Jeremiah Stone, the lead chef of Contra alongside Fabian von Hauske, never tasted French food until he enrolled at the International Culinary Center in New York (formerly known as The French Culinary Institute). But his classic French training has played a significant role in his career. He moved to France in 2010 and worked at Rino, where he says, "I think here in the States, there's a lot of focus on technique when you talk French cooking, but I learned going over there how simple everything is. How important ingredients are, proper seasoning."
Next week Stone is partnering with Sud de France to put on a special dinner that puts French food at center stage. In anticipation of the meal he's shared his favorite French food in New York with us.
Baguettes: That's a tough one. At the International Culinary Center they have one of the better ones. Almondine is another option. The problem is that everyone bakes their baguettes too large here. The bread should be smaller and lighter, airy with a thin solid crust, and the breads should be baked several times throughout the day. Sometimes I grab something at Eric Kayser which reminds me a lot of Paris.
Fish: We were getting monkfish from Mermaid's Garden. They have a shop in Brooklyn. We source from small fishers there and up and down the East Coast.
Croissant: Roberta's has a good croissant, but it's not by any means traditional. It has good layers, they use good butter, and it's a nice size—some places make them too big.
Kouign Amann: Dominique Ansel has a good kouign amann. For me, every kouign amann I've ever had is different and has a different personality. His isn't overly sugared or sweet. It has a good balance of flavors. I had one a day old, and it was still delicious. Some people make them too lacquered, and the thing is like a solid brick of sugar.
Croque monsieur: I definitely have had some very good ones in the city. Everyone tries to use very nice bread, cheese, and meat, while in France, it's on a piece of white bread and is served as a kid's meal or quick late night dinner. Minetta Tavern's stands out.
Wine: Uva in Brooklyn has a very good selection of French wine. I also like Appellation, Discovery Wine, Chambers Street Wines, and Le Du wines. Jean-Luc of Le Du used to be a sommelier and he's very talented. I tend to gravitate toward natural wines. They're pure, unadulterated wines, and I can usually drink three glasses of them instead of one or two.
Cafe: I like places like Buvette that are small and unassuming, even though Buvette is quite popular. If you go there for a light meal and treat it as a cafe it's not too expensive.