Part 2 of Our Jimmy Carbone Interview: the Joys of Porchetta, the Folly of Pomegranate Beverages
At Jimmy's No. 43 you offer more than 40 beers--do you have a favorite?
Well, it depends on the season. I actually prefer to drink a few different beers in one night. Like right now I have this Dutch beer, Christoffel blond--I probably would start with that. And then a little bit of the Dutch amber called Christoffel Robertus--that's what I was drinking all weekend. And then I'd do something stronger, like a Belgian quadruple--a St. Bernardus quadruple. One thing, right now--I'm drinking fresh hops beers. I like the Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale--it's from Colorado. I always do that--I start lighter and work my way up through the night. That's how you do tastings for people. Once you've had stronger beers, you can't really go back to a more delicate or lighter beer.
I understand that part of the reason you opened your first restaurant, Mugsy's Chow Chow, in 1994, was that you were into wine. When did you make the switch to beer?
Originally I thought [Jimmy's No. 43] was going to be a wine and beer bar, but it was a beer-only license when we started. And when I was first getting into wine, the guys at Brooklyn Brewery had just started a new division called Craft Beer Guild. They were importing things like Chimay and some of the German specialty beers, as well as finding some American craft beers. Sixpoint had just started, too. I probably know more about wine, but I've tasted as many beers, or more, as I have wines. I don't know as much about beer intellectually, but I know the people.
Your menu at Jimmy's has an emphasis on local ingredients--do you have a favorite purveyor?
In terms of meats and dairy, probably my No. 1 farm is 3-Corner Field Farm--that's Karen, she's at Union Square. She has ram and sheep; they do everything, they raise the sheep, they breed them, they birth the babies. They do unbelievable lamb. Their sausage is a mix of lamb and mutton. You can taste the meat--it's perfect. That's one of our No. 1 dishes, a lamb sausage entree. There's always some cheese we get from her--it depends on the season. She has a Camembert, she has some aged cheeses, smoked cheeses. She's one of the rare farmers who's able to do everything. They're raising cheeses, they're at the market, and she's an award-winning cheesemaker. She's really unbelievable.
What's your favorite New York meal?
I used to like to go to Il Buco on Mott Street, because Sara Jenkins was there--about eight or nine years ago. I'd say now I'd probably go to Porchetta and have a porchetta sandwich or I bring it here. It used to be I'd go to restaurants more; now my favorite places are Luke's Lobster and Porchetta--it's a 7th Street thing. That's great, because not too long ago you wouldn't have a really great chef opening a sandwich shop--they'd be opening a fancy restaurant. I do like Ssam Bar down the street. Usually I go there late for a cocktail and I get the boneless rib sandwich--the chef, he jokes and calls it the McRib sandwich. That's a really good dish.
Who among the New York chefs do you regard as the biggest culinary talent?
Paul Liebrandt at Corton is really doing amazing things. I like Kurt Gutenbrunner. He's got Wallse and Blaue Gans--he's got a flair. And then Marc Forgione--he's at a little place called Forge [Ed: it's now called Marc Forgione] in Tribeca. Of course, I also like Sara Jenkins. And Caroline Fidanza. She used to be at Marlow & Sons, and now she has a place called Saltie. Everything I've had that she's done, it's awesome.
Do you tend to prefer the simpler food, the sandwich shops?
I do. I think a lot of the good cooks who are working with local ingredients, that's a great way for them to shine. Like Tom Mylan--he was a butcher, and now his new shop, the Meat Hook, I'm dying to go there and try their prepared foods. Where else are you going to go for a sandwich? You go to the butcher who makes the best meat.
Actually, I have a local secret place. One of the places that makes the best meat, around the corner--it's called East Village Meat Market. Well, the butcher George--he's the senior butcher--he's got to be in his sixties, he can do anything, he's amazing. They make their ham, their sausages, they make roast beefs. I get lunch all the time there. They have a kitchen in the back and there's this old lady who makes soup--like they make vidos, which is a pork stew. They also make chicken soup. Sometimes they have roasted chickens or spare ribs, I'll just grab those and eat them there with a slice of old-fashioned hearty grain bread. They're as traditional as it gets. Some people look down on them because they're using commercial meats, they're not buying from local farms, but everything else they're doing is traditional. And maybe one day they'll start offering a local farm special--I think that would be great for them.
Are there any foods you don't like?
Peas. I hate peas. I think because I grew up with them in a can or frozen--I just won't eat them.
What about anything you won't drink?
I'll drink just about anything. I'm pretty open. Except for jarred pomegranate beverages.
Is there anything most people don't know about you?
I'm probably just a nerd at heart. I read every day. I'm reading Carolyn Steel's Hungry Citys. It's about how food distribution shaped cities--how cities evolved around it. There are not a lot of really good food histories, so it's pretty neat.
Do you think there any overrated food trends right now?
Bacon might have gone through that. Bacon was kind of nutso. I think people are getting appreciative of having really good pork as a whole pig, because there are only so many good bacons. I think I'd rather have the trotter from a good pig, or if someone made something from the head of the pig, anything but just the bacon. We've been doing the bacon tastings on and off for about three years with Josh Ozersky, and we had one just the other day. I guess because of that, I know a lot about bacons--there are some really good ones, and there are some that are okay. I'll tell you right now, there's one from upstate called Mountain View. This farmer, he raises his own animals and only makes a small amount of bacon, like 15 pounds a week, which is nothing. Sometimes we get five pounds a week. It's a superb bacon. It's real sweet, Hampshire pigs. Josh liked it--he doesn't always like what I like. I finally turned him onto it, I'm so proud of myself.
There's really good bacons out there, but I just don't think bacon should be all over the place. I might get shot for that.