Last week, I teased your with my other NYCWFF adventure…. an exceptional night with refined food and memorable company! Did I have you sitting at the edge of your seats all week? Ha! Ha!
I am an Indian by origin, and so my palate always gravitates towards bold and strong flavors with boisterous food-preparations. Indian food can be super spicy, super tart, super sweet and of course super flavorful. But trust me, us Indians love it that way. Try some street food anywhere in India if you get a chance – and you will understand what I mean.
In contrast, I find French cuisine to be primarily delicate, subtle and usually prepared with deft hands. I would say the two cuisines are polar opposites. For that reason, I am always curious to learn more about french cuisine because I sincerely feel that my palate needs training in how to truly appreciate it. And it is something I would genuinely like to accomplish.
So how does one go about understanding what authentic French food should taste like? Trip to Paris is one way – for sure. And the other is to go to the well-renowned French restaurants to get that experience. So naturally, I bought a ticket to a fabulous intimate dinner at Benoit (as part of New York City Wine and Food Festival)! It was a night celebrating French bistros, brasseries and sidewalk cafes- presented by the one and only Alain Ducasse of Benoit, NYC – along with some of his highly esteemed friends and colleagues: Drew Nieporent and Marcus Glocker of Bâtard, Gabriel Stuhlman and Michael Toscano of Montmartre, Lisa Giffen of Maison Premiere and Doug Crowell and Ryan Angulo of French Louie. It was an all out French fest – and I could not be more excited.
Stepping into Benoit made me feel like I was instantly transported to a well-loved bistro in Paris. Chef Alain Ducasse likes it that way. The interior is cozy and classic with some of the most attentive staff and service I have ever experienced. It is most definitely a place I would recommend to friends and family who are seeking an authentic and pleasant French dining experience.
As someone who is still exploring her way through French cuisine and learning as she goes along – I am not qualified to critique such luminaries who were in the kitchen that night. So I won’t. But I will say that it was a delightful meal, clearly prepared and presented with a lot of love, passion, experience and finesse. I felt at home at Benoit. My palate excited. My senses charged. And I appreciated every single morsel of it!
But what made my evening even more unforgettable was being “fortunately” seated with some very interesting people (from the food-industry). I mean, I was sitting directly across the table from the one and only – the legendary – Gael Greene (who was New York magazine’s restaurant critic for over four decades)!!! She has such a rich plethora of life and food experiences. It was pure pleasure to listen to her talk about places she had been and people she had met and food she had eaten. Even as I replay that night in my head- I am rendered speechless and can’t believe my luck (although I think I may have chatted uncontrollably during the meal – from all the nervous excitement) 🙂
My next notable dinner companion that night was the very beautiful Pamela Morgan of Flirting With Flavors. Pamela, a chef in her own right, has studied with Alain Ducasse and Roger Verge. Check out her website – and you are sure to exclaim, “Oh! Wow!”.
As icing on the cake – chef Ryan Angulo’s (from French Louie) wife and mother in law were seated at my table as well …. or shall I say, I was seated at theirs! At this point I’d like to add that Chef Angulo’s dish was my favorite that night… in my humble opinion. It was a Lamb Neck “En Crepinette” and it was simply luxurious!
Sitting next to such notable people ensured that our table got the VIP treatment. At one point some of my dinner companions walked into the kitchen to meet the chefs – and I was invited to join in. I seized an incredible opportunity to meet and get my pictures taken with Chef Ducasse and Drew Nieporent. Priceless!
It was a night of great food and scintillating conversations! It was this foodie’s dream-dining experience! A night to remember.