Pink Grapefruit Halves and Those Who Love Them

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2013 is the year of pink grapefruit halves. I don’t mean that in a broad sense, like a trend prediction, I mean that in a personal sense. This year is a year in which I’ve already eaten my weight in pink grapefruit halves and it all started, appropriately enough, on New Year’s Eve day with Matt Lewis, co-owner of Brooklyn’s Baked. We were at Pulino’s in Manhattan and we shared a pink grapefruit half that was so outrageously delicious, I’m not going to tell you about it yet. We’ll save it for the finale.

But it put the idea in my head that pink grapefruit halves are terrific. There was a time, in the 80s, when every Weight Watchers-going mother in America would slice a grapefruit in half, put it in a bowl, sit down sadly with the paper and dig their way through both the grapefruit and the news. At the time, a pink grapefruit half was a form of dietetic punishment; it’d be served in diners with a sad Maraschino cherry at the center, like salt on a wound.

But now pink grapefruit halves are making a comeback. I can say that because in addition to the one that was so good at Pulino’s I’m not telling you about it yet, I encountered another one at The Breslin where I joined my friends Chris and Jimmy for breakfast. Here they are with Jimmy’s pink grapefruit half:

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Look closely and you’ll see this pink grapefruit is topped with ginger sugar and mint:

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It’s a pretty presentation, one that attempts a stab at Pulino’s level greatness without quite coming close; still, a grapefruit sliced in half and topped with sugar and mint will taste good.

That’s a lesson I took home with me, back here in California, and when I was sick with a nasty cold last week, I asked Craig to get me a pink grapefruit from Gelson’s. I sliced it in half, put it in a bowl and sprinkled it with vanilla sugar. Then I ate it while watching Jacques and Julia on Hulu Plus (you can see my sick blanket in this picture):

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When I was feeling better a few days later, I decided to serve a pink grapefruit half with breakfast. This time, I thought it would make things better if I ran my knife around the grapefruit after slicing it in half, loosening the segments, making it easier to eat with a fork. I was right. Here she is with fried eggs and buttered toast:

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Again, 2013 is the year of pink grapefruit halves. I wasn’t kidding.

And now for the pink grapefruit half you’ve all been waiting for, the one that sets the bar for all pink grapefruit halves that’ve come before or after; Pulino’s masterstroke:

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Do you see what they did there? They put sugar on top and caramelized it with a blow torch. Like creme brûlée.

Sam Sifton wrote of it, “[It’s] not really a dish so much as a magic trick, the fruit covered with muscovado sugar and mint, then cooked into caramel.” There’s a recipe on the NYT site which has me scratching my head: instead of adding the sugar to the top of the grapefruit and heating it, you cook the sugar in a skillet and then add the grapefruit? Do they really do that for all the grapefruits at Pulino’s? The creme brûlée method makes more sense to me because then the sugar cooks along with the grapefruit juices, fusing the flavors together while changing the texture. I’m going to have to do some experimenting: anyone have a blowtorch I can borrow?

In the meantime, I’ll continue eating pink grapefruit halves the old fashioned way, pining for Pulino’s every so often but happy to enjoy the simple pleasures of this bitter fruit. 2013 is all about bitter fruit.

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