David Chang is 33

August 6, 2010

Dark, smoky, intimate dinner last night at Torrisi Italian Specialties to celebrate David’s birthday. It was a small group: a few chefs (April Bloomfield, Jonathan Benno, Marco Canora), some food people (Kate Krader, Dana Cowin, Ken Friedman), and a smattering of Dave’s college friends.

It was funny; all the wine people were standing around drinking beer out of cans, and David was hopping from table to table, looking happy. Or as happy as he can.

The food was so fantastic, I want to go back and eat it all over again. The standouts were powerful little squares of garlic bread with soft warm fresh mozzarella to spoon on top, and the most intense seafood pasta I’ve ever eaten; each strand of spaghetti seemed to have inhaled the ocean. It was followed by long ribs of beef, the edges wonderfully crisped to blackness, the meat itself cut into rich, rare slabs. On the side a bitter little salad paired with achingly sweet polenta. Eaten together the meat, the greens and the corn delivered a powerful flavor punch.

We ate and drank and talked and then afterward – what else? – went off to The Breslin, still packed as the IRT at rushhour at 2 a.m. How can you not love being in New York?

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Is LaGuardia the new Las Vegas?

August 4, 2010

It’s a soupy gray morning in New York, and I’m thinking about all the new restaurants going into LaGuardia, wondering what it means. In the next few weeks so many of my favorite chefs will be opening restaurants in the Delta terminal that I’ll be heading out to the airport just to eat.

Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, who blew me away with Balthazar and then again Minetta Tavern, are opening a bistro out there, and the lovely Michael Lomonaco is opening a steak place. Pat LaFrieda, the guy who put designer labels on beef, is opening a burger place. And maybe most exciting of all, Di Fara’s is opening a branch; maybe the pizza lines will be shorter than the endless one in Brooklyn?

But I can’t help thinking what a strange development this is. Does it mean that people now expect to spend so much time waiting in airports that they’ve become dining destinations? Or does it mean that airports are changing their profiles, and every vacation will now begin with a few lovely hours before the plane departs?

I’m not sure. But I am reminded that the Guide Michelin was started by a tire company, eager to give people a reason to get out on the road.

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Spiced Tuscan Kale

August 1, 2010

A friend came by yesterday with armfuls of Lacinato Kale from her garden. I’d already bought tiny new potatoes for dinner, and corn and tomatoes, and I had a pan of peppers, onions and green garlic on the stove, sending that spectacular fresh garlic aroma up into the air. But it seemed a shame not to use the kale while it was still hours from the earth, so I poked around in the refrigerator until I came up with this dish. We all liked it so much that I’m calling to ask for more kale; I could eat this every day.

Spicy Tuscan Kale

Strip 3 bunches of Lacinato kale from the ribs and coarsely tear them into pieces. Drop them into a few quarts of boiling salted water for about a minute, drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Pour a glug or two of olive oil into a frying pan, and add 4 anchovies. Stir about until the little fish disintegrate, then add two coarsely chopped onions. Shake in some chile flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Add 4 smashed cloves of garlic and cook until it is all insanely fragrant. Add the kale and a bit more oil and cook just until it comes together into a dark, soft, glorious mush. Toss with grated Parmesan and crisp bread crumbs.

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