Further evidence of a red-sauce migration sweeping east: No fewer than six members of Nate Appleman’s crew at Pulino’s abandoned A16 or SPQR in San Francisco to join their former colleague. “I compare it to, like, a baseball player wanting to play for the Yankees. Every chef wants a shot at cooking in New York,” explains Appleman, who moved here last July as a free agent before being drafted by Keith McNally. Less than a year later, Appleman is poised to debut an extensive menu — relying on two wood-burning ovens — featuring antipasti, Balthazar-influenced pizza, and lots of meat. “Beef, pork, lamb — we’re going to be bringing in whole cows and butchering them. I built a butcher room,” he says. In anticipation of a March 9 opening (when just breakfast and lunch will launch), Appleman spends his New York Diet of taste-tasting mozzarella and previewing desserts by pastry chef Jane Tseng, an A16 alum.
Friday, February 5
I had a Lärabar. It’s like a date and nut bar. I also had a graham cracker with peanut butter and black coffee. I always make breakfast at home, because I always run in the mornings and I need energy. Five miles is my standard run almost every day. That morning I was running late to go to New Jersey and do a mozzarella tasting.
I went and had four different mozzarella at Lioni. I’m going to use their mozzarella on the pizzas. Some of them were fresh, some of them were semi-dried; different ages and different salt content. I chose a fresh/semi-dried hybrid. That time we just did a tasting plain, but to really figure out which one I wanted I had to cook pizza and put it on the pizza.
I came back to New York and had a passatelli in brodo from Balthazar Bakery, and then after lunch I made mozzarella, because I got curd from the factory. I really enjoyed it. It may be something we do at the restaurant, but it’s not 100 percent. You’ve got to treat it very gently. That’s the trick — you can’t squeeze it.
After that, I went and had a dessert tasting with my pastry chef, Jane Tseng. She made a farro budino with goat-milk yogurt and it was so delicious. She also made a lard and rosemary tigella, which is like an Italian English muffin that’s going to be on our brunch menu. We’re going to start it on the side of a couple of the egg dishes.
Then I had a chili tasting, as in hot pepper. That was at Balthazar Bakery too. I found an Italian variety that’s really tasty. It’s not too spicy. They called it Italian peppers. I followed that up with coffee because I had too much sugar.
For dinner, I went to Dos Toros. It’s this San Francisco–style Mexican place, and had a chicken quesadilla. I read about it in the New York Times and I wanted to check it out. It was really tasty.
That was it. If you can’t tell, I eat a lot.
Saturday, February 6
Saturday morning, in the middle of my run, I had an everything bagel with white fish, salad, cucumber, and red onion at Zucker’s.
I didn’t have lunch that day, but I had a snack of pretzels and peanut butter mid-afternoon. Then, I went back to Balthazar Bakery to do another tasting with my pastry chef, and she made a chocolate semifreddo with crispy rice, caramelized milk, and lemon. I loved it. It’s going to be on the menu. She also made an affogato with anisette gelato and orange biscotti. She also made a chestnut crostata with rosemary and a pinenut-brittle gelato. She nailed them. They were amazing.
After that, I had coffee.
For dinner I went to Matsugen. I had the Yuba sushi, chicken meatballs, oshinko — the pickles. I had the Barachirashi, a rice and fish dish, and their signature cold soba, the Matsugen soba. It was actually my first time there. I’d been wanting to go because I live kind of close, and decided to finally do it. The Barachirashi was my favorite dish.
Sunday, February 7
I had oatmeal with banana, yogurt, and almond butter, and coffee.
Sunday I didn’t run. Sunday is my off day and I cooked with my son, Oliver, all day.
We made the oatmeal for breakfast and then we started dinner; I put everything in the oven before we left for lunch. I made pork-rib adobo — pork spare ribs with crispy garlic rice and salt-baked sweet potatoes. He eats everything. He’s two and a half now, almost three. He grabs the tongs, he tries to turn the meat. It’s hilarious.
We went out for lunch. We had pizza at Famous Ray’s in the West Village.
We ate dinner about 6:30 and then I went to a Super Bowl party after that. One of my sous-chefs lives in midtown. It was like a potluck, and a couple of my other sous-chefs were there and they made some chili and an eighteen-layer bean dip. It was in a huge Dutch oven.
Monday, February 8
I had a mixed bowl of cereal: shredded wheat, honey, and oat-nut crunch, and Trader Joe’s Honey Os. And then I mixed banana and yogurt into that and had coffee. That was after my run. I have to eat immediately afterwards or I’m just tired the rest of the day.
For lunch, I had French onion soup and a ham-and-butter baguette from Balthazar Bakery. After lunch, I had a bite of a chocolate birthday cake from Dean & Deluca for somebody in the office. I’m working out of the corporate office right now in Soho, near Balthazar.
One of our purveyors dropped off some goat cheese, and I had some goat cheese with a slice of bread, and then I had coffee.
For dinner, I took the leftovers from the night before and made eggs with leftover pork and roasted peppers and pineapple that I just diced up and stir-fried into the whole mess. For dessert, the leftover pineapple.
Tuesday, February 9
Tuesday, I had the same breakfast that I had on Monday after my run.
Before lunch I had a cheese tasting at Saxelby Cheese and tasted ten different cheeses. There’s one called Grayson, it’s very similar to a Taleggio. That really stood out. I’m just looking for pizzas, actually.
For lunch, I went to my new favorite restaurant called Torrisi Italian Specialties. I had handmade mozzarella, braised broccoli rabe, beans and bacon, potatoes and pepperoni, spicy egg sandwich with roasted peppers and provolone, and lasagna. I love that place. I had water and coffee.
After lunch I had a chocolate-hazelnut croissant that we’re working on for the breakfast menu. That was a combination between my pastry chef and one of my sous-chefs who’s heading up the pizza program, Beth Ann Simpkins.
I tried a new pizza place called Numero 28 and I had half what they call diavola pizza and then half a five-cheese pizza. I thought it was good, you know; I’m not going to rush back. Honestly, it was a little expensive for what it was, and that’s the whole reason I probably won’t rush back.
Then I had a scoop of ice cream with Oliver: maple-banana walnut at Sundaes and Cones.
Wednesday, February 10
For breakfast, I had an English muffin with egg, cheddar, and avocado. I did not run because of the snow. I had that with an espresso.
For lunch I went to Ippudo. I had the chicken tori ramen and the Mentaiko rice. Oliver had the rice, and he also had some ramen. He loves cod roe, the Mentaiko, he just loves it. He has a little bit of a heart condition. He’s on a special diet where he can’t have a lot of vitamin K. That’s the only thing he can’t have. But he loves all food. It’s very sad, but [Vitamin K is in] everything that’s green: avocadoes, mangoes, chickpeas, lentils — all good food. He’s okay. It’s something that he’s going to have to deal with for his entire life. He was in the hospital for like a month when we first moved here, but he’s getting better.
Then someone had dropped off samples of buttermilk, hazelnuts, and raw honey at the office from a local farm. Actually, the hazelnuts are from Oregon. Really good.
For dinner, I went to Faustina. We had pretty much the entire menu, and I thought everything was great. You know, for only being open a week, they’re doing a great job. There were six of us, a couple of my sous-chefs, a couple friends. I especially liked the cannelloni with tomatoes. It was just really simple, but super tasty and the presentation was really nice. They did it tableside. And all the desserts — all the desserts were amazing.