The Whitechapel Projects Hosts First Food Lab Event
In late April, our executive chef James Mignola hosted the first of many Food Lab events in support of The Whitechapel Projects’ Aubergerie. Drawing influence from the French Auberge, or country inn, our food concept is inspired from a tradition of hospitality. Everything from the atmosphere to the menu will exude comfort and warmth. This modern take on the traditional will merge a relaxed ambience with an elegant dining experience inspired by our locality and the changing seasons.
To best develop and execute our Aubergerie, we invited a group of 13 local food enthusiasts to Kula Café in Asbury Park to sample and give feedback on a selection of small plates, appetizers, bar snacks and desserts that are currently being tested for possible inclusion on our menu. During the course of an evening, our talented chef, whose training and background is steeped in traditional French cuisine, executed several variations of potential Aubergerie dishes.
The first selections presented to our group of tasters were of the pickled variety. Guests enjoyed pickled quail eggs nested in pickled radish greens, and a sampling of pickled veggies. An overall group favorite, duck crackling, or fried duck skin, rounded out the first course with our tasters agreeing that the “crackling” makes an excellent bar snack and would pair nicely with beer.
Malakoffs, a rare culinary delight, were next on the menu. Carefully prepared with Gruyére and presented much like a cheese beignet, Chef James’ interpretation was served with Dijon mustard and complemented by pickled mustard seeds, onions and cornichons. For many in attendance it was the first time ever tasting Malakoffs, which boast a lightly fried, crisp exterior that gives way to a decadent cheese center.
After a pleasing round of Bottarga toast samplings, three variations of mussels were presented that all earned rave reviews from Food Lab participants. Varying in preparation from seaweed butter to aux Amandes, and a Pale Ale, crème fraiche, mustard and herb preparation, the mussel dishes featured savory flavors and artful presentations. Many of the attendees agreed they were some of the most tender mollusks they had ever enjoyed.
As one of the last samplings of the evening, our tasters anxiously awaited the serving of duck-fat-fried French fries complemented by arbol Chile garlic mayonnaise, Thai red curry mayonnaise, homemade ketchup and horseradish mayonnaise. Last, but certainly not least, two interpretations of chocolate cremeux were presented – one with peanut caramel and Jameson, the other with hazelnut and rosemary caramel.
Throughout the course of the night our tasters rated the variations of each dish, analyzing a variety of components from appearance and texture to taste and seasoning. They all gave incredibly valuable feedback that will inform the evolution of the menu at our Aubergerie and influence Chef James’ recipe testing in the weeks ahead.
Our first of many Food Lab events initiated an exciting culinary journey for The Whitechapel Projects, one that will result in a carefully planned and executed menu that is rooted in authenticity, simplicity and quality ingredients. To learn more about the Aubergerie at The Whitechapel Projects, please click here.