Southern food has had a moment in New York of late, chef John Currence says, "but y'all think it's all pork and bacon. There are a lot of misconceptions out there."
So his menu this weekend at NYC's City Grit— a "culinary salon" in an old Nolita schoolhouse—featured Mississippi vegetables ("these were all in the ground two days ago") and Gulf Coast seafood. He characterizes the meal as nothing more than "three guys cooking in the Southern vernacular." In the tradition, but not at all orthodox.
City Grit has been around for a few months, and each week founder Sarah Simmons creates a different Southern-inspired menu, whether a shrimp boil or a "Southern Sunday Supper." But in their "Secrets Behind the Chef" dinner series, they're inviting guest chefs into their kitchen—starting with Currence, of Oxford, MS's City Grocery and Big Bad Breakfast. We caught his first dinner last night, which will be repeated tonight and Saturday. (Tickets available here.)
Chef Currence originally hails from New Orleans, while his chefs du cuisine are from Baltimore (Heath Johnson) and Gujarat in India (Vishwesh Bhatt). Bhatt's influence especially was evident throughout—in a tomato peanut chutney that graced the fried "royal red" shrimp, in the spicing of grits prepared in the style of upma, an Indian breakfast dish.
"I want to show you how we're cooking in the South, right now," said Currence; "not cooking what you think Southern food is." Which meant, at this moment, as many vegetables and as much seafood as he could. "I don't know any chef who wouldn't say this is their favorite time of year," Currence said; "The garden's just overflowing right now, and what we're not cooking with, we're canning."
And he's an enthusiastic proponent of seasonal seafood, too—"BP may have [expletive]'d a lot of stuff up, but they didn't [expletive] everything up. We're proud of our seafood."
Take a look through their six-course menu, including okra and corn fritters, black pepper-fried Gulf shrimp, popcorn rice "risotto," and much more. Tickets still available for tonight and Saturday's dinners (at which Currence will serve the same menu), for $85, with drinks available for purchase. Available here »
38 Prince Street, New York NY 10012 (map)
citygritnyc.com Around 10-15 dinners/month; check site for availability and tickets