The Flavors of New York cookbook club is off to a great start! We just completed book one of four and the energy is high. We have many new voices sharing in our conversation. They join a group that I’ve been fortunate to share two previous seasons with, and we’re going strong!
Our autumn season of the 92nd Street Y and Kitchen Arts & Letters cookbook club is dedicated to exploring four distinct food stories that represent what is just the tip of the iceberg of food in New York City. I could spend years (probably decades) on this one topic. But I had to choose – and autumn is my favorite season in New York!
These four books tell stories of restaurants and food businesses that have been part of my personal New York story, as well as the story of New York’s neighborhoods and beyond.
Through these books we’ll cook and taste…
- the history of NYC restaurants
- the importance of a neighborhood
- immigrant foodways (from near and far)
- reverse migration of foodways (what NYC sends into the world)
We begin with Buvette: the pleasure of good food by Jody Williams with Julia Turshen.
about Buvette (the place)
Buvette is a tiny, charming, “gastrothèque” in New York’s West Village that is as lively at breakfast as it is late into the night. It’s an intimate space that became an instant neighborhood classic as soon as it opened in 2011. The menu is, itself, classic. Celery root remoulade, croque monsieur, soupe au pistou. Also, some of the best coffee, tea service, and cocktails. Basically, a Parisian-style bistro with roots firmly planted in the heart of New York City.
Then Buvette did something surprising. It became so popular in NYC that it drew attention from France. The tiny New York City gastrotheque opened a sister space in Paris in 2013. Then it went to Tokyo (2018), London (2020), and now Mexico City (2021).
why this book?
Maybe because Buvette is one of my favorite places in one of my favorite cities. Definitely because the history of restaurants in NYC is decidedly French. Definitely because Chef Jody Williams is a stealth force in upholding the integrity of beloved French classics even as the palaces of haute cuisine have almost disappeared. And also, because, as our friends at Kitchen Arts & Letters put it, “There may not be a place like Buvette in your neighborhood, but you can recreate some of its magic at home [through this book].”
about the book
The book Buvette begins like the restaurant – in “Morning” with breakfast, coffee, and tea. There are menu suggestions, and a recipe for every preference, including a simple cold-pressed coffee and instructions on brewing “the perfect cup”.
“Afternoons” took us on a tour of some traditional and some nearly forgotten favorites. Pan Bagnat, Soupe au Pistou, and Croque-Monsieurs (with variations). Also, a collection of simply dressed single vegetables that together made up one of my favorite dishes from my time teaching at French Culinary Institute, assiette de crudité (celery root remoulade, carrottes râpées, et al).
There is a chapter called “Jambon et Fromage” that is basically a collection of all my most favorite things about Buvette (the place and the book). There are mini lessons in cheese, ham, wine, and aperitifs. Then there’s recipes for every type of bursting-with-flavor small bite of deliciousness you need to create an evening a Buvette in your home (and that’s exactly what I did).
“Evenings” brings the opportunity to take it up a level if you like. Or, to go deep into French comfort food. And since Jody Williams’ cooking background is Italian before French, you’ll find that element shinging here (as well as in other chapters).
Desserts are simple and satisfying. Fruit elevated. Timeless classics. Suggestions for mind-blowingly simple stunners. And, from a chef’s perspective, evidence of a chef who has mastered all aspects of working in a small kitchen without compromising quality or standards (and keeping a little bit of sanity and whimsy along the way).
One of the cookbook club members shared her thoughts about reading and cooking from Buvette: the pleasure of good food. I think her words represent the overall response of the whole group…
“The tone of the book was somewhat casual yet provided an assured approach to cooking. I found following the recipes to be a relaxing process — I never felt flustered. There was a soothing efficiency to the rhythm of each recipe. They flowed from start to finish. I loved the recipe notes and tips in the boxes throughout, including pointers on how she sets the table.”Amy S.
about the author
Jody Williams is a self-trained chef who learned the old-fashioned way – she traveled to the homes of the cuisines she loved and worked her ass off from the bottom up in kitchens where she felt she could learn the most. She lived in Italy, France, and Japan in her pursuit of culinary experience and knowledge. The pursuit continues.
Today Jody Williams continues to operate and grow Buvette, and then some. With partner Rita Sodi (another West Village self-trained highly acclaimed chef), they have Via Carota and Bar Pisellino (both in the West Village), in addition to I Sodi – Sodi’s first restaurant. “The New York Times called Williams and Sodi ‘one of the great partnerships in the New York restaurant scene’.” Just another reason this book had to be included in the Flavors of New York.
the cooking part…
For each cookbook we work with, I create a menu featuring a selection of recipes from the book in order to provide some structure for the prep and for our conversations. These are only suggestions, and many people experiment with whatever strikes their fancy.
Menu Breakfast Toasted Oatmeal Brûlée Crêpes, any style Piperade Lunch Soupe au Pistou Roast Chicken Salad Pan Bagnat Sides Celery Root Rémoulade Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino and Walnuts Carrots Râpées Small Bites Walnut Pesto Salmon Rillettes Apple Cheese Fricos Gougères Dinner Lentils with Kale and Shallots Poulet Rôti Rabbit à la Moutarde Scallops with Brown Butter and Capers Sides Leeks Vinaigrette Slow Roasted Fennel in Bitter Orange Vinaigrette Aligot Dessert Flourless Chocolate Cake Mousse au Chocolate Tarte Tatin
notes on what we cooked
toasted oatmeal brûlée
I didn’t get around to making this one (one of only a few) but several people did. In general, the feedback was good. Some notes included that it was drier than they were used to but delicious. And that the topping was hard to caramelize (my suggestion: a crème brûlée torch). All agreed that it is great to make at the beginning of the week and pack for breakfast on the run later.
soupe au pistou
Nobody believed that simply cooking vegetables and beans in water (not stock) would yield anything good. Surprise! It’s delicious! I made a huge pot and froze it in batches and am savoring every time I dig in. This will be in regular rotation this winter.
roast chicken salad
This is another quote from Amy S. “Amazing. What a fun way to try several recipes in the book. The roast chicken, the vinaigrette… I was surprised I used all the dressing, and it wasn’t overbearing. Such a pretty, well-rounded meal — will make again!”
apple and cheese fricos
Looking for an addictive treat that pairs perfectly with just about everything? I made mine much smaller (the size of one apple slice) for hors d’oeuvres. They go almost as fast as I can make them. I’m on a quest to find the Montasio cheese for this. But in the meantime, shredded parmesan (or similar) works great.
walnut pesto & salmon rillettes
Two separate recipes, I know. But I made them together and served them with really good bread and a funky red wine called Queen of the Sierra from Forlorn Hope and it was pretty magical. The walnut pesto also goes great on pasta (thinned with hot pasta water). Both are addictive. And they both freeze well.
rabbit à la moutarde
Only one person made it with rabbit. Everyone else who couldn’t resist the lure of the recipe but didn’t have access to (or the audience for) bunny used chicken. If making it with rabbit, cook the lean bits last so they don’t dry out. Otherwise, amazing. Personally, I added more mustard because the kind I get at home is definitely not as potent as the kind I get in a restaurant kitchen. Depending on your personal taste, pair this with Alsatian Riesling, Chablis, or hefeweizen. No alcohol? No problem – have you tried verjus? It’s sour wine grape juice (not vinegar) – use it in a spritz.
lentils with kale and shallots
Delicious! And easily vegan (if that matters to you). The chili flake added a kick at the end of each bite. If you’re not vegan, don’t skip the crème fraiche – it’s a game changer.
poulet rôti with leeks vinaigrette
Here’s another perfect pairing and another way to use the incredible vinaigrette recipe from the larder section. Leftovers can be turned the chicken salad mentioned above.
Tis the season for really good apples. Add this one to your Thanksgiving table. Serve it with a dollop of sweetened crème fraiche (from the larder section). Your friends and family will love you for it. Mine did!
Have you cooked from Buvette: the pleasure of good food? I’d love to hear what your favorites dishes were. Leave a comment with your thoughts below!
In closing, as always, I want to thank Kitchen Arts & Letters bookstore and the 92nd Street Y in NYC.
If you missed this season’s club registration, stay tuned, we’ll return in the winter with four exciting new books! I’ll be announcing the dates and early bird registration here on Wander Eat and Tell soon!
If you would like to catch up with the past seasons’ books, you can get started HERE.