Trickle-up the­ory

Harper's Bazaar (India) - - BAZAARHOT -

aute cui­sine and com­fort food have long been a case of ‘ne’er the twain shall meet’. Haute cui­sine was some­thing you went out to eat. A chef, Miche­lin stars at­tached, had spent months re­search­ing and ex­per­i­ment­ing, and was serv­ing up dainty, el­e­gant food with all the pomp and cer­e­mony of mak­ing an of­fer­ing at Court. Com­fort food, on the other hand, was the ter­ri­tory of the line cook—bustling about, yelling or­ders in a crowded kitchen, throw­ing things into pans and deep-fry­ers—and was pre­sented with­out fuss. Sud­denly, though, the two have reached an en­tente, a union that’s bring­ing two won­der­ful but to­tally dif­fer­ent worlds to­gether. Burg­ers, fries and milk­shakes, mac ‘n’ cheese, hearty soups and stews, chunky, gooey cook­ies, peanut but­ter and jelly sand­wiches… the pa­per­back novel to the mem­ory-in­duc­ing, tea-soaked Prous­tian cookie is sud­denly the Next Big Thing. Up­scale restau­rants have caught on to the gen­eral de­li­cious­ness of com­fort foods, and are giv­ing clas­sic dishes the lux­ury treat­ment, re­fin­ing old favourites and spark­ing a trend for gourmet com­fort food the world over.

Rashmi Uday Singh, food critic and au­thor of the de­fin­i­tive Good Food Guides, has been track­ing this trend in restau­rants around the world. Its pop­u­lar­ity, she found, can be at­trib­uted to two rea­sons: “First, the over­dose of molec­u­lar gas­tron­omy, foams, et al, when cui­sine started be­com­ing more the­atre and less food, and sec­ond, a need to hark back to com­fort fare is even more un­der­lined in this in­creas­ingly wired and fast-paced world.” In the US, there are sev­eral great places do­ing com­fort food in new and ex­cit­ing ways. In New York, head to Mo­mo­fuku Ko

for their fried chicken din­ner—one whole chicken fried South­ern style, a sec­ond done Korean style, served with mu shu pan­cakes, let­tuce, and sauces to die for—and Red Rooster, Har­lem, for their take on tra­di­tional Amer­i­can com­fort foods (their re­fined dough­nuts are out­stand­ing—try the sweet potato one). In Chicago, a must-try is Ta­ble 52, serv­ing de­li­ciously gussied-up South­ern fare in­clud­ing their take on fried green toma­toes (served with duck ham, Cre­ole ri­cotta, and blue­berry puree); South­ern fried cat­fish

with tasso ham, grits, and Mi­atake mush­rooms; and three-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese (tip: Their Sun­day brunch menu is to die for as well). All the way across to the West Coast, try Mama’s, a San Francisco break­fast and brunch in­sti­tu­tion for per­fectly made eggs, great French toast (the choco­late brioche!), crab cake Bene­dict, and, ev­ery­one’s favourite, their fa­mous take on the sim­ple fried ham and cheese sand­wich, the Monte Cristo—turkey breast, honey-baked ham, ched­dar and gruyere, all bat­tered in egg and grilled, served with Mama’s in­cred­i­ble home­made jam.

Os­car Bal­con, pro­pri­etor of New Delhi’s Artusi Ris­torante e Bar, be­lieves com­fort food is food with a his­tory. “One takes com­fort in know­ing that, while th­ese foods are pre­pared with the most mod­ern meth­ods and the finest gourmet in­gre­di­ents, it is dishes that re­flect what peo­ple in a spe­cific part of the world have eaten for gen­er­a­tions.” For any­one fa­mil­iar with dishes from Italy’s Emilia-Ro­magna re­gion, the food at Artusi is pure, nos­tal­gic in­dul­gence. The pi­ad­ina (a thin Ital­ian flat­bread) is an old street-food favourite, and served at Artusi with cured meats and creamy cheese. Mean­while, pasta—the ul­ti­mate Ital­ian com­fort food—is painstak­ingly hand­made, and of­fered in dishes like ravi­oli stuffed with ri­cotta and served in but­tery sage sauce. Golden oldies like mac ‘n’ cheese and burg­ers, have be­come sta­ples at up­scale

restau­rants serv­ing a mix of western fare. Con­tin­ued on pg 198 Freyan Pa­tel ex­plores the trend that’s tak­ing com­fort food

clas­sics and turn­ing them into dishes fit for a gourmet

Ravi­oli at Artusi

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