When I saw the "Paris of the East" invite on the Hapa Kitchen blog, I just had to go. A dinner all about duck, each course, and I love duck! I emailed right away, 2 tickets please, but it was full and I was sad. No duck for me. It was meant to be though because after a cancellation I was in with 1 ticket; I was taking myself on a date ... with DUCK!
On the invitation they said, "Dressing Up Is Not Discouraged." Fancy. But, the shoes-off "suggestion," at hosts Winnie and Chris' apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (mound of guests' shoes at the door) gave the party a comfy and casual vibe. Besides, I love walking around barefoot in stockings. And the fun part of hosting the dinner in your home is that peculiar items end up in your bedroom, like a wok on top of your bed sheets.
Walking in to the whirlwind of a kitchen was a bit dizzying at first. And Hapa Kitchen's Akiko Moorman, with experience working in NYC restaurants, ran a tight ship. This girl knew how to keep the pace moving and the duck rolling. Such take charge energy is required for a 5 course meal for upwards of 40 people. The main ingredient, the duck was provided by D’Artagnan.
Mixologist Mayur Subbarao's "Huan Huan" Cocktails were sweet bright red "pace yourself" concoctions that helped loosen everybody up.
The lovely servers presented duck mousse canepes with shiso. The texture of the soft mousse on the crisp rice cracker made a nice starter.
Happa Kitchen's Cathy Erway prepared Steamed Duck Buns with Dijon as a second appetizer. Moist duck inside a warm doughy bun, with a kick of dijon and fresh cilantro. Fantastic. I am just sorry that I didn't reach for seconds.
We chatted about the Supper club, and she explained to me that a Hapa is a person of mixed-with-asian descent. Her friend, Ken, passionate about the subject, spoke about Loving vs. Virginia, a Supreme Court case that in 1967 made it legal for interracial couples to marry. Cathy explained that their crew members are first generation "legal" Hapa babies. There was certainly a lot of Hapa Love there and it was really coming through in the delicious duck.
When we sat down to begin our main courses, Jennifer Lee, representing her family's organic farm called Sang Lee Farms, located on the North Fork of Long Island, talked about the fresh local produce provided by the farm and how the local CSAs have really helped keep the farm running. She runs a stand on Saturdays at the Fulton Street Farmer's Market.
The first two courses, the Five Spice Duck Pastry followed by the Duck Explosion with Cucumber Soup were excellent. They paired perfectly with Wolffer Estate Vineyard's Rose and a Reserve Chardonnay, respectively. Wolffer Estate is a gorgeous vineyard on the South Fork and I always enjoy their Apple Wine in the fall.For the main course, a seared duck breast with drunken butter and baby bok choy, paired with a Merlot. The duck was so savory and the duck fat, well it was the best part. It was so delicious I would have been satisfied with this dish as the finale. They finished the meal with a Spring Salad with Crisp Duck Skin and more wine, a Cabernet Franc. The dressing was a bit sweet for my taste buds at this point in the meal, but the crispy fried duck skin was scrumptious. A bowl of crispy fried duck skins please! For dessert they served a Red Bean Brulee and a nice sweet strong dessert wine. Beans for dessert are tricky because after a big meal they are quite filling, but they were floating in a perfect custard.
Why no pictures of the last two courses? Blame it on wine or blame it on the great time I was having at the duck dinner. I embarked on my solo date looking forward to some delicious duck, and the Hapa ladies certainly delivered. But the meal did what a great meal does, bring people together. Walking into the party, I knew no one, but by the end, I wanted to just hang out all night, and eat more duck!