04/11/13 9:55am
A dish fit for a modern art museum.

A dish fit for a modern art museum.

I am a big fan of monkfish liver, or ankimo, as it’s called at the sushi bar. The season for this marine foie gras is coming to an end. I am especially saddened because recently I had a deliciously over-the-top rendition of monkfish liver, at M. Wells Dinette, a restaurant whose raison d’être is over-the-top deliciousness. If the ascetic Japanese presentation of monkfish liver—in a shallow lake  of ponzu sauce with a bit of green onion on top is a study in restraint then Hugue Dufour’s monkfish liver torchon ($14) is a study in hedonism. Thick rounds of creamy orange monkfish liver sit astride a pancake that’s been fried in duck fat, which sits in a lake of maple syrup. Crowning the whole affair is a tangle of mustard root tempura. It’s the type of dish that seems right at home in a post-modern museum cafeteria. If you get there and it’s not on the menu anymore don’t sweat it too much. There’s sure to be something equally delicious and over the top. I’m still holding out for the foie gras enriched shwarma Dufour once told me he was thinking about making.

M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800

04/01/13 12:04pm
Yuk hoe, steak tartare Korean style.

Yuk hoe, steak tartare Korean style.

As a kid I always wanted to try steak tartare. Even though my father was an adventurous eater he drew the line at raw flesh. No sushi, no steak tartare. It wasn’t until my late thirties that I tried it. Actually it wasn’t steak tartare, it was yuk hoe, a similar Korean dish. San Soo Kap San in Flushing has an excellent version for $17.95. Mix up the ground tenderloin with the accompanying batons of Asian pear and raw egg and dig into this carnivore’s delight.

Steak tartare at M.Wells Dinette.

Steak tartare at M. Wells Dinette.

Only in the past few years have I begun to enjoy classic preparations of steak tartare, largely at the hands of Hugue Dufour. Over the summer I had the privilege of eating some now highly controversial horse meat tartare. It was lean and delicious. Sadly Dufour’s M. Wells Dinette does not serve horse meat. Nonetheless there is excellent steak tartare to be had. Shot through with mustard seeds, and some sort of chewy grain and topped with a poached egg, the latest incarnation is quite nice. I hope the restlessly creative Dufouir keeps it around for a while.

San Soo Kap San Korean Restaurant, 38-13 Union St, Flushing NY 11354 718-445-1165
M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, 718-786-1800

02/18/13 12:09pm


Canadian-Italian surf and turf by way of Long Island City.

“It came to me in a dream, this dish,” Hugue Dufour of  M. Wells Dinette said of his oysters Bolognese ($8). It consists of two oysters topped with a good tablespoon  or more of  Bolognese sauce that have been baked momentarily and then showered with Parmesan. The first time I tried it, I found it rather odd. Perhaps it was because I consumed it immediately after a rich, sweet bowl of oatmeal and foie gras. Or perhaps it was because I accidentally mistook the sea salt that anchored the oysters to the plate for more Parmesan and ate some of it. “Aidan and I were worried someone would do that,” Dufour said. “Figures it was you.”

A few weeks later I tried the dish again this time as a starter. The Bolognese was absolutely wonderful, meaty and rich, but it completely overpowered the oyster. When it comes to oysters I’m a purist. As for Dufour’s Bolognese,  I’d gladly eat two or more tablespoons of it any day of the week.

M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800

01/14/13 8:19am
Oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts  is great way to start the day.

Oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts is great way to start the day.

I suspect coarse-cut oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts is a breakfast nutritionists would call ideal. I say suspect because I don’t talk to many nutritionists. When I do eat oatmeal I take it with a pat of butter and sugar allowing the two to melt together in the center of the bowl before stirring it up. In fact until this past weekend I had never had oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts. And I didn’t know I was ordering it either for what I ordered at M. Wells Dinette was  dish listed on the chalkboard menu as something like foie and oats with maple ($16). There was no mention of the crunchy granola component of this hautemeal on the menu at all.

Breakfast of champions.

Breakfast of champions.

Leave it to Hugue Dufour to cast such a decadent meat as the star of a dish that seems like it could have come from the Moosewood Cookbook. Dried cranberries, blueberries, apricots, and walnuts are right at home with maple and oatmeal, but seem out of place with foie. One spoonful of the rich sweet, fatty concoction dispelled any such concern. In a flash of gastronomic alchemy foie gras became virtuous and oatmeal rose to an unparalleled level of decadence. I forgive the kitchen for sneaking dried fruit in to my breakfast unannounced.

M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800

01/07/13 1:30pm
Today’s lesson: coxcomb and balls.

Today’s lesson: coxcomb and balls.

“You don’t want to know what I ate for lunch,” I said to her with barely contained glee. “You really, really don’t.” “That’s right, I don’t,” she said. “So stop trying to tell me.”

I’d come from lunch at M. Wells Dinette, the quirky Long Island City eatery helmed by Canadian farm boy Hugue Dufour whom she is fond of calling my boyfriend. Truth be told I have a total crush on Dufour and his extreme nose-to-tail comfort food. And there was plenty of it on the menu that afternoon. “What’s coxcomb and balls,” my buddy asked about a $21 main. “It’s cock’s comb and duck balls,” the waiter said offering no further details. “Meatballs?,” I queried.” “Nope, testicles.,” he deadpanned. “I’ve never seen one come out yet,” the waiter said encouraging us to order it. I excused myself to wash my hands leaving my buddy the biologist to consider the menu.

“What’s up with the cock’s comb and balls?” I asked one of the line cooks who was leaving the WC. “Oh you should get it, it’s in a veal stock with mushrooms, and beans under a gigantic dome of puff pastry,” she enthused.

And so we did but first an appetizer of pork tongue. It was decided that the rather phallic sounding main would work best as a midcourse in our offal bonanza. The tongue was followed by veal brain grenoblaise ($13), creamy clouds of cerebellum graced with a lemony sauce, along with a hefty slice of Dufour’s kitchen sink meat pie ($15).


01/04/13 2:00pm

Despite appearances that’s not a glass of stout.

Oysters are one of nature’s perfect foods. Each briny bivalve is a self-contained serving best taken neat the better to enjoy its invigorating oceanic liquor. No sir, no mignonette or Tabasco for me. Perhaps a pint of stout, but certainly nothing on the oyster itself. At first glance the ebony elixir above looks like a wee bit of the black stuff, but it’s not beer. It’s espresso.

Yes, espresso. A single oyster and a single shot of espresso—one the very essence of the sea, the other the very essence of the coffee bean. It’s a combination partly born from taking morning coffee strong with sugar, sea salt, and cream. And partly due to one of my favorite chefs Hugue Dufour of M. Wells Dinette. Back when he was slinging high-falutin hash out of a diner there was a dish of oysters with coffee sabayon. I honestly don’t remember whether if I tried it. But it stuck in my mind.

Too full for dessert after a recent lunch of bone marrow with escargots, rabbit terrine with foie gras,and blue cheese salad my mind returned to the combination. Luckily the classroom-cum restaurant has oysters on hand as they feature in its BibiMWells. Soon I had a set-up before me. Bringing the oyster to my lips and tasting the brine while luxuriating in the aroma of the coffee was simply amazing. Is an oyster shucking barista—an ostricista—too much to ask for?