Like many food-lovers born in the early 90s, food television was a major part of my growing love of dining, cooking, and cuisine. In high school, I would reserve the TV for Wednesday nights, when I could watch Top Chef in what my dad dubbed a “sports-like” manner. Many who enjoyed the same reality TV cooking show addictions will probably remember Michael Voltaggio, who won season six in the fall 2009 of Top Chef while competing against his brother Brian. He’s now a Michelin-starred chef at his restaurant Ink in Los Angeles, and though my addiction to the Bravo series has waned, I’ll always remember it fondly as fueling my obsession with all things food-related.
On Wednesday night, I had the privilege of enjoying Chef Michael Voltaggio’s cuisine at Off The Menu in New York, a special pop-up event presented by San Pellegrino as a part of their “Live in Italian” campaign.
Bath House Studios, an Alphabet City event space, was transformed into a quaint Italian market downstairs, with a romantic terraced dining room on the rooftop. The unusually cool New York summer night combined with the sounds of Italian pop-music and the scents of Chef Voltaggio’s cooking wafting from the open kitchen set the perfect ambiance to enjoy his four-course menu. Hors d’oeuvres included a tempura langoustine served on a cinnamon stick, which infused the sweet seafood with cinnamon flavor. Dehydrated carrot wrapped in thinly sliced beef tongue and topped with horseradish was a first-time dish for Voltaggio, but he pulled it off perfectly.
Though his last name is quite Italian, Chef Voltaggio’s usual cooking style is not, and the evening offered a deliciously creative interpretation of traditional Italian dishes. A mushroom and espresso rubbed Wagyu short rib served with banana polenta and porcini mushrooms was definitely the highlight of the meal, but a close runner-up was the bronzino served with cauliflower caponata and agretti. Off the Menu’s dessert was perhaps one of the most dramatic I’ve ever experienced, as Voltaggio and his sous chef, Cole, created beads of strawberry frozen yogurt in a tin of liquid nitrogen in the center of the outdoor dining room. A foggy haze enveloped the chefs as they worked quickly to plate the dessert, and the air of mystery evaporated into “mmms” as guests enjoyed the massively creative sweet dish.
While invitations to Off the Menu were hard to come by (only 57 guests enjoyed the amazing meal), San Pellegrino is known for putting on elaborate feasts like Wednesday night’s extravaganza. Follow them on Facebook and check out their fine dining website for opportunities to win invitations, recipes, and more.