Many, many people and approximately every French transplant in New York showed up for Le Grand Fooding at P.S. 1, and if you didn't arrive early for Friday or Saturday night's events and hit all the tables quickly, you were stuck in a half-hour line for a slice of pizza, or similar. Setting aside the ravenous crowds, however, there was some even better eating on Night Two than on Night One, and San Francisco had a second strong showing with chefs Daniel Patterson and Melissa Perello putting out some especially good plates of food Patterson prepared seven separate "snacks" that went out as the night went on, plating about 4,000 by 8:45, by his count. Perhaps S.F. was just more "game on" about it all, being the visiting team and all, but Patterson was wearing his "I NY" t-shirt and assured us he wanted to be a good sport about this invented, intracoastal competition. "We're all about love in San Francisco," he said.
But even for him, it all came back to the lines. "New Yorkers, man," he was overheard saying. "We wanted everyone just to come up to the table and grab something." Instead, the line for his table was about 60 deep at all times, with each party-goer wanting a consecutive taste of each of his small "vegetable on a plate" dishes, even though his intent was for these to be individual cocktail snacks.
New York chefs Dan Barber and Brian Leth each put out delicious plates, too, with Barber doing beet-and-pork sausage with accompanying condiments, and Leth doing a grilled octopus tossed with yogurt and charred lemon and served with a taggiasca olive aioli. The longest lines were for Charlie Hallowell's padron pepper and cherry tomato pizza and the octopus pizza with its accompanying Rhone wine pairing; and for Melissa Perello's delicious suckling pork confit while the next-door booth belonging to Pulino's Nate Appleman, in the "sandbox" area of the P.S. 1 courtyard, saw decidedly fewer fans for his cold roast beef crostone.
The big question remains, in our competition-obsessed minds, whether S.F. represented well enough to change the minds of New York's attendant food folk who believe their city is the undisputed center of the American food universe. Below, our extremely objective analysis.
Mourad Lahlou (Aziza): Squab, ras el hanout, and cherry with farro
Grub Street says: The squab leg with attached foot was a bold choice, and not for the faint of foodie-ness. Well seasoned and tender, with a pleasant balance of flavors, though it worked less well than some dishes at room temperature. Plus one.
Charlie Hallowell (Pizzaiolo, Boot & Shoe Service): Padron pepper, cherry tomato, red onion, Calabrian pepper, and mozzarella pizza; octopus pizza with cherry tomatoes and aioli.
Grub Street says: While we may have mis-credited the octopus pizza to the Pizza Moto team on Friday (both pizza teams were working in tandem at the same booth both nights), Hallowell's padron pepper pizza was a delicious hit with a crisp-chewy, yeasty crust. But everyone loves pizza and New Yorkers will defend their pies to the death, so... Draw.
Daniel Patterson (Coi): "Vegetables on a Plate" seven separate dishes including a seaweed and vegetable salad; beet, pistachio and wood sorrel with beet pur; carrot, hay, and wild garlic; kohlrabi, romaine, garum, and parsley crumb; and fruit-roll-up-like vegetable leather.
Grub Street says: Patterson topped Jeremy Fox's Friday record of four separate dishes, and his deceptively simple bites featured the most unique flavor combinations of the weekend. Having yawned over Chang's beet and creme fraiche parfait at the same table Friday, we fully take back the prediction that Patterson's tongue-in-cheek message might eclipse the medium. Plus three.
Melissa Perello (Frances): Suckling pork confit with summer fruit mostarda
Grub Street says: One of the more ambitious and satisfying dishes, with a torchon of head-to-tail pork meat, confit-ed over night, sliced into rounds, seared, and accompanied by mustard-and-spice-marinated fruit. A consistently long line and the table ran out of food around nine. Plus four.
SAN FRANCISCO TOTAL: 8 points
Nate Appleman (Pulino's): Beef cooked in beef fat, anchovy crostone, parsley and fried garlic
Grub Street says: While we recognize the wisdom of doing a cold dish for an event like this, Appleman's beef was chewy and mostly flavorless, and his crostone would been the kind of passed hors d'oeuvre at a cocktail party that you'd find a lot of at the end of the night, wrapped in napkins, with one bite taken out. No points.
Dan Barber (Blue Hill): Beet-and-pork sausage grilled on carbonized pork bones, with beet compote, pickled salad, and condiments
Grub Street says: Alice Waters's east coast acolyte showed well, maintained a long line of fans, and the sausage was damn good. But the dish was probably lacking a component, and we can't say the pork-bone-grilling aspect came through. Three points.
Laurent Kalkotour (DB Bistro Moderne): The DB Bistro Camemburger
Grub Street says: Much like Seersucker's fried chicken, a mini-burger is a strategically clever choice for an event like this where people are trying to make dinner out of a bunch of small bites. And this one was tasty, though ours was still too raw inside. One point.
Brian Leth (Vinegar Hill House): Octopus, charred lemon, chickpeas, yogurt, taggiasca olives
Grub Street says: A classic pairing of Mediterranean flavors, and one of the more popular dishes of the evening, but arguably a bit too acidic and aggressively seasoned. Two points.
NEW YORK TOTAL: 6 points. Even without taking pizza into account, the New York chefs seemed to be playing it safe and serving as many cold or room-temp components as they could, erring either on the side of face-punch flavor or not enough. Chang's parfait from Friday was probably the biggest disappointment, but Saturday's contenders didn't come out fighting like they should have against a visiting team with something to prove. So...
SAN FRANCISCO TAKES IT, GAME, SET, MATCH. Even though there was no ballot box and no official competition on last night's overcrowded playing field, the Le Fooding folks wanted some flames fanned, and we're happy to play along. The visiting team from S.F. not only presented the most ambitious, winning, and inventive dishes (with special props to Jossel, Fox, Perello, and Patterson), they proved that there's a touch more technique and manipulation of food happening on the left coast than fruits displayed preciously on earthenware. For those New Yorkers who missed out on dishes because they couldn't wait in another line, we recommend a trip out to S.F. one of these days. In general, it's less crowded there, and reservations at great restaurants aren't such a pain in the ass to get.
Tune in tomorrow for Grub Street's complete slideshow recap.
Earlier: Last Night at Le Fooding: San Francisco Edges Out New York, For Now [Grub Street]
Handicapping Le Grand Foodings N.Y. vs. S.F. Deathmatch [Grub Street]