Table of Contents
Photography Courtesy of Courtney Caronongan
It was with no small amount of schoolboy giddiness that I traveled to the Dacor showroom at the A & D Building in Manhattan. When I first started writing for Appliances Connection, I was callow with regards to granular details of appliances. I could make my way around a kitchen with quite a bit of proficiency, but I couldn’t have told you about induction cooking or a steam oven. My first assignment was an overview of Dacor’s just-minted Modernist Series. Three years later, with much more knowledge at my disposal, I was excited to finally see the appliances on which I cut my teeth put through their paces at the new Dacor showroom.
A Warm Welcome
We were greeted by the showroom’s manager, Bridgitte Fouche, who would act as hostess for the evening. She first had the stately air of a lady of the manor. After a few minutes of conversation, though, Bridgitte’s personality melted into easygoing hospitality and she was an exemplary brand ambassador. We discussed how Dacor is actually a pretty venerable company based in California. Until recently, brand recognition was limited mostly in the West Coast. In 2016, they were acquired by electronics giant, Samsung.
Bridgitte informed me that Dacor’s pedigree has been the manufacture of luxury, hand-crafted kitchen appliances. They are continuing this tradition with their Heritage Series, but in 2017, they introduced the Modernist Series. It takes the upper-echelon quality appliances consumers have come to expect from Dacor and imbues them with Samsung’s bleeding-edge technology. Having established a convivial rapport, we proceeded to the staging area.
Showroom Impression and a Chef in His Domain
I’d been to the Dacor showroom when they first opened this past January. That was a boisterous party with salespeople everywhere and a frenzy of being dazzled by new appliance features. This was going to be a much more intimate affair. I was able to soak in the atmosphere Dacor is trying to bring into consumers’ homes. The first term that sprang to my mind was, “opulent futurism”.
We found Chef Rian Smolik hard at work prepping for dinner service. Throughout the evening, Chef Rian would exude an exuberant charisma that manifested itself through scintillating conversation even as he was busy cooking. I learned later that he’d only been with Dacor for six months, but he’s a 26 veteran of the kitchen arts. Self-taught, he honed his skills over that time as a corporate team building consultant and a private caterer. The coming repast would evince that a lack of formal training is no disadvantage when one has raw talent.
Chef already had our amuse bouche in the upper compartment of the Modernist 30-inch combi wall oven [Model Number DOC30M977DM]. This portion of the unit is the speed oven that uses a combination of microwave and convection for faster cooking without drying food out. In preparing our appetizer of coconut shrimp, the function that was being used is Dacor’s take of air frying, Healthy Fry. The shrimp was rotating on a turntable while, from 52 vents at the top of the oven, super-heated was blown on the food. This mimics the process of frying, which is essentially employing high, saturated heat for a short amount of time, but without the use of oil. Chef Rian told us that the cooking time using Healthy Fry was only minutes.
He plated the golden morsels with a dipping bowl of some sort of hoisin sauce and motioned us to help ourselves. They had a light crunchiness to them. The main flavor was merely of shrimp without being overwhelmed with the taste of cooking oil. The shaved coconut was nicely toasted which subdued the saccharine sweetness one sometimes encounters in dried coconut. I was just as impressed when I took another piece almost a half-hour later since the shrimp was still crisp and not weighed down by viscous, settled oil as is what tends to happen with fried foods that have been sitting out.
Chef Rian moved on to prepare the main course. He’d butterflied a couple of whole chickens earlier and seasoned them not too generously but also not too parsimoniously with multifarious spices. Bridgitte explained some of the features of the Modernist 30-inch double wall oven [Model Number DOB30M977DM], which chef would be using to make the chicken. She was quick to point out that, though the oven lists a “Steam Assist” feature, this is absolutely not fully a steam oven.
Steam Assist intermittently caresses foods with puffs of steam. When this is used in concert with Four-Part Dual Pure Convection, which engages an air filter, a convection fan, a heating coil, and a baffle, you get quicker and more even cooking while preserving food’s moisture. She also had one of the guests unfamiliar with the oven show how easy it is to use the integrated temperature probe. This was inserted into one of the chickens and would notify us when they had reached ideal doneness. This was achieved in just over a half-hour. As Chef removed the cooked birds and began trimming them, the aroma was intoxicating.
Chef had simultaneously put in a batch of mustard filet mignon in the lower compartment of the Modernist 30-inch combi wall oven [Model Number DOC30M977DM]. These had been marinated in olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and rosemary. Another guest was asked as to how they liked their steaks cooked and they declared their preference for rare. Chef Rian called them up to demonstrate the appliance’s Chef Mode.
This is where a user can use countless preset and downloaded (via wi-fi connection) recipes. Under chef’s guidance, the guest proved how simply one could cook steaks with the press of a few buttons, setting the number of servings and the desired internal temperature (again, monitored by a meat probe). Normally, when I cook steaks, I sear them on the stove first to attain a good Maillard effect and create a seal for the internal juices. We were assured that using Chef Mode, the cooking process began at a temperature well above the preset which created an automatic sear. I was skeptical.
Couscous and Asparagus
Ever the kitchen dervish, chef also started in on the starch and vegetable portions of the meal. He turned his and our attention to the Modernist 48-inch freestanding dual fuel steam range [Model Number [DOP48M96DLM]. This range has a double oven configuration. The larger 4.8 cu ft compartment on the right has the previously discussed Four-Part Dual Pure Convection. However, the left compartment, with a 1.8 cu ft capacity is a true steam oven or, as Dacor terms it, Real Steam.
This means it has modes that continuously cook with extremely hot water vapor. This method of cooking is fantastic for fish and veg, but really shines with grains. It was into this oven that Chef Rian placed a pan of couscous which had previously been immersed in a mixture of water, minced garlic, and olive oil. Similar to Chef Mode, the oven has a Special Steam Cook mode. By simply selecting “Special Steam Cook,” “Guided Steam Cook,” “Grain,” “Couscous,” “Next,” then “Start,” the oven basically does most of the work for you.
Chef then placed a pan of both green and white asparagus sprinkled with Parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper, and drizzled with olive oil into the larger oven and set it to bake assisted with Four-Part Dual Pure Convection. I was quite interested in how this would turn out as white asparagus can be a bit finicky to prepare. Both the couscous and the asparagus were done at almost the same time, 15 minutes later. Chef made some finishing touches by folding toasted pine nuts, diced red peppers, parsley, and lemon juice into the couscous. He also laid out small bowls of blue cheese and caramelized onions (made with the Modernist 36-inch induction cooktop [Model Number DTI36M977BB]) with which we would garnish the filets. After arranging everything buffet style, we were ready to serve ourselves and eat.
It All Comes Together
I began with the portion that instilled a touch of cynicism by taking a bite of the filet mignon. As I mentioned, a guest made the unilateral decision to have these served rare. If I had my druthers, I medium rare. This is especially the case with filet, which is less fatty than, say, a ribeye. My suspicions were partially confirmed. The filet was somewhat tough and, because it rested too long, the internal temperature was less than perfect. Chef Rian was correct, though, that the exterior was nicely seared. Rest assured, though, the remainder of the meal was flawless. Steam assist roast made the meat beautifully succulent while perfectly crisping the skin and infusing the flavor of the spices throughout.
The earthy taste of asparagus was complemented by the umami brought forth by the Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. The consistency of both the green and white asparagus was served well by the Four-Part Dual Pure Convection. The stalks were pliant but retained a satisfying snap. The couscous was steamed to a perfect al dente. Combined with the crunchiness of the toasted pine nuts made for a wonderful mélange of textures. The zest of lemon brought a burst of brightness to every bite. The gestalt of the meal was thoroughly delightful.
After everyone had finished their main course, we were all led to a Modernist 48-inch gas rangetop [Model Number DTT48M976LM]. If you’ll notice, appliances fueled by gas hadn’t been used all evening. Due to zoning laws in Manhattan, gas lines cannot be run into certain establishments. On this rangetop, the griddle is powered by electricity, so it was fair game. I saw a bowl of batter on the counter along with chocolate sauce, Nutella, and an assortment of fruits and nuts. I’m not ashamed to say I blanched a bit and in the next moment, my fears were confirmed.
Bridgitte informed us that we’d be making crepes for dessert. I know I boasted about being adept in the kitchen, but desserts, especially crepes have been my nemesis. With a brief lesson from Chef Rian, everyone was able to produce paper-thin yet fluffy crepes and add the accoutrements they wanted. Of course, I made a hash of the presentation, so the completed creation above was made by my photographer, Courtney, who was a food stylist in a previous life.
The Final Verdict
What I’ve failed to mention thus far is that this was the first demonstration held at the Dacor showroom. As with any initial foray, there was a bit of a haphazard quality to the event. When I’ve been to similar soirees given by other brands, they were tightly scripted and scheduled. The choice to have an audience participation component was a bold one as that can be notoriously unpredictable. In all, though, the evening was pulled through by pleasant company, Bridgittes vivaciously gracious nature, and Chef Rian’s flair in the kitchen. I felt as if I was attending the dress rehearsal of a theater production that will be justifiably lauded once it finds its feet. I eagerly look forward to what’s ahead at the Dacor showroom and with the brand as a whole.