Latin flavor was liberally sprinkled across Sagaponack’s Wolffer Estate Vineyard on Saturday at the James Beard Foundation‘s annual Hamptons’s tasting party: Chefs & Champagne. The annual fundraiser features over 30 award winning JBF chefs spooning out their tastiest dishes.
JBF was honoring Andrew Zimmern host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. The chef, writer and television personality’s Latin culinary adventures has led him to sample some of the most freakish cuisine Latin America has to offer.
“In Nicaragua, we had a stew that was essentially the pluck from the animals’ heart, lungs and spleen, cooked down with a lot of vegetables and they floated iguana eggs in it,” Zimmern told TLK. “You sucked the iguana eggs out of it’s rubbery shell. The shell of an iguana egg is not hard, it’s like a condom. It was a very bizarre condiment.”
Santiago, Cuba born, Hoboken-based chef Maricel E. Presilla, the first Latin American woman to have been invited as a guest chef to The White House, was spooning out her signature dish, creamy Cuban-style fresh corn polenta in roasted slab bacon and chile-guava adobo.
Presilla, chef and part owner of two standout eateries in Hoboken’s bustling restaurant scene on the Hudson: Zafra, a Cuban-Latino watering hole and Cucharamama that specializes in South American food and is known for three kinds of tamales from Chile, Colombia’s Vallecauca region and Peru. Presilla also recently opened Ultramarinos, a Latin American cooking atelier in Hoboken that carries Latin ingredients, prepared foods, premium chocolates and Blue Cacao, a line of truffles she created with Latin flavors.
“I love the fact that Latin food is layered and it’s flavorful from beginning to end,” Presilla told TLK. “I love the synergy between elements. If you are serving bacon with polenta you get something that’s completely different, you’re getting a third element out of the mixing of the two ingredients. It’s like a well endowed woman that has a lot of curves.”
On the other side of the tent was rising star chef Alex Stupak. The Massachusettes-born Latin food lover and owner and chef of the East Village’s Empellon Cocina and Empellon Taqueria in the West Village has no blood tie to Mexican cuisine, but found himself drawn to it.
“At the end of the day, I was a pastry chef for nine years and when I did my first restaurant I wanted to do something in a new direction,” Stupak told TLK. “And my favorite thing to eat in terms of texture and flavor is Mexican food. God handed that part of the world a different set of ingredients and I loved responding to that.” Stupak was spooning out sweet corn with lobster and epazote mayonnaise.