"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Keste - May 7, 2011

The simpler a thing is, the less there is room where you can hide – e.g. make-up, with vs. without (or a pinstripe suit vs. bathing suit, if you insist).

Pizza del Papa – Butternut squash cream, imported smoked mozzarella, artichokes, red and yellow peppers

The pizza del papa was so blithe and vibrant and utterly messy, which caused quite a commotion: The smooth and subtly sweet butternut squash cream was a perfectly slippery background for the smoky and salty mozzarella, which the superbly fresh peppers – not pre-roasted peppers – treated as a playground sledding slope. To keep the ingredients evenly scattered while holding and chewing through the scorching, molten and volcanic composition required deftness and temperature-proof gears – palate and fingers - and determination, in the case of burned casualties. The few chopped basil leaves – I would not have minded a little more - accentuated the brightness of the ingredients and introduced a calming breeze into the frenzy of frenetic chewing.
At first glance, all the freshness and the moisture seemed to dampen the dough in the middle. On the contrary, even the thinnest part of the dough had a strong spring that proudly defied the diner’s hasty assumption of failure. It was the dough and all about the triumphant dough, which was not ostentatious in anyway, but dignified by being simply pure and simple. Keste’s pizza dough was not merely a vessel on which the ingredients were carried, but it was the Holy Grail itself: At Keste, it would be a sacrilege to leave the crusts behind. The goodness of the dough would make you want to continue chewing for the shear pleasure of moving your mandibles. The ultimate secret, as we were told, was the oven, which could reach an exploding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, as a result of which, the pizza only needed to be cooked for 65 to 90 seconds – a universal theorem also applicable to naan and tandoor, which shared the characteristic large bubbles formed by the high heat.

Keste – Basil, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, arugula, gran cru, extra-virgin olive oil

“Sometimes, the simplest is the best,” smiled the waiter, twisting a corner of his mouth with a little shake of his head, as if he was still amazed by such irony. He was right, in any case: The secret to Keste’s ultra-fresh tomato sauce could not be simpler indeed – it was not really a sauce, but tomatoes, crushed and strained, without sugar or salt. Can a tomato sauce be simpler than this? The gentle and clean sweetness of the tomato had ample room to seep onto the tongue, unhindered, which was endearing with the fresh toppings - basil and mozzarella – while complementing the salty – pecorino and prosciutto – and mellowing out the herbal – arugula and olive oil. The aged pecorino gran cru – essentially a sheep milk parmegiano reggiano – had a milder edge of saltiness with a sweeter and more pronounced milkiness, albeit less nuttiness, which united and spiced up the pizza. Needles to say, at Keste, the arugula and prosciutto were properly placed on the pizza after the pizza had finished baking in the man-made volcano, as opposed to some seriously misguided (or unguided) pizzerias had done in the past to much chagrin. The slightly more substantial use of arugula would have balanced out the flavors, however.

Address: 271 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 243-1500

1 comment:

  1. I also would love if there was just a little more greenery on Keste's pizzas. I once ordered a "mast' nicola" (gluten free) pizza there, which was supposed to come with basil. It came with One. Piddling. Leaf.