As a kid, my father took me with him to the West Side Market about once a week to accompany him as he made the rounds visiting his favorite butchers, bakers and produce sellers. The market has so much going on, so many things to see smell and taste, it was always an eye-opening event for me and it remains one of my most cherished childhood memories of Cleveland. Getting the opportunity to show off the West Side Market to a few friends that were visiting last weekend, the experience remains as great as it ever was. It’s good to know some things don’t change.
One thing almost everyone I know can agree on is the fact that Eleven Madison Park is one of the best meals in NYC, if not the world. The fourteen year old restaurant recently underwent a bit of a reinvention under Chef Daniel Humm, transitioning to a unique set-up where the only option (lunch or dinner) is a New York centric four-hour tasting menu. The celebrated restaurant, which boasts a three star Michelin ranking and four stars from The New York Times, is on a mission to elevate an already great experience.
This reinvention is a bold move that actually reminds me of what is happening currently at Ghurka. The American leather goods maker which has recently been reinvigorated by its new ownership group and these days everything I see emerge from Ghurka is both well thought out and equally refined, this collaboration being no exception. In keeping with the theme of “made in New York,” Eleven Madison Park tapped Ghurka to produce a handsome group of custom leather goods for the restaurant (coasters, menu covers, placemats, check presenters, table reserved signs).
Short videos of people making things is nothing new around these internets. How many factory videos have I posted on this site? Answer: a lot. Does it mean that all of the attention to craftsmanship is slowing —not so much. And it is not dissipating because it is still interesting. People are also becoming more and more interested in actually making things —be it leather goods or food items. Small batch goods from small batch makers in towns all over the world.
The discovery of the tumblr Those Who Make came as a very welcome surprise. The site is sort of a catch all for interesting maker films — sort of like a regionally unspecific version of my Fuck Yeah Made in USA, but with a more open concept for food, consumer goods and all sorts of other interesting stuff. After looking through, I found some of the food / spirits films most intriguing and original. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but the culinary film aspect hasn’t been as front and center. With the exception of the Mast Brothers who must have had thirty shorts focus on them. I pulled out a few of my favorites, and added in a few other recent film discoveries that seemed to fit the same bill.
I should add that far and away my favorite film of this sort was made by The Smith (discovered via Devour) who profiled hunter / gatherer /cook Rohan Anderson —who could be the most badass man on the internets since Aaron Draplin crushed the world one slice of illustrator at a time. Watch as Rohan builds himself a smokehouse by hand, all with bacon in mind. It is a gloriously representative film for a mesmerizing movement that I hope continues to flourish.
Dim sum is one of those things that I always want to eat, but rarely do. Chinese restaurants in New York City with dim sum are madhouses on weekend mornings (when dim sum is typically served in the States), and it’s best to go with a big group in order to maximize pushcart access and dumpling variety. But rallying a bunch of my hungover, bacon, egg, and cheese-craving friends for anything but an American-style brunch early on a Sunday morning is never an easy task.
Thankfully, a friend of mine recently recommended Nom Wah Tea Parlor, where it’s totally acceptable to eat dim sum anytime, regardless of the day of the week or who’s coming along. Though new to me, Nom Wah is the oldest dim sum restaurant in the city and a New York City institution. It opened at 15 Doyers St. as a bakery and tea parlor in 1920, but lost its lease in 1968 and was forced to move into the building next door. It has been at 13 Doyers ever since.
Below: Pell St & Doyers Street circa 1901.
Wine, prosciutto, parmesan cheese, bread and a little pasta with basil and tomatoes. That is really all one could want for on a sunny afternoon in Italy. There’s a salumeria called Parma & Co. that happens to be the perfect place to enjoy the tastes and pace of Brera, one of Milan’s most enjoyable neighborhoods. Brera is quaint and historic with a lot of great restaurants and shops. It’s more low key than some of Milan’s more happening neighborhoods, and is my favorite place to hang out while in Italy’s most stylish city.
The food at Parma & Co. is simple and delicious, very typical of Italy. The must have is the Prosciutto di Parma — the restaurant claims to have won some type of Italian cured meat award, something I don’t doubt actually exists. Regardless of its prosciutto bona fides, your author can confirm that Parma & Co. definitely worthy of a detour, some of your hard earned money and an opportunity at an enjoyable Italian lunch.
A few weeks back, I wandered into an old greasy spoon in Gramercy Park and was reminded of a certain New York that has become more the of exception rather than the rule. The general speed and efficiency of the classic New York bodega or greasy spoon is still something that impresses me. I notice lack of New York pace more and more as I travel around the country and the world. While the speed of the City is, at times, appreciated, what I really love is the old school ambiance. That’s why I obsess over places like Keen’s, Eisenbergs, The Side Car, Harry’s, 21 Club and all of the other classic New York spots.
If you aren’t clear on the specific ambiance I am talking about, this video from This Must Be the Place (found via Devour) does a great job of illustrating what makes old school independent businesses so enjoyable. Prime Burger is no exception. It’s about the place and the food, but it is also about the people who have stayed for years or even decades. Supporting the little guys, the independents more fun and keeps our world (and New York) interesting.
A lot of American cities have an iconic sandwich. In Philadelphia, it’s the cheesesteak. New York’s got pastrami on rye, New Orleans: the muffuletta. In most cases, these sandwiches are well known enough outside their respective cities that tourists hunt them down and imitators attempt to introduce them in new cities with limited success. But there are also sandwiches that manage to escape national recognition and remain untainted by Subway (unlike The Big Philly Cheesesteak).
Often eclipsed by the Vienna hot dog in the national sandwich dialogue, the Italian beef is the most famous Chicago sandwich that no one outside the Midwest has ever heard of. After moving to New York, I was shocked to find out that none of my East Coast friends had ever tried a beef. The only way I can explain it to outsiders is by comparing it to a French Dip, although the ingredients in these two sandwiches are similar, the end results are entirely different. The Italian beef at its most basic level uses thinly shaved roast beef that is allowed to soak in its own garlicky, seasoned juices for hours until it has fully absorbed the flavor of the gravy. The beef is then piled inside chewy Italian bread and topped with sweet or hot peppers. Of course, this foundation allows for a number of different sandwich combinations, and every beef stand in the city offers its own flavors and variation on the classic style.