Eggs All Day: An Introduction
I met Andrew in 1998 at the Odeon, in Tribeca. I was twenty and a new waitress and Andrew was twenty-eight and the senior bartender with a bad attitude and I was crazy for him from minute one. After a month of cheeky banter and snarky flirting, he asked me to come over to his house so that he could cook for me. I put on my red sparkly trousers as a good luck charm and got on the J train to Brooklyn. It was my first trip over the Williamsburg Bridge, and when I got to the other side and walked down the metal staircase, he was there waiting for me, and he kissed me for the first time on the cheek.
He had already bought a skirt steak from Gourmet Garage in the city, and we went into the Korean produce market on Broadway and bought zucchini and cilantro and salad greens. Andrew had built out a six-thousand-square-foot loft on Broadway with his roommates Mark Firth and Martin Cohen. Martin was a mosaicist, and his tile work was all over the open bathrooms. Andrew’s paintings were hung on all of the walls. There were great windows looking out at the bridge and Manhattan, and there was a bathtub in the middle of the living area.
Andrew made a cilantro pesto, marinated the skirt steak, tossed the zucchini with peperoncini, and then packed everything up and we climbed out the door onto the roof. He grilled the steak and the zucchini and made a salad, and then everyone started coming onto the roof. Martin and Mark and Sasha and South African Mark. We all sat around an old wooden door propped up on sawhorses and ate and watched the sun set over the city. It was Bastille Day 1998.
Mark and Andrew had just signed the lease for the Diner, and I hadn’t really spent much time with Mark. I could chart his comings and goings by the presence or absence of stilettos outside his bedroom door, but otherwise, we only saw him when we went to visit him at Balthazar, where he was bartending. I was curious about why Andrew had chosen this reckless Don Juan for a business partner, not knowing that he would very soon become one of my most favorite people.
They had just gotten the keys to the 1920s Pullman dining car on the corner of Broadway and Berry in Williamsburg. I would have followed Andrew to the ends of the earth, so if he was digging out the layer of fat-cured cockroaches under the dining car’s bar and demoing the kitchen, then that is what I wanted to do, too. We spent that summer covered in sweat, grease, and construction dust, so much so that Andrew made a habit of taking an afternoon swim in the East River in his underwear.
After the demo was done, Andrew, Mark, and their friends Ken Reynolds and Eoin Kileen got to work with the tiling, plumbing, woodworking, and electrical, and even though I was still in college I didn’t have much to do. There was nowhere for them to eat lunch on the south side of Williamsburg, so I spent my mornings before class making food for the crew. I hadn’t really done much cooking, so I enjoyed teaching myself how to make bread and pastas and roast chickens with Andrew’s copies of the River Café
cookbooks, and they all enjoyed taking a break and coming home to a big lunch.
As winter approached, it was time to find a chef. I think that it is important to say that Andrew and Mark opened Diner because they wanted a place to eat and hang out, not because they wanted to own a restaurant. They sketched out menus with eggs all day, tuna fish sandwiches, bangers and mash, roast chicken, and pressed cheese sandwiches. They imagined a long line of bridge construction workers eating egg sandwiches at the bar, with themselves sitting at Table 1, playing backgammon and eating ham and cheese. What defines Diner and the food of all of our restaurants today is that stroke of magic that convinced Caroline Fidanza to be our chef after one dinner out with Andrew and Mark. She didn’t know us, and we had never tried her food.
Caroline had left her post as sous chef for Peter Hoffman at Savoy, and while soul-searching about her next move, she was making the desserts at Teddy’s on the north side of the neighborhood. Maybe it was the kind of freedom that Andrew and Mark offered her that made her put her apron back on and become our chef. Maybe it was Andrew’s drive or Mark’s sense of humor. She signed on, and then we didn’t even sit down to cook together or talk about menus. The next time we saw her was when she and I painted the floor of the walk-in refrigerator just days before opening.
On December 31, 1998, we didn’t have gas yet or an exhaust, but we knew we needed to get the doors open. Caroline and her sister Jackie arrived at the loft with a giant cassoulet pot, beans, sausages, and confit duck legs, and she prepared the most important meal of our lives, for all of the people who had worked for six months, mostly without pay, to build Diner. There were more than twenty of us and we sat at a very long table in the back room at Diner. Andrew, Mark, and I were at one end of the table. I watched Mark and Andrew take their first bites of Caroline’s cassoulet and look at each other as if they had just won the lottery. It will forever be one of my fondest memories. They hadn’t any idea of the caliber of the person, and chef, they had found to run their kitchen. In that moment, it became crystal clear that she could make anything happen for them.
Caroline had made a giant watercress salad to go with the cassoulet, which was followed by large slices of manchego cheese and quince paste, and then a rum chocolate cake, though we were too full to eat it. We still didn’t know Caroline back on that freezing cold night, but after the crowds of people packed the Diner and South African Mark was blasting Radiohead and Jamiroquai and all of our guests were drunk from too many cosmopolitans and metropolitans, Andrew, Mark, and I found ourselves in the kitchen with Caroline, eating the chocolate cake with forks right off the platter. Our lifelong love affair with her began.
ORIGINAL DINER MENU FROM JANUARY 1999 Greek Salad (chopped romaine and herbs) Beet Salad (greens with grated raw beets and feta cheese) Goat Cheese Salad (greens with marinated goat cheese, roasted squash, and walnuts) Roast Chicken with Mash Hanger Steak with Mash Rib Eye with Fries Burger with Fries Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream
Every day after that first day, we woke up at 6 a.m. for garbage pickup and to receive the fish. By day, we worked in the kitchen with Caroline to help her prep. Then at 4 p.m. Andrew, Mark, and I ran down the street to take showers and came back to work the front of the house—Mark behind the bar and Andrew and me on the floor. We didn’t print out menus. Our menu was recited to the customers and written on the butcher paper of each table so that they could remember it. Caroline quickly felt comfortable running the menu and started making the specials that became the core of Diner’s offerings. Her list of specials grew, and the food on the regular menu dwindled.
What we learned very quickly was that the core of Caroline’s cooking is her frugality. She bought local bluefish and mackerel because it was good and cheap. She went to the farmers’ market instead of ordering from food purveyors because it was better and cheaper; she didn’t garnish and she made her own crème fraîche and mayonnaise for the same reason. In most cases, plates only had three or four elements. There is a security about her food and what is good. That is how she defines a plate: by whether it’s good or not, whether it is in service of the ingredients as well as the season, not whether it will impress you.
Her biggest challenge in the early days was that it was impossible to find hardworking, dedicated support in the kitchen. She felt that all of the talent was in Manhattan and that no one wanted to work in our shitty seventy-year-old Diner car underneath the Williamsburg Bridge. So much so that Andrew, Mark, and I continued to have weekly kitchen shifts. I sent out overdressed salads all night, while Mark and Andrew, with blue side towels wrapped around their heads, ditched their garde-manger duties and tried to weasel themselves onto the grill station.
It felt like the Wild West on Broadway in those days. We could do whatever we wanted. If we had a long wait for the outdoor tables, we would just keep adding more of them down Broadway toward the East River. We built a tented room, back behind the dumpsters, with a poorly designed open fireplace and very illegally cooked Sunday dinners, with Caroline and me running a small menu that we had written. It was so smoky back there that we, along with the customers, would finish the night with red eyes and deep coughs, but somehow we still have fond memories of those dinners with overdressed salads (my specialty), crostini, grilled pizzas, and whole fish.
Andrew and I were working hard in those years and didn’t do much cooking, eating, or living outside of the Diner, until I got pregnant in 2000 with Elijah. There was still smoking in restaurants, and the Diner dinner service took place in a cloud of smoke from start to finish. Andrew and I stopped cooking in the kitchen and closing the place at 3 a.m. and hired a couple of people. We started cooking and entertaining at home again. We also got to hang out with Caroline outside of work, which was a revelation.
One night she invited the whole staff over to her house for sauce. We arrived in her Greenpoint apartment to bowls of rigatoni with meatballs, spicy sausage, rich meaty tomato sauce, and a spoonful of ricotta cheese. We all sat on the floor and ate first and then second helpings of the food that she would typically make with her family in Poughkeepsie, New York. Being in her house that night, we all got to see a different side of Caroline, the one that loved cooking and wasn’t overwhelmed by her weak kitchen staff and the pressure that Andrew always put on her to do more. This was a night that taught us how important it is to cook for and with everyone beyond the confines of the restaurant.
Elijah was due in the spring of 2001. Inspired by a Greek Easter Meal, the day before his due date I decided that if I cooked a sacrificial lamb over an open fire, Elijah’s birth would come the next day as planned. Mark and I drove around the city buying the leg of lamb, snap peas, artichokes, potatoes, and large rosemary fronds for basting. We followed Lulu Peyraud’s recipe for leg of lamb roasted on a string over an open fire. We had invited a lot of people over, and since Andrew had wine tastings in the city, Mark and I worked all day in front of that fire, basting the lamb and cooking the potatoes and artichokes under the lamb drippings. When it was time to transport everything down to the house, and my back was breaking and my eyes were skinny slits from all of the smoke, Andrew poked his head around the gates, emerging from the dumpsters, giddy, half drunk and with black teeth from all of the wine and asked if he could help—just about eight hours too late.
It was a good dinner and everyone had fun. I was pretty tired and cleanup wasn’t done until around 12:30 a.m. I still remember getting into bed that night aching from head to toe. Four hours later I went into labor with Elijah and he was born the following night at a birthing center in the city. We could only stay for twelve hours, so we slept there a couple of hours, and then packed up to take our tiny son home. On the way through Manhattan, Andrew was convinced that we needed to pick up some food to serve to people who were going to be coming to the house to meet Elijah, so we stopped into Ceci Cela for croissants and went by the restaurant for eggs and bacon. There was a constant trickle of visitors all day, and by nightfall, the house was packed. All of our friends were drinking pink Champagne and smoking cigars in the stairwell, and then at 11:30 p.m., everyone was hungry again. Caroline threw together pasta alla carbonara and we all sat and ate.
When Elijah was three, we acquired the lease to the pest management and supply store that was next door to the Diner. Andrew and I had visited a wine bar in Rome and another in Paris that we wanted to reincarnate. Mark had always dreamed of spending his days in a soccer bar, so we thought we’d marry the two concepts and were all excited planning and dreaming of our new spot. All of us, except Caroline, who was seriously pissed at Andrew for signing that lease. She was already working every day and unable to attract good cooks, so adding the responsibility of finding and managing another kitchen staff was too much to take.
When we first opened Marlow & Sons, it was the saddest place on the block. No one wanted to eat oysters and meats and cheeses for dinner, and there weren’t enough soccer fans to keep the place full. People would come in, sit down, look at the menu, get up, and walk over to the Diner to eat. We realized that we had to make a decision between turning Marlow & Sons into a bar with no food, or turning it into a restaurant and building a kitchen downstairs. We went for the latter, and in hindsight, it feels like everything changed overnight.
Since I am writing the introduction, I will take this opportunity to take credit for as much as I can. That is part of the deal, right? I had been nagging Andrew about how great our waiter, Jason Schwartz, at the Diner was and kept asking him to promote him to management. Andrew likes to take things slower than I do, so he asked him to come over to Marlow to wait tables, even though it was Loserville over there. Jason believed in Marlow & Sons, and his intrinsic coolness convinced everyone else to believe in it, too. His music, his sense of humor, and his confidence in that place was exactly what Marlow needed. You can’t start a fire without a spark, or a Schwartz, as it were.
Caroline finally got her prayers answered and kitchen talent started walking through the door. I remember the day in 2005 when Andrew and I were sitting outside at lunch and Sean Rembold jogged up to our table, squatted down in front of us, and accepted the job of sous chef. He was taking such a risk leaving his job working his way up the ranks at Bayard’s down on Wall Street, but he was bursting with excitement. I can still remember the burn from the high five he gave us when he decided to come on board.
At Marlow we had been trying to run a wine bar menu featuring oysters, meats, and cheeses, which apparently wasn’t what our customers wanted. Sean had a new and exciting take on what the food at Marlow & Sons could be: fried corn with shrimp butter, rabbit burgers, braised pork over grits with a bright salad on top. Sean’s food was exciting: the electric mix of rich and meaty, buttery and fatty, bright and crunchy, and sweet all rolled together in one perfect bite.
Sean was soon joined in the kitchen by David Gould—a cocky twenty-three-year old-who memorably ordered a pint of beer at the bar while he waited for Caroline to interview him. It seems like an impossible thing to do, but Dave could do it. He knew, and still knows, that his tremendous talent could back up any kind of questionable behavior. Dave has the most delicate, magical hands, and each bite of his food is filled with so much delicious sexiness that you could take a bite and think that he was in love with you.
With Jason creating his special brand of front-of-house alchemy and Caroline, Sean, and Dave in the kitchens, our restaurants were exploding. People wanted to be there. Everyone was working hard and late and having fun. I can’t really speak to the parties in those years, because Elijah and I were always home by 9 p.m., but I know that there was a lot of dancing on tables late into the night.
Diner and Marlow & Sons became magnets for exceptionally fun and talented people, and the best part is that the revolving staff of the first several years was a thing of the past. People who joined us during those years are still integrally a part of what we do and how we have expanded today. What would our life look like if Anna Dunn hadn’t walked through our doors? She started by making coffee at Marlow & Sons and soon became one of the most important people in Andrew’s life—a brother and a consigliere. We had started Diner Journal
in 2006 with Caroline because we wanted to share her recipes and stories about our farmers, our life, and the things that we cared about, but with all of us overextended, it soon lost steam. Anna took the Diner Journal
on in every way and poured her passion for words and art and food into each issue.
In 2011, Becky Johnson went to Marlow alone for her birthday one night and sat at the bar and ate a brick chicken and a piece of cheese for dessert. Even though she had promised herself that she wouldn’t work in restaurants again, she was waiting tables for us a month later. She stayed under the radar until she started doing her telltale lettering on the Marlow & Sons menu board. Within a couple of months, she became the art director for the Diner Journal
. Leah Campbell came to us straight from college as an intern for the Diner Journal
and is now the communications director for all of our businesses. Julia Gillard lied about having bartending experience to get a job at the Diner. When Jason hired her, he said, “Listen, Merica said you are the best, so you’re hired. She and I did psychedelics together back in the day down South. Do you know about wine?” With her unique point of view and eye for detail, Julia has become the photo editor for Diner Journal
as well as a kind of artist-in-residence at the Diner.
As we continued to grow our staff, more and more people we admired wanted to participate. Ken Wiss ran the McCarren Park Greenmarket, where we spent every Saturday morning during the summer months. Who knew that he had been trying to get up the gumption to ask Caroline if he could work in the kitchen? As the story goes, he had decided that he would approach Caroline at the end of the summer in 2004, when she was doing a cooking demo, but as the moment approached for him to ask her if he could work in her kitchen, the conversation changed course, and he lost his nerve and decided he would wait until the following year to ask her. Good thing he finally did, because his delight with the flow of the seasons and the reverence for our farmers overflows from each bite of his food. There is no better moment in the spring than when Ken is cruising around our corner of the world, exclaiming for all to hear: “The ramps are here!” Whether he is making fried rice with lamb offal and house-fermented kimchi, or a sweet-and-sour pickled cayenne pepper and garlic scape relish, he makes you fall in love with each seasonal ingredient.
In 2008, twenty-three-year-old Scarlett Lindeman moved from Los Angeles to Brooklyn and started at Marlow & Sons under Caroline, Sean, and Dave. She was so young and sure of herself, funny, and good at everything. Everyone was attracted to her and wanted to be around her. When Dave moved over to start Roman’s in 2009, he poached “Young Scarlett.” Her spark lingers in everything she touches. Later she joined the Diner Journal
team, and when Caroline left, she took over all of the cooking, recipe testing, editing, and writing.
Lee Desrosiers came to us in 2009 straight from working three jobs on Cape Cod. He had been making wine, working on a farm, and working with an oyster fisherman. He had no experience working in a kitchen, but wanted to cook and was desperate for a job. Sean took one look at the résumé and said to Lee, “So you know how to work and you can shuck oysters.” He gave him a job working the oyster station at Marlow & Sons and making salads at the Diner. Lee is always the first to volunteer to help on every one of Andrew’s doomed-from-the-start off-site cooking adventures, and he is always the one who turns the ill-fated event into a wild success.
With the restaurants now brimming with talent, we were inspired to open more and more businesses. We opened Roman’s in Fort Greene in 2009 with Dave. We opened the Reynard and the Wythe Hotel in North Williamsburg in 2012 with Sean and Jason, and so that Ken could take over the chef position at both the Diner and Marlow & Sons. Anna is editor of Diner Journal
, which is now in its ninth year. We started She Wolf Bakery with Austin Hall, who is the singular talent behind our bread, and Lee Desrosiers is now the chef of Achilles Heel, the riverside bar we opened in 2013.
The years keep passing, and sharing food with these people is at the core of what gives us meaning and what makes us happy. Our friends have started families of their own, moved away, embarked on their own projects, and missed a lamb dinner or two at our house. We’ve felt inspired to create this book—for them and for our beloved customers who have supported us since the time when we served mashed potatoes with every entrée at the Diner. Andrew and I have made each of these dinners every year for the people that we love the most, so we wanted to write them all down and give them to you, so that you can take them on your way and make them for the people that you love the most.
There is no getting around the fact that these dishes are challenging. They take days of thought, gathering, and psyching yourself up. Cassoulet. Paella. Tajine. Ragù. We chose to tackle them because these are all dishes we don’t make in the restaurant kitchens. It is also in the effort of challenging ourselves, in risking total failure that we show our guests how very much we love and care about them. These meals are thrilling to make and share for the very same reason: the greater the risk, the greater the reward. So to all of you who have happened our way, we love you, and this book is our love song to you that we love so dearly and have chosen to spend our lives with. We hope that you find that cooking these meals together is as meaningful and rewarding as we do, and we hope that you remember our table and how much we are, and will always be, in your debt. Broccoli Rabe, Olives, Citrus
An unlikely trinity. Bitter, briny, and sweet. This medley is as much a meditation in texture
as it is in flavor.
2 bunches baby broccoli rabe, more buds and leaves than stems
Olive oil, for drizzling
2 oranges (your standard navel)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper
1⁄2 cup green olives, pitted
A handful of arugula
Heat the broccoli rabe in a dry grill pan over medium heat until the leaves crisp up and the
stems get a good char, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate, drizzle with oil, and season with
salt. Chop into 3-inch portions. Peel the tangerines and oranges with a knife, being careful
to remove as little of their flesh as possible. Cut off any stray bits of pith, then slice them into
1/4-inch rounds. Scatter the orange slices on a large platter, then season with the salt, red
pepper flakes, and pepper. Scatter the olives, arugula, and the broccoli rabe on top. Douse
with good olive oil. Cassoulet
Like many of the dinners in these pages, cassoulet should be started a few days before you
plan to share it with your friends. Finding enough time to prepare it will always be your
biggest challenge. Keep in mind that cassoulet is a very rich dish, so smaller portions per
person will do.
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds dried Tarbais beans or cannellini beans
1 bunch sage
1 head garlic, halved lengthwise,
unpeeled, plus 4 peeled cloves
1⁄3 cup duck fat
1 pound thick-cut bacon
1 (1 1/2-pound) ham hock
4 confit duck legs (page 40)
2 medium onions, chopped
3 small carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 quarts unsalted chicken stock
2 sprigs parsley
1 small bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
1 (6-inch) square uncured pork skin
1 stale baguette
1 small bunch parsley, leaves chopped
3 leaves fresh sage, minced
3 sprigs oregano, leaves chopped
Two days before you plan to serve the cassoulet, season the pork shoulder with salt and
pepper and soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. The next day, drain, rinse the beans,
and put them in a large or medium pot with plenty of cold water, the sage, and the halved
garlic. Bring to a bare simmer and cook for 1 hour. Cut the heat, add a handful of salt, and let
the beans sit on the stove top while you proceed with the recipe.
Melt the duck fat in a pan over low heat and slowly brown the bacon on both sides until crisp.
Transfer the bacon to a platter. Brown the ham hock on all sides in the duck fat and transfer
to the platter with the bacon. Do the same with your pork shoulder. Slowly warm the confit
duck legs in the fat and transfer to the platter. Let the legs cool slightly, then pick the meat
and discard the skin and bones. Cut the pork shoulder into large cubes, with a good amount
of fat left intact. Hasselback Apple Cake
Hasselback technique is most often done with potatoes, but here the cinnamony lemon juice
drips down into the grooves cut into the apples. This cake is great for breakfast the next day.
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
3 tiny apples, peeled, halved, and cored
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons, plus 1⁄4 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
Coarse sea salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, beaten to soft peaks
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter, then line the bottom
of the pan with a round of parchment paper and grease the paper as well. Place the apple
halves, cut side down, on a cutting board. Use a knife to cut halfway through the apple halves
in thin parallel slices, so that they stay intact. This is hasselbacking. In a bowl, toss the apples
with the lemon juice and the light brown sugar.
Beat together the butter and granulated sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy,
about 5 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons of honey and beat until combined. Add the vanilla
and egg yolks, beating until just combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and
kosher salt in a small bowl. Fold the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture until just
In another bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, about
5 minutes. With a rubber spatula, stir half of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold
in the remaining egg whites until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan,
smoothing the top. Arrange the apple halves, flat side down, onto the cake batter, pressing
them down slightly. Pour the accumulated apple juices onto the cake. Bake until a toothpick
or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then slide a knife around the edge of the cake and remove
the sides of the springform pan. Let the cake cool completely.
When ready to serve, make a glaze in a small pot by warming the remaining ¼ cup honey
with the orange juice and whisking together until loose. Brush the honey mixture all over the
cake and sprinkle with the coarse sea salt. Serve with the whipped cream.
Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Tarlow with Anna Dunn. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.