Chef Peter Hoffman Shares His Thoughts on Recreating Back Forty in Soho and the Locavore Movement
Peter Hoffman has been a fixture in the downtown New York restaurant scene for years. He opened Savoy in Soho back before the neighborhood was a glorified shopping mall, and championed a farm-friendly culinary aesthetic before the term "locavore" was ever coined. He shuttered Savoy last year, but just a few weeks ago reopened the space as a new outpost of his East Village eatery, Back Forty. We called him up to learn more about the restaurant and to get his take on New York dining today.
Photo courtesy Peter Hoffman Peter Hoffman's back in the groove at Back Forty.
So why create another outpost of Back Forty instead of coming up with a totally new concept?
Well, we just thought so many people really appreciated what we were doing with Back Forty, though I'm not interested in rolling out the cookie-cutter restaurant formula, because there has to be a heart in the restaurant for it to be any good, and people trying to cook good food. That's the difference in cookie-cutter, 1-2-3-4 places. We've learned so much about how things have evolved and dining in New York -- the casual style and easy approach people like and the large-format style of eating where people can make a party. Savoy couldn't handle large groups and had a different way of dining, so we're building and extending on what we've learned.
How do the two Back Forty restaurants differ?
One thing is that we put in a smoker here on Prince Street, so that allows a realm of exploration that we didn't have before. We can do pulled pork and smoked lamb shoulder, so those are all new dishes.
What is the don't-miss dish to get?
The sammy, which is certainly something from the smoker, as are the ribs. For lots of people, the kale salad. [Chef] Shanna [Pacifico] developed it at Back Forty on Avenue B, and people are having a great time with it here. In terms of presentation, all the salads come in wooden bowls, and whether it's because it's more rustic or easier to chow down, there's just something wonderfully tactile about it being in bowl rather than on a plate. I don't know how the menu organization struck you, but I had a revelation one day thinking about how we eat might be a fun and interesting way to organize the menu, looking at what utensils we use or whether to eat with your hands, and giving license to that.
Tell me more about the large-format dinners.
We are still expanding and developing them, but you can book them for up to eight or 14 people, and with that you get an entrée with its condiments plus dessert. People can order à la carte for salads, appetizers, and vegetable accompaniments to the meat entrée. One is a smoked pork shoulder -- it's pulled pork with barbecue sauce, buns for sandwiches, and pickled vegetables, and then each of these dinners comes with dessert, so like an open-face apple tart. Or you can have smoked lamb shoulder with harissa, grilled flatbread, and carrot salad. Or goat shoulder, which comes with a more Mexican-style setup, guacamole, and salsa. The idea is to put a wonderful platter of meat down in front of a party. You have the entire table and eating communally as a group of friends.