Day 1: Lunch at the Bon Appetit Pop Up Cafe
The Bon Appetit Pop Up Cafe (on 57th btw. B’way+7th) opened at 11 a.m. this morning, and I was there first thing to see what they’ve got on tap this year (what can I say, I’m a fat bastard- and I clearly have nothing better to do with my time.) Basically Bon Appetit has set up what amounts to a temporary lunch spot, featuring sandwiches, salads, soups, and sweets from chefs like Mario Batali, Cat Cora, Tyler Florence, and John Besh (New Orleans represent!)
The food is expensive when compared to most of our favorite Midtown Lunch’ing spots, about average when compared to most higher end delis, and downright cheap if you want to compare it to the food served at most of these chef’s restaraunts (the ones who actually have restaurants, that is.) Either way, for those of us who slave away in lunchtime boredom, the pop up cafe is a nice once a year change of pace. Plus they have free food samples, free booze samples (?!?!), and demos with some of the famous chefs.
A look at the food after the jump…
Let’s get the bad out of the way right quick. I love Mario Batali. The guy is awesome. But his offering is shameful: $8 for an empanada with chorizo, pancetta, peppers and onions! For $8 his empanada should be stuffed with gold. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “his”. I’m sure it’s just his recipe, executed by somebody else. But even if the man was there himself, handing out these empanadas, topped with caviar and dipped in liquid foie gras- they probably wouldn’t be worth $8. Come on now! I don’t mind paying a little more for quality… but $8 for an empanada. It’s just not right. And no, in case you were wondering, they are not the size of a calzone. They slightly bigger than the normal size empanada.
Thankfully, everything else I tasted was pretty good:
On the left Cat Cora’s Thai Chicken Salad Spring Rolls ($7), on the right the Bon Appetit Horseradish spiked roast beef and arugula sandwich ($8). I’m a sucker for the Asian stuff, so I really liked the spring roll- even though $7 is expensive for this kind of thing. Even so, it was bigger than normal, and tasted good- so it’s tough to complain too much. The roast beef sandwich is probably one of the better deals, since you’re getting some meat.
The goat cheese and roasted vegetable sandwich was pretty good too, if you like that sort of thing- and at $7 it was one of the cheaper offerings. There was a tuna sandwich, made by Ben Ford (L.A. Chef and son of Harrison Ford) but I didn’t try it. I saw him on Andrew Zimmern’s TV show a few weeks ago, and his food looked pretty damn good. I might have to go back and give that one a try.
There are four soup options, but only two are served each day. Today you had a choice between Cat Cora’s chickpea and roasted red pepper soup ($5.50), which was watery and not worth it, and Tyler Florence’s corn chowder with chorizo and a crispy fried oyster. Now let me say this: I’m not a huge Tyler Florence fan (I’m more of a Jamie Oliver kind of guy), but damn was this soup good. Seriously. I was really surprised. There is obviously going to be nothing wrong with corn + coconut milk + a fried oyster on top- but really, this was damn good. And the chunks of chorizo didn’t hurt either. If you’re lucky, they’ll be offering it the day you decide to go. If not, the other two soup options look pretty taste as well (Ben Ford’s clam chowder with leek cream and applewood bacon, or Charlie Trotter’s braised leek soup with sauteed oyster mushrooms.)
You know how I feel about salads, but these looked pretty good… especially John Besh’s heirloom beet salad with crabmeat and cherrywood bacon ($9) shown above. I love New Orleans and John Besh, and if you like salads- you’ll probably be excited by these. Of course, I didn’t try them (obviously) so I don’t know for sure. Sorry, there is only so far I’m willing to go for you guys…
Just like last year, there was a table in the front with a whole mess of $3 treats from famous chefs like Johnny Iuzzini, Francois Payard, and Pichet Ong. I didn’t try any, but if you’re into that sort of thing, I’m sure you’ll like it.
Every day there is a different special. Today was John Besh’s Louisiana shrimp and andouille over grits ($9). Not bad at all… but the one I’m most looking forward to is next Friday’s (10/31) lamb burger with fries from Chef Michael Psilakis (Kefi, Anthos, Mia Dona).
And finally (and most importantly) the free stuff! Even if you don’t want an $8 sandwich, you should stop by for the upstairs freebies. Wine tastings is the big draw (hello!), but there are also little bites of cheese, dark chocolate from Ghirardelli, ice tea, and some 2 minute makeover thing. Enjoy!
There are also demos scheduled every day that I’m sure involve free food as well. Highlights include, sweet bites from the Dessert Truck at 12:45 tomorrow (friday), Ben Ford on Wednesday at 1:15, and Johnny Iuzzini and Pichet Ong on Thursday. It’s only open for a week (until next Friday, the 31st) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each weekday (closed on the weekends). For a complete menu, a list of specials and a schedule of events go to http://www.basupperclubandcafe.com And if you go, feel free to add your reviews in the comments…