Nico Russell tears off a pinch of a fresh, clover-shaped green herb and hands it to me.
“It’s wood sorrell, or oxalis,” he says. I’ve been writing about food for over 13 years and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen this. I’m embarrassed, to say the least. He reassures me I’m not alone.
“I grew up in northern California and I would see it everywhere, but it was only when I was working in fine-dining restaurants that I knew what it was,” Russell says.
The stuff really does grow everywhere—it’s all over New York. Carrying an unexpectedly bright, fun flavor, it’s an overlooked ingredient that inspired Oxalis, the eponymous name of his successful string of pop-up dinners in Brooklyn.
“Our concept about little simple things. If you pay attention, they’re really beautiful,” says partner Steve Wong.
Russell, fine dining vet of Daniel and Brooklyn Fare in New York and renowned Mirazur in France, is no stranger to niche ingredients. Which is why the team’s latest run of pop-up dinners opens up their working pantry to diners, offering a preview of what’s to come as they scour for a brick-and-mortar location. Fermentation nerds will be especially happy with learning how to make house-made fermentables like lacto-fermented carrots and leeks, beer vinegar and pickled green strawberries.
“We’re really inspired by the bistro movement happening in Europe right now,” Russell says. “It’s a way to make really great food at an accessible price point.”
Expect vegetable-centric dishes with a touch of hearty animal fat or oil, like shishito peppers with rendered pork fat steeped with dried chiles and served with sourdough bread from She Wolf Bakery. Learn how to utilize onions from root to stem: oil made from onion tops, poached scallions and whole-roasted cippolini onions with dashi. Don’t fret if you’ve got a dietary restriction—dishes can easily be adapted for vegetarian and gluten-free diners.
An amateur cider maker, beverage director Piper Kristensen (of Bearded Lady in Prospect Heights) showcases craft cocktails using house-made ciders made from bacterial and wild yeasts, and apples from his family’s farm in Vermont. Along with a French 75 made with gin, lemon and a tart cider Kristensen made in his apartment in Brooklyn, the pop-up presents a unique opportunity to try tepache, a single-fermented pineapple street drink popular in Mexico not commonly distributed in the U.S.
Tickets for the next round of pop-up dinners on August 26 and 27 will be released on August 3 via their online store. If you’re itching to go, act fast. Tickets often sell out within the first day. Sign up for their mailing list to be the first in line.