I didn’t plan it this way but how apropos (I love that word) my first post of the new year is about one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. A little set up:
I have this great friend Val. We teach yoga together. She’s beautiful, intense, sublime. She recently became engaged to a fellow named Aaron, whom I’ve come to know well through Val. Aaron is awesome. He has this terrific band I love to go hear when they play. Val often sings beside him, they are electric singing together. Through Aaron, I met his good friend Dominic, a TV producer, who is one of the sharpest people I’ve met in a long while.
These are three terrific people. You probably know the type I mean…talented, attractive, have a ton of abilities, can excel at whatever they try. If you’re anything like me, you really want to be annoyed by people like this, out of jealousy if nothing else, but then you spend time with them and find they are so down to earth and fun and charming, and anything but pretentious, you can’t help but fall in love. I keep trying to be annoyed by these three, but, lo, it is impossible.
Um… what does this have to do with food and an amazing meal?
Well. Aaron and Dominic have created Edgeware, which they define as “an Upstairs/Downstairs Dining and Cooking arrangement between two apartments on West Edgeware Road in Angelino Heights.” My translation: Edgeware is Aaron and Dominic creating wonderful, inventive dinners for various friends in preparation to open a restaurant sometime in the near future. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a dinner they had for 12 hungry souls Monday a week ago.
What. A. Meal.
This is what happened:
We fortunate twelve arrive at 7 and Val is making some cocktails. She’s been behind a bar a few times in her life, love that, and makes some of the best drinks I’ve ever had. (She does this on occasion at my own home, btw, which is always a pleasure.) On this night, there was a choice of three: the Thomas Handy, the Kentucky Cousin and a Pickle Martini. Yes, that’s right. Pickle Martini.
May I step aside a moment and point out that I would not have been doing due diligence for this blog had I not tried each cocktail at least once, so over the course of the evening, I made sure to test. All were terrific. I’ll ask for each again. If I had to pick one for you to make, I’d say the Thomas Hardy. But in certain situations, you cannot ask for anything better than the Pickle Martini. The favorite at the table seemed to be the Kentucky Cousin. I digress. But in case you want to try, the recipes for all three cocktails are available if you click here.
Before we go back to regularly scheduled programming, here is a photo of the Pickle Martini, which I will make myself soon (pardon my crappy iPhone camera):
After “cocktail hour”, we sat down to a lovely prepared table where our menu was written on individual postcards:
We settled. Sipped our cocktails. Then out came the appetizer, Chicken Soup Dumplings, an inverted Chicken Dumpling, the soup inside the dumpling! Creative, inventive, so good.
Then, as a palate cleanser, Aaron and Dominic served a wonderful array of pickled vegetables. In the old days, this was called a ‘relish tray’ but what was served was anything but old fashioned. I love pickled vegetables and these were the best I’ve ever had. (This was David Chang’s recipe, from Momofuko, recipe here:)
Next came the main course, a huge, glorious plate of food: Pulled Pork and White Bread (homemade), with Sweet Spiced Pork Ribs and Hush Puppies.
The sides were Red Cabbage Slaw and Collard Greens.
And for dessert, a twist on bananas foster, Fried Bananas with Miso Honey Ice Cream, also terrific.
Look, here’s the deal: There’s good home cooking. Then, admittedly, there’s the cooking certain friends of mine and I do, which is often very good. But then there is another kind of elevated cooking, where flavors and alchemy and taste come together in a way I don’t quite understand but rejoice to behold. Monday last was this kind of cooking. I imagine there are some poor, befuddled readers out there who don’t understand how pulled pork, collard greens and hush puppies can be incandescent, on the level of whatever it is Thomas Keller kills himself doing every night, but believe me, even ‘simple southern cooking’ can be on the par with the best chefs in the world. I only hope you get to experience this kind of cooking at some point in your life.
Please know that, being a southerner, I grew up eating all these dishes. I was surrounded during my youth in Texas by some of the best home cooks imaginable. Aaron and Dominic’s food, though, was as fine and tasty as any I’ve had in any restaurant. I’ll say it again: there was an alchemy of flavor and texture that doesn’t stem from just flinging things together, which tend to be my métier. (You can thank Chinatown when I was 10 for my being able to use that word, thank you.)
It’s hard to pick favorites. The meats for instance… wow. That combination of flavors, eating something I’ve had many times yet somehow it tastes so much better, so new. If I had to pick, though, I have two…I’ve eaten greens all my life and these were simply the best, tangy and deep flavored. I could eat collards and/or mustard greens every day of my life and be happy. These in particular. And then there were the Hush Puppies. My experience with Hush Puppies growing up were fried balls of gummy dough. Awful. I always loved the idea of Hush Puppies, so I always tried them, anytime I saw one. Hope springs eternal. But whenever I’d try one, my hopes tended to be dashed. These Hush Puppies, however, were lighter than normal, very spicy, amazing. Thankfully, Aaron graciously allowed me to print the Hush Puppy recipe, along with Val’s cocktail recipes. Click here for all the recipes. They are well worth a try. (I begged him for the slaw recipe but he wisely refrained from giving away all his secrets.Damn, that was killer slaw.)
All told, it was a wonderful night. Good friends, lovely people around the table I enjoyed meeting for the first time, and such great food! You heard it here first: These gents are going to open a restaurant at some point and when they do, it is going to be killer.
I just want to go on the record as saying ‘I knew them back when…”