I just returned from a weekend of eating my way through New York. While we had a killer time eating very special things, I thought on several occasions: I eat better than this in Minneapolis. What?! But yes! I’ve been thinking this while on the last few trips I’ve taken, especially while eating pork dishes, which I declare: Minneapolis has conquered. If you’re a regular at Butcher & the Boar, Corner Table, Piccolo, Heartland, The Craftsman, The Bachelor Farmer, or Haute Dish—plus many, many other spots in town (name them below, if you like)—you are eating better pork than New Yorkers.
Yeah, I just said that.
In fact, the way last week played out for me now seems supernaturally designed to illustrate just this point. I was invited to the staff meal prepared by Doug Flicker of Piccolo Restaurant, to promote his inclusion in a new cookbook, Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants. Co-authors Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy spend two years traveling the world, enjoying staff meals (the meal served to restaurant staff before service) in 25 iconic restaurants. Any jealousy I felt about the authors’ terrific idea was wiped away by chatting at the dinner with Eddy, who is lovely and a bit in awe herself at what she and Carroll experienced and achieved.
Flicker’s staff meal was a buffet of rib-stickin’ Southern love, with piles of pulled pork, collard greens, red beans & rice, coleslaw, and cornbread. I meant to eat lightly, taste things, then go home to cook dinner for my family. Uh no. I saw the spread, squealed, and proceeded to pile my plate high, trying to take pictures while balancing the bounty, and tucked into some of the best pulled pork this pork lover has ever had. And collard greens! I confess that I also have a soft spot for collard greens, but these were such a treat. Even though the collards recipe is not included in the book, the recipes for Cast-Iron Cornbread with Maple-Bacon Butter, Celery Root and Almond Slaw, Mr. Pickle’s Pulled Pork with Johnny Two Socks’ BBQ Sauce, and Slow-Cooked Red Beans with Ham Hocks are included. Eddy generously shared the recipe for the collard greens, so armed with this, and the book, I have my next dinner party already planned.
A few days after the Piccolo staff meal, I sat my Minnesota self down at Red Rooster Harlem, the highly-acclaimed fusion-soul food restaurant of Aquavit chef Marcus Samuelsson. Back in the day, when Aquavit still graced Minneapolis, it was one of my favorite restaurants. I was seriously excited to eat my way through the menu at Red Rooster, but our meal was…not good. I’m not the only one who thought so—we were a group of eight disappointed diners—but I knew that I was very much comparing my meal to the staff meal at Piccolo, wishing I were back enjoying that meal…
So hey. I love you NYC, and I’ll be back soon to eat and be inspired and come back with a million ideas. In the meantime, I’ll be eating just beautifully in Minneapolis, thank you.
Linh Ho’s Collard Greens
Chef Doug Flicker, Piccolo Restaurant
6 strips applewood smoked bacon, coarsely chopped
1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. white wine
4 bunches collard greens, rinsed thoroughly to remove all residue, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a large saute pan over medium heat, sweat the bacon until it begins to release its fat. Add the onions and saute until the onions are translucent and the bacon is crispy. Deglaze with white wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the collard greens and saute for two minutes, stirring until the leaves are glistening. Add the stock, reduce heat to low, cover and gently simmer until the collards are tender, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic powder and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.