This week in Food & Drink | Bleader

This week in Food & Drink



Veras Mackerel escabeche with romesco sauce
Mike Sula reviews Vera, the new Spanish wine bar from husband-and-wife team Mark (chef) and Liz (sommelier/front of the house) Mendez. Both Mendezes spent years at the 600-seat juggernaut Carnivale, but their new project eschews theatrics and size in favor of simplicity. There are no desserts, for example, just a selection of cheeses that when paired with some ham and a few glasses of wine could make a meal in itself. The menu's four additional sections—Fish, Bread & Butter, Vegetable, and Meat—supplement these with dishes such as mackerel escabeche "lightened and brightened" with romesco sauce, an unusual paella made with rabbit and sliced duck breast, vegetables like roasted turnips with espelette, and still more standout fish dishes. Sula was so won over that he doesn't even carp much about paying $6 for bread service, which in this case comes in the form of a boule with superior olive oil and a trio of compound butters, including duck crackling and goat butters.

Fresh cod milt

In Key Ingredient, Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar chef Duncan Biddulph is forced to contend with cod milt, that is, the male fish's sperm sac, complete with semen. Fortunately, while "it looks gross and it feels gross," Biddulph said, "it doesn't taste gross at all. It just kind of tastes like brandade." Inspired by a Japanese egg custard called chawanmushi, he made a savory custard with the milt, topping it with a salad of pickled shiitakes, toasted sesame seeds, ponzu vinaigrette, and microgreens and celery, all dotted with salmon roe. "Maybe we'll end up with a mutant, cod sperm and salmon roe," he joked. "Ugh, what have we created?" Next up is Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe, working with the whey cheese gjetost.

In Cocktail Challenge, Hot Chocolate's Luke LeFiles, challenged by Kris von Dopek with kimchi, put it through an extractor to form the base of a "hard-core" bull shot, the Malort Drinker's Breakfast. Made with mezcal, lime juice, veal stock, and celery bitters in addition to the kimchi "juice," it's served in a shot gloss rimmed with a spice mixture that includes ground dehydrated kimchi. "Would I drink it?" LeFiles asked. "Yes." He's challenged Brad Bolt of Bar DeVille with Manischewitz "or dude vodka, he can pick."