What’s an “Optimalist”?
An optimalist is someone who strives for perfection, but knows full well they can never reach it – and they’re totally cool with that.
An optimalist eats well, but lives in reality.
Food, food, glorious food… I love it. I’m one of those guys – the ones that think about food all the time. We think about what’s for lunch while we’re eating breakfast, what’s for dinner while we’re eating lunch and what we’ll be having tomorrow while we sleep. I love it all. Touching it, smelling it, shopping for it (hands up people – who walks through the Union Square Greenmarket or Whole Foods and feels like they’re in church?). I also love waiting for it – anticipating it – the delicious anticipation of the change of seasons and the seasonality of food.
For example, let’s talk about tomatoes. While you can get tomatoes all year round I believe they’re really only worth having at the height of summer, like corn and cantaloupe. There’s no point in eating a tomato in December or a peach. And for that matter, who serves cream of potato soup in July? Come on – you know who you are – you big local restaurant chain that serves lots of “cheesecake”. Frankly, I’ll never understand the whole heavy, thick, cream of soup in July thing. Thick creamy soups are for the winter time along with slow braised short ribs and cheesy baked ziti and chocolate spiked chili. In fact, the only food that I think should be eaten all year round is ice cream. And so, this blog will follow the seasons – to a point. I mean let’s not go all militant and crazy here. After all there is no wrong time to eat something you truly love. I’m just saying you get the most bang for your buck by maximizing mother nature.
And this blog will take shortcuts. Not everything will be made from scratch – why should it? There’s not a chef out there worth his salt who doesn’t think that the best ingredients make for the best dishes. And I believe that mantra extends past just raw ingredients into the realm of the prepared. This is the optimalist kitchen after all. And that means we’re often looking for maximum taste with minimum toil. Let’s look at it this way – I can make pesto sauce, I have made pesto sauce, but I’ve also gone a couple/ten miles out of my way to stop at this truly authentic Italian deli and market that makes theirs from scratch and it’s really, really good. Different than mine, but really darn good. So why not use it for a mixed grill with orzo pesto & sweet summer corn? Especially if it’s a Wednesday night and you’ve still got a couple hundred things to do before it’s time for the little one’s bath & bed. Now, I’m not talking about some bottled, sittin’ on the shelf for two years at a second rate supermarket sauce. I’m talking about the good stuff. The optimalist eats well, but lives in reality. Sometimes the most integral part of cooking is shopping.
And another thing – we likey leftovers. We likey them very much. In fact, I might go as far as to say that cold pizza, second day spaghetti and leftover lo mein are some of the most wonderful things in the world. And while I’m not shy about grabbing one of last night’s pork dumplings straight out of the fridge – cold and beautifully congealed, dipped in sauce and squirted with sriracha (come on, who’s with me here?) the real trick is being able to repurpose leftover sauces, sides and proteins into new and exciting dishes. If I’m making slow braised short ribs on Sunday night you can be sure that on Tuesday or Wednesday we’ll be having short rib ravioli with brown butter or a short rib sandwich with melted cheddar and caramelized onions or… You get the picture.
So anyway, that’s what I think, well, some of what I think. And this is my food blog. And this is where I plan to distill almost 20 years of restaurant industry experience in every job from busboy to bartender, cook to captain. And if you’d like to join me we’ll shop together and prep together and cook together and enjoy the best of what the food world can offer us together. And we’ll follow the basic principles above as best we can and we’ll make the rest of it up as we go along.
Thanks again and welcome.