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catch of the day: my life in sourdough

In the world of “food television”, there’s not much I like to watch. I’m easily bored by cooking shows, get aggravated by nearly all reality television (thought I did have my Top Chef moment), and am wholly persuaded by Michael Pollan’s observation that more time spent watching food TV inversely correlates with more time in the kitchen (not to mention general culinary proficiency).

But I am an avid fan of culinary cinema, works that seek to tell a story beyond who can quickly bang out canapés for 500 guests and actually delve into the story behind the food—see Hiro Dreams of Sushi, Toast, or Kings of Pastry. That said, I don’t often have the time to watch a two hour film, and wish there were more short-form cinematic food programs.


Enter My Life In Sourdough , a just-launched cooking show by filmmaker Marie Constantinesco, a French transplant and baking aficionado living in Brooklyn. Admittedly, if there was an equation for things that are likely to please me, Food + French + NYC would be a pretty good bet. But there’s an elegance and quirky honesty to Marie’s work that speaks to both an intelligent, subtle French sense of humor (that I very much appreciate) and the wondrous absurdity of being young today in Brooklyn.

I had the pleasure to meet with Marie and speak about the series, her own experience with cooking and the differences between home-cooking culture in New York and France:

What inspired the series, and how did it come to be?
My Life In Sourdough was inspired by my love for food and film. I wanted to do a new kind of cooking show involving a narrative and decided to tell the story of a girl looking for food and for love in NY. Food was going to be the link between the characters. The series was developed as an independent study at NYU (I’m a thesis student in the Graduate Film Program) and we started shooting the series with a really small budget and a tiny crew of very talented fellow filmmakers.

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Is this your first foray into the food world?
Prior to the series, I had already been playing with food themes in previous short films (Too much strawberry jam, which involved an intense making out/bread kneading session) and I have been shooting food and blogging about food for a while—but food was never really the sole focus. So yes, the series is my first real food world adventure.
 
Any particular funny/interesting stories about the production of the series?
There are a few! From shooting at 6 am in Choice Green in torrential rain (It was literally raining in the store and, if you look close enough, you can actually see the rain in the scene with the made-from-scratch guy!), to feeding the crew prop food to save money (we used the pasta we made in the scene for lunch!).For episode 4, we also needed one shot in the waiting room of an ER. I scouted a grungy hospital, but there was a lot of security and I thought we would never get away with shooting there without permission. On the day of, we went in with a tiny camera. We sat down quietly, I hid the microphone in my handbag and we stole the shot in less than 10 minutes. The security guards couldn’t care less. 

What’s already in store for the future of the show/where would you like to see it go?
I’m planning on shooting another season in the fall in NY – it’s my favorite season on this side of the Atlantic and I can’t wait to shoot in corn fields and apple orchards. A season in Paris is also on my mind. Eventually I would love to develop the series in a longer format. I’m currently looking for producers and investors.
 
Are there any food films/series that you particularly like and respect?
I love In the Mood for Love, which is not a food film per se, but I particularly like the slow motion scenes where Maggie Cheung goes down the stairs to buy her daily dose of noodles. The sensual atmosphere that comes with slow motion was an inspiration for the food videos of My Life in Sourdough, shot by Chananun Chotrungroj who brought her great sense of framing and aesthetics to the series.I also really like Rachel Khoo’s BBC series, and while not a film, Clotilde Dusoulier’s series on French food idioms is quite fascinating!

When and how did you start baking?
I started baking and cooking fairly young, watching my parents cook. My Romanian grandmother was also a serious baker, and I would make hundreds of biscuits with her every Christmas. My first cookbook was called La cuisine sans maman (“Cooking without mum”), but my first cooking endeavors quickly became family gatherings over mini-disasters. I once attempted to make some powered sugar and mint syrup candy balls that would refuse to come into shape. My mum invited along the postman to help out, and the green liquid paste magically turned into candy—but they tasted horrible. 

The kitchen has always been a place of exploration for me. It’s the place where I go when I’m down, and I’ll make a rhubarb jam to cheer me up. The place I like to invite friends—to cook with me or eat the new cheesecake I’ve just made. It’s also the place where I can close the door, turn on the radio, and create something. I also love how you know very quickly when it’s working or when it’s a fail, and sometimes I wish making films would resemble that process.

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How would you compare home cooking culture in France vs. New York?
Typically in NY people have less time—they drink or eat their breakfast on the street, and tend to eat out or do take out for dinner. The tradition of home-cooked meals is not as rooted as in France, but it’s changing, as there is a growing movement towards home-cooking in NY, and farmer’s markets are becoming more and more popular.In France, where a croissant used to be the only thing that was acceptably eaten on-the-go, people now tend to devote less time to eating lunch. For instance, the two hour lunch break has often been reduced to one hour, hence more and more sandwiches eaten on the street. However, it seems that the tradition of family dinners remains somewhat unshaken, even though the communal table is often facing a television.

Eventually, the main difference is that in France, people are so obsessed by food that they can’t stop talking about it. Even in a “non-foodie” family, it’s not rare for a dinner conversation to focus exclusively around food. Reminiscing over extraordinary food experiences makes the best dinner conversation!

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seen and heard: supper studio

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

As a food writer, most of the time, my job includes avoiding open nights. Even in the better, faster, stronger culture of social media, the most serious critics still give new food businesses 4-6 weeks (and 2-3 visits!) before writing a first review.

On the flip side, in the music industry, there has long been an appeal of being the person to “discover” a band. While heading to a new restaurant is often a major risk on opening day, a great many music stories revolve around being present at the first public performance of a song, or even getting a sneak peak of a band’s studio time.

Preparing the duck prosciutto and polenta fry appetizer.

Preparing the duck prosciutto and polenta fry appetizer.

At the brand-new venture, Supper Studio, these two worlds—music and food—delightfully collide, with all their disparate quirks and appeal. The event’s organizers, Laura Leebove, Tracy Candido and Ben Wygonik, are no stranger to this mash-up, as Laura’s longtime blog, Eating the Beats, features recipes inspired by various musicians.

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Pearl and the Beard performed mere feet from where we were standing.

Such was the format for Supper Studio, with local band Pearl and the Beard as the inspiration for the evening’s ambitious eats. As Pearl’s guitarist, Jeremy Styles recalls, the group actually met Laura through her blog, when she featured their Bon Iver cover of “Stacks” alongside a fanciful stack of pancakes.

This seasonal dinner series launched on a humid night near City Hall. Curiosity ran high, as well as excitement. $35 for dinner and a concert certainly seemed like a bargain rate, so I was both anxious and excited to see what the night would bring. A glass wall was all that separated us from the kitchen—an exciting detail, from my perspective, but certainly one that raised the stakes for the kitchen crew.

Laura Leebowe explains the inspiration for the first course.

Laura explains the inspiration for the first two courses.

We were promptly served small cups of polenta fries with duck prosciutto, roasted asparagus and horseradish mustard. It was a tasty, indulgent snack, if a bit difficult to eat. Upon hearing the dish analyzed by the cooks, Pearl’s Jocelyn joked, “Our voices have never been compared to prosciutto—that’s some expensive meat!”

As the band geared up to play their first set, the kitchen served a second appetizer of smoked almond tart with eggplant, vine tomato and ricotta. My co-diners especially liked this course, which we savored, settling into the intimacy of watching one of our favorite bands from 3 feet away.

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As someone who regularly hosts a supper club, I was impressed that the kitchen was accommodating for food allergies (a generous, but time consuming move, in my experience). The decision to serve the three final courses seated also created a significant delay, given the event’s limited staff.

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Despite the delay, the other courses were well prepared—a refreshing watermelon radish and butter lettuce salad, creamy macaroni and cheese with salmon and zucchini and a sweet vanilla tapioca with strawberry rhubarb and shortbread cookie crumbs.

During dessert, Pearl and the Beard performed a second set, and any disappointment caused by the dinner’s delay instantly faded. The band played a brand new song—so new, in fact, that they had yet to agree on the name. It was in that moment that I recalled how different the value of “newness” is in music and food. We forgive the experimental among musicians—the false starts, the jokes when they do mess up—in ways that we do not forgive cooks.

Pearl and the Beard's sultry cellist, Emily Hope Price.

Pearl and the Beard’s sultry cellist, Emily Hope Price.

Which is why I would recommend Supper Studio to other fans of music and food. For a first event, the food was well prepared—an ambitious feat, especially given the team’s small, makeshift kitchen. To boot, unless you work at NPR’s Tiny Desk, it’s nearly impossible to see a band (especially a great band!) in that intimate a setting. So keep an eye out for Supper Studio this fall. I’m sure they’ll return with tastier timing.

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eater’s digest: northern spy food co.

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

As a food writer, it’s easy to to fall into a habit of extremes, toggling from insatiable to oversaturated. This is typically the curse of chasing trends, following the buzz or, worse yet, a desire to be the first to discover a new, unsung food locale. But then there are the restaurants we discover off-the-clock. The plates that satiate us, without leaving us feeling stuffed. The mouthfuls that remind us why we got excited by food in the first place—which, for me, has nothing to do with standing in line three hours for a cronut.

My food appreciation began with the ingredients at my disposal and the thrill of testing out a new flavor or texture—most especially, those with a specific taste of place. In short, I fell hard for cooking with local ingredients, and the chefs who thrill me most are the ones who revive that feeling of discovery.

Porgy with fava and yellow eyed beans in green garlic broth

Porgy with fava and yellow eyed beans in green garlic broth

In Manhattan, Northern Spy Food Co. is a singular example of this type of restaurant. Over the past year, I’ve eaten there four times—more any other restaurant, except maybe the more casual Co. Pane—yet I never got so far as to write a review. They were meals without ulterior motives, an opportunity to indulge in anonymity. In fact, I ate there the way critics would ideally eat at restaurants: often, and casually, without explicit intentions to review them. The true gems are the places that consistently satisfy and surprise you, steeping over time until they blossom into a story.

Let’s start with Northern Spy’s kale salad. Or don’t, in fact. It’s been raved about so often that it overshadows other dishes on the menu – plates like the equally irreplaceable Elysian Fields lamb or smoked bluefish rillettes. In that spirit, I decided on one rule for this review – if I’ve already eaten it, it’s off the table.

And so it was that I started off with pickled eggs. Normally, this wouldn’t be a dish that I’d choose, as all my favorite egg preparations include a runny yolk. Pink with beet juice, they were certainly acidic but also mildly sweet. The yolk maintained a certain creaminess, if the white was a bit more resistant than I’d usually prefer. But I approached them objectively, and they grew on me with each bite, providing yet again that N’Spy sense of discovery, the same that I’d found before.

Chilled watercress soup

Chilled watercress soup

The rest of the dishes were less challenging, but no less interesting. First up, the chilled watercress soup. The texture of this gorgeous pastel palette of food is nothing short of spectacular, coating your mouth with cool green flavor, without the cumbersome weight of cream.

Then came the strawberry salad with goat milk yogurt and fresh herbs. Tart and sweet, it featured both fresh red and pickled green berries, cut with the funkiness of goat cheese, the refreshing crunch of fennel, and the bright, lemony bite of sorrel. I’ll go right ahead and call it the salad of the summer.

Speaking of summer, I highly recommend the refreshing celery tonic cocktail. I’d been eyeing it for months, and it met all my expectations, balancing refreshment with bitter and vegetal notes. For those who like ginger, the Spy Glass is the spicy, fruitier cousin of a Bloody Mary, and also shouldn’t be missed.

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Celery tonic and Spyglass cocktail

Back to the eats, the warm squid salad arrived all tender coils: squid, carrot and daikon radish, garnished with a streak of dark black ink. Accented with the rich flavor of pork belly, it reminded me of a pork and clam dish I once ate in a bistro in Lisbon, a remarkable marriage of land and sea.

For our first entree, we tried the Porgy special—mildly briny and flaky, but more oily than flimsier white fish. Served in a green garlic broth with favas and yellow eyed beans, it was fragrant and comforting, the tender beans yielding beautifully under the impeccably moist, pink-tinged fish.

Broccoli with cabbage, mustard, pretzel

Broccoli with cabbage, mustard, pretzel

But the real scene-stealer was the sleeper on the menu: the broccoli with “cabbage, mustard and pretzel.” If it sounds like a vegetarian beer hall dish, you’re not entirely off track. Tender stalks, breaded and fried in crisp pretzel crumbs, made me wonder if I ever needed to eat juicy sausage again. Negotiating over who would get to drag the last floret through the mustard and pesto sauces, I couldn’t help but think that this was no mere vegetarian alternative. This was a definitive dish – the kind that can make a chef’s career (kale salad be damned).

Ending on a sweet note, (and still entranced by the pretzel-breaded broccoli stalks) we opted for the pretzel waffle with strawberry ice cream and caramel sauce. A flatter, compact, Scandinavian-style waffle, it brought al dente texture and salt, an excellent contrast to the sticky caramel and creamy, concentrated strawberry scoop. Yet again, we found ourselves bartering for the final bite.

Pretzel waffle with strawberry ice cream and caramel

Pretzel waffle with strawberry ice cream and caramel

If this sounds like a rave review, it is. I don’t promise that each of your taste buds will explode with new ideas or ingredients, but—like a good tea–the dishes at Northern Spy develop as they steep. Rather than being at their best on the first bite, they evolve as you uncover each layer of complexity. It’s the ultimate in “slow food,” in fact. Not only is it local and sustainable, but you’re best eating it at a leisurely pace, lest you let one of the subtler elements pass you by.

Northern Spy Food Co.
511 E 12th St
(212) 228-5100

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eater’s digest: lucky rice night market

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

As someone who has never been lucky enough to travel to Asia, I’ve always been intrigued by tales of nighttime markets that sell sizzling dishes to the hungry throngs. Fortunately for me, Lucky Rice, an annual, Manhattan-based celebration of Asian culture and cuisine, is bringing the night market (along with a number of other exciting events) to 5 major cities across the US.

Cocktail waitresses served gin cocktails and beer to guests arriving at the night market.

Cocktail waitresses served gin cocktails and beer to guests arriving at NYC’s night market.

New York was the first city on this gastro-culinary tour, with the night market taking place at Chelsea’s Maritime Hotel. As the sun set slowly over the Hudson, the evening light spilled through the atrium ceiling, and hanging lanterns started to glow.

Talde's Lemongrass Chicken with Spicy Peanuts, Romaine and Fresh Herbs

Talde’s Lemongrass Chicken with Spicy Peanuts, Romaine and Fresh Herbs

The first dish we sampled was Talde‘s comforting lemongrass chicken with crunchy romaine, a more mellow, richly flavored take on the intense spice of traditional thai larb.

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Family Recipe’s sichuan peppercorn-infused ramen dish

From there, we moved on to the most tongue-numbing dish of the night, Family Recipe‘s “Soy Vay Teriyaki” Pork Jowl Maze Ramen—a seemingly innocent (and surprisingly creamy) noodle dish that packed the punch of sichuan peppercorns.

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Qi Thai Grill’s BBQ Ovaltine Pork Ribs

One of our early favorite plates was Qi Thai Grill‘s Ovaltine Pork Ribs, an unusual riff on the flavors of mole, which fell off the bone beautifully. Ginny’s Supper Club‘s pork belly bun proved that celebrated chef Marcus Samuelsson can tackle just about any global cuisine. The addition of super-crunchy, almost caramelized chiccarones and pickled slaw off-set the dish’s rich texture with a refreshing crunch.

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Pork Belly Bun by Ginny’s Supper Club

But of all the dishes we sampled that night, two stood out in particular: Pok Pok‘s Sai Ua Chiang Mai Sausage and Spice Market‘s Shaved Tuna. The former was the most balanced and complex bite of the evening, combining the spiced umami of sausage with the crunch of bitter cabbage and chiccarones, the sweetness of squash and the spice of burmese curry.

PokPok's winning sausage dish

Pok Pok’s winning sausage dish

Spice Market’s tuna was served in a coconut broth, with tapioca pearls and asian pear. Packing just a touch of heat, it was the most refreshing (and dessert-like) bite at the market—the perfect way to conclude such an intensely flavorful evening.

Spice Market's sweet Shaved Tuna

Spice Market’s sweet Shaved Tuna

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eater’s digest: buvette

There are some restaurants that fit like a glove. Barely through the door, even without seeing the menu, you sense familiarity. It’s not quite déjà vu, because you’ve rarely seen this before – your kind of restaurant, manifested in the flesh.

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Now that doesn’t mean this is the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten in. Of course, it has to be great. But a restaurant that feels like you imagined it yourself is not a constant succession of “wow!” moments. Like Alice in Wonderland, you’ve tried the bottles that made you bigger and smaller. That was good fun, but this is the bottle that will turn you back to “just right”.

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Getting to the point, this restaurant – for me, in New York – is Buvette. The first time I went there, I had only a glass of wine and two small plates, but that was enough. From then on, I called it “my favorite restaurant in New York”. Sure, I cock my head to think after saying it, knowing I’ve had more earth-shaking meals elsewhere, but that’s not the point.

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The point is the charm, the desire to return, again and again. The waiters and bar staff that range from pleasantly gruff to more than accommodating, all dressed in dapper ties and half-aprons. The random assortment of ceiling mirrors that reflect the hustle and bustle of the small space. The conscious and obvious eaves-dropping of the conversations around you. The bathroom whose haphazard “je ne sais quoi” qualities make you wish you had brought your camera.

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But for all my affection, it was just this month that I ate a full, proper meal at Buvette. I brought along one of my favorite eaters – a friend whose wealth of cultural experiences has not dampened her enthusiasm for simpler pleasures (case in point: her favorite food is macaroni and cheese). I introduced her to brandade de morue, a long-time provencale favorite of mine. Buvette’s was an appropriate balance of creamy and light, briny and balanced. We followed with more seafood, an octopus salad with celery that stunned with its simplicity. If there was a dish of food to eat every day it might be this. Tender, crunchy, refreshing, textural.

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As for sides, I insisted on poireaux. To get properly cooked leeks is always a pleasure, and these were cooked in the traditional French vinaigrette style, tender (but not mushy) with an ample dose of whole grain moutarde. As for the cauliflower gratin (chosen by Ms. Mac n’ Cheese), it was a reminder of this overlooked vegetable’s myriad magical qualities. I’ll take mashed, steamed, pureed or roasted cauliflower over the omnipresent potato any day.

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And then, the pièce de résistance. I had heard rumors about this chocolate mousse – that it was whipped by hand in copper bowls to achieve a most wonderful texture. However, I could never have imagined what I was about to experience. Luxurious, dense, creamy, resistant and yet yielding – I’m not sure you can even legitimately call it mousse. It’s too intense to eat alone, even with its dollop of exquisite whipped cream. The essence of dessert, hailing from a time before we decided to emulate the hyper-sweet, high fructose corn syrup universe in which we currently live. In short – and in summary – it’s not to be missed.

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seen and heard: emily hope price

As anyone who has followed comme au marche long enough knows, music – not food – is my first love. I grew up training in opera, sang in a jazz big band for a stretch, and only upon moving to France began to consider food as a creative career path.

These days, my musical cravings are mostly filled with the songs and sounds of others. So while it may be more practical (professionally) to write about food, I occasionally cannot help but gush about some new find that has arrived to sate my audible appetite.

As of last night, that find is Emily Hope Price. Cellist of the already breath-stealing trio Pearl and the Beard, Ms. Price commands your attention in the most intoxicating of ways. Her soulful tone and incredible breath control are the ideal complement to the low resonance of her instrument. In fact, the whole of her performance is so physically potent for the listener that you can’t help but ebb and flow with the rise and fall of her phrasing.

I can wax poetic, or I can give you a listen. The latter says it all.

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supper club: september

One of my goals in moving to Brooklyn was to start a supper club. So mere days after moving into my new place, I kicked things off with a dinner party for friends old and new.

Co-hosting was my graphic designer/photographer sister Lauren, whose eye for detail (and grocery lugging skills) helped make this party not only tasty, but beautiful. Check out her shots of the dinner below, and stay tuned for more supper club updates!

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Menu:

Gin, lillet blanc and basil cocktail

Homemade, spicy heirloom pickles – carrot, cauliflower, and radish

Arugula, orange and fennel salad with lemon-ginger vinaigrette

Grilled pineapple

Sweet and spicy grilled shrimp

Baked mole chicken

Butternut squash, black bean and coconut rice – Inspired by Tartelette

Asian slaw

Blackened hazelnut haricots verts and mangetout – Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi

Passion fruit custard with red wine glaze and toasted nuts**

Coffee and chocolate ganache birthday cake**

**Both desserts were made by our incredible friend, pastry chef Molly Marzalek-Kelly, of Baked NYC

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behind the knives: mardi miskit of brooklyn fork and spoon

Photos by Corry Arnold & Bethany Pickard

Rebecka & Mardi of Brookyn Fork and Spoon

In just over a year, Mardi and her Brooklyn Fork and Spoon co-founder, Rebecka, have turned their amateur culinary ambition into one of the borough’s most celebrated supper clubs. I was lucky enough to attend their Greatest Hits Supper at a historic mansion in Clinton Hill, where I sampled some of the duo’s best dishes to date. 

How did Brooklyn Fork and Spoon get its start?

Rebecka and I met through mutual friends and have always shared a love for cooking. Rebecka chronicles her delicious baked goods on her blog, and I have documented my passion for cooking for the past 2-3 years as well. With her sweet tooth and my love of all things savory, we always thought that it would be fun to collaborate on something.

Ricotta, Red Scallion, Honey & Thyme Bruschetta (Photo by Mardi Miskit)

We discovered the supper club scene through a friend’s site, Underground Dining NYC, and thought the concept was a perfect opportunity to join forces. But when we attempted to check out a few supper clubs ourselves, our RSVP’s were often met with “sold out” emails (I now understand why). So we decided to just go for it. We organized a test run for ten of our friends, traded free dinners for website design, and crossed our fingers. Our friends provided us with some great feedback, and with a few tweaks, we announced our first supper to the public. Now, about a year and a half later, we just hosted our Greatest Hits Supper and met our 200th new face.

How do you think BK Fork and Spoon fits into or is different from the supper club “craze” of the past few years?

Historic mansion ambiance at the Greatest Hits supper

Many guests have commented that they enjoy our laid-back atmosphere, in comparison to other supper clubs they’ve attended, which we attribute to the crowds we attract. We also want to make our dinners affordable, despite our often high food and drink costs, so we suggest a $40 donation. The vegetarian aspect also attracts many people (even the carnivores!). Most people find us through word of mouth – previous guests or local press.

Is there an overall philosophy or style of cooking that you subscribe to?

Backstage salad prep: mesclun greens, toasted pecan, pecorino & truffle vinaigrette

Rebecka and I aren’t vegetarians, but we both eat mostly plant-based diets. (That said, neither of us will hesitate to indulge in a cheeseburger when the craving strikes.) We’re also both huge cheese fiends. I actually don’t like using the word vegetarian to describe our supper club because I tend to associate the word with a lot of fake meat and soy products, which is not the kind of food we prepare.

At Brooklyn Fork and Spoon, I want to share my love for vegetables, grains and legumes and to show people how a meal can be incredibly satisfying without leaving you in a “food coma” (something that many guests have commented on and which brings a big smile to my face). I prepare all of the appetizers and main courses and Rebecka creates all of the desserts, fresh-baked bread or focaccia. We have very different cooking styles, but the meals always seem to fuse together nicely.

What do you wish you knew before starting your supper club?

Serving the main course: mac ‘n’ goat cheese, caramelized shallots, aged gouda

That cooking a family-style dinner for a large group of friends is quite different from plating each dish in a restaurant format. In the beginning, sometimes timing between courses was a bit off, but it’s a great new skill that both of us have since learned.

I also wish I knew that hosting a singles supper would not be as easy as it sounds. The RSVP’s came pouring in from the ladies, but the guys proved to be shy, or just uninterested in an evening of food, wine and single ladies (what gives, fellas?). In the end, we reeled in some dudes, and – while there seemed to be more business networking than romantic connections – the evening proved to be a really fun experience.

What has been the most interesting or unexpected aspect of running BK Fork and Spoon?

Waiting for leftovers at the Greatest Hits supper.

I would have to say the fact that we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to our dinners. We set out to do this for fun, but, before we knew it, we were being listed in Brooklyn Magazine‘s “Top 20 Things to Do in Brooklyn This Summer”.  We now sell out suppers in minutes, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

Any anecdotes from dinners gone-wrong or almost-gone-wrong?

At one of our very first suppers, one guest arrived with a less than happy look on his face. We thought he was going to ruin the entire evening, but, by the end of the night, he became the life of the party and even started a little dance party. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past year, it’s to keep the wine flowing. After a glass or two, the quiet ones start to open up, great conversations ensue, and new friendships are formed.

Advice for those who would like to start a supper club?

Refreshing, seasonal blueberry tarts with coconut whipped cream.

You have to love cooking and more importantly, love cooking for other people. Rebecka and I keep going simply because of our love for it. We find inspiration in meeting new people and watching new relationships form at our dinner table over a meal that we have put our all into.

What’s next?

Once the cooler days kick in, we’d love to look into having a few outdoor suppers. We’ve done a few themed suppers (vegan, gluten-free, breakfast for dinner) and we look forward to throwing in some new twists. We’d also love to start doing some cheese and wine pairings, or perhaps some classes. If anyone is interested in collaborating or offering up their outdoor space to us, don’t be shy!

Any preferred shops/markets that you source from?

We’re lucky to have a great market down the street from us with tons of local produce and quinoa pasta (which I always cook with), so I often pick up much of our food from there. When I’m on the hunt for something more unusual, I’ll bike over to the Greenmarket in McCarrenPark. I was desperate for red scallions for our last supper and, sure enough, I found them there.

When you do eat out, what are some of your favorite local restaurants?

One of my favorite little spots is a place in Greenpoint called EAT. It’s a very small space that serves the most delicious, fresh and simple seasonal dishes. Of all the places I’ve eaten, it reminds me most of the foods we prepare at Brooklyn Fork and Spoon. Another favorite in Greenpoint is Calyer. Their poached parsnips with smoky yogurt and savory granola is one of the most unique and incredible plates I’ve ever come across.

Vibrant and savory – the Red beet and ginger puree

Mardi was also generous enough to share her recipe for my favorite dish that evening, a beet purée that had even the beet-haters swooning.

Red Beet & Ginger Purée

Ingredients
  • 2 medium red beets
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 one-inch by two-inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable broth
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Greek yogurt (to top the purée)
Instructions
  1. Slice ends off of beets and wrap them individually in tinfoil.
  2. Place on a baking sheet in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees.
  3. Remove the beets from the oven, peel off the skin and slice into small pieces. Let cool for a few minutes.
  4. Add beets to food processor along with ginger, vegetable broth, olive oil and scallions. Blend until well pureed.
  5. Add the goat cheese and salt. Blend again.
  6. Pour mixture into bowls and top with a dollop of greek yogurt, a few extra scallions and a sprinkle of cracked pepper.
  7. Serve warm. Enjoy!

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eater’s digest: co. pane

Living in New York City, I am pretty shocked when people tell me they have one “favorite” restaurant or eat at the same place every week. Inundated with a constant stream of new openings and enthusiastic recommendations, I doubt I’ll ever be able to reach the end of my edible NYC to-do list.

And yet. Sometimes you discover a restaurant that crawls under your skin. It starts with the complementary contrast of innovative comfort food or elevated peasant cuisine – something that will never leave you bored but still satisfies your most primal, childlike cravings. It sneaks up on you, and then suddenly, a few days or weeks later, you are salivating, dying to return, just to have a bite of that one specific dish.

the artichoke salad at Co.

My voracious curiosity for all-things-edible has made me more or less impervious to this condition. I can count the number of Manhattan restaurants I’ve been to more than twice (writer’s research aside) on one hand. And I certainly wasn’t expecting a pizza joint to win me over. (My family is Italian and I grew up right outside New Haven, CT – home to the infamous Pepe’s clam pizza. Combined with a few recent trips to Italy, it’s safe to call me a pizza snob.)

My first visit to Co. was on a date with a chef. He told me it was not only his favorite pizza place, but one of his top restaurants in general. Relieved he hadn’t pointed me in the direction of the oft-praised John’s pizza, and intrigued by owner Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery connection, I went along with a more-or-less open mind.

The first thing that won me over was the space. Clean lines, warm woods, and a low-key, hip-but-not-trendy vibe. The staff wasn’t stressed, the patrons weren’t high maintenance, and everything moved at a distinctly un-NYC pace.

yellow salad special at Co.

The first thing I tasted at Co. was the radicchio salad with taleggio cheese and shiitake mushrooms. A sucker for anything bitter, this has quickly become one of my favorite salads in the city. On a more recent visit (my fourth, and the first time I’ve returned to intentionally review the place), I sampled the yellow salad special – summer squash served mild to the point of being almost underdressed, and sprinkled with crunchy peanuts. It was one of the few yellow squash dishes I’ve ever had that let the vegetable just be. Another addictive standard is the tender, poached artichoke salad with just-salty-enough capers and shavings of parmesan cheese.

As for the pies – the crust is nearly perfect. Thin as you could ever want it, without turning into a droopy mess. Crispy, bubbled, yet still doughy and al dente. Only a Chicago deep-dish craver or shameless Domino’s devotee could do anything but rave.

the corn pie at Co.

But what is best about Lahey’s pies is not just the crust – but also his versatile and uniformly delicious toppings. Many places (see: the aforementioned Pepe’s) have one must-have pie. Lahey has several, and keeps ‘em coming with new seasonal specials. On the top of my list?

  • the Popeye – a blackened spinach pie with pecorino, gruyère, mozzarella, black pepper & garlic. The crunchy, fire-blasted spinach evokes all that is great about grilling, while the cheese balances the char.
  • Mushroom & Jalapeño Pie – spice, umami and cheese collide in jalapeño, seasonal mushrooms, béchamel, pecorino, gruyère, garlic confit, and fresh dill. I thought I would find the béchamel too rich – but the mix of creamy, funky and hot is an addictive winner, every time.
  • The summer special, Corn Pie – a carb-y pie that I much prefer to the now-ubiquitous potato. Corn puree, mozzarella, parmesan, sungold tomatoes, kale, basil, Aleppo pepper and garlic. The bursts of bright tomato coupled with herbaceous greens and sweet, creamy corn hit on all flavor cylinders. It’s worth racing over to Co. before summer’s end to see if they’ll serve it again.

I can’t speak to the wine or beer list at Co., which has become only a vague (but positive) memory. I’m hooked on their alcohol-free artisanal sodas – which change regularly. If they have it, the blood orange is better than incredible.

Maybe there’s something about pizza that inspires unconventional loyalty. Or maybe Co. is just that damn good. Either way, I’m happy to have found a spot worth a regular re-run – whether I’m craving the classics or scoping out the seasonal specials.

Co Pane
230 9th Avenue
(212) 243-1105

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catch of the day: soulmate

Back in December, I was raving about a travel start-up called Nectar & Pulse. Rather than reinventing the all-inclusive travel book, N&P founders Carina & Tanja have created an exceptionally curated and designed line of city guides based on a simple concept: soulmates.

The “soulmate” taps into an age-old travel fantasy. You arrive in a strange city where you know no one, but somehow bump into an engaging, charismatic local who eagerly offers to “show you around”.

For those of us who have lived this dream, we cannot imagine traveling any other way. And now, with Nectar & Pulse, you don’t have to – because they’ve lined up a bevy of interesting, creative, enthusiastic locals from across the globe to show you around. Including me.

I reached out to Carina & Tanja after reading about N&P in The Brander, and was thrilled when they selected me as one of their New York City soulmates. Check out my slideshow and interview about all things NYC on their site, or you can purchase a physical copy of my guide for only 6 euros.

A great thanks to my photographer sister, Lauren DeFilippo. Without her, neither this blog nor my Nectar & Pulse photo spread would be half as beautiful.

And of course – you can always check out my “Manhattan” tab for an extended list of my latest and greatest hotspots in NYC.

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