• in the kitchen
    IN THE KITCHEN WITH CHEF MIKE POIARKOFF
    The Executive Chef from Brooklyn mainstay, Vinegar Hill House, chats with us about his casual approach to cooking and shares one of his favorite recipes.
    January 11, 2015  |  BY TARIQ DIXON
    Chef Mike Poiarkoff doesn't care for bells and whistles in the kitchen. The young chef, who took over the kitchen at Vinegar Hill House just over a year ago, favors a more subtle approach, much in line with the restaurant's casual and rustic atmosphere. There's no molecular gastronomy, state-of-the-art gadgets, or over-the-top presentations at the quaint, but highly-coveted restaurant. In fact, most menu items are prepared from a cast iron skillet, served straight from the wood-burning stove to the reclaimed wood dining tables.

    Though rustic and comforting, the food at Vinegar Hill House is anything but "simple." Restrained, perhaps, but Chef Poiarkoff's approach maintains a quiet complexity - a sophistication that's not always seen, is rarely spoken of, but is easily felt and understood with every bite. When describing a dish made with lardo from Red Wattle pigs, cured for three months, and cheddar aged over four years, he casually refers to it as "a bologna sandwich." After spending some time with Chef Poiarkoff, it becomes evident that the menu's humiltiy is a direct reflection of the chef himself.
    "I don't come to the table and be like, 'Look, what I did!,'" he says. “I'm just like, 'Here's some food,' and we keep it cool."

    The carrot dish he prepared for our visit was a perfect example. "Yea, let's do something easy. I'll make some carrots," he says. As he began to describe each of the ingredients, I soon realized how deceptively "unsimple" the dish actually was. The oven-roasted heirloom carrots are layered with curried butter, chopped almonds, house-made pickled apples and a pistou made from the carrots' own stems. Sweetness, acidity, texture and spice all well-represented, the dish is thoughtful and beautifully composed, but most importantly, as Chef Poiarkoff would say, "All I care is that the food tastes good."

    Read more about what inspires Chef Mike Poiarkoff and learn how to make his delicious Curried Carrots right at home. And be sure to check out the interview of Mike's brother John, Executive Chef at The Pines.
  • What's your process for conceiving a menu?

    I look at farm lists, I see what's going on. Our meat purveyor will call us on a Saturday and say, "Hey, I've got a lamb from a farm in Pennsylvania. Do you want it?" "Ok, cool." So we'll take that lamb for delivery on Tuesday, but I'll immediately start sketching everything out. One change I've made since starting is that we mainly use whole animals. I'll use every cut of meat, and design the entire menu around it, even the charcuterie.

    And we'll make small changes to the menu almost everyday, depending on what's fresh and available. I change garnishes a lot. Like, we'll have carrots tonight because we got in some great carrots yesterday. But if there aren't any good carrots on Friday, we'll do a similar dish with parsnips. Little changes like that.

  • How would you sum up your style or cooking philosophy?

    I'm classically trained in French cooking. The person who trained me for years was the Executive Sous Chef from Cafe Boulud. He was a Southern boy at heart, so he wanted to do barbecue, but with French technique. I kinda do the same thing. I do all-American food - pickles, barbecue sauces, simple ingredients - but with French and Spanish techniques. I make what's basically a bologna sandwich, but using mortadella, lardo from red wattle pigs, aged cheddar and tarragon mustard. You could eat that sandwich and not know that it's classic, Spanish charcuterie, that it takes three months to make the lardo, or four years to make the cheese. You just know that it tastes really good, and I'm happy with that.

  • Is the culture in the kitchen similar?

    Yea, everyone here is super chill. Every cook here could easily rock it at a three-star restaurant, but they're happy and learning all of the time. I have a small team so they actually get to butcher. At a fine dining restaurant, you could cook there for five years and never touch a protein. I could just be the “pasta guy” and thats it. But here, we all do a little bit of everything - change it up all of the time and have a bit of fun. That's the kind of lifestyle here. We don't want anything to look too fussy.

  • What's the most popular dish on the menu?

    It's one of those love-hate things, but it's actually something as simple as cornbread. We bake it in the cast-iron skillet, and it's made from blue cornmeal, with hot honey and maple butter. We make everything in-house, including the hot sauce used to infuse the honey. It's a really simple dish, but people will come in and order one, and then end up ordering another one as dessert. I love that cornbread, of all things, is so popular.

  • “You could eat that sandwich and not know that it's classic, Spanish charcuterie...You just know that it tastes really good, and I'm happy with that.”
    - Chef Mike Poiarkoff
  • recipe
    Curried Carrots with Pistou & Pickled Apples
    Chef Mike Poiarkoff shares a home version of one of his favorite recipes from Vinegar Hill House - a rustic, yet refined carrot dish, with layers sweetness, brine, crunch and spice. (Serves 6)
  • Pickled Apples
    2 Fuji apples
    1 cup apple cider vinegar
    1/2 cup water
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 tb salt
    Pistou
    greens from 3 bunches of baby carrots
    1/4 cup toasted almonds
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp honey
    Carrots
    3 bunches baby carrots
    2 tb canola oil
    2 tb butter
    1 tsp curry spice
    1/2 tsp salt
  • Carrots
    1. With a sharp knife, separate the carrots from the greens (reserving greens).
    2. Scrub carrots with salt and a scoring pad to the remove skin.
    3. Rinse the carrots with water and place them in a medium-sized pot. Cover with cold water and place on medium heat. The water should come to a simmer, but never boil. Let the carrots cook until a knife can easily be inserted.
    4. Remove with a slotted spoon and immediately cool in an ice bath.
    5. Once cool, remove the carrots and dry them thoroughly.
    6. Add canola oil to a large, heavy bottomed pan (preferably cast iron), and heat until oil begins to smoke.
    7. Add carrots in a single layer.
    8. Move around until lightly browned on all sides.
    9. Turn heat to low, add curry spice and butter, stir carrots until completely coated.
  • Pistou
    1. Once greens have been separated from the carrots, remove all smaller fronds from the main stem. Blanch greens in unsalted, boiling water, for one minute. Remove with slotted spoon and place immediately in an ice bath.
    2. Once cool, remove from water and drain until dry. Chop the blanched carrot greens and place in a blender with honey, salt, almonds, and olive oil.
    3. Blend until smooth.


    Pickled Apples
    1. In a small pot, bring vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil. Cool in metal bowl submerged in ice, or in the refrigerator.
    2. Peel apples, remove cores, slice to desired thickness, and place immediately in cold pickling liquid. Let stand for at least one hour before serving, but preferably done the night before.
  • We'll make small changes to the menu almost everyday, depending on what's fresh and available...If there aren't any good carrots on Friday, we'll do a similar dish with parsnips. Little changes like that.

  • shop the story
    ESSENTIALS FOR THE HOME CHEF
    Four products to help make cooking at home more professional and stylish.
  • “But here, we all do a little bit of everything - change it up all of the time and have a bit of fun. That's the kind of lifestyle here. We don't want anything to look too fussy.”
    - Chef Mike Poiarkoff
  • “We get all of our produce directly from local farms or farmers' markets. I'll sometimes stop by the Carroll Street Market, which is on my way to work. We order the stuff on Wednesday, and we pick it up on Thursday or Friday morning in crates.”
    - Chef Mike Poiarkoff
for access to the complete article, please
SIGN IN OR REGISTER
– You May Also Like –
35
Holiday Gift Guide
Kile Hotchkiss | 11/14/2018
The joy of gift-giving can sometimes become a bit of an undertaking during the rush of the holiday season. With...
Read More
56
The TRNK Collection
Kile Hotchkiss | 10/18/2018
We’re incredibly proud to introduce The TRNK Collection - our self-designed product line, sold exclusively on TRNK. After our first...
Read More
35
Zachary Quinto and Miles McMillan’s Home in Architectural Digest
Tariq Dixon | 05/09/2018
We first met actor Zachary Quinto and his model/artist partner Miles McMillan via Instagram. One of us noticed Zach's follow...
Read More
35
The Guesthouse Opening Party
Tariq Dixon | 03/15/2018
Thanks to everyone who came out to the opening of our LA pop-up shop The Guesthouse at Platform...
Read More
56
Moodboard: Terracotta
Tariq Dixon | 01/18/2018
As we reflect on new ways to evolve our product assortment, incorporating more color is a definite priority. While a...
Read More
56
Suggestions for Small Spaces
Tariq Dixon | 01/15/2018
It’s crazy to think about, but I’m approaching my tenth year of living in NYC. Which means I have a...
Read More
Close Lightbox