I have come to know Anthony Sasso as an extremely versatile and thoughtful chef. He has an eye for quality and a sharp palate that is aided by an incredible memory for detail. I was thrilled to spend a morning with him at the Union Square Green Market and follow him to his tiny New York City apartment. There, he cooked me lunch and mixed a couple of Absolut cocktails to pair.
Having lived and cooked in Spain for a year, Sasso’s menu at the restaurant in which he works focuses primarily on the hearty flavors of the Mediterranean. But, when he’s not at work, Sasso loves to explore culinary traditions from around the world. So, in my day of shopping, cooking, eating, and drinking with him, we skirted the rim of the Mediterranean, with which he is so familiar, and also took a quick dip to South America.
Sasso pulled me over to his favorite fishmonger at the Union Square Green Market. I marveled at the buckets of fresh seafood set into wooden troughs filled with crushed ice. All of it was covered with hinged, glass-panels that allowed customers to see the products, just like any grocery store seafood display case. All of the seafood at this stand came from local waters. Sasso picked out some nice, large scallops.
And, as promised, the first order of business when we got to Sasso’s studio: a pot of strong coffee.
“I’ve always wondered how they get the anchovies lined up so neatly in the jar like that,” I wondered aloud as I watched Sasso pull the thin, delicate filets out with the small pick that came with the packaging.
“They pack them by hand,” he said. The anchovies went into the mortar and pestle, along with some parsley and a generous stream of extra virgin olive oil for a crude bagna cauda.
“I’m making you pasta carbonara,” Sasso said as he picked up a nest of freshly-made egg pasta at the market. “We’ll need some eggs, some cheese, and a bit of pancetta too.” Later, when he was finishing the pasta in his apartment, I noticed he didn’t add any black pepper. “I don’t keep black pepper. I don’t like cooking with it; I think there are far more interesting ways to spice things up. So, this carbonara isn’t traditional. I call it carbonara Sasso.”
Sasso’s studio was very small. The two of us could barely fit into the kitchen together. “Let’s eat in the little garden outside; there will be more room and better light out there. There’s no access to it from my building though – or from any building. So, we’ll have to climb out the window.” Thankfully, he lives on the ground floor.
Roasted peppers with ribbons of shaved cheese.
Sauteed eggplant and late-harvest baby zucchini, finished with a crude bagna cauda.
Recently back from a trip to Peru, Sasso was inspired to make two ceviche dishes. In one, he put raw strips of sea bass in a milky “leche de tigre” broth with sour watermelon gerkins. In the other, he cut up raw scallops and tossed them with last-of-the-season strawberries, tomatoes, tart gooseberries (also known as ground cherries), and olive oil. He garnished this ceviche with peppery cress. Both ceviches were surprisingly spicy with chili heat.
Using items found at the market, Sasso made two cocktails. For one cocktail, Sasso steeped fresh mint and black English breakfast tea in a pan of hot water. After cooling the infusion, he added plum juice to give the drink a little sweetness and acidity and chopped ginger for a little spice. He topped off the cocktail with the Absolut Vodka. This light cocktail, with its slightly numbing, gingery heat, paired especially well with the bright, fruit-forward ceviches.
New York City apartments don’t allow for excessive kitchen gadgetry. So, most of Sasso’s utensils and kitchenware had to perform multiple functions. For a second cocktail, Sasso smashed whole, Concord grapes in a French press with grape and apple juices that he had found at the market.
True to his word, Sasso finished lunch within an hour and a half, leaving us a nice, long afternoon to chat and linger over food and drink. The only thing missing was that piece of cake.
Kevin Adey (“pronounced like the number ‘eighty,’” he told me) hopes to keep his carbon footprint as narrow as possible. Most restaurants go through hundreds of animals each year just to use select parts. But, in the restaurant in which Adey works, he limits himself to only twelve cows and twenty-four pigs each year. “This forces us to use as much of each animal as possible. If you want pork chops, we’ve only got a few each week. Rib-eye? We only serve it every other week.” His customers appreciate this mindfulness. “I’m lucky to have diners who eagerly explore and appreciate the less-popular parts of animals, which can be every bit as delicious as the more common cuts.” He intends to continue this minimalist approach to cooking in his own restaurant, which he hopes to open in his Bushwick neighborhood in a few months.
I spent a morning with Adey at the Union Square Green Market shopping for produce. Afterwards, we headed to his home in Brooklyn, where he cooked me two dishes and mixed me a couple of Absolut cocktails.
Adey arrived at the market with a short shopping list. “I like to keep things simple,” he said. First stop: fresh herbs. And after? Exploring a sea of garlic.
We hopped on the L Train with our produce and headed to Bushwick. Arriving back at Adey's Bushwick apartment, the first step was to pick through the fresh herbs.
Adey wanted to cook one dish that any home cook could easily reproduce. So he trussed a chicken, rubbed it with herbs, and roasted it in the oven, basting it with pan juices a few times. After the chicken turned golden brown, he took the bird out of the skillet and added potatoes and romanesco broccoli florets. He turned the vegetables in the hot fat until they took on some color and crisped up on the outside.
To pair with the roasted chicken, Adey made gooseberry bellinis. He started with a thick nectar made from gooseberries that he had found at the Union Square Green Market. The nectar, which was slightly oxidized shade of green, turned into a sunny yellow when he added the Absolut Vodka and topped the glasses off with Champagne. It was a bright and light drink for a mid-day meal.
For Adey’s second dish, he wanted to make something that every home cook could make, but probably wouldn’t attempt on a regular basis. “Freshly made pastas will be the centerpiece of the restaurant I’m opening. We’ll also have a wood-fired oven for roasting meats.” Adey, who was raised in an Italian family in upstate New York, loves making pasta. For our lunch, he rolled out sheets of velvety, yellow egg pasta, and cut them into wide strips of pappardelle.
Adey begins preparing one of the few components of a traditional ragù alla Bolognese: carrots.
Adey made a second Absolut cocktail to pair with the pappardelle. He started with ice and Absolut. He added some whole milk that he had purchased at the market, and topped off the drink with a healthy pour of homemade Irish cream that he had made from whiskey, coffee, and sweetened condensed milk.
One last grating of cheese over the steaming pasta. And the final meal was presented. Here, the roasted chicken with potatoes and romanesco is to the left, egg pappardelle with lamb ragù to the right.
Adey’s cooking and his cocktails were as simple as his short shopping list. But, as his dishes and his cocktails proved, simplicity doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor.
Raised in the South, and having lived and worked in Atlanta and Charleston, Brian Dunsmoor brings a uniquely Southern voice to the Los Angeles dining scene. Most-recently, he and his business partner Jonathan Strader mounted a successful pop-up. They’re currently working on opening their own restaurant on the “West Side” of the city.
I spent a morning with Dunsmoor and Strader at the bustling Santa Monica Farmers Market. Gregarious fellows, they seemed to know everyone who walked by. But between the high-fives and chats, we managed to pick up what we needed for lunch and two Absolut Vodka cocktails.
“I’m making a spicy cocktail to pair with a shrimp boil,” Dunsmoor said as he zeroed in on a crate of jalapeños.
“This guy has the best jarred olives.” Dunsmoor steered us towards a stand crowded with jars of all sizes. He plucked a tall, slim jar off the table. “Jalapeño-stuffed,” he said with a mischievous smirk, “I’m going make this cocktail really spicy.”
Dunsmoor knew he wanted to grill pork collar. So, we swung by the Peads & Barnetts stand. Oliver Woolley told me that his farm in Southern California is named after his family’s ancestral farm in England. “’Peads’ is a stream that ran through my grandparents’ farm, and ‘barnetts’ is an old English word for turnips,” he explained. Now, Woolley raises a special breed of hogs crossbred from Middle Whites and fatty Mangalitsas. Dunsmoor opened the coolers and rummaged around until he pulled out a beautiful cut of pork collar.
Seeing pumpkins, Dunsmoor became suddenly inspired: pork with pumpkin and carrots.
To complete the autumnal theme of the pork collar dish, Dunsmoor grabbed a bunch of fresh sage.
In the kitchen, the first thing Dunsmoor did was to chop up some jalapeños, put them in a mason jar, and topped it off with Absolut Vodka. He set the jar in the freezer to steep and chill.
Next, Dunsmoor dropped potatoes, andouille sausages, halved heads of garlic, and ears of corn into a pot of boiling water thick with Old Bay. At the last minute, he dropped in shell-on shrimp, killed the heat, and then put a lid on the pot to let the shrimp cook slowly. A few minutes later, he strained out the steaming shrimp boil, speckled with spice.
Dunsmoor ladled the chilled, chili-infused Absolut into a mason jar full of ice, and then finished it with a splash of jalapeño-stuffed olive juice. He paired this spicy Absolut Vodka drink with the shrimp boil. Together, with the savory spices in the shrimp boil sauce and andouille sausage, the cocktail was a fiery trip to the bayou.
Dunsmoor sliced the pork collar into thin cutlets and grilled them. He topped the meat with brown butter-glazed carrots and pumpkin with fried sage. The meat was surprisingly dark and very tender and fatty.
To pair with the hearty, nutty flavors of the pork collar, Strader made his version of the “Moscow Mule.” He piled crushed ice into a copper cup, filled it with Absolut, ginger beer, and a topped it with a generous squeeze of lime juice.
Dunsmoor’s pork collar with pumpkin and sage with Strader’s “Moscow Mule.”
Dunsmoor’s Southern heritage was evident in the dishes and cocktails he made for me. He turned otherwise humble ingredients into a hearty and flavorful fare, full of soul and spice. He looks forward to sharing more of his Southern, culinary roots with Los Angeles soon.
A child of Chinese immigrants and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, Mei Lin cut her teeth in the fast-paced kitchens of Las Vegas before landing in Los Angeles. This season, she’s hoping to prove herself on a competitive cooking reality show and, eventually, open her own restaurant.
We spent a morning walking the stalls at the Santa Monica Farmers Market where she delighted in the fresh produce. Afterwards, we headed to her friend’s home in Santa Monica to cook a couple of dishes and mix a round of Absolut cocktails for a leisurely, afternoon lunch in a quiet, courtyard garden.
With a bundle of asparagus in hand, Mei Lin surveyed a stunning sea of squash blossoms at the market. She was very discerning in the produce she chose.
Returning to a Santa Monica home, Mei Lin picked some Meyer lemons from a tree. Even though they were slightly unripe, they were still immensely fragrant.
Lin sandwiched whole sea scallops between double sheets of cheesecloth and sea salt. She zested both yellow lemons and Meyer lemons over the salt to lend a bright fragrance to the cure. She let the scallops cure for about half an hour.
Slicing the cured scallops into thin coins, Lin fanned them out onto a plate, along with a creamy wasabi-sunchoke purée. She garnished the scallops with curls of thinly sliced Granny Smith apples and parsnip chips. The dish was finished with tangy apple-yuzu vinaigrette.
To pair with the light, acidic flavors of the cured scallop dish, Lin made an Absolut gimlet. Replacing the traditional lime juice with yuzu juice, she also added simple syrup, cucumber juice, mint, and basil to the Absolut.
Lin’s gimlet had a milky, jadite color. She garnished her Absolut gimlet with fresh opal basil and sliced cucumbers.
For her second dish, Lin sliced yellow squash and asparagus thinly on a mandoline.
On a bed of bulgur wheat, Lin nested a coddled egg, wobbly with a runny yolk. She ringed the egg with the ribbons of squash and asparagus, and garnished the dish with sprouts and dollops of tofu-miso custard, which gave the dish a savory boost in flavor.
To finish, Lin added crisp, nori-flecked chips to her coddled egg dish, for a crunchy contrast.
Lin wanted something rich and robust to pair with her egg dish. So, she blitzed some kimchi in the blender, and then strained it through a sieve to smooth out the juice. To the kimchi purée, she added Wostercheshire sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, and one part Absolut Vodka. She garnished the drink with some spicy radishes, a marigold blossom, and a thick plank of cucumber. The velvety thickness of this drink, along with its color, tanginess, and spiciness resembled a traditional Bloody Mary remarkably. But with the kimchi, this version had a noticeably garlicky kick.
Lin finished her Kimchi Bloody Mary with a dash of sansho pepper.
Mei Lin’s Absolut gimlet, paired with cured scallops.
Mei Lin’s cooking, high in acid and heat, was representative of her Asian heritage. Her cured scallop dish, paired with a bright Absolut gimlet highlighted her restraint, producing subtle, but sophisticated flavor combinations. Her coddled egg with tofu-miso custard, served with a punchy kimchi Bloody Mary, showcased her ability to be bold and brassy in her cooking.
Shawn Gawle has worked in some of the best restaurants in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Although he started on the hot line, Gawle is probably better known for his more recent work as a pastry chef. He is now chef of a wine bar in San Francisco where he draws from his experiences on both sides of the kitchen.
Shawn and I met one Saturday morning at the Ferry Terminal Marketplace farmers’ market in San Francisco. We went early to beat the crowds. Afterwards, we headed to his loft apartment where Gawle cooked a dish and a dessert for me and mixed a couple of Absolut Vodka cocktails to pair.
Persimmon season was in full swing, and Gawle was delighted. “I’ll need a few super-ripe ones for one of my cocktails.” He picked through the pile, looking for persimmons so soft that they were almost collapsing under the weight of their own skin.
Navigating the bustling outdoor market, loaded with bags and sacks can be difficult. Having a cart helped tremendously.
The fresh produce at the Ferry Terminal Marketplace farmer’s market is always impressive. Not only are the fruits and vegetables pristine and perfect, but the variety is unbelievable as well. Gawle picked through over a dozen variety of table grapes.
Having cooked under a number of classically French-trained chefs, Gawle has a nice foundation in Old World dishes. Back in Gawle’s kitchen, he prepared gnocchi made from choux pastry. Nestling the gnocchi in a shallow gratiné pan, he added some par-cooked spaghetti squash, kabocha squash, roasted red peppers, and chorizo, and spooned over a layer of Mornay sauce. Mornay sauce is a Béchamel sauce with cheese added to it. Gawle added Comté cheese to his. He baked the casserole until the gnocchi were puffy and light, and the Mornay sauce went bubbly and golden.
To pair with the gnocchi gratiné, Gawle made a Persimmon-Ginger Smash. He peeled the skin off of the ripe persimmons we got at the market, and then pulverized them with a mortar and pestle.
In a cocktail shaker, Gawle combined the persimmon purée with grated ginger and Absolut Vodka.
The smash was thick and velvety, sweet and slightly spicy with ginger. He poured the cocktail over a large ice cube in a short glass.
Gawle garnished the cocktail with julienned persimmon and colorful amaranth.
To give the creamy gnocchi gratiné some textural contrast, Gawle sprinkled over it some crunchy, spiced spaghetti squash seeds.
For dessert, Shawn made a honey chibouste. He started with a pastry cream that he had made with crème fraîche and lemon juice. Then, he heated up some honey, almost to the point of caramelization. Whipping egg whites in a stand mixer, Gawle drizzled the hot honey into the mixer bowl to create an Italian meringue. When the meringue was fluffy and glossy, Gawle folded it into the pastry cream to create a light chibouste.
To pair with the chibouste, Gawle wanted to mix a cocktail that would be light, bubbly, and slightly dry to help cut through the sweetness of the honey and the richness of the chibouste. For this cocktail, which he named the “Absolut HRH Westside,” Gawle combined Absolut Vodka with a splash of Meyer lemon juice for tartness and a touch of simple syrup steeped with lemon verbena for a fragrant sweetness. He topped the cocktail off with Champagne, and then he floated a twist of Meyer lemon rind coated in gold leaf.
Gawle decorated the honey chibouste with some pomegranate seeds, slices of watermelon cucumber, toasted pine nuts, and lime zest. At the very end, he drizzled some fruity extra virgin olive oil over it all.
The finished “Absolut HRH Westside” cocktail together with Gawle’s honey chibouste.
I’m always amazed by how much chefs can accomplish in their tiny kitchens. Made with fresh produce from mindful farmers around the Bay Area, Gawle’s dishes and his cocktails were simple, yet elegant, and very flavorful.
Tucked away on the quiet, but breathtaking coast of the Monterey Bay Peninsula in Northern California is Justin Cogley. His career started not in the kitchen, but on ice. He was a professional figure skater for years. Touring rinks and arenas around the globe, he fell in love with the flavors of the cultures he encountered on the road. Hanging up his skates, he put on an apron and worked his way through some of Chicago’s Michelin-starred kitchens.
Now, just blocks away from the cold, frothy, surf of the Pacific Ocean, he has become a champion for sustainable seafood. I went with him to the small farmer’s market in Monterey to pick out some produce. He took me back to a gorgeous kitchen overlooking the beach in Carmel-By-The-Sea and cooked me a dish and mixed me a couple of Absolut Vodka cocktails. Afterwards, he moved our luncheon to the beach, where he raised a fire and cooked some more.
Kale was stacked from here to there. Cogley picked out a beautiful bundle of the greens at the local farmers’ market.
In California, tomatoes were still abundant in the waning days of October.
Persimmons, pluots, apricots, and more. Even this small farmers’ market offered an impressive variety of fruits and vegetables.
In the kitchen, Cogley sautéed big, fat porcini mushrooms in some olive oil. Deglazing the pan with some fruit vinegar, he added shallots and kale and let them simmer until wilted and tender.
To pair with the high, bright acidity in the porcini dish—which helped cut through the beefy, robust flavor of the mushrooms—Justin mixed two cocktails. The first, which he named the “Explorer,” combined Absolut Vodka, fresh lemon verbena, together with grapefruit and lemon juices.
The “Explorer” was tangy, with a thin line of acidity running through an otherwise well-rounded body of sweetness. To spice things up a bit, Cogley finished the drink with a dash of five spice.
Cogley’s second cocktail, the “Hidden Rose,” was a mix of Absolut Vodka, spiced apple cider, red apple-ginger simple syrup, and apple bitters. The result was light-colored cocktail, immensely fragrant with notes of apple blossom. Cogley garnished the dish with some bitter, spicy cress leaves.
Cogley set up a small campfire on the beach. He set a pot of water on the grill to boil and a skillet beside to heat up. In the pot, he cooked a lobster.
Splicing the cooked lobster lengthwise, Cogley set the giant, meaty crustacean aside for a moment to turn his attention back to the grill.
Cogley threw two ears of corn on the grill to char. To the skillet, Cogley added cherry tomatoes to blister, and then a pile of mussels to steam in the tomato juices.
Cogley reheated the lobster tails in the skillet, letting the tail meat soak up some of the tomato-mussel sauce.
To pair with the grilled corn and lobster, Cogley made a shaken cocktail that he dubbed the “Midwestern Beach,” owing to the corn purée in it. There were also apricot purée, a touch of elderflower liqueur, and Absolut Vodka. The cocktail looked like a sunset, with a frothy head and a warming heat from the dash of cayenne pepper Cogley sprinkled on top. The Midwestern Beach highlighted the age-old friendship between corn and lobster.
Cogley’s “Ocean Swell” was a fruity, frothy surf of lemon verbena, lemon juice, huckleberry puree, a touch of rum, some bitters, and Absolut Vodka. Shaken with an egg white, this fizz was finished with a succulent oyster leaf. Its purplish hue added a happy splash of color to our beach fare.
Focused on seafood from local waters, Justin Cogley’s cooking captures the best of the Monterey Bay Peninsula. He fills in the gaps with exquisite products from elsewhere – porcini from the woods, corn from the fields. And in everything, he injected as wonderful sense of adventure from his travels around the world.