Be­yond Balt­hazar

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Many of us have our fa­vorite res­tau­rants that we fre­quent. Maybe it's by our jobs, a work­out stu­dio or just a place that feels like home. You know the staff, menus, other reg­u­lars and more - but how much of an in­sider are you? At Balt­hazar, by Reg­gie Nadel­son, looks at one of NYC's iconic res­tau­rants in ev­ery way pos­si­ble by break­ing down who has been a part of its suc­cess, the staff that keeps it run­ning smoothly, the pa­trons that visit and more!

ATHLEISURE MAG: The book has a num­ber of notables that have been at Balt­hazar: those in the lit­er­ary, act­ing, pub­lish­ing, and culi­nary com­mu­ni­ties. Al­though you are ref­er­enc­ing them in terms of their vis­its to Balt­hazar, it's also a re­flec­tion of a who's who in your net­work! In read­ing this book, you're also shar­ing who you in­ter­act with, we'd wel­come an in­vite to your din­ner party any­time. Please tell us about your back­ground as the di­ver­sity of char­ac­ters shared in this book seem to rep­re­sent peo­ple you have en­coun­tered dur­ing your day-to-day or through your work as a writer. What is your back­ground as we know that you are a writer as well as some­one who has eaten at a num­ber of res­tau­rants - tell us more.

REG­GIE NADEL­SON: I think you’ll see in the book that many of the fa­mous peo­ple are not nec­es­sar­ily my friends. I do have friends who are writ­ers and ac­tors, but most of my friends are lawyers, doc­tors, edi­tors, house-painters, teach­ers, not nec­es­sar­ily fa­mous; just fun. I grew up in Green­wich Vil­lage in a pretty free-wheel­ing world. It was the 1960s and 70s, and by the na­ture of the time and place, there was a lot of di­ver­sity.

I’ve been a jour­nal­ist all my adult life, have worked in Lon­don and New York, for mag­a­zines such as De­par­tures and Conde Nast Trav­eller UK, as well as news­pa­pers like the In­de­pen­dent and the Fi­nan­cial Times. I’ve writ­ten a se­ries of mys­ter­ies fea­tur­ing Ar­tie Co­hen, a New York Cop, which have been pub­lished in New York, Lon­don and trans­lated into a dozen other lan­guages.

I’ve trav­elled a lot, in­clud­ing to Rus­sia, Iran, across Europe and to South Amer­ica., as well as across the USA.

AM: You have eaten at so many places, why did you de­cide to write a book about Balt­hazar as op­posed to another restau­rant in Keith McNally's port­fo­lio or another restau­rant group?

RN: The an­swer to this ques­tion is the book it­self. I think you’ll find the first chap­ter re­ally does it best. It has long been my neigh­bor­hood place, where friends and fam­ily hang out.

AM: There are a num­ber of an­thems/ themes that run through­out the book - re­silience (what it means in the restau­rant in­dus­try, a re­tail es­tab­lish­ment in the tough NYC mar­ket, and what it means in a 9/11 - post/9/11 world), the im­por­tance and ne­ces­sity of im­mi­grants, change and adap­ta­tion, the im­por­tance of be­ing a brand that moves into a cul­ture and how those who are at the helm con­tinue to man­age this, honor­ing the past (old NY vs new), and the global per­spec­tive (how Balt­hazar em­bod­ies a french style while be­ing in the bustling cen­ter of the world) - were th­ese in­ten­tional el­e­ments that you planned to weave in the book as this is very rel­e­vant in to­day's world and re­ally makes you think of the in­tri­cate fab­ric that we live in.

RN: Of course they were in­ten­tional el­e­ments. I’m glad it works for you.

AM: What do you think is next for Balt­hazar?

RN: Another twenty years, I hope.

AM: You share the many faces of Balth-

azar in terms of the in­ter­ac­tions that you have had with the staff and iden­ti­fy­ing those re­la­tion­ships that are real ver­sus those that ex­ist dur­ing your meal - who has be­come a part of your per­sonal net­work from the Balt­hazar world where you have a re­la­tion­ship with out­side of the restau­rant's world?

RN: James We­ichert, who was the morn­ing man­ager, has be­come one of my best friends, though he has moved on to real es­tate de­vel­op­ment.

AM: Your com­mit­ment to writ­ing this book was so in­te­gral to mak­ing it a phe­nom­e­nal read. When you went to the oys­ters farm (do you like them more now), meat pro­cess­ing plant, win­ery and re­ceived your pota­toes - which of th­ese trips were your fa­vorite and those most in­sight­ful?

RN: Gosh, I can’t re­ally say. I en­joyed them all so much in var­i­ous ways.

AM: Soho is just as much of a char­ac­ter as the restau­rant and we've seen the changes that have come over this area - what do you think is next for this neigh­bor­hood?

RN: If I knew, I’d buy real es­tate and get rich. Hard to say. More shop­ping. More tourists?

AM: Do you think with the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics that make Balt­hazar what it is - that there will be the "next Balt­hazar"?

RN: For me, if some­thing is unique, it is unique. There will cer­tainly be another spe­cial restau­rant, a place that stands out. But not a Balt­hazar.

AM: What's next for you - what are you work­ing on and/or what's the next book of yours we should be read­ing?

RN: I’m work­ing on a doc­u­men­tary about ELLA FITZGERALD for her 100th birth­day, which is this year.

But you can al­ways ready my mys­ter­ies, all avail­able on Ama­zon un­der my name.

AM: We en­joyed read­ing the shifts of how Balt­hazar evolves from day to night and the char­ac­ters that move about - what is your fa­vorite time of day there?

RN: I like the very early morn­ing when al­most no one is there, and if I’m up, very late at night at the bar.

AM: In a gen­eral week, how many times would we see you at Balt­hazar?

RN: In a nor­mal week, a cou­ple of times at break­fast, maybe once each at din­ner and week­end brunch

AM: What are your top 5 res­tau­rants in NYC?

RN: Au­gus­tine, Aqua­grill, Pig Bleecker, Café Cluny, Blue Rib­bon Sushi

AM: What is your per­fect meal at Balt­hazar for break­fast vs lunch vs din­ner?

RN: Lunch: cheese­burger with raw onions and frites.

Din­ner: ce­vice to start, Steak frites or skate, then banana ri­cotta tart for desert.

AM: Who are your fa­vorite peo­ple you in­ter­viewed for this book?

RN: It would be like choos­ing your fa­vorite child, but Chef Shane McBride, and Chef Eric Ripert were fun.

AM: Will you write another book of this na­ture - if so what and do you plan on writ­ing another about Balt­hazar?

RN: I just don't know.

AM: You span the 20 years of Balt­hazar while be­ing ex­tremely cur­rent to as late as last year, how long did it take

for you to re­search and write this?

RN: In a sense, twenty years. In ac­tual terms of writ­ing, about two.

AM: When you're not eat­ing at fab­u­lous iconic places, what's a gen­eral NY day like for you?

RN: Up around 7, out to grab a cof­fee, back to do some writ­ing, out to Fanelli’s, our lo­cal bar for a late break­fast/ early lunch/ back to writ­ing or do­ing in­ter­views. Maybe a pi­lates class. Al­ways a long walk.

Out to the movies, oc­ca­sion­ally the theater, or a jazz club or con­cert with boyfriend/friends. Or out to eat with friends, or friends over to eat here. I al­ways read for a cou­ple of hours be­fore bed, usu­ally a novel.

Fa­vorites: Pride and Prej­u­dice, Age of In­no­cence, Anna Karen­ina, Mid­night’s Chil­dren, Port­noy’s Com­plaint, The Yid­dish Po­lice­man’s Union…too many to name.

In­te­rior pic­tures cour­tesy of Peter Nel­son and book cover by Si­mon & Schus­ter

A friend stopped by for din­ner a week or two af­ter hav­ing re­turned from an ex­tended stay in Italy. I de­cided to serve pasta.

“Oh, sweetie, this looks great, but I just found out that I’m gluten in­tol­er­ant,” she in­formed me.

Huh? How did this woman man­age to live in Italy for six months and avoid pasta?

She didn’t. In fact, she had been en­joy­ing it al­most daily: the breads and pas­tas in Italy didn’t seem to af­fect her, which was not the case when she at­tempted to repli­cate that life­style upon re­turn­ing to the States, for some strange rea­son.

Ac­tu­ally, the rea­sons aren’t that strange at all.

Ask most peo­ple what gluten is, which Jimmy Kim­mel once fa­mously did, and they’ll of­ten an­swer, “a chem­i­cal that’s added to flour.” Which it isn’t, as you no doubt know. Ac­cord­ing to the Celiac Dis­ease Foun­da­tion, ‘Gluten is a gen­eral name for the pro­teins found in wheat (wheat­ber­ries, du­rum, em­mer, semolina, spelt, fa­rina, farro, gra­ham, KAMUT® kho­rasan wheat and einkorn), rye, bar­ley and trit­i­cale – a cross be­tween wheat and rye.”

While peo­ple with Celiac Dis­ease, a ge­net­i­cally-in­her­ited au­toim­mune dis­or­der that can be con­firmed through ge­netic test­ing, must avoid gluten in all of its many form – bread, pizza, cakes, and even cer­tain sauces, such as soy sauce, where wheat is some­times, but not al­ways, added – gluten-free prod­ucts have hit the mar­ket and have be­come big sell­ers in the last few years, and the num­ber of peo­ple who feel that they’ve de­vel­oped a ‘gluten in­tol­er­ance’ has sky­rock­eted, whether they’re self-di­ag­nosed or it has been sug­gested to them by a doc­tor, nu­tri­tion­ist, di­eti­cian or a friend. Or they sim­ply avoid it be­cause it sounds like some­thing that's bad for them and should be avoided at all costs. With all due re­spect to the med­i­cal com­mu­nity, doc­tors study nu­tri­tion for three weeks in med­i­cal school, and we don’t know how many of them do the gro­cery shop­ping and read the in­gre­di­ents list on the prod­ucts they buy – or rec­om­mend to their pa­tients - or the nu­tri­tion la­bels.

Celiac dis­ease aside, why this mat­ters is that in the ma­jor­ity of com­mer­cially avail­able gluten-free baked goods, wheat flour is of­ten re­placed with a com­bi­na­tion of rice flour and potato starch, or some other car­bo­hy­drate-laden gluten-free al­ter­na­tive. The ques­tion is: would you sit down to

a bowl of rice, pota­toes and sugar, in the case of gluten-free cakes, or rice and pota­toes, in the case of breads and pizza dough, for ex­am­ple? By elim­i­nat­ing the wheat, you’ve greatly in­creased your in­take of car­bo­hy­drates which, over time, is po­ten­tially a Type 2 di­a­betes epi­demic wait­ing to hap­pen.

The rea­son why my friend could en­joy the breads and pas­tas of Italy but had a strong phys­i­cal re­ac­tion to those prod­ucts State­side is that, un­like un­bleached flour, the wheat in all-pur­pose white flour and en­riched flour not only loses most of their nu­tri­tional con­tent as a re­sult of the bleach­ing process, es­sen­tially re­duc­ing it to a form of sugar: they also con­tain ad­di­tives that have been banned in many coun­tries around the world as they are known car­cino­gens, or have been known to lead to other health prob­lems. As an added bonus, the chem­i­cals used to bleach or ‘en­riched’ flour do not need to be in­cluded in the in­gre­di­ents list on the pack­age, per­haps due to the fact that they are part of the bleach­ing process, rather than added to the flour dur­ing the pack­ag­ing. This can in­clude:

Azodi­car­bonamide, an in­dus­trial chem­i­cal that has been used for decades as a flour bleach­ing agent and dough condi-

tioner. It’s also found in yoga mats, syn­thetic leather, shoe rub­ber and plas­tics, in case you’re in­ter­ested. In the United States, azodi­car­bonamide has gen­er­ally rec­og­nized as safe sta­tus and is al­lowed to be added to flour, but has been out­lawed in Aus­tralia, the UK and most of Europe, as it has been known to cause asthma. Azodi­car­bonamide also in­creases the ir­ri­tabil­ity of gluten: when bread dough is treated with azodi­car­bonamide, it can break down the gluten and make glutenin and gliadin more im­me­di­ately avail­able, rather than al­low­ing the body to nat­u­rally go through its di­ges­tive process: for ev­ery ac­tion, there is a re­ac­tion, which may be one rea­son why wheat prod­ucts are af­fect­ing you neg­a­tively.

Another com­mon ad­di­tive in all-pur­pose flour is potas­sium bro­mate, a pow­er­ful ox­i­diz­ing agent that chem­i­cally speeds up flour’s ag­ing process and im­proves the dough’s elas­tic­ity, and who doesn’t want to buy per­fect bread or bake a per­fect cake?

For the record, while the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Health is­sued a re­port on the Tox­i­c­ity and car­cino­genic­ity of potas­sium bro­mate--a new re­nal car­cino­gen, the FDA has merely ad­vised, rather than re­quired or man­dated “mod­er­ate use only and proper la­bel­ing of this sub­stance,” which has been linked to cancer in lab­o­ra­tory an­i­mals and long banned in the UK, Canada, China and most of Europe. In their book, Rich Food Poor Food: The Ul­ti­mate Gro­cery Pur­chas­ing Sys­tem (GPS), nu­tri­tion­ist Mira Cal­ton and her hus­band, Jayson Cal­ton, Ph.D., put to­gether a list of the top 13 chem­i­cal ad­di­tives that are be­ing used in the US food in­dus­try, which have been banned by for­eign gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing potas­sium bro­mate, which has been as­so­ci­ated with kid­ney and ner­vous sys­tem dis­or­ders, as well as gas­troin­testi­nal dis­com­fort, and which is another pos­si­ble rea­son why you’re ‘gluten in­tol­er­ant.’

For the record, my newly-re­turned guest was able to en­joy the pasta din­ner I had pre­pared. My hus­band is a Type 2 di­a­betic who hap­pens to love pasta, but be­fore we had got­ten his glu­cose lev­els un­der con­trol, dry, store bought pasta was lit­er­ally off the ta­ble, as it would make his blood sugar lev­els spike. So I ex­per­i­mented, us­ing his glu­cose mon­i­tor, tak­ing be­fore and af­ter read­ings, to mea­sure the ef­fects, mak­ing home-made pasta first with all-pur­pose flour, which caused his blood sugar to spike, then, us­ing the same recipe, made it with un­bleached flour, whose re­sult­ing pasta did not cause any sig­nif­i­cant change in his blood sugar level, or his glu­cose mon­i­tor. I can’t say for sure pre­cisely what was in the all-pur­pose flour that ef­fected that change, but I can tell that us­ing un­bleached flour, which I also use to make him bread, pizza dough and pret­zels, made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence.

Far be it from me to de­mo­nize a gluten-free life­style, espe­cially in the case of Celiac suf­fer­ers: merely point­ing out pos­si­ble rea­sons for your gluten-in­tol­er­ance and in the case of Celiac Dis­ease, sound­ing the alarm about the ef­fects of an over-sat­u­ra­tion of rice flour and potato starch, or other high-car­bo­hy­drate wheat sub­sti­tutes, in your gluten-free diet, as a re­sult of those in­gre­di­ents be­ing the pri­mary go-to in many of the com­mer­cially-avail­able gluten-free baked goods cur­rently on the mar­ket. And note to self and caveat emp­tor: while liv­ing with Celiac Dis­ease might be some­thing of an in­con­ve­nience, Type 2 Di­a­betes, which does take time to de­velop, is a killer.

GLUTEN FREE TABOOLI SALAD Tabooli salad (no mat­ter how you spell it) is tra­di­tion­ally made with bul­gar wheat. Here are two al­ter­na­tives to the clas­sic, made with gluten-free al­ter­na­tives. The dif­fer­ences? Kasha will pro­duce a more earthy fi­nal prod­uct, while Quinoa will pro­duce a milder re­sult, and one with a very dif­fer­ent tex­ture than the tra­di­tional bul­gar-based clas­sic.

Serves 4

2 cups boil­ing wa­ter

1 cup kasha (or quinoa)

2 cloves gar­lic, chopped

2 tea­spoons soy sauce

2 toma­toes, diced

2 cu­cum­bers that are peeled, seeded and chopped

5 green scal­lions, chopped, or one small red onion, diced

½ cup ex­tra vir­gin olive oil

¼ cup fresh le­mon juice

½ cup broad leaf pars­ley, chopped 1 tea­spoon dark se­same oil, or to taste

In a small pot, com­bine the boil­ing wa­ter, kasha (or quinoa*), gar­lic and salt. Cover, re­duce the heat and sim­mer for 12 min­utes or un­til the wa­ter is ab­sorbed. Re­move from the heat and al­low to cool for 15 min­utes. Fluff with a fork and let the grain cool or spread out in a large bowl to speed the cool­ing pro­cesses.

Com­bine the toma­toes, cu­cum­bers, scal­lions, olive oil, le­mon juice, pars­ley and se­same oil and mix with the cooled grain.

Wrap in let­tuce leaves, or en­joy it as a side dish.

*I’ve found that cook­ing quinoa can be tricky, so I put it in a pot, along with the wa­ter, and let it sit for 15 min­utes be­fore cook­ing it. Add ad­di­tional wa­ter, if nec­es­sary.

CECINA (GF TUS­CAN FLATBREAD)*

Ceci is the Ital­ian name for what we call gar­banzo beans or chick peas. Ru­mor has it that the bread was ac­ci­den­tally in­vented off the Tus­can coast, when a ship car­ry­ing ceci flour was caught in a storm, soak­ing the bags of flour. Not want­ing to let it go to waste, some olive oil was added (it was Italy, af­ter all), the con­coc­tion was baked, and the rest is culi­nary his­tory…with maybe just a bit of lore and leg­end thrown in.

As an added bonus, chick pea flour is sig­nif­i­cantly lower in calo­ries and car­bo­hy­drates, and has a much lower glycemic load than does rice flour or potato flour.

(from Kevin Lee Ja­cobs/A Gar­den for the House)

Makes about 35 two-inch squares

2 1/2 cups gar­banzo bean flour**

3 1/2 cups cold wa­ter

1 gen­er­ous tea­spoon kosher salt, and grinds of black pep­per

1/4 cup olive oil

Op­tional fla­vor­ings: a gen­er­ous tea­spoon of dried herbs (triple the amount for fresh) — I used an “Ital­ian Sea­son­ing” blend;

Op­tional top­ping: 1 cup grated Parme­san cheese

Spe­cial Equip­ment – a bak­ing sheet, ap­prox­i­mately 17"-12" or a large pizza pan

In a large bowl, whisk to­gether the flour, wa­ter, salt and pep­per. (Don’t worry about lumps — th­ese will dis­solve dur­ing the rest­ing pe­riod.) Cover with plas­tic wrap, and let sit at room tem­per­a­ture for 3 hours, or overnight in the fridge.

Set the oven rack at the lower-third po­si­tion; pre­heat oven to 350°F.

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