Todd English Food Hall, or is it Food Heaven?
By Jennifer Shanteau
When I was granted the opportunity to have Chef Todd English himself cook several dishes for me to try which paired well with his new wine obsession, Cesari Amarone, I about had a heart attack. Having experienced his food before, at his former restaurant Olives, which closed in 2015, I was thrilled to enter this food heaven and eat his delicious food again. Why I haven’t experienced The Todd English Food Hall before, I don’t know, but now that I have, I plan on becoming a regular patron. This place is amazing! Everything you can possibly want is here.
The Todd English Food Hall has an ocean grill and oyster bar, noodle and dumpling bar, pasta bar, sushi bar, a grill, taqueria, pizza station, cheese and charcuterie station, wine bar and patisserie. Did your head just spin? It’s huge, especially by New York standards. Its located in what used to be the laundry room of The Plaza hotel, yes, the freaking Plaza, as if The Plaza wasn’t wonderful enough already!
Even before we began the official pairing food with Amarone wine, we were offered a sampling of shrimp dumplings and some sushi– shrimp tempura and tuna. I eat sushi at least twice a week, so trust me when I say I’m vouching for this….so fresh! The dumplings were also to die for. I already have a dinner date planned in my head with my dumpling fanatic friend.
As soon as I made my way back to where the magic was about to take place, I was offered a glass of 2012 Cesari Amarone. When the being handed a festive beverage is the first thing that happens to you, you know you’re in for a treat. Amarone is an Italian wine that myself and even some of my fellow foodie blogger friends were unfamiliar with. It’s a rich, dry red wine made from partially dried grapes. The process of partially drying the grapes creates a wine with a more robust, deep flavor. Judging by the number of bottles that were there when I arrived, and the few left at the end of our meal, I’d say no one was complaining. Side note, I learned that 2012 was a particularly good year for wine, especially Italian wine, so keep that in mind the next time you visit your local wine store. Now I’m thirsty….be right back. Necesito vino.
I don’t know about you, but besides cheese, one of my favorite things to pair with wine is pasta! They just go. At The Todd English Food Hall I had the most delicious Rigatoni Bolognese. This was comfort, warm your soul bolognese. I distinctly tasted a hint of cinnamon, which I absolutely loved! I asked Chef English for the recipe….fingers crossed.
Next, I tried the Cauliflower Cous Cous with Porcini Mushrooms. I’m truly amazed at how versatile cauliflower is, really. I mean, It can be made into cous cous, rice, crust, used as a meat substitute for vegetarian buffalo “wings”. Just about every time I’m on Pinterest I see something new. The Cauliflower Cous Cous Chef English created was something even my picky toddler would eat, the coconut milk he used in this dish lended a certain fantastic sweetness to it, and the grated Parmesan cheese that topped it added a touch of salt for the balance of sweet and salty. Being a huge fan of anything and everything coconut, I was delighted.
When the Eggplant Crostini came out, I popped it quickly into my mouth, then looked around for more. The crostini was topped with eggplant, fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato and what we were calling micro basil, (just tiny basil) . What’s not to like? Chef English celebrates each ingredient in all of his dishes, and together, they are all elevated. This is what I love about his cooking.
Did I stop eating? Nope…..I also sampled some of his pizza, which FINALLY had the right amount of salt for my liking. I am constantly salting pizza, and though this may sound like a silly thing to some, it kind of won Chef a place in my heart, forever….and that cheese…Mmmmm!
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not crazy about chicken. However, this Chicken Parmesan was perfectly breaded and crunchy on the outside, and juicy in the middle, which paired well with the earthy mushrooms……this was not the chicken I am used to. This chicken I like. In fact, it may have even been my favorite dish of the day.
I was very impressed today, with the wine, with food Chef created that complimented the Cesari Amarone, with The Todd English Food Hall itself, and all of numerous offerings, and even its beautiful environment. All of that aside, I was equally impressed with how everyone I spoke to about Chef English has the most wonderful things to say about him. That may not be important to everyone, but it is to me. I felt truly honored to have the pleasure of meeting such a creative and lovely human being. Thank you, Chef!