The Weekly Whisk - 12/29/21

Musings from a foodie…

Given the pandemic, it’s been a challenge for reporting out the wonderful culinary experiences I previously had in my life as I traveled around the world. However, I was recently in New York City for a visit with family and we (Constant Companion and me) decided to splurge on a visit to a restaurant we heard through the culinary grapevine was more than spectacular. We were able to gain a luncheon reservation at Haizea NYC [ * * * * * * ] during our short visit to the city since the dinner bookings were long gone.

The Owner/Chef is Mikel De Luis (or, “Mikel D.”). We had the opportunity to [briefly] talk with him and learned that his grandmother was his primary inspiration for entering the culinary field. We were in sync on that one as I got started with cooking hanging on to my grandmother’s aprons as a child. In fact, my most prized personal possession (aside from the stuff my kids made when they were children) is my grandmother’s handwritten set of recipes in a 3x5 wooden box!! But, back to Mikel D. His focus is Basque cuisine, and he uses seasonal ingredients along with patience in preparation and the art of perfection in presentation. It was clear that he loves to talk about the food he prepares. And, it’s not just him. Literally, the entire staff offered up genuine enthusiasm and passion for cooking style of Haizea NYC.

So, what did we have? First, our seating was at a bar in the back room. It was quiet with the setting creating an ambiance for convivial conversation. The starter was sweetbreads with a con queso sauce and sauteed padron peppers with shrimp. Then, we started rolling. It was followed by a tostada with Iberico (a region in Spain) jamon (ham) along with some Basque cheese. Then came the chilled, white asparagus with diced pickled sweet peppers, caper berries and clover (Ay Yi Yi). After “oohing and aahing” along with conversing with our waiter we turned to slow roasted pulpo (octopus) lying gently in a potato foam and a spicy olive oil sauce.

But, it wasn’t just the food. The presentations were absolutely marvelous. The pulpo was put forward on a serving platter carved out of a trunk of wood. As the conversation continued, we learned that Mikel D. was also a fan of percebes or gooseneck barnacles. They are crustaceans that cling to rocks where the currents are strong with crashing surf. In Spain and Portugal, they're considered a rare and wonderful delicacy, due in large part to their sweet taste which many say is a “cross between lobster and clam”. As a Maine lobster and clam lover – I agree with the assessment!! These particular percebes; however, were collected by divers who were hung over the edge of a cliff to grab the barnacles between the waves as they crashed on the cliffs below in Galicia and then sent to NYC for Mikel D to assemble into a luscious dish. According to Mikel D., the percebes we were offered are the “tastiest of the percebes”. Finally, the crème de la crème was the grilled langoustines sauteed in garlic, parsley, and chili pepper. Oy vey!! What a delight!

To finish off this “light lunch” we had a deconstructed pastry with a sour cream puff and berries accompanied with tostada slices. He ended our culinary experience by noting that: “The secret ingredient is always love.” It truly captured the experience at Haizea NYC. What a wonderful experience our visit was to say nothing about the culinary side which was equally wonderful. The last time I experienced such a wonderful culinary delight was at D.O.M in Sao Paulo, Brazil nearly 10 years ago!! I can’t give Haizea NYC enough positives. I’ve been to a lot of wonderful places - Mikel D. brought it all together and with his passion he will likely be one of the ten best in the world one of these days. Check it out at: Haizea NYC – (972) 971-9035 - @haizeanyc. And, most of all – enjoy!!! BTW – this is my first “six star” rating in the last decade…which is either a statement about where I’ve been frequenting or my lack of experiences or both…

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