The Clam (New York): Feasting in Fashion

Clam stuffiesThe early chilly days of fall always have me nostalgic for the summer feasts of very recent memory.

Which is how I found myself thinking about one of the most perfect lunches I’ve had this year — one that happened during New York fashion week, no less, a time that tends to be focused on fitting into clothes than eating any food.

On the last day of this season’s shows, my very dear friend Clifford Pugh, editor-in-chief of Houston’s CultureMap magazine, called, wanting to toast the end of the week after Ralph Lauren and said, Let’s eat.

Well, you don’t have to ask me twice, which is how we ended up having the loveliest lunch at a little place called The Clam …

[Read more…]

Jeffrey's Grocery: A Restaurant Owner's Take On Takeout


IMG_5705

Late at night in New York's West Village and we find ourselves perched on high stools at Jeffrey's Grocery — the slender bar counter is packed with the young and in the know, this being only the restaurant cum market's second night of existence, after all. And the thick hum of chatter all around almost lulls you into a stupor.  

Quickly, wine is ordered to stave off the yawns. Gabriel Stulman, the owner of the place, saunters over, looking pleased with the crowd, happy to chat about his new endeavor, which he has called “our best vision of a fifties mom-and-pop local grocery.”

Stulman first rose to New York culinary fame in 2005 as a partner in West Village favorites The Little Owl and Market Table. (He's since divested himself of his share in those restaurants.) Since then, he's opened Joseph Leonard, an American place named for both his grandfathers, and is expanding his footprint further in the Village. (Jeffrey's Grocery, named for his father, is the first of two restaurants he's opening in the West Village this fall. The other, Fedora, is slated to debut as a "1930s-style supper club.")

With a produce refrigerator that is the first thing you see as you walk through the door and shelves packed with cereal, pickles and Sriracha sauce, the place does feel like a decades-old grocery store — sans mustiness, plus a bar counter. The menu has lengthy lists of cheeses and meats and a decent raw bar selection; sandwiches are fairly basic — well, if you consider lobster rolls and braised brisket sandwiches basic.

What's popular on the menu at Jeffrey's Grocery so far? It's too early to tell. "We've only been open … 48 hours?" Stulman says.

What he does go on to tell us is where he eats when he's not at one of his restaurants …

[Read more…]

Nantucket: The Art of Winging It


CIMG7666

I’ve always envied people who can look in a fridge, grab a bunch of things and whip together an impressive meal.

The times that I’ve done that, I’ve managed to oh, muster up a ham scramble.

As someone who entered the kitchen fairly late in life, my insecurities always get the better of me. So when it comes to cooking, I’m much more of a planner — I like to think things through a fair bit first if I’ve never made a dish before. I’ll look up dozens of recipes before settling on what to make. And I’ll read a recipe several times over to plan any changes or additions before setting foot in the kitchen.

But, watching the ease and freedom of chefs who cook purely by instinct — that confidence always gets me. I can’t help but feel like the child on a tricycle, watching far braver kids whizzing past on ten-speed bikes.

How to bridge that gulf?

In the kitchen of a little beach cottage on Nantucket, I started taking baby steps.

[Read more…]

Sicily: A Duomo Above Others


CIMG2196

Just about this time last year, I was in a little car, racing four hours across Sicily in search of a good meal.

At the end of the trek from Palermo, in far western Sicily, to Ragusa, in the Southeast, lay Ristorante Duomo, one of just two restaurants on the island at the time to have received a Michelin star.

Now, I’ve gone to many lengths in the name of sampling noteworthy food — this level of devotion is not anything new. But doing an eight hour-trip in a day just for a spot of lunch? Even that was a little insane for us.

What can I say? It was worth it. 

[Read more…]