Fulgurances Laundromat with Victoria Blamey – New York, NY
So I think I might have had COVID at the tail end of my trip to Peru.
I am vaccinated. I tested negative. I had a nagging, mild cough and was a little gunky for a couple of days, the gunk being atypical of most COVID infections. BUT, my sense of taste and smell is a little messed up, which leads me to think I might have had it. I filled my car and spilled a bit of gas and smelled nothing. I ate a not insignificant amount of wasabi the other day and tasted basically nothing. Meanwhile, other things taste just as they have. Who's to say.
The smell thing I noticed earlier. The taste thing I didn't until it came time to return to New York to eat again, a now-monthly ritual that I probably need to seriously evaluate for my financial health, but gives me such a tremendous boost to my mental health.
Impressed as I was by Victoria Blamey's residency at Stone Barns, I had started following her on Instagram. Her next gig has been the opening resident chef at an outpost of the Paris culinary laboratory Fulgurances, which operates entirely on residency models, with up-and-coming chefs taking turns helming the pass. All my Stone Barns buddies had stopped by to taste Chef Victoria's latest project and were posting about it on Instagram, so I was happy to continue to be a wannabe Stone Barns employee and also see what she was up to at Fulgurances.
In a converted laundromat in the waterfront Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, the NYC branch of Fulgurances is brand spanking new. It looks (and sounds) like many other New York restaurants––compact, quasi-industrial, and noisy. The big draw is the beautiful bar that is literally right in front of the pass, so you get to witness dishes being assembled and the Chef at work expediting all while having conversations with the kitchen staff.
The concept is super easy––one menu, six courses, one wine pairing, tip built in, out the door for about $150. Not too shabby in a city where Hudson Yards denizens drop $1500 at Masa without blinking.
I had the seat right next to the pass. I didn't get to meet Chef Victoria during her residency, so I was happy to say hello and tell her how much I enjoyed the meal, and we shared banter periodically throughout. One of her line cooks situated in front of me was also from North Carolina, which was fun, and I loved watching them all assemble the beautiful dishes right in front of me.
The wine program here focuses on natural wine. I was brought a skin contact white from Italy as a "gift" from the bar, which had a good amount of grip and oxidation, but lots of acidity to get the palate going. Tasty! Most of the bottles weren't brought with the glasses, and the wonderful beverage guy's accent was a thick French, so some of the wines are a bit lost on me. Forgive any fuzziness.
What's more, I seem to have left my brain in North Carolina, because I neglected to take photos of not one but TWO dishes––a full third of the meal. Unheard of. The first course, which was being assembled beautifully in front of my seat at the bar, was a little gem lettuce salad with peas, foraged blueberries, various succulents, sea beans, a creamy fennel, and cilantro flower. Fresh, bursting with flavors of summer, and very tasty. The salad was paired with a gorgeous petillant from the Loire Valley, which was pale pink in color and had some bright strawberry and floral qualities. Petillants are some of my faves these days, made with an old-school method of carbonating the wine that results in a lightly bubbly effervescence and a refreshing, high acid and low alcohol wine. Enjoy this picture of this dish being prepared, since I forgot to snap a photo of the actual thing!
Chef Victoria came to prepare the next dish, and I chatted with her about her residency while she prepped it, and she brought it to me herself after we chatted. Here were tender cooked stalks of bok choy in a macadamia, Brazil nut, and sesame sauce, topped with trout roe and microplaned Brazil nut on top. This was very tasty, but my I-might-have-had-COVID-back-in-Peru palate struck for the first time in the meal, and rather than being delightfully salty and a bit sea-funky, the trout roe tasted very bitter. Bummer! Oh well, still a delicious course, and the skin-contact Gewurztraminer from Alsace was a floral, grippy, and delightful pairing.
I was a bit concerned that my palate was too messed up to properly experience the rest of the food, but the deliciousness of the next course put my fears to rest. A tartare of yellowfin tuna flavored with quinoa, some type of pickled seeds, and squash was served over a very flavorful eggplant emulsion and topped with a sambal tomato broth. So very delicious, and an assurance that I could still taste most things! The dry riesling made in a natural style and grown in clay soil, also from Alsace, was a tasty pairing as well, with a heavier mouthfeel owing to the soil profile that stood up nicely to the very flavorful components of the dish.
Chatting with Victoria earlier in the meal, I had complimented her cholgas secas, or mussels, one of my favorite dishes from her residency at Stone Barns. Well, it seems it was one of her favorites, too, since she imported the same dish, albeit prepared a bit differently, to Fulgurances! Bringing it to me, she says "your favorite!" and describes the inspiration––in the south of Chile, the people have been cooking mussels ("cholgas") over fire pits on the beach for centuries to dehydrate them as a food source. These mussels were steamed, unlike the earthen pit cooking at Stone Barns, but the incredible broth was largely the same, and the mussels over the green garlic purée, in the broth, were so delicious. Atop were cooked and charred leaves of cabbage. The wine, a French chardonnay, wasn't particularly memorable, but that might be because I love this mussel dish SO much.
I had become familiar with the process of nixtamalization at Stone Barns, which is a procedure through which a grain is soaked in an alkaline solution in order to remove a hull or other impurities. I understood why one would do such a thing when making masa for tortillas, tamales, or chips, but wasn't sure why one might nixtamalize something in the context of a different dish––did it add flavor? Was it just to remove impurities? Asking one of the line cooks aside Victoria, she said that it's more of a textural technique––the nixtamalization process makes the grain fuller and "puffier" and removes crunch and grit. The next dish featured nixtamalized corn and barley.
Monkfish was slowly cooked over the fire and served with the nixtamalized corn and barley in a fermented squash sauce. On top were red amaranth leaves cooked in snail vinegar, which compounded the tang from the fermented squash. Of course, I forgot to photograph this dish as well (where was my brain??) so I tried to get a reasonable photo after a few bites, but also snapped a photo at the pass.
The dish was delicious and I loved the texture of the grains! The wine they paired with it was also very interesting––from Portugal, a vihno verde that was about a 50/50 combo of white wine and red wine. Probably the first time I'd had such a thing! It read like a very light, ebullient, and acidic red wine, which worked brilliantly with the tang of the squash and the more dense texture of the monkfish.
It's amazing that a dinner of five savory courses seems so short to me! I just want to taste all the things! But I was definitely filling up, and feeling pretty sleepy after a long week at Camp Melloy, so I was glad to see dessert come out. I didn't write down the dessert components in my notes, but there was a creamy sort of custard on top of a seaweed confection on the bottom, with little bits of kelp on the top. I am living for all the seaweed that is being included in menus these days, and I was thrilled, as always, to have a dessert with some salty elements in it.
It was wonderful to see Chef Victoria continuing to do such great things, and she is at Fulgurances through September, so go for a visit if you are a New Yorker or find yourself in New York City!
As usual, I had a wonderful time eating my way through New York. Keep an eye on the blog for a visit to a restaurant that's been on my list for a while, as well as possibly my favorite Stone Barns residency meal yet. Later, sweet corn season in Iowa, as well as dinner reports in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Doha, and Greece! Lots of cool shit to come!