Bay Scallop Carpaccio, Beer and Pretzel Caramels and Chicken-Fried Chicken Livers (aka the “Chelsea Hunt Recap” Post)

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.

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Dinner: Around the World and Ya Ya Ya Salad, Redux

Luscious salmon from the Lobster Place in Chelsea Market, glistening in your own fish oils (and maybe a little bit of olive oil) after a quick pan-fry, plated on top of a bed of lettuce, sprouts, pears and… . Hmm, wait a minute. What are those krinkly things? (And didn’t we sort of have this last night?)

photoWell, sort of. Both last night’s salad and tonight’s salad represent but two of an infinite number of salad compositions, if we keep going in this vein, with goods from various parts of the world (and ya ya ya). Last night it was Australia, England, Greece. Tonight it’s:

— Asia: Those crinkly, crenulated bits are oyster mushrooms, one of a half-dozen worthy mushroom varieties spotted at the Chelsea Market recently. (I’m guessing that they’re also not half-bad for you, in that oil-rich, Omega 3 sort of way.)

— Pears.

— Salmon. Pac Northwest, I’d guess. Or maybe somewhere more local Northern Atlantic. Let’s chalk it up as U.S.-adjacent. (speculation)

— Nicoise olives. Oh so very French.

I love this game.

Bonus: Pickle Prep

photo19New York is a funny city in the sense that you can get food, booze and just about anything else any time of day  (and probably even delivered). But something as simple as mason jars …. not so easy. 

I was supposed to make these pickles last weekend. Instead, I spend several hours last Sunday morning sourcing mason jars. None of the cookshops that were open on the Bowery had them. One gentleman pointed me in the direction of 209 Bowery, which sells every shape and size of glassware, but is only open during the highly-inconvenient hours of 7:30-4:30, Monday-Friday, or thereabouts. 

Ultimately I found mason jars ($2.50 for 32 oz., $3.50 for 64 oz.) at the confusingly-named Bowery Kitchen Supply in Chelsea Market (not so confusingly named). 

photo-15I also found about 100 things I never knew I needed until right that minute … such as these oversized mugs fused with real stone handles (one of which looks like a potato!), which I was all about until I saw the $80 price tag and gently, gingerly, returned to shelf.

One last note on the subject of mason jars then it’s onward with the pickles: In my Internet searches on the subject (Google: mason jars, New York), I discovered this ode of sorts to mason jars on  Serious Eats humorously titled “In Gear: Hacking Mason Jars.” It’s cute.

COST: 4 x $2.50 = $10
PREP TIME: Nearly a week in the making

Dinner: Thursday, April 9, 2009

photo-41

If you’re holding the square block and can see the square hole, sometimes you just gotta put it in.

I had pizza on the brain, so when I discovered the curious-looking Fiorella oven-baked (frozen) pizzas imported from Italy during a meandering wander through Chelsea Market … done deal.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized the only labeling anywhere on the vacuum-sealed bag anywhere was the price tag, which certainly didn’t tell me how to cook it. No instructions inside, either. (The pizza was wrapped in plastic wrap — not exactly mass-manufactured.)

photo-24Neither does Prodal’s website — well it does, but in Italian and Celsius. I managed, pizza’s pretty hard to screw up. Other than the crust being so thin it’s sort of floppy when you cut it, if you try to cut it and eat it like a slice, not a bad gig. 

COST: $4.25 (cheap!)
PREP TIME: 10 minutes preheat, 7ish minutes baking. 425 degrees (ish)

Check out the pie in all its anonymous vacuum-sealed glory after the jump:

Continue reading “Dinner: Thursday, April 9, 2009”