Having Brunch with A Dream Team of Empire State Chefs

What happens when you assemble eight of the Empire State’s top chefs to prepare an historic brunch? You get to taste what a food and drink powerhouse this great state is.

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“Really, I could have made brunch from what I saw on the side of the Saw Mill Parkway,” said Hudson Valley chef Damon Baehrel, listing sumac, tree bush, cattails and other autumnal Empire State flora he regularly serves at his foraging-forward restaurant.

He was partly joking about the road food, but his “cook from my backyard” philosophy expresses a microcosm of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s TasteNY campaign to get New Yorkers relying more on food and drink from the state.

From the smoked white fish and scrambled egg popovers by Chef Peter Hoffman to the chicken and biscuits from Chef Joe Realmuto, the spread at this historic TasteNY brunch at the New York City Wine and Food Festival was an homage to traditional Gotham fare and in-season ingredients. It also showed just what a food and drink powerhouse this great state is. The Governor’s office asked Edible to invite the chefs to represent all the regions of the state. So, with the help of our sister magazines, Edible Finger Lakes and Edible Hudson Valley, we assembled a veritable dream team of Empire State cooks, from New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley and beyond (see the full list and what they made below). To wash it down, Hazlitt Winery and Bedell Cellars poured white and red, and New York Distilling Company stirred up Dorothy Parker gin gimlets as well as some of its new gin-whiskey hybrid Chief Gowanus, an alluring caramel-colored two-century-old recipe that we sipped neat.

While attendees swooned over Great Performances’s butternut squash bread pudding,  Tom Schaudel’s pumpkin ravioli with Hudson Valley foie gras, and Veraisons Restaurant’s gnocchi with poached pear, bleu cheese and New York maple syrup glaze, the New York State Restaurant Association announced its new Pride of New York pledge, which requires them to boost their use of New York products by at least 10 percent, increase wine, beers, spirits and other locally produced beverages on their drink menus, introduce New York-themed dishes featuring seasonal and local ingredients, communicate this commitment with suppliers, peers and the public, and educate their staff about New York State’s locally gown and made products. Nearly 100 restaurants already signed on including the Union Square Hospitality Group of restaurants (Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, 11 Shake Shack locations), Marc Murphy’s restaurants (Benchmarc, Landmarc, Ditch Plains, Kingside), Tribeca Grill, Chef Michael White’s Altamarea Group, Fatty Crab and Fatty Cue, Salumeria Rosi and il Ristorante Rosi from Chef Cesare Casella, Mission Chinese Food, The Calhoun School and Sardi’s, Cleaver Company and many more.

“Programs like the pledge make the theory of TasteNY work on the ground,” said Joshua Vlasto, the Governor’s chief of staff, who has hosted a veritable round-robin of Downstate business boosting happenings, from Oktoberfest at the Brooklyn Brewery to a special New York-only section of the festival’s popular Grand Tasting, where you might bump into Martha, Bobby and Mario. “These events help build the ‘one New York’ idea that the Governor is committed to.” That is, the notion that hops-hungry beer bars in New York City should be coordinating that demand with hop-growers and beer makers Upstate.

Marc Murphy, the ambassador of the Restaurant Association for the New York City chapter, said he was inspired partly by the Governor’s Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit this past winter, when we was exposed to the state’s wealth of sophisticated producers and had what you might call “a cheeseboard epiphany.” “After the Summit, I challenged my staff to replace the five, long-standing European cheeses on our cheeseboard with all New York cheeses. We thought we’d struggle to find substitutes, but we founds dozens of New York cheeses we’d be proud to use. And now our whole cheeseboard is from New York,” he said to applause. “There is gin in Brooklyn. There is grappa made in Brooklyn. Let’s get local wine and beer and booze, because it’s great and then the stuff doesn’t have to travel so far.” Even better, one eater’s locavore delight is another’s hot import. “We are the center of the universe. So if we do it that means before long they’ll be drinking Brooklyn gin in Italy and China.”

TasteNY Brunch menu at the New York City Wine and Food Festival, October 19

Food Bank of the Southern Tier | Brud Holland: Brunchilada artisan bread spread with goat cheese, filled with scallion cheddar, breakfast sausage and apple & pear slices. Dipped in liqueur egg batter, wrapped in hickory smoked bacon then baked until crispy, served with either maple syrup and/or preserves

Gramercy Tavern | Howard Kalachnikoff: Swiss chard, potato and cheddar frittata with aji dulce pepper jam

Great Performances (Sylvia’s Table) | Liz Neumark: Butternut squash bread pudding with homemade pickles

Jewel | Tom Schaudel: Pumpkin ravioli with Hudson Valley foie gras, apples and sage

Landmarc | Marc Murphy: Farmer’s Fritatta — local eggs, cheese and vegetables; fresh salad with smoked oyster vinaigrette

Nick & Toni’s Cafe | Joe Realmuto: chicken and biscuits

Veraisons Restaurant | Orlando Rodriguez: Lavendar Parisian gnocchi red wine poached pear, bleu cheese and maple glaze

Damon Baehrel: Wild sycamore sap  and Stags Horn sumac brined and native pearwood smoked salmon bacon with wild pickerelweed seed and unripened green strawberry paste

If you are brunching on the East End of Long Island this fall or winter, consider this list from sister magazine Edible East End.

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Brian is the editor at large of Edible East End, Edible Long Island, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. He writes from his home in Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his family tend a home garden and oysters. He is also obsessed with ducks, donuts and dumplings.