While it’s true that nothing is as it should be, in the world or the restaurant industry, chefs keep finding new ways to keep their doors open and their customers fed. From culinary collaborations to online conversations, here’s our short list of current observations, obsessions, and recommendations.
The Super Bowl Matchup
Binge on BBQ from two former Craft cooks
You know Damon Wise for his fine-dining work as the former chef of Craft. You may not know him for his award-winning barbecued chicken wings. A decade ago, he and some chef pals founded the Ribdiculous Bar-B-Krewe as a hobby of sorts and soon began racking up accolades on the competition-barbecue circuit. When the pandemic forced Wise to put his chef-consultant day job on hold, he started Wise Meats, a barbecue pop-up pivot. For Super Bowl LV, he’s collaborating on a takeout meal with Houseman chef Ned Baldwin, who cooked under Wise at Craft. Wise will smoke the meat (St. Louis spare ribs by the full or half-rack, those chicken wings); Baldwin will tackle the Maryland crab dip, the French onion sandwich bites, and the bacon-wrapped shishito poppers.
Order by February 4 at housemanrestaurant.com; pickup only
The Meal Kit
Stuff shawarma like the pros
Shuka chef Ayesha Nurdjaja’s chicken-shawarma sandwich kit doesn’t include a rotating vertical spit, but it’s got everything else: two pounds of spice-rubbed, marinated, cooked, and Cryovaced chicken; puffy housemade pita; and all the fixings, including a halal-cart-inspired white sauce (instead of the usual toum or tahini) that you’ll want to eat straight from the tub. All you do is heat the meat for 12 minutes, warm the bread, and assemble the sandwiches. It’s enough for five overstuffed pita pockets and one great reason why restaurant meal kits may outlast the pandemic.
The (Virtual) Event
Zoom into a monthlong celebration of Black food, drink, and culture
Like so much else that was slated for 2020, the Museum of Food and Drink’s long-planned exhibit “African/American: Making the Nation’s Table” was postponed indefinitely. This month, the museum brings some of the delayed show’s themes to life — or at least to Zoom — in a series of panel discussions, cooking demos, and virtual-reality short films that celebrate African American foodways and Black American culinary innovators past and present. Cook crab fried rice along with chef Amethyst Ganaway (recipe developer for Pierre Thiam’s Yolélé food brand); meet Nfamara Badjie, the Gambian-born drummer who started a rice farm in the Hudson Valley; learn about Nearest Green, the Tennessee master distiller who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey, then toast him with a cocktail.
Tuck in to a savory pie
When we think of pie, we think of dessert. We think sweet. But winter weather and tough times were made for savory pies. Compared with sweet pies, these self-contained meals are substantial, serious stuff. A clown wouldn’t pie another clown, after all, with a chicken potpie. So it’s welcome news that there has been a flurry of activity on the savory front. Angie Mar of the Beatrice Inn has launched the Pie Shop, a one-day-a-week delivery service (think steak-and-Guinness pie with a marrow-bone poking out of the top (212-675-2808). LaLou in Prospect Heights is bringing back its game-bird pie for Valentine’s Day. And M.Wells has bumped up production of its coveted tourtière (Montreal-style meat pie) — once a Christmastime-only treat. Now it can be had for takeout, as part of a restaurant-subscription service, and via the restaurant supplier Baldor.
The Side Hustle
Fill your freezer with frozen pizza from a restaurant, not a supermarket
The eternal popularity of pizza, combined with the convenience of frozen foods, has inspired a handful of New York restaurants, in just one of countless pandemic pivots, to get into a game previously dominated by supermarket brands and national heavyweights like Lou Malnati’s of Chicago deep-dish fame. Now, thanks to the mail-order range of Goldbelly, you don’t need to be quarantining within city limits to enjoy pies from Di Fara, Joe’s, Joe & Pat’s, or even New York’s foremost Chicago champion, Emmett’s, which ships nationally but also delivers its frozen thin-crust pies (the lesser-known Windy City specialty) locally. Out in Carroll Gardens, F&F Pizzeria has added frozen pies and slices to its online pantry, and at Momofuku Ko, to satisfy state requirements to sell no booze without food, the online wine shop known as the Store at Ko offers a single edible item alongside its illustrious cellar: a frozen 12-inch BBQ-chicken pizza with ranch dressing and barbecue sauce on the side.
*This article appears in the February 1, 2021, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!