It is amazing how quickly trends can develop in this modern world. An idea can form in your brain and be trending globally on Twitter in a matter of minutes; this phenomenon is also taking place in the cutting edge culinary scene.
I was recently in New York for the US Open and decided to check out some cool, new places to eat and drink. Typically at a restaurant, I like to sample as many things as possible and often order a wide selection of menu item to share with the table. For me, it creates a cool conversation between dinner guests as well as allowing to understand the Chefs culinary point of view.
Niko, my best friend and business partner accompanied me on this food excursion. The first restaurant we tried was Peels (325 Bowery), for a light late lunch because of dinner plans later that evening. Our first course was the Chef’s Selection of meats and cheeses, followed by Mini Corn dogs with stone ground Dijon mustard. The verdict on taste? Delicious!
Peels has the aesthetic of a 1950’s delicatessen with modern touches. The Americana of the corn dogs mixed with the French mustard was a cool example, but the most interesting bite was a little pickled blueberry. It was sitting next to some jam on the charcuterie board as I picked it up and ate it individually. To expect that sweet berry flavor and then be surprised with the briny, vinegar component was a crafty trick by the chef. Also, sitting beside the blueberry was a pickled, partly fermented celery stalk that was charmingly acidic with the strong taste of yeast and alcohol. We left feeling satisfied about our pickle tasting and ready for the night ahead.
Around 10:3oPM we hit up Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar (101 2nd Avenue), a small restaurant in the East Village with seating for just 24 and an eight-seat raw bar; with one waitress and a bartender who doubled as the chef. The menu was as small as the restaurant with about 10 small plates, a few selections of oysters and a couple nightly specials; we ordered one of everything. As the courses began arriving I noticed that familiar briny flavor reminiscent of our not-so-long-ago late lunch. The server was very descriptive as she dropped off the plates, “Bay scallops with mushy peas and pickled jicama,” she said.
The next night, our keen use of Google maps inevitably lead us to a place called Whiskey Town (29 E 3rd St) and we were happy to learn they make their own label of Kentucky’s finest sour mash. After a few rounds of beers and shots the bartender realized we were ‘ready for action’ and leaned in close. As he poured us another shot he made a suggestion, “this time, try it with a pickle back.” Now, I have had pickle backs before, it’s when you take a shot of whiskey and then chase it with pickle juice to mask the harsh taste, but this was getting ridiculous. Bound by honor and tradition, we ordered one of each flavor and the shots to go with them, there was pepperocino (crushed red pepper flakes), dill and sweet.
The next morning, in need of some Advil, coffee and a few swallows of Pepto-Bismol, my buddy and I were passing a Whole Foods when I noticed some posters in the window. To my amazement, the display was hundreds of jars of pickles and the posters featured different pickling companies based in New York, five to be exact, with names like Brooklyn Brine and New York Pickle Co. As I stood there laughing it occurred to me that in the New York food scene even something as obscure as a pickle can be #TRENDING. As we walked off, Niko joked that the next step was a reality show called American Picklers.