Tulum – 4/22/17 – Noma Mexico

I was originally very ambivalent about going to Noma Mexico.  While I loved my visit to Noma, I never had an interest in their other pop-ups and in general pop-ups tend to feel ‘off’ to me.  When we managed to get tickets I thought it was all a bit crazy, more so because of the heat and bugs than the cost and distance.  Yes it was expensive but after seeing how much work went into building this restaurant from scratch I immediately realized that the ticket price was nowhere near expensive enough.  I tried not to worry what would happen if it rained as the restaurant was open to the elements.  Sure enough a few courses into dinner the raindrops started and while some tables were sheltered, we were not.  Before I could even start to wallow in my bad luck, we were whisked into the kitchen.  It turns out that there was a rain contingency plan (I should have known better).  Throughout the kitchen counters folded up to create bar seating and in the end every guest was relocated if not already seated under a roof.  It should have been complete chaos with the FOH staff occupied with moving people and chairs and bringing fresh drinks to keep everyone happy.  Meanwhile as lovely as the ‘dining room’ was, we were just thrilled to suddenly have a first row kitchen table seat.  A similar event would probably throw any other restaurant into a tailspin that they could never recover from, but service seemed to restart in a matter of minutes.  The whole thing was so impressive I talked about it for weeks afterwards.  I can’t even imagine how many times it was rehersed.  Aside from the fantastic hospitality, Noma managed to create a menu that 100% felt like them but with entirely local ingredients.  I suppose this is what an ideal pop-up should be, but is generally impractical to execute without this sort of large scale commitment.  Despite the dozens of bug bites I didn’t want it to be over (and briefly considered how truly crazy it would be to try to go a second time).

pinuela and tamarind

queen clam from the Sea of Cortez

salbute with dried tomatoes and chapulines

cold masa broth with lime and all the flowers of the moment

young coconut and caviar

tropical fruit and chile de arbol

banana ceviche

tortilla ladies

chaya taco with fresh bahia salsa oyster

giant key and mussel michelada

whole grilled pumpkin

tostada with escamoles

just cooked octopus with ‘dzikilpak’

cerdo pelon and fresh milled corn from Yaxunah

dessert of grilled avocado and matey seeds

chocolate from native Jaguar cacao and Mixe chile

NYC – 2/26/17 – ALT x Atoboy

The trio of Laurent Gras, Alex Leonard and Tim Dornon, have been doing a series of pop-up dinners in NYC restaurants and have coined the endeavor ALT based on their first initials.  This particular installment was at Atoboy and the menu titled “La Riviera.” This menu was highs and lows with not much middle ground.  The crudo was beautiful and delicious and the nougat one of my favorite desserts in recent history.  But the steamed grains were bland and as if they were missing a multitude of ingredients and the much of the feet, neck and tripe dish I couldn’t even chew.  This was also one of the few times that I was starving after dinner and actually needed second dinner.

soupe de poisson a la niçoise, rouille a l’oursin – saffron fish soup, sea urchin’s rouille

fish crudo, lemon, olive oil, basil

steamed wheat & barley, fermented vegetables with olives

lamb feet, neck, tripe

almond milk, sea salt

frozen nougat