I am pleased to announce the recent launch of The North East kitchen – a blog that continues my exploration of, and interest in food culture with a the broader scope of the North Eastern US. After my initial forays in Maine nearly two years ago, it has become my new home. As a result I have enjoyed learning about a whole new culinary landscape, which I hope you will join me in discovering! In addition to photographs of home and restaurant kitchens, you will find interviews and recipes contributed by the chefs and cooks featured.

This week’s post about Palace Diner depicts the fifteen seat 1927 diner car in its latest incarnation as a foodie destination. Please enjoy! And if you like it, don’t forget to subscribe.

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The New York Kitchen blog will remain live, however to receive newer posts directly, please subscribe to The North East Kitchen here.

Cheers!

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As many of you know, I have been sharing my time between New York and Maine since this last spring when my life took an unexpected turn. As a transplanted New Yorker in a beautiful, but bewilderingly quiet place, the last two months seemed out of balance: I had started shooting jobs in Maine, taking a brief respite from my monthly work trips to the city always accompanied by my two year old son. As a result, I developed an unprecedented sensation I can only described as calm(?!) while also feeling conflicted that I was missing out on the buzziest season in my beloved home town. In short, I was starting to get homesick.

When an opportunity presented itself, I planned a last-minute trip to the city where I was pleased to get my fix of loud noises, boisterous laughter, the jostle of fast-moving crowds, bright holiday lights, an over-abundance of bubbly beverages, satisfying meals and soothing lattes. I also managed to visit with many a good friend. One of these stops was the Upper West Side home of artists Tina and Pat. A fellow photographer and a great cook, Tina was in the homestretch of her yearly holiday meringue-making. Having wanted to feature Tina and her classic NYC kitchen on this blog for years, I could not pass up the opportunity to photograph her making her sugary beauties. I learned the intricacies of the delicate desserts while capturing Tina baking the sweets to fill the many orders she receives this time of year. She makes the meringues in a variety of flavors (Rose Pistachio and Brown Sugar Pecan are my favorites), which my trusted assistant and I were happy to sample. After trying a few however, the assistant was in need of a long nap. Thankfully, we had a long train journey ahead!

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Though making meringues began as a holiday tradition for Tina, she takes custom orders year round. She tells us about the what, when and how of it here:

Made with organic ingredients, meringues are low in calories, fat free, gluten free and full of sweet deliciousness!  Packed in a  24 oz., Ball Wide Mouthed Mason Jar, they make a great gift. 

Flavors:

Maple 

Brown Sugar Pecan – A great alternative to pecan pie 

Toasted Almond

Traditional French (vanilla/ white) 

Rose Pistachio

Coffee

New flavors will be added at whim! –check in to be informed.

Each jar $25.   Larger orders and catering prices upon request.

You may contact Tina at tinahejtmanek@gmail.com

20141221_nyk_tina_015 Cupcake drawing by Will Cotton

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20140609_nyk_louro_071I first met Chef David Santos cooking at a City Grit event I photographed. He was running the Um Segredo supper club out of his home in Rosevelt Island at the time, and has since opened his own restaurant, Louro, in the West Village, which opened one and half years ago. At the restaurant, Chef Santos has kept the supper club tradition alive with his monday night Nossa Mesa, which features a different theme each week and at times hosts guest chefs. NYK was in Louro’s kitchen for that week’s taco tasting menu of crisp pig’s ear, curried goat, chicken seasoned with “the world famous piri piri”, shrimp, potato with smoked paprika aioli, and grilled asparagus with Gravlax tacos as well as sides of elote. Chef Santos, who hails from Bouley, Per Se, and was the executive at the Hotel Griffou  tells us a little bit more about his journey in becoming a restaurant owner, and the supper club that helped him get there:

NYK: How long did you run Um Segredo, and how often did it take place?

DS: I had Um Segredo for one year exactly, and it happened every week, 2-3 times a week.

NYK: How did people find out about it?

DS: Well, at first people learned of it through me, and then through a mailing list you could sign up for. It quickly built momentum, and the interest and following I gained with the supper club is what allowed me to open Louro.

NYK: Did Um Segredo have different themed weekly menus like you have now at Louro with Nossa Mesa?

DS: Yeah, thats where it all began!

NYK: How often do you have guest chefs at the weekly supper club?

DS: We have had an average of one every 2 months or so. It was more often before, but I slowed it down a bit.

NYK: When we spoke last week, you said you really liked working with other chefs to see what others are doing, and to keep growing as a chef. Care to elaborate?

DS: As chefs we get stuck in our own world very easily. So when you have a guest chef come in it cracks that shell a bit and allows something new and exciting to enter. It’s a part of growing.

NYK: When talking about Louro (the name means bay leaf in Portuguese), I always tell people that the food is Portuguese influenced. You were raised by Portuguese parents, with a mother who you say was a great cook. It is quite evident though (especially when here on a Nossa Mesa taco night!) that there are lots of influences to your cooking.

DS: We are all about exploring the world of food here. Louro isn’t any one thing. It’s a collection of many thoughts and feelings, and we in turn express ourselves to our guests and make the result available to them.

142 West 10th Street www.louronyc.com

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As many of you know, or may have noticed from my postings on Instagram, I have recently started sharing my time between New York and Maine, enjoying The Way Life Should Be!

And so, I thought it would be appropriate to explore the rich food scene Portland, and Maine at large, has to offer.

Our first stop is Portland’s only ramen noodle restaurant, Pai Men Miyake. The creation of Chef Masa Miyake, it is part of the Miyake restaurant group co-owned by William Garfield. Don’t forget to look at the rest of the photographs below our interview, and without further ado, we turn it over to William:

NYK: How did you and Chef Masa Miyake come to be partners? Are you in charge of the front of the house?

WG: I started working for Masa in June of 2007 when he only had his original restaurant called Food Factory Miyake (where the diner is now) I needed a summer job and he had just opened up so I came in for lunch a couple times and finally he agreed to let me start working as a server.  I swing between all of the restaurants, though I predominately work on FOH and Office issues, I do work the line when needed and currently am running the kitchen at Miyake Diner.

NYK: Chef Masa cooked in New York kitchens, and worked – and owned a restaurant – in Japan. Though it seems that chefs worldwide tend to speak the same professional language of the kitchen (as pertains to cooking practices, training, culinary history), what were the biggest differences – if any – when opening a restaurant in Portland? Would you say it’s a more supportive environment?

WG: The pace is certainly different in Portland versus NYC, but Portland has grown up so much in the past 5 years or so that there is new competition and new options for collaboration presenting themselves seemingly every day.  Masa moved away from the bustle of NYC to focus on food and local ingredients and also to be integrated into a small community where he could make a viable difference.  When we started Miyake Farm in 2010, I think that Chef’s dream was realized as far as being able to utilize the land Maine has to offer while putting his own calling card on the customer experience in the restaurant.  There is actually a lot of similarities between Maine and Northern Japan where Masa grew up both in climate, proximity to the ocean and the plethora of ingredients available from both land and sea.

NYK: Between the three restaurants, catering, and Miyake Farm, you have built a small empire in an impressively short amount of time – are there plans to expand further? (With Chef’s experience with macrobiotic cooking, as well as his French and Italian classical training, you could very well surprise your dining public again!)

WG: I don’t think Masa will every stop pushing the boundaries as far as new cuisine and giving the public a new perception of either Japanese culture or his interpretation of a previous global trend.  Though we have no current plans for expansion at this time we will be revamping the farm in the coming months and focus on developing the Miyake Diner’s sake list and educating the public on sake and Izakaya-style dining.

NYK: How do you and Chef Masa divide your time between your restaurants and farm? What does a typical day or week look like?

WG: I do not spend much time on the farm these days, but Masa is there every morning mending fences, feeding the animals etc.  We have both discovered that the farm is truly a 365 day per year and 24/7 endeavor as we always have surprises coming at us like the time we had an escaped pig on a Friday at 4pm that we both have to rush back to Freeport to deal with and then make it back in time for dinner service.  I tend to start my day at Pai Men and Masa is at Miyake by the start of lunch service and from there, depending on staff, we will either remain at one location for the day or make a rotation by dinner service.  We have great management that allows us to be slightly flexible with our schedules, but it is very important to both of us to be in the restaurants during service especially on the kitchen side for Masa.  The Diner and Pai Men both have a late night service that I take care of while Masa usually wraps up around 10pm as he hits the farm early.

NYK: Given the abundance of fresh seafood, many local farms, and vibrant food scene, it seems like a great place to open a restaurant. Would you say the local food scene is locavore-centric?

WG: Absolutely, the amount of local farms within an hour drive of Portland is amazing and our menus are able to seasonally reflect the offerings of various local farmers.

NYK: Other than the meat and produce you grow on Miyake Farm, do you work with many purveyors? Would you care to name a few?

WG: True World Food supplies most of our Japanese fish and dried goods. Nishimoto Trading out of NYC supplies our custom-made ramen noodles for us, and they are produced by Yamachan in LA. We use Archer Angus (a local farm) for grass fed beef. Green Spark Farms, Dandelion Spring, and Fuzzy Udder Creamery are just a couple of the many local farms we use for produce etc.

NYK: While shooting at the restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice the grow room in your basement (there’s a photo of it below); what types of micro-greens are they?

WG: We grow micro daikon, radish, shiso , among others for use on Pai Men’s menu.

NYK: Ten pigs had arrived from Miyake Farm early on the morning of our shoot, and I was able to photograph a couple of them being butchered in your basement kitchen. Do you feed the pigs anything special?

WG: We use beer mash from Infiniti and Maine Beer Company to supplement their diet along with compost from the restaurants.

NYK: Does your farm supply other restaurants/outlets?

WG: We will collaborate or give meat from a new breed of pig to various chefs in town but at this time we do not have enough product to viably sell to other restaurants though we would like to in the future.

NYK: How big is your crew in the Pai Men kitchen?

WG: I have a great staff of 36 employees at Pai Men.  We are open 7 days a week from 11:30am-12am and only close on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the 4th of July, so though we only have 46 seats Masa and I rely heavily on all of our staff from the dishwasher to the manager to create a unique and satisfying experience for our patrons.

NYK: Is this head chef Robert Pieper’s first foray into ramen?

WG: It is . Pieper started working for us about 3 years ago after stints in French and Italian restaurants so Pai Men was his first experience with Japanese cuisine, and like Masa he is able to use his past experiences and techniques to really create some amazing specials with farm ingredients etc.

NYK: How long does it take to make the broths?

WG: Our signature Pai Tan stock which is a blend of pork back bones, pork fat back, chicken feet, necks and frames rips at a high boil for 22 hours now. We have constantly been changing our recipes since we opened and with the help of the Ramen Refractometer, which takes accurate readings on fat content in the stock, we have been able to create a consistent product.

NYK: Do you make your own noodles?

WG: Unfortunately we do not but it is a custom blend . We have plans in the future to purchase a machine, but have not yet had the time or resources to make this switch.  When we get in pigs from the farm we will make a special tonkotsu ramen and for small batches we will make our own noodles for that specific dish.

NYK: Where do you go out to eat when you are not working? Do you have a favorite Maine restaurant?

WG: I tend to be a creature of habit and Thanh Thanh II is usually where I am if I have the day off.  There raw beef salad and pho is amazing and the place is always consistent and quick service. I would say my favorite restaurant in Portland is Schulte & Herr, and in Maine is Hoss & Mary’s.

188 State St, Portland, Maine  www.miyakerestaurants.com/pai-men-miyake/

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Union Republic is the brainchild of Chef Gregory Torrech and his business partner Noah Sexton. We last visited the two at MAE, their first Jersey City venture, which they had to close just over a year ago due to a conflict with the landlord. We interviewed Torrech this morning to see what has transpired since, and how opening such a strikingly different restaurant as UR in a brand new space fits into the big picture.

NYK: This is your second restaurant, and what you serve is very different from the Southern-inspired American menu you offered at MAE. Is UR’s fresh branding, and unconventional menu – with the introduction of ramen dishes – influenced by the location of the restaurant and the fact that you are working in a space that you were able to design yourself?

GT: Even though we feature ramen, Union Republic is still an American restaurant. When we started working with Sun Noodle (they make all of our noodles), I spoke with chef Nakamura and he explained that ramen is different everywhere you go in Japan, and the same goes for here in the United States. Your broths and noodles are going to be made using traditional techniques, but the ingredients will often be local giving the ramen its own unique local personality. We are American, and we are serving American ramen. 

As far as the space is concerned, the last restaurant was difficult because we were working with an existing structure and the accompanying challenges, in an up-and-coming neighborhood. As a result, our food was comfort-driven, our mixology program edgy. With Union Republic, we were approached by Ironstate Development to come up with a concept for a retail space in a residential building that was in the process of being built. We developed the concept around a cafe and grocer as an added amenity to the building and neighborhood. Around this time, Noah travelled to Japan and got the idea to do ramen. We felt there was no ramen in JC (the way there is in NYC), and it would be a nice complement to our concept: a progressive American cafe featuring ramen.

We designed the space to be open and welcoming, with the idea that every aspect of the concept is visually apparent as soon as you walk in the door. You can sit at the counter and watch your ramen being made, just as you would in a traditional ramen joint. The unique nature of the menu, with food that is more modern and complicated than that of our last restaurant, combined with a very graphic modern space makes for a fun experience. 

NYK: You have only been opened two months, and it seems to be going really well. Is it too early to ask if there is a particular direction that Union Republic is headed? Has your clientele helped to inform what is next for the restaurant?

GT: Our food has been really well received, and the ramen and ramen burger have been very popular. Our clientele is allowing us to create food that is more fun, and also to take more risks! We just introduced a new brunch menu reflecting this. It features a Bacon and Eggs Mazemen with Uni Butter, and the Loco Moco. We took a traditional Hawaiian dish, the Loco Moco, replaced the rice with ramen, and created a Japanese take on eggs Benedict. I came up with the idea when brainstorming with George Kao of Sun Noodle. So yes, you could say that our guests have informed the direction that we are headed, and we are grateful that they are willing to play!

In the near future, we plan to use the counter seating for private tastings. The open kitchen allows us to provide the feeling of a chef’s table.

NYK: Where do you see yourself personally as a chef in five years?

GT: I want to keep pushing. I see myself opening other restaurants, each one with a different concept specific to its location, each one taking on a life of its own. Each concept has to be sensitive to a given locale and its needs.

 NYK: It sounds like you are interested in becoming a restauranteur just as much, if not more, than you are in being a chef! Do you have anything to say about that? Is there something you would find more satisfying in overseeing a group of restaurants vs. sticking to one or two of the same concept?

GT: My partner and I definitely see ourselves heading in the direction of restauranteurs in the next five years. We have a vision of creating a product that specifically correlates to different environments – creating a niche, while providing a needed amenity is not only an exciting challenge, it’s also very gratifying! When we went from one concept to another, in vastly different neighborhoods, it really brought to our attention how, as a business owner, one has a responsibility to contribute to a neighborhood by bringing something that is relevant. You have to take into account what already exists in a given area, figure out what is needed, and provide a service while also hopefully introducing something fresh and unexpected. If you are successful at this, you create value and a demand for your product.

NYK: We have discussed in previous posts where you have worked, before and after becoming a chef, and what inspired you to become a chef. Who were your biggest influences along the way? 

GT: When in culinary school, I studied and was a big fan of Charlie Trotter. When the French Laundry cookbook came out, Thomas Keller stole my heart. I always keep Keller’s philosophy in mind, that food should be fun. He is playful, and adventurous while taking his execution, ingredients and technique very seriously. It can be applied to any menu. You should always have fun with what you’re doing.

NYK: And what about now, is there someone or something that particularly inspires you?

My business partner Noah. He pushes me in new and different directions, and I appreciate that. He challenges me in ways I’ve never been challenged before; he’s willing to push the envelope and take risks. As a chef, I always try to keep an open mind. Opening this restaurant with Noah, and doing ramen for the first time has made me a better chef.

NYK: What advise would you give another chef?

GT: Stay true to yourself, never back down.

340 Third Street, Jersey City www.unionrepublic.com

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Happy New Year!!

January 7, 2014

Happy 2014 everyone! 2013 was filled with lots of exciting developments – let’s take a look back at a few of them… On the personal front, I am happy to say that I am raising a mini-gourmet with a surprisingly hearty appetite (he eats as much as I do!) and a mean pincer grip. Little Buddy, as he is known, (more…)

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Coconut and Quinoa

June 17, 2013

Last week found my trusty assistant and me in the sunny open East Village kitchen of Amy Chaplin, creator of the blog Coconut and Quinoa. We captured Chef Amy as she effortlessly created a meal and its recipe using ingredients she had gathered at that morning’s farmer’s market. The former executive chef of Angelica Kitchen has made a career of cooking (more…)

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Le Louis XV

February 28, 2013

I had the honor of photographing the kitchen at Alain Ducasse’s three Michelin-starred Louis XV restaurant in Monte-Carlo. A journalist and I were on assignment for Vogue China, doing a travel piece about the French Riviera, and she had arranged for us to report on and lunch at this establishment, which is housed inside the grand Hotel de Paris. To (more…)

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Tertulia

September 26, 2012

I photographed Chef Seamus Mullen’s sunlit open kitchen last April, the week his debut cookbook Hero Food was released (thus the fresh book-release party “tattoos” sported by the staff). His chef de cuisine, Anup Joshi, was at the helm as lunch was prepared, and meat roasted in their wood-burning grill. Though I was delighted to sample some of the tapas during our (more…)

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Modern American Eatery

May 11, 2012

A month ago last week, Chef Gregory Torrech and business partner Noah Sexton opened this establishment in the up and coming Communipaw neighborhood of Jersey City. You may recall Chef Torrech from his kitchens at Brown and 6th Street Kitchen, both of which were featured on this blog, and if you attended New York Kitchen’s On The Line event last fall. Modern American Eatery, (more…)

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