november’s cold chain
made of wet boots and rain
and shiny black ravens
on chimney smoke lanes
november seems odd
you’re my firing squad*
magazine junkies are addicted to this medium because of the unique DNA that comes through on the slick pages. similar to other media, magazines deliver information. but we also inspire by reporting on lifestyle trends; showcasing big, beautiful images rich in color; and telling stories in creative, deep, long ways. even for those of us whose phones are attached by umbilical cord, there’s nothing like 2500 words elegantly wound around some intriguing story. perhaps that’s why so many novelists moonlight as magazine writers and vice versa.
michael ruhlman is one such writer. in a chef-obsessed culture such as ours, ruhlman has made his name through
21 books decoding the chefs—and the cooking—that fill the pantheon of the most ambitious kitchens. thus there was no better person for us to bring on to interview the woman who recently decoded the rest of the house. stephanie danler’s sweetbitter traces the story of tess, who enters the strange and sophisticated world of restaurants as a backwaitress, one of the most punishing jobs in the business. but the story is really about being young in new york city, with the whole world opening outside your window and willingly taking the abuse of a menial job just for a taste of it. danler wrote a unique coming-of-age tale set in the chiaroscuro of the culinary world, but the book exploded on the literary scene because of her honest, relatable approach. ruhlman coaxed danler’s backstory out of her for us and the result is two great storytellers sitting around talking about storytelling. (ok, the lurid over-sexed side of the restaurant world is also a part of it.)
like its predecessors (ruhlman’s the making of a chef, bourdain’s kitchen confidential) sweetbitter draws a connection between the impact of great food and other experiences. the meticulous, crazed nature of the chef is articulated on a plate that transports the guest on a supremely satisfying sensorial odyssey akin to creative processes like art, music or architecture.
the latter is what enrique olvera thinks may be his misbegotten profession. lovers of mexican food are probably familiar with olvera’s cosme, the manhattan restaurant that’s been collecting accolades since it opened. the chef-creator is a believer in the fundamentals, carefully curating every ingredient of the food and drink on his menus, as well as the details that make up the dining rooms. the scrupulousness olvera developed in mexico city at his pujol (consistently appearing on the diners club “world’s 50 best restaurants”) that he refined at cosme will likely be front and center at his eagerly anticipated atla, opening in noho any minute.
continuing the elementary theme, our 17 things to eat right now returns. this annual segment is our marshaling of the best dishes we’ve encountered across long island in the past 12 months. it’s a chance to eat through the island’s diverse cultural offerings (beef pho, mexican street corn, moroccan chicken…) at the wide swath of venues contributing to the scene. we also take a moment to meditate on the evolution of the industry. the yen for sourcing food from the region’s farmers that took off a few years back has prompted more farms and CSAs to sprout up in unsuspecting places. added to that, artisanal bakers and craftsmen are applying locavore principles to things like spirits, breads, pizza and fast slow-food (medium food?). the food that feeds us looks at the emotional commitment of food purvey- ors to motivate changes in the industry we can all sink our teeth into.
the air may be chilling and the year’s end may be nigh, but our november issue offers plenty to dig in to. bon appétit.
stick your spoon in the wall!*
* “november,” tom waits