We apologize in advance for the frequent use of the term “finger food” in this newsletter. As a society, we have to invent something more attractive. hand kitchen? A digital diet? These two options are worse.
Finger food also underestimates how fun and appealing eating by hand can be, especially when it comes to dining in a restaurant where the service is top-notch. There’s just something disarmingly charming about just digging.
Duck necks, hand rolls, and all the mozzarella sticks you can eat
Take, for example, confit duck necks in Valensay in Bushwick. This is a restaurant with a certain level of formal training behind it – read: confit – and yet, when the waiter put this dish on my table, he said we should put our utensils aside: the only way to really bend these duck necks, slathered in a sticky sweet sauce, was by hand, Taking into account the bones in the middle of the crumbly soft meat. With each bite, I set aside small neck bones like discarded oyster shells and tackle the next.
Other fine-eating brains may shorten, but my first thought was, “Now that’s eating!”
A few weeks later, I sat down to dinner at Marie At Hell’s Kitchen, which I would call “fancy-fancy”—we’re talking about a $125 tasting menu. But the restaurant’s specialty is handmade rolls inspired by Korean street food. And then for courses three through ten, you’ll use your hands only to pick up stone-wrapped steaks, spicy tuna, A5 wagyu beef, and more—although served on an ornate brass platter much like the roof of Grand Central Station.
You can eat other type of food in Teranga, a West African restaurant from Chef Pierre Thiam in East Harlem. Sure, you can dig into minced salmon and mash with a knife and fork, but you can’t get around fufu. As my colleague Ligaya Mishan wrote in her comment about the restaurant in 2019, “You tear up the pieces and use them like spoons, adding an earthy touch to every bite.” It is how people in the African diaspora have consumed fufu, and other starch-based swallows for thousands of years.
And you may have heard of the recent emergence of New York City restaurants in the Midwest, a dining trend wrapped in rich sheets of nostalgia. And where there’s nostalgia, there’s finger foods. This is why you can now enjoy $5 chili dogs at happy hour hello hello room At Cobble Hill, deep dish pizza at Emmett in the Grove In the West Village, mozzarella is plentiful in Bernie (green dot) Penny Bridge (Long Island City), sea meat (South Street Seaport) and the original emmet (Green Security Village).
In any of them, the waiter is well trained, the chef has been cooking for a decade, two or three, and there’s a curated wine list, but you eat with your hands. A kind of cognitive dissonance begins to emerge. But all you can do is hug him, wipe the corners of your mouth and think, “Now this is He eats!”
In other news…
This week, see Pete Wells Dar Yemma – A new Moroccan restaurant run by an Algerian in Queens Little Egypt – where portions of the menu are uneven, but boiled tagines are always served.
Openings and Closing: Chef John Fraser’s newest restaurant, traderopens in the Financial District June 7; singlish, a new cocktail bar focused on Singaporean street food, now in operation on East 13th Street near Union Square; And the pesosthe Japanese comfort food restaurant in NoHo, will be permanently closed on June 18.
The Summer in the city newsletter Back: To kick off the season, Julia Carmel, Michael Gould, and Korsha Wilson, who sometimes write for the food department, have compiled a bucket list of New York City must-haves, including steam rice rolls in Chinatown and Nepalese food in Jackson Heights. Register here.
drag brunch? in Taco Bell cantina? Eric Bippenburg reports on “The Most Common Drag-Eating Marriage So Far.”
Kate Burnout of Missoula, Montana, reported on United We EatHome, a program that allows refugees to share their food with locals while earning valuable income.
Although a Brooklyn bakery Freak and spice Now closed, Ligaya Mishan still manages to source their world-class recipe for Chocolate Chili Biscotti.
Last week’s newsletter misidentified the restaurant Nicoti Futago. It is located in SoHo, not the Flatiron area.