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Dirt Candy on Serious Eats!

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Serious Eats is one of my favorite food websites, and they do a Daily Veg series, focusing on how restaurants in NYC handle vegetables. Today they take a look at Dirt Candy and I have to admit, my food’s never looked so photogenic. If you’re bored, and the spring weather is making you antsy and you want to look at some safe-for-work food photos, head on over. It’s not my fault if they make you hungry.

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Meet our Wine Zoo: Re Manfredi Bianco

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We don’t have much room to store cases of wine, so rather than offering people the same old list of Syrahs, Cabernets, Chardonnays, Pinot Grigios and the rest of the usual suspects we thought we’d make up a wine list of the strangest and most unusual wines we could find, sort of like a wine zoo for exotic animals.

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There are strange wines, and then there are strange wines, and then there are really strange wines, and that’s the neighborhood where you’ll find Re Manfredi Bianco Basilicata, one of the most conflicted wines I’ve ever served. Just look at it, it’s clearly having an identity crisis:

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Why is it so strange? Read on for the freak show…

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Read the rest of this entry »


Stop eating vegetables, start making music

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Stop eating your vegetables, and start making music with them instead. The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra is the kind of thing you’d have in America if you still had funding for the arts.

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But if you’re not a joiner, you could always take up the carrot ocarina (and play the Zelda theme song) or you could make a carrot pan flute. If you’re a traditionalist, then you can always get a mechanical monkey and play “When the Saints Go Marching In.” But no matter how you slice it, if all you do with your vegetables is eat them, you’re a quitter.


They’re picking us off, one by one…

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People sometimes ask me why I became a vegetarian.

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This is why:

Dog Kills Farmer With Tractor

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“I will kill you. I will kill all of you.”

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Roberta’s Radio Interview Today

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I’m the guest on Michael Harlan Turkell’s radio show “The Food Seen” today (Tuesday) at 3pm. The two of us gossip about restaurants, the business of restaurants, Dirt Candy and restaurants that aren’t Dirt Candy. If you don’t like restaurants, you shouldn’t listen. But if you do like restaurants you can listen to the show on Heritage Radio right here on the interwebs. Heritage is a radio station operating out of the back of Roberta’s restaurant in East Williamsburg, which is the only pizza place I’ve heard of that has a Michelin star.

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A photo Michael took of Dirt Candy the month we opened.

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I’ve known Michael for a long time and, as far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the best food photographers in the country. He did the first pictures of Dirt Candy way back when, and he’s long been a big supporter of the restaurant. My only complaint? I’ve wanted to go to Roberta’s for ages, and when I finally made it there I didn’t get to eat. Boo.

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His photo of Kristen carrying mousse and soup.

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Heritage Radio on Facebook

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MHT’s own personal website

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Michael’s photo of an early to-do list for one day’s prep.

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Retro Desserts ahoy: Molten Chocolate Beet Cake

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In the 80′s it was tiramisu, in the 90′s it was molten chocolate cake. Lava cake. Half-cooked chocolate cake. Whatever it was called, it became the decade’s most emblematic dessert, and if they ever make a sequel to American Psycho set in 1996, expect to see it on every table in every restaurant scene. The French are still fighting over who invented it. Jean-Georges Vongerichten made it popular, but Jacques Torres says it was already all over the place in France by the time Jean-Georges kidnapped it and brought it to America. Jacquie Chibois did it. No, wait, Michel Bras did it. Wait, Francois Payard made it back in the 80′s! Whoever made it, you couldn’t throw a creme brulee in Manhattan in 1997 without hitting a dozen molten chocolate cakes at high end restaurants. These days, despite it being delicious, it’s tired and played out.

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Even Chilis has molten chocolate cake on its menu.

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So that means, of course, I had to put one on my menu.

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Read the rest of this entry »


Starting 2012 Off Right

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I don’t know about you, but the end of my 2011 was rough. And by “rough” I mean that it felt like I was being beaten soundly by a gang of trolls with brand new sledgehammers. Getting a new sous chef, waiter and dishwasher up to speed with no interns around to help out with prep pretty much took everything I had to give and then some. By the time I closed for the holidays I was walking around in a daze punching myself in the side of the head with a vacant grin on my face.

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My feelings about 2011, pretty much.

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But 2012 is starting out alright. Everyone at Team Dirt Candy has come back to work with good hair and clear skin, and it’s going a lot smoother than I thought. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but so far so good (cue the other shoe dropping). And good things keep happening. Dirt Candy just got voted “Best Vegetarian Restaurant in New York” by Citysearch which means I owe a big “thank you” to all of you who voted. Then, I got an email from a regular customer who had sent in a story about Diana, my server, to Foodspotting when they had a competition for “Best Server” during their Restaurant Staff Appreciation Week. It read, in part:

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“Diana – the only server at the tiny restaurant – elevates the experience every time. She remembers little things we’ve told her months ago (that sometimes even *I’ve* forgotten) and treats us like old friends every time we’re there.”

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Foodspotting thought it was the nicest email they’d gotten about service at a restaurant and so they gave her a $100 gift certificate. I know Dirt Candy is tiny, but I do my best to make sure that service here is as good as humanly possible so it was really nice to see that it’s working, at least a little bit.

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And good things come in threes it seems, just like trouble, because last week, Travis, my new sous chef, had his first interaction on the floor with a customer. Dirt Candy has an open kitchen, but my sous chef should be so busy all night he or she never gets out on the floor and goes free range. But it was Wednesday night and a customer who’d been in earlier suddenly came charging back in. “I’ve lost my ring!” she cried. Justyna, my current server, and I started looking everywhere as best we could: the floor, under the cushion of the banquette, the bathroom. Nothing. I told her I’d call her if we found it. “But you don’t understand,” she said. “It’s my engagement ring.”

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Oh, no…how we all felt…

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She had gone to a bar after Dirt Candy, so she and her partner rushed off to search it to, and so it began. For the next hour, she would call us, we wouldn’t have found the ring, she’d come by, go through the garbage, fish around in the drain of the bathroom sink, then go back to search the bar. Then she’d call us and ask if we’d found it. This went on for most of the night, when Travis said, “Maybe it got caught in her napkin?” He dragged out the big, filthy bin of dirty napkins and began to dig. And suddenly, there it was, gleaming in his hand. He handed it to her and she went through the roof. I don’t think I’ve ever been hugged quite so much. It was such a nice moment that I didn’t even beat Travis very hard for talking directly to a customer.

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But then we were all like…

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Later this week, I’ll probably be pecked to death by a flock of angry pigeons, or Dirt Candy will explode, or all my hush puppies will taste like ash and failure, but for right now, even though the world is supposed to end in a few months, I’m feeling okay about 2012.

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Maybe it won’t end like this, after all?

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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