Bone Marrow (Special to Wild Table)
March 30, 2011
She was interested in my story about becoming a writer. I said to her something like, it was “natural” for me to write, after all, I reinvented myself as an internationally known *and published* food writer in under two years! Amazing? Not when you consider twenty years ago I was a trained cook- from dishwasher *pot scrubber* in York Harbor, Maine in the mid 80’s, to owner of Olde Charleston Pasta in Charleston, Sc (pre-Hugo) to Executive Chef of the Primerose House, also in Charleston, Sc. I traveled the country cooking here and there, Arizona, New York City, Pennsylvania… a long strange trip.. Fast forward to the early 1990’s. I didn’t want to be a line cook and being a cook in NYC opens up all kinds of consumption problems, so I quit the food biz and got a corporate job. All the while- weekends, nights…. I would work in gourmet shops, wine shops, private chef work, beer dinners, wine dinners… My bosses in the corporate world would always say the same thing. Why don’t you do what you love? Well, it took twenty years of misery to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then came the writing assignments, the newspaper work, Wild River Review gave me my first real break…
Without further ado..
Adventures in Bone Marrow by Rachel Barbarotta, special to Wild River Review/Wild Table
If you had asked me a few years ago, the last thing I ever would have thought I’d be doing was scooping the salty contents of a cow’s bone onto a piece of toast and eating it. Not that I have anything against the idea, I just didn’t realize restaurants were pumping the dish out so readily to throngs of hungry foodies demanding it. And what’s more, they are charging $15-$25 per plate and people are still chomping at the bit.
I’m referring to bone marrow, the dish that Chef Anthony Bourdain dubbed “the butter of God,” and what he names as his “Death Row meal,” the very last dish he’d savor before meeting his fate. Coming from a man who has been exposed to almost everything edible the world has to offer, it means a lot when he holds a food in such high regard.
Never having personally tried bone marrow, I had to conduct a bit of research to understand exactly what I was getting myself into. I learned that most often, the “bone” of the bone marrow is that of a cow, typically cut into halves or cylinders to allow for easy removal of the marrow. A popular way to prepare the dish is to roast the marrow and sprinkle it with sea salt to bring out the bold flavors, but it’s also often prepared as part of a soup to add a rich intensity that is hard to capture with any other ingredient. Many cultures have been eating animal marrow for centuries but only in the last decade has it come full circle to be considered a true delicacy in western cuisine.
But enough about the history of bone marrow. This is where I tell you about my own experience, namely, trying to track down the best bone marrow in New York City. I started my hunt by asking fellow food-loving friends to tell me where to find their favorite marrow. They were happy to offer their opinions: Minetta Tavern, Prune, Beauty and Essex and Landmarc were the ones recommended most often for the roasted variety. I also heard the Onion and Bone Marrow soup at The Breslin couldn’t be missed. In the end, I decided that I would sample two roasted dishes and one soup, and off I went on my bone marrow adventure.
My first stop was at Keith McNally’s Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village. At 5pm on a Sunday evening, the restaurant was already flooded with patrons even though the kitchen wouldn’t open for another half hour. Unlike other New York hot spots that are all about the scene, the food on McNally’s menu is what merits the crowd. Many know this spot for its famed Black Label Burger, but the menu extends far beyond this staple. When I finally scored a seat at the bar, I promptly ordered the Roasted Bone Marrow with Baguette Soldiers and Shallot Confit.
As it came out of the kitchen, heads turned and fingers pointed. Those in the know gave an approving nod in my direction while the rest of the group could only stare in bewilderment. I tuned them all out as I picked up the miniature fork provided and scooped the gelatinous substance onto the baguette. I doused it with a healthy portion of the shallot confit and took my first bite. Beefy and creamy, unctuous and buttery, I had never tasted anything like it in my entire life. This is not a dish to rush thorough, but something to savor, and I did. I enjoyed every single bite until my plate was a graveyard of empty bones. Satisfied and impressed, my first experience with bone marrow was incredibly memorable.
Further downtown, the Lower East Side is home to a variety of fantastic eateries. One such restaurant is Beauty & Essex, the latest offering from Chris Santos of Stanton Social fame. Chris is a beast in the kitchen, always taking culinary risks in the name of great grub. That’s why I had to try his Roasted Bone Marrow with Rioja Braised Shallot Marmalade. When the waiter delivered the plate to my table, I could clearly see the love and attention that was given to the dish. Beautifully presented, the gleaming bone marrow beckoned to me from inside its hollow white vessel. As I tenderly placed each shivering forkful onto the crispy bread, the savory scent invaded my nostrils. Taking a bite, I instantly noted the burst of salt from the marrow that was quickly matched by the subtle sweetness of the marmalade. This version of the dish truly offered the perfect pairing of flavors, and once again I cleaned my plate. I knew this dish would be difficult to top.
If any duo would be up for the challenge, it’s Restaurateur Ken Friedman and Chef April Bloomfield. Having previously showcased their talents at The Spotted Pig in the West Village, Friedman and Bloomfield have outdone themselves with The Breslin in the Ace Hotel. A hip bar and dining room, The Breslin recently received a Michelin star and shows no signs of slowing down. I stopped in for lunch on a busy Friday afternoon and showed myself to a window seat at the front of the restaurant. I ordered the Onion and Bone Marrow Soup with Parmesan Toast, excited to try an alternate preparation. I could see the heat rising from the bowl as the waiter made his way across the room, and as soon as he put it down, I brought my face close and let the steam wash over me. I waited for the liquid to cool before taking my first slurp, and as the soup ran down my throat all I could think about was the richness of the marrow. The soup was certainly salty, but the salt did not overpower the flavor, and the bottom of the bowl became visible more quickly than I had anticipated. Disappointed that the experience with this soup was over, I began to plot my return to The Breslin for another round of this brilliant dish.
As bone marrow becomes even more popular, I can’t wait to see which other chefs will add it to their menus and how they will prepare it. It’s essentially no more than a feast of fat, but when properly handled by an expert chef this dish is the epitome of the exciting potential of food. No matter how it is prepared, whether roasted or used in a soup, I look forward to my next encounter with this indulgence.
A Digital Project and Social Media Manager at an advertising agency, Rachel has an incredible passion for food, writing, restaurants, social media and Boston sports teams. Rachel is a staff writer for food website The Strong Buzz, a correspondent for food website Bite of the Best and a Restaurant/Food contributor for news websiteNearSayNY. Rachel also has her own blog, The Fabulous Foodie where she writes about her personal experiences with food. Rachel lives and works in Chelsea, NYC.
Founder, The Fabulous Foodie
Thank you Rachel for your lovely description of the salubrious dish known as Bone Marrow. Cheers! wb
Some recent photography from NYC.
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
Apothecary Cocktails: Mexican Sleep Cure
Billy Reid: Bourbon, Branch and a Splash of Southern Lore
Blue Hill/Stone Barns: Time Exists in Harmony with Nature
The Cocktail Whisperer asks Anthony Bourdain Four Questions about Scotch
The Five Questions: Andrew Bell, American Sommelier
The Five Questions Catherine Reynolds
The Five Questions: Lincoln Henderson (Master Distiller)
The Five Questions: Natalie West (Foppiano Wines)
The Five Questions: Randall Grahm
The Five Questions: Sustainable Sushi
A Glass of Bourbon, Branch, and History
Midnight in the Bronx: Visit to Hunt’s Point Wholesale Fish Exchange
A Modern Day Absinthe Alchemist
A Summer Cocktail Party for Artie Shaw
Tales of the Cocktail: New Orleans, Louisiana