A first of its kind James Beard event on the Island, and how even simple things wind up being restaurant complicated
by Peter Botros
ADDING SPICE TO THE BOOM
There’s a restaurant and other service industry boom on Staten Island particularly the stretch from Rosebank to St. George the likes of which we haven’t seen in a generation.
Being restless, generally, I wanted to strike while this iron was hot, and so, while spinning plates literally and metaphorically at my other restaurants, including Corner House BBQ on Lincoln Avenue (see page 100 for more information) and its soon toopen second location in West Brighton (with huge thanks to our pit master Anthony Valois), I thought the time was right to introduce some innovative Mexican to the eastern shores of the Island. Set to open in early November, with my business partner Ignacio Garcia, is Sofia’s Taqueria, complete with decor ornamented by work from Island artist Scott Lobaido and an extensive list of margaritas and homemade pressed tortillas (with flavours like chili chocolate and poblano pepper). There will also be something at Sofia’s I believe is unique in the entire city: our own guacamole bar, adjacent to the cocktail bar, for that fast-growing cadre of avocado aficionados hungry for something truly unique. 977 Bay Street
Modest and grand
Most chefs will tell you that one of the principal talents of the profession is making the complicated seem simple, from uncluttered-looking appetizers to the most delicate and multi-ingredient entrees. Mac & cheese, for example, might strike an onlooker as the least inventive appetizer imaginable, but hold on; because ours is made from smoked Gouda béchamel (we take a traditional béchamel and melt in smoked Gouda and fontina cheese). The former cheese provides a deep, smoky, rich flavour, while fontina provides a beautiful melty texture. And for me, the pasta can only be cavatappi hollow and corkscrew shaped, so it catches the most cheese yet doesn’t get mushy like an elbow macaroni. Top with a crumbled Ritz Crackers and pretzel mixture, then broil to a golden brown. Pure bliss, but it ain’t easy.
The process for our Seared Ahi Tuna entree starts with sourcing perfect fish, of course, but we also incorporate avocado mousse and spicy Japanese mayo, along with chicharrón (pork rinds), then finish the dish using mirco cilantro. There’s also olive oil, cracked black pepper, and sea salt, and the tuna is slightly seared on all sides to a beautiful medium rare. It’s exceptionally easy to overcook tuna, and quickly ruin it, so leave this to the experts! Violette’s Cellar, 2271 Hylan Boulevard, violettescellar.com
A BOROUGH FIRST
Staten Island will have a moment on November 8, as that will mark the first time in the James Beard Foundation’s 32-year history that the Manhattan-based culinary arts organization will be hosting an event in our borough. I’m thrilled to say that it will be at Violette’s Cellar, and with me behind the pass.
According to its mission statement, the James Beard Foundation maintains a commitment to “celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable.” In addition to educating, inspiring, and setting new standards for excellence, it maintains the historic James Beard House in Greenwich Village as what the organization terms a “performance space” for visiting chefs. A space dangerously close to religious in its importance is how I’d refer to it.
The November event will be five courses, in the James Beard idiom, and will start with a burrata with spiced apple chutney, move on to butternut squash bread pudding, with a lobster ravioli for third course, followed by fi let mignon and pumpkin cheesecake spring roll for dessert. Tickets are available at our site or at eventbrite.com.