By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
When Andrew Galarneau, food editor with The Buffalo News, wrote a column in early January about culinary events to whet WNY appetites this year, he ended it by writing, “Lots of diners want to see chef-in-waiting Edward Forster open a place where he can sell food on the regular.”
Forster, 31, who helped Buffalo chef Mike Andrezejewski open a restaurant in the redeveloped Hotel @ Lafayette in 2012, continues to look for a dining spot of his own. Meanwhile, his fine dining project, The Workshop Buffalo, continues to pop up in various locations across the city. He vows to undertake at least two “pop up” meals in April.
Tickets for the events often are gobbled up within an hour or two after he makes his plans known on social media (theworkshopbuffalo.com and The Workshop Buffalo Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites), and he usually doesn’t let those diners know until an hour before an event where they will be eating. They have to wait till they get there to savor the multi-course meal.
Here’s some of what Forster told me when we spoke last week about maple syrup – for today's "What are you eating?" feature in WNY Refresh and in honor of Maple Weekend this weekend – as well as what he likes to cook and eat. He also gave me a recipe for maple beef tartare, which you’ll find below.
“Maple is pretty much a staple in the pantry,” he told me. “It shouldn’t be viewed at all as something that’s difficult to work with. It’s not just pigeon-holed to Sunday morning breakfast.”
Forster grew up in Buffalo and left here at age 18 to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He graduated in 2003 and went on to work in fine dining restaurants in New York, London, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Chicago. He worked with international culinary superstars Georges Perrier and Graham Elliot before heading back to Western New York about three years ago, first to Rochester, then to the Elmwood Village.
“Mike (Andrezejewski) and I had stayed friends pretty much since I was in culinary school,” Forster said, “so I came to Buffalo to help him open his Hotel Lafayette project.” He stayed there for about 18 months – a time in which Galarneau gave the restaurant his only 10 plate rating – and has been back twice to eat since he left and Andrezejewski repurposed the menu. “It was lovely both times,” Forster said.
Talk about “The Workshop.”
The idea is something that’s been successful in other markets, other cities. I was sitting at Silo City last summer with a friend of mine and we were kind of taken aback by the view. I was looking for a way to kick off the concept, start evolving the idea. A friend and I shook hands that baseball Sunday morning and said, ‘Two and a half weeks from now we’re going to throw a dinner in a location that has no electricity, no running water and, obviously, no cooking equipment.’
We did eight courses of food for that event for 65 people. There was a soup based off a Mexican elotes idea. A corn soup. There was a poached shrimp on top of a rock to sort of evoke the idea that you are indeed standing near a body of water. There was some pickled beef tongue featuring malts because those are grain-based. Everything was based off grains to honor the grain mill. There was a chicken and corn tostada. There was black barley rubbed beef strip loin on top of an eight-grain salad with poached eggs and raisins and pickled onions and the like. There were assorted candies with puffed rice. There was a puffed rice spiced crispy. And we had a molten rabbit and lentil croquette that was breaded in lentils. It was a lot of things featuring a lot of local farms, and every course was meant to feature a different grain.
There’s still actually grain in the mills, which is pretty unique.
How hard is it to work with maple syrup?
From my perspective, it’s very easy. We’ve got some great local producers. I’ve gotten some great results. You can use maple in place of sugar in a pickling solution. You talk about it as an emulsifier in a marshmallow. I do love it on pancakes but I find it more on my savory kitchen side than my sweet.
What foods does it pair well with?
I like it with vegetables and have been using a lot more with vegetables lately. I like bacon-larded Brussels sprouts with a touch of maple. Butternut squash is a very easy go-to. I also like it with foie gras, which is a fattened duck liver.
Can you talk about a four-course maple meal?
You could use it to make a light appetizer, add it to a soup, to a chicken entree and back to a dessert featuring a maple Panna Catta with pecans and a bourbon glaze. This is just theoretical.
Your favorite time of year to cook with local foods?
I enjoy spring. It’s a fun time when everything is growing. There’s rebirth. It’s the time of year you can see little shoots growing out of the ground and kind of pluck them and eat them raw. So spring is the sign of a new day, so it’s easily the most exciting time.
Your favorite local foods?
I’ve been using (organic farmer) Dan Oles’ carrots since November, mostly his vegetables. I love Rich Tilyou's pork or chicken at least twice a week. Also the chickens from Green Heron Growers. Robbie Gianadda’s Flat 12 Mushrooms aren’t really available to the public yet but when they are, they’re pretty spectacular, so look for those.
What are the staples of your diet?
I eat a lot of Greek yogurt. I will make something in the beginning of the week that will hold me over for at least five days. I’ll take a couple of chickens from Rich Tilyou or someone and stew them down and braise them down with chickpeas, tomato and fennel and a bit more vegetables to that and make it a hearty stew. You can add rice or put it on top of polenta.
The food you can’t resist, even though you know it’s not good for you?
I can’t say no to foie gras. I realize it’s very high in saturated fat. I have it once every two weeks or so.
If you’re looking to wow at your next dinner party, here’s the recipe for maple beef tartare that Forster shares with us.
I’m not pretending for a moment that it’s the healthiest of foods, but it has proteins to blunt some of the fats, and many dietitians tell me that it’s alright to have a cheat treat on the weekend.
St. Agur gelato
3 lbs St. Agur triple cream blue cheese
2 qt heavy cream
2 qt whole milk
1 cup sugar
1½ cup NYS maple syrup
30 egg yolks
2 T salt
1 t freshly milled pepper
Purée cheese with 1 qt milk, salt and pepper.
Bring cheese, half of the sugar, milk, and cream to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Put yolks and rest of sugar and syrup mix into a large bowl. Temper the hot dairy over the yolks, continuously whisking. The dairy should be incorporated in three different additions. Turn into ice cream in an ice cream maker, preferably a Paco Jet. Follow manufacturers instructions.
Maple pickled shallot
10 large shallots
2 cups red wine vinegar
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup water
1 T salt
Peel the shallots and thinly slice on a mandoline into rings 1/8-inch thick. Bring other ingredients to a boil and pour over sliced shallot. Cover and reserve.
Egg yolk purée
8 eggs (from Dan Oles or Painted Meadows)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T lemon juice
1 t salt
Heat 2 gallons water in an immersion circulator at a constant temperature of 63 degrees centigrade. Add eggs and allow to cook one hour. Chill eggs in an ice bath. Separate the yolks from the whites of the egg, discarding the whites. Purée the yolks with the remaining ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth.
For beef tartare
2 lbs wagyu flap, or beef strip steak
Remove all sinew and large fatty deposits and discard. Dice beef into ¼-inch cubes, keeping chilled in an ice cooled bowl. To serve season with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and milled pepper.
Garnish with leaves of rocket arugula and crispy potato chips.