Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Evening with George Mendes of Aldea

Hey there! I'm still here!

I made a new friend this fall, and it turns out that we went to college together. New Friend M invited me to a food-focused alumni event for our college. I didn't even know that our college sponsored these types of events. Essentially, a well-known chef personally provides a four course meal along with a presentation. Most recently it was the grandfather of French cooking in America, Mr. Jacques Pepin. For the evening I attended, it was George Mendes of Aldea, a highly acclaimed New York City restaurant that specializes in Portuguese cuisine.

New Friend M actually knows George Mendes, and I got to say hi before the dinner started. He's a nice guy and very funny. In between courses, George would do a quick demonstration and explanation of each dish.

George Mendes

We got to watch the demonstration on a screen to get a closer look at the cooking. I was pretty impressed that they installed cameras, so we could see what George was doing from above.

Of course, George came over to our table to talk about the first course. He said something to me specifically, and what happens? I freeze! I'm totally tongue-tied! **FACE PALM** I was soo embarassed. If I'm going to do this food blogging thing, I better get used to meeting chefs, huh?

I've never to been to Aldea nor really had Portuguese food before, so I was looking forward to this meal quite a bit. George did say that his food is based on Portuguese cuisine, but he takes it to a new level by adding a modern spin and borrowing techniques from other cooking styles.

Here's what we had for our meal.

Foie Gras Royale
Smooth, and rich while being surprisingly light. It was like having foie gras mousse.

Shrimp "Alhinho"
with pickled beets and a hint of vanilla

This dish is "shrimpy" for lack of a better word. The dish requires cooking the shrimp shells and creating something akin to a stock or shrimp "essence" (I like that word). If you don't like the taste of shrimp, then I'd stay clear of this dish. As a counterpoint to the salty shrimp, there's fresh vanilla bean snuck in there somewhere. Plus, I got a kick out of the paprika filament topping (they're crispy!).

Arroz de Pato (Literal Translation: Duck Rice)
with chorizo, black olives, and duck cracklins

This is a riff on a traditional Portuguese dish. I think this totally works in cold weather when we want something warm and comforting. It tasted like something you would eat at someone's home. This is one of Aldea's most popular dishes. Also who doesn't like duck cracklins?

Chocolate Cinnamon Tart
pear, gingersnap ice cream, orange caramel

All the perfect flavors for the beginning of the holiday season: pear, ginger, and chocolate. Oh my! :) I was a big fan of the ice cream, even if it was already a little melted. The chocolate tart was what you expected, something similar to a brownie with added cinnamon for a spicy finish. Overall, it was a perfectly seasonal end to the meal.

It's been fun getting to know New Friend M, and I'm hoping to feature her on the blog next year. I really enjoyed George Mendes' food, and now I'll need to go to Aldea. Maybe this time I'll see George Mendes and be able to talk to him. :)

If your interest is piqued, here's Aldea's address:

31 West 17th Street
New York, NY

1 comment:

lobster said...

oh fun! I've been wanting to try Aldea for a long time. The dishes look fantastic!


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