Local Food – New York – Le Coucou

Local Food. You really get to know a city by tasting local food.

New York – restaurants change by the minute in the Big Apple; fortunately my 212 friends are unabashed foodies thus my Journeys result in nightly expeditions to the latest hottest Dining Temples.

Le Coucou New York

Le Coucou New York

My Parisian visits to the petite restaurants of  Spring (recently closed), Chez La Vieille, and La Bourse et La Vie owned by American Chef Daniel Rose, created a passion for dining at Le Coucou in New York, his latest foodie emporium. After seventeen years in Paris, this new restaurant is his exciting debut in New York. Inviting my dear friends, including David Tanis, is probably why I obtained the best seat in the restaurant. We passed by Clive Davis to our table, the best table in the house…Clive, with white napkin tucked into his collar, gave us the up and down once over of who are they? Who knew David Tanis was King of New York?

Le Coucou New York

Le Coucou, which opened a little less than a year ago, was named Best New Restaurant this year at the James Beard Foundation’s annual award ceremony in Chicago. Le Coucou is a fancy French restaurant – refined French fare emphasized by crisp white tablecloths, every table is accented with a flickering single taper candle, dripping ever so slowly; the menu is bursting with complicated French dishes with names you might not always recognize, dishes served out of gleaming copper pots, by suit wearing waiters. Can you visualize the scene? Having a famed Chef as a guest, immensely helps menu translation…why wouldn’t you want to order the fried veal head, it looks like it is sublimely prepared as such…David can make poetry out of a turnip.

Our picture-perfect table right by the spectacular performance kitchen was engrossing theatre – shelves stacked with all sizes of copper pans, numerous chefs all wearing skyscraper white toques, without any sense of awkwardness, balancing pots and tilting spoons as gracefully as in a ballet. It’s a French restaurant after all!

Le Coucou New York

Initially, I was taken back by the restaurant size, although the darkly lit bar is very cozy with deep silk covered sofas, Daniel Roses’ restaurants in Paris barely seat 22 patrons, cozy conversation next to another diner is almost unavoidable. Last November when I supped at La Bourse et La Vie, my table neighbors shared their veal stew..when they arrived, the Champagne hinted at a celebration and although I lack any knowledge of French, it rapidly appeared that she was breaking up with the handsome man from Spain…he did invite me to an art event in Paris the next day. Le Coucou is massive and apparently serves over 500 plates an evening, not quite as intimate, but certainly gorgeous and dazzling.

Le Coucou New York

Le Coucou New York

Le Coucou New York

The walls are decorated in typically French pastoral murals depicting scenes of 18th Century landscapes, sparkling chandeliers dangle from above, a few original exposed brick walls are evident and the tables are laden with layers of glass and flatware, perfectly positioned on stiffly starched white tablecloths.

Le Coucou: Breakfast. Lunch dinner. 138 Lafayette St, New York,

And then the menu:  DINNER


Huîtres, granité aux algues
oysters, seaweed ice

Limande rouge au caviar
fluke, cucumbers, American sturgeon caviar

leeks, hazelnuts ( Highly recommend!)

Crêpe “souvenir de Lannilis”
crab, buckwheat, lime

Joues de boeuf en gelée au foie gras
beef cheek and foie gras terrine, sherry vinaigrette

Raie au poivron et câpres
poached skate, capers, sweet pepper vinaigrette

Tomate farcie au thon
tomato stuffed with tuna, olives and herbs ( (Yummy!)


Salade de homard, sauce lauris
lobster tail, basil, tomato, sauce lauris ( Loved by all!)

Langue de veau au caviar américain
veal tongue, golden ossetra caviar, crème fraîche

Ris de veau a l’estragon
sweetbreads, crème de tomate, tarragon

Crépinette de volaille aux foie gras et fruits ( Excellent!)
chicken and foie gras, roasted plum

Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine
pike quenelle, lobster sauce


Halibut, beurre blanc
daikon prepared as choucroute

Navarin de Lotte
monkfish, mussel broth, summer vegetables ( Loved by Barbara!)

Sole Véronique
dover sole, grapes, champignons ( Loved by Gwen!)

Tout le lapin
all of the rabbit ( adored by David!)

Pigeon et homard
grilled squab, fricassé of lobster and squab bits, potato purée

Canard et cerises
duck, cherries, foie gras, black olives ( Stuart says yes!)

*Côte d’agneau grillé, collier braisée à la tomate**
Colorado lamb with steamed eggplant, neck braised with tomatoes

Filet de boeuf, jus à la moelle, queue dans la boulangère
prime filet, bone marrow jus, oxtail potatoes

Divine, it’s not Paris, but the Fancy French Fare translates in New York.



Dishes to Die For – Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking Sicily

Rolling Sicilian Hillsides

I spent a week at the famed Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in Sicily this summer. Fabrizia Lanza continues the rich heritage of her mother’s garden to table instruction in a venerable stone farmhouse amid rolling hills of wheat, ancient olive trees and rows and rows of manicured grape vines.

Cooking with David Tanis

David Tanis, a friend and more importantly, chef at Chez Panisse for 25 years, cookbook author and a weekly NY Times columnist was teaching in Fabrizia’s kitchen, who could resist? http://cooking.nytimes.com/64537581-david-tanis/my-recipes

I love David’s Summer Pasta recipe – have prepared it several times!

All about food in Sicily!

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and thus a combination of its size, the classes and the July heat – I didn’t explore much of the island – a reason to return. We were driven two hours south east from Palermo to Case Vecchie, the Tasca 200-year-old family property, consisting of 1300 acres of vineyards in the verdant hills near the village of Vallelunga Pratameno, blink and you miss it.

The grainy industrial outskirts of Palermo quickly changed to golden rolling hills of wheat, as far as you could see, the neatly rolled bales dotted the hillsides. After an hour or so, the terrain gradually shifted to a deep green, just as the hills had been dotted with haystacks, now rows and rows of tended grape vines consumed the entire horizon. The Sicilians use every inch of land for rich crops or grazing, similar to their cooking customs, nothing goes to waste.

Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School

Fresh Peaches

The setting is divine – cooking with fresh vegetables from Fabrizia’s garden every day with supplemental explorations to the local Fish Market in Catania or the local sheep herder for daily freshly churned cheese. Life is lived and food is prepared as it has been for centuries, traditional recipes with farm to table ingredients. Sublime.

A few scrumptious recipes from my class.

Look for Fabrizia’s cookbook – Coming Home To Sicily: Seasonal Harvests and Cooking from Case Vecchie


Eggplant Caponata

Serves 8 to 10

1 kilo (2.2 pounds) eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Oil, for frying
1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) tomato sauce, plus more if necessary
1 bunch celery, tough outer ribs discarded, strings removed and coarsely sliced, then poached
3/4 to 1 cup (170 grams) green olives, pitted and cut into thirds
1/4 cup (40 grams) capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar, plus more to taste
1/4 cup (60 ml) wine vinegar
Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved, for garnish
Chopped parsley for garnish

Heat 1 inch of oil in a large sauté pan. Fry the eggplant pieces, a batch at a time, until browned. Drain well on paper towels. Season with salt.

Sauté the onion in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, until just golden. Add the celery, olives, capers, tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, and salt to taste. Gently stir in the eggplant, being careful not to break it up. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, and then transfer to a large bowl or platter and cool.

Pile the caponata in a pyramid and surround it with hard-boiled eggs, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve cold or at room temperature. (This is even better if made a day before.)

Eggplant Caponata

Peach cobbler Serves 10

For the dough:
500 g AP flour
200 g butter, at cool room temperature
200 g sugar
Pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg

For the filling:
1 jar of Lemon Jam from Pantelleria
2 jars of White Peaches from Leonforte, chopped
80 gr of Green Pistachio
Brown sugar
Butter, cut into pieces

Garden Gathering

Garden Gathering with David Tanis – Selecting natures bounty for lunch

Combine all dough ingredients in a mixer and mix together quickly until dough just comes together. Do not overwork. If necessary, add a drop of milk. If mixing by hand, pile the flour and make a well in the center. Add sugar, salt, yolks and egg into the well and mix in, little by little. Once it is all incorporated, make another well and add the butter in small pieces. Incorporate quickly.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch spring form pan. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough ¼ inch thick. Place in pan, then cut so sides are 1-inch high (you can also pat the dough into the pan). Cover bottom of dough with tarocco lemon marmalade and add the peaches. Sprinkle with pistachios, brown sugar and butter. Bake for about 30 minutes until pastry is deep golden. Serve it cold.

Cooking with Fabrizia Lanza in the Kitchen