Clips

12.19.2015

Grey has gone back to being a book! For GREY BOOK, Volume I, I wrote about the mysterious wonder of eating in Beirut, my adventures with friend and chef Gioconda Scott, getting to know chef, writer, social entrepreneur Kamal Mouzawak and the bewitching chaos of the city. The artist Fanny Gentle contributed stunning paintings to illustrate the intriguing Mediterranean flora.

GREY BOOK I, PAGE 1

GREY BOOK I, PAGE 2

GREY BOOK I, PAGE 3

GREY BOOK I, PAGE 4

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Reviews

12.14.2015

There’s some magic happening in Murray Hill. Words I never thought I’d utter, but here I am, muttering them to anyone who will listen.

Last Wednesday I dined at Rocky Slims and had my mind blown by chef Angelo Romano’s eccentric, deft Italian food. Although his prowess would be evident in any environment, it’s particularly awe-inspiring here. Let’s start with the name: for me “Rocky Slims” conjures up images of Uma doing a line of blow in the bathroom, $5 milk shakes and Twist contests (okay, that’s “Jack Rabbit Slims,” but you get my drift). Yet in the 25th Street and Third Avenue restaurant, instead of a dance floor, there’s a flat screen TV above the bar. So is it a Sports Bar? No…because generally Sports Bars serve cheese fries and nachos (or so I’m told) and don’t have red tiled ovens in the middle of their open kitchens, besides which a dozen persimmons hang, drying, being massaged daily by their inventive, free-spirited chef.

“When you cut into it, it should be nice and gelatinous inside,” he said as he placed the persimmon in front of us.  Heart-shaped and slightly contracted, within there was indeed sweet, perfumed natural confiture that oozed onto the plate, caramelized with its own sugars. Combined with a smear of La Tur cheese (goat x cow x sheep), rich olive oil and a fragrant Tonka bean dust, it was an exercise in restraint, the chef’s faith in the 4 excellent ingredients and the decadent reward they supply.

The same finesse was demonstrated by shishito peppers (which are seemingly a requisite on all menus of a certain ilk right now), but Angelo wraps his in lardo that turns translucent when it touches their hot skins and serves them with a dollop of rich fig “butter.” This is my favorite kind of cooking: where the menu descriptors and even the visual presentation undersell and the experience of each bite over-delivers.

Rustically cut Wagyu beef tartare with anchovy oil, treviso tips and goat whey-fermented turnip and pineapple vinegar was clean & bright, showing off the flavors of the meat. Roasted butternut and sweet potato were served in a shallow pool of “egg nog”–a creamy, nutty sauce befitting of the season–with blanched water chestnuts that Angelo shocked in icy almond milk and vinegar, and a dusting of cured egg yolk atop. Angelo’s dishes have that “Why didn’t I think of that?” quality, or “Okay, I never could have thought of that, yet it makes perfect sense!”

The next round was total urbane-hippie-mad-scientist experimentation (in the best possible way). Guinea hen bone broth had strands of coconut floating in it, giving a pleasant bite, was dusted with Burgundy truffle and served with a glass of the coconut water (from the coconut used in the broth). Playful. Kind of funny. Luxurious. Wonderful.

Angelo’s been dry aging Guinea hens in his walk in for a couple of weeks. The bird, as he prepped it for roasting, was the gorgeous purple and pinks of an L.A. sunset. When he served it, simply, with preserved lemon juice and sea salt that enhanced the crisp skin and moist, tender meat, it was yet another revelation, a reminder of something so obvious that you cease to see it: all you need is a good bird, some patience, lemon & salt.

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Sautéed wild mushrooms with prosciutto and whipped avocado was predictably my favorite dish of the night. A bit more obvious perhaps, but irresistibly bright and earthy, salty and light all at once. House-made hand-rolled pici pasta with Guinea heart and liver ragout was remarkably un-offal-y and refined (guessing he perfected his pasta game when he cooked at Lupa). And the pizza was fantastic (no surprise there after his time at Roberta’s).

So what is this place, you might be asking? Can you have an experience like the one I’ve just described? The answer is yes. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, Angelo offers tasting menus for in-the-know diners who are clever enough to spend $65 for a meal he describes as “Long, weird and hopefully awesome.”

You may have college kids naïve of the chef’s pedigree on your right and an older couple fascinated by his cooking on your left, but, Pals, you heard it here (belatedly and respectfully): Angelo’s food at Rocky Slims is weird…and it’s freaking wonderful!

Rocky Slims, 338 Third Avenue (at 25th Street), rockyslims.com, 212. 889.4663

They’re also open for lunch and brunch, there’s a slice shop next door and they deliver.

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Reviews

11.28.2015

AL’s Place, the young Mission restaurant from chef Aaron London, was my last stop on a 48-hour Northern California eating trip. It was my third major meal of the day eaten quite happily alone, though hardly lonely with a humming restaurant around me.

I’d been incredibly curious about AL’s since I read Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appétit‘s praise for it. It wasn’t that he named it the Best New Restaurant in America, it was his description of the experience and the person who he found at the helm of it. Phrases like, “It was almost as though I’d been eating vegetables in black and white my whole life, and then suddenly everything was in Technicolor,” are pretty bold, and though I’ve always been in love with vegetables, like most junkies, I wanted to have my switch flipped and try a new high.

I serendipitously landed at the chef’s counter, at the last seat, closest to the kitchen and to chef Aaron who expedited from two ever-shifting rows of tickets. As I sipped a Domaine Collin Cremant de Limoux Rosé from the Languedoc, I watched him manipulate his paper keyboard of orders with the grace and vigor of a symphony conductor…albeit one who’s not afraid to leave his podium and grab an instrument out of his orchestra’s hands to show them how to play it properly, if necessary. With his man-bun and urchin-like botanical tattoos, Aaron tweaked the plating of a finished dish in the pass, added a dusting of sea salt or grind of pepper, and called out “Hands, please!” — his signal to his servers to come and pick up.

It was a Sunday evening at 7:30 and the restaurant was packed. Diners were hovering near the chef’s counter, saying preposterously touristy things like, “I’ll come in there and help you cook it, Son, if it means we’ll get sat any faster.” Aaron seemed to be doing five things at once: gently jushing young greens with his hands; checking the temp on a hangar steak by pressing it with his thumb; having a conversation with me as I told him what a shit photographer I am and then, of course, playing his ticket keyboard–but, even when a loitering patron offered to run some food for him, he kept his cool.

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AL’s Place is a happy place. It’s the culmination of years of effort on the part of its chef. It’s the brick-and-mortar proof, filled to the gills, of his undeniable purpose. On that night, the uniform for employees was apparently wild shirts and unusual hairstyles (one male server rocked a French side-braid that would put any 1980s teenage girl to shame). When Aaron himself stepped over from his growing line of tickets to discuss my order, I hinted at my conundrum: when I looked at the five-part menu — Snackles, Cold/Cool, Warm/Hot, Sides and Limited Availability — I wanted everything, particularly the vegetable dishes and those that featured persimmon. (Everywhere I’d eaten over the last two days in California were celebrating persimmons’ prime moment to delightful effect and I wanted to see how this chef–who relegated meat to the Sides section on his menu–would honor them.) Aaron took the hint and said, “How about if we just cook for you?” which was exactly what I hoped he would say.

He sent out an order of his much buzzed about french fries so that I could “see what everyone is talking about” (Knowlton rhapsodized about them), and indeed they were unlike any other french fry I’d ever eaten. Though they looked somewhat rumpled, suggesting sogginess, in fact they were firm as a strong handshake — or better yet, a solid high five, and the smoked applesauce served with them managed to dexterously lend sweet, woody, and acidic panache to each bite of the slightly fermented fried potatoes strings.

The hits began fast. Squash mayo served with the eggplant-trumpet mushroom “yakitori” was so good — so squash-y! — that I started running my fries through it. A bowl of mushroom broth chawanmushi made my toes curl. The custard dish (of Japanese origin) had a texture so silken that I wanted to drink it, but being forced to have it by the bewitching spoonful–each peppered by sweet, fragrant persimmon, crumbled pistachio and with a subtle but persistent chili oil–was an elongated pleasure. Squash with burrata is a no brainer on any fall menu, right? But Aaron makes it a revelation by serving it with grilled apple and kale dressed deftly in quince vinaigrette, and with a warmly acidic currant soffritto to balance the squash’s sugar and cheese’s creamy ooze.

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The apex of the meal for me was Aaron’s Pear Curry with black lime-cod, persimmon and blistered squash. The curry “broth” retained pear’s trademark grainy texture between the teeth, and in it swam slices of the most delicately cooked yet vibrantly flavored cod, I’d ever tasted. To achieve this, Aaron cooked whole limes for 3-days and ground their remains into a powder which he dusted onto the cod before cooking it–just barely. Like finishing a great book, I was inclined to order this dish again immediately, so that I could experience its nuances & surprises all over again.

There was a lot going on in the grits with goat milk curds, fried brussels sprouts, quince and chanterelles; at once comforting and seductive…particularly thanks to the heavy dusting of Burgundian truffle atop. The aforementioned hangar steak “Side” had the rich, sultry funk of dry-aged meat, thanks to the salmon butter (he makes a noissette out of butter and salmon bones) and the uni-balsamic reduction.

Every element is considered and my favorite dishes were the ones where Aaron toed the line between his creative moxie and restraint in the form of trust and pride in his excellently sourced ingredients (breakfast radishes are kept in their soil in the basement and cleaned just before service, leaving their bodies firm and their delicious greens snappy).

It was impossible for me to experience AL’s Place as Knowlton had — on a trusted advisor’s recommendation but with no sense of the speckled story that lead Aaron here to this jolly, thriving, triumphant place. I knew a bit of the backstory already, but no odes to the ocean can prepare you for your first sight and scent of it; no descriptions of music can prime you for Lakmé’s “Flower Duet.” We don’t need to do homework in order to be bowled over. When we go into any edifice that showcases creativity, all we have to do is open our eyes, our ears or our mouths and let the artists do their jobs. Though, sure, doing a little research can certainly whet the appetite.

* * *

Aaron, Austin & gang, thank you guys for taking such good care of me, for stashing my suitcase while I ate and sending me back to New York so giddy and bursting with fruit (and vegetable) flavor. ♥️

 AL’s Place, 1499 Valencia St. SF, CA 94110 (at 26th Street), info@alsplacesf.com, (415) 416-6136

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Clips

11.12.2015

WSJ. MAGAZINE COVER 11:15

 

Click on Angelina for my WSJ. Magazine story on Lebanese entrepreneur Kamal Mouzawak, founder of Lebanon’s first farmers’ market, Souk el Tayeb, and restaurant Tawlet, who now launches Beit Douma, a new kind of hospitality venture with an eye toward preservation. 

 

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Clips

10.21.2015

WSJ-Magazine-Cover-October 2015

 

Click on Kate for my story on José Ignacio, Uruguay, chef Francis Mallmann & the restaurateurs from La Huella who are bringing their South American heat to U.S. soil this fall. 

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Reviews

10.13.2015

Chateaubriand

I have running lists: lists of places I want to go and restaurants I want to dine at. Vietnam, Tokyo, Mexico City. Paris is not on that short list. It’s not just that I’ve visited it plenty…but that, though perhaps incomprehensible, I have bad memories of the City of Lights. The near-millennium details are too sordid and cruel to reconsider, but they were enough to make me turn my back on gaie Paris for 15 years.

Chateaubriand Berry Gazpacho

Still Paris has a way of pulling one toward it. Friends who live in attic apartments; girls who move there to write poems and chase dreams. Layovers that tease and must be indulged and elongated. Neo bistros that serve 8-course meals for 70 euros. After all, why stay in Paris for one night when you could stay three? Why visit the city on a Monday when Le Chateaubriand is closed and not extend your stay to accommodate the restaurant’s schedule? Why not?

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This was the dinner I had at Inaki Aizpitarte’s 11th arrondissement néo bistro. Probably what struck me most was the subtlety of his dishes. He seems to trust the ingredients to stand on their own two feet; to speak for themselves. He didn’t hide behind a dusting of Maldon sea salt or lemon zest (finishing touches I adore, lean on and seek out as flavor profiles in restaurants). The ride was more about texture and gentle layering of components rather than a highly seasoned finish, making the experience elusive and masterful. Instead of the aromas pulling you toward a dish, it’s up to the diner to reach out and start the dialogue to reap the quietly confident reward.

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Last night I went to Inaki’s pop up at Contra here in NYC and the Basque chef brought that finesse with him, bolstered by chefs Jeremiah Stone & Fabian von Hauske and their replete understanding of the sophisticated New York palate. The transient nature of pop-up restaurants or guest chef dinners often means the dishes are cobbled together or lean too heavily on their host restaurant. Combinations that work in a chef’s home regions feel watered down when an ingredient is just off or the kitchen is not their own.

But last night was not so. It was spot on and rang true of Chateaubriand, particularly with shelling beans in bright elderflower butter vinaigrette. Chicharones (which I usually skip) served with creamy avocado & “ceviche” granita, melted on the tongue, were surprising and astounding. Maroon squab with broccoli and lovage looked bloody but tasted silky and sweet within with seared crisp skin. Jeremiah and Fabian also have that quiet confidence: knowing when to steer and when to let the apt guest driver take control. Then at the end there was an unequivocally Chateaubriand touch: cassis sorbet, here served with fried sage leaves and a solid dusting of cacao. The last dish of the night was all Contra: Fabian’s almond coffee sobayon. It was all egg, but without any irony.

I guess for Inaki’s famous Tocino de Cielo–the candied, caramelized egg dessert–the Contra guys know, let it be an excuse–for me, for you, for them–to go to Paris.

Le Chateaubriand, 129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris, France

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Restaurant photos borrowed appreciatively from the one and only Todd Selby at The Selby.

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Clips

09.21.2015

For the summer issue of Grey, I decided to explore the reality of being a carnivore. What I thought would be a simple story, I soon realized was one very difficult to tell. There is so much controversy, hypocrisy, taboo and misinformation about our food system, that trying to summarize my navigation of it was a monumental undertaking. In the end, I hope this essay conveys one person’s attempt to do what is right for her…and by her, I mean me.

Thank you Zachary Zavislak for these stunning images and Zak Pelaccio and Patrick Milling Smith of Fish & Game Hudson and Jeremy Peele of Herondale Farm in Ancram, NY.

And, for my Uncle Sally, if you are reading this, please try not to hate me just because we may not see things the same way. I loved Chico and I love you.

GREY I.IV PTP 1

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GREY I.IV PTP 6

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GREY I.IV PTP 8

GREY I.IV PTP 9

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Recipes

08.25.2015

I just cleaned out my fridge.

I found an old onion and some shrinking shallots, some firm, fresh garlic, tired kale, perfect tomatoes and a week old bag full of herbs from a friend’s garden, sealed properly and still verdant and crisp. I sautéed the onion and started to add a good glug of olive oil as usual, but then decided to go another way. I added some coconut oil to make up the difference. Sliced shallots and minced garlic, tomatoes in rough chunks to sizzle (with most of their seeds down the sink) on high heat with 4 big pinches of sea salt to draw out their flavor and make the shallots sweet.

2 tbs coconut oil
1 tbs olive oil
1 old onion
3 “vintage” shallots
3 cloves of taught garlic
5 leaves of wilting, yellowing kale
2 perfect tomatoes
1 large pinch of dried coconut
a bag full of herbs from a friends garden (basil, scallions, sage) fresh and crisp
random spices (such as nutmeg, za’atar, crushed fennel seeds, turmeric)
lemon zest & juice
garlic yogurt (minced fresh garlic, greek yogurt, sea salt, lemon juice)
lots of sea salt

I added ribbons of sideways sliced kale, rib and all, and covered it with a cutting board for 2 minutes so the kale would steam in the tomato juices. Meanwhile, I mixed a bowl of Fage Greek yogurt with minced garlic, sea salt, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a tiny drip of honey. My eyes rested on my much neglected spices, sitting in that small close cupboard next to my salt, so I shaved some nutmeg, ground some fennel seeds and tossed some za’atar into my hodgepodge sauté and added some dried coconut. One last squeeze of lemon for good measure. Serve in a bowl with a lot of garlic laden yogurt. Serve with some stale toast or old rice.

It took about 14 minutes. It was almost a curry…and was remarkably delicious. The lesson here, kids, is stock your fridge & cupboard well with hearty greens, like kale and radicchio that forgive you for forgetting them, then force yourself to use them even at the last minute…and then let them sing for your supper.

To leave a comment, please click here and scroll down to where it says “Leave a comment.”

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Recipes

07.06.2015

Summer is in full swing and a July 4th jaunt from the North Fork of Long Island to the beloved Springs lent some inspiration. Knowing better than to show up as an empty handed houseguest and amorous of the tie-dye-colored carrots and local flora (sunflowers, herbs, radishes), I went on a shopping spree at the North Fork farmers markets, where prices are a fifth of those in the tony, traffic-mobbed Hamptons.

This is how I’ve been cooking fish lately, and it couldn’t be more simple, healthy or gorgeous, to the eye and on the tongue. It works with almost any whole fish (I used upstate trout when I was there and Montauk bass while on Long Island), and a variety of veggies can work too, such as fennel or radishes can fill in for the carrots; leafy greens like collard or chard would be great too, though no need to roast them before adding fish–just a quick sauté with olive oil and garlic on stovetop before adding the wine, fish, herbs and lemon.

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Ingredients (serves 2)
1 sea bass, or other whole white fish
1 bunch rainbow carrots, scrubbed in cold water but not peeled or topped
½ onion, sliced into semi circles
za’atar
cumin
fresh ground mustard seed
Aleppo
ginger
paprika
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
basil
flat leaf parsley
lemon, juice and peel
olive oil
1 cup white wine

Heat oven to 450°. Lay carrots and onion slices in a roasting pan and pour 1/4 cup olive oil over them. Sprinkle sea salt flakes, za’atar, fresh ground cumin and mustard seed, Aleppo pepper, ginger and lemon zest over and roll carrots to distribute spices, etc. Roast in oven for 10-15 minutes while preparing fish.

Rinse fish in cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Drizzle interior and exterior in olive oil and rub gently to coat. Generously salt and pepper interior and exterior of fish. Lay basil leaves and lemon rounds in fish cavity.

Remove carrots from the oven and stir slightly. Pour 1 cup of white wine over carrots and onion slices. Add parsley stems, torn leaves and garlic. Lay fish over carrots and garnish fish with lemon rounds. I added a last dusting of spices because I like my flavors punchy. Cover pan with tinfoil and bake for 12-15 minutes or until fish meat is opaque. The juices from the fish will mix with the wine and spices creating a nice broth to spoon over top. Serve whole fish on platter surrounded by carrots and garnished with fresh herbs.

The next day, add aioli (homemade mayo + garlic), capers and parsley to cold fish leftovers for a lunch salad beside cold carrots.

Suddenly Last Summer

All plate ware and beauty thanks to Ian & Emilie Irving (aka @_xenomania_), except the shot of Liz from Suddenly Last Summer. To leave a comment, please click here and scroll down to where it says “Leave a comment.”

 

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