Text by Sean Alday
Photos by Therese Maher
Before leaving for brunch at AIRPLANE, the only details provided to me were that the chefs are amazing and they were playing host to The Egg. I arrived late and found myself in good company with the bartender and co-founder of AIRPLANE Liz Atzberger. She offered me a shot of a small batch bourbon: Corsair Triple Smoke. I carried my sipping whiskey and walked around the sun drenched backyard to get a feel from the guests on how the event went.
I could overhear people talking under floppy hats about the amuse-bouche, a Deviled Egg Trio paired with a Bloody Mary Infusion made from heirloom tomatoes. The other dish that had people abuzz was a surprise Honey-Ricotta Souffle that came out as the first tantalizing course.
Chef Michael Kogan, Sous Chef Lars Kremer, Sommelier John Avelluto, the Dumbwaiter Paul D’Agostino, and a committed group of volunteers and friends fielded many appreciative comments and compliments to the chef. A special appreciation is in order to the Dumbwaiter for holding an umbrella up against the sun.
Upon sampling the second and third courses I could identify with the excited tongues and full bellies. A slow cooked egg en cocotte and flavorful hangar steak stood out above the rest. As though the artisan whiskey wasn’t enough to sate my appetite, it blended perfectly with the hangar steak that must have been carefully marinated to achieve its tenderness.
As the sun set I sat with Liz, Lars, Chef Mike, and John to ask about the event and how it began.
Liz: We had a few dinner events here before officially opening the gallery. As a way of solidifying our dinner aesthetic, if you will.
Lars: Food is something I’ve always wanted to have here. I usually make a specialty snack for the openings. Liz makes a signature drink for the shows.
John: I’ve been in food service for most of my life. I worked with my father in Little Italy bussing tables for extra money when I was a kid. After a while, he opened two restaurants and I worked with him to pay for college. Now I own a wine bar [The Owl’s Head] and Chef Mike [they met as undergrads at Brooklyn College] is our consulting chef there. Lars and I were introduced to each other by Paul D’Agostino due to our mutual participation in the visual arts and food culture and so we all worked together for a few months to put this on.
Sean Alday: This seems like a large production, how did you go about it?
Lars: The planning for this event was so far in advance that the production went as smoothly as possible. The event and menu was a way to break through social media interaction. We based the menu on how people reacted to five different questions and got a variety of answers.
From that initial feedback, Chef Mike and John created the menu and wine pairings.
John: As each course went out, I posted it on the event page on Facebook. They had no idea what they were getting until it came out. We were all able to react in real time.
Liz: People were checking the page throughout the meal. As well as posting their own pictures of the food as it came out.
John: They said it felt a little awkward at first, being on their phone at the table, but it really caught on and that was an enjoyable part of it too.
Mike: That was basically the point though. Getting the feedback in real time and, for John and myself, approaching it like an art project. People were asking me questions as it went on.
SA: Did you get to answer the questions?
Mike: Yes but not as often as I would have liked. I was more preoccupied with preparing the next dish. I had Lars backing me so I had a few moments to interact. It was fun.
SA: What were the reactions to the initial questions like?
Mike: I was looking forward to the answers that would give me room to play around with the menu. As a chef, I wanted to make sure that everyone left happy.
John: From an artistic perspective, you do look forward to throwing some curveballs.
Liz: People got into it. I had an intense conversation with Larry Greenberg about this dinner, and then I met him here for the first time. That was what we were striving for, the online interactions becoming real interactions.
Lars: That and having great food and drinks. It feels like a success when everyone leaves with a full belly and a smile.
Liz: And roses.
[box]The Egg was a social media-driven gourmet food experience in which the participants interact and inspire the cuisine. It was held at AIRPLANE gallery, 70 Jefferson St., Brooklyn on Saturday, May 19.[/box]