Chef Michael Schlow on His New Restaurant, Peruvian Fusion + Why Boston Is So Beyond Clam Chowder

The savory, crispy chip made from hazelnuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano that chef Michael Schlow was toiling to get just right for this month’s opening of his third outpost of Alta Strada in Washington, D.C., may be his very latest culinary triumph. But, in a larger sense, Schlow, a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef in the Northeast, has helped change the dining profile of what are considered two of the seaboard’s stodgiest cities. With a recent ninth feather in his toque that also includes Latin cuisine at Tico restaurants in D.C. and his adopted hometown of Boston, his newly opened Greek restaurant, Doretta, and a cutting-edge late-night fusion menu, he’s come a long way from cracking eggs as a kid.

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What’s your earliest cooking memory?
My mother allowing me to cook omelets for my brother and sister. She would be at work, and I would “experiment” on them with my cooking, making horrible concoctions and then forcing them to eat the omelets, no matter how gross.

You’re from Brooklyn — and New York is one of the world’s culinary epicenters — why stay based in Boston?
Boston has been home for more than 20 years, and I love living here; we have great friends, a terrific food community, and the city has so many amazing attributes that I can’t really imagine living anywhere else.

You obviously witnessed a local culinary evolution of sorts; do you think Bostonians are more adventurous these days?
Bostonians are definitely into their food and their chefs — the days of cod, baked beans, and chowder defining Boston cuisine are over for sure! We have so many diverse and interesting restaurants to choose from now that it’s a world-class food destination with some of the best chefs in the country.

Speaking of diversity, how do you transition to different types of cuisine given the fact that you have Italian, Latin, Greek restaurants … do you have a favorite?
I don’t have a favorite, but if you were to come to our house, I’d probably serve simple Italian food.

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Can you give us a sneak peek of something you may be up to — Peruvian, perhaps?
We are working on a few really fun things right now. I’m excited about the Nikkei late-night menu that’s a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese at Tico Boston. It’s really interesting food and totally cures any late-night cravings. [Served 10PM-1AM Thursday-Saturday, recent offerings include crispy short rib gyoza with panca, toasted onion, and sesame.]Continue Reading

5 Delicious Brunch Trends to Plan your Weekends Around

Two scrambled eggs with a side of toast? Think again. Breakfast moves from the ordinary to the extraordinary with exciting and inventive brunch options that pack a punch. So whether you’re looking for breakfast punch and want to nurse a large-format cocktail, or need to knock out a hangover with indulgences like breakfast poutine crafted from hand-rolled tater tots, there are new brunch trends being served in your neighborhood.

Chilaquiles

Almost as much fun to say as it is to eat, this Latin dish of shredded tortillas, egg, crema, and beans rolls off the tongue as “chee-lah-KEE-lehs.” Though it may not be the easiest to pronounce if you’re nursing a hangover, it is the perfect cure for one, says Chris Cullen, manager of Barrio Mexican Kitchen & Bar. The restaurant serves up a new version of chilaquiles daily depending on what’s in season, but recent versions include green-chile-braised pork with asparagus cream sauce; chipotle-braised chicken; and spicy habanero crema. No matter what’s in them, it’s easy to describe this winning combination as “breakfast nachos” to the uninitiated, says Cullen, who recently spent time vacationing in Guadalajara to research just how authentic those at Barrio are. “The similarities were striking,” he says.

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Eggs Shakshouka

Whether it’s food or music, Beat Brasserie in Cambridge and its sister restaurant Beehive in Boston’s historic South End make it a point to jazz things up, and the shakshouka is no different. The traditional Middle Eastern dish of poached eggs baked in a spicy North African tomato sauce with polenta and Moroccan sausage is served at both restaurants, as is a side of live music for the Sunday brunch service. Chef Daniel Boulud gets into the game where the Mediterranean meets Manhattan at Boulud Sud, serving up shakshouka with spicy green harissa sauce, labneh, and a soft-poached hen egg.

Brunch Trends

Tater Tots

Push those home fries to the side—there’s a new spud in town. Tater tots have moved far beyond what’s been frozen in a bag to the downright gourmet, including the 1,000 hand-shaped tots Marc Taft serves up weekly as executive chef and owner of Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, Georgia. The most popular brunch dish there, whether for sharing or indulging, is his tater tot poutine that combines a Canadian staple with upscale Southern comfort food: Springer mountain chicken roasted and hand-shaved, caramelized Vidalia onions, and garlic-and-thyme-roasted mushrooms topped with chicken gravy made from homemade stock and cheese shredded in-house. Northward in Baltimore, Alexander’s Tavern puts a morning spin on their specialty — gourmet tots — with a breakfast bowl featuring fried potatoes, bacon, sausage, cheese, and a bit of sweet maple syrup to offset the savory.

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Best Brunch Cocktails: Go Beyond the Basic on Mother’s Day

Sorry, plain Jane Bloody Mary; you’re just way too basic these days. That goes for you, too, champy and OJ! Mixologists are creating radical cocktails that seriously raise the bar when it comes to midday imbibing. We’re talking cocky concoctions to boost your lobster benny – and your spirits (as well as mom’s) on Mother’s Day and beyond. Here are delish sips of spring in the form of the best brunch cocktails you need to drink this weekend.

The Ruby Soho, Left Bank, New York, New York
The Ruby Soho cocktail is deftly mixed by head bartender Claiborne Fortenberry, who combines grapefruit and pink peppercorn-infused tequila (made in-house), Pamplemousse liqueur, fresh lime, and a salt rim for a super-fresh day drink. Goes especially well with the eggs Benedict, don’t you think? Make a reservation at Left Bank.

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Eiffel Affair, Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Eiffel Affair is the best-selling “new classic” cocktail served at the Eiffel Tower in the desert and features fresh berries macerated in Stoli Blueberi Crème de Cassis, Cointreau, and Rose Nectar. It’s topped off with a splash of Eiffel Tower Cremant for added effervescence. Make a reservation at Eiffel Affair.

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Bloody Bull, Momofuku CCDC, Washington, D.C.
Grab the horns and order The Bloody Bull. Made with vodka, tomato, horseradish, and beef broth, the beef broth stars beef shank and oxtail, and is also used in CCDC’s Beef Noodle Soup. The cocktail, served only during weekend lunch, pairs particularly well with Momofuku’s Twice-Cooked Pork Noodles with maple fish sauce vinaigrette and the Scrapple, Egg, and Cheese steamed buns. Make a reservation at Momofuku CCDC.

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Citrine, Harvest Table, St. Helena, California
Lead bartender Joel Pfeifle mixes unique, non-spirit based cocktails — many of the ingredients are sourced from the inn’s five culinary gardens — but these certainly aren’t your garden-variety cocktails. Top brunch libations include the Strawberry Belle (Mirabelle Brut, Strawberry Shrub, Garden Mint Syrup, Lime Juice), The Pampered Moose (Giffard Pamplemousse, No. 209 Gin, Grapefruit Oleo, lemon juice), and the Citrine (sparkling wine, garden mint syrup, fresh squeezed orange, bitters). Make a reservation at Harvest Table.

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The Lunchbox, Farmer & The Seahorse, San Diego, California
A seashell’s fling from the beach in San Diego’s Torrey Pines neighborhood, the status cocktail at celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s restaurant is called The Lunchbox — made with Mama’s Lil Pilsner beer, Peach liqueur, and freshly squeezed orange juice. It is the perfect pairing to the brunch menu’s duck confit and waffles or the pastrami-style pork belly hash. Make a reservation at Farmer & The Seahorse.

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Asparagus Negroni, Davio’s, Boston, Massachusetts
The Asparagus Negroni (Cynar, Stoli Vodka, Peychaud’s bitters, orange bitters and muddled asparagus) is a nod to the star of springtime. And, it’s a perfect complement to Davio’s brunch menu, including specials like the Beef Tenderloin with poached eggs, potatoes, popover, and truffle hollandaise. Make a reservation at Davio’s.

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Bashment Punch, Solomon & Kuff’s Rum Hall, New York, New York
Known for its almost 100 varieties of rum and a monthly reggae brunch, it’s no shocker that co-owner and mixologist Karl Franz Williams chose to channel the islands when he created his fruity Bashment Punch — a Caribbean-inspired libation of rum, pineapple juice, mango puree, lime juice, and orange bitter. Bonus: Sip it to up your daily fruit intake. Make a reservation at Solomon & Kuff’s Rum Hall.

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Millennial Mimosa, CUCINA enoteca, Newport Beach, California
Mimosas are to brunch what beer is to baseball — traditional, but kinda boring. Meet the millennial mimosa! The ingredients are rolled on a cart to your table and a more exciting mimosa is prepared just for you. You’ll have your choice of mixers, purees, and garnish, and the ingredients are seasonal, including pineapple-blood orange, vanilla bean, Meyer lemon, strawberry jalapeno, pomegranate peach, rosemary ginger pineapple, candied ginger, blueberries, rosemary sprigs, blackberries, fresh strawberries, and pomegranate seeds. Make a reservation at CUCINA enoteca.

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The Board, Nick & Toni’s, East Hampton, New York
Brunch in the Hamptons, such a chic chill. Wait, what, your bloody is bland, not enough horseradish? Or, hot sauce? Oh, bloody hell, you hate to send it back—what will the Seinfelds think? Or Billy Joel? Such a high maintenance brunchster you are. Nick and Toni’s has your back. They call their brunch Bloody Mary cocktail, “The Board” and describe it as “a drink, a snack and an activity.” The way it works: Pick a liquor (house-infused sweet pepper-onion-and basil-infused Absolut, hot pepper and peppercorn Absolut ,or Maestro Dobel Tequila, choose a mix and and garnish away – and toss in a few condiments to your tasting. Special Stuff: Pickled green garlic from the garden will be rotated into the Bloody Board lineup, too. Make a reservation at Nick & Toni’s.

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P-Town Punch, Sabio on Main, Pleasanton, California
The “deceptively light and fruity” P-Town Punch cocktail served at this newbie restaurant packs a lot of punch — Pisco, Strawberry-Rhubarb Gum Syrup, fresh lemon juice, and a strawberry garnish. The cocktail plays well with menu items like the Hamachi “Nicoise” salad and Eggs Benedict, and, thanks to the acid that is needed to cut through fat, the cocktail can also stand up to bigger flavors like the Liberty Duck Croque Monsieur and burgers. Make a reservation at Sabio on Main.

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Muddy Waters, Geraldine’s, Austin, Texas
Named for the father of Chicago blues music, the Muddy Waters cocktail (Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Averna, Orgeat syrup, cold brew coffee, condensed milk, and nutmeg) is a boozy coffee cocktail that harmonizes well with Geraldine’s Brioche French Toast and Smoked Short Rib Tacos. Make a reservation at Geraldine’s.

Muddy Waters - Photo credit Aubrie Pick

Buffalo Soldier, South Water Kitchen, Chicago, Illinois
Order the Buffalo Soldier (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, egg, maple syrup, two strips crumbled bacon, Peychaud’s Bitters, powdered sugar, and bacon strip garnish), expertly mixed cocktail from by head bartender Dan Rook, and you’ve basically got a beautiful brunch in a glass. Make a reservation at South Water Kitchen.

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Brunch Punch III, Hearth, New York, New York
East Village weekend brunchers get punch drunk with the Brunch Punch III, a brunch-only cocktail that stars Four Roses Bourbon, Atsby, Cocchi di Torino, and blood orange. Order it alongside one of Hearth’s delicious spring brunch dishes like the seasonal vegetable frittata. Make a reservation at Hearth.

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I-5 High Five, Café Eugene, Albany, California
The I-5 High Five (gin, Oregon Marionberry Liqueur, California spiced pear brandy, lemon, rosemary) gives Café Eugene’s cheesy grits with tomatillo-braised pork shoulder, chayote, butternut squash, wild herb sauce and a poached egg a perfect boost. Or, if it’s pancakes you crave, order the Duck-Duck-Punch (rum, orange, carrot, lime, pomegranate, falernum, Oregon chai, nutmeg) and the sweet yogurt raspberry pancakes with orange butter and Vermont maple syrup. Make a reservation at Café Eugene.

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Have your Pancake and Eat It, Too: 12 Acceptable Ways to Eat Dessert for Breakfast

Order a slab of layer cake or a hot fudge sundae for breakfast and garner more than a few raised eyebrows, but ask for an equally indulgent tiramisu or bananas foster in the form of your typical brunch fare and suddenly it’s totally fair game. “You want the crème brûlée? What kind of … oh, the crème brûlée waffles. Excellent choice!” This weekend, gather with friends for an unhurried morning meal and treat yourself to a sweet plate that practically comes with a certificate for one free nap afterward. These decadent dishes go beyond the usual waffles, pancakes, and french toast for a distinctly dessert-like take on brunch. Live the dream and order dessert for breakfast!

The Little Lion, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This Old City eatery named after Alexander Hamilton reinvents a Southern dessert favorite with an unforgettable breakfast feast. For their Red Velvet French Toast, a cheesecake spread is sandwiched between layers of chocolatey bread and comes with a side of raspberry maple syrup for dipping or drenching. Our founding fathers would be duly impressed. Make a reservation at The Little Lion.

Dessert for Breakfast

Max Brenner, Boston Massachusetts
At this chocolate lover’s mecca, there’s an entire section of the menu dedicated to a sweet brunch. You’ll find treats like White Chocolate Cream French Toast, Illegal Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Pancakes, and the aptly named After Party Belgian Waffles. Two hot waffles are the backdrop for balsamic strawberries, strawberry honey, melted white chocolate, and a healthy (sized) scoop of whipped cream. Take a cue from the name and order these after a late Saturday night — chocolate is a surprisingly powerful cure-all. Make a reservation at Max Brenner.

Dessert for Breakfast

La Sirena, New York, New York
The fluffy Amaretti Mascarpone Pancakes at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s newest Italian restaurant — their first to serve breakfast — have actual amaretto cookies shaved on top for a nicely sweet, nutty flavor. What’s the opposite of a short stack? We’ll have that, per favore. Make a reservation at La Sirena.

Dessert for Breakfast

Proof on Main, Louisville, Kentucky
This isn’t your grandmother’s casserole. Unless, of course, your grandmother’s recipe calls for liberal scoops of nutella and marshmallow. At this airy, art-filled space inside Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel, chef Mike Wajda makes a French Toast Casserole with everyone’s favorite chocolate hazelnut spread, marshmallow fluff, and a hazelnut crunch for an indulgent spin on the classic breakfast staple. Make a reservation at Proof on Main.

Dessert for Breakfast

Siena Tavern, Chicago, Illinois
In an effort to incorporate the restaurant’s beloved Tiramisu on the brunch menu at chef Fabio Viviani’s bustling Italian eatery, pastry chef Amy Arnold dreamed up the Tiramisu French Toast. With espresso-soaked brioche, marsala cream, and white chocolate, chef Arnold describes it as “your morning coffee and a day’s worth of dessert all wrapped up into breakfast.” Translation: there’s coffee in here, so it’s the perfect way to kick start your day. Make a reservation at Siena Tavern.

Dessert for Breakfast

Avenue Kitchen, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania
This stylish, sunny bistro takes the best part of the quintessential French dessert — the entire thing — and places it atop a perfectly fluffy Belgian waffle. Chef Gregory Smith whips up a vanilla bean crème brûlée, then torches the sugary top to create the signature crisp, caramelized coating. Custard fills the pressed pockets, and with every decadent bite you’ll wonder why all French restaurants don’t offer their crème brûlée on a waffle. Make a reservation at Avenue Kitchen.

Dessert for Breakfast

Isla, Austin, Texas
Austin’s own Caribbean cantina serves up a sweet island-inspired brunch, complete with Bananas Foster French Toast. Chef de cuisine Alex Hughes explains, “Who doesn’t want dessert for breakfast? Ever since I was young, bananas foster has been a go-to for me. Now everyone can enjoy the best of both worlds.” To recreate the classic dessert, chef Hughes uses housemade brioche, sliced bananas, and Pilar rum caramel sauce. Paired with one of Isla’s signature brunch cocktails (the Goodie Goodie Rumdrop, perhaps?), it’s a recipe for a carefree, breezy kind of Sunday. Make a reservation at Isla.

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