This highly potent spirit with the anise flavor and Moulin Rouge mystique (illegal for nearly a century) has resurfaced in handcrafted cocktails touched by the Green Fairy. Plat 99, for one, pulls its absinthe from an elaborate French glass fountain.
Historically emerging from Vietnamese bakeries, this crusty baguette sandwich layers rich, salty meats such as pate and pork belly with crisp julienned veggies. K & T serves the original version, but newcomer Rook, set to open this spring, gives the nosh a modern twist.
As with wine, a good, complementary beer can bring out the best flavors in food. IPAs go well with spicy foods, for example. And dark, rich stouts shine with the dessert course. The food menu at Ralston’s DraftHouse is designed to pair with the craft beers on tap. R Bistro puts on beer-paired dinners, and Chef JJ’s Back Yard occasionally brings in local chefs and brewmasters to collaborate on set-menu meals.
Chefs really dig this root veggie. Beyond the traditional candied and pickled preparations seen at time-tested restaurants of the Iron Skillet and Hollyhock Hill variety, the magenta (also orange and yellow!) bulbs are often roasted to bring their musky sweetness to the fore at places like The Libertine Liquor Bar and Harry & Izzy’s.
Japanese restaurants such as E. Miracle and Sakura serve lunch in these compartmented boxes that keep food neatly separated. The western world has its own interpretations. Cerulean’s lunch offerings arrive in modernized bento boxes made of polished wood and porcelain bowls (at right).
In theory, a chalkboard menu gives a restaurant the flexibility to switch out menu listings as ingredients become available (Brad Gates’s The Pantry) or unavailable (Yats). Coincidentally, they also look cool. Punch Burger’s chalkboard menu spans an entire wall.
Top chefs are joining the search—often in secret locations—for wild edible plants plucked straight from nature (as opposed to cultivated). Tyler Herald of Napolese and Craig Baker of The Local Eatery & Pub are known to incorporate foraged goodies—like wild ramps and dandelion greens—into their seasonal dishes.
These utilitarian vessels with their screw threads and bulky silhouettes are appearing, minus their rubber-gasket tops and hermetic seals, as water glasses and hefty cocktail mugs at even the most refined restaurants. Soul-food fave Kountry Kitchen was ahead of the trend; upcycled condiment jars have served as drinking glasses there for years. Oakleys Bistro turns miniature jars into decorative flutes for its poured cheesecake, and Bakersfield Mass Ave dips the rims in salt for its house margarita (at left).
In this part of the country, coarsely ground corn has traditionally stayed in the vicinity of the breakfast table. But taking a cue from the south, chefs now incorporate the staple—often stirred with a sharp, melted cheese—into protein dishes. Shrimp and grits appear on menus ranging from Oh Yumm! Bistro to Meridian Restaurant & Bar. And Black Market offered a savory bluegill and grits dish over the winter.
One of the healthiest vegetables in the produce bin, these frilly green leaves are not just for garnish anymore. 3 Sisters Cafe makes a standout huge ham sandwich with kale and cheese called the D’nai, and Duos has kale dishes all the time, including a crisp kale salad with raw brussels sprouts.
The collective term for meat procured from the internal organs and entrails of butchered animals, offal follows in step with recent let-nothing-go-to-waste sustainability ethos. For examples, look no further than the beef tongue tacos at La Chinita Poblana, grouper cheeks at The Oceanaire Seafood Room, and recurring sweetbread dishes on the prix fixe menu at Recess.
A natural result of the resurgence of bourbon, house-soaked fruits, and sweet Italian aperitifs, every cocktail list worth its jigger of bitters has brought back the Sidecar, Rusty Nail, and Gin Ricky. Severin Bar (Amped-Up Mule at right) makes a Perfect Manhattan with homemade maraschinos that’ll put hair on your chest.
They hold about as much meat as a large hot wing, but these tiny fowl pack a lot of flavor into a few bites. Go ahead and eat it with your fingers, even when a place like Cerulean plates it gorgeously on a bed of pureed veggies.
In what might be food porn’s last gasp, dessert no longer looks like a piece of art, with perfectly placed berries and meticulous squiggles of coulis. Black Market’s Salted Chocolate Brickle—which looks like something concocted in somebody’s dorm room late at night—as well as Late Harvest Kitchen’s deliriously gloppy sticky toffee pudding, and Mama Irma’s purple pudding prove that looks can be deceiving.
Charcuterie looks particularly delicious when the fatty slices and crumbling cheese wedges stand out against a rustic slab of polished wood. Mesh and The Ball & Biscuit are on board, and Goose the Market makes beautiful use of a set of handled planks as hefty as tennis rackets.
Absinthe drink photo (Bluebeard) by Tony Valainis; other photos by Jonathan Scott.
This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the May 2013 issue.