I am not proud to admit this, but I’ve only been to Gramercy Tavern once, five years ago. It was, as maybe is expected, one the best meals of my life, and one I’ve long wished I could experience again. Lucky for me (and 99 other delighted guests), I got to have my Gramercy fix, with the third installment in our Industry City Chef’s Lab collaboration series: a pop-up four-course brunch prepared by Gramercy’s pastry chef Miro Uskokovic and bar manager Ben Howell.
Gramercy Tavern has long be revered for many reasons: its ever-evolving menu of local, seasonal ingredients, executive chef Mike Anthony’s thoughtfully produced meals, and their sleek-yet-cozy interior that’s become iconically New York. Even though we were across the river, our meal was trademark Gramercy, full of fresh, seasonal foods, and innovative in its approach to flavor combinations. “I was excited for the opportunity to have some fun and to show GT’s versatility. The seasonality and fine American dining aspect makes [the restaurant] seem stiff; but we also have fun with it,” Ben told me after the meal.
Upon arriving at the Filament at the Landing dining room, we were promptly served Bloody Marys. Ben replaced the usual vodka with Sipsmith gin, infusing the traditional brunch drink with more flavor, and added pickled ramps liquid, which made it sweeter and richer than a typical Mary. I knew immediately after my first sips: This brunch was about to be lit.
As chef Miro noted at the top of the meal, each course was planned with an incredible attention to detail, with mindfulness to avoid the brunch default “carb and fat bombs made with conventional ingredients stripped of nutrition and flavor.” Chef and his wife are big at-home brunchers, which inspired the general framework of the meal: “I believe local and heirloom ingredients are both healthier and more flavorful. I’m not against gluten or sugar. I just make it a point to incorporate better options like local flours and organic, alternative sugars like coconut palm, maple or date syrup. I approached this event, which I called #betterbrunch, with this philosophy.”
In other words, we ate well. We drank well, too: The second course, Kimchi Shakshuk, was paired with Green Juice, allowing Ben to really spotlight his approach to the meal’s cocktail program—“I thought about the pairings as if I would include the ingredients [of the drink] with the dish itself.” He combined the juniper-forward Sipsmith with the sweet and vegetal flavors of the Chartreuse, and added the cucumber and herbs to amplify the kimchi and shrimp in the dish.
The highlight of the brunch was the green waffles and buttermilk fried chicken, which was inspired by the South Indian breakfast dish pessarattu, and made with mung beans, Indian Tellicherry peppercorns and curry leaves. The chicken was finished with a sweet honey butter sauce, which was the inspiration for Ben’s cocktail pairing: a Michelada flavored with kimchi juice and white soy, which gave a spicy and savory balance to the dish. We finished, to my utter delight, with Miro’s pastry basket and rum-spiked cold brew coffee.