Professor Scott Anderson? Plus,Tapas at Tertulia

I got to sit in recently as Chef Scott Anderson of Elements delivered a command performance lecture-demo to Ph.D. candidates in the materials science program of Princeton University. Here’s my report, in the May issue of New Jersey Monthly, on that Ivy League school’s first foray into the world of food science.

NJ Monthly cover may13

Did I mention that the demo concluded with a four-course lunch that deliciously explicated such concepts as (ahem) pyrolysis vs. the Maillard reaction? Dessert was this playful take on chicken-and-waffles.

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The chicken comes in the form of chicken skin “crumble” (evaporated chicken skin, pulverized into a powder). It’s sprinkled over honey-maple waffles, which rest on a bed of sweet, pudding-like white hominy. Pecans and butternut squash ice cream finish the dish.

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For someone who prides herself on covering the Jersey food scene, I have been dining across the Hudson (and even the Potomac) a lot in recent weeks – and dining darned well. Here’s the first of several reports.

Tertulia

Open-fire rotisserie, from www.tertulianyc.com

Open-fire rotisserie, from http://www.tertulianyc.com

It took me way, way too long to make my first foray to this Spanish tapas place in the West Village that, within weeks of its 2011 opening, became a finalist for the James Beard Award as best new restaurant in the country. Here chef/owner Seamus Mullen (whose last gig was Boqueria and who has been a judge on “Chopped“) continues his love affair with Spain, which extends to the hard ciders of Asturias. At least two are available daily, poured from this good-looking tap:

Actually, all of Tertulia is good-looking, from the bar at the front of its two long, narrow rooms to this – the semi-exposed kitchen in the rear:

The view from my table

The view from my table

Mullen’s fare manages to be both authentic and purely his own at the same time. My advice: order anything with jamon Iberico. Like this lunchtime tapa ($12) of two oversize crostini plied with smashed potatoes and slightly crushed shirred egg, then topped with folds of this incomparable ham:

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If, like me, you like anchovies, you’ll love the Tosta Matrimonio ($9), which weds meaty, salty black anchovies and tart, supple white ones (boquerones). They recline on a thin slice of sheep’s milk cheese over crisp crostini made of flax and quinoa, chastely separated by succulent slow-roasted tomato.

Anchovies cropped

One dish with jamon was not enough, so this grilled sandwich with Serrano ham, Mahon cheese, and quince paste was mandatory ($9):

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My companion & I also shared a generous salad of preserved tuna, farro, Castelvetrano olives, cucumber, frisee, and tomato ($14). While it had good flavors – especially the premium quality tuna – the texture was a bit gummy.

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At that point we were too stuffed to even consider dessert, a situation that conveniently provides an excuse to return to this warm, handsome spot. On my list for next time: classic Spanish egg-and-potato tortilla, fried Shishito peppers, and grilled octopus with beans, kale, and Marcona almonds. And definitely more jamon Iberico.

Tertulia on Urbanspoon

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