>> Friday, April 13, 2012
This is so not your ordinary cookbook.
And most certainly not your typical cookbook tour.
What other (newly minted!) three-star Michelin chef has toured the country, cooking from his book at fine restaurants around the world?
It is seriously a treat for us Bostonians to be able to sample taste of Daniel Humm's creations from his new cookbook, the Eleven Madison Park Cookbook, a compilation of dishes from his award winning restaurant in New York.
Back in December, for one day only, Daniel Humm took over the kitchen at Menton. Together with a huge team including folks from both Eleven Madison Park and Menton, Humm prepared an unforgettable four-course meal consisting of dishes from his new cookbook.
In anticipation of this event, Menton's general manager Alec Riviero said, "this is probably one of the biggest evenings we are going to have here this year."
Here's our write-up, complete with many, many exclusive peeks inside the kitchen (Yes! Bryan and I had the great honor of sitting at the Chef's Table during this fantastic event!).
What's the Chef's Table?
The Chef's Table is a very special table in a small, cozy room inside the kitchen at Menton. You get upfront views of the kitchen in action. It's fascinating to see all the individual steps that go into such a production.
On this special day, as we walked through the kitchen to the Chef's Table, we observed dozens of people hard at work. Above, you can see Colin Lynch (executive chef at Menton) at left and Daniel Humm at right.
We mingled with glasses of champagne, enjoying fantastic little bites of passed hors d'oeuvres, such as white truffle risotto on spoons (absolutely heavenly!!!), mini housemade crackers topped with salmon and caviar (delicious!), and many others, not all of which I had a chance to try!
We entered the room with the Chef's Table, and continued to be mesmerized by the scene in the kitchen. It's seriously incredible to watch these folks. You really learn to appreciate your food that much more when you see all the effort that goes into it.
Soon, beautiful, hot buttery croissants came our way. I think the bread for the evening came from Menton, and it was excellent.
If you've ever been to Eleven Madison Park, you'd know that Daniel Humm's menus are different from most other menus. The courses are inspired by ingredients, and that's all you see when you get the menu. For a four course, you just choose four "elements", such as "oyster, cauliflower, pork, and lemon." You then proceed to be delightfully surprised, course by course.
The four courses we had that night were similarly named, although they did give us a little extra explanation for the dishes, something that can always be done verbally at Eleven Madison Park if requested.
Chef Humm came into the room after the meal began and greeted us all, introducing us to his tour, his book, and his restaurant. You can see him with Will Guidara, general manager at Eleven Madison Park and also co-author of the cookbook, as well as Barbara Lynch, chef-owner of Menton.
"Way early on when I came to New York we did a charity dinner in NY for Share our Strength and that's how I met Barbara. Right away we clicked."
When we planned the cookbook tour Barbara invited us and for us it was a no-brainer. We are honored to be able to present our book here in Boston."
And then back into the kitchen they went . .
I love this moment that I caught. There was a young (13-year old) apprentice in the kitchen, the son of a good friend of Chef Barbara Lynch. He showed an interest in cooking at a young age and Chef Lynch decided to take him under his wing. He was in the kitchen the entire night. His mom dined at the Chef's Table with us, cheering him on.
You wonder what kind of sage advice Chef Humm is telling the boy . . .
When asked how he chose what courses to cook, Humm said "it’s just our favorite dishes, and all of our dishes are from the book."
Will Guidara further added, "[t]he book is organized seasonally, so where this tour fell we were obviously looking at the second half of the book. And for [Daniel], it’s obviously a chance for him to show the different cities what we’re all about."
Here's the winter menu!
Marinated with Celeriac and Green Apple
2010 Donnhoff Riesling "Estate"
Poached with Bergamot and Celery
2009 Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Blanc
Roasted with Grapes, Almonds, and Curry
2004 Trimbach Pinot Gris "Reserve Personelle"
Putting finishing touches on the last course . . .
Slow-Cooked with Truffles, Butternut Squash, Parsnips, and Cabbage
2009 Rion Vosne-Romanee
You can't tell from the photo, but the preparation of this chicken is really quite impressive. There is a full but thin layer of black truffles stuffed between the chicken and the skin. Can you imagine how labor-intensive that is?
I can't remember the details anymore, but I do remember that every single dish was absolutely phenomenal. Interesting and complex flavor combinations, intriguing textural nuances, and excellent execution of all the dishes - it was all there. This was definitely one of the best meals we'd enjoyed in Boston.
Prepping the beignets.
Beignet with Chocolate and Chestnut Honey
NV Rare Wine Company Madeira "Boston Bual"
This was a lovely surprise and one of my favorite desserts of the evening! Surprise! Yes! It's what you think it is! It's a chocolate bonbon with a black truffle on top. It surprisingly works really really well. I even asked Chef Humm whether this peculiar bonbon was in the cookbook, and he assured me it was.
Really?? But where would I find such gorgeous truffles?
And then, finally, finally, the crazy commotion in the kitchen began to die down.
The last dish had gone out.
They were finally done.
The chefs all celebrated as they breathed a sigh of relief after working under intense pressure for the last four hours.
Chef Humm gathered all the assisting chefs together for a short talk. He commended them on the great work they did today, and he added a bit of advice about the career path in general. It's a tough road, he acknowledged, but he encouraged them to keep at it.
He was kind, humble, charming, and really inspiring.
And then it was time to really celebrate! Beers and pizza magically appeared and multiplied on the table for these ravenous chefs who had been working nonstop for hours!
In some ways it seems like such an odd contrast. After having just prepared and served some of the most sophisticated dishes in the city that night, these famished chefs were digging into boxes of simple, local pizza.
Chef Humm was super friendly and agreed to sign our cookbooks for us (yes, the meal came with an included cookbook! So Bryan and I have TWO!). [And yes, that is Lydia Shire of Scampo and Towne fame in the background].
Thanks for an awesome meal Chef Humm. I can't wait to visit your restaurant again.
I also ran into Barbara Lynch on my out, so I introduced myself and thanked her so much for giving us a chance to enjoy the meal at the Chef's Table.
Most of all, thanks to all the chefs for the hard, hard work they put into making this meal possible. It was fascinating to watch you guys, and I was seriously blown away by the amount of work that it takes to execute such incredible food to such a large group in such a short amount of time.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
354 Congress St.
Boston, MA 02210