If you're lucky enough to score an invitation to Angie Mar's house, here's what will be on the menu: free-flowing bourbon; a massive hunk of grilled, simply seasoned, bone-in beef and some shell-on seafood on a central platter (see the recipe); and a knife. Dig in.
Nab a reservation at The Beatrice Inn, the Graydon Carter-owned West Village restaurant where Mar is executive chef, and you'll find that the vibe isn't dissimilar. Maybe some white tablecloths, celeb and literati spotting (and, well, forks), but the ethos remains the same: food as a primal pleasure to be shared with friends, ideally bare-handed.
"Meat, fruit and herbs. I might be one of the only chefs in New York who will say that I hate my vegetables," Mar, who's cooked at The Spotted Pig and Andrew Tarlow's Brooklyn restaurants, jokes. "We cook what we love to eat. The flavors of smoke and sweetness and savory—having that combine together is really beautiful. When we're composing dishes, I love the ideas of having masculine and feminine influences together on one plate. It provides tremendous balance."
Though Mar has earned accolades for dishes like her 45-day dry-aged burger served with red wine caramelized onions and d'Affinois cheese on a brioche bun (not to mention a recent victory on Chopped Grill Masters), Beatrice's ever-changing "butcher block" is where her vision comes through clearest. On a recent night, servers marched through the dining room, holding aloft wooden slabs laden with smashed fingerling potatoes, garlic confit and Bing cherries (Mar had them flown in from Yakima, Washington) blistered in vanilla-infused butter; two half-pound, head-on tiger prawns; and a bone-in, double-cut, 56-ounce rib eye. Every one of them came back empty.
That sort of excess might be intimidating to a home chef, but Mar insists that the scale doesn't matter. "I love the wow factor," she says. "Cooking a 56-ounce rib eye takes the same amount of skill as cooking an eight-ounce steak would."
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For her, that means letting the steak come to an even temperature throughout by resting on the countertop for 45 to 90 minutes, salting it lavishly, then searing it on all sides on a 500-degree grill, moving it to the resting rack and closing the lid until it cooks to medium rare. After that, she tips it onto the bone ("I don't think my steaks stay as juicy when I don't do that," Mar explains) and lets it rest for eight to 15 minutes.
Though the meat would provide adequate "wow" for just about anyone's party, she likes to dive in a level deeper—pairing the slab with head-on prawns or shrimp, simply seasoned, charred on the grill ("The shell is almost like a potato chip when you cook it correctly," she says) for a flame-kissed surf and turf. It might be tempting to pull out the schmancy china for such a feast, but that's not Mar's ideal plan of attack.
"I love serving steaks whole and just putting a knife on the table. It gets everyone involved," she says. "You could be sitting next to great friends or someone you don't even know and serving these big cuts and letting people have at it really brings them together."
And that's a pretty great way to meat some new friends.
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