Dinners from Everyday Wines
A Knife's Work
by Bix Engels
The year's not quite over, but I'm going out on a limb and naming as the most contentious restaurant closing of 2008 the demise of Kerrytown's Lunch at Everyday Cook. It made headlines by putting the spotlight on the arcane process of awarding a liquor license, which the restaurant's owner, Mary Campbell, had unsuccessfully sought. The licensing hubbub overshadowed the loss of a uniquely charming space and culinarily exciting kitchen. When Everyday Lunch served its last meal on June 21, I was among the sad customers who went for one final repast.
Now fans of its fare can take heart. Chefs Brendan McCall and Jay Haamen, the creative forces behind the stove at Everyday Cook, are back at Kerrytown-though in a different, more transportable format. McCall and Haamen's catering company, A Knife's Work (aknifeswork.
com), is assembling well-crafted takeaway meals, which are sold at Campbell's store, Everyday Wines.
McCall, twenty-six, told me that he and Haamen, twenty-five, take a free-form approach, creating weekly menus based on what's fresh and local and what they feel like cooking. This spontaneity, says McCall, helps them keep a "direct connection to people and to the seasons."
One week's fare in November was based on the spice trail meandering from Asia to the Mediterranean. "It's a coherent menu without being thematic, like all French or all Italian," says McCall. I took home some of that spice-route menu, and it was phenomenal. A delicate trout mousse, spiced with Thai chilies and fresh mint, was paired with a tomato-and-red-onion salad. A fork-tender pork shoulder got its flavor cue from smoky pimentón and Amontillado sherry. Their Moorish chickpea stew topped with Swiss chard managed to be both vegan and exotically delicious, a rare feat that involved garlic, cumin, and more smoked paprika. Entrees are priced at $10-$14; sides are $6-$8.
This is a Kerrytown collaboration: T. R. Durham, of Durham's Tracklements, allows the young caterers to use his commercial kitchen facilities in off-hours. Much of the meat comes from Sparrow Meat Market. And the food, boxed up in environmentally friendly containers, is sold at Everyday Wines, where Mary Campbell and Giri Iyengar help find the right wine pairing for each dish.
[Originally published in December, 2008.]