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Meet the Man Behind the Dinnerware at the Best Restaurant in the World

“We played in a band together,” ceramicist Jono Pandolfi—who designed a line of handmade dinnerware and serveware exclusively for our Shop—tells me matter-of-factly in his New Jersey studio. The other party in this “we” scenario is restaurateur Will Guidara. Along with his partner Daniel Humm, he’s behind New York City restaurants The NoMad, The NoMad Bar, and Eleven Madison Park. “We were called Hydrant.”

Unbeknownst to the pair, high school-aged Will and college-aged Jono were starting the beginning of a long creative partnership that would result in a collaboration on the tabletops of some of the world’s best restaurants. In fact, the world’s best restaurant, according to the annual list put together by industry experts.

Our exclusive line with Jono Pandolfi, including a set of 3 modern serving trays, a shallow serving bowl, and a smaller size of our platter.

Topping the 2017 list? Eleven Madison Park. An international panel of more than 1,000 chefs, food editors, and cookbook authors deemed the restaurant “the perfect partnership of outstanding hospitality and exquisite food in an iconic setting” where Will and Daniel “have put their lives into breaking down the walls between dining room and kitchen” for a “harmonious” experience.

And Jono Pandolfi’s handmade plates, platters, and bowls are all over that harmonious dining room.

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Jono's pieces on the tables of Eleven Madison Park.
Photos by City Foodsters, T.Tseng

Since opening his own studio in 2010 and landing on the tables of The NoMad (thanks to his longstanding friendship with Will), Jono’s name has grown in reputation, positioning him as a go-to ceramicist for celebrated restaurants who are relaxing the concept of “upscale dining.” At Eleven Madison Park, the focus is hospitality: a welcoming, inclusive experience where you don’t feel like you can’t drop a crumb on the table.

Atop earthy, textured clay and soft neutral glazes, their vibrant dishes are given a note of warmth, rather than the austere contrast of a white plate. That warmth translates to the experience as a whole—like you’re dining with friends as opposed to invited into an exclusive club.

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Putting the "hand" in handmade.
Photo by Kayla Ramsey/Gear Patrol

Jono likes to bring his chef clients to the studio where they can see his small (yet incredibly efficient) team at work, and come to understand the limitations of their output. His clients understand the strain of a specialty request, so Jono can stick to his roughly 50 molds for 50 different available shapes.

He’s not been without a handful of very specific commissions, though.

He sketches for me what he considers the most difficult request he’s been given, coincidentally by Eleven Madison Park: a two-piece tower, the top dish holding a delicately layered tiramisu and hiding a shallow dish of melted chocolate beneath. Jono’s creation added a dramatic, whimsical flair to the presentation (which we hear tasted great, too).

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Left: A sketch of what Jono considers his most difficult commission ever; Right: The dry erase board that keeps the team on track (see if you can find Food52!)

On the quietly industrious floor of the studio, thousands of pieces are fired and shipped to the likes of Ian Schrager’s new Public Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, and Jean-Georges, keeping the team extremely busy. Jono spends a limited amount of time selling directly to customers—our is the only shop he works with (lucky for us!)—because his output is limited, often requiring a lead time of six to eight weeks.

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The distant New York skyline out of Jono Pandolfi's New Jersey studio

However, Jono’s output capacity will dramatically increase very soon. The studio has a new kiln—one that took four months to build. I visited just a few days after the building permit for its operation came through, after a frustrating three-month long wait. “If you had been here last week, you would have met with a very bitter guy,” he says, but I got to see the giddy version of Jono, excitedly describing the kiln’s superiority to his existing ones in use: It gets hotter, fires and cools faster, is more energy efficient, and can run around the clock.

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The man himself.
Photo by Kayla Ramsey/Gear Patrol

When I asked about aspirations for other types of design, he fully admits that restaurant dinnerware is what supports the business and that has to remain his focus for the time being. “There’s an experimental side to me,” he says, one that is nurtured through his teaching at the Parsons School of Design, where the unbridled ideas of his Experimental Ceramics students keep his eyes and mind open.

He talks of designing architectural lighting and selling his pieces in boutiques, but for the time being, “My job is glazing and keeping my team happy.”

And happy they are, his team, who he laughingly compares to “the original Grateful Dead.” Like a band, but with pottery.

We caught Jono Pandolfi’s team in their throwing, firing, and glazing glory. Watch them go, below!

Video by Kyle Orosz

Watch This California-Based Blogger Bring A Simple, but Fancified Breakfast Tart to Life

Tart for breakfast? Heck yes! We partnered with siggi’s to share how to make one of our favorite Food52 breakfasts—a simple, not too sweet, and gorgeous tart—plus a conversation with the Toasted Pine Nut‘s Lindsay Freedman.

When company would come to stay at our house when I was a kid, my mother would wake early and tiptoe around the kitchen (trying not to wake the guests, asleep on the fold-out couch in the living room) while she made some kind of quiet but grand breakfast so they wouldn’t have to eat cold cereal. A real breakfast is so lovely and gracious after you’ve been traveling, often the first meal you eat when you “land,” so to speak—it’s a kind of baptism from one world (where you came from) to another (your host’s fold-out couch).

So when Lindsay Freedman, the Orange County, California-based blogger behind the Toasted Pine Nut, flew all the way out to New York to visit Food52, we knew we had to make her something good: a Yogurt and Berry Tart with a Pecan Crust, a recipe from longtime Food52 contributor and community member fiveandspice.

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Nuts + fruit + yogurt = <3.
Photo by Bobbi Lin

The tart couldn’t be easier to make: Blitz pecans in a food processor (or whack them to near-dust with a rolling pin), smush together with a touch of honey and a few tablespoons of butter, and press this crumbly mixture into a tart pan. Bake until toasty and golden. That’s the hard part. Really. That’s it. The whole process, including baking, won’t take you more than 20 minutes. (You could even do this the night before if, say, using a food processor before you’ve finished your first cup of coffee sounds jarring.) Top with big swooshes of yogurt and a veritable pile of fruit—and you’re done. It’s essentially yogurt with fruit and granola, but, as fiveandspice says, “fancified.”

As it turns out, it was the perfect thing to make with Lindsay, whose blog focuses on low-carbohydrate, gluten-free recipes. Lindsay started blogging as the Toasted Pine Nut when she realized there just weren’t a lot of appealing recipes to make with her husband, who, at the time, had been newly diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes.

This tart in particular fits the bill: With a crust made only of nuts, a mere tablespoon of honey, and a bit of butter, and a “filling” that’s really just plain yogurt (though vanilla or fruit-flavored would be great too) topped with whatever fruit is in season, it’s very low-sugar, very low-carb, and has a lot of protein—enough to keep Lindsay, her husband, and their two young sons going through the morning.

Lindsay and her family have to think a lot about what they eat—to eat what’s right for them without getting sucked into the whorl of over-prescriptive “wellness.” Here’s what Lindsay keeps in mind:

Balance is key.

A mix of consciously-wholesome eating, fun, realistic goals and expectations, and a wide variety of foods makes eating interesting and enjoyable.

“All or nothing” is not how it works.

The good food/bad food mindset does more harm than good—and just isn’t truthful: No food is “good” or “bad.” And balance keeps everything in check.

Get the tart recipe and hear more of what Lindsay has to say in the video below:

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Yogurt and Berry Tart with a Pecan Crust

By fiveandspice

  • 1 1/2
    cups raw pecans

  • 1 to 2
    tablespoons honey

  • 2
    tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small chunks

  • 1
    cup (approximately) yogurt (preferably full-fat) — I think mascarpone cheese would also be yummy

  • 2
    pints or so fresh raspberries (you could also use other berries, or sliced stone fruit)

View Full Recipe

Breakfast tart? Heck yes! In partnership with siggi’s, makers of simple, traditional Icelandic skyr (made without much sugar, too), we’re thrilled to launch a series recipes, stories, and videos dedicated to the things we eat that make us feel good. (Psst: We love to switch up the yogurt and fruit combos in this tart—try vanilla yogurt + peaches or coconut yogurt + strawberries.)

The World’s First Boozy Cold Brew Could Be Coming to a Store Near You

If frozen rosé was the drink of summer 2016, this year’s answer to the heat is Bad Larry’s Cold Hard Brew — a new kind of cold brew that’s also six percent ABV.

Made in Wisconsin from locally-sourced, nitrogen-infused cold brew, Bad Larry’s is finished off with malt liquor, bringing you the world’s first commercially available alcoholic coffee. One 11.5 ounce can of Bad Larry has 180 milligrams of caffeine, which is just under the amount you’d get from a grande Starbucks cold brew. And just FYI, because of its longer brewing time (overnight at the very least) and greater grind-to-water ratio, cold brew already has more caffeine than your traditional hot coffee.

So far, Cold Hard Brew is sold in liquor stores throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota, and select locations in Arizona and Florida at $10 for a four-pack. And don’t worry — “due to popular demand, [the company is] in the process of working on national distribution,” starting with the Midwest, a rep for Bad Larry’s promises.

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The Ingredient That’s Missing from Your Cold Brew
by Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

In the mean time, let’s not forget about the many other ways we like to spike our summer drinks, like this alcoholic ginger beer, boozy beer float, and of course, Irish coffee.

How to Build a Pasta-Ready Pantry (And Skip the Mid-Week Slump)

By keeping a few quality ingredients on hand, you can quickly transform your dinners every night of the week. We partnered with Johnsonville to share a few ways we like to change it up with pasta.

Quick and flavorful weeknight pasta dinners (which I’m kind of known for) can come together easily with a well-stocked pantry and seasonal ingredients, especially during summer when the produce is bountiful.

The three ingredients that I keep at arm’s length—good quality olive oil, garlic, and freshly-grated cheese (like Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano)—are what I recommend to always have on hand to get out of a mid-week jam. An assortment of fresh herbs such as basil, mint, and chives, or toasted, crunchy nuts, and flaky salt are also wonderful for finishing a dish, so those are good to have around, too. These small additions add brightness and texture, and will take your pastas from good to great.

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Photo by James Ransom, Graphic by Tim McSweeney

The best thing about utilizing in-season, peak produce is that you don’t have to do much to show it off. The old adage “what grows together goes together” couldn’t ring truer, especially with what you’re tossing in pasta.

Grab one or more of your pantry (and fridge) workhorses (like cheese, garlic, nuts, and herbs) and pick a favorite pasta shape. Vegetables can be used interchangeably, such as asparagus, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, or leafy, wilt-able greens like kale, spinach, and arugula. Tossing in a summer-appropriate meat, like sausage, is never a bad idea as it adds a subtle, smoky flavor. Generally, I use meat in pasta like an accessory—after all, an outfit can only be so good without the perfect shoe or bag tying it all together. Same theory here!

Once you learn what flavor profiles work well together (use the image and recipes above as a good starting point!), you’ll be able to think on your toes to create simple, delicious meals that showcase late spring and early summer produce. When fall and winter come, you’ll be ready to go at it again.

Here are a few more tips for pulling together perfect pastas:

Salt your pasta water well. I recommend two tablespoons of Kosher salt, at least. Taste your water before dropping the pasta, it should be salty like the sea. (We’ve heard that before!)

Cook your pasta al dente, which translates “to the tooth,” so it maintains texture. Nobody likes soggy pasta.

Save your pasta water! (I repeat: Save your pasta water!) The salty, starchy water is the key for bringing your sauce together. The salty pasta water adds more seasoning to your dish and also helps to loosen up the sauce.

Finish your pasta dish in a stovetop skillet. Toss all the ingredients together, gradually pouring in small amounts of pasta water until you reach a desired consistency. Sprinkle in cheese (if using) and toss again. Your finished pasta should be glossy.

Johnsonville’s all-natural, cooked dinner sausages (no fillers here!) come in styles like Three Cheese Italian, Chorizo, Andouille, and Smoked so you can do summery pastas every which way. Read more about their products here.

One Thousand Miles of Alaska

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That’s literal.

It’s actually 1,015 miles, to be exact. That’s how much Alaskan ground we covered in our short 5-day jaunt through the great state of Alaska.

When our friend Frank told us that he would be working in Alaska this summer, texts started flying. Bjork and I, along with our friend Joe, did not waste any time planning a reunion “to visit Frank” in Alaska. You know how that is, right? Your friend goes somewhere awesome and it is almost a requirement that you go visit? That was this. From the start, it was destined to be the ultimate adventure – Rendezvous in the Midnight Sun, we called it.

Bjork and I are high school sweethearts (if that term doesn’t make you gag a little bit, you are rock solid), and Frank and Joe are two of our high school friends, so mostly the high-school level inside jokeage on this trip was out of control. We’re talking sore-abs level laughter. It has been a long time since I laughed that hard.

And that’s really the best part about Alaska, for me – the time spent laughing and adventuring (slash misadventuring) with friends.

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But we also did really see a lot of Alaska.

Like, more than a thousand miles’ worth.

I cannot be a minimalist in this moment, so this post is just a blast of pictures from our journey through Alaska. Mostly because I like to document, and because this is a blog, and because sometimes it’s fun to see what other people are doing in the world. Please, all of you, go start blogs and post your vacation pictures. I promise to look at all of them. This is a thing for me.

At the bottom of this post, I will list out a few favorite places that we hit up for those who might be planning their own Alaskan trek.

And for the rest of you, may these pictures prove to you that even short trips are worth the time and energy, that old friends are hilarious, that Alaska is sparkling with magic.

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Seward

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First stop: Seward!

If I could only go back to one place in Alaska, it would be Seward, hands-down. As much as I love the mountainous wonder that is everywhere in Alaska, it is the mountainous wonder + crystal clear blue ocean that really puts stars in my eyes.

Also, humpback whales and puffins and orcas in the wild … that doesn’t hurt, either.

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Kenai Fjords

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Number one most amazing experience of my life. Or at least REALLY high up there, along with road-tripping through Big Sur and motorcycling across the island to Moalboal when we lived in the Philippines.

My love for this little 6-hour, 100-mile, glacier-viewing cruise was just unstoppable.

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Oh, and by the way, I GOT A TATTOO.

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Exit Glacier

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Denali National Park

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13 hours on a school bus national park tour = 13 grizzly bear sightings, dozens of caribou in a “nursery herd,” one moose mama and baby, mountain-climbing curly-horned dall sheep, and views that I cannot figure out how to make look NOT fake.

This place is on a whole ‘nother level.

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The bus situation:

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Moose mama:

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SO MUCH WILDNERNESS.

It is remote beyond remote.

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I have never tasted cheap pizza so good.Alaska 49 One Thousand Miles of Alaska

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What an adventure. It was everything a Rendezvous in the (literal) Midnight Sun should be.

Here’s a list of our stops:

  • Seward, Alaska – HIGHLY recommend. The drive from Anchorage to Seward is totally magical.
  • Kenai Fjords Tours – HIGHLY recommend. The 6-hour tour was perfect for us.
  • Seward Brewing Company – that picture of the halibut curry up there? yeah. good, good food.
  • Smoke Shack – yummy for breakfast.
  • Exit Glacier – a nice lil’ hike.
  • Last Frontier Brewing Company – a good stop on the way from Anchorage to Denali. Surprisingly good pizza and burgers.
  • McKinley Creekside Cabins and Cafe – an easy and comfy place to stay close to the entrance of Denali National Park.
  • Denali National Park – yes, yes, and yes. If I did it again, I think I would go for the medium-long bus ride instead of the long-long one, because my favorite stop was about halfway – Eielson Visitor Center. Please note that if you are nervous about bus rides over steep cliff drop-offs on one way dirt “roads,” you may need to struggle through for a hot minute. (HI.) But you will make it and it will be so worth it.
  • Panorama Pizza Pub – so basic, so good. Especially after 13 hours on a school bus in the wilderness.

Okay, so who’s been to Alaska? Experienced any of the same, or something different? Tell, tell, tell! ♡

If you’d like to see/read more, I have some videos on my personal Instagram account – @lindsaymostrom – including one of the bus tour that might make you sick. Whee! Enjoy!

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