Bemelmans’ martinis, Peter Hoffman’s new memoir, a gluten-free vegan chocolate-chip cookie for hedonists, and more.
Eat Salty Lunch Lady’s Pink Coconut Cake
Dria Atencio takes inspiration from kitschy 1950s and ’60s Americana and goes by the nom de pop-up Salty Lunch Lady, but it’s doubtful that anything she’s ever whipped up in her Brooklyn apartment has evoked the sensation of dining in a junior-high cafeteria. In fact, some of the best pastries we ate during the Great Bakery Boom of the past year were hers. To put it another way, imagine Amy Sedaris meets Karen DeMasco with a little Court Street Grocers thrown in for good measure. On May 29 and 30, the former Sorella line cook brings her rotating roster of baked goods and inspired sandwiches to Cookie’s bar in Bed-Stuy (748 Myrtle Ave.). Look out for mortadella with pickled-pepper relish on She Wolf pullman and chicken meatballs with smoked-paprika aïoli on semolina rolls. And save room for pink coconut cake with citrus curd and — should the supply of Easter Peeps hold out — pink bunnies on top.
Drink Martinis at Bemelmans
After a 14-month hiatus, the great Upper East Side bar (35 E. 76th St., entrance on Madison Ave.) has returned to form, its golden-lit atmosphere, a fine mix of worldly ebullience and romantic melancholy, intact. The piano has been moved closer to the bar to make space for socially distanced guests, and the number of tables has been reduced by half (to get one, now you need to make a Tock reservation). But the martinis are as good as ever, and there are even some new variations on the theme. Elaine’s Smokey Martini, for one, mingles Japanese gin with Islay Scotch and French vermouth. “We named it after Elaine Stritch, who lived at the Carlyle, because she had a strong personality, she liked whiskey, and she liked martinis,” says Bemelmans GM Dimitrios Michalopoulos, who spent his furlough brainstorming that high-octane tipple and a slew of others.
Digest Peter Hoffman’s New Memoir
Anyone who ever ate at the pioneering Soho restaurant Savoy might think they know Peter Hoffman — he of the customized “long john” cargo bike weighed down with his latest Greenmarket haul, locavore way before locavores were trendy. But there’s more to the man than a rigid adherence to seasonality, much of it revealed in his new memoir, What’s Good? (out in June from Abrams Press). The book threads together Hoffman’s development as a chef — from dentist’s son in Tenafly to UC Santa Cruz dropout to self-questioning cook who eschewed ’80s-era nouvelle cuisine to find purpose and community, first in France and then in the States’ burgeoning local-food movement — with chapters devoted to the ingredients that came to define his culinary identity. Along the way, the self-professed “nerd” admits to youthful indiscretions like a juvenile arrest for growing pot and hiking nude in Olympic National Park. The biggest surprise: a cameo by a teenage Anthony Bourdain as a high-school friend who reemerges decades later as Hoffman’s bad-boy-chef nemesis.
Build a Meal Out of Beautiful Bread
You needn’t be an observant Jew to relish the starchy Sabbath pleasures of a pleated challah or a pull-apart Yemeni-style kubaneh flecked with scallions and nigella seeds. They are the centerpieces of Parchment, a Brooklyn-based weekend pickup-and-delivery service founded by Erez Blanks, who, like many a COVID-furloughed cook before him, began preparing the foods of his homeland (in his case, Israel) in his actual home (Park Slope) before expanding into a nearby commissary kitchen. The boxes’ contents vary, but breads are a constant, meant to be ripped into (never sliced!) and eaten with fresh and flavorful sides and spreads (recently, an invigorating cucumber salad with chiles and dill, yogurt-enriched tahini with summer squash and mint, and the perfect paired condiments of crushed tomato and green-chile tatbila). At a time when delivery demand may be waning and temperatures rising, Parchment benefits by being the perfect picnic fare—neatly packed, finger-food friendly, and meant to be shared.
The Vegan (and Gluten-Free) Treat
Devour Seven Grams Caffe’s Latest Cookie
The chocolate-chip-cookie cognoscenti know the work of Seven Grams Caffé, the indie-coffee-bar minichain that opened its first store in Chelsea in 2014 and quickly gained a following for its take on the iconic treat. These cookies are of the big and tall school, with each containing an almost indecent amount of Guittard dark chocolate, and rank among the city’s best
— Levain, Maman, and L’Imprimerie included. Owner Sharon Kazes introduced a vegan rendition made with extra-virgin olive oil and tahini a couple years later, and it might be even better, the tahini lending the thing a nutty essence and tricking you into thinking that you’re in the presence of some advanced non-vegan form of chocolate-chip-peanut-butter cookie. Not content with these accomplishments, now Kazes has unleashed a vegan-and-gluten-free version, and it’s safe to say that he’s done it again. It took a year to get it right, the cookie maker says, having finally settled on a mix of hazelnut butter, EVOO, and two types of vegan chocolate — one dark, the other “faux-milk.” The hardest thing, he says, was the flour, and he met that challenge when he combined almond flour with the oat variety. “The goal was to have someone eat this cookie and never guess it’s vegan or gluten-free,” says Kazes. If the cookie falls a little shy of achieving that objective, it can be chalked up to a slightly sandy (but not at all off-putting) texture. Were we gluten-averse, vegan, and committed to wearing elasticized-waistband pants the rest of our lives, we’d consider eating nothing else. Online orders only.