Hello, Washington, DC.

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Today, Kitchensurfing is launching in Washington, DC. We’re excited to get to know DC’s vibrant food community, and to bring talented local chefs into the homes of food lovers across the nation’s capital.

Check out our brand new DC site here, and get started picking out your first chef:

www.kitchensurfing.com/washington-dc

Here’s what you can expect from Kitchensurfing in DC:

1. Dinner parties. Lots of them.
We’re making hosting easier than ever. How? You host, your chef does everything else. From sourcing to cooking, serving, and cleaning up, we’ve got you covered. The hardest thing you’ll have to do is pick a menu. (Pro tip: there are no bad choices.)

We asked Kitchensurfing founder Chris Muscarella about his strategies for picking the best dinner party menus. Read more here, for his thoughts on how food should be the catalyst to a memorable evening.

2. Try everything (at least) once.
DC is known for its culinary diversity, from its well-known Ethiopian restaurants to new, creative food businesses opening all over the city.

Jody Fellows of the Falls Church News Press tells us:

What makes D.C. great for food is the sheer variety of options and neighborhoods at which to get them. From the District proper to the suburbs of Northern Virginia and Maryland, there’s just so much to choose from, with each neighborhood having its own charms. There really is something for everybody here.

We couldn’t agree more, and we want to take it one step further. The best way to truly get to know a new kind of food—whether a whole cuisine or just a special dish—is to connect with the chef who knows it best, and to share with the people who matter most.

So, get creative! We can’t wait to see what our talented, local chefs can cook up.

3. Breaking bread.
President Obama claims broccoli is his favorite food. Winston Churchill had a taste for oysters and ice cream. While we won’t pretend to solve all the world’s ills, we do know that the best conversations happen over dinner. In fact, many of our new DC chefs have experience cooking for diplomats, dignitaries, and domestic political figures.

At Kitchensurfing, we believe shared meals are humanizing in a way little else can be. We deeply value spending time with food, and engaging with the people who make it. We’re making meals with outstanding personal chefs an everyday possibility, and giving local chefs a platform to build their independent businesses.

We hope you’ll join us as we bring a new kind of dining to DC. Get started, here.


The Impatient Cook’s Guide to Pickling

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What do you do when you’re in a pickle?

We’re entering the season of all things pickled, preserved, and canned, but not everyone has a canning cellar and a stockpile of Ball jars. Luckily, pickling doesn’t have to be a process.

If you’ve got an hour or two until dinner time and your dish needs a spike of acidity, and crunch, you can make a quick pickle out of most anything. We polled our pool of Kitchensurfing chefs for their quick-pickle strategies and recipes. Below, you’ll find techniques from our chefs highlighting three different techniques for quick-pickling. Here are our favorite (groan) picks:

Vinegar Quick Pickles by Aubrey Jenkins
In this 30-minute pickle, Aubrey briefly salts vegetables to pull out water, then covers them in vinegar and spices.

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Photo by Aubrey Jenkins

  1. Wash and peel (if necessary) whatever vegetables you’d like to pickle then cut them down to size: cucumbers, radishes, and beets can be julienned or thinly sliced. Carrots and daikon work best julienned. Shallots or onions should be thinly sliced.

  2. Salt the vegetables generously (like you’re seasoning a steak) and gently toss them in a colander to coat. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes to drain.

  3. Gently squeeze the vegetables to extract any excess water. Tightly pack the vegetables into a jar and cover with a light-colored vinegar. Unseasoned rice wine vinegar gives your vegetables a fresh and crisp flavor without too much acidic punch. White wine or Champagne vinegar are other favorites, and distilled white vinegar gives your vegetables a kosher-pickle taste that may or may not blend well with your meal. Apple cider vinegar gives a distinct apple flavor to the vegetables, but works fine in a pinch. Sweetener is not necessary, but you might prefer a touch of sugar or honey added to the vinegar.

  4. If desired, add fresh herbs, spices, sliced garlic cloves or sliced ginger root for added flavor. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Store leftover pickled vegetables in vinegar for up to a few days.

Quick-Pickled Radishes by Briana Ryan
A hot mixture of vinegar, water and seasonings rapidly pickles sliced radishes. Try the same technique with thinly sliced carrots, cucumbers and fennel.

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Photo by Briana Ryan

  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ½  teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½  teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey 
  • 2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  1. Stack the radishes in a quart-size jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the spices and garlic.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, honey, and salt. Once the honey has melted, pour the mixture over the radishes.
  3. Close the jar, and briefly shake, allowing ingredients to combine. Let the pickles to cool to room temperature before serving.

Flash-Pickled Jalapeños for Banh Mi Sandwiches by Cristina Sciarra
Jalapeño peppers need only minutes in a room-temperature vinegar bath to tame their spiciness.

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Photo by Cristina Sciarra

  • 3 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  1. De-stem the jalapeños and thinly slice crosswise, then discard most of the seeds (depending on your heat preference).
  2. In a pint-size jar or container, combine the sugar, salt, and vinegars. Seal the jar and shake until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  3. Add the jalapeño slices, and shake again. Let the jalapeños sit anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour.

Have your own quick-pickle methods? Share them with us on Facebook and on Twitter!


Power-User Tips from Kitchensurfing’s CEO

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I’m the Founder and CEO of Kitchensurfing, but I’m not Martha Stewart. Most dinners around my table involve great food, but paper towels as napkins. In the short time since we’ve started the company, I’ve learned quite a bit about how hosting and food play off each other—and how to give yourself a layup with a chef.

One important thing to note: food is never just about the food. Food is about food and people—and the way that they combine with each other. With that in mind, here’s what I’m going for when I gather people around my table: conversation, conviviality, and human connection—with great food as a backdrop to the people participating. Food is a lubricant, like wine. Explicitly, what I don’t want is for people to feel like they’re hostage to the food and plating. Some people like that kind of thing, but I like it very rarely.

Here are five ways I make sure my Kitchensurfing meals are the best they can be—for me and my guests:

1. Always ask for family style. This means that every meal requires guests to talk, pass plates, and get acquainted with the food they’re about to eat. If you want people to talk and interact with opposite ends of the table, make sure they have plenty of excuses. Loud and fun seem to be frequent companions. As you’re just getting started, it gives people something to do, which is a nice icebreaker if you have guests that don’t know each other yet.

2. Make sure your house smells good—before and after. You want your house to smell amazing as people start to arrive: freshly roasted chicken, thai curries—whatever. The corollary is that you don’t want your house to smell awful the next day. I generally don’t have any type of serious frying take place in my apartment, and avoid menus that are heavy on fried foods for that reason.

3. Have a theme. It’s something to get people excited about beforehand, but also provides consistency to the meal. Personally, I love lots of the odd cultural histories around food—whether it’s the differentiating elements of real, hand-rolled cous cous or introductions to things like Nigerian cuisine. I also love menus that speak to a chef’s personal history—or menus that focus around a seasonal ingredient.

4. Seek out chefs with a point of view. Often, this means finding chefs with a specialty. Specialties can mean expertise in a specific type of cuisine (like Diana Sabater, a Chopped champion, and Puerto Rican food)—but it can also mean finding chefs that knock certain flavor profiles out of the park (like watching what Chris Lynch can do with a little acidity and great ingredients).

5. Keep it simple. Creativity comes from constraint. You want one or two dishes that are excellent—and then a host of sides to encourage passing. To quote from the Times on saving the endangered dinner party:

“Only real food,” said Mrs. Grunwald, who like the late and celebrated hostess Nora Ephron likes to keep her hors d’oeuvres simple (“Nora put a can of nuts on the coffee table, and that was it,” she said flatly). She serves her guests meatloaf or veal stew and shuns every manner of culinary affectation and fad.

“No filet mignon, nothing nouvelle,” Mrs. Grunwald said. “No pyramids and no foam.”

What are your dinner party hosting tips? How do you choose the best menus for your guests? Share them in our comments on Facebook.


Why Restaurants are Looking More Like Home

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Grace Park is the owner of The Kitchen Table, an event space in New York’s Little Italy. Grace opened the space in February 2014, drawing on her experience in restaurant and hotel design. We asked Grace about her first seven months in business, the changes she has seen in the restaurant and hospitality industries, and how people are thinking about food and entertaining.

How did The Kitchen Table get started?

I came up with this idea because I was trying to plan my boyfriend’s 30th birthday. I was just looking for a place where we could host this dinner party, and could cook for ourselves. I looked on Airbnb, but no matter how big the lofts or the apartments are, nobody has a table for twenty or twenty-six people. It would have ended up costing way more than we wanted to spend.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where people could hang out and it feels like home? Where you could have a dinner party and not have to clean up? You just leave. You wake up in the morning and you don’t have glasses everywhere. You don’t have to do dishes for four days.

Did you ever want to get involved in the restaurant business?

No, but I worked for a couple years in event production, so I got to know that side of things. [The Kitchen Table] is just an event space, but we have relationships with some of the best vendors in the city. So, we’re a resource for a lot of our clients who come to us and say “we want to do this great dinner party, but we don’t know where to start.”

What do your private clients generally look like?

Generally, it’s some sort of big celebration. It’s either a wedding or a birthday. We have not had a single rehearsal dinner, which is surprising to me, but we have had quite a few very small weddings. I have a soft spot for weddings. I love being part of such a special and intimate celebration and am always honored when people choose us as their venue. We actually have one today, and they’re using Linda Sarris, one of our favorite Kitchensurfing chefs.

So, the kinds of events where people would rent private rooms at restaurants, rather than  big banquet halls.

Exactly.

Why do you think restaurants are looking more and more like home kitchens?

I started in the restaurant and hotel design industry in 2006, and the communal table and open kitchen was becoming a trendy thing—even the super high end restaurants incorporating it. The most sought after dining experiences were no longer about having a white tablecloth and a waiter standing by. It became more about knowing the chef, seeing your food being cooked and knowing where it came from.

In New York—where apartment kitchens are so small, ovens are used for storage—a lot of people don’t cook at home. I think they consider the city’s restaurants their kitchens. At the end of the day dining out is a communal experience with friends and family. There will always be a place for very formal service, but I think people really just want to feel comfortable and like they can just stay a while.

Can you break down how the economics of the space work, versus how a restaurant would be running a catering and events wing?

So, restaurants make their money off of food and beverage, and not really space rental. We’re kind off the opposite: we make no money on food and beverage. We try to keep it as simple as possible. We actually have no staff—it’s just me, and then we hire staff as needed—if we have an event, we’ll hire people, and that’s actually billed to the client. We’ve had people approach us and say “if we can be your primary caterer, we’ll give you a certain percentage.” Something about that feels weird to me, kind of old school.

What have the highlights from your first seven months been?

Surprisingly, people approach us a lot for video and photo shoots, which is fantastic. There’s lots of stuff that comes up that I had never even thought of. We have clients that come to us to do off-sites. We had Vogue shoot here with Blake Lively. We filmed for “Moveable Feast,” which is a PBS show that follows two chefs around for a day. They go shopping and explore the neighborhood, and they bring it back and they cook for their friends. We get these really cool people who come through here and bring in their own business.

What has the success of your space taught you about hosting great dinners?

There are a few things I’ve learned that make hosting much easier:

Be prepared, you don’t want to be scrambling to get things ready a few minutes before invite time. Set the table and have the music ready (we love the Talking Heads Pandora station), and make sure you have time to freshen up and have a glass of wine before your guests arrive.

Decor is important, but you don’t need to spend a lot. A few bunches of single-color flowers and a lot of unscented candles make any space work. Do splurge on a nice set of cloth napkins though; they dress up any dinner party.

How do you and your clients fit into our current food and hospitality industries?

I think people are looking for a different experience. New York has a billion restaurants, and I think people are realizing that to have a private chef you don’t have to be a billionaire. I think people are expanding their ideas of what the food world is, and how they can be a little bit closer to it. They’re getting more curious. We’re seeing a lot of new, food-related careers and people who are turning their food hobbies into full-time jobs. Food has a way of bringing out the entrepreneur in people!

Find the chef to create a custom dinner party for you and your friends on Kitchensurfing. Make a Special Request for your next event.

Photo courtesy of The Kitchen Table.


Reinventing Kosher Cuisine

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Chef Eric Bolyard’s culinary career has included stints in Michelin-starred kitchens on both sides of the Atlantic, but his latest creative challenge brought him to a new frontier: Yuda Schlass’s loft in Crown Heights.

In 2005, Eric shelved a business management degree on a hunch that he wanted to cook in restaurants, and soon found himself in Europe: first, in Basque country working the grill station at the legendary Asador Etxebarri, then at London’s St. John Bread & Wine, before returning to the U.S. to work at Daniel Humm’s celebrated Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan.

At the end of last year, Eric left the kitchen “to explore different avenues of alternative dining,”  including the launch of his supper club Tasting Society, and private gigs with Kitchensurfing. Six months into his restaurant hiatus, Kitchensurfing’s Yuda Schlass contacted Eric about preparing one half of an eight-course, all-Kosher tasting menu. And so began an illuminating culinary adventure that has confirmed many of the principles that define his work as a chef.

“I was bar mitzvahed,” he says, but “had zero experience with kosher cuisine”—a common refrain from those outside of the kosher community. Which brings us to a definition of terms: for the purposes of Kosher by Kitchensurfing, “Kosher” means more than avoiding certain combinations of meat and dairy.

Let’s start in the kitchen. Kosher meals must also be prepared in a kosher kitchen, with Kosher utensils and served only on kosher dishes. What makes a dish or utensil Kosher? The second your salad spoon touches non-kosher food, it is no longer kosher. If a milk spoon is used to mix a hot meat dish, that spoon will no longer be kosher. That’s why kosher households have entire sets of kitchenwares—including dishwashers—for exclusive use in kosher dairy or kosher meat preparation.

In fact, the logistics surrounding equipment and prep time are often the biggest challenge to chefs working in a kosher setting. “I’m very particular about how I store my mise en place, so if they don’t have enough quart containers, I start to freak out,” Eric jokes (he’s since started stocking extra disposable quarts specifically for kosher gigs).

All meats served at Kosher meals are certified “glatt kosher,” meaning they have been slaughtered properly according to kashrut, Jewish dietary law, and have undergone additional examination by a rabbi. Produce requires scrutiny as well. In order to be certified as kosher, all vegetables and grains must be inspected to assure that no insects are present at the time of sale or preparation. All other items—including oils, dairy items, and breads—must contain only kosher ingredients and be marked with a kosher symbol.

For Eric, those rules aren’t an obstacle. “For me, it’s a welcome challenge,” he explains, “It opens up the floor for other new ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of without that constraint—I don’t like to use that word “constraint” because it’s not necessarily a constraint, it’s more of an opportunity.”

Eleven Madison Park, renowned as much for its food as its uncompromising approach to hospitality, prepared Eric for his work with kosher clients. “They actually make multiple sauces for almost every dish,” he explains, referencing the daily preparation required just in case a single diner has, for example, a gluten intolerance. “I’ve kind of been brought up with the mindset that you don’t have to sacrifice [the] complexity of a dish just because there’s some sort of alternative dietary restriction.”

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The goal of Yuda’s supper club—to introduce New York’s Kosher community to food they’d never tasted before—resonated with Eric. “Having a person say ‘I would have never thought of this’ is very rewarding to me,” he says. “It’s a very rewarding experience. It’s revelatory to see a very strong opinion being swayed in another direction.”

Consider his menu: ocean trout paired with charred white asparagus, pistachio and salmon roe; lamb chops served with modernist flourishes like rhubarb agrodolce and fennel purée; and his take on panzanella, featuring both dark rye and orange blossom “ice.” Each dish adheres the simple principles of Eric’s culinary philosophy—something familiar with something unexpected, essentially—and would also seem right at home on an Eleven Madison Park menu. With confidence that sourcing and preparation conform to kosher requirements, Eric’s attention returns to the plate, where it should be.

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Ultimately, kosher cooking is about creatively showcasing ingredients at their best, in a new, unexpected light—a goal that has nothing to do with kitchen equipment, dietary laws, or religious observances. Take Eric’s word for it: “Tradition is equated with limitation, and I don’t think that needs to be the case.”

Rosh Hashanah is less just one week away, and this will be the first New Year for the new Kosher by Kitchensurfing program. Headed by chef-rabbi Yuda Schlass, our kosher program features both chefs with extensive kosher cooking backgrounds alongside chefs who have been trained by our team and who work exclusively with glatt kosher products.

Learn more about about Kitchensurfing’s kosher chefs, and host a meal of your own. For more details, contact Yuda at kosher@kitchensurfing.com.


If You’ve Cooked in Michelin-starred Kitchens, What Do You Serve at Your Wedding?

First, the bride: Jessica Yang is a pastry chef who’s spent time at three exquisite restaurants: Per Se, Guy Savoy, and Chef’s Table. She grew up in California and studied chemical engineering and art history at Berkeley—and has since turned that scientist’s precision toward pastry. She met Robert in Paris while they were both working at the three Michelin-starred Guy Savoy.

Second, the groom: Robert Compagnon is the less-sweet side of the duo, and developed his culinary skills at Guy Savoy, Ko, Alain Ducasse’s Le Jules Verne, and Brushstroke. Robert grew up between Paris, London, and New York and studied Japanese at Columbia University in New York—which lead to one of his first professional cooking jobs at a ramen shop in Japan. He spent four years cooking in some of Paris’ best kitchens before returning to New York.

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Yang and Robert Compagnon

Most people can count the number of times they’ve had good food at a wedding on one hand. So, how do you predict a catering disaster? Easy: beware the needlessly complicated menu in an unfamiliar environment. Fancy and good are not synonyms. More than two different entrées being served? Bad idea. Dishes that require precise timing to get the temperature right? Bad idea. Professional cooks know this because cooks see the carefully-orchestrated chaos that is dinner service every day of the week. If good cooks know this, what do they serve at their own wedding?

Here’s how Jessica and Robert are tackling that challenge.


Make Way for Late Summer Reds

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We’ve hit the backlash point of the summer: your jorts are looking a little worse for wear, the novelty of grilled meats has all but worn off, and you’re longing for a cool breeze that isn’t accompanied by an arriving subway train. Here are four red wines to drink when you’re over summer whites and pinks (and the weather hasn’t gotten the hint yet). 

1. Sweet Shiraz

The sugar to this Australian red’s typical spice, sweet shiraz is mouth-watering and berry-filled when chilled, with chocolate notes as it comes to room temperature. Great with anything from the grill, or just sitting on the fire escape, especially with its $10 price tag.

Suggested bottle: Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz

2. Barbera d’Alba & Barbera d’Asti 

Nebbiolo’s lesser cousin, the barbera grape is grown in the valleys of northern Italy. Its light tannins and high acidity make it an obvious choice for chilling. Meant to be enjoyed young, it’s unnecessary to pay more than $30 for a decent bottle. With its sour cherry and strawberry notes, it’s great with grilled meats, a fennel salad, or anything balsamic.

Suggested bottle: Hilberg Pasquero Vareij Vino da Tavola Rosso

3. Frappato

Frappato has long been utilized only to lessen the heft of full-bodied Italian wines, but some brave young vintners have started letting the fresh fruit flavors of this Sicilian grape stand on their own.

Suggested bottle: Arianna Occhipinti’s 2012 Tamí Frappato

4. Beaujolais

Easy-drinking Beaujolais had its heyday in the US thirty years ago. These days it’s frequently overlooked as great late-summer food wine. As great with a pile of salted tomatoes as with a juicy turkey burger, its low tannins and strong berry flavors are an easy swap for that rosé you’ve been guzzling.

Suggested bottle: Potel-Aviron Morgon Côte du Py Vieilles Vignes


Kelley Peters is Kitchensurfing’s in-house wine expert, she writes about wining, dining, and breaking things at Homefaking.


Zucchini Recipes: What To Do With All The Extra Summer Squash

It’s that time in the summer, where there is just. Too. Much. Zucchini. Honestly, where did it all come from? At this point, it seems like we may have exhausted our summer squash recipe folder. But have no fear! Two all-star Kitchensurfing chefs have generously shared their tips. Below, New York’s Dianne de la Veaux and Briana Ryan of Los Angeles share creative uses for summer squash.

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Tarragon-Lemon Summer Squash Soup
by Briana Ryan

INGREDIENTS

1 large yellow squash, sliced and quartered
2 green onions (scallions), light green and white parts, chopped
½ medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon goat’s milk butter or coconut oil (to keep it vegan)
½ tablespoon olive oil or additional coconut oil
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups vegetable broth
Juice of ½ large lemon
½ cup coconut milk

1. In a soup pot, sauté the squash and onion in  butter and olive oil (or coconut oil, if preparing vegan) until onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic in the last minute or so.

2. Season to taste with black pepper, add tarragon, then pour in the vegetable broth and lemon juice and stir.

3. Cover and bring to a simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash is tender all the way through.

4. Remove from heat and add coconut milk.

5. Purée about half the soup in a high-speed blender or food processor then return to pot.

Serve immediately, and garnish with additional tarragon, chives, shredded Parmesan cheese, and croutons, if you like.

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Zucchini Pesto Spirals by Dianne de la Veaux

Slice one or two zucchini lengthwise very thinly — a mandoline is helpful for this. Toss the slices with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a single layer for 10-25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned, but not falling apart.  

Once the slices are cool enough to handle, schmear some pesto on each one and roll it up into a two-bite spiral! This is delicious as a snack or on top of a bed of greens for an appetizer.

Enjoy these recipes? Try them out and share the final product with us on Instagram - tag @kitchensurfing and #KSgrams!


Labor Day Cocktails from Chef Adam Lewis

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So far, we’ve focused on the best food for Labor Day. When you’re daydreaming about backyard feasts with a chef running the grill, it’s easy to forget about an important element of every great summer party: the beverages.

That’s why we asked Los Angeles chef Adam Lewis for upgraded summer cocktail recipes to field test. We’re happy to pass his latest creations, the “New School Kentucky Mule” and “Stoned Sangria,” on to you.

Read the full recipes below (we know we had you at “Stoned Sangria”).


#UberCHEF in Pictures

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Last weekend, we joined forces with Uber NYC to bring on-demand chefs to the Hamptons. With lunch and dinner services completely sold out, we fed almost 200 hungry weekenders at 20 parties across the South Fork.

Here are a few of our favorite shots from the weekend. Pictured above, that’s Chef Ygael Tresser and his grilled kale.