As a birthday treat, Vince dragged me by my heels from under my rock and I ventured out of Harlem, and into the East Village, an old stomping ground.
At Ssäm Bar (and sitting at the bar), a favourite haunt - along with Momofuku - from long ago, I sipped a Celery Sour. And then we ate some of the nicest and most thought-provoking food I've had in a long while.
We really have been in seclusion during our Harlem year. Of course, when one can cook, forages for interesting ingredients and can shake up one's own cocktails, the edge is taken off cave life.
But. But: it's really, really good to drink someones else's drink, and to eat food on which you have had no influence and upon which you have never laid a hand.
The outstanding plate was one where scoops of smoked liver mousse sat on a crunchy bed of what looked like sand (I suspect it was supposed to be forest floor), but turned out to be bread crumbs toasted in brown butter, with...wait for it...pickled autumn olives, and topped with hen of the woods! See, it's like eating at home. But not. Our server called the autumn olives (Eleagnus umbellata) 'olive berries,' which is fine, but he also said the hens came from Oregon - not sure about that. They're a mushroom generally occurring east of the Rockies and are in season here now
Evan, he said, when I asked who the resident forager is. A quick Internet search makes that Evan Strusinksi. And this article makes very nice reading.
Go to Ssäm and eat that mousse. And don't order the bread to go with it. Completely unnecessary with those wonderful crumbs.
And no, don't skip the pork buns. That would be wrong.