THE MELTING POT

By Vikas Khanna

Whether you are a New Yorker, a lover of New York City, a lover of great restaurants and food or a humanitarian, I believe that diversification and creativity makes New York City the dining capital of the world.

New York City’s status as a capital center of art, finance, media, theater, fashion and culinary evolution is so well established that one does not stop to think of how it happened. At its birth New York was a place based on the concept of free thinking which was rewarded economically and that was its encouragement. This attracted people from over the globe to live a free life and this sensibility fostered a culture, and by extension a cuisine.

(Photo courtesy of Shiva Photography)

Restaurants are the greatest form of entertainment in New York. For majority of New Yorkers dining out is not reserved only for special occasions. Generally apartments are small, making cooking and entertaining some what difficult, so New Yorkers use restaurants as their kitchens and dining rooms away from home. They catch up with friends and celebrate any occasions in restaurants, eat solo at restaurant bars, order take-out from restaurants, and even host dinner parties in the restaurant’s private rooms and chef’s tables.

The restaurants of the city are very much dependent on the availability of farmers markets all over the city. Throughout the year New Yorkers can shop for local products from these markets, which are usually set up as stalls in parks and streets. The bounty is quite impressive: myriad vegetables and fruits in their seasonal prime, lobsters, scallops, skate and blue fish from Long Island; fresh and aged artisanal cheeses; free range chicken; maple syrup; different varieties of honeys; homemade jams and jellies-the list is endless.

Every block of the city is a quintessential definition of highly diversified New York food culture. Each area is divided as a small village of its own unique flavors and history. The variety of cuisines that the city provides is almost infinite. Starting from Tribeca, Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, Lower East Side, Meat Packing District, Greenwich Village, East Village, Chelsea, Gramecy Park, Theater District, Lincoln Center, Upper East Side, Harlem, The Bronx, Brooklyn to Queens; New York City will never fail to surprise us with its treasure of cuisines.

I clearly remember the menus from New York City’s acclaimed restaurants like Chanterelle, Montrachet, Daniel and many more were used as a reference in my college in India. The teachers would always remind us that “These are not just the menus from the great city, but an inspiration to the future.” After coming to New York and having the opportunity to work with some of the legends of the trade, I can say with great conviction that the hospitality industry of New York is not only creative and passionate but also very philanthropic. It has a deep impact on giving back to the community in many ways. I organized an event”New York Chefs Cooking for Life”- single handedly with so much support in just 13 days. The answer is in the pride New Yorkers take in saying “ONLY IN NEW YORK.”

SPECIALTY DISH FROM NEW YORK

DELMONICO STEAK

Serves 2

4 ounces (about 1 cup) crumbled blue cheese,

preferably Maytag blue

4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

A few dashes Tabasco

2 rib-eye steaks, preferably dry-aged prime,

each about 14 ounces, with bone

Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

The blue cheese butter that tops the steak can be made well in advance, wrapped in plastic wrap, and kept in the refrigerator or frozen. Use a fork to blend the blue cheese and butter, and then season the mixture with a dash or two of Tabasco. Mold the mixture into a little log, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it. Double or triple this recipe, and you’ll have plenty for another meal.

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Grill, broil or pan-sear the steaks to the desired tenderness. Set the steaks on a platter to rest for 7 minutes. Preheat a broiler. Slice the blue cheese butter into individual medallions of about ½ inch thickness. Place a medallion on each of the steaks and run the steaks under the broiler for about 30 seconds, to melt and lightly brown the topping.

Serve immediately.

A chef by profession, Vikas Khanna’s food is a blend of his traditional Indian Culinary Background and the flavors and history of the highly diversified New York food culture. He is owner/executive chef and consultant to several restaurants and has won acclaim from the prestigious James Beard Foundation.
Vikas is the founder of New York Chef Chefs ’Cooking for Life’, a non profit organization that brings together celebrated chefs of New York City, for tasting events to raise funds for relief efforts around the world. The proceeds of the events benefit organizations such as Save the Children, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, and many more.
Based on his research on the power of the palate, he has created, Vision of Palate, a series of food tasting workshops, designed to educate people with visual disabilities about the complex flavors and aromas of spices and herbs
Through SAKIV (South Asian Kids Infinite Vision), Vikas reaches out to different EYE foundations around South Asia. ’SAKIV- world’ was established in 2005 to host vision expos all around the world. Vikas is an honorary member on the Board of the World Peace Society, New York.
He is the compiler and illustrator of the book,’The Cuisine of Gandhi: Based on the Beliefs of the Legend’, a selection of Gandhi’s writings on food. His forthcoming book ’The Spice Story of India’, is his journal of recipes that are a result of his experiences while working with culinary masters.
Vikas is a graduate of the WelcomGroup School of Hotel and Hospitality Administration, India. He has also studied restaurant management at Cornell University, Food writing at Culinary Institute of America and Food Styling at The New School. He has taught at The New School Culinary Arts, Johnson & Wales, New York University, and Harvard Extension School.

To know more about Vikas Khanna and his work, please visit www.vkhanna.com.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the interviewee(s) and/or authors and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.


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