It took me a long time to figure out how to write this. After many years at Big Law working on so many different cases together, my colleague Phil decided to exercise his golden parachute and leave the legal field to become more involved in his family’s restaurant and catering business, Golden Parachute, in Buffalo, New York, hours away from the city. I’m sure the irony of the name was not lost on his dad, the founder.
I had no idea what a good chef Phil was until this week. When he revealed to me that he was leaving and what he was doing, I was so excited for him. I told him about my website and he showed me the one he had built for Golden Parachute. How could we have worked together all these years and never stumbled upon our hidden culinary interests?! I think the secrecy comes from the perception that if you’re passionate about something other than the field in which you work, you may not be passionate about your work, or worse, you may not be taking your work seriously, allowing outside interests to interfere. I’ve had many conversations about this with my friends over at the New York Food Journal, who are also Big Law attorneys. As so many of you who juggle (job, family, blogs, etc.) know, this just isn’t true. It’s possible to have interests and passions independent of how you feel about the rest of what you’ve got going on in life.
Looking at the Golden Parachute website, it is evident that the food that Phil’s family puts out is unbelievable. I couldn’t let Phil leave New York City until we had a cookout. Phil would teach me how to make fresh pasta and I would help come up with fillings and the rest of the menu. Of course, Phil, being an actual chef, whose windowsills are lined with culinary textbooks on technique and style, prepped a bunch of the sauces and fillings the night before. It’s funny what happens when a home cook bumps into a semi-professional cook who has spent his whole childhood and all subsequent summers and many weekends working in a restaurant and catering business with his father, a professionally trained chef. You just realize how much there is to learn.
The Finished Products:
- Handmade manicotti stuffed with lamb merguez, roasted red peppers and herbs covered with a homemade tomato sauce and fresh grated cheese.
- Handmade ravioli stuffed with pear flambe, walnuts and 4 cheeses (Gorgonzola, Romano, Parmesan, ricotta) covered in a brown butter sauce (we drank the white wine for the beurre blanc).
- Handmade ravioli stuffed with crab meat and herbs.
- Mixed greens salad with fresh strawberries and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette topped with gently seared, marinated skirt steak.
I’ll attempt to describe, through photo and narrative, how we created this meal fit for a king.
Begin with the tools to stamp out the ravioli from the pasta strips.
Dust the table with flour.
Beat four eggs.
Combine about a few cups of flour with a few cups of freshly ground semolina wheat. We eyeballed it. Then add the eggs and mix together with a fork or spoon at first and with your hands when you’re ready to get right in there.
Form two big dough balls and let them rest for about 45 minutes.
As they rest, make the ingredients for the stuffing, mix the cheeses, flambe the pears, toast and chop the walnuts, roast the red pepper, chop in herbs, char the steak. Combine and mix.
When the dough is ready, Phil used the pasta maker that he “adopted” from his grandfather to roll out the sheets we used for the ravioli and manicotti. Dust the pasta maker with a little flour so the dough doesn’t stick. Roll the dough through by cranking the handle.
Add the roasted red pepper, herbs and some of the four cheese filling and roll it up.
Time for the ravioli! Using the stamps, cut out the shells.
Put about a tablespoon of the fillings onto each one.
Fold pasta in half over the filling and seal the edges with a little water so they stick better and don’t open when you boil them. Put in the freezer until you’re ready to boil them for no more than three minutes.
Of course, Phil bought bread from his favorite lower east side baker, though I’m frankly surprised he didn’t make it himself. He hadn’t left the firm yet, so I’ll blame it on work.
We used the cheese and the pears below in the ravioli. He combined these with the walnuts and a touch of cayenne pepper for the other filling.
A real chef knows how to flambe.
I have no idea what Phil marinated this steak in, but it was delicious. He laid it gently over a fresh salad with his vinaigrette, shaved some cheese over it and added the season’s strawberries.
My husband and Phil’s roommate joined us at the table. We had good music, good conversation, good company and good wine. At the end of this wonderful evening, after the food was mostly devoured and we were all well into the wine that chased down the Armagnac, we turned the night into a very New York evening by climbing the six floors to Phil’s rooftop.
The weather was finally warm enough to sit comfortably outside. Across the way, a girl in the window was giving us a show. She stood there half dressed for only a brief few minutes (see below) and right after I shot this she moved to the next window and stripped naked facing us, much to my friend and my husband’s delight. My voyeurism only goes so far, plus I didn’t want to get arrested.
I walked over to the ledge and looked up at the cloudy New York skyline. It’s amazing when the fog is so thick that you can’t even see the Empire State Building. Its heavy dew sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.
The cars go about their business moving up First Avenue. A shy hint of the Chrysler building reveals itself in the distance dressed in its signature white light.
To the east, more buildings and to the south the Freedom Tower glows its eerie glow enshrouded by the fog.
And the young folks never sleep. But we do. We went back downstairs and Phil served us a wonderful dessert and sent us home a little before 4am on a school night.
Best of luck to you, Phil doing what you love. Thank you for your friendship and for making a sometimes hostile place, a lot more friendly. When you come back to visit, you’re coming over for tapas. And when we’re in Buffalo, we’ll be at the Golden Parachute. Thanks for sharing the most wonderful New York meal I’ve had in a long, long time, for teaching me how to make pasta, for all of your patience and for opening your near furniture-less home to us on one of your final nights in NYC.