The cab driver who picked us up from Le Fooding and San Pellegrino’s Fruitstock at the Rockaways gourmet picnic extravaganza, was non-plussed. “None of this was here ten years ago,” he pointed out. In fact, none of this was here 18 months ago, when Hurricane Sandy ravaged this stretch of coastline. But the Rockaways is bouncing back with a vengeance and this weekend—in addition to the varied food concessions lining the sand at Beach 97‘s pristine boardwalk—comes Le Fooding’s Beach Club concept, complete with guest chefs and an array of tasty offerings (all with an Italian twist, in deference to San Pellegrino’s involvement).
All weekend, stars of the New York food scene will be plying happy patrons with delectable offerings: on Friday, the chefs in residence were Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen, Andrew Field of Rockaway Taco, and Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar.
Coming up with an Italian spin on his specialty was no sweat for ramen guru Ivan Orkin (of the Japanese noodle mecca Ivan Ramen). He already uses plenty of roast tomatoes in his shops in Tokyo, so brought that into the mix here as well—for a summery chilled lemon shio dashi ramen garnished with the juicy red fruits. “They got a lot of umami,” explains Ivan. “I’m a chef so rather than using MSG, it’s fun figuring out what ingredients have umami and how to use them wisely.” The tomatoes topped a base of fish stock (dashi), lemon, garlic, basil, and nutty rye-flecked noodles.
The dish will be appearing this Monday on the menu of Ivan’s downtown flagship at 25 Clinton St, where other summery offerings include a very spicy cold noodle dish with seafood, plus a variety of salads and pickles. Oh, and there’s “a whole slew of new sake cocktails” popping up.
“I don’t cater to anyone’s taste but my own, and maybe my wife,” says Ivan. “Just ‘cos I don’t think any good chef can, really… I think as far as flavors go, I cook things so they taste good.” Like, really good.
Although the Rockaways is now foodie nirvana, back in the day if you were headed to the beach, the one food destination you’d be slavering to hit was Rockaway Taco. Andrew Field has been slinging delicious antojitos (hello, fish tacos of my dreams) from this beach-shack for quite some time. Today, however, he appreciated the chance to mix things up a little.
Offered the opportunity to use white corn from the Michoacan region of Mexico, Andrew jumped at the chance. “It was really a no-brainer,” he says. “That raw kernel… it’s like…” Lost for words, he grabs some plump kernels for us to munch. For his Le Fooding offering, he’s grinding these heavenly bites into cornmeal crostini sopes: thick patties of fresh masa, which visitors can slather with various salsas and pickles.
Although he’s kept slavishly busy in the summer feeding the hungry hordes, Andrew hopes he can incorporate some of this new approach into a winter venture—perhaps operating out of the Rockaways house he and girlfriend Maribel Araujo (of Caracas Arepas) have just bought. Watch this space.
We rounded out the gluttonous afternoon with a trip to the dessert stall, manned by Momofuku Milk Bar wunderkind Christina Tosi. She and her team have brought two sweet icy offerings to the event: a pudding pop version of the cereal milk phenomenon, which is dense and creamy and encrusted with cornflakes; and a sour cream pudding pop with bursts of grapefruit and lime (in reference to San Pellegrino’s grapefruit flavor—Tosi’s favorite).
“For us, we live in the world of cookies and truffles,” says Tosi, “but when you’re at the beach in your bathing suit you definitely don’t want it to look like you just ate a cookie. So we decided to bring something a bit different.”
Momofuku’s trademark cereal milk was “a happy mistake,” Tosi admits, and evidence of the creative spirit that has led her on even more wild forays in the past (for the record, Heston Blumenthal loved her Thanksgiving “Stuffing” softserve), but for Tosi the misses are as important as the hits. “For me creating is just having that sense of adventure and not caring, and not having that fear of failure,” she says. “You have to believe in it if you want others to believe in it. It might not translate but it’s always worthwhile.”
Meanwhile, in summer, what she really loves is a fairly classic dish: fresh strawberries, macerated in a little sugar, sherry vinegar, and a pinch of kosher salt.
Check out the slideshow below for more photos.