Caviar and Truffles
When Chef Antony Ballard’s rich and famous clients (Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, and Richard Gere are just the ones we’re allowed to name) want something special, he is more than up to the task. In fact, a $3,000 appetizer is “kind of normal,” he says. That’s more than $2,000 worth of caviar with, say, a $900 bottle of wine—a treat for serious caviar lovers who “really want to indulge,” he says. (Ballard’s local caviar source is Smokehouse of New York in Mamaroneck.) Of course, wine lovers can spend that much and a lot more. If nothing but the best will do, Ballard reaches for a Romanée-Conti Grand Cru from the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC to those in the know). Bottles from this small estate vineyard in Burgundy can sell for up to five figures. His meal suggestions include Italian truffles shaved over homemade pasta (left) that is tossed with just high-quality olive oil, garlic, and flat parsley. The truffles are allowed to shine, he explains, which seems wise, considering his favorites sell for $1,700 an ounce.
Antony Ballard, North Salem www.chefantonyballard.com
After Entrees, Designer Doughnuts
Daniel, Per Se, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Gramercy Tavern are just a few of the restaurants where Jennifer and James Vellano honed their skills before opening Maison Prive in Greenwich and G.E. Brown Fine Foods in Bedford. It’s not surprising that local A-listers turn to the Vellanos to throw such events as private truffle dinners, with four or five courses each highlighting a black or white truffle. Another popular splurge? Decadent caviar tastings with many varieties, often with the new twist of a not-so-decadent-sounding (but much appreciated) gluten-fee blini, says Jennifer Vellano. Luxe fare for summer? Perhaps hamachi that’s been “tapped” on the grill “for a second,” then poached in olive oil, the Vellanos say. Dessert might be doughnuts, but reinvented in flavors for foodies, like maple-bacon or caramelized banana and bourbon. The Vellanos work closely with Derek Todd, former wine director at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, no less, to work out the perfect pairings. (He could probably even come up with the perfect doughnut wine.)
Maison Prive Chefs, Greenwich (203) 992-1880; www.maison-prive.com
G.E. Brown Fine Foods & Provisions, Bedford (914) 234-3185; www.gebrown.com
Even when money is no object, food doesn’t need to be fussy, says Chef Debbie Franzese of Bedford Gourmet, who regularly cooks for private dinner parties. “Nothing is over-seasoned or over-sauced,” she says. To ensure this, she has painstakingly secured “small, boutique” vendors for the finest ingredients. “We have new and beautiful Burrata delivered every couple of days,” and “gorgeous mushrooms” arrive at her backdoor within 30 minutes of leaving the farm, she says. As for beef, it’s Piedmontese (now raised in the US). Possessing a gene responsible for low-fat, tender meat, this breed of cattle undergoes DNA testing to authenticate its heritage. (That makes sense, considering a 10-pound certified Piedmontese standing rib roast might sell for $450.) So what does Franzese do with this incredible bounty? She says the season dictates the carte du jour. Grilled octopus salad, roast quail, a local striped bass, or wild salmon from Alaska might make the cut in summer, with perhaps an intermezzo of lemon ice and shaved fennel. And Franzese will happily work closely with a sommelier—hers or yours.
Debbie Franzese, co-owner/chef, Bedford Gourmet, Bedford
(914) 234-9409; www.bedfordgourmet.com