A few days ago, I got back from spending the holidays in NYC. It was a whirlwind: between spending time with family and catching up with old friends, it felt like a very short week. I have this very love/hate relationship with the city. I love the architecture and its uneven buildings from different moments in time that somehow work perfectly with one another, the food, the vibrant streets, the mix of people, the energy. I tend to get irritated by the crowds upon crowds of people and the fact that you almost can never just walk in to a trendy restaurant and get a table. If you're in NY for a handful of days only and want to try a popular restaurant you often end up eating at 6 or 10PM or not getting a table at all. That's been the case for Mario Batali's Babbo - reservations are made up to 30 days in advance to the day, and I have yet to get a reservation that suits my schedule! Things were of course a little different when I lived in NY but being there for a visit makes things a little hectic. With Babbo out of the question, I managed to get the next best thing - or, as it turned out to be, one of the best restaurants I've been to in NY to date - ABC Kitchen!
Our reservations were pushed to late in the evening, but it was well worth the wait. The restaurant, at the ground level of home decor store ABC Home is stunning. It's warm and charming without being stuck up, pretty and whimsical without being snobby. Tables are simply set using a mix and match of vintage-inspired plates that can be purchased at the store (most much more than I would want to spend on tableware however) and the food is simple, fresh and very reasonably priced, especially for New York. Highlights of our meal included a salmon tartare on crusty bread, deliciously simple charred brussel sprouts and handmade warm mozarella with olive oil and sea salt. It was a really perfect meal.
Espresso at ABC Kitchen
For those times when you want a quick meal though, New York has a plethora of places to choose from - sans reservations. My new favourite? The Morris Grilled Cheese truck. I had their pastrami grilled cheese with pickled kale and mustard greens and it was pretty spectacular.
Today's recipe however, is inspired by a dish from Cafe Gitane - a small little restaurant a few blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Soho. The food there is incredibly flavourful and rustic and reminds me of my days studying at the French Culinary Institute a few blocks from there. It was the perfect place to grab a quick meal after a long day in the kitchen. The service at the cafe is a little harder to digest however - and most times I've been there I have been greeted by a hipstered waitress who seems rather unenthusiastic at the thought of handing you a menu or finding you a seat. She gestured for us to sit at the bar - which ended up being a real blessing in disguise - it was right in front of the open kitchen. The entire kitchen at the cafe is the size of a small NYC bathroom but still manages to be perfectly organized. In a few seconds, I was happy to be away from the wannabe actors and models seated at various small tables behind us and could concentrate on what really mattered: the food! One of the specialties here are baked eggs. The ones at Gitane are served with either merguez sausages, or salmon and potatoes. These are my version, made with tomato and feta. It's a really easy recipe and a nice way to turn eggs into a complete weeknight meal or a lovely weekend brunch.
Baked Eggs with Tomato and Feta
1/2 cup of crushed tomato puree
2 splashes of heavy cream
1/4 cup of diced feta
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few fresh chives, finely diced
Preheat your oven to 375. Lightly grease to oven-proof ramekins and crack 2 eggs in each. Add 1/4 cup of tomato puree to each, and a splash of cream.
Divide the feta between both ramekins, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the egg yolks have just set. Garnish with chives and serve. Enjoy!