I didn’t get to Tallula in time to see Nathan Anda do some butchering. But the former Tallula chef, who’s heading up the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s cured-meat initiative, Red Apron, had plenty to show me.
Tesa. Guanciale. Umbrian. Bresaole. Saucisson sec. Chorizo. Anda lists everything in the cooler in flat, Midwestern tones. Anda makes them all and does all the butchery. Here’s a tray of meat to be ground, twice, for NRG restaurants. It’s ground twice because Frank Morales likes it that way—-it emulsifies better on the hot grill.
Anda takes me into another cooler. Here’s the beef—-ribeyes for Rustico, shanks for Vermilion, New York strips for here. These “money cuts,” as Anda calls them, line the top tier of shelves that also hold tubs where pastrami brines, lamb prosciutto cures, and bresaola brines itself in its own juices in vacuum packs. There’s head cheese. Pancetta. More chorizo. Here are pastrami short ribs, an experiment, though since Anda says “it’s not really short rib season”, those are awaiting a killer app. They’re next to some briskets brining, some capacolla curing. Feel how firm that lamb bresaole is. Freaking firm! Bottom rounds. Head cheese. Top rounds for sandwiches and jerky. Hot dogs. Rib eyes. “I gotta slow down,” Anda says.
Barry Koslow, Tallula’s new chef, would very much like to find the lid to the blender. It’s his third week in the job, and he’s still finding out where everything is. Right now he’s working on tonight’s special dessert—-a strawberry shortcake made with some fantastic strawberries that came in from…South Carolina? Josh Short had some from North Carolina, I say. These are the same ones, says Koslow.
He finds part of the lid and blocks the hole on top with a towel. This is not a good solution for making soup, Koslow says. He’s making the mint oil that, with black-pepper mascarpone, will complete the strawberry shortcake. Koslow’s just written Tallula’s spring menu. He walks past the garde-manger. “She’s wondering, What’s he gonna change next,” Koslow says. He’s the third chef at Tallula since it opened. Has he had trouble with the staff? He doesn’t have trouble with people under him, Koslow says. “I’ve worked for some hard people to work for.”
A few blocks away, Dischord House, Ground Zero for 60 percent of vegetarian conversions between 1985 and 2003, sits quietly and, it must be said, ineffectively.