This weekend, the annual NYC incarnation of Le Grand Fooding lands at Rockaway Beach for a picnic-themed event called Le Fooding & San Pellegrino Fruitstock at The Rockaways. The three-day event tasked five chefs to create perfect picnic dishes to celebrate the return of Beach 97 concessions after the destruction it suffered during Superstorm Sandy. "The surfers are back and the boardwalk is kicking, as are the food stalls, which have established the reputation of this area far beyond Long Island."
In advance of the festivities, we chatted with three of the chefs who will be offering summertime eats this weekend, asking them about their favorite picnic eats and spots, the Rockaways today and their inspirations for Le Fooding & San Pellegrino Fruitstock at The Rockaways. First up, Momofuku Milk Bar maven Christina Tosi; then LA's pop-up dining impressario Ludo Lefebvre; and finally Rockaway Taco pioneer Andrew Fields.
Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar // Le Fooding Dish: Grapefruit popsicles or cereal milk pudding popsicles.
What are some good desserts to make for hot weather that don't involve an oven and won't melt at a picnic? I love to make refreshing desserts when it's hot out! Something light with citrus notes or effervescence is always a great start. Popsicles are an easy go to if I have the foresight. I love grilling fruit if I'm in the backyard or making a batch of lemon bars!
What would you make for someone who claims to hate sweets? I think most folks who make that claim haven't really had a balanced dessert! Dessert is not about all sweet, it's about balancing sweet with other notes (salt, acidity, etc).
Two of my favorite more savory sweets are a caraway molasses cookie and a smoked oatmeal & toffee cookie, both on the heartier side, and not too sugary. If all else fails, I make a grapefruit pie with ritz cracker crust (the butter and salt from the crust melded with the acidity and bitter notes from the grapefruit is sure to win over anyone on the fence about dessert!
Is food on a stick inherently more fun to eat? Food on a stick is always more fun to eat outdoors, at a park, or on the beach!!! Pudding pops, corn dogs, and lollipops as big as my head are memories from my favorite playful weekends or vacations as a kid!
I'm remaking my favorite food on a stick—the pudding pop July 11-13th for the Le Fooding & San Pellegrino Fruitstock event. I'll be whipping up a cereal milk pudding pop and a grapefruit-sour cream-lime pop, inspired by one of my favorite summer citrus and effervescent drinks - San Pellegrino's Pompelmo.
What's in your perfect picnic basket? I'm a pretty classic picnic basket gal—crusty bread, stinky cheese, cured meats, olives, a bottle of sparkling water and white wine is all I need. And, well, who's kidding, enough cookies to go around!
Ludo Lefebvre, Trois Mec // Le Fooding Dish: Grilled veal breast, crispy artichoke, parmesan cream, dried bonito.
What do you usually make when you have a picnic? A great sandwich (Jambon Beurre), fresh very crispy sour pickles and chicken salad. My sweet would be a classic french dessert of Clafoutis with seasonal fruit. Right now it would be apricot.
Had you visited the Rockaways before the Le Fooding & San Pellegrino Sparkling Fruit Beverages event? What do you think of it? Are you going to be surfing there? No, I have never been to the Rockaways before, but I am looking forward to it. I think the guests of the event would be disappointed if I decided to surf instead of cook. Maybe next time.
How did you decide on this menu for the Rockaways? I really wanted to bring out authentic Italian flavors in my dish, so I chose to feature a grilled veal breast, crispy artichoke, Parmesan cream and dried bonito. With grilled veal and Parmesan cream as signature Italian ingredients, my dish embodies a delicious mix of both France and Italy.
What's your favorite place to visit in NYC? Favorite place to eat? Or where are you trying to go during this visit? Central park. I don't think I have seen the entire park yet, so it is always something new for me to explore. I don't have one favorite place, I think to try new things every time I go, but I have been lucky enough to eat at Le Bernardin two times. This trip I am trying to go to Contra.
Do you have any good picnic spots in LA? Definitely the beach. I personally like Malibu beaches.
Andrew Field, Rockaway Taco // Le Fooding Dish: Cornmeal crostini sopes.
How have the Rockaways changed during the rebuilding process following Hurricane Sandy? Rockaway Beach has been through a hefty share of ups and downs in its one hundred year existence. Last year was really chaotic in getting things put back together. It was really awesome to see everyone in the neighborhood stay focused on positive change and everyone was forced to upgrade infrastructure of homes and businesses. The movement this summer feels much more composed and plentiful. There is still plenty to do to in the ongoing rebuild, but the overall tone is to continue to make progress!
What do the new eateries moving to the Rockaways mean for the community? I am amazed it didn't happen sooner! Rockaway Taco has had lines since the beginning. We were unrivaled for three straight summers. Then the concessions opens in 2011 and that's when we really saw a huge difference. Rockaway is a summer neighborhood and residents take their summers really seriously. Everyone participates, everyone enjoys the outdoors with food and drink, it is a really high energy time of the year! All New Yorkers should come experience it.
What are the hurdles of operating a seasonal eatery? The biggest hurdle is you don't get a single day off. The start of the summer is crunch time for us. It is full speed ahead and you know it won't stop for one hundred and fifty days. However, that means that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you have to remind yourself that it is a marathon, not a sprint.
What's in your perfect picnic basket? Maribel (owner of Caracas Arepa Bar and my girlfriend) and I would pack, olives, and tamari almonds, steamed artichokes, three avocados, red hot blues (those blue corn tortilla chips with incredible spice), cold beer, a tomato, and a summer fruit.
Tickets to Saturday and Sunday's picnics are currently sold out but there are still tickets available for the noon and 2:15 p.m. seatings on Friday. Ten percent of each ticket sold benefits Graybeards, a charity involved in restoring the Rockaways.