Craig’s in the middle of editing his new movie ALEX STRANGELOVE for Netflix (can’t wait for you to see it) in New York and though I planned to just stay in L.A. for the duration of the edit, two things did occur to me when he asked me to come out for a week: (1) it’d be good for our marriage for me to support and nurture Craig through the difficulties of the editing process; (2) I COULD EAT AT A BUNCH OF NEW YORK CITY RESTAURANTS!
I won’t tell you which was the more compelling factor, but there I was, last Monday, arriving at JFK and taking a cab into the city.
As far as good deeds go, they don’t come any easier than the one we did on Saturday night.
The East Village had just gotten its power back after Hurricane Sandy which, as I’m sure you’re aware, has left the east coast devastated, thousands homeless, others still without power and heat. The restaurant community had been hit especially hard, not only losing business for themselves and their employees, but losing thousands of dollars worth of perishable foods that spoiled after several days without power. On Twitter, everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Pete Wells implored people to eat out downtown on Saturday night, to help these restaurants get back on their feet. Kat Kinsman of CNN’s Eatocracy Tweeted that she was headed to Marco Canora’s Hearth and the second she Tweeted that, I realized that of course I would want to be at Hearth too. Marco Canora is one of the most generous, selfless people I’ve met in the food world–he cooked with me twice for my cookbook, both for the proposal and the book itself–and the idea of helping him by patronizing his restaurant hours after he got power back was an absolute no-brainer.
The Jews have an expression: “Next year in Jerusalem!” The idea is that next year, whatever we’re doing or celebrating, we’ll do it in Jerusalem, the place where all Jews should aspire to someday go. (I do aspire to go there some day, though I think Rome may be higher on my list, if only for the pasta.)
Why do I bring that up here? I needed some kind of intro to a post about Jerusalem artichokes and that seemed as good a way to start as any. This post actually has nothing to do with Jerusalem, the city in Israel; it has to do with those knobby little tubers that you may have seen recently at the farmer’s market.
After attending last night’s Taste of New York event, I can say, with great certainty, that this year is the year of the octopus. I lost my little pamphlet that tells you who was serving what, but off the top off my head I can tell you that Craft, Dell’anima, and Insieme were all serving the eight-legged beast and each version had something to recommend it.
Fancy dinners are funny things: you think you have to plan for them, make reservations, get dressed up, when in fact the idea of a “fancy dinner” is just a construct; the truth is, a talented chef with a nice restaurant wants nothing more than for you to pop in at the spur of the moment and that’s precisely what Craig and I did last night after seeing a fascinating new musical called Passing Strange at the Belasco. I remembered that Marco Canora, the chef at Hearth whom I met at the Taste of New York event earlier this year, opened a new place across from Mamma Mia called Insieme and after the show I said: “Heck, it’s Valentine’s Day, let’s have a nice dinner.”
So we popped into Insieme and Craig was intimidated at first because people were dressy in suits and such and we were wearing jeans and he was unshaven, but we quickly got over that, especially later when Marco came out to say hi. He’s a wonderful guy–not pretentious, but super knowledgeable and his food reflects that. We loved the little bites they sent out first–a radish with anchovy-flavored olive oil, baccala on a potato–but the best, by far, was the pasta course. Craig, who’s not keen on hyperbole, declared this dish one of the best things he’s ever eaten in his life:
The picture doesn’t do it justice, but that’s a pear risotto with blue cheese and hazelnuts. Marco told us it had pear cider in it, as well as actual pears, but what made it great, according to Craig, was the contrast of the sweet pear and the savory blue cheese. I took a bite and I had to concur, it was fantastic, though I was pretty in love with my chestnut fettuchini with venison ragu and pomegranate.
So, in conclusion, if you have some spare change in your pocket and you’re near a nice restaurant but you’re scared to go because you’re not dressy enough or you think you need to make a reservation, just pop in. The food business is a rough business, and chefs–like all artists–need your patronage. Plus, if it’s Valentine’s Day, you’re supposed to go to a nice meal anyway. I’m glad we had ours at Insieme.
I don’t know about you, but I think New York Magazine gave me free passes to its Taste of New York event because of my photography skills. I mean with a picture like this, what else could it be?
Ok, that’s a pretty bad picture but, in its own particular way it gives you a sense of the room: chefs, foodies, lights, cameras, suits, dresses, hair, tablecloths. Ilan Hall from Top Chef was there, as were all the bloggers–Eater, Grub Street, NYC Nosh–plus other journalists, media types, and, of course, New York’s favorite chefs. But there was one person there who was happier than anyone else–a certain someone who, after going last year–begged me to take him again….