behind the knives: mardi miskit of brooklyn fork and spoon

Photos by Corry Arnold & Bethany Pickard

In just over a year, Mardi and her Brooklyn Fork and Spoon co-founder, Rebecka, have turned their amateur culinary ambition into one of the borough’s most celebrated supper clubs. I was lucky enough to attend their Greatest Hits Supper at a historic mansion in Clinton Hill, where I sampled some of the duo's best dishes to date. 

How did Brooklyn Fork and Spoon get its start?

Rebecka and I met through mutual friends and have always shared a love for cooking. Rebecka chronicles her delicious baked goods on her blog, and I have documented my passion for cooking for the past 2-3 years as well. With her sweet tooth and my love of all things savory, we always thought that it would be fun to collaborate on something.

We discovered the supper club scene through a friend’s site, Underground Dining NYC, and thought the concept was a perfect opportunity to join forces. But when we attempted to check out a few supper clubs ourselves, our RSVP's were often met with "sold out" emails (I now understand why). So we decided to just go for it. We organized a test run for ten of our friends, traded free dinners for website design, and crossed our fingers. Our friends provided us with some great feedback, and with a few tweaks, we announced our first supper to the public. Now, about a year and a half later, we just hosted our Greatest Hits Supper and met our 200th new face.

How do you think BK Fork and Spoon fits into or is different from the supper club “craze” of the past few years?

Many guests have commented that they enjoy our laid-back atmosphere, in comparison to other supper clubs they’ve attended, which we attribute to the crowds we attract. We also want to make our dinners affordable, despite our often high food and drink costs, so we suggest a $40 donation. The vegetarian aspect also attracts many people (even the carnivores!). Most people find us through word of mouth – previous guests or local press.

Is there an overall philosophy or style of cooking that you subscribe to?

Rebecka and I aren’t vegetarians, but we both eat mostly plant-based diets. (That said, neither of us will hesitate to indulge in a cheeseburger when the craving strikes.) We're also both huge cheese fiends. I actually don’t like using the word vegetarian to describe our supper club because I tend to associate the word with a lot of fake meat and soy products, which is not the kind of food we prepare.

At Brooklyn Fork and Spoon, I want to share my love for vegetables, grains and legumes and to show people how a meal can be incredibly satisfying without leaving you in a “food coma” (something that many guests have commented on and which brings a big smile to my face). I prepare all of the appetizers and main courses and Rebecka creates all of the desserts, fresh-baked bread or focaccia. We have very different cooking styles, but the meals always seem to fuse together nicely.

What do you wish you knew before starting your supper club?

That cooking a family-style dinner for a large group of friends is quite different from plating each dish in a restaurant format. In the beginning, sometimes timing between courses was a bit off, but it's a great new skill that both of us have since learned.

I also wish I knew that hosting a singles supper would not be as easy as it sounds. The RSVP's came pouring in from the ladies, but the guys proved to be shy, or just uninterested in an evening of food, wine and single ladies (what gives, fellas?). In the end, we reeled in some dudes, and - while there seemed to be more business networking than romantic connections - the evening proved to be a really fun experience.

What has been the most interesting or unexpected aspect of running BK Fork and Spoon?

I would have to say the fact that we've had an overwhelmingly positive response to our dinners. We set out to do this for fun, but, before we knew it, we were being listed in Brooklyn Magazine's “Top 20 Things to Do in Brooklyn This Summer”.  We now sell out suppers in minutes, and we couldn't be more grateful.

Any anecdotes from dinners gone-wrong or almost-gone-wrong?

At one of our very first suppers, one guest arrived with a less than happy look on his face. We thought he was going to ruin the entire evening, but, by the end of the night, he became the life of the party and even started a little dance party. If there's one thing we've learned over the past year, it's to keep the wine flowing. After a glass or two, the quiet ones start to open up, great conversations ensue, and new friendships are formed.

Advice for those who would like to start a supper club?

You have to love cooking and more importantly, love cooking for other people. Rebecka and I keep going simply because of our love for it. We find inspiration in meeting new people and watching new relationships form at our dinner table over a meal that we have put our all into.

What's next?

Once the cooler days kick in, we'd love to look into having a few outdoor suppers. We've done a few themed suppers (vegan, gluten-free, breakfast for dinner) and we look forward to throwing in some new twists. We'd also love to start doing some cheese and wine pairings, or perhaps some classes. If anyone is interested in collaborating or offering up their outdoor space to us, don't be shy!

Any preferred shops/markets that you source from?

We're lucky to have a great market down the street from us with tons of local produce and quinoa pasta (which I always cook with), so I often pick up much of our food from there. When I'm on the hunt for something more unusual, I'll bike over to the Greenmarket in McCarrenPark. I was desperate for red scallions for our last supper and, sure enough, I found them there.

When you do eat out, what are some of your favorite local restaurants?

One of my favorite little spots is a place in Greenpoint called EAT. It's a very small space that serves the most delicious, fresh and simple seasonal dishes. Of all the places I’ve eaten, it reminds me most of the foods we prepare at Brooklyn Fork and Spoon. Another favorite in Greenpoint is Calyer. Their poached parsnips with smoky yogurt and savory granola is one of the most unique and incredible plates I've ever come across.

Mardi was also generous enough to share her recipe for my favorite dish that evening, a beet purée that had even the beet-haters swooning.

Red Beet & Ginger Purée

Ingredients
  • 2 medium red beets
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 one-inch by two-inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable broth
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Greek yogurt (to top the purée)
Instructions
  1. Slice ends off of beets and wrap them individually in tinfoil.
  2. Place on a baking sheet in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees.
  3. Remove the beets from the oven, peel off the skin and slice into small pieces. Let cool for a few minutes.
  4. Add beets to food processor along with ginger, vegetable broth, olive oil and scallions. Blend until well pureed.
  5. Add the goat cheese and salt. Blend again.
  6. Pour mixture into bowls and top with a dollop of greek yogurt, a few extra scallions and a sprinkle of cracked pepper.
  7. Serve warm. Enjoy!

eater's digest: new taste of the upper west side (part 3)

Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending “Best of the West“, an event honoring legendary food critic Gail Greene. As suggested, the evening featured many of the tastiest establishments on the Upper West Side, regaling attendees with more of an fine dining feel than the previous evening’s “Comfort Classics.”

Seafood dominated the night’s selections, and undercooked was king. From crudo to cured, the fish was delicate and fresh across the board, but for me, there was one clear winner: the scallop crudo from Nick & Toni’s Cafe. Paired with just a dash of flake salt and a few firm, bright peas, this simple scallop stood out from the pack.

Another memorable selection was Gastroarte‘s “Tomato Six Ways.” Fresh, sundried and even gelatinized, chef Jesús Núñez’s take on the omnipresent fruit was an inventive reminder that there’s really nothing better than a spectacular tomato.

Yet if the aforementioned plates were refreshing departures from the realm of over-thought restaurant eats, it was two more intellectual plates that truly surpassed my expectations for the evening.

The first was Jean Georges‘ gorgeous avocado and asparagus salad. Creamy smashed avocado enveloped the most perfectly cooked asparagus my teeth have ever encountered. Tender, yet still al dente, the vegetable’s iconic bitterness that lasted just long enough to impart flavor, but vanished before becoming unpleasant. Topped with sorrel flower and toasted sesame seeds, the dish left a lingering nutty memento on the tongue.

The second was Dovetail‘s quail egg, cured carrot and chicken feed. The words “chicken feed” by no means enticed me, but these nutty, grains offered an exquisite chew  - definitely the best texture of the night. The quail egg also had a great, creamy mouth-feel, and the cured carrots offered a bright, acidic crunch.

And finally, a few more-than-honorable mentions:

  • Chef Michael Psilakis proved his worth in proteins…
    • with his moist, deeply flavorful Kefi meatball (the best meat of the weekend, in my humble opinion)
    •  and a perfectly balanced corvino crudo from Fishtag (impressive, considering the fish was paired with a bevy of potentially overpowering ingredients).
  • The Tangled Vine confirmed its reputation for winning seasonal eats, serving a cured mackerel and a medley of barely-cooked spring veggies.

    Fava Bean Raviolo, Nice Matin

  • Nice Matin‘s creamy fava bean raviolo had me rethinking my allegiance to all things al-dente

For more photos of the evening’s offerings, check out my profile on Instagram or this album on Facebook.

eater's digest: the publican

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo It was Easter morning, and early.  After a full weekend of eating at the hippest restaurants in town, the last thing my family needed to pack in before our 11 a.m. flight was a hearty brunch.  And yet, here we were, twenty minutes outside of the Loop, face-to-face with portraits of overstuffed swine, and feeling a bit pot-bellied ourselves.

Yet any sense of gluttonous remorse vanished during this almost-religious brunch experience.  The ambiance might be described as Amish-alternative, appropriate for only the hippest of post-prayer gatherings.  Boxed-in booths hid behind hinged, church pew-style doors, while a central U of sturdy, stylized banquet tables filled the core of the high-ceilinged space.  Tall-backed, numbered, wooden chairs with convenient sub-seat shelves only underscored the quirky-meets-functional vibe, as did the table's condiment-toting lazy susan.

This impressive, yet homey attention to dining-room decor was happily equaled - if not surpassed - in the kitchen.  From finger-lickin’-good pecan sticky buns (I should’ve ordered a batch to-go!) to rich red-wine poached eggs, the portions were perfect and the flavors on-point.  Not to mention that our food was beautifully lit by the soft morning light, streaming through curtains that looked like they were stolen from an elder's country home.  The all-around favorite, however, was the ridiculously addictive french fries with (what I can only assume was home-made) mayonnaise.  Normally a fair-weather fan of potatoes, I found myself stealing more than my share of my sister’s side of fries.

It could’ve been our lovely waitress, the quaint Sunday-best of our neighboring diners, or the sentimental sense that this was our last Chicago meal – but I’ve a feeling that I could’ve eaten that food blind-folded in a basement and still savored every bite.  The Publican is namely perfectly – relaxed and accommodating, with just a touch of posh perfectionism.  And if I were lucky enough to be heading back to Chicago this Easter weekend, it's exactly the place I'd choose for my final, pre-flight bite.

The Publican 837 West Fulton Market Chicago 60607 (312) 733-9555