Round two with Row 14 exec chef Arik Markus
This is part two of my interview with Arik Markus, executive chef of Row 14. In part one of that interview, Markus dishes on crashing kitchens, the day he was fired by Eric Ripert and the echo of Daniel Boulud.
Favorite restaurant in America: Wow, that's so subjective. I have favorites in so many cities, and it's hard to pick just one, but I guess I'll say Balthazar in New York. They absolutely nailed the bustling-brasserie concept, and I love the room, the food, the crowds and the energy. I also have a special relationship to the restaurant: Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, who have been the chefs there since it opened, were my sous chefs at Daniel when I was just coming up. I got a tour of the space when it was still a construction site, and was their guest on the third night they were open -- sitting in a banquette next to David Bowie and Iman. Sixteen years later, I still go there every time I get home to New York, and Lee and Riad still take great care of me. They're like my older brothers -- something I only got at Restaurant Daniel.
Best food city in America: San Francisco. The access to the surrounding agricultural and viticultural areas provides the Bay Area with the most dizzying array of products, amazing vegetables and fruits, wines, cheeses, seafood and livestock. When I lived there, I had a "Round the Bay Tour" that I'd subject my out-of-town visitors to. We'd pack a mignonette sauce and some paper plates and napkins in a cooler and stick it in the trunk of the car, then head to Napa by way of the Bay Bridge. We'd stop in Carneros and have a glass of bubbly on the veranda at Domaine Carneros (Tattinger clones!), then buy a bottle and stick it in the cooler. Then it was on to the next champagne cave for another glass and another bottle for the cooler. We then headed west to Point Reyes Station to buy cheese, a baguette and some Fra'Mani salumi at Cowgirl Creamery, then to Marshall, to Hog Island Oyster Company headquarters, where they have a dozen or so picnic tables set up right next to Tomales Bay. You can buy a bag of fifty oysters for $50, and they'll give you an oyster knife, lemons and a bottle of Tapatio hot sauce. Then we'd crack open the cooler and feast on oysters, meats, cheese and bubblies before taking a slow ride back into San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. What a way to feature the best of the Bay in a day.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: It's a tie between Pizzeria Basta and Pizzeria Locale, both in Boulder. New Yorker plus great pizza equals happiness. Theo Adley also does a great job at the Pinyon, and I really want to get to twelve to enjoy Jeff Osaka's cuisine. I'm also excited for the return of Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Restaurants that provide delicious, innovative and thoughtful food at a fair price in an unpretentious setting. We work hard to provide that experience to our guests, and our wine program complements the food extraordinarily well.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Kitchens that go through the motions. There are plenty of great restaurants around, but I tend to seek out the kitchens that change up their menus to coincide with the seasons -- kitchens that take care to innovate without going over the public's heads, and that provide quality and value. It matters to me that a kitchen takes the time to make their own stocks and sauces and isn't just buying pre-made foods from a broadline purveyor. Balsamic vinaigrette on the side, please, but only if it's made in-house.
Current local culinary genius: My vote goes to Brian Lockwood, chef de cuisine at Frasca. There's been a lot of change since Frasca's expansion this past autumn, and Brian has worked hard to transform the kitchen into a kind of little French Laundry. The food is great, the ingredients are top quality, and he's pushing the envelope with molecular techniques, striking a balance between enhancing the food and experience without calling too much attention to themselves.