On a recent work trip to the Big Apple, I found myself working voraciously from one area of the boroughs to another, with only an opportunity to grab a quick slice of pizza for lunch, before hailing an Uber (Who takes cabs?) or jumping on the subway, repeating this action until dinner. I did this for five days. By the end of the trip, exhausted and not feeling well plus I felt bloated from the amounts of consumed dairy and wheat. (Yes. I realized that milk products including trace amounts of butter and I are no longer friends.)
With this said, the trip provided me a rewarding experience that only Lactaid can cure the next time I venture forth with so much mozzarella. And, although, the New York slice, the version that you dab with a napkin to relieve of extra grease, rolling-up like a New York Times straphanger, is becoming extinct like said transit-rider, it still is served deliciously — and for me, gratefully.
On Quora – the internet answer for everything — someone tried to figure out the number of shops, reckoning it’s anywhere from 3200 to 32500. Suffice it to say it’s a broad number. They even try and figure out how many per day a pizzaiolo must toss, bake and sell (about 50) to stay in business.
Whatever the case and take this with a grain of well-tossed salt hidden in the folds of rising dough, here are my selections for a few grand pizzas – in today’s Manhattan.
Formerly known as Ray’s when I lived was a poor New York student in the eighties, I would stumble by for a pepperoni slice after nightclubbing, something to soak up the alcohol. Purchased a decade ago, the existing owners kept the place alive and very much a Soho tradition. Instead of the fold-and-go variety of pies, they execute a Sicilian square loaded with small circles of spicy pepperoni. When baked onto one of the gooey delicacies, they become mini-cups of flavor, holding liquid fat, ready to drip down your chin or shirt. There are only a line and a counter so may do like a New Yorker and eat while walking.
27 Prince Street (between Elizabeth and Mott Streets)
I came by the Romanesque pizza shop after Uber hightailing from a meeting in Brooklyn to Lexington and 78th only to be thirty minutes early. Rarely do opportunities arise with time on your side, so I sought out a quick place to eat and came across Farinella Pizza and Bakery. Here the pies are elongated rather than round and the dough stretched rather than tossed. Regardless, it’s really delicious with a crispy under-carriage while it grips onto the selected toppings. The margherita is divine Italian simplicity at it’s best.
1132 Lexington Avenue (between 78th and 79th Streets)
Who knew that pizza – an import foodstuff brought over by Italian immigrants – could be so delicious in the hands of a Turk? Hakki Akdeniz worked for many years making $300 per week to learn the tasks of pizzaiolo trade. The outcome is a true slice of New York pizza. Folded in half, paper plate underneath – and a walk to the subway – or hanging out at one of the few tables. Eating the chewy dough and cheese with just that right amount of giving made me feel like all is right with the world – that Andy Warhol, Deelite and Nell’s where still around.
17 Cleveland Place, New York, New York
The end. Go eat.
(P.S. Apologies for the long space between posts. Life happens.)
What do you do when you love BBQ? You learn from the best – and then smoke, cook, and eat well. And, if you’re Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez, you turn that business into a way to give back, teach, and provide great food. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Fernandez, originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, learned how to fire roast meats from Tuscaloosa BBQ legend Moses Day. From there, he founded Moe’s Original Bar B Que out in Vail, Colorado (where he went to culinary school) – and has gone on to grow a business with over 50 franchises in a plethora of states.
Fernandez’s mission is two-fold – to provide a unique and delicious dining experience, and to be a cheerleader for young entrepreneurs by providing opportunities and education.
The geography of the popularity of southern cuisine, especially BBQ, is interesting to track. When we talked, Fernandez noted, “people love BBQ – it’s unique, and you know what you’re getting into. In Vail, people eat BBQ four times a week; in Maine, once every few weeks…and in the south, everyone is always bbqing!” At Moe’s, people enjoy a meat and 3 – which is an entree, two side dishes, and a beverage. A look at their menu shows me that it would be difficult to choose exactly which, to be honest. But one thing that I always love is cornbread, and so I’m extremely pleased that Fernandez picked that recipe to share with us!
What most impressed me, when talking with Fernandez, was his commitment to the growth and development of young entrepreneurs. Having been one himself, he knows how important it is to have a mentor. So most of Moe’s franchises are located in college towns, and hire young adults as staff. When these college students graduate, Fernandez helps them get a store. He said that he has a vested interest in these young people, and is always trying to figure out how to help them. When I remarked on this generosity, Fernandez said he’s humbled by his success, lucky as hell, and happy to teach and share what is important. Indeed.
Stop by Moe’s, in one of their 50 and growing locations (come to Michigan, Mike, please!), and know you’re not only getting great food, but supporting a business that is a cheerleader for their employees and creating small businesses that serve communities. Win/win!
Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
How long have you been cooking?
40 years. My mother taught me to cook when I was young. She is from Sicily, Italy, and we cooked together every Sunday.
What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh fish that I catch myself.
What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Various pickled vegetables, homemade jams, and homemade cured meats
What do you cook at home?
A lot of Latin food
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
One that knows about food and can tell when something tastes different. I love when they want to learn, because I love to teach.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they refuse to try an item I prepared “as it is”
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Your favorite cookbook author?
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn (Charcuterie)
Your favorite kitchen tool?
Kitchen Aid Mixer
Your favorite ingredient?
Your least favorite ingredient?
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean floor drains.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Chef you most admire?
Frank Stitt and John Currence
Food you like the most to eat?
Fresh fish just caught
Food you dislike the most?
How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None – my mom would kill me.
Moe’s Original Bar B Que’s Cornbread Recipe
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup yellow onions, fine dice
1/4 cup jalapenos, filet and fine dice
3 7-ounce packages Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix
Beat eggs, add jalapenos and onions.
Add milk and then mix in 3 packages of cornbread mix.
Spray with Pam heavily (if old pan, add parchment paper to release) onto large 4×10 loaf pan. Pour in cornbread mix.
Preheat to 325. Bake 1 hour. When done, it should be firm to press. Do not overcook.
Using rubber spatula, slice into 12 slices at 3 quarters of inch each. It’s easier to cut cold or bread will crumble.
Brush one side with margarine or butter. Place buttered side down on griddle. Fry til crispy.
Minnesota-born-and-bred writer Amy Rea loves food, and she loves the Minnesota State Fair. Fortunately for her, the two are combined each year, as the Fair offers up wildly creative (and sometimes wildly disgusting) new foods. Oh, and part of her writing work involves going with a crew from the food site Heavy Table to the first day of the Fair to try all the new foods, then report on them. Tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. And, as any Minnesotan will tell you, the State Fair is a Big Deal. See that smile on her face? That’s the joy of good fair food.
Amy is the author of three guidebooks to Minnesota, and she blogs about Minnesota travel at wcco.com/wandermn and writes about Minnesota food at heavytable.com. She lives in a quiet suburb with her husband and their elderly, neurotic border collie, and lives for the times when her 20-somethings sons come to visit so she can cook for them. In between visits, her food writing draws me in every time. My favorite is her article about a traditional Ethopian coffee ceremony held locally – I love the diversity of people and food in the state, and she explores those so well in her writing.
Take a look at all these Minnesota State Fair goodies – which would you pick? Thanks to Amy and Heavy Table’s hard work, we can narrow our options down when we hit the fair next summer. Thank you for this visual tour!
What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Hash. Such a great way to use leftovers.
What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, fresh herbs, eggs, pickles, leftovers.
What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Someone who truly enjoys food and cares about it.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Someone who goes to a well-regarded restaurant and orders a salad with the dressing on the side, eats half of it, and says Oh, I’m so full. Life is short. If you’re at a good eatery, enjoy it. You can skimp on calories somewhere else.
Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Your favorite cookbook author?
Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
Your favorite kitchen tool?
My Microplanes (although my new Instant Pot is creeping up the ladder of my affection).
Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork. Also, salmon.
A tie between summer tomatoes and Romanesco cauliflower.
Chef you most admire?
Food you like the most to eat?
Food you dislike the most?
What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Hang out with my family, read, write, hike.
Who do you most admire in food?
Where is your favorite place to eat?
At home. Or a greasy spoon. Or someplace that’s authentically ethnic.
What is your favorite restaurant?
Just one?? Masu, Bulldog NE, Ettlin’s Café, Quang Vietnamese.
Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No, but if I did, most of them would be food-related.
Tomato-Poached Eggs Recipe
This is something I learned from a friend on Twitter, and there are nearly countless ways to customize it. It’s especially fabulous when there are tomatoes at the farmer’s market.
To serve 2:
Take a couple good-sized tomatoes (heirloom or standard slicers) and dice them (you don’t need to peel them, although you can if you want). Place them in a nonstick skillet with a couple of teaspoons of water. Heat over medium high until the tomato pieces begin to release their juices and bubble. Crack 4 eggs into the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and cover and cook the eggs to your desired doneness. Serve over polenta.
I’ve added various kinds of cheese and herbs to this, and put it over different kinds of grains (quinoa is good too), and it’s always delicious. But when tomatoes are at their best, I like to just let them shine here.
– The End. Go Eat. –
All photos courtesy and copyright Amy Rea/Heavy Table
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…honestly, it was only 30 years ago when New York City’s Little Italy seemed like a slice of Naples. The area wasn’t so sanitized and mafia guys, like John Gotti, would hang out in the one of the local trattorias. Now, they are all in Brooklyn like the last of the Godfather series. Then, laundry would hang from pulleys rigged between buildings and neighbors screamed at each other from across the street, “Hey Doris! I need some sugah!” That was Little Italy.
As real estate has become the number one money maker in the world, old Big Apple neighborhoods have transformed into shopping and eating meccas with name brand stores holding court. The web of streets below Houston and east of Broadway always had a lot of European charm with independent shops from butchers to bakers and candlestick makers, but it’s been joined by bigger outlets. Think of seeing the actor Steve Buscemi, long noted for independent films, next to George Clooney, Hollywood glitz, but it’s only because Steve is there that George came to the party. It’s a bit of a shock almost like one of these things does not belong. Yet, like all things in New York, they co-exist, peacefully and wind up working in movies together. (See Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.)
Probably one of the country’s most important ethnic festivals, The Feast of San Gennaro, started in the area. Originally, the event was to welcome new Italian immigrants to the area. Now, almost a hundred years later, the one day event has expanded into eleven and six urban blocks of food, raucousness and general good naturedness saying, “This is what New York City was like.” In September, it seems like the world, not only those interested in pasta and pizza, converge on Mulberry between Houston and Canal. Instead of paisanos walking the streets, it really is a melting pot of cultures eating sausages with peppers and onions, throwing darts at balloons, tossing ping pongs into fishbowls and carrying on…welcoming everyone to the neighborhood.
Breakfast: Breakfast at Balthazar should be on the bookshelf with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but there isn’t a book with that title. Ever since opening in 1997 Keith McNally’s ode to Paris has been a staple of the downtown demi-monde set. At dinner, it’s still one of the few places to see and be seen. Breakfast is normally not such a rush. it’s a quieter atmosphere with businessmen and female entrepreneurs holding court. Funny, to be recommending a French place while walking around Little Italy, but it’s a must.
Our Suggestion: Eggs En Cocotte. A classic dish not normally seen on menus but it’s really delicious and very easy to make at home. Here, though, they serve them with “soldiers” mean strips of toast without the crust. Just like our English “mummy” used to make.
Lunch: Walking in New York is tantamount to running a gauntlet if you’re not used to it. Swerving and dipping. Spinning and sprinting. The onslaught of pedestrians is mesmerizing, overwhelming and hungry-making which is why you need a hearty lunch. Head to Parm. One of those newly designed farm-to-table sandwich shops but this one started on Mulberry Street and now has sisters in Battery Park City, Yankee Stadium, and the Upper Westside. (Everything has to be a conglomerate.) It’s fun and affordable. You can belly up to the bar and have a lunch cocktail ( I would) to wash down a delish sandwich. It’s simple fare and without a lengthy menu.
Our suggestion: Order the Chicken or Eggplant Parm. Lightly breaded and crisped outside served on a freshly baked semolina roll with beautiful marinara and mozzarella dripping from the sides. Delicious and satisfying for the mid-day repast. And get that lunch martini.
Cocktails: Spring Lounge. Sitting on the corner of Spring and Mulberry is a citadel to urban drinking. Spring Lounge, for generations, is the place where you’re coming for a shot of anything, with a beer or whiskey chaser. Holding up since the 1920’s, as the interior wood paneling can attest, it was first a haven for drinkers during Prohibition, meaning you could get your beer on. Now, it’s a bar with sister bars but you can still get pretty wasted cheaply. If you are so inclined you could join the Early Morning Drinkers Society which starts at 8:00am and yes, Virginia, people are sipping the toddy in the morning.
Our Suggestion: A shot of something with a cocktail. Go for it. We don’t judge.
Dinner: Jacques. I know, I know. You are in Little Italy, why the hell am I recommending two French places? Well, it’s because there are excellent Italians restaurants in every place but Little Italy. Head uptown to Lidia Bastianich’s Felidia or Mario Batali’s Babbo. Italians, like the LGBTQ community, aren’t in ghettoes anymore, they are everywhere. So…we’re going French in Little Italy at Jacques. Part of the charm is the escargot, the excellent steak frites, the French accented waitstaff. It’s like being in a real brasserie in Paris without the plane ride. The smoky yellow walls seem to be evidence of a bygone era when patrons and their tobacco habits have left behind the color as a souvenir. Tin signs are extolling French products also decorate the room with wood chairs and benches. It’s very New York-centric and symbolic of a changing neighborhood. They also have some excellent specials such as order a full meal for a couple and get a bottle of wine, meaning two entrees and two appetizers.
Our suggestion: The escargot is excellent. Lots of buerre and garlic for dipping slices of French loaf. Follow it up with the Pat LaFrieda Steak au Poivre. Medium-rare.
Cost: Escargot, $11. The steak, $29…you can’t find a steak for that price at your local butcher.
Where to Stay:The Crosby Street Hotel. An 86-room hotel outfitted with fabric covered walls and Easter egg colored chairs sits at the entry to Little Italy. It’s a modern looking structure tucked in amongst the last remaining tenements apartment building harkening back to New York’s roughed up days.
Firmdale, the hotelier, does this weird thing saying it’s in Soho but really, it’s Little Italy. Soho is the mostly made-up of cast-iron buildings and is located on the west of Broadway. These are tenements. Regardless, it’s a beautiful, small hotel located off the beaten path much better than the Soho Grand which is just stuffier and older.
There is something about South Beach Meat Market’s Chef Sean Brasel which reminds one of a Western movie actor. His laconic descriptions about living in Colorado, tinged with the Midwest accent, bring to mind Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, a man of few words who allows his actions to speak, rather than blathering like a salesman (or a publicist). It’s the economy in his tone that displays his attention to detail. As a restaurant guest, you can envision him at his stainless steel eight-burner stove, seasoning his steaks according to the cut, a cowboy lassoing a cow before heading to the bull.
Sixteen years ago – on April 1, to be exact – Brasel moved to South Beach from Colorado, where his parents still live. He and his business partner, David Tornek, created Touch, a high-end concept restaurant complete with entertainment and glorious food. Brasel says, “It was perfect for the time. Food meeting nightclub. We – my business partner and I — needed to re-focus, and the question became ‘what do I want to eat?’” Hence, he created the aptly named Meat Market with three locations: South Beach, Puerto Rico, and Palm Beach. (Although, Brasel mentions another is on the way to Tampa.)
It’s a luxury steakhouse, but the appeal lies not in just serving steak but the three-tiered menu as well as a special daily cut. There is a Meat Market’s Signature: New York, Rib Eye, Filet, and the sirloin which Brasel calls pichana, referring to the cut and its Brazilian name. (It differs from an American sirloin because the fat cap is left on, giving the beef more flavor. Smart.) His House Creations allows Chef Brasel to produce inventive marinades and sauces with the meat, including a steak sampler. (When did you go to a steakhouse and get a sampler plate with wagyu, a filet, and a NY strip? Seriously? When?) The last of the trio is the Reserved Cuts, which feature big and rich portions of Niman Ranch Prime Short Rib or thirty ounces of an Australian Tomahawk Ribeye. There are other goodies on the menu, but Brasel built a steak house, so you eat steak. Clearly, you aren’t a vegan.
Chef Questionnaire, with a nod to Proust:
How long have you been cooking? I have been cooking since I was 15, so a long time!
What is your favorite food to cook? That all depends on the location of what and where I am cooking. If I am at work, I enjoy working on future dishes and playing with different concepts and ingredients.
If I’m spending a beautiful Sunday afternoon with friends cooking on a grill, then I will probably start planning five days before, marinating meats, sous vide, etc.
I also crave those smoky flavors that only a grill can give. I even go so far in my grill dreaming to pair different items with the type of grill I get to use; whether it’s a charcoal, wood or even a gas grill. Each one has its own characteristics that lend itself to specific flavor profiles.
And lastly if I am at home, I like making pasta. I don’t get much of an opportunity to cook it at the restaurant, so I take advantage on those rare days off. I also like to eat vegetarian-ish at home – making gnocchi the classic way right on the counter with no electric equipment, like they did in Italy years ago. For that same reason, I don’t own an electric mixer.
What do you always have in your fridge at home? Almond Milk, cold brew, fresh blueberries, Sriracha, and of course, lots of red wine.
What do you cook at home? See above
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? The characteristics I love in customers are people that are not close-minded and are willing to be exposed to new carnivorous cuts. We have a lot of customers who specifically want the petit filet. Nothing against it, but that’s the vanilla ice cream of meat. I love it when a customer says, “Send me a cut I have never tried before,” and we can introduce them to something new. We have buffalo, wagyu and dry-aged Prime Certified Angus – all of which have more flavor than a normal filet, in my opinion.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? When you have customers who come into the restaurant and are already in a bad mood – it’s an uphill battle from the start. They come in already with a negative attitude and it’s hard to change that around. We can bend over backwards and offer them anything, but they won’t let us make them happy because they came in with that mindset.
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Can I choose Cambro? That’s what we use in the kitchen. But at home, I love Pyrex because it doesn’t hold any flavors.
Beer, wine, or cocktail? Anyone who knows me knows that I have a passion for red wine, whether it’s cooking with it, drinking it, or pairing it.
Your favorite cookbook author? I can’t say a certain cookbook author, but I can say that I collect books. I really enjoy reading all the chefs’ little stories about how a dish inspired them or the childhood memories they speak of in a recipe. Having said that, my favorite read still has to be Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. Although it is not a cookbook, it is just so well-written and his perception and his ability to transcribe that into words had me laughing hysterically. He is an amazing author.
Your favorite kitchen tool? I use the micro plane tool religiously. From truffle to macadamia nuts to orange and lemon zest, it is the ideal tool to put that “je ne sais quoi” into your dish.
Your favorite ingredient? I know it sounds cliché but truffle oil. It has such an indescribable quality, giving dishes a light umami twist. Sometimes I’ll put it in some dishes and most people can’t even catch it. It just adds that little twist of complexity.
Your least favorite ingredient? Chicken. Ironically enough, I like to eat it but I feel like when I spend time cooking it, no matter what you dream up in the kitchen, at the end of the day, it’s still just chicken. I’ve done some special chicken dishes at Meat Market – with poulet rouge or corn-fed baby chicken – but it seems like customers are very hard to please when it comes to chicken. I think just plain old fried chicken done right is the best.
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? This is a tricky answer because I like cooking and cleaning. I love creating and I crave the adrenaline rush from working the line even when it’s hot and slammed. I guess I have to say I don’t like having to tell the cooks the same thing all the time. As chefs, we all get tired of saying the same sh*# all the time. It can ruin my night if I keep telling them the same instructions I told them last night and last week. I guess that’s why chefs throw pot and plates! (Smiles).
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Living in Miami where it is such a melting pot of cultures, I really can’t limit myself to one type of cuisine. If I had to choose, I would say American with roots stemming from Latin America and the BBQ flavors of the Deep South. At Meat Market, I try to incorporate a lot of these different flavors and techniques into the menu.
Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Beef without a hesitation. Most people just think beef and steak, but beef is one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen. From charcuterie to marmalades to brines, cures, smokes, and of course, braises and roasts – there is a lot of creativity to be had with beef.
Favorite vegetable? I feel bad limiting myself to just one, but I have to say I had a deep admiration for pumpkin. There is so much you can do with it. I puree it, fluid-gel it, ferment it, pickle it, or just plain roast it. I can use it in so many different ways that it’s become a staple in my kitchen.
Chef you most admire? I have to say Chef Grant Achatz. I had the opportunity to visit Chicago and experience his 22-course menu at Alinea four years ago. His thought process is beyond imagination, and recently I went to his Alinea pop-up in Miami, and again, it was such an unbelievable experience. Who can imagine ever making a helium balloon out of green apple? He is the modern day Beethoven of food – beyond words.
Recipe: ASIAN BBQ LAMB RIBS
Executive Chef Sean Brasel – Serves 6 Lamb Rib Seasoning
6 lbs. Lamb ribs
¾ cup kosher salt
¼ cup smoked paprika
¼ cup crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup Herbs De Provence
½ cup El Toro Chili Powder
½ cup granulated garlic
¼ cup ground chile mix (ancho, chipotle)
METHOD: Using the seasoning, coat the lamb ribs and place in a pan for 4-6 hours in fridge. Then, add a small amount of water to the pan, cover with foil and let cook at 275° for 3-4 hours depending on the thickness of the ribs. Take ribs out of the pan and place on a sheet tray to cool. Once the ribs are cold, section them into individual chops.
Lamb Rib Sauce
16 fluid ounces hoisin sauce
½ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup mirin
1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
1 oz. siracha
METHOD: Place all ingredients into a blender and mix well.
10 Papaya (not ripe), julienned
6 cups rice wine vinegar
3¾ cups sugar
4 oz. lemon grass
1 Tbsp. salt
1 star anise
METHOD: Bring all the ingredients, EXCEPT the papaya, to boil. Let the liquid cool and then pour over the julienned papaya. Cover and refrigerate.
Pickled Red Onion
8 red onions, julienned
6 cups red wine vinegar
1½ lbs. sugar
1 Tbsp. chili flakes
4 oz. sriracha
METHOD: Julienne onions and put to the side. Put other ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over the onions and let rest.
¼ cup of Napa cabbage, sliced
1 oz. pickled red onion
1 oz. pickled papaya
2Tbsps. scallions, sliced
1Tbsp. olive oil
METHOD: Toss all the ingredients together until mixed.
TO FINISH/PLATE: Place lamb ribs, a few at one time, into a hot fryer and cook until crispy. Toss them in BBQ sauce and place them on a handful of the slaw; garnished with some chopped peanuts.
Palm Springs is known as a resort town – an enclave for second homes, secret hotel pools, and cocktails. The cocktail culture is the town’s prevailing modus operandi. With a population of a little over 50,000, it’s never really been considered a food haven. Ask a few of the locals who live in the desert year round, and the answer is their private chef does the cooking. Or, they recommend one or two restaurants which are more about an elongated drink menu rather than a superbly pan-roasted fish or braised greens from the surrounding Coachella Valley farmers. There are a few notable exceptions to this observation. The first that comes to mind is the four-year-old Workshop, owned and cheffed by Michael Beckman, which can be the honest answer to the question: “Where to eat in Palm Springs?”
There are two reasons for this. The first is that Mr. Beckman is a classically French-trained chef with stints apprenticing, cooking, and learning in European kitchens, including Burgundy’s three Michelin-starred Lameloise and working under noted German chef Thomas Kellerman at the Ritz-Carlton, Berlin. Beckman maybe the only independent chef in the Southern California desert communities to claim to work in a Michelin-starred dining room.
Secondly, he’s smart enough to promote his restaurant outside the Palm Springs area, getting the first and the last reservations from area visitors. It’s been a very smart business move to market his talents to the gourmand set, rather than wait for visiting travel media shuffling through for an annual Palm Springs pilgrimage. Instead of getting the backend of travel pieces, Beckman put forth the effort and it’s paid off with stories in Sunset Magazine, Bon Appetit, Eater, and Wall Street Journal. But the question remained: how could someone with Beckman’s background become part of Palm Springs? Truthfully, he stated he was a private chef working with a client based in Rancho Mirage. He grew to love the area’s farmers markets and vendors, as well as the community’s natural beauty, so he stayed, opening Workshop and having a family.
Interestingly, Beckman – though successful — is so dedicated to his
craft that he recently completed a several month staaj (cooking apprenticeship) with celebrated New York City’s chefs Dan Barber, Blue Hill Farms and Daniel Hume, Nomad (also of the Michelin-starred Eleven Park Madison). Beckman, as a chef, wants to continue to creatively evolve.
Beckman will have another feather to add to his list of accomplishments – Truss + Twine, a bar serving handcrafted cocktails and small bites; a chef will work in tandem with the bartenders behind the bar in a dedicated cooking area. Palm Spring’s newest watering hole is slated to open fall 2016. Lastly, he also partnered to oversee the food and beverage program for an unnamed independent 44-room hotel concept that that will have a restaurant and rooftop pool area. The hotel’s construction will start at the end of 2016.
Beckman will soon be hailed as Palm Springs’ Emperor to All Things Culinary. Rightly so.
What is your favorite food to cook? Braises are most satisfying for me with deep flavors that develop, and the cozy aromas and feel of a braised dish is somehow emotional for me.
What do you always have in your fridge at home? Quesadilla mise en place. Eggs for omelettes. A perfectly made omelette is one of my favorite challenges to see a chef’s skill set.
What do you cook at home? I love my Weber grill for smoking and grilling fish and meats. I also get nostalgic for the Lebanese food I cooked as a private chef in Beverly Hills and love those flavors. Super healthy and super flavorful.
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Someone who puts us in the drivers seat and trusts us.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a
customer? People who lie at the host stand about their reservation. People who don’t even read the menu and want to order something they can get anywhere.
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? None of the above. Deli cups.
Your favorite kitchen tool? My Chef de Cuisine Max.
Your favorite ingredient? Eggs.
Your least favorite ingredient? Balsamic reduction.
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Cleaning the fryer.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Mediterranean basin.
Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Beef.
Favorite vegetable? Right now I’m digging parsnips.
Chef you most admire? I like Paul Kahan’s rustic straight-forward style and also how prolific he is with his projects.
The food you like the most to eat? Oysters
The food you dislike the most? Shitty banquet food.
How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None yet. Never could figure out the first one…we’ll see.
Recipe: Beet Braised Lentils
Here’s a recipe from Feasting at Home, inspired by Chef Beckman’s dish at Workshop. She notes, “This recipe was inspired by a dish we had at a restaurant in Palm Springs, called Workshop. They topped their Beet braised lentils with a warm, crispy breaded goat cheese “cake”. It was divine. The chef, Michael Beckman, adds browned butter to the finished lentils, which brought it over the top.”
Beet infused lentils are a healthy side dish, with chicken or fish, or serve it on its own, as a vegetarian meal in a bowl with crumbled goat cheese.
3 T olive oil
1 C diced red onion ( ½ a red onion)
1 C diced carrot
½ C diced celery
1 Cup peeled and diced beet (one large beet, plus 2 more for juicing)
4 cloves roughly chopped garlic
1 T fresh Thyme leaves
1 Bay leaf
1 1/2 C black caviar, beluga, or Puy lentils ( soaked overnight if possible)
4 C chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp salt
salt and pepper to taste
splash balsamic vinegar
1 Cup fresh beet juice (either purchase from a juice bar, or juice 2 extra large beets)
2- 3 T browned butter (optional but delicious)
crumbled goat cheese (optional)
In a large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, beets and celery, and saute for 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Turn heat to medium, add garlic, lentils and herbs and sauté for 2 more minutes.
Add stock and salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover with lid, and turn heat to low, maintaining a gentle simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the beet juice, taste for salt, add more if necessary, and continue simmering on low for 10-15 more minutes or until tender. If you feel there is too much liquid for your liking, keep the lid off, and increase the heat, letting it reduce. (I like the braise slightly juicy, personally, so I just replace the lid.)
Stir in a generous splash of balsamic vinegar and browned butter (optional) but the brown butter is divine.
Serve in a bowl with crumbled goat cheese, or as a base for fish or chicken.
Read about this recipe – and see more gorgeous photos – here.
Chef Barret Beyer epitomizes new beginnings and change, inspiring millions with his cooking and actions. While working in New York City’s financial industry and boom era during the aughts, Beyer was arrested ten times for drug charges, even overdosing in 2006. For ten years, from 1998 until 2008, he was in and out of jails. However coinciding with the birth his daughter in 2008, the reality TV star finally got sober.
Beyer said, “I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to be a father she could look up to.” He did.
Leaving the world of finance and clanging cells bars behind, the love of cooking become the inspiration for his life’s next course. Always a home cook, Beyer attended culinary school in his native Long Island. Before even graduating the ambitious New Yorker already had a job as a sous chef.
Beyer then made it to “Hell’s Kitchen” with the legendary kitchen screamer Gordon Ramsey. His favorite television experience. Although, he didn’t win the show, Beyer realized that working in the kitchen is the work he loves.
It’s that drive to succeed and healthy ambition which drove him to participate in “Cutthroat Kitchen”, another on-camera cooking competition. “I was the first one cut. It was for not putting the chicken on a Chicken Caesar Salad,” the chef says while chuckling at his folly.
From his experience on reality TV, the cheffing professional has become a consultant opening a multitude of East Coast restaurants, receiving many accolades along the way. Food & Beverage Magazine and Chef Works have both named him “Chef of The Month”, in 2013 and 2014, respectively. With his new found celebrity status, Beyer volunteers or works non-profits events around the country including the Long Island Hospitality Ball, spokesperson for “Bullyin’ We’re Kickin it”, a Rocky Marciano Jr. organization and the annual fundraiser for Michelle’s Place Breast Cancer Resource Center in Temecula, California.
With eight years of sobriety and five years of cooking, it’s clear Chef Beyer has changed his life.
How long have you been cooking? I just came up on my 5th year anniversary. I started culinary school this past December, five years ago.
What is your favorite food to cook? I love cooking comfort food but elevating it to the next level.
What do you always have in your fridge at home? Gatorade, water, bacon, butter and French vanilla creamer
What do you cook at home? For myself, anything that can be done in 3-5 minutes, but when I’m trying to come up with recipes, it’s no holds barred.
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? People who aren’t afraid to try new things
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? The opposite of the above answer. LOL.
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Tupperware at home. Rubbermaid for my equipment and Pyrex in any kitchen.
Beer, wine or cocktail? To drink, I would say none of them; however to cook? (I use) all of them.
Your favorite cookbook author? I honestly never had a favorite cookbook author because I rarely use them.
Your favorite kitchen tool? My knives. Isn’t that every chefs’ favorite?
Your favorite ingredient? Hmmmmm. I have a few. Grape seed oil because of its high smoke point, Himalayan pink salt because of its mineral value, and garlic.
Your least favorite ingredient? Curry. I had neighbors that abused it.
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Standing still. I love cooking.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? American classics with maybe a fusion of Latin or French
Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork. I believe in low and slow to achieve flavoris maximus. (Ok, I made that word up.)
Food you like the most to eat? Pizza, pulled pork and ramen… and sometimes all at the same time
Food you dislike the most? Anything with curry
How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? 14 total. None of food yet I am not a fan of colors. I do have a tattoo on my forearm that says mise en place – everything in its place.
Chef Barret Beyer’s Scallops with Wasabi Cream
U10 Scallops (largest available)
1/4 head cauliflower
One corn on the cob
One red pepper
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Vinegar
One small can pineapple juice 6 oz
One tbs chili flake
Two tsp honey
For the gastrique: Place vinegar, pineapple juice, about 1/3 cup grenadine, sugar, red chili flake, honey, 3 tbsp. water and about 5 Peppadew peppers in pot. Let it reduce for about 20 minutes on high heat. Blend with an immersion blender. Should be the consistency of syrup; if it’s not, place back on heat and reduce more.
On medium heat put about 1/4 cup of heavy cream in a medium pot and add about 1/4 of a head cauliflower and cover. Let simmer until cauliflower is cooked through and tender; using an immersion blender, puree cauliflower. Add about 1 oz of wasabi powder, 3-4 Peppadew peppers and 2 tbsp. of juice from the jar while mixing.
Cut corn kernels from the cob, tossing with oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 8 minutes at 425 degrees. Put in a bowl with small diced red pepper, about 1 tbsp. of grape seed oil salt and pepper. Mix and set aside. In a large sauté pan, put heat on high and let the pan get hot. Add grape seed oil and let the oil heat up.
Put scallops on a paper towel to absorb the moisture, so they are dry, and then dash them with salt and pepper. Place the scallops in the pan and let them get a good sear on one side for about 60 seconds. Flip the scallops and leave them on high heat for about another 30 seconds. Then turn off heat and remove the pan from stove. Put the scallops on a clean paper towel to absorb oil.
On a plate, place a spoonful of the wasabi cauliflower under each scallop and place corn salsa on top of the puree. Add scallop and top with micro greens. Drizzle the gastrique about the cauliflower. Serve.