All-time favorite meal: It was at a restaurant called Cal Pep, a very famous Barcelona institution. I sat at the bar, and the only reason I could afford it is because a lot of European places have an inexpensive lunch special. The chef, Pep Manubens, was there expediting and that was really cool--he’s pretty famous. He taught me how to eat langoustines, something like a Catalan crawfish. I had my first great fritto misto there. Altogether, an unforgettable experience in an amazing city for food.
Favorite local restaurant: As a student, I’m a huge fan of Colorado Kitchen. They have a relatively small menu, but everything they do is well-executed and just feels homey. And there’s an awesome, really diverse clientele.
Favorite dish to cook at home: Something I do a lot for family special occasions is a bruschetta bar with lots of different toppings. One thing I make for it that I love is a romesco—it's a traditional Spanish sauce. You roast peppers, tomatoes, almonds, and throw everything in a food processor with red wine vinegar, some chili. It’s nice not to have to adhere to strict measurements. In terms of a dish I make more often, I’d have to go with oven-roasted Roma tomatoes. You just cut them in half, remove the seeds, and throw them on a baking sheet with some olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, a few cloves of garlic, and maybe a little thyme. I slow roast them at 200 degrees for a few hours. They're great on their own with a little crusty bread, or as a meal with penne and goat cheese.
Most ambitious dish you’ve prepared: I tried my hand at a coffee-amaretto souffle. I over-beat the eggs a little bit, but it rose in the end. It was a Jacques Pepin recipe, and surprisingly easy to execute.
Favorite dish from Komi: I really like the old-world appeal of the restaurant, so I like a lot of the entrees that reflect that. We’ve had the katsikaki on the menu for a while. It’s spit-roasted goat with a really nice, smoky crust, served on the bone. It’s relatively rustic by fine dining standards--traditional Greek island food.
Best dish to describe to Komi’s customers: Ha! I can be accused of over-describing. We’ve been doing this dish with padron peppers from Galicia, Spain. About one in ten is spicy, the others are mild. It’s really fun to explain them to guests. I like to break out the Spanish expression about them with tables: "Algunos pican e otros non." Literally translated, "some itch [the tongue], and others not." We serve them with a panna cotta, lately english pea and mint, which works well because the chemical compound that makes peppers hot - capsaicin - is neutralized by dairy.
Favorite pizza toppings at 2 Amys: They put a lot of stock in the specials menu, which changes seasonally. That’s all I ever order from when I go back there. But my favorite pizza is the Norcia, with salami and roasted red peppers.
Dessert or cheese plate?: I love desserts, and our pastry chef is really awesome, but I’m definitely a cheese guy.
Coffee or tea?: My girlfriend makes fun of me, but I’ve gotten into gourmet tea. I’m a big fan of Pu-erh, a Chinese tea. It has a nice, musty, earthy taste and smell. I love Ching Ching Cha in Georgetown.
Red or white wine?: Definitely red.
Favorite cookbook: My parents have an old battered copy of the Joy of Cooking that’s indispensable. I have The New Basics-- it’s in paperback so not as expensive--and they take a really modern, ingredient-based approach.
Favorite fast food: I’m a huge Chipotle fan—the shredded beef burrito.
Favorite late night snack: The crackers at Komi. I snag a few before I leave at the end of the night.