Diner's Journal: Notes on Eating, Drinking and Cooking

The New York Times


May 8, 2013

Front Burner
Florence Fabricant

To Taste: Celebrating Spring the Catalonian Way

A sign of spring in Catalonia is the calçotada, a party featuring calçots, a kind of spring onion. They are grilled until they are black and then piled on the table. It’s strictly hands-on as you peel off the charred outer layers to get to the sweet, smoky, tender young vegetable, which you dip in romesco sauce, a mixture of roasted peppers, almonds, garlic, chiles and olive oil. You might wear a bib to participate in the messy ritual, which includes plenty of wine. This year, for another 10 days to two weeks, you can order American-grown calçots from La Tienda, a Web site and shop in Williamsburg, Va., and do your own calçotada: $22 for about a dozen calçots (romesco is $8.90, or you can make your own), tienda.com.

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
To Drink: Ireland and Mexico Meet in a Glass

In the Shamrock Amigo, a standout on the cocktail menu at Wylie Dufresne’s new East Village restaurant, Alder, a seemingly untenable assortment of ingredients comes together to make a perfect Mexican-Irish marriage. The creation came to life after the mixologist Kevin Denton discovered Fernet-Vallet, a Mexican product that is drier and more austere than Italy’s more famous Fernet-Branca. He blended it with Jameson Black Barrel whiskey, a little Del Maguey Vida mezcal and a barley malt syrup infused with chipotle peppers, then crowned it with Guinness. The beer, stabilized with powdered egg whites, creates a head that sticks around for a while. A smoky, woodsy, herbal complexity sets in after the first stoutlike sip. Don’t underestimate it. This may look like a baby beer, but it’s a grown-up cocktail: 157 Second Avenue (East Ninth Street), (212) 539-1900, aldernyc.com. — ROBERT SIMONSON

To Shop: Is It a Bar? A Grocery? Actually, It’s Both

The full name of the hot new bar in the financial district is the Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog. We get the grog part, but grocery? The mixologist Jack McGarry, who owns the bar with Sean Muldoon, also a mixologist, and the restaurateur Peter Poulakakos said it’s a tradition going back to the early 19th century, put in place to satisfy the temperance faction. “Bars had to sell food,” he said. “They were called spirit grocers.” So in the rear of the ground-floor bar are shelves of condiments, jams, canned seafood, chips and pickles (often English and Irish) and items like bitters, made in-house. “It’s mainly stuff that keeps, but we hope to add cured meats and cheeses,” Mr. McGarry said. “There are very few places to buy these things in this neighborhood”: Open 11 a.m. to 4 a.m., 30 Water Street (Broad Street), (646) 422-7906, deadrabbitnyc.com.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
To Use: Upper-Arm Strength Not Required

Assuming that your mother is not a stevedore, she might appreciate a new line of lightweight but effective cast iron cookware from Japan. Designed by Komin Yamada, the sleek five-quart Dutch oven with comfortable loop handles weighs about four and a half pounds, or about six pounds less than my French cast iron one. But it browned and braised just as well. The pot has a nonstick silicone finish and can be used on an induction cooktop; the stainless steel lid is easy to lift with one hand. A nine-and-a-half-inch skillet also performed well at a pound lighter than my cast iron heirloom. I did not try the handsome 10-inch round grill pan, the other piece in this collection: Komin Dutch oven is $199.95, skillet is $79.95 and grill pan is $89.95 at Williams-Sonoma stores, Williams-Sonoma.com.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
To Give: A Bouquet Meant for Nibbling

Lilies of the valley, or muguets (pronounced moo-GAY) as they are called in France, perfume and flavor special macarons that Ladurée has made for Mother’s Day. The macarons in gold and pale green have a creamy, fragrant filling: $26 for eight, or $2.80 each, at Ladurée, 864 Madison Avenue (70th Street), (646) 558-3157.

New York/ADAGP, Paris
To Behold: Thanks $16 Million, Mom

Maybe Mom would like “Le Petit Pâtissier” (“The Little Pastry Chef”), one of a series of paintings of pastry chefs by Chaïm Soutine (1893 to 1943), a French artist whose works figure prominently in the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. This painting is up for auction at Christie’s on May 8. Oh, and talk about rich desserts: it is expected to sell for $16 million to $22 million, a record for the artist: christies.com.

To Read: Food on Wheels, a New York Tradition

A chronicle of the food-truck culture, “New York à la Cart” describes 47 trucks neighborhood by neighborhood, with stories about how each got started, photos and recipes. It provides a fascinating glimpse at the trucks’ owners — determined, hard-working entrepreneurs, many of whom are immigrants. The book also gives the history of New York’s food trucks, starting with 17th-century street peddlers, and the growth of their numbers. (They peaked in 1934, at 14,000 licenses, which led Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia to build public markets like the Essex Street Market to get them off the streets.) A fast-forward to the present documents how the trucks are organized and the role of social media in their success. On the way you might try recipes for Uncle Gussy’s pork chops; Dominican carne mechada for sandwiches, from Patacon Pisao; or the Austrian potato salad from Schnitzel & Things. There’s a useful index with contact information and a guide to Chinatown: “New York à la Cart: Recipes and Stories From the Big Apple’s Best Food Trucks” by Alexandra Penfold and Siobhan Wallace (Running Press, $18).

A version of this article appeared in print on 05/08/2013, on page D3 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Front Burner.

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