Today I had some time to kill while I waited in my doctor's waiting room. I had intended to do the crossword puzzle in my New York magazine, but I didn't have a pen and the receptionist was nowhere to be found. So I flipped to the restaurant reviews and started scanning. My eyes stopped at Perilla because it was one of the few review-worthy restaurants I've eaten at so far. New York only gave Top Chef Harold Dieterle's West Village restaurant one star out of five, but I can honestly say that my parents and I had an absolutely wonderful meal.
Anyway, part of the review reads, "The menu is dotted with the kind of pretentiously unpretentious specialties we've become accustomed to in the Haute Barnyard era." And it's this concept of "Haute Barnyard" that I'd like to talk about.
"Haute Barnyard" is, to me, a nice way to describe my love of pork products, fancy fowl, chicken pieces other than skinless chicken breast. To some, eating saturated fat-laden meats is considered to be a very masculine thing. Women should order salads and other dainty foods and leave the pork belly to the guys, right?
WRONG!! Certainly not now, when so much care is being taken by certain small-scale producers to build awareness of heritage breeds and to raise them in generally "greener" ways by using less or no antibiotics, giving them more room to roam and a more varied diet. To pass up a chance to taste something so lovingly created is blasphemous in my eyes. It has more calories, you say? Well, it also has a hell of a lot more taste, too! It costs too much? Fine, I'll brew my own coffee and lay off the venti, non-fat, sugar-free, vanilla lattes that also cost too much. Nothing is going to stand between me and a perfectly good opportunity to eat some good food. Not even a first date. And yes, I know that "pork belly" is just uncured, unsliced bacon. (Mmm... Bacon...)
And it's the higher-quality products that allow for simple recipes that shift the focus back to the ingredients themselves. And this is where Harold Dieterle's cooking is successful. Creamed corn? Doesn't sound special, but he uses only the best ingredients and takes the time to prepare them perfectly. He doesn't rely on some convoluted, experimental combination of ingredients to impress people and I appreciate that confidence and simplicity.