What are you most excited about in the culinary industry right now, or in food more generally?
With our new menu and wine list at Rustica, we're playing around with different cuts of local product. We made some spicy and regular lamb speck from Flying M Ranch. They're local ranchers in Peyton. We cured it for a month and a half, made prosciutto, basically, and smoked it with hickory. The flavor profile is really unique. We want to get more space so we can do more curing like that.
What's the most unusual or odd ingredient you've had in your kitchen recently?
The big hit right now is smoked mozzarella fonduta [that] we fire in the wood oven in a cast-iron skillet with flatbread for dipping — think Italian fondue. We're also trying to increase our cocktails and aperitifs. We're playing with obscure vermouths from Italy, France and Spain. Not amaros — although we now have Meletti amaro on the Rustica list — but stuff like Dolin, Cocchi and Priorat Natur. We've had a meeting about building different flight scenarios for sherry, vermouths and aperitifs to help people get introduced in an easy fashion.
What was your best meal out last year?
I really liked How to Cook a Wolf when we were in Seattle over Thanksgiving. There are really good chefs out there doing cool, but simplistic, things. They're known for fresh pastas, and doing classic styles but also using different ingredients. Anchovy, chili, garlic, mint, parsley, pangrattato over spaghetti. And their wine list is spot-on.
What do you think 2015 holds in terms of emerging food trends?
The cocktail thing seems to be exploding more and more — but signaturizing it. Instead of a classic lemon drop or cosmopolitan martinis, people will make preserved lemon spirits and liquors, their own flavored gin, and use that for their drinks. On the food side, it's kind of weird to feel the pulse of this city. We're all over the place.
What's your favorite foodie movie?
There are a lot of good ones. This is going to sound terrible, but Ratatouille ... thanks to Thomas Keller and the way he coached them. It's brilliantly translated for anyone to understand what true passion is in a kitchen.
What's one book, recipe, blog or something you've read that's inspired your cooking?
One hands-down that I will always reflect on — I read it every few years — is On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. It's a bucket of knowledge. Anyone who reads it will be 10 percent better at what they do. There are almost no recipes in it. It's the science behind cooking. Why is winter milk richer ... it's epic. He isn't a chef, he's a researcher.