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Avenue's lobster roll is not your average New England-style treat. Chef Dominique Filoni uses unlikely ingredients like oranges to create bright and exciting flavors that really stand out.
Chef Dominique Filoni is the executive chef at Avenue Restaurant in Long Branch, N.J.
For the spicy mayonnaise
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 egg
- 2 Teaspoons red-wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 Cups olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons Sriracha
- 1/2 Tablespoon chopped chives
- 1/2 Tablespoon chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the lobster roll
- 8 long brioche rolls, sliced halfway and toasted
- 20 Ounces cooked lobster meat
- 3 Ounces baby arugula
- 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 orange, peeled and segmented, segments cut in half
- 1 Tablespoon chopped chives, plus extra for garnish
- 4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
Calories Per Serving731
Folate equivalent (total)109µg27%
11 Best Restaurants In Singapore For Lobster, From Affordable To Splurge-Worthy
Lobster is the king of all crustaceans, and is an expensive delicacy that can be costly to consume. It’s not hard to see why: When fresh and cooked to perfection, the firm and satisfyingly chunky flesh that slips easily off its shell is succulent, sweet and heady.
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How To Make Nonya Laksa
From steamed lobster to lobster with cheese or butter sauce or soaked in creamy broth, there are dozens of ways to enjoy this coveted shellfish. We round up 11 of the best places in Singapore to indulge in the prized catch. We say bookmark this page so you can access it the next time your bonus comes in!
Text: Joy Fang, Gif via GIPHY
Tired of the usual Eggs Benedict that’s typically served with ham or bacon? Even the smoked salmon rendition is starting to get a little old, am I right? If you answered yes, and you have the cash to splash, indulge in this New England Lobster & Eggs Benedict with potato hash and lime that elevates the brunch classic with the addition of a chunky deshelled lobster claw. We love the lightly crisped potato hash that adds texture to the smooth dish. Opt for the beverage package (S$70++) to pair the delectable dish with free flow champagne and selected cocktails and house pours.
Adrift by David Myers is at Marina Bay Sands, Lobby, Hotel Tower 2, 10 Bayfront Ave, Singapore 018956. Call 6688 5657 or email [email protected] MarinaBaySands.com for reservations.
The lobster bun or lobster roll is probably the most popular lobster dish for lovers of the shellfish. And Tanjong Beach Club’s rendition hits all the right spots. Nestled within a pillowy soft and slightly charred toasted brioche bun are generous slivers of juicy Maine lobster and fresh avocado tossed in burnt butter mayo. The cherry on top for its Lobster Bun is the tobiko that’s sprinkled on top to give it an extra crunch.
Tanjong Beach Club is at 120 Tanjong Beach Walk, Singapore 098942. Call 6270 1355 or visit their website for reservations.
Another place to get your lobster rolls (we did mention it’s a crowd favourite) is db Bistro & Oyster Bar. The French restaurant’s Maine Lobster Roll comes with generous portions of fresh lobster chunks and creamy avocado slivers sandwiched in a nicely toasted brioche roll that is baked in-house. Nothing to complain there.
db Bistro & Oyster Bar is at B1-48, Galleria Level, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956. Call 6688 8525 or email [email protected] com for reservations.
The beloved laksa is usually served with prawns and cockles but The Salon’s rendition gives it extra punch with the addition of tender lobster meat. It’s a luxe touch to a flavourful and comforting dish of fragrant coconut-based broth with dried shrimps, homemade rempah (spice paste) and rice vermicelli topped with fish cakes, hardboiled egg, tau pok (dried bean curd puffs), beansprouts and laksa leaves.
Bonus: The dish is part of the restaurant’s A Journey Through Taste Bicentennial four-course special, so you’d get to enjoy other delicious delicacies too. These include a trio of appetisers — Deep-fried Masala Chicken Drumlet, Homemade Pan-fried Dumpling and Tahu Goreng — and a different take on the classic Beef Wellington dish — the Oven-baked Salmon Wellington.
The Salon is at Hotel Fort Canning, 11 Canning Walk, Singapore 178881. Available until Sept 15 for lunch and dinner, at S$45++ per person. Call 6799 8809 or email [email protected] for reservations.
What’s better than a mac and cheese? A souped up mac and cheese, with a generous dose of lobster meat and flavoured with truffle oil. This family favourite recipe has been given a sophisticated spin by American diner OverEasy, and features succulent Maine lobster doused with a white wine and lobster shell broth, served with macaroni and a creamy mix of parmesan and gouda cheese.
If you’re interested in light nibbles, go for its Lobster Tator Tots ($14++ at OverEasy Orchard, $16++ at OverEasy Fullerton). It’s crunchy, brimming with Maine lobster, finely shredded potatoes and chives, and served with a refreshing aioli dip. One word: Addictive.
OverEasy Fullerton, #01-06 One Fullerton, 1 Fullerton Road, Singapore 049213 and Orchard, #01-01 Liat Towers, 541 Orchard Road, Singapore 238881. Call 6684 1453 or visit their website for reservations.
For something comforting and satisfying with a touch of luxe, try this pasta ($48 for a half lobster and $78 for a full lobster) that features succulent Canadian lobster on top of a bed of linguine tossed in piquant tomato sauce. The firm but fresh flesh of the lobster completes the slightly chewy texture of the house-made noodles, making it an enjoyable and hearty meal indeed.
Zafferano is at Ocean Financial Centre, 10 Collyer Quay, Level 43, Singapore 049315, tel: 6509 1488. Visit their website for more information.
Pince and Pints is the OG of lobster rolls in Singapore — that’s to say the eatery made it famous on our little red dot. But what we love about this place is its other lobster offerings. If you’re looking for something clean, basic yet flavourful, where you can taste the freshness of the lobster flesh without other stuff getting in the way, we suggest going for its Whole Cantonese Style Steamed Lobster that’s served on a bed of glass vermicelli, soaked in housemade soy sauce, finished with sliced spring onion and complemented with fragrant jasmine rice.
They also have a simple Whole Lobster (steamed or grilled, $58++) served with chef’s salad, straight-cut fries & butter sauce. No fuss, just lobster at its purest.
Pince & Pints is at 32-33 Duxton Rd, Singapore 089496, tel: 6225 7558. Visit their website for more information.
Instead of a rich and creamy Lobster Thermidor that can get a little too much sometimes, thanks to its combination of egg yolks and cheese crust from its Mornay sauce, The Black Swan’s new head chef Alysia Chan decided to create a lighter version. Fresh, thick lobster flesh that is still in its shell is cooked with a piquant tomato-based romesco sauce instead. The dish, which is part of the chophouse’s new food menu, comes with comforting black barley — that’s cooked in fish stock — and corn risotto, and served with burnt scallion.
The Black Swan is at 19 Cecil St, Singapore 049704. Call 6438 3757 or visit their website for reservations.
While London-chain Burger and Lobster is known for its Original Lobster Roll (its version of succulent flesh encased in a warm bun is Insta-worthy), why not try something different for a change? Available exclusively at its first and only Singapore outlet in Jewel – which means you can’t get this in its London locations — the Sambal Glazed Lobster serves its signature lobster with a flavourful sambal sauce, a beloved Singaporean favourite comprising a mildly spicy fusion of dried shrimp, chilli and Asian spices. You say decadent, we say worth it. Best of all, you’ll get spectacular views of the Shiseido Forest Valley while you dine amidst verdant foliage.
At Burger and Lobster, #05-203, Jewel Changi Airport, 78 Airport Boulevard, Singapore 819666 . It does not accept reservations. Note that they will only be serving lobster rolls from 9am to 11am and 11pm to 3am.
For a limited time only, you’d get to dig into all things lobster to your heart’s content — and how often do we get to do that? This weekly spread will showcase both lobsters and crabs cooked in several ways. Dishes include a savoury cheesy Lobster Au Gratin, Maine lobster with black pepper sauce, a Hong Kong-style lobster and seafood cheese baked rice, truffle-scented lobster risotto, lobster bisque, braised lobster Hokkien Mee and a mean salted egg stir-fry lobster for a local twist.
Who knew lobster can have this many variations? As for crabs, there’s the usual chilli crab with mantous, deep-fried soft-shell crab and more.
Carousel is at Royal Plaza on Scotts, 25 Scotts Rd, Royal Plaza, Singapore 228220. Available from June 17 to Aug 19, every Monday for dinner from 6.30pm to 9.30pm at S$80++ (adults) and $46++ (children). Call 6219 3780, email [email protected] or visit their website for reservations.
Another Asian take on the beloved crustacean is this eye-popping creation from Chinese restaurant Min Jiang. Local lobster is cut in half and quickly fried in oil, before adding stir-fried ginger and spring onions, a superior broth made with fried shallots, chicken broth, oyster sauce and dark sauce, and a dash of salt, sugar and potato starch. Each 60 g serving of lobster is presented on a bed of firm but springy egg noodles for an Insta-worthy photo opp.
Min Jiang is at 7A & 7B Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249684, tel: 6774 0122. Visit this website for more information.
Ramen Keisuke is famed for its creative concepts and restaurants where no two are alike, thanks to Keisuke Takeda’s philosophy that ramen should be more innovative. The brand’s lobster ramen offerings at this speciality outlet (which opened in 2018) are inspired by the French culinary style behind the French lobster bisque. The shells of French rock lobsters are pan-fried before they are crushed into fine bits and subsequently simmered for six hours with a special blend of herbs and vegetables to create the Lobster Broth Ramen (Clear Soup). The stock is further brewed for an additional four to six hours to create the creamy texture of its Lobster Broth Ramen (Rich Creamy Soup).
While it doesn’t feature actual lobster flesh — it’s usually served with slices of meat, dumplings and a flavoured egg — it’s velvety smooth, comforting and rich. Like a lobster bisque, but more fulfilling.
Ramen Keisuke Lobster King is at #01-07 The Cannery, 3C River Valley Road, Singapore 179022. Call 6255 2928.
Based in Brown County, IN, Hard Truth Distilling Co. became a brand name in 2015 in conjunction with the already established Big Woods Restaurant Group— a close ally to this day. Known for its pioneering spirit, Hard Truth Distilling Co. is ready to take Bottleworks mixology to a whole new level by fusing its signature spirits (including its infamous cinnamon vodka) with a cocktail bar concept.
“The Hard Truth bar concept will be a first for us,” said Jeff McCabe, chairman of Hard Truth Distilling Co. “Our goal is to create an ‘organoleptic’ experience—something that pertains to all senses. And we feel Bottleworks is the perfect place to do that, making Indianapolis a new home for us.”
Hard Truth will offer their full round up of spirits as well as signature cocktails and an array of “experimental offerings” like smoke cocktails.
Fryborg has won “Best Fries in New Haven” and “Top 5 Food Trucks in New England” because of its reputation for creative menu items, fresh ingredients, and excellent customer service. Their unique brand of extraordinary comfort food hits a nostalgic note and is a crowd-pleaser for people of all ages. Fryborg gained notoriety seven years ago for its award-winning hand-cut fries served with an awesome variety of dipping sauces & toppings, as well as homemade burgers & veggie burgers, Hummel Bros hot dogs, creative sandwich melts, ice cream sodas, and other clever takes on childhood favorites. Looking for a menu that's fun and delicious for vegetarians, or guests with gluten or nut allergies? Fryborg's got your back! Owner Jonathan Gibbons and his team can create customized menu items and packages to suit your needs. Fryborg travels all over Connecticut, bringing joy to guests at all kinds of gatherings, including corporate events, employee appreciation days, weddings, mitzvahs, birthdays, graduations, and any other occasion worth celebrating. Stop by their storefront at 217 Bridgeport Ave in Milford to taste their delicious food and talk to them about planning your next get-together.
The best New York City restaurant for every type of cuisine
As part of its 2016 restaurant-survey results, released last month, Zagat compiled a list of the best restaurants in New York City for every type of cuisine.
From smoky barbecue to authentic Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches to handmade falafel, there's a top-rated spot to curb every craving.
There were also a few repeats on the list this year, with Le Bernardin and Pearl Oyster Bar each making multiple appearances.
Food ratings are out of 30 on the Zagat scale.
Great American lobster destinations
The scene: Today is National Lobster Day, and while there are way too many made-up food “holidays”, lobster is one that I can get behind, especially in mid-June, with summer just a week away. It’s a down and dirty food we associate with beachside shacks, docks and clambakes, often eaten out of doors in summer with our hands, but it’s also a celebratory food served at the finest restaurants and steakhouses across America. In the form of comfort food, especially lobster rolls and lobster macaroni and cheese, the crustaceans have ridden a wave of rising popularity that stretches far from the coasts, to places like Las Vegas and Chicago.
The most recognizable style is the American or North Atlantic lobster, widely known as the Maine lobster, though they also come from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and all of Canada’s Eastern provinces. These are your cartoon lobsters, with two big claws. However, in much of the world, including Florida, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Mexico and Hawaii, you get the warm weather spiny lobster which has no claws and is all about the tail. The Maine is the most desirable style, though some prefer soft shell and some hard (same lobster, different season, with soft shells found in New England in summer through fall), and while females generally have larger tails, and males sport larger claws, there is no difference in tenderness or taste, according to the culinary team at the Palm Restaurant chain, which specializes in large live lobsters and fine steaks at its dozens of locations nationwide. (To celebrate lobster season, The Palm is offering dinner for two, with a four-pound lobster, two salads and choice of family-style side for $99, available all summer across the country).
Whole lobsters are traditionally steamed or boiled, though increasingly splitting and grilling is popular, and stuffing and baking is a classic decadent preparation. While whole lobsters are not especially expensive to cook at home, they are labor intensive and have low yields, which is why high-quality lobster rolls — which avoid fillers and can contain the meat of an entire lobster in one sandwich — are pricey (The Palm chefs say each pound of live lobster yields only 3-4 ounces of usable meat).
Steamed or baked, whole, in rolls, or as an ingredient in sides dishes, these are the best lobster dishes at the best spots Great American Bites has visited.
Whole lobsters: In Portland, Maine, Portland Lobster Company sits right on the dock where boats come in, and even partners with a tourist lobster boat, the Lucky Catch, to cook what visitors haul in themselves from traps. In summertime, this restaurant often has a choice of soft and hard shells, and they get fresh lobsters and know how to cook them right, the two secrets to great taste. It’s a simple place with lots of outdoor seating, craft beers, and besides whole lobsters, the lobster bisque and fried clams are standouts.
In terms of atmosphere it is impossible to beat The Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, just outside of Portland. This is the quintessential oceanside shack, charming, with consistently friendly service, and a dramatic setting without equal. A foodie landmark here for nearly a century, it’s perched on the rocky seashore close to the crashing surf, with plenty of outdoor dining at picnic tables. You order inside, where live lobsters delivered daily by local fishermen are pulled from salt water tanks, then you take your plastic tray with lobster in a cardboard “boat,” plus biscuits in a wax paper bag, fries, cole slaw, melted butter and bib, outside and have a blast. The fried seafood is also excellent. Because of the outdoor setting, it’s only open spring through fall.
In Kennebunkport, Maine, Mabel’s Lobster Claw is among the most famous eateries of its kind in the nation, thanks to the long-time patronage of former President and First Lady George and Barbara Bush. While far from fancy, it’s more of a full-service sit-down restaurant than most coastal Maine lobster spots, and one of the few in the area open all year round. There are lots of lobster (and non-lobster) dishes on the lengthy menu, and the signature is the baked stuffed lobster, which is very good, and a good version is hard to find these days. It’s basically a large lobster with its body cavity cleaned out and then jammed full of large sea scallops and a little seasoned breading. Mabel’s serves several other uncommon upscale lobster presentations, including Lobster Savannah (with scallops, shrimp and Newburg sauce), Newburg and Fra Diavolo. There's also a traditional “shore dinner,” combining a cup of excellent clam chowder, a choice of 1 1/8 or 2-pound lobster, and a heaping bowl of “steamers,” steamed Maine clams.
If any place is madder for lobster than Maine, it’s Bermuda, where the abundant and beloved warm water spiny lobster (no claws) is used in all sorts of dishes and eaten by locals on a daily basis — but only in season, September to March. There may be no better spot to experience this than The Wharf, right on the harbor in St. George’s, Bermuda’s first town and the oldest English settlement in the New World, which dates back to 1609. While lobster pops up all over menus, the traditional preparation here is split lengthwise, with a seafood and breading stuffing containing shrimps and scallops added to the cleaned-out head area, then broiled. This is ubiquitous here, while stuffed lobster has become something of a rarity in the U.S. At The Wharf you get the choice of half or whole (two halves) each with one big chunk of lobster, and while the spiny lobster is rich like the Maine version, it is less tender, meatier and more steak-like. The Wharf also offers a great take on the nation’s most famous dish, Bermudan fish chowder.
Lobster rolls: There are passionate opinions about what makes the best lobster roll, and to me it’s lots of lobster, preferably claw and knuckle meat, a very light hand with the mayo, no vegetable filler and a buttered, toasted roll, typically a New England-style hot dog roll, the crust-less version. Some folks like a little chopped celery, a piece of lettuce, or other additions including paprika or celery salt. But the classic is perfect in its simplicity and I have not found a better version than the one at Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery, Maine, which opened in 1956 and for decades was the only notable roadside seafood choice on a long stretch of heavily touristic Southern Maine coastline. The perfectly cooked, gorgeously straightforward, overstuffed roll won Editor’s Choice at New York’s annual Lobster Rumble against the biggest names in the field. Bob’s original and enduring recipe calls for just a little mayo, only knuckle and claw meat — and lots of it — absolutely no paprika, chives or celery, and an excellent toasted and generously buttered bun. Bob’s is even more famous for its fried clams and is great all around, with standout fried scallops, fried haddock, lobster stew and clam chowder.
Luke’s Lobster was started by a former Maine lobsterman who wanted to bring the classic roll to New York City, and his concept was so well received that there are now Luke’s outposts in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, Washington, D.C., Bethesda, Md., Long Branch, N.J., and several in Tokyo — it even expanded to Maine. It would be easy to dismiss Luke’s as a pretty good big city rendition of the New England classic, but that’s not fair, it’s the real deal. The concept, like the best rolls themselves, is simple: only knuckle and claw meat are used, plus mayo, a pinch of celery salt and a toasted New England-style bun. Unlike most similar joints, there's a concise menu and no frying. Lobsters are impeccably sourced by a seafood company under the same owner in Maine and Canada, the whole tails are sold separately as sides or in creative seasonal salads, and a very good clam chowder is offered. In winter, there's a decadent lobster grilled cheese sandwich available.
The best lobster roll outside of New England
Many pundits adore The Clam Shack, in the heart of Maine’s Kennebunkport, which was named the single best lobster roll venue in New England by the Boston Globe’s Sunday Magazine (in rival Massachusetts!) and has also won New York City’s prestigious Lobster Roll Rumble. The restaurant’s signature and unique claim to fame is the use of an unorthodox round bun, essentially a hamburger roll. This is filled with all of the meat harvested from an entire freshly shelled 1-pound Maine lobster, with the only addition being your choice of mayo, butter, both or neither, and it is delicious and hearty with huge chunks of claws and tail. It’s an awesome sandwich, and despite the place’s name, it is what almost everyone on the often long line is here for.
Other notable lobster dishes: The White Elephant is the most famous luxury hotel on the luxurious Massachusetts island of Nantucket, and its Brant Point Grill serves up an array of New England coastal classics, including several lobster dishes, and the most famous is the signature lobster Bloody Mary. The lunch or brunch is more causal and affordable than dinner, and this drink goes perfectly earlier in the day, though it is worth trying at any time. And you may not need to order anything else — amazingly, it contains the meat of an entire lobster on a skewer, and is so breathtaking it was featured on the Today Show. Whether you stay on Nantucket or visit by ferry for the day, this is the island’s cocktail of choice, and the Brant Point Grill also offers up whole classic lobster, surf and turf, a lobster entrée salad, lobster slider, lobster roll, and another signature dish, the BPG lobster mac and cheese with Vermont cheddar and rigatoni.
The idiosyncratic Grizzly House is the most famous and quirky eatery in Banff, Alberta, home of Canada’s oldest National Park, justly world famous for its stunning scenery. Inside a rustic log A-frame opened as a discotheque in 1967, the specialty is offbeat fondues, especially wild game, and choices include caribou, ostrich, rattlesnake, wild boar, bison, venison and elk. There is also an emphasis on Canadian-sourced seafood, and signature fondues include mixed seafood, with lobster, and a surf and turf of Alberta’s famed grass-fed natural beef steak paired with North Atlantic lobster. It’s offbeat but tasty, memorable and the place to go in Banff.
When in Canada, try wild game fondue
The Side Street Café, in Bar Harbor, Maine, serves lobster almost every way imaginable — and some you wouldn’t think of. It is famed for its lobster mac and cheese, called the nation’s best by Martha Stewart. It’s made with shells and a rich, creamy white cheddar sauce, filled with lots of fresh North Atlantic lobster. Most of the time you see this now trendy dish across the nation it uses cheaper frozen warm water lobster, but not here, steps from one of Maine’s quintessential lobster ports. The lobster mac and cheese is awesome, and basic options are whole or half orders, a decadent half order “with full meat,” or build your own with custom additions including burger meat, Philly cheesesteak, pulled pork, grilled chicken, avocado, shrimp, scallops, corned beef or even sliced hot dogs. A traditional whole lobster Shore Dinner is also available, and the lobster stew is exceptional, rich, buttery and full of big lobster chunks. This is the place to go nuts and stray off the well-traveled lobster path with options ranging from lobster quesadillas to cobb salad. Why stop there? The menu reads, “So here’s the deal… you can really add lobster to anything on our menu! You want a lobster topped cheeseburger?” Bar Harbor is a tourist mecca in summer as the home of Acadia National Park, and the Side Street Cafe is one of the few places in town open year round, and as such, a local favorite.
12 restaurants America loves. With recipes!
From Los Angeles to Atlanta to Chicago to New York, restaurants all over the country are dealing with trying times. Steakhouses, sushi bars, taquerias and bistros — we miss them all, and they miss us. We reached out to a dozen chefs and proprietors, to hear a little about their stories and their worlds today. And we have a great recipe from each, so you can recreate a little of their food in your kitchen.
Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles
Hwa Yuan, New York City
Chien Lieh Tang, the chef of Hwa Yuan in Manhattan’s Chinatown, grew up in the kitchens of his family’s restaurants in Taipei, Taiwan. “I remember watching the chefs spread the hot noodles on ice,” he said in a recent video call, demonstrating the gentle, draping hand motions used to make the spicy cold noodles dressed with sesame paste that were popular in hot Taiwanese summers.
He added, “Every ingredient in the sauce was put together at the last minute,” and then switched over to furious whisking.
The Tang family’s roots are in Nanchong, in Sichuan province, China, where fresh noodles slicked with dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns are classic street food. Like about 2 million others from mainland China, Tang’s parents moved to Taiwan when the communists took over in 1949 after a civil war. When immigration restrictions were lifted in 1965, many moved on to the United States, including Tang’s father, Yu Fa Tang (nicknamed Shorty).
He opened a restaurant in Chinatown in 1967 and became a successful restaurateur with multiple Sichuanese restaurants in Manhattan and a much-copied recipe for cold noodles — made without Sichuan peppercorns, then unavailable in New York. But he died young, and the original Hwa Yuan Szechuan Inn closed in 1991.
Today, Tang, 67, and his son, James, 35, who helps run the business, are luckier than most Chinatown restaurant owners in the pandemic. The family owns the building, so they do not have to worry about rent, a tremendous barrier to reopening in New York. They have been able to keep the kitchen running for delivery and takeout with a skeleton crew of cooks.
The Tangs have never shared the recipe for their sesame noodles. But The New York Times developed a home-cooking version of it in 2007, with a common twist: substituting peanut butter if the right kind of sesame paste is hard to come by.
Tang said that after the restaurant reopened with an elegant makeover in 2017 and received a two-star review in The Times, there had been a constant flow of customers who announced that they were there to honor a first date, an engagement or a love affair with carp in hot bean sauce, the first dish he ever learned to make.
Anti-Chinese vitriol and violence have risen across the country because of misinformation about the coronavirus, and many Chinese restaurants have been forced to shut down completely because employees fear leaving their own neighborhoods. Still, Tang said, it was tourists, not local residents, who avoided Chinese restaurants in February, when business was down by 40%.
“New Yorkers know better than that,” he said. “We are all in this together.”
Recipe: Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles
1 pound noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh
2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste, chile crisp or chile oil, or to taste
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes. They should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.
3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts.
Tips: The Chinese sesame paste called for here is made of toasted sesame seeds it is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of plain, untoasted sesame. But you could use tahini in a pinch. You need only add a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavor, and perhaps some peanut butter to keep the sauce emulsified.
Phoenicia, Birmingham, Michigan
For decades, diners at Phoenicia, a Lebanese restaurant in Birmingham, Michigan, went home with an image of Sameer Eid imprinted on their brains — specifically, his outsize, curling mustache.
“The mustache is first,” said Eid, Phoenicia’s 80-year-old founder. “I come second.”
He believes his customers wouldn’t recognize him if he shaved. “My wife and myself are stopped in airports,” he said. “People ask me, ‘Are you the Monopoly guy?’”
Eid’s son, Samy, is now in charge of running Phoenicia and the family’s two other restaurants, Leila, in nearby Detroit, and Forest, also in Birmingham. Leila, which GQ magazine named one of the best new American restaurants of 2020, has been closed since March, when stay-at-home orders were issued in Michigan, while Forest and Phoenicia remain open for takeout and delivery.
Keeping the elder Eid away from the restaurants for the sake of his health has been “one of the more depressing parts” of the shutdown, his son said.
Before the pandemic, Sameer Eid wasn’t exactly retired. He woke at 5 a.m. three times a week, as he had for nearly 50 years, to buy produce and meat at the Detroit Produce Terminal or at Eastern Market. He started the habit a few years after opening the first version of Phoenicia in Detroit in 1971. “I must have gone through 15 purveyors,” Eid said of those early days. “They couldn’t understand, I want what I want, not what you want to sell me.”
Phoenicia moved to its current site in 1982. The new space was an upgrade, in both size and appearance, from the diner-style original. But the food stayed the same, even if it was served on white tablecloths: traditional Middle Eastern mezze (hummus, stuffed eggplant, tabbouleh), kofta kebabs, broiled chicken with toum, all made with Eid’s hand-picked ingredients.
Phoenicia’s food is what Eid ate growing up in Marjayoun, Lebanon. A notable exception is one of the restaurant’s best-sellers: barbecue pork ribs. “My dad went to college in Denton, Texas, and fell in love with barbecue,” said Samy Eid, 40. “The kebabs go like crazy, so does the fattoush. But people really love our baby back ribs.”
Samy Eid took over the restaurant in 2009, but his father continued to be very much a part of it, returning to Phoenicia to serve as host for dinner service every night. “Literally, it’s entertainment for me,” Sameer Eid said. “I love to go back to the restaurant, to see my friends at the restaurant.”
He regards Samy’s entry into the family business as “the great blessing of my life.” But he still doesn’t understand why his son won’t grow a mustache like his. “Poor guy, he refuses to do that,” he said. “Why?”
Recipe: Toum (Garlic Whip)
Total time: 15 minutes, plus chilling
1 cup peeled garlic cloves (about 32 cloves, from 3 to 4 whole heads)
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
3 1/2 cups canola oil or grapeseed oil
1. Place peeled garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the garlic for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then repeat three more times until garlic is finely chopped.
2. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and continue processing until a smooth paste forms, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every 45 seconds or so. You want the wet, finely chopped garlic mixture to end up with a texture similar to mashed potatoes. Pinch it between your fingertips, and it should no longer feel gritty. (If you don’t blend the garlic enough at this stage, it won’t become fluffy and emulsified later.)
3. With the food processor running, start incorporating 1 cup oil, drizzling it in at a slow, steady stream. Once the oil is incorporated, slowly add another 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Repeat this step with another 1 cup oil, then another 2 tablespoons lemon juice. By the end, the mixture should have a fluffy consistency.
4. With the food processor running, alternate adding 1/2 cup oil in a slow, steady stream, then 1 tablespoon lemon juice. This should happen twice. Next, with the food processor running, add the remaining 1/2 cup oil in a slow stream until totally incorporated, then do the same for the ice water.
5. Once finished, transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Toum will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks.
(Recipe from Samy Eid of Phoenicia)
Tagliatelle With Prosciutto and Butter
Felix Trattoria, Venice, California
At its best, Felix is electric.
On a busy Friday or Saturday night before the pandemic, customers flocked in droves to the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles for some of the best handmade pasta in the country. All 100 seats were filled by an eclectic mix of locals, tourists and, as in most buzzy California restaurants, celebrities. (The chef, Evan Funke, counts Jay-Z and Beyoncé as fans.)
The music was intentionally familiar — some James Brown or ’90s hip-hop, occasional trap or classic rock — but never too loud, lest it disrupt the olfactory experience. Funke, 41, considers the scent of the restaurant even more welcoming than the vibe.
“If the track pulls too hard, none of those beautiful aromas can weep into the dining room,” he said. “When you walk into Felix, you can smell the orecchiette Pugliese, the Genovese and the Bolognese. You smell the pizza, the salame piccante. It’s this one amazing perfume that is the cumulative effect of everything that’s going on in the restaurant.”
The seating hugs the heart of Felix, an open kitchen where cooks used to knead, cut and fold up to 75 pounds of pasta on a typical day. Funke said his pasta laboratorio “isn’t just built as theater and conversation piece” its true purpose is to connect pasta-maker and guest. For Funke, the act of making pasta is not only about preserving a rich history of more than 2,000 years it’s also about hospitality. “That connection is really important to me,” he said.
After Mayor Eric Garcetti halted dine-in service across Los Angeles, Funke struggled with the decision that faced everyone in the industry: to close, or pivot to a new business model. Two days later, the restaurant celebrated for ornate, delicate handmade pasta was serving takeout.
“I have people on my staff that live paycheck to paycheck, just like every other restaurant in the United States,” Funke said. He described his staff as an extended family. “We stayed open so our staff could put food on the table.”
But adapting a fine-dining restaurant for takeout is a challenge. There is no way to control the temperature and structure of cooked pasta for delivery. “I’m a student of consistency,” Funke said. “In this business, if you’re not consistent, you have nothing.”
Instead, the restaurant created pasta kits, pairing 14 or 15 fresh varieties — eight or so made fully by hand, and the rest extruded — with pesto Genovese, arrabbiata and other classic sauces suited to each size and shape, and providing careful instructions for cooks to prepare the dishes at home. Down to one full-time and one part-time pasta-maker, Felix is still producing more than 65 pounds of pasta daily.
While the open kitchen was a draw for customers, it also allowed the staff a window on its audience. “That’s why we do it, to see the reaction of our guests, to feel that they’re satisfied.” Funke said. “We’ve been reduced to these 90-second interactions when people pick up, and that’s literally what’s been sustaining us as a group.”
Recipe: Tagliatelle With Prosciutto and Butter
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces prosciutto, torn into bite-size pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 pound handmade fresh tagliatelle or store-bought tagliatelle
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish, if desired
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
2. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until frothy and golden, about 1 minute. Add half the prosciutto in one flat layer. Cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer cooked prosciutto to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining prosciutto, leaving it in the skillet, and remove skillet from heat.
3. Season the boiling water lightly with salt. When the salt dissolves, add the tagliatelle and cook until toothsome and slightly undercooked, 2 to 4 minutes or according to package instructions.
4. Just before your pasta is ready, return the skillet to the heat and warm over medium. Do not drain the pasta, but use a slotted pasta fork or tongs and transfer the cooked pasta directly to the skillet. Working quickly, add 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and swirl vigorously to emulsify, jostling the pan at the same time, and cook just until sauce is silky, about 1 minute.
5. Divide the pasta among shallow bowls, sprinkle with pepper and remaining prosciutto and serve immediately, along with more Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.
(Recipe adapted from Evan Funke’s pasta cookbook, “American Sfoglino,” Chronicle Books, 2019)
Brennan’s, New Orleans
Bananas Foster is a dessert prepared tableside, over a live flame, as well as a source of dining-room drama — and potential danger. The fire that rises off the pan can be seen tables away, stoking anticipation even in diners who have just started on their appetizers.
“The challenge with bananas Foster is to keep the flame low,” said Ralph Brennan, who grew up eating the dish at Brennan’s. “When the pan gets real hot, there can be a mini-explosion. I can remember one incident where they singed a lady’s fur coat.”
The dessert was invented in 1951, when Owen Brennan, the restaurant’s founder and Ralph Brennan’s uncle, requested a special dessert for an important guest. Ella Brennan, Owen’s sister, collaborated with Paul Blangé, one of the early chefs at the Brennan family’s original restaurant, and a headwaiter. Their creation became a kind of family heirloom that’s now served all over New Orleans.
“My aunt came up with this idea to use brûléed bananas,” said Ralph Brennan, 68, now an owner of Brennan’s. “My grandmother had the habit of brûléeing bananas at home. Back in the day, the Port of New Orleans was one of the biggest importers of bananas into the United States.”
Bananas Foster can now be found in many forms in the city: bananas Foster cakes, sundaes, bread pudding. But there is no substitute for the original, live-action version, spooned over melting vanilla ice cream.
Brennan’s has been closed, and its hourly staff laid off, since the government issued stay-at-home orders in March. No date has been set, but Ralph Brennan is looking forward to reopening — and resuming the bananas Foster tradition.
“It’s part of the cinema of dining,” he said. “The flaming of an item in a dining room is so rarely done these days. I can’t tell you how many people sit there with their phones and take a video of the making of the dessert.”
Recipe: Bananas Foster
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 banana, peeled, halved lengthwise and crosswise
1 teaspoon banana liqueur
1 ounce light rum (80- to 90-proof)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Melt butter and sugar in a small frying pan. Add banana pieces and sauté over medium heat until lightly browned, turning pieces once. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Remove pan from heat.
2. Add liqueur and rum to pan. To flambé, carefully light sauce with long-reach lighter. Spoon flaming sauce over the banana pieces until flame is extinguished.
3. Serve warm banana pieces and sauce over vanilla ice cream.
(Recipe adapted from Brennan’s by New York Times food editor Jane Nickerson in 1957)
Country Club Bakery, Fairmont, West Virginia
Chris Pallotta is not about to divulge the recipe for his bakery’s signature pepperoni rolls. But he did say that “the bread dough is probably the most important part of it.”
Pallotta, 42, doesn’t run just any bakery. He owns Country Club Bakery, in Fairmont, West Virginia, an Italian bakery opened by the man credited with first selling the rolls commercially, Giuseppe Argiro. The snack is the unofficial state food of West Virginia, a yeasted shelf-stable roll that at Country Club Bakery envelops three pencil-size pepperoni sticks.
Country Club sells the baseline standard for a pepperoni roll, said Candace Nelson, the author of “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll.” You can find pepperoni rolls just about anywhere in the state — bakeries, restaurants, school cafeterias, grocery stores and gas stations — but according to Nelson, “the pinnacle is the fresh, hot-from-the-bakery pepperoni roll.”
There are those who believe that the roll is best made with stick pepperoni, as it is at Country Club, and others who spread slices through the roll “like you would cards if you were doing a magic trick,” said Ronni Lundy, the author of the Appalachian cookbook “Victuals.” Ground pepperoni has a following, too.
Cheese, while initially controversial, has been embraced by many. But purists still want their rolls the way Country Club makes them: without. Some dip them in marinara sauce, and others slather them with mustard, Lundy said. “I am absolutely certain that there has to be a secret cult somewhere that puts ranch dressing on it,” she said.
The pepperoni roll wasn’t always so manifold. Argiro began selling his rolls sometime between 1927 and 1938, Nelson said, but it is likely that the wives of Italian immigrant coal miners were making them long before they were sold commercially. It was a way to combine the two foods that many miners took down to the shafts, a perfect lunch to eat with one hand in the cramped darkness.
Its portability and long shelf life have made it a popular wedding favor, and road trip and tailgate snack.
Country Club has been allowed to operate as an essential business during the pandemic, and the bakery continues to make as many as 4,200 pepperoni rolls a day. Pallotta, who bought the shop from the Argiro family in 1998, said supermarket orders had picked up as restaurant demand collapsed. “Our business is pretty steady,” he said.
At his bakery, the rolls are about the size of a hot dog bun, made of an Italian bread dough. “When you bake it, the grease from the pepperoni infiltrates the whole roll,” he said.
That pepperoni juice is the secret to finding the tastiest roll, Lundy said, offering the advice she was given at a food conference a few years back: “Pick it up and look at the bottom, and if it’s got red grease on the bottom, that’s a better one. That one’s going to be permeated with the pepperoni flavor.”
Recipe: Pepperoni Rolls
Total time: About 2 1/2 hours
1 cup (240 milliliters) warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 individual packet)
1 teaspoon maple syrup, sorghum syrup or honey
2 3/4 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more as needed
1 (8-ounce/225-gram) pepperoni stick or 6 ounces pepperoni slices
1/4 cup (55 grams) unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1. Add the warm water to a measuring cup. Stir in the yeast and syrup, then let stand for 5 minutes.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the flour, salt, 1 teaspoon oil and yeast mixture. Pulse several times on low to combine, then knead on low until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky.
3. Grease a large bowl with cooking spray or olive oil. Use floured hands to remove the dough from the mixing bowl and transfer it to the greased bowl. Cover the bowl using a damp towel, and let the dough sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise.
4. As dough rises, prepare the stick pepperoni (if using): Cut the pepperoni into 2 (5-inch) lengths. Cut each piece lengthwise into 3 slabs, then cut each of those slabs lengthwise into 3 even batons, forming a total of 18 pieces, each 5 inches long and about 1/3-inch wide.
5. Lightly spray or oil a baking sheet. When the dough is ready, use floured hands to remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a floured surface. Cut it into 6 equal portions, about 4 ounces each, and roll them into balls. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. Spray or lightly oil the top of each ball of dough and cover the baking sheet lightly with plastic wrap. Let sit for 20 minutes.
6. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the dough. Using floured hands, remove a dough ball and place it on a floured work surface. Either roll or stretch the dough into a 6-by-8-inch rectangle. (Be careful not to make the dough too thin, or it will be hard to roll up the pepperoni.)
7. Set a 6-inch edge of the rectangle facing you. Starting about 1 1/2 inches from the short edge closest to you, place 3 pepperoni sticks crosswise on the dough, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between each stick.
8. Take the dough edge closest to you, fold it over the first pepperoni stick, adhering the top layer of dough to the bottom layer of dough, and then proceed to make 2 more folds away from you to enrobe the remaining 2 pepperoni sticks. If using slices, imagine separating your dough into thirds by creating 2 crosswise rows of pepperoni, each overlapped like a spread of cards, 6 pepperoni slices wide. Fold the dough closest to you over the first row of pepperoni slices, then fold up the dough to cover the second row of pepperoni slices, so the pepperoni and dough form alternating layers.
9. Return the roll to the baking sheet, setting it seam-side down. (Resist the urge to tuck in or fold over the shorter ends.) Repeat this process with the remaining dough balls and pepperoni sticks or slices.
10. Brush the rolls with the melted butter and bake until golden brown and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with any remaining butter. Let cool completely before serving.
(Recipe from the chef Travis Milton and featured in Ronni Lundy’s cookbook, “Victuals,” Clarkson Potter, 2016)
— Pork Roast With Roasted Jalapeño Gravy
Taqueria del Sol, Atlanta
Taqueria del Sol is a small chain of laid-back restaurants in Georgia and Tennessee known for vibrant Mexican food with a charming Southern accent. Turnip greens laced with chile de arbol, shrimp and grits with jalapeño-tomato salsa and fried chicken tacos are just a few of the dishes customers have fallen for since Eddie Hernandez and Mike Klank opened the first of seven locations in Atlanta in 2000.
To food-world insiders, the Taquerias are considered some of the country’s first fast-casual restaurants, not quite fast-food and not quite full-service dining. Hernandez, 65, who learned to cook from his grandmother while growing up in Mexico, created the menu, and Klank, who has an engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology, developed and employed efficiency measures. To their devoted customers, however, the restaurants are known for a small-town feel and menus that rarely change — a soothing balm to their patrons, especially during the pandemic.
“It’s very much an anchor of the community,” said Susan Puckett, a regular customer and a co-author with Hernandez of “Turnip Greens & Tortillas: A Mexican Chef Spices Up the Southern Kitchen.” She lives a short walk from the Taqueria del Sol in Decatur, Georgia.
“When it first happened, we didn’t want any of our favorite restaurants to close, but we thought, ‘God forbid anything happens to Taqueria,’” Puckett said. Seeing cars drive in and out of the parking lot, a sign that business is doing well, has relieved her fears. “It gives us a lot of comfort knowing that it’s still there.”
The transition from a dine-in restaurant to a bustling takeout joint has been relatively seamless for Hernandez and his staff. This is likely because of the counter-service system they already had in place, but also because of how they responded to the shutdown. “They’ve recreated themselves in a way that still feels like Taqueria,” Puckett said. “Other places are trying really hard, but it’s not the same.”
After giving employees two weeks off, they emptied the Decatur dining room of tables and set up an assembly line for food preparation. Staff members have their temperature taken before every shift, and wear gloves and masks. With more than 60 tequilas available, customers can order to-go cocktails in a plastic cup, or buy a bottle of Taqueria’s famous margarita mix to make their own at home. “We are doing really, really well,” Hernandez said.
As of April 27, Georgia restaurants were allowed to open dining rooms with a limited capacity of no more than 10 patrons per 500 square feet, but Hernandez has no plans to reopen anytime soon.“We won’t open at 50% capacity,” he said. “Catering the dining room is more complicated than to-go, and we have the most wonderful customers on the planet. We want to protect everybody, not just our employees.”
Recipe: Pork Roast With Roasted Jalapeño Gravy
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless pork loin, with a good layer of fat on it
4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups pork stock or chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1. Heat oven to 475 degrees. Mix together salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion. Place the pork on a rack set in a roasting pan and sprinkle the roast with the spice mixture, rubbing it lightly so it adheres to the meat.
2. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. If the fat begins to get too dark, tent with foil.
3. While the roast is cooking, make a roux for the gravy by melting the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and whisk vigorously until smooth. When the mixture thins and starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking slowly, until the mixture smells nutty and toasty and is still light colored. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally, then set aside and let cool.
4. When the roast is done, cover and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 450 degrees. Place the jalapeños in a small pan, brush with oil and roast for 6 minutes, or until soft. Remove the stems and some or all of the seeds and membranes, depending on how hot the peppers are and how hot you want the gravy. Dice the jalapeños.
5. Place the half-and-half, stock, salt and jalapeños in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the roux and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking continually, until the sauce is thickened and bubbly. Stir in a little more roux if needed to reach the desired thickness and, if desired, any accumulated juices from the roast. Slice the roast, cover in gravy and serve.
(Recipe from Eddie Hernandez of Taqueria del Sol)
Cinnamon Crunch Banana Bread
Bakesale Betty, Oakland, California
Like the Mona Lisa and the Cronut, lunch at Bakesale Betty in Oakland, California, generates a line long before opening time. Alison Barakat, the baker who took over this storefront on a busy corner of Telegraph Avenue in 2005, sells basic treats like strawberry shortcake and ginger cookies and just one sandwich: fried chicken with jalapeño coleslaw on a brioche bun.
It’s a perfect combination, especially eaten at one of the rickety ironing boards set up on the sidewalk as makeshift tables. When the line gets especially long, Barakat sometimes comes out in her signature blue wig, distributing cookies and calm.
She closed the bakery on March 14, days before a lockdown took effect in the Bay Area. She has three young children to look after, but she also wanted to pause and think through the future of the business. “We’ve been in even more dire financial straits than this,” she said. (Bakesale Betty has expanded and contracted before.) “I want to be the local business that embraces change, and gets out in front of it.”
Barakat was born and raised in Sydney, where she started working in professional kitchens at 18. (She’s 46 now.) She worked in the early 2000s as a line cook at Chez Panisse, where she got her first taste of American fried chicken.
“It was like I never wanted to eat anything else,” she said.
Bakesale Betty was born as a stand at the North Oakland Farmers Market, where Barakat refined her baked goods with small twists like adding a crunchy cinnamon topping to banana bread. The shop finally got its big break last year: Alongside other local food businesses like the Filipino snack specialist Sarap Shop and Hot Dog Bills (home of the burgerdog), Bakesale Betty was selected as a vendor at the Golden State Warriors’ new arena in San Francisco, which opened last fall. But the NBA suspended all play on March 11, and there is no decision yet about resuming the season.
The original location has reopened on weekends only, baking seasonal pies like strawberry and apricot for pickup. Like many California restaurants, it is relatively well positioned for a permanent switch to outdoor-only dining. But if social distancing becomes a way of life, Barakat said, she worries that a key component of the experience that she created will be lost. “It’s all about the social experience when you’re in the line,” she said.
Recipe: Cinnamon Crunch Banana Bread
Total time: About 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling
Unsalted butter, for greasing
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) vegetable oil
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) honey
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (from 2 to 3 medium bananas)
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) warm water
1/4 cup (55 grams) brown sugar, preferably light brown or Demerara sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and line it with parchment or wax paper, leaving enough paper hanging over the sides to lift the cake out after baking. (This will prevent the topping from breaking when removing the bread from the pan.)
2. Prepare the batter: In a medium bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a sturdy whisk, beat together oil, eggs and honey until smooth. Stir in bananas and warm water. Add dry ingredients to egg-oil mixture and stir to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Make the topping: In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon, using your fingers to break up any lumps. Sprinkle evenly over batter.
4. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour, checking after 50 minutes. If topping shows signs of burning, reduce heat to 325 degrees.
5. Remove to a rack and let cool in pan for 30 minutes. Use the edges of the paper to lift the cake up and out. Place on a rack (leave the paper on) and let cool before slicing and serving.
(Recipe from Alison Barakat of Bakesale Betty’s)
Southern Macaroni and Cheese
Stingrays, New York City
Millie Peartree lost her restaurant in November, months before the rest of the industry felt the impact of COVID-19.
Her loss felt singular, the shuttering of her business unfair. Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food had built up a community in the Bronx, nourished it and received critical acclaim, but after a city inspection found unauthorized gas plumbing work in the building, gas service was cut, and the restaurant could no longer operate.
“It was one of those situations where, you know, you cry it out, you get upset, pick up the pieces and put things back together,” Peartree said.
Thanks to the support of friends and community — and pure perseverance — Peartree found a space a few blocks away in the Fordham neighborhood, put in an offer and was about to sign a new lease in early March, shortly before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued stay-at-home orders. Fearful of what the restaurant business might look like in the coming months, she decided not to sign, which she counts as “a blessing in disguise.”
Instead, Peartree teamed up with the Harlem restaurant Stingrays to sell takeout soul food, and created what she calls her Essential Meals program. Largely funded by donations from customers and corporations, that operation prepares food in the Stingrays kitchen to serve essential workers across New York City.
She has distributed macaroni and cheese, jerk chicken and other soul food fare to employees at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens and other overwhelmed medical centers. She is also feeding members of her own Bronx community, including transit workers, police officers in the 52nd Precinct’s domestic violence unit, postal workers and even the morgue staff at Lincoln Medical Center.
Peartree’s original restaurant exuded warmth, from the Edison light bulbs and rustic wood walls to the food on the plate. And that food is just right for this moment: nourishing and nostalgic, comfort in a bowl.
Her fish fry was “old school,” she said. “It wasn’t a hybrid of anything, and people really appreciated that. We weren’t doing béchamel sauces, we weren’t doing macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs on top we were doing traditional Southern mac and cheese, Lowcountry collard greens, simply cornmeal-crusted fish.”
Her updated menu is “kind of like a soul food Chipotle,” Peartree said. “It’s sweet, spicy, everything you want in a comfort meal.” She still serves her staples — the mac and cheese, hoppin’ John rice, jerk chicken — in a bowl, with an assortment of selected sauces and sides.
“You cannot let fear stop you from doing your passion, or what’s right,” she said. “If every doctor or nurse, every essential employee was scared to go outside, we wouldn’t have groceries, we wouldn’t have health care, we wouldn’t have mail. You have to put your fears aside to help other people.”
Recipe: Southern Macaroni and Cheese
Total time: 35 minutes, plus cooling
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar (about 16 ounces)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
2 cups shredded Colby Jack (about 8 ounces)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions until a little under al dente, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk milk and eggs. Add cooked macaroni, 2 cups extra-sharp cheddar, melted butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and stir until well combined.
3. Add half the macaroni mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish in an even layer. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups Colby Jack evenly on top. Spread the remaining macaroni mixture on top in an even layer. Cover with aluminum foil, transfer to the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
4. Remove from oven. Carefully remove and discard the aluminum foil. Top the macaroni mixture with the remaining 2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Colby Jack. Broil on top rack until cheese is browned in spots, 3 to 5 minutes. (The broiled cheese can go from golden to burnt fairly quickly, so keep a close eye on it.)
5. Remove from oven and let cool until the macaroni and cheese is fully set, 10 to 15 minutes. (The mixture may first appear jiggly, but it will firm up as it cools.) Serve warm.
(Recipe adapted from Millie Peartree of Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food)
—Carne Asada Cheese Fries
Piper Inn, Aurora, Colorado
When Jed Levin’s grandfather opened the Piper Inn in 1968, customers would fly in for lunch. Farmers landed their Piper Cub crop-dusters at the nearby airstrip and walked over for a simple meal.
Now, the place sits amid big-box stores in Denver’s sprawl, ranks of Harley-Davidsons fill the parking lot and the menu is decidedly eclectic. “There isn’t a single item that doesn’t have a story behind it,” said Levin, 36, who now runs the place with his father, Rich, and sister, Piper.
At first, the restaurant served diner staples like grilled cheese sandwiches and hot hamburger (a patty on a slice of white bread, topped with gravy you eat it with a knife and fork). The first cook who left his mark on the menu was a guy from Buffalo who put the place ahead of the curve as a local destination for hot chicken wings in the 1970s.
That’s also when the inn gained a reputation as a biker-friendly bar. (Colorado, with its smooth highways and mountain views, is an international destination for motorcycle riders.) Benny Armas, who went on to start the Capitol Hill institution Benny’s in Washington, added chiles rellenos and enchiladas while he was in charge.
In about 1984, Kenny and Marcia Mah, a couple who had immigrated from Guangzhou, China, took over the kitchen and added a separate, successful Chinese American menu. They stayed for 37 years. As the menus gradually fused, the Piper Inn became known for — and still serves — the Mahs’ Chinese hot wings, pork fried rice and wonton soup, alongside tacos, Buffalo wings, BLTs and Bud Light. And the crowd is also famously diverse.
“It’s a quintessential Colorado mix and the most welcoming place,” said Patricia Calhoun, the founding editor of Westword, an independent online newspaper, who has lived in Denver since 1977. “There are people who love the danger of the open road, people who live in the suburbs but like the idea of the open road, and people whose idea of a taste of danger is a spicy hot chicken wing.”
When Jed Levin moved back to Denver to join the family business after a decade in Los Angeles, he added made-from-scratch soft tacos and the dish that has pulled in a new generation of food lovers: carne asada fries (a California-Mexican classic most easily described as nachos, but with French fries instead of tortilla chips). Fries smothered in green chile gravy are a regional classic in Colorado and New Mexico, so it wasn’t much of a leap to Piper Inn’s plate of crinkle-cut fries topped with grilled steak, beer cheese sauce, chopped onion and cilantro.
Under the coronavirus lockdowns, the restaurant is serving takeout food only, and Levin said that, to his surprise, he is doing close to a normal volume of business. When the restaurant closed on March 17, all 24 employees, including family members, were furloughed when federal Paycheck Protection Program funds came through in April, all but one were rehired. The near-term goal, he said last week: “al fresco dining in our parking area.”
Recipe: Carne Asada Cheese Fries
3/4 pound skirt steak or flank steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/3 cup beer (preferably a lager or other beer without a pronounced flavor)
2 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar (about 8 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
1. Add steak to a medium bowl, and toss with the lime juice, chili powder, cayenne (if using), salt and pepper until thoroughly coated. Let marinate at room temperature while you prepare the remaining components.
2. Prepare the beer cheese: In a medium saucepan, melt the cream cheese over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Add the beer in a slow stream, whisking until smooth. Let the foam die down, about 1 minute, then decrease heat to low and add the cheddar cheese one handful at a time, whisking until smooth before adding the next. Once you’ve integrated all the cheese, whisk in the Worcestershire, mustard, garlic powder and paprika. Season to taste with salt, cover and set aside, off heat. (Makes 1 1/4 cups.)
3. Prepare the garnish: In a small bowl, stir together the onion, cilantro and lime juice. Set aside.
4. Make the carne asada: Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high. Add the meat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and the sauce reduces to a glaze, 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Arrange cooked fries on a serving platter in an even layer, and drizzle beer cheese on top to taste. Top with the carne asada and onion-cilantro mixture. Serve with lime wedges, and crema, if desired.
(Recipe adapted from the Piper Inn, Denver)
La Scarola, Chicago
Armando Vasquez was a small and skinny 14-year-old when he came to the United States from Mexico in 1983, and found a job as a dishwasher at a diner in Carmel, New York. He started helping out in the kitchen, and jotted down recipes and prep notes in a notebook.
“I was this tough guy from Mexico who didn’t know how to cook,” he recalled recently. “But I could read the tickets, so I started working the line and taught myself to cook.”
When the head cook quit, Vasquez took over.
For years he worked at the restaurant and cleaned offices to cover living expenses and send money home to Mexico. In 1991, he moved to a Chicago suburb, where he hoped the lower cost of living would offer some relief. He worked at several restaurants including an Italian-American place where he learned to cook the classics, to which he sometimes applied his own special touches. (“I may have been the first person to add chipotle peppers to pasta,” he said.)
In 1998, he and Joseph Mondelli opened La Scarola, a two-room Italian American restaurant in Chicago. They had four employees and a used stove they’d bought for $50. “We put it together with a rubber band, basically,” Vasquez, 52, said of the restaurant. “If you look closely at the walls, you’ll see that they’re crooked because we built the walls.”
Twenty-two years later, they have 30 employees, and the still-crooked walls are covered with photographs of Vasquez posing with local celebrities and politicians. Before closing for dine-in service on March 17 because of the coronavirus, the restaurant was a bustling red-sauce joint known for generous portions of traditional dishes like chicken Vesuvio and penne alla vodka.
Upon closing, Vasquez’s main concern was keeping the 18 of the 30 employees who wanted to continue working. La Scarola offered local delivery and curbside pickup, but without liquor sales, it wasn’t making enough to pay them.
In late March, Vasquez got a call from a man in Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb, who wanted to know if La Scarola would deliver there. It’s a half-hour drive away, but Vasquez said he would if the man could find 10 other people in town to place an order. He got 40. Customers posted pictures of their meals on social media, and requests from nearby towns flooded in.
La Scarola now delivers a few times a week to the suburbs. Vasquez chooses the towns based on the requests he gets on the restaurant’s social media accounts. Customers text their orders directly to his personal phone, and he delivers to a parking lot for pickup. The service has been so popular that he has had to cap the number of orders at 40.
For now, Vasquez has landed a $322,000 federal loan and can pay his staff, but he is still not turning a profit. Asked about reopening with fewer seats to maintain social distancing, once Illinois allows it, Vasquez was not optimistic.
“It won’t make sense to open,” he said.
Recipe: Chicken Vesuvio
3 large russet potatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds), scrubbed, halved lengthwise, then cut into long 1-inch-wide wedges
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 8 thighs)
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 slices
6 to 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
Chopped Italian parsley, for serving
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss the potato wedges with 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes out in an even layer. (It’s OK if some overlap). Bake, tossing gently once halfway through cooking, until the edges begin to brown, and the potatoes can be pierced with a fork but are still quite firm, about 30 minutes. (They’ll finish cooking with the chicken.)
2. While potatoes roast, prepare the chicken: Season the chicken with salt, pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon oregano. In a large 12-inch skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Working in batches if necessary, cook the chicken, skin-side down, until it is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the butter and garlic to the skillet and cook until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant and just beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and wine to the skillet, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the peas. Pour the mixture evenly over the potatoes, then gently stir to combine. Place chicken on top of the cooked potato mixture, skin-side up. Drizzle any reserved chicken juices on top.
4. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn on the oven’s broiler function, and broil until the chicken skin is golden brown and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle with lemon juice, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately, with plenty of the pan juices spooned over the chicken and potatoes, and crusty bread on the side.
(Recipe adapted from La Scarola, Chicago)
Perched on a bluff above Lake Union in Seattle, Canlis restaurant is an elegant midcentury vitrine. The view out over the glinting water is as much a part of a meal as any dish. As is the live piano player, who fills the room with everything from Sinatra to ethereal arrangements of Led Zeppelin and Jay-Z.
Under normal circumstances, this setting and the James Beard award-winning menu have made Canlis a go-to for occasion dining.
“I would say half of our dining room every night — or more than half — is filled with people who can’t afford dinner, meaning that they’ve saved up, they’ve borrowed a suit,” said Brian Canlis, 42, who runs the restaurant with his brother Mark, 45. “It’s a big deal. When the bill comes, it’s a significant moment. They’re not just sliding their black card across the table. It’s actually those people that make me love running this restaurant.”
Canlis said he most enjoyed “serving this wide-eyed couple on their first night away from the baby, who walk in insecure and having them walk out realizing this is their place, forever.”
This spirit of welcoming has been part of Canlis since his grandfather Peter Canlis opened the restaurant in 1950. “He wanted it to feel like you were dining in his home,” Brian said. “When you walk in there is a fireplace, not a host stand. You don’t get greeted by a maître d’. You get greeted by someone standing at the fire.”
Over decades, Canlis became a Seattle institution, settling into a menu of 20th-century fine-dining favorites — beef teriyaki, salmon steak, vichyssoise, crème brûlée and the trademark Canlis salad — albeit with a Pacific influence.
In 2008, the Canlis brothers took over operation of the restaurant from their parents. That year, they brought in Jason Franey from Eleven Madison Park. The menu was overhauled, becoming mostly a prix fixe format, and many of the old favorites fell away. In 2015, Brady Williams, came from Roberta’s, in Brooklyn, to take over the kitchen last year, he won the James Beard award for Best Chef Northwest, with dishes like “haiga rice simmered in a brown butter dashi with Dungeness crab, preserved strawberries and hazelnuts” and sea bream with “crisped scales, fig leaf curry, peppers and husk cherries.”
Today, Brian Canlis said, “The only old thing on the menu is the salad.”
And lately, you can get the salad delivered. Under Seattle’s lockdown order, the restaurant has been delivering community-supported agriculture boxes, bottled cocktails and family-style meals — as many as 600 a night — with servers repurposed as drivers. So far, the restaurant, which had significant cash on hand for a planned kitchen renovation, has kept its whole staff.
And while the fireplace and mesmerizing view of the lake can’t be delivered, it turns out that the hallmark piano performances can — by way of a live YouTube stream.
“We just have our piano player, on a camera, taking requests,” said Canlis, who added that the performances have had thousands of concurrent viewers. “They put it on their big TV and they have dinner. We were shocked at how much people loved the piano livestream. And it’s also jobs for our piano players.”
2 heads of romaine, outer leaves discarded, chopped
1 cup cubed fresh Italian bread
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1. Wash the lettuce in cold water, dry thoroughly and put in the refrigerator to chill.
2. In a large pan set over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until it is nearly crisp, then remove to a bowl. Drain off all but one tablespoon of fat, then add the bread cubes to the pan and toss to coat. Bring heat to low and toast, tossing the bread occasionally with a spoon until it is crisp. Remove to another bowl.
3. Make the dressing. Place a whole egg in its shell into a coffee cup, then pour boiling water over the top. Allow the egg to cook for 60 seconds, then remove it. Rinse with water until cool. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil, then crack the coddled egg into the bowl and whisk again, vigorously, to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.
4. In a salad bowl, combine cold lettuce, scallions, mint, oregano and the reserved bacon. Toss with enough dressing to coat the lettuce, then top with the tomatoes, the croutons and a goodly shower of cheese.
(Recipe adapted from Canalis, Seattle)
New England Clam Chowder
Eventide, Portland, Maine
For people who love eating out, oyster bars — like steakhouses and pizza joints — are a beloved subset. At single-subject restaurants, the goal isn’t to boggle your mind with a tasting menu or a spherified vegetable: it’s to satisfy you with a particular combination of taste and tradition.
At a good oyster bar, you can be sure that each bite will bring a chilling blast of brine, an immediate protein rush, and — with touchstones like tiny forks, halved lemons, cold white wine and cracked ice — a satisfying hit of ritual.
Even though Portland, Maine, is a great restaurant city and a major hub for Atlantic seafood, until Eventide opened in 2012 there wasn’t a local raw bar that served dry rosé as well as draft beer, or offered crusty bread instead of crackers in a rustling cellophane bag. The city needed “an oyster bar, a New England seafood shack and a sushi bar,” said Andrew Taylor, 39, one of the restaurant’s chef-owners (the other is Mike Wylie, 38). “We tried to do a combination of all three, but with solid technique.”
Like fan favorites Maison Premiere in Brooklyn and Petit Marlowe in San Francisco, Eventide pushes all the vintage-oyster-bar buttons, complete with marble counters, tin ceiling and a chalkboard with dozens of shellfish varieties. But it also has an overlay of Japanese flavors and New England tradition that produced its stellar chowders.
Strictly traditional Maine chowder is made from just four ingredients. The base is clams, because the brine they throw off when steamed open provides liquid for the soup. Then all that’s needed is potatoes for starch, cured pork for salt and fat, and milk for creaminess. (Most cooks now use whole milk or heavy cream, but the longtime default through winters and on fishing boats was canned evaporated milk.)
Fish chowder is also popular in New England, but it needs a little more help, which is where Japanese dashi comes in at Eventide. “I’m sure 95% of people wouldn’t know it’s there,” said Taylor, who runs Eventide and the neighboring restaurants Hugo’s and the Honey Paw with Wylie and a partner, Arlin Smith, 37. (They opened a satellite Eventide in Boston in 2017, to welcoming reviews.)
Dashi is the basic liquid used in Japanese cooking. It is brewed from kelp and water (and sometimes dried fish and mushrooms), producing a taste of pure oceanic umami. It’s like seawater, but with depth. Dashi, kombu and nori, different forms of seaweed, underlie a number of Eventide’s dishes, including fish chowders. “Shellfish and seaweed are part of the New England flavor profile too,” Taylor said, referring to traditional clambakes. (To be clear, no one eats the seaweed at a New England clambake.)
Shipments of Eventide’s signature lobster roll, which puts a fluffy Chinese bao in the place usually occupied by a hot dog bun and bathes the lobster meat in brown butter instead of plain melted butter, have kept the kitchen open even after the restaurant closed in mid-March. (It is gradually reopening, and taking orders via Instagram.)
Like many businesses in Maine, Taylor said, Eventide will have to bring in real money this summer — not half-capacity money, or takeout-and-delivery money — in order to survive. “That’s how it works here,” he said. “We build up a war chest over the summer, and use it to pay off debt for the rest of the year.”
Recipe: New England Clam Chowder
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
2 tablespoons kosher salt
12 cherrystone clams, rinsed clean
1 packet ( 1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin powder
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced chives (about 1 ounce)
1/2 pound russet potatoes (about 1 medium potato), peeled, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Crushed black pepper to taste
2 cups chopped white or yellow onion (about 1 large)
1/4 pound thick-cut bacon, about 4 slices
6 potato chips, finely crushed
1. For clams and clam-broth jelly, fill a 6-quart pot halfway with water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and boil over high heat. Immerse 4 clams for 15 to 20 seconds, and remove. Working over a small bowl, shuck the 4 clams with a short sharp paring knife, reserving liquid they release. Reserve shelled clams in another small bowl. Return any stubborn clams to boiling water for a few seconds. Repeat, cooking 4 clams at a time, using all 12. Drain any accumulated clam juice into clam juice bowl, cover clams with plastic wrap, and chill in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, pour 1 1/2 quarts cold water into a large bowl and add ice cubes. Strain clam juice into another small bowl. (You should have about 1 cup add water if necessary.) Pour 3/4 cup clam juice into small saucepan, and heat over medium-low heat until it simmers. Soften unflavored gelatin in remaining clam juice. Pour hot clam juice over gelatin, and whisk until it dissolves. Set bowl of clam juice and gelatin halfway into ice-water bath, whisking often, for about 5 minutes, as the gel begins to set. Remove bowl when juice is barely set, but not firm.
3. For chive oil, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan until just smoking remove from heat. Add minced chives and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring to dissolve. Let cool for 10 minutes, purée in a blender, strain through a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter, and reserve.
There's a reason Luke's Lobster has grown from a single NYC location to a cross-country franchise: Their signature lobster roll is just about perfect, filled with big chunks of knuckle and claw meat, chilled and dressed with lemon butter and spices, then served in a mayo-swiped split-top bun. Get the Taste of Maine sampler — which comes with 1/2 a lobster roll, 1/2 a crab roll, 1/2 a shrimp roll, two crab claws, and sides.
Where: Multiple locations in NYC and across the country
Cost: $24 at most NYC locations
Whenever a discussion of lost restaurants gets started, T. Pittari's inevitably comes up. Often, the people who ask about it or relate their memories of the place can't remember its name. But they very well remember the big restaurant with the mosaics of lobsters and beef cattle next to the doors, the neon signs, and the wild game.
Especially the wild game. They served hippopotamus, didn't they?
The main reason T. Pittari's is widely remembered over twenty years after it closed is that Tom Pittari, Sr. was perhaps the most skillful and studied restaurant promoter in the history of the local business. In many ways, he was ahead of his time. He learned what pushed people's buttons, and how to push them.
He also found out that if people get excited about a dish, they would pay prices way out of line with the intrinsic value of the food involved. That's why a lot of people who remember T. Pittari's never actually dined there.
However, the restaurant couldn't have become famous if it hadn't been good. Its best dishes really were as memorable good as Tom Pittari said they were. Well, almost, anyway.
The funny thing was that the specialties for which T. Pittari's was known--wild game and lobster--were in fact the worst and most overpriced dishes in the house.
Pittari's was around a long time. Tom's uncle Anthony opened it on the downtown river corner of Washington and Magazine. It moved to South Claiborne in the late 1940s, taking up a whole block. Especially at night, you couldn't drive past without taking a long look. And Claiborne Avenue was the main route through town in those pre-interstate days.
Tom Pittari advertised his restaurant heavily in every way he could think of. Among his more innovative gambits was giving cab drivers who brought visitors from the French Quarter an extra tip.
Tom had a good story to sell. His famous Maine lobsters were kept alive in a tank of chilled water right in the dining room. You could pick the lobster that would be cooked for you. He was the first in town to do any of that. Pittari's was the pioneer, and to this day the mere mention of lobster brings Pittari's to the mind of anyone who was around back then. As well it should. In its heyday, T. Pittari's sold two thousand lobsters a month.
Lobster was boiled, or broiled it with the head filled with seafood stuffing. (That was cheaper, because it didn't require live lobsters.) The signature lobster was a unique concoction called lobster Kadobster. I had the Kadobster often enough to remember a) that it had a rich, yellow-tinged, somewhat spicy sauce, and 2) it was unreasonably expensive. (I'm asked now and then for the recipe for Kadobster, but have never been able to locate it.)
The other big-time nonconformity at T. Pittari's was wild game. At its peak, T. Pittari's hippopotamus steaks and lion, among other exotic meats. When I got around to dining at Pittari's in the 1970s, endangered-species concerns whittled the list down to venison, bear, and buffalo. The buffalo was the best--like a lean beef steak. The venison tasted like dark veal. The bear was nasty in both appearance and flavor. Prices for all this were into double digits, at a time when a steak at Ruth's Chris was six dollars.
The best strategy, though, was to forget about all of the above and pore over two other sections of the menu. The Italian food--and there was as much of that as on any straight Italian restaurant's entire menu--was terrific. The red sauces were irresistible, the portions enormous (I don't see how anyone ever finished their lasagna), and the prices within the range of normal.
The Creole dishes were better still. The dish I remember most fondly was crab bisque, made with a medium roux, a good bit of claw crabmeat, and a crab boulette that the waiter would bring in a separate dish and plop into the soup right in front of you.
Tom Pittari no doubt saw the crowds waiting to eat barbecue shrimp at Pascal's Manale (a near neighbor). He developed his own excellent version. They baked very fine oysters Rockefeller and Bienville, broiled fish and meats with interesting sauces, and fried seafood well. Really, Pittari's was a respectable all-around Creole restaurant. But nobody seems to remember that.
No matter what you ordered, you had to order carefully. The table d'hote lunches and dinners were good values, but if you deviated from the meals as listed, the a la carte prices kicked in, and the cost would double. (I'm not exaggerating.) If you had oysters on the half shell at the bar, you had to note whether you wanted regular oysters or "special selects" (at a higher price). Anything that had a gourmet ring had a gourmet price. Flaming desserts were for those intent on blowing a wad of money.
I think it's that last matter that caused locals to fall out of love with T. Pittari's, especially in its later years. They overheated the concept and pushed too hard to maximize check averages. New Orleanians can spot that from a mile away, and did.
T. Pittari's was ahead of its time in one other way. Flooding killed it a quarter-century before Katrina. The May 3, 1978 flood and the April 13, 1980 flood--caused not by hurricanes but by extraordinary rainfalls and inadequate drainage systems--put two feet of water into Pittari's. The building was at ground level in one of the lowest parts in the city. Other floods followed to ruin the carpets and furnishings a second and third time within just a few years.
Tom Pittari, Jr. (who was running the place by then) gave up, sold the property, and moved the restaurant to Mandeville. The North Shore in 1980 was not the place for a restaurant like this, and it closed in a year or so, never to return. The grand Claiborne restaurant was torn down, replaced by a Wendy's raised above flood level.
Build Me Up Buttercup: Hudson's Lobster Roll Pop-Up is the Pandemic Indulgence We All Needed
[Editor's Note: our favorite pandemic pop-up is returning this year! The build-out of Padrona didn't happen this winter, and instead Buttercup opens May 1 for the season, with an expanded menu. The piece has been updated accordingly.]
Ahhh, dreams deferred. The motto of 2020. But when life gives you sour cherry pits, make amaretto. Or so goes the philosophy of Kat Dunn, a veteran mixologist, with a CV that includes tending bar at former Greenwich village haunt The Lion and several Fatty Crew restaurants before moving upstate to design the cocktail program for Zak Pelaccio’s Fish & Game and Backbar, as well as Rivertown Lodge.
She had planned to open her “fast, casual cocktail bar” Padrona in a former factory building in Hudson’s Prison Alley this summer, but. COVID. She had a 34-foot hardwood bar planned with teal barstools, cocktails, wine by the class, beers on tap, and a small menu of cheese, charcuterie, and gourmet anchovies in the tin. “To be honest, in Hudson it’s hard to get good kitchen help,” she says. “So for this, I just wanted to focus on my strength and not try to boil the ocean.”
- Rendering by Spacesmith, courtesy of Kat Dunn
- The rendering for Padrona, now expected Summer 2021.
Renderings and recipe testing went on hold with lockdown, the whole dream frozen. But when Rachel Sanzone, owner of Bonfiglio Bread and the late Lick, reached out to her to offer to rent her kitchen equipment for a collaborative pop-up, Dunn’s wheels started turning. “The world sucks. 2020 sucks. Everyone is miserable,” Dunn says. “So I thought, if we can provide just the most quintessential guilty summer pleasures to put a smile on your face for a couple minutes that’s what we’ll do.” Even the name, buttercup, recalls silly childhood flights of fancy, holding the yellow flower up to your chin to see if you like butter.
“My grandfather was a lobsterman on Cape Cod,” Dunn says. “The joke when I was a kid was, “Daaad, can’t we just have hamburgers like everyone else?’ So we started with lobster rolls.” Other guilty pleasures include: Feltman’s of Coney Island all-beef hot dogs—$7 a piece or two for $12 for a basic dog, or half a dozen elaborated options between $9-$10 soft-serve Ronnybrook ice cream with homemade toppings, and, of course, cocktails (including a Pimm’s pop!).