.
I admit that I had no idea what perilla was until he showed us some of these Korean leaves and then recognized them as I remember wrapping beef in it when I went to Seoul many years ago. It started well, with the tofu being silky and creamy, fresh from the day of the class (tofu firms up as time passes). And that vinaigrette (made with sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce and perilla leaves) was perfect with it as tofu has a subtle flavor and this gave some depth to the dish.
Next was Korean steak tartare "yook hwe". For the meat, the Chef used beef tenderloin cut in small cubes rather than batons as Koreans usually do. He also used an Asian pear, a quail egg and gochujang that is a Korean sauce made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. The tip he gave us was to season twice the meat as the first time, the seasoning will make its way through the meat. I loved the presentation with the red from the gochujang and the yellow of the yolk of the quail egg giving a nice contrast. It had a nice bite thanks to the pear, some nuttiness coming from pine nuts and a slight kick thanks to the jalapeño that was added to the meat.
After that was one of my favorite dishes of the evening: spicy rice cakes with sausage "ddukboki". This was made with rice cakes that had the form of batons, that he fried to give some crunchiness on the outside and soften them on the inside. The result was an amazing dish with the incredible texture of the rice cakes, a sublime Chinese sausage that paired perfectly with the rice cakes and delicious sauce where the spiciness built up slowly but surely in the back of my throat. Thankfully, he added a bit of creme fraiche on top to counterbalance the heat.
The last dish, before dessert, was the soy poached black cod and daikon. This was a great dish: the fish, black cod, also called sablefish, was literally melting in my mouth and I could have just eaten that soy sauce with a spoon!
Last was dessert: caramel filled Korean pan fried donuts "hotteok". But they were not made by Chef Kim. He preferred delegating that to Diana Kang who has a blog called A Korean Girl Eats.
But such food would not be complete without a perfect wine pairing and we definitely had great wine with these dishes, thanks to Vias Import Ltd. We had:
- Crémant d'Alsace brut from Camille Braun.
- Pacherhof Kerner 2014 (white).
- St Aubin 1er Cru Rouge 2013, Domaine Marc Colin (red from Bourgogne).
I definitely had a good time at De Gustibus Cooking School with Chef Hooni Kim. I like the concept that allows not only to observe a Chef and learn some tricks, but also the interaction and setting that make this a relaxed moment great to be shared with people or even when going alone. The dishes did not seem complicated to replicate (they give you the recipes) and the most difficult part seems to be where to find the ingredients. But for that too Chef Hooni Kim gave some tips: go to H Mart in Korea Town and you will find most of it.
De Gustibus Cooking School is for sure a place to consider and know that they have various classes, each different from one another for a unique experience (did I mention that Mario Batali, Julia Child, Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, and Martha Stewart among many others taught there?).
Enjoy (I did)!
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