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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - After cooking for United Nations diplomats, menu planning for a New York restaurant is a cakewalk, said the chefs of Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar, the Michelin-star Austrian eatery in Manhattan.
New Yorkers bring plenty of food sensitivities to the table, but their demands pale when compared to those of international heads of state, Wolfgang Ban and his partner Eduard Frauneder told Reuters.
Ban and Frauneder, who are opening a new rustic Austrian restaurant in New York's East Village, also described their efforts to overturn stereotypes of Austrian cooking and explained why there are so many pizza joints in New York.
Q: How does cooking for diplomats differ from the restaurant business?
A: Frauneder: "Cooking for diplomats is interesting in one respect -- you get used to all kinds of food restrictions. You see some crazy stuff. You have to obey all the religious holidays. You have guests who say, 'No shallots', 'no pork.'
"Once we had a dinner for 10 people where six people had between one-to-four different food restrictions, including no nuts, no butter... In direct comparison, a restaurant is actually easier."
Q: Are you seeing more allergies than in the past?
A: Frauneder: "I think most allergies in America are more mental than physical. And it's fashionable to have allergies."
Q: Do you build menus around recent dietary trends, or popular diets?
A: Ban: "Starch is disappearing a little bit from the plates. We have dishes with less starches than 10 years ago. We have definitely scaled back on dairy and heavy cream. We don't have any dish where we use cream. "
Q: How do food costs affect your menus?
A: Frauneder: "People walk into a full dining room and think the place is rocking. But we (still) have to be very aware of our food cost. The cost of ingredients can eat you up, especially in fine dining. The most profitable restaurants are burger and pizza. There's a reason you can find pizza and burger in New York on every block."
Q: What do Americans need to learn about Austrian cuisine?
A: Ban: "It's not as heavy as they always imagine. When customers come (to Seasonal) for the first time, they're always surprised about the lightness of our dishes. That's what we want to show Americans -- it's not all meat and potatoes. It doesn't have to be extremely heavy to be Austrian food."
3/4 cup milk
3 cups flour
1 tbs. creme fraiche
2 tbs. chives
Heat pasta pot on the stove and season with oil and salt. Mix eggs, milk and flour in a blender for a semi-firm dough. Press spatzle dough through a small-holed hotel pan so that pea-sized drops form in the water.
Cook for one minute or until pasta rises to the top of the water. Place in ice bath. Melt creme fraiche in a pan and season with salt and nutmeg. Saute in the spatzle, add chives and serve.
Reporting by Chelsea Emery; Editing by Patricia Reaney