After Super Bowl weekend, Monday is always a rough day to get started. But, with lunch at L’ecole International Culinary Center it was a lot easier to roll out of bed and to get ready to start the work week all over again.
After 5 days in New Orleans enjoying the food and festivities the first thing that I asked about were the teas to sooth my scratchy throat. There was a very nice assortment of teas available. Lavender was featured a few times, and that happens to be one my favorite tea flavors that you do not see too often. The Yellow and Blue Tea hit the spot.
With the final days of restaurant week approaching I could not hold back from ordering a fatty pork belly appetizer. and the scallops with squid ink risotto.
The meal opened with a nice amuse bouche of yellow squash soup, finished with a smoked oil and chives. Exactly, what you want when walking in off of the frigid NYC streets and into the nicely lit and comfortable scenery of L’ecole has to offer. The soup was light and creamy. I would have greatly enjoyed a whole bowl of that.
The pork belly was fatty and succulent. My favorite little kick in the dis was certainly the small and flavorful bits of chorizo was was in the bright tomato vinaigrette. It was a nice surprise and helped to balance the dish. The pork belly was very tasty but could have been much tastier with some more of the fat rendered, and a crisp finish to contrast the other textures. This was easily with the crunch of the baguette that was already on the table. The acid from the vinaigrette and freshness from the herbs were not overpowered by the pork.
The main dish was the most disappointing point of the meal. The scallops were delicious and delicate. The lemon jam or lemon creme on tope of the scallops was just lacking some real punch or just some more of it. The lemon was delicious, just lacking. The trumpet mushrooms did not add anything to the dish. If anything they took away from it. They were hard to cut through. The grapes were bright and strong, and needed to be broken down further, but they really combined incredibly with the lemon on the scallop. They just needed to be broken down further to keep from taking away from the rest of the dish. I would have enjoyed the dish much more if that is were the description ended, but the squid ink risotto was just not good. The rice grains itself were undercooked and were not pleasant in my mouth. This risotto stiffened up very quickly and became a bit of a chewy paste.
The dessert was a cranberry linzer tart with a hazelnut ice cream. The ice cream was so creamy and decadent that I would have loved more, but thankfully the chef students provided portion control for me. The crusting on the tart was what I really enjoyed most, it was hearty while complementary to the tart berry compote filling. But my favoriate part of the dessert was not even a piece of what I ordered. It was the lemon bar that was served complementary.
L’Ecole is the restaurant extension to the International Culinary Center. The International Culinary Center is the educational home to many celebrity chefs tonight. And remembering that all of the food that left the kitchen was prepared from start to finish by students, it was quite enjoyable. The culinary pastry and bread departments all combined for a great lunch. Although if this was a competition between the three departments. I would declare the bread department the winner. With the classic baguette being crisp and chewy all at the same time, it also added to one of the savory dishes.