If you've never been to The NoMad in NYC, you should know this: Before the hotel and restaurant opened a few years ago, few were talking about the gritty NoMad (north of Madison) neighborhood. It's a property firmly rooted in a particular place, a sliver of the city it helped to reinvigorate after an eclectic and, at times, seedy past filled with booze and debauchery.
Even now The NoMad is a dark, luxurious, belle epoque beauty nestled among electronics and wholesale clothing shops on Broadway between 27th and 28th Streets. And the soon-to-be-released The NoMad Cookbook ($100), written by the restaurant's chef, Daniel Humm, and front-of-house guru Will Guidara (the team behind nearby fine dining destination Eleven Madison Park), is not only a glimpse into the restaurant's beginnings but also a nod to the area's colorful past.
"The NoMad has been open for three years now," Guidara says. "And there is just so much character and personality within those walls. We wanted to bring that to life. So, like the restaurant itself, there are many small surprises hidden throughout the book . . . everything from the cocktail book hidden in the back to the neighborhood map tucked inside."
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The book is also Humm and Guidara's script for casual but elegant dining and cocktails—courtesy of an additional cocktail supplement, The NoMad Cocktail Book. It's a smart move, considering their bar is consistently ranked among the best in the world.
"The NoMad is just as much about the food as it is about the cocktails," Humm says. "And what Leo [Robitschek] is doing at the bar is incredible. If we left that part of our identity out of the book, we wouldn't be telling the full story."
Details in the book—from the photography to the design to the recipe names—transport readers to the Manhattan of centuries past. The Satan's Circus cocktail (see the recipe), for example, is named after the neighborhood's somewhat sordid reputation.
"Our neighborhood was dubbed Satan's Circus in the 1870s," Robitschek, the man behind the bar at both The NoMad and Eleven Madison Park, says. "There was gambling, crime, saloons and significant prostitution . . . a very colorful history. It was lots of fun but very dangerous, too."
The drink, one of The NoMad's firsts (watch Robitschek making it in the video above), is a unique combination of flavors channeling that dark and energetic past. The rye cocktail is deceptively strong with a burning heat, courtesy of Thai bird chile-infused Aperol. It sneaks up on you.
The food recipes are equally nuanced, albeit exacting. You'll need a metric kitchen scale, as all of the measurements are done by weight: "We decided that you, the reader, who shelled out your hard-earned money for a look behind the curtain, should learn to do things exactly as we do," the authors write in the "How to Use This Book" section up front.
But that isn't to say that you can't tackle the French-leaning recipes (which include the restaurant's iconic dishes like butter-dipped radishes and whole-roasted chicken with truffles). Though refined, they're still doable, such as a gorgeous, perfect-for-fall recipe for roasted and pickled kabocha squash with pears and Parmesan (see the recipe).
"Squash with pear is just a quintessential fall dish," Humm says. "And we have access to some incredible squash varietals. This dish was originally tested with butternut squash, but we went with kabocha because of the sugar. High sugar content lends for easy caramelization. The cheese brings rich, savory notes to counter the squash's sweetness, and pear gives acid to balance it all out."
The dish is like The NoMad itself: beautiful and just a little bit mysterious.
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