OLMSTED BROOKLYN: THE VIBEY RETREAT
IF OLMSTED DIDN'T DO SO MUCH so perfectly, it would be that cute-to-11 Brooklyn restaurant we might have loved to hate. Instead, on a foggy night the week before Christmas, we found ourselves dopey in love—surrendering all cynicism in its ridiculously picturesque garden, wrapped in a folksy blanket, uncharacteristically giggling as we dumped the last of the rum into the thermos of housemade Swiss Miss. With all this mise-en-scène, it could be easy to forget that Olmsted is also a very serious restaurant—a collaboration between precocious chef Greg Baxtrom, a Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Alinea alum, and farmer Ian Rothman, who both keep the quails chirping and the garden sprouting with radishes, carrots and more. Baxtrom's cooking is as delicious as it is resourceful and value-driven, often making magic out of ingredients that other restaurants might pass over. Torn scallops might not fly at Le Bernardin, but here they're skewered and grilled, with celeriac, apple and spicy peanuts. Lobes of uni would be too expensive for Olmsted's egalitarian stance, so Baxtrom buys the broken ones for half the price, stuffing them into pierogies and stretching their briny richness with sweet potato. All that crafty maneuvering frees up space for a few extravagant flourishes: fresh wasabi ground tableside; a spoonful of precious, fragrant honey; a stack of those cozy blankets, so perfectly rustic they might have been stolen from a Wes Anderson set. It's a slam-dunk idea—the finesse of fine dining with an upstart energy that delivers more good stuff to more people. In the end, Baxtrom's cooking dazzled us. But it was his spread-the-love mentality that won us over for good.
659 Vanderbilt Ave.; 718-552-2610; olmstednyc.com
Beet Salad with Shiso
Total | 30 min Serves | 4 to 6
- ¼ lb. snow peas
- ¼ cup grapeseed or canola oil
- 1 Tbsp. crushed coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp. hot chile oil
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1½ lbs. small mixed colored beets, peeled and shaved into ribbons
- 8 shiso leaves, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
- Kosher salt
- In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch the snow peas until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well and pat dry.
- In a small bowl, whisk the grapeseed oil with the coriander, fish sauce, chile oil, lemon juice and lime juice.
- In a serving bowl, toss the beets and snow peas with the dressing, shiso and the 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds. Season with salt; toss. Garnish with more sesame seeds.
HOW TO ROAST A MARSHMALLOW
Outdoor s'mores service is Olmsted's atmospheric coup de grâce—a no-detail-left-behind spectacle that applies Michelin-level expertise to a campfire classic. Here's how to light it up the Olmsted way.
- DON'T OVERTHINK THE CHOCOLATE
- "In the beginning we wanted to make our own Olmsted chocolate bar," says Baxtrom, who used Hershey's while he was still working out the candy's kinks. "All of our guests ended up saying that we could not change the Hershey's bar—it's just too much a part of the nostalgia of s'mores."
- CONSIDER THE GRAHAM
- Brooklyn bakery Runner & Stone supplies the buttery crackers. They're a big step up from the supermarket ones.
- EMBRACE STALE MARSHMALLOWS
- Baxtrom makes his own marshmallows, but he's found that they don't roast as well when fresh. "They are too gooey at first," he says. "We let them sit for a few days in a twist-tied bag; the gelatin softens when they warm up, so they still get plenty gooey."
- PLAY WITH THE CHARCOAL
- A roaring bonfire would be a challenge in Brooklyn, so Olmsted delivers s'mores with a perforated coffee tin full of smoldering coals instead. As on the rest of the menu, Baxtrom mixes luxury with practicality here, combining basic lump charcoal with Japanese binchotan for flavor.
JUNE'S ALL DAY AUSTIN: THE SOMM'S RECKONING
TURNS OUT, EVERYTHING YOU thought you knew about pairing wine with matzo ball soup was wrong. You might have thought it was Manischewitz all the way but—surprise!—it's actually a South African A. A. Badenhorst Secateurs, a juicy rosé torpedo with a briny twang that does a sexy two-step with chicken broth. Epiphanies like this are exactly why everyone we know in Austin insisted we come to June's All Day. It's a completely new take on the wine bar—a finer diner where you can indeed drink all day, and where, for once, the food supports the wine and not the other way around. There are scones at the bar in the morning and flawless french fries whenever you might want them, and wine specials scrawled on a bistro mirror, smartly chosen but never intimidating. "I don't want to alienate the person who just had a great time shopping for cowboy boots and doesn't have an iota of interest in grape must," says partner June Rodil (who is also wine and beverage director of Austin's McGuire Moorman Hospitality). She may have her hand in a few wine lists around town, but with its populist eats, easy-to-love wines and come-as-you-are energy, June's is truly her baby. Stick around long enough and you may find yourself, as we did, with the perfect fried chicken sandwich in one hand and a glass of luscious orange wine made by Cistercian nuns in the other, while Merle Haggard warbles from the jukebox. You might not want to leave, and at June's All Day, there's no reason you should.
1722 S. Congress Ave.; 512-416-1722; junesallday.com
9 REASONS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH JUNE'S
- A vintage Wurlitzer jukebox is stocked with Dolly Parton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Prince and Bowie. "Someone always chooses "Jolene," and it makes me pretty happy," says Rodil.
- You'll want to take home all of June's funky ephemera—bright-yellow pens with green ink, freshly sharpened pencils, color-blocked matchbooks and coasters.
- Rodil and one of her sommeliers, Emily Blackman, hand-draw a cheeky 'zine that functions as the reserve list. A recent feature: a primer on wine bottles shaped like baseball bats.
- Line drawings of Daisy, Rodil's beloved miniature schnauzer, show up everywhere, from check presenters to espresso cups.
- In the morning, the bar top becomes a bakeshop, offering treats like sour cherry scones, onion and poppy seed bialys, and a knockout "lamb-in-a-blanket."
- A large bistro mirror dominates the north wall. It's scrawled with monthly wine specials and glasses organized around themes like "big reds," "baby bottles" and "bubbles."
- Day drinking is a matter of course. "I want people to have wine with lunch on a Monday because it is totally acceptable and wonderful and makes for a better Monday," says Rodil.
- The Sunday pub nights at June's have a cult following thanks to $4 pints, Indian food specials, British Invasion tunes and American football.
- Does it seem like all the best-dressed people work at June's? The crazy-chic staff uniforms are from Stockholm-born cool-kid outfitter Acne Studios.
To read the rest of "Top 10 Restaurants of The Year”, please see the June 2017 issue of Food & Wine in the Texture app.