Off The Menu, Staff Meals from America's Top Restaurants by Marissa Guggiana includes recipes like Wild-Boar Ragu; Herb Biscuits with Cheese; Ricotta Pancakes with Roasted Applesauce; and Roasted Whole Croaker and Cabbage Slaw.
Red Car Reserve
The Pearl Roussanne 2009
Woodberry Kitchen is showing off. Honestly, it's almost too much. With an uncompromised commitment to local sourcing, to whole animal butchery, to empowered, scrub-faced cooks on a mission to prepare ethical food—the restaurant is a blazing star in the food-movement cosmos.
Most of the cooking happens in the wood oven in the dining area. But there are walk-in coolers and steel tables and freezers, all crowded with bodies taut with concentration. "We wanted to be able to use local tomatoes all year so we canned a ton. Literally, a ton," chef and owner Spike Gjerde tells me while climbing up to a high shelf and showing me jar after jar of canned tomato iterations: marinara, whole, crushed, salsa this way, salsa that way.
Continued explorations through the labyrinthine kitchen reveal expertly flash-frozen peas and beans and carefully cured meats. Every moment of each season has been captured and suspended at its fullest expression. This archive of freshly preserved edibles gives Woodberry's cooks an uncommon agility and freedom. It is one of the happier kitchens I have visited. I attribute this to Spike's trust in the process of experimentation and in his employees' talent. Cooking professionally is often grounded in a repetition of achieving consistent results through well-tested means. Kitchens where someone asks you to "do something with these tomatoes" are generally full of more content cooks than kitchens where they tell you exactly what to do. This less monarchical approach to kitchen management is becoming more familiar in America, as we move in generational increments away from the era of the French chef and his kitchen of perfection-seeking minions.
Snow began to fall outside as the Woodberry Kitchen staff sat down to eat. The meal was, thematically, the collaboration of many people. There is a place in the walk-in reserved for what will become elements of the staff meals: pancake batter left from brunch, a few fish that won't hold out another day, some bruised potatoes that need severe pruning. These imperfect gems were nimbly fashioned into a luxurious feast: whole roast fish, biscuits in cheese sauce, potato salad, pancakes with apples, pierogi on house-made kraut. The dishes prepared were like preservations in amber of seasons past.
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This page created January 2012
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