In the world of the BLD Project, dinner sometimes begins with a long, vacant stare into the fridge (cue lonely Western sounds).
Other times, dinner begins with a wintery, coat-encumbered embrace, at the conclusion of which a smiling bartender asks, “Would you like anything to drink?” … and hours suddenly disappear.
Then there are those nights when dinner is a hunt — a roving progression that is partially preconceived but inevitably involves detours, disappointments and discoveries. There is no nutritional rhyme or reason; a hunt is not for the faint of stomach. On this last one, in Chelsea, we killed it:
Target no. 1: Yancey Richardson Gallery. I was interviewing the (lovely) photographer, Alex Prager, for Art in America and needed to see these luminous beauties in person. Check.
Detour: En route to the next target, we were sidelined by Cookshop (cue screeching breaks) — it was the Nantucket Bay scallop carpaccio ($15) that captivated us.
As always, the chef was interested in the process — bay scallops are so small and delicate, to make a classic carpaccio would be intense. “I’ve got to see this,” he said. Mee tooo.
We were imagining something small but towering. Instead, the carpaccio was presented on a long, rectangular plate, rough-chopped pieces of the sweet bivalve accompanied by various dibbs and dabbs including grapefruit segments, diced black olives, shaved jalapeno slices, microgreens, radish, lime juice and olive oil.
The result was at once fresh, tart, sweet, but with a touch of heat; in short, delicious. More cerviche than carpaccio … letting that one slide.
“Shit. I think the market’s going to close.” We snapped out of the reverie of our perch at Cookshop’s bar. Back on task.
Target no. 2: Chelsea Market. In our sights, two of the market’s new tenants, Dickson Farmstand Meats, which locally sources its meat and butchers everything in house, and Lucy’s Whey, a cheese shop exclusively selling American artisanal cheeses.
As expected, both are excellent sources for first-quality, if pricey, delectables — Dickson’s entry-level meat, ground hamburger, goes for $7/lb., and many of Lucy’s cheeses have price tags upwards of $20/lb.
Discovery: That basket of simple, wax paper-wrapped caramels, beer and pretzel caramels ($1 ea.), from LiddAbit Sweets. To add the crunch and salt of a pretzel, and the hoppy-sweetness of beer, to that rich, caramel base? Brilliance.
Target no. 3: Tipsy Parson, for induction to the world of, yes, chicken-fried chicken livers ($12). (All in the name of research for amNewYork.)
I hear that liver is an acquired taste, and trying the dark, dense organ meat first alone, I can certify that I’m not there yet.
The liver is infinitely lightened when smeared onto a bit of the toasted rosemary bread and piling on the accompaniments — a sweet, green tomato relish, crispy fried batter bits, microgreens.
The cozy bar area — its shelves filled with tea sets, worn books and other bric-a-brac — invites lingering, and we did, over cocktails, the chicken fried chicken livers and the spread trio ($12) of pimento spread, black-eyed peas, ham salad and flakey, housemade crackers. It’s a bargain on the bar snacks menu … but then, I’m a sucker for finger food with some assembly required.
Whew. Getting tired or tipsy, probably both.
Target no. 4: Basis Foods. On the way to $2 PBRs — a 14th Street secret that’s not mine to reveal — we stopped to check on the progress of this new farm-to-market concept. Based on glimpses of a dark, entirely unfinished interior behind papered windows — this market’s got a ways to go yet. Check back in a few weeks.