The table is set for The Family Meal at The Progress. All photos by Eric Wolfinger.
A triumvirate of cocktails (thanks Campari America!).
Magnums of Louis Roederer Brut Premier were poured all night.
Oysters in kimchi mignonette for days.
The mind-blowing uni guacamole.
Nicole Krasinski lighting up the night’s flaming island.
Last December, before the holiday season kicked in, I co-hosted The Family Meal, a chefs-only after-hours spaghettata with Sosh at Locanda, which was a blurry night of Negronis, caviar and SKYY vodka shots, foie gras on gingerbread, mountains of spaghetti, and a showstopping croquembouche for dessert. Yup, the Turtle Tower chicken pho in the gift bags saved more than a few people the next day.
So when Sosh came to me in the new year about planning a sequel, it begged the question: how do you follow up one of the coolest events you have ever thrown? Well, for starters, you throw it at the city’s hottest restaurant (insert Stefon voice here): The Progress, created by two of the city’s most beloved creative forces, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski. Fortunately they agreed it was a great idea.
At 10pm on Tuesday February 24th, chefs started rolling into the bar area at The Progress, greeted by the smell of savory pancakes (with Gruyère and grated Périgord truffle) that Stuart was making on a griddle in the back corner of the bar. Thanks to sponsor Louis Roederer, we were also pouring Brut Premier in magnum all night, which you know went swimmingly with the sweet little Kumamotos in kimchi mignonette.
The fine folks from Campari America helped everyone break in the new bar at The Progress, featuring a cocktail menu highlighting their fantastic umeboshi Negroni, plus SKYY martinis with smoked Castelvetrano olive juice, a margarita (made with Espolón reposado tequila, Aperol, guava, fresh lime, bitters) that went down way too smoothly, and our special house drink, the Shark Tail, with Appleton Estate V/X rum, allspice dram, lime juice, ginger, and bitters (thanks to bar manager Bryan Hamann for concocting that tasty little number).
After 11pm, it was eventually time to get everyone seated in the dining room. Chefs got to choose where they wanted to sit, from the spacious side booth tables to the large wood tables in the middle of the restaurant. On each table there were opened bottles of wine from Bedrock and Bodegas Ponce “Reto,” and yes, each table also had their own magnum of Brut Premier. Good times. Let’s do this.
And then the night’s theme of Oceanic Treasure Chest really came to life. Tables were hit with waves of deliciousness, in only the way Stuart and Nicole and their team know how to do it. Family-style plates of uni layered on top of guacamole (with black rice chips) were a undeniable favorite of the night (fingers crossed it ends up on the menu), plus yuba with turmeric-kohlrabi pickle, smelt tempura with lime pickle, the playful papiers des fruit de mer. And then it was the main event: huge platters of seafood curry accompanied by their famed roti (our table was scooping up the curried octopus tentacles with the hot roti right off the plate).
After cleaning up our paws with wet towels, we were greeted by Nicole bearing a blowtorch, setting afire our dessert of Linden Alley jasmine blossom flaming island. Someone also put bottles of Averna on each table. (Okay, okay, it was me.) The night went late for some of us, and really late for others, who shall remain nameless. (Okay, yeah, it was me again.)
Tremendous thanks to The Progress team for letting us host such a special event so soon after their opening—you are amazing! Such pros. It was fantastic for a bunch of chefs to be able to come in and check it all out. The kitchen crushed it! And we know, no pressure having 40 of the city’s best chefs in your dining room all at once, like Melissa Perello, Roland Passot, Dominique Crenn, Thomas McNaughton, Evan Rich, Traci Des Jardins, and Massimiliano Conti—it was also great to see some newer chefs on our local scene hang out and make new friendships.
As our star photographer of the night, Eric Wolfinger, said to me: “Tonight was full of great food and drinks. And lots of hugging.” Seriously, the room was hugging it out all night.
We had another fun gift bag, this time with a jar of furikake-quinoa crunch—I keep getting texts from chefs about dishes they’re shaking it on—plus your dream hair of the dog cocktail from Rye on the Road (The Family Meal Spritz: Campari, SKYY vodka, grapefruit cordial, and rosato), and thanks to Sosh, some Advil. Yesssss.
I have so much gratitude and thanks to Sosh, The Progress, Campari America, and Louis Roederer for enabling me to throw another over-the-top party. It’s an honor to be able to feed and spoil so many chefs who work so hard to feed our city, night after night. And it’s important to bring people together, to sit back, relax, and break bread—it’s hard to build community when everyone is so busy toiling away in their kitchens.
A donation was made to CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture), our local organization championed by many of the chefs in attendance.