22 Hours in Balthazar - Willy Staley, NY Times:
Over the course of what I will be repeatedly told is a slow day, 1,247 people will eat here. (Normally, it’s about 1,500.) But within a narrow range, Balthazar knows how many people will come through its doors every single day of the week, and it can predict roughly what it will sell during every meal. It mass-produces high-quality food and pushes it out to customers, and its production numbers are as predictable as the system that churns out the food itself. Just about everyone who works at Balthazar calls it a machine.

Roughly one in 10 people who enter Balthazar orders the steak frites. It is far and away the restaurant’s best-selling dish, and Balthazar can sell as many as 200 on a busy day. A plate of steak and potatoes requires a tremendous input of labor if you’re going to charge $38 for it. At a smaller restaurant, cooks are typically responsible for setting up their own mise-en-place — preparing food for their stations — before each service begins, but at Balthazar, things are necessarily more atomized. The fries, for example, go through numerous steps of prep, done by a few different people, before they wind up on a plate.

Balthazar changed downtown dining in the late 90s and pushing twenty years old, it’s become a New York institution. This is a great look into how a service business can stay at the top of it’s game.

22 Hours in Balthazar - Willy Staley, NY Times:

Over the course of what I will be repeatedly told is a slow day, 1,247 people will eat here. (Normally, it’s about 1,500.) But within a narrow range, Balthazar knows how many people will come through its doors every single day of the week, and it can predict roughly what it will sell during every meal. It mass-produces high-quality food and pushes it out to customers, and its production numbers are as predictable as the system that churns out the food itself. Just about everyone who works at Balthazar calls it a machine.

Roughly one in 10 people who enter Balthazar orders the steak frites. It is far and away the restaurant’s best-selling dish, and Balthazar can sell as many as 200 on a busy day. A plate of steak and potatoes requires a tremendous input of labor if you’re going to charge $38 for it. At a smaller restaurant, cooks are typically responsible for setting up their own mise-en-place — preparing food for their stations — before each service begins, but at Balthazar, things are necessarily more atomized. The fries, for example, go through numerous steps of prep, done by a few different people, before they wind up on a plate.

Balthazar changed downtown dining in the late 90s and pushing twenty years old, it’s become a New York institution. This is a great look into how a service business can stay at the top of it’s game.

Data Dump: The First 100 Meals in the Life of Kitchensurfing

kitchensurfing:

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1. Greek-inspired brunch for 10 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

2. 3-course menu with appetizers for 20 guests in the East Village, Manhattan.

3. Allergy friendly dinner for a family of 4 in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

4. 3-course dinner for 12 in the East Village, Manhattan.

5. 3-course dinner for a discussion group of 12 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

6. Greek-inspired tacos and sides for an extended family of 12 in New York.

7. Thai banquet for a dinner party of 22 on the Upper West Side, Manhattan.

8. 3-course steak dinner for 12, Gramercy, Manhattan.

9. Rooftop cookout for 100, Gramercy, Manhattan.

10. Authentic Yucután fish al pibil, Manhattan.

Read More

“Most noticeably, the magazine [Cook’s Illustrated] dispenses with the tone that the critic Alexander Cockburn described as “cookbook pastoral” — the sense that the ideal dinner is a sit-down for 16 with candlelight and hydrangea and unbridled toasting, a pseudo-Mediterranean hedonism that precludes wailing toddlers and mismatched silverware. And nothing makes Kimball angrier than the aspirational pipe dreams marketed by the likes of Ina Garten and Bon Appétit. “I hate the idea that cooking should be a celebration or a party,” Kimball told me over a bowl of chicken-and-vegetable soup at his regular lunch haunt, a Brookline, Mass., pub called Matt Murphy’s. “Cooking is about putting food on the table night after night, and there isn’t anything glamorous about it.””
On Christopher Kimball, Editor of Cook’s Illustrated, in NY Times Magazine
“I like to eat. Because I like to eat, I like to cook, especially for friends I like to eat with. That’s what this blog is about: what I like to cook for people I like to eat with. In this I am my mother’s son, who says, “I like to feed people.” She’s Italian. My friends like to call me a gourmet, but I’m not a gourmet; I’m a home cook, and a bigoted one: I only cook the food of my people, because I think the food of my people is better than the food of any other people. By my people I really mean my mother’s people, from a mountain town in Campania east of the city of Salerno called Sacco – my mother is a Saccatara.

What my friends love about my mother’s cooking is that it’s so tasty. Like her people’s native land, it’s also sun-kissed: golden, glistening, and rosy. It has the lively sound of their chatter (no lethargic simmers, no violent searing). It’s highly aromatic—the aromas waft out the window and tease the passers-by, Italian and Gentile alike. It makes you eat too much. It makes you want to forgive your enemies and your family. It makes you friends.

Lest you grow more interested in my mother than me, let me explain why you need me more than her. My mother and my father were part of a late immigration of Italians to Brooklyn in the 1950’s. They came from parts of an impoverished post-War Italy where their life more resembled the 19th century than the 20th.. When these fugitives of post-War poverty crossed the Atlantic, they crossed centuries. The cuisine they brought with them was the distillation of centuries of local tradition, and they were keen to preserve the traditional integrity of their native cuisine in this foreign land in a way that the Italians they left behind were not. Those Italians modernized. My mother did not.

BUT, she did mingle with other immigrants, and all these émigrés of Sud-Italia synthesized their traditional cuisines with one another and with the abundant fruits of American prosperity. In a new world they cultivated an ancient cuisine. Out of American soil they raised up an Italian cuisine not to be found in New Italy. This all happened in Brooklyn, in my mother’s kitchen, among others.

My mother learned old dishes from new friends, then at home gave her own turn to each dish all’improviso, as seemed right to her in the moment. That’s why you need me. My mother can’t explain herself. Trust me. You try to cook it as she says she does; it comes out disastrously; you call her up, and she says, “Well, didn’t you add water?” – No, you didn’t say to add water. – “Ma, non e logico, bella mamma? Do I have to tell you everything?” – YES!!! you have to tell me EVERYTHING!!! ­‑‑“You don’t cook; you play house.” You see how sweet my little Italian mother is not, when she wants not to be?

So as was Aaron to Moses for the Israelites, so shall I interpret my mother for you. And for good measure, I’ll throw in all my own opinions about all matters bearing on eating as a human being should want to eat.”

An Introduction, The Food of My People

This is the introduction to my new favorite writer about food on the web. The quality of most writing online is poor—this blog is what happens when you take a classical scholar (I believe his doctoral thesis was on Aquinas) and mix that with a bit of light snark and cultural commentary.

“Once, when Ferran Adria was back in Barcelona for the winter, he bought a truckload of perfectly ripe tomatoes. He had no idea what he was doing. He and his brother, Albert, took the tomatoes back to their workshop, where Ferran dumped them on the floor and impulsively grabbed a bicycle pump. He stuck a tomato with it and furiously began pumping. For a moment, Albert regarded his brother quizzically, and the tomato itself seemed impervious until…it exploded everywhere! Covered in red gook, Ferran fell upon the wreckage, sifting through it, and triumphantly lifted one shard aloft. A fine, pinkish spume bubbled along the line where air had forced a fissure. He tasted it, a tomato without body—earth salt and juice, which suddenly disappeared like sparklers. After that, the brothers spent the afternoon blowing up tomatoes to see what more there was to discover.”
Rucola’s Chef Joe Pasqueletto (R) and Sous-Chef Patrick Miller (L) making fresh pasta.

Photo credit: Christa Manalo, Rucola’s resident master of libations.

Rucola’s Chef Joe Pasqueletto (R) and Sous-Chef Patrick Miller (L) making fresh pasta.

Photo credit: Christa Manalo, Rucola’s resident master of libations.

Rucola, the restaurant I’m opening with a bunch of friends in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn is almost ready to open the doors! Anyone want to come to a few fun parties over the next couple of weeks?

NY Mag wrote a little something on us, a lot more press coming over the next few weeks.

Rucola, the restaurant I’m opening with a bunch of friends in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn is almost ready to open the doors! Anyone want to come to a few fun parties over the next couple of weeks?

NY Mag wrote a little something on us, a lot more press coming over the next few weeks.

“We’re a restaurant that’s about: ‘Let’s play the music loud, let’s have fun, let’s get close together, let’s crowd in, let’s tell jokes, let’s talk with the people next to you. Let’s bring extra food that you didn’t order but I saw you staring at on the table next to you.’”

Gabe Stulman - NY Times

Gabe is hospitality embodied.

Marije Vogelzang, a Dutch food designer, has done some amazing projects. If you’re interested in some inspiration for dinner parties or are curious about how to tweak the cultural / psychological contexts of eating—watch this. It’s a PopTech talk from 2009.

Going paleo and this is lunch (actually leftovers): red cabbage, a little apple, walnuts, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, cumin—topped with sea salt and grana padano.  Shouldn’t be doing the cheese, but I’ve got some quality ingredients to use up sparingly that I refuse to throw out.

Also: one of my side projects is moving along—I’m opening a restaurant in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.  We’ve signed the lease on an amazing location and have some really special things in store. I hope you all visit when I’m a guest bartender or chef.

Going paleo and this is lunch (actually leftovers): red cabbage, a little apple, walnuts, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, cumin—topped with sea salt and grana padano. Shouldn’t be doing the cheese, but I’ve got some quality ingredients to use up sparingly that I refuse to throw out.

Also: one of my side projects is moving along—I’m opening a restaurant in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. We’ve signed the lease on an amazing location and have some really special things in store. I hope you all visit when I’m a guest bartender or chef.

If anyone wants to make me happy on humid, fetid days in the summer, make me a Queen’s Park Swizzle:

4 mint sprigs, leaves only, plus one whole sprig for garnish
1 sugar cube
1 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces white rum
6 dashes Angostura bitters

If anyone wants to make me happy on humid, fetid days in the summer, make me a Queen’s Park Swizzle:

  • 4 mint sprigs, leaves only, plus one whole sprig for garnish
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 6 dashes Angostura bitters
“It’s rare for an immigrant experience to go the whole 360 in a single generation—one imagines the novel of assimilation, The White Man Calls It Romaine. The cruel trick has been pulled on this benighted child by an agglomeration of foodies and educational reformers who are propelled by a vacuous if well-meaning ideology that is responsible for robbing an increasing number of American schoolchildren of hours they might other wise have spent reading important books or learning higher math (attaining the cultural achievements, in other words, that have lifted uncounted generations of human beings out of the desperate daily scrabble to wrest sustenance from dirt). The galvanizing force behind this ideology is Alice Waters, the dowager queen of the grown-locally movement. Her goal is that children might become “eco-gastronomes” and discover “how food grows”—a lesson, if ever there was one, that our farm worker’s son might have learned at his father’s knee—leaving the Emerson and Euclid to the professionals over at the schoolhouse. Waters’s enormous celebrity, combined with her decision in the 1990s to expand her horizons into the field of public-school education, has helped thrust thousands of schoolchildren into the grip of a giant experiment, one that is predicated on a set of assumptions that are largely unproved, even unexamined. That no one is calling foul on this is only one manifestation of the way the new Food Hysteria has come to dominate and diminish our shared cultural life, and to make an educational reformer out of someone whose brilliant cookery and laudable goals may not be the best qualifications for designing academic curricula for the public schools.”

Caitlin Flanagan - Cultivating Failure, The Atlantic

Flanagan manages to skewer quite a few bourgeois cows in this short essay about school gardens, Alice Waters, immigrant children, and educational standards. I’m partially with her, but also more open to lots of experimentation with schools that offer education through different lenses (probably self-damning of my position).