In Search of the Next Big Thing – New York

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I’ve just spent a few days in New York on a reconnaissance trip to check out what’s happening on the food scene over there. As ever the answer is a lot. New Yorkers are always in search of the next big thing and the newest cult ingredient. Really big trends don’t emerge that often but one of the strongest I’ve seen in years is chefs embracing cooking over fire, or as they say over there ‘live fire’. It seems to be part of this enduring interest in hunter gatherer stuff and wild and foraged foods, not only on restaurant menus, but also at home, on the tables of the keen young food people.

Stalls at the Union Square Farmers Market are offering an ever expanding range of greens and wild foods, lots of nettles, garlic scapes, orache, lamb’s quarters, chickweed, miners lettuce, purslane… There was also a Finnish bread stall and an Ethiopian stall that sold a beautiful fermented flat bread called injera made from teff flour, which is also gluten free. The demand for ‘free from’ food continues to grow exponentially.

Do you have any food allergies? – is a standard question in all restaurants nowadays.

Many chefs have started herb and vegetable gardens, could be just a few boxes on a balcony or in a backyard or on window sills or just outside the restaurant on the pavements, like at the Spotted Pig, where there’s an eclectic collection of herbs and flowers and even a peach tree and some raspberries. Owner, chef April Bloomfield is still looking out for a farm upstate New York, I went out to West Chester and to Hudson and Catskills to see what is happening. The gentrification of the town and explosion of investment in land and farming is mind-blowing.

At Stone Barns, home of Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant, there are extensive gardens, greenhouses, orchards, free-range hens and chickens, pigs in the woods… They now have an educational centre with regular school visits and corporate on-farm events. I loved the idea of a Tisane garden with a collection of aromatic herbs just to make fresh herb teas.

In New York the hottest thing was a cronut, a hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut with icing on top. It’s such a hot item that hundreds of people are prepared to stand in line for hours to buy them (check out next week’s column to read what all the fuss is about)

Several bakeries were also doing a sweet buttery pastry with croissant dough based on the kouign amann a Brittany speciality. Irresistible, flaky Morning Glory buns are also being snapped up, they were originally made at Tartine in San Francisco to use up the end of the croissant dough.

There are tons of good restaurants. I had a delicious meal at I Sodi on Christopher Street, a sister restaurant of Buvette, on Grove Street, which I love. One of the highlights was spaghetti cacio e pepe made with Garofalo pasta, lots of black pepper and pecorino, followed by dry aged strip steak with arugula and sea salt. All the best beef at the top restaurants seemed to be coming from Pat LaFrieda, a butcher and wholesaler who dry ages his Black Angus beef for 7 – 8 weeks and mixes the beef cuts for the signature burgers in different establishments, like at Minetta Tavern where I had a burger. They use LaFrieda’s freshly minced Black Angus beef which has been hung for 42 days. The popularity of burger is enduring and one can easily pay in excess of US$20 for a burger in New York.

April Bloomfield’s burger with shoestring fries at the Spotted Pig on 134 W 11th Street is certainly one of the most delicious, I also enjoyed her devilled eggs, chicken liver toasts and lemon ricotta pancake with candied almonds.

Brooklyn aka hipster central and Harlem is where all the creative young people are setting up at present. Cafés, restaurants, coffee shops, butchers, kitchen shops, rooftop gardens and plus its home to Heritage Radio.

Smorgasburg is a Saturday food market of young start-ups on the DUMBO waterfront by the Tobacco Warehouse beside Brooklyn Bridge Park. This is not to be missed. The variety of foods made by these young entrepreneurs is nothing short of awesome, 75 stalls and delicious to a man.

Pickles and hot sauces are still huge. The legendary Mast chocolate is on 111 N 3rd Street, they start by conching the cocoa beans and then make chocolate bars that are truly memorable.

V for Vegan is all over menus as is tartare of beef, salmon and tuna. There is a particularly delicious version at Rizzoli in Mulberry Street. Uncle Boons on Spring Street owned by Per Se veterans Matt Danzer and Ann Redding is turning out authentic tasting Thai food that has New Yorkers in a frenzy at present.

Heritage beans, heirloom grains and chillies are popping up all over the place. I particularly remember delicious white bean puree at Romans in Brooklyn, another name to add to your New York list.

Here are some of the recipes that people queue around the corner for at the Spotted Pig in New York.

 

April Bloomfield’s Devilled Eggs

 

Devilled eggs, so 1980s, are having a real revival. Here is a recipe for the ones I enjoyed at the Spotted Pig, (taken from April’s book ‘A Girl and her Pig’ published by Canongate Books )

“I like my devilled eggs cold, cold, cold. They’re so refreshing that way. The key to the recipe is chilling the whites as well as the yolk mixture and making your own mayonnaise, which is much easier than you might think.”

 

makes 12 devilled eggs

6 large eggs, at room temperature

3 tablespoons homemade Mayonnaise, slightly chilled

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon crème fráiche

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Maldon or another flaky sea salt

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

1 tablespoon finely chopped chervil

Cayenne or paprika

Extra virgin olive oil (optional) for drizzling

 

Fill a medium pot at least halfway with water and bring to the boil over high heat.

Use a slotted spoon to gently put the eggs in the water, and cook them for 10 minutes (set a timer). Drain the eggs and put them in a big bowl of ice water until they’re fully cool. Lightly tap each egg against the counter to crack the shell all over, then peel them and pat them dry. Halve them lengthwise with a sharp knife. Press the yolks through a sieve into a small food processor. Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, crème fráiche, and mustard and process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Have a taste and season with salt. For really pretty eggs, feed the mix into an icing bag (alternatively, you can jerry-rig one with a large resealable plastic bag; snip off a corner before piping). Pop it into the fridge for 30 minutes. Put the egg whites on a plate, cover with Clingfilm, and put them in the fridge as well. Pat the whites dry with a tea towel and pipe an equal amount of the yolk mixture into each white. Top each one off with a sprinkle of the chives and chervil and a dusting of cayenne or paprika. If you like, add a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.

 

April Bloomfield’s Chopped Chicken Liver on Toast

 

“A staple at the Spotted Pig, this creamy, still slightly chunky mash of lovely, iron-y livers on toast makes a fine snack, but it’s substantial enough to hold you over while you wait for a friend or a table.  Just the thing, too, with a glass of wine. The liver mixture is a touch sweet from the port and the browned garlic and shallots, with a whisper of acidity from the Madeira. Best of all, it takes just a moment to make. Be sure you get a nice colour on the livers when you cook them. (I like them slightly pink on the inside for this dish; anyone who doesn’t can cook them a bit longer.) Be sure to take in the aroma as they cook – toasty browning liver is one of my favourite smells.”

makes 4 toasts

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

40g (1 ½ oz) finely chopped shallots

1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons dry Madeira

2 tablespoons ruby port

225g (8oz) chicken livers, trimmed and separated into lobes

Maldon or another flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

A small handful of small, delicate flat-leaf parsley sprigs

4 thick slices crusty bread, or 2 large slices, cut in half

Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large sauté pan and set it over high heat.

When it’s hot, turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until they’re golden brown, about a minute. Add the Madeira and port to the pan and give it a good shake, then scrape the mixture into a small bowl and set aside. Rinse the pan and wipe it out well with kitchen paper, then set it over high heat and add one tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, pat the livers dry and add them to the pan. Cook until the undersides are golden brown, 1½ minutes or so. Carefully turn them over and sprinkle on about 1 teaspoon salt, then give the pan a little shake. Cook the livers just until they feel bouncy, like little balloons, about 30 seconds more. You want them slightly pink inside, not rare. Turn off the heat and add the shallot mixture, liquid and all, to the pan.

 

Randal’s Buttermilk Ice Cream

 

Serves 6 – 8

1 pint (16floz) of double cream
225g (8oz) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
three inch strip of lemon peel
1/2 a vanilla bean split
8 free range egg yolks
1 pint (16floz) of buttermilk

In a high sided saucepan combine the double cream and 175g (6oz) of sugar, salt, lemon peel, and vanilla bean steep over low heat until sugar is dissolved.

In bowl of a standing mixer beat egg yolks and remaining (50g) 2oz of sugar.
Very slowly combine the two; by slowly adding the hot cream into the eggs whisking constantly taking care to not curdle the egg yolks.
Once the two are combined return to the saucepan and simmer over low heat until  thick.
Strain the mixture and beat in the buttermilk. Chill completely and then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

 

Hot Tips

 

Learn how to propagate fruit trees on Saturday 20th July 1pm to 4pm at Irish Seed Savers in Scarriff, Co Clare. Participants will learn how to bud their own trees and take them home. After-care and maintenance of budded trees will also be covered. Phone 061921866 – www.irishseedsavers.ie

 

Home Preserving – Traditional and Modern Methods at The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co Leitrim with Hans Wieland on 6th July 2013 – €75.00. Learn about how to store and preserve the abundance of summer produce. Hans will demonstrate traditional and modern methods of storing, drying, lactic acid fermentation, sterilising and freezing. There will also be hands on session on sauerkraut making, pickling and preserving fruit without sugar.  www.theorganiccentre.ie

 

Ever wanted to learn the hidden secrets of a professional kitchen? Well now is your chance, J P McMahon owner of Aniar, the Michelin starred restaurant in Galway – with a mission to support local food producers and foragers – is running a series of six week courses Understanding Food – the next one starts on 12th August, 2013. There are also one day workshops on such topics as ‘The Whole Loaf’, ‘The Whole Hog’ ‘The Whole Lamb’ ‘The Whole Fish’…see www.aniarrestaurant.ie

 

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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