Photos courtesy of Jacqueline Russell
After being buffeted by the wind and flakes of an unannounced late January snow squall, the lobby of the A&D Building in Manhattan was a welcome respite. Still a bit punch-drunk from the weather I made my way to the Sub-Zero/Wolf/Cove showroom. As I entered the expansive 8,516 square foot space, I was greeted by Esther and Carmen, two of the brand sales consultants who would be acting as docents of sorts before and after the main event. During a brief tour (which I will revisit in another post), they were so effusive it was contagious. My previously dazed state was lifted, girding me for the subsequent Wolf product demonstration.
Allegedly Hors d’Oeuvres
When one thinks of an hors d’oeuvre, one imagines a dainty morsel that teases the appetite before sitting down for the main meal. This is not what we were served. My first selection was an aji chicken empanada. Though not overly large, it was particularly hearty for an appetizer. It was prepared in a Wolf fryer module (FM15TS). The crust was thick and rich yet flaky. The filling was shredded chicken but mixed with aji pepper. I suspect the pepper was roasted because it didn’t have the usual associated spiciness but kept a slight fruity note. What returned the capsaicin was a spicy chili aioli dip that brought forth a piquant bite to each mouthful.
Continuing the theme of generous portions, the other starter option was a lamb slider. It was bursting with a panoply of flavors and textures including the passing sweetness of a thin watermelon slice, a grassy bitterness from microgreen sprigs, and a tangy freshness of a semi-picked cucumber slice. The lamb patty, which was prepared in the steam oven we were about to see in action, was thick, not having been cooked down as it would have been on a conventional stovetop. Though it wasn’t as rare as I prefer, it retained a lush juiciness. I found myself constantly maneuvering the sandwich in my hands to make sure I was experiencing every element simultaneously.
The night’s weather had precipitated a number of cancelations. That meant I was offered seconds of each starter. It was fortunate that the chef soon bid us to take our places because temptation was wearing down my will to not accept another slider which would have entirely ruined my appetite.
Bread (and Vegetables, and Fish, and Beef…) and Circuses at the Wolf Product Demonstration
Our master of ceremonies was Chef Coleman Teitelbaum. It seems like his tenure with Wolf was inexorably destined. While many professional chefs these days get their start in culinary school, he made his bones in service industry the old fashioned way: in the trenches of restaurant kitchens in Wisconsin, the state where Wolf was founded and still calls home. Chef began in 1989 at the age of 16 and instantly fell in love with the frenetic energy found in professional kitchens. After accumulating a vast store of practical culinary knowledge and experience, he was recruited as an in-house chef by Sub-Zero/Wolf/Cove in 2001.
In addition to all of this, Chef Coleman is a consummate showman. Throughout the demonstration, he resembled a conjurer practicing sleight of hand, juggling cookware, controlling ovens and cooktops, and gesticulating with graceful embellishment as he cogently answered every audience inquiry with aplomb. With each presenting flourish, we found yet another dish in front of us.
The salad course of roasted squash with kale, shiitake mushrooms, and sea scallop had already been prepared when we were seated. I didn’t get a chance to ask about specifics regarding methods as I didn’t want to rob chef of time with the other guests. Thus, I can only surmise. The squash was roasted in a 30-inch E Series single wall oven (SO30PESPH) which affected a slight caramelization lending a soupcon of sweetness to a taste that made me reminisce of autumn. Also in the oven, kale chips were crisped for a crunchy textural contrast.
On an electric induction teppanyaki griddle (TM15TFS), the shiitake mushrooms were sautéed and, for each diner, a single sea scallop was half-seared. The latter was a preparation with which I was unfamiliar. The “sear on both sides” method I usually expect gives the scallop a more substantial mouthfeel. Here, though, the half-sear resulted in a lighter, almost silken consistency. I found myself eating it sliver by sliver to draw out the experience. As a pleasant afterthought, the dish was peppered with pomegranate seeds for a tart zing.
As we were polishing off our salads Chef Coleman began to work on the marinade for our next course, salmon. In a Gourmet Series high-performance blender (WGBL100S), he pureed a mixture of ginger, garlic, rosemary, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sriracha. I was a touch skeptical about this combination of pungent flavors. If not thoroughly mixed, one could easily overpower the other in each bite, making for an uneven taste experience. The blender, though, made quick work of the marinade in a matter of seconds.
The sous chef went about marinating the salmon and placing it the bottom cavity of a 30-inch M Series double wall oven (DO30TMSTH) on broil. Meanwhile, Chef Coleman proceeded to use the 30-inch induction cooktop (CI304TS). First, he retrieved a pot from the freezer stating that it had been stored in -1 degree F temperature for at least five hours. After filling it with mushroom stock, he placed it on the cooktop and demonstrated how it could be brought to a boil in a couple of minutes.
He let fonio, a West African grain cook in the boiling water and, on another induction element, had a pan of olive oil up to cooking temperature in 45 seconds. After a quick sauté of multi-colored diced squash and leeks, he folded this and the folio together for a delightfully hued side dish. While he plated the fish and the folio, I realized preparing the entire course took less than 15 minutes.
Broiling the salmon allowed the sous chef to just pluck the fillets out of their skin. The fish just sloughed off with a gentle prodding of the fork. The top had a light char which imbued a smoky flavor, complementing the delicate taste of the rest of the fillet. The fonio/vegetable medley was al dente and the mushroom stock gave the flavor profile a hint of darkness.
Earlier in the event, Chef Coleman had the guests perform a call and response pantomime where half of us would yell, “140!” and the other half, “7:11!” Normally, I can’t abide that sort of gimmicky audience participation. However, the payoff was well worth it. At precisely 7:11PM, chef pulled a beef tenderloin from one of the steam ovens. Apparently, earlier he had placed the side of meat in the 30-inch M Series single wall steam oven (CSO30PMSPH) with the built-in temperature probe inserted. He set the slow roast mode to be ready by 7:11PM at a 140 degree F internal temperature. In the intervening time, the oven continuously monitored the state of the beef and ensured perfect doneness. I was quite flabbergasted. This is what I think when people refer to “smart” appliances.
Before presenting the beef tenderloin, chef had placed pans of garlic and herb potatoes in one of the steam ovens and set it to convection steam mode. Once he’d sliced the meat and described in detail how it was cooked, the tantalizing aroma emanating from the oven signaled that the starch was done. The main course was plated and served.
The meat gave way to the blade of a steak knife effortlessly as I cut with the grain. It was beautifully succulent, evincing the advantages of steam cooking. The skin on the fingerling potatoes was crisp while the steam infused the flesh with the flavor of garlic and herbs. What made the dish soar, though, was the addition of a black truffle hollandaise sauce. The rich mother sauce was enhanced by the truffle’s loamy earthiness. I had to resist the temptation to drink it straight.
Utterly sated, it was a bit of a struggle to come to terms with a dessert course. While the audience was luxuriating in the main course, Chef Coleman popped trays of six-chip (white chocolate, milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, butterscotch, and one more that escapes my memory) into an electric oven on convection mode. He also placed a pan of Ghirardelli brownies he’d prepared earlier into a steam oven on convection humid mode.
The finished products were laid out on a self-serve table. I reluctantly took a brownie and a single small cookie thinking I wouldn’t be able to eat more than a bite. Once again, chef proved his mettle in the kitchen. The brownie was moist with warm dark chocolate oozing from within. The cookie was chewy with a lightly burned bottom which is how I like them. These were devoured ravenously and I greedily went back for more.