Delicious Detox—Nourish Kitchen + Table

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

The most fit and happy cooks will tell you their secret is simply to make healthy meals taste as good—or better—than their favorite indulgences. But for those of us who are intimidated by cooking at home, getting off to the right start can be a struggle. Cue Nourish Kitchen + Table in New York City’s West Village.

  Weekender Entree Salad

Weekender Entree Salad

The shop grew out of nutritionist Marissa Lippert’s work with her clients; she saw the need for a healthy takeaway shop that provides the “comfort of a kitchen away from home.” Nourish has expanded that mission to include a few eat-in tables with views into an open kitchen, offering the friendly calm one hopes for (but too seldom finds) in the city’s many coffee shops.

On the subject of caffeine, Nourish offers top-notch Counter Culture coffee and Harney & Sons teas, but serious detoxers will appreciate Lippert’s custom line of juices and smoothies. Among them, a green juice for the vegetable juice-averse, spruced up with a bright splash of grapefruit, pineapple and the mild heat of jalapeno.

  Detox Salad and Frittata

Detox Salad and Frittata

But the drinks are only a drop in Nourish’s nutritional bucket. From the savory side of the menu, we sampled a raw kale “detox salad”. With exotic flavors and diverse texture (sesame oil, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, almonds, pear and watermelon radish), this is far from your average health food. A second “weekender entree” salad—chock-full with crispy duck confit, dried cherries, sunflower seeds, sliced radish, tarragon, parsley, scallion and candied orange peel—offered similar complexity, growing more exciting with each bite.

  Black Quinoa Salad, Roasted Chicken and Sunchokes

Black Quinoa Salad, Roasted Chicken and Sunchokes

In short, the deprivation most people associate with “detoxing” is the antithesis of Nourish Kitchen’s mission. The menu tends toward Middle Eastern flavors, similar to the style of celebrated Israel-born chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. Though the dishes change with the quality and seasonality of local produce (as well as Marissa’s creativity), each plate consistently includes bright and bold flavors. For example, the shop always offers a roasted chicken recipe (when we visited, lacquered with date syrup and spices). Its sticky, caramelized glaze paired perfectly with roasted sunchokes and a black quinoa salad with walnuts, sundried tomatoes, parsley and edamame. It was a sweet, earthy feast that both top chefs and personal trainers would enjoy.

The menu doesn’t stop at satisfying dinners. For brunch, a rotating cast of veggies fill a fluffy frittata—the ideal way to refuel after an intense morning workout (or a long night out). And for those with a sweet tooth, you can’t miss “Bebe’s coconut macaroons”, snowballs of shaved coconut with a crispy crust and moist, sticky interior (naked or dipped in dark chocolate).

  Bebe’s Macaroons and Sweet Potato Bundt Cake

Bebe’s Macaroons and Sweet Potato Bundt Cake

Among the other sweets we sampled: “Persian” wedding cookies and a sweet potato bundt cake. Light and crumbly, the former are inspired by traditional mexican wedding cookies, with the middle eastern twist of pistachio and rosewater. The bundt was dense, moist, laced with chocolate shavings and topped with a subtle orange glaze. It was the kind of cake that literally melts in your mouth, but had a grounded sweetness that wouldn’t prompt a sugar spike.

If dessert doesn’t get your heart racing, the small, expertly curated shelves of aspirational kitchenware will easily seduce you. Stocked with exceptional everyday objects—from cookbooks, to design-driven dishware and even Lior Lev Sercarz’s celebrated spice blends—it’s the ideal place to pick up a special gift for friends.

nourish_6&7.jpg

In short, there’s a lot going on in Nourish’s small space, and the brand’s ambitions continue to grow. Lippert has already launched a catering division and has future plans for an online boutique. Yet no matter the number of moving parts, her end result is wholly coherent: diverse dishes that play extraordinarily well together and an eccentric, but clean design aesthetic.

Of all the shop’s assets, none surpass the rare experience of raving about plates that are as energizing as they are exceptional—digging in, not with guilt, but with good intentions. In that sense, Nourish Kitchen + Table couldn’t be more aptly named. For your eyes, mouth, mind, body—and soul—it is a deeply satisfying experience. So don’t just come for the takeout. Stay a while, and indulge in the rewards of your resolutions.

eater's digest: martha

There are few restaurants where I would advise diners to order both curry and creme brûlée. And yet, at Martha in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I enthusiastically recommend indulging in both dishes.

Having refined his culinary chops at Michelin-starred establishments and underground supper clubs alike, Chef Andres Valbuena serves up a multi-cultural menu that riffs on cuisine from all corners of the globe. What’s more, he pulls this mish-mash off without a whiff of pretension.

Let’s start with the cocktails. As a fan of heavy-on-the-bitters drinks, I was pleased to be steered towards the more subtle Double Trouble: a simple mix of dry vermouth, cocchi americano and orange bitters. It was a diner’s refreshment, perfect for pairing with a variety of plates (a cocktail virtue that is too often overlooked). The Apple Fizz was equally drinkable, with the mineral bite of a dry French cider.

Moving on to small plates, we opted to test out the fluke crudo. On first impression, the portion was doubly generous, paired with hijiki (an “al dente” seaweed with distinct umami flavor) and salmon roe. The dish’s salinity highlighted the fish’s exceptional quality, as well as the chef’s unassuming creativity—a trait similarly infused in the dishes that followed.

Next, a miniature cast iron pan of crispy brussel sprouts, so perfectly dressed that they fit every taste bud’s fancy. The plate-licking combination of sticky honey, funky fish sauce, pickled jalapeño and crunchy peanuts was nothing if not cravable. (In a city full of fresh takes on what used to be an abhorred vegetable, these are easily among the most addictive sprouts I’ve found.)

A steaming dish of congee might have seemed a bit of a curve ball, served alongside two remarkably juicy, skewered lamb meatballs. Yet this savory porridge could easily transfer to a hip Brooklyn brunch—indulgent enough to satisfy those who hit the drink a bit too hard, but subtle enough to please more wide-eyed, curious customers.

Three courses of shared plates deep, we had already encountered enough variety that our palates risked losing their footing. But then, a rock-solid dish of little neck clam green curry arrived—spiced, but not overly rich—to refresh and center our senses. The shellfish themselves were meaty and tender (an ode to local sourcing), while the curry offered heat and focused flavor.

Then arrived the fried chicken, a dish so beloved and contested in today’s restaurant culture that we couldn’t pass up a taste. Its crispy, intensely spiced batter was dressed with a honey-based spin on General Tsao. In fact, there are so many layers of flavor in this creative dish, it merits a culinary dissertation. Among them, my favorite detail, fermented black beans, offered an unexpected pop of earth and salt, hidden among the crevices of fried crust and sticky sauce.

Yet of all the rule-breaking that reigns in Martha’s kitchen, their creme brûlée was maybe Valbuena’s most daring move. Less a custard than an egg-rich spin on melted ice cream, this dessert was sloppy in all the best ways. The shatter of a substantially caramelized crust caused apple shards to fall into a pool of vanilla-laced cream, and we lapped up every bite like we hadn’t already eaten five courses.

In retrospect, it’s hard to make sense of such a shapeshifting restaurant. But the fact that Martha’s menu makes no claims to cultural authenticity is exactly what makes it exciting. Eliminating the boundaries of tested pairings and single region references, each dish becomes an expression of sheer creativity.

It’s a risky pretense—one that could lead as easily to clashes as coherence—but Martha never skidded off course. Just like the innovative residents that have fostered today’s Fort Greene scene, these zany dishes play together surprisingly well.

Martha
184 DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn
718-596-4147

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

eater's digest: take root

 Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

There are many labels you could apply to the tasting menu at Brooklyn's Take Root: farm-to-table, sustainable, seasonal. But these increasingly popular, conscious-consumer terms still miss the mark. For while this intimate—verging on tiny—restaurant is all of those things, it is, most importantly, attentive. Attentive in the sense that Chef Elise Kornack has an uncanny awareness of her ingredients and, in turn, encourages diners to take note of her unusual culinary perspective.

Amuse bouche

If it sounds like I'm gearing up to make a bold claim, I am. My meal at Take Root was the most texturally perfect series of plates that I've ever tasted.

Starting with the amuse bouche. A play on carrots and circles, combining caviar-like spheres with crunchy disks and a delicate puree. It was a leitmotif of flavor in a tiny bowl, a question of what is a carrot, and yet, easy to enjoy without considering any of this. The lingering flavor of incredibly fresh mint made this dish doubly worth the while.

Egg

Then came a soft boiled egg with paprika mayonnaise, pickled onions and mustard seeds, rustic bread and home-whipped butter. I've never been a big fan of deviled eggs, but I appreciated the contrasting textures of this more challenging deconstruction, particularly the mustard seed. As for the aerated butter, that deserves its own rave review.

Squid

Next was an appetizer of tender rings of calamari, delicate peppery arugula and crisp lady apples with creamy cranberry beans. It was mild, but still dynamic—the type of dish that is best appreciated on a fresh palate.

French onion soup

Then came a surprise course, an evolved French onion soup. The deeply flavorful, strained broth and wafter-thin pain de mie toasts with a smear of midnight moon gouda was a revelation. Food this thought-out is typically outside of the realm of craving. But if you asked me what I'd like to eat every day for the next month, I'd choose this soup.

A pause to recognize one of the other truly impressive parts of dining at Take Root—their playlist. Curated by Elise's partner, Anna, the mix of Joni Mitchell, Madeleine Peyroux and Alexi Murdoch (to name a few) perfectly fit the mellow space and pace of the meal. In a city where so many restaurants prefer rock and hip-hop, it highlighted Take Root as the exception, a more subtle escape from New York's hectic pace.

Egg noodles

Back to the menu, hand-rolled egg noodles arrived in a delicate sauce of sweet corn milk. Dotted among the coils were briny salmon roe, adding a savory counter flavor to the sweetness of the dish. The following course was a striped bass with shatteringly crunchy skin, tender baby eggplants and meyer lemon hollandaise. Despite its mix of unexpected ingredients, the dish was perfectly balanced. Neither the aerated hollandaise or creamy eggplant overpowered the flavor of the wild bass.

Striped bass

As the evening slowly unfolded, we reached the chicken course, which featured multiple cuts from the same animal. Feather-light croquettes deflated beneath their remarkably crispy crust, while the surprisingly gamey breast proved surprisingly moist. The liver mousse was my favorite of all, creating a funky contrast with the essence-of-grape intensity of the halved concords scattered around the plate.

Fleisher's chicken

For dessert, Elise presented an almond semifreddo—a reminder of what almond should taste like, with a light, silky texture to boot. And I couldn't get over the beautiful hue of the elephant heart plums, dragging the ragged, ripped sponge cake through the intensely colored, sweet-tart plum coulis.

Almond semifreddo

Though some dishes were more experimental than others, the multi-course tasting fit together like a patchwork quilt. With no national or cultural cuisine to stitch them together, Elise's unique perspective on cooking tied together the disparate dishes. The experience is unusually personal, clearly revealing the chef's hyper-focused palate and culinary intentions.

In a day and age when "foodies" troll reality TV and read Food Network Magazine for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of their favorite chef, it's refreshing to remember that much of what we want to know can be communicated on the plate. Like any great novelist or painter, true chefs need only provide the bearings inherent to their work. And while Elise and her partner Anna are happy to tell you more, the best part of the meal might be that they don't have to.

Take Root
187 Sackett St, Brooklyn
Thurs-Sat, 8pm seating