Beyond the Book: Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's Restaurant: Prune
As a child, Gabrielle Hamilton's mother called her by the pet name Prune, and today the moniker appears in pink letters on the door of her thriving restaurant of the same name, located at 54 East 1st Street in New York City's East Village, established in 1999.
The East Village has a rich history of both rebellion and creative vision, making it the perfect location for this maverick chef's restaurant. Though her initial impression of the real estate was not great - the restaurant before hers had been abandoned and left with rotting food in broken freezers, dirty dishes piled in the sinks, and vermin running unabashedly about - she could immediately sense that the space suited her style and, after a serious scrubbing, would be a great location for Prune. (To hear the author read from her memoir about her disgusting and humorous experience with New York real estate, visit Gabrielle Hamilton's website and click on "Audio Excerpt #3: Prune").
As she describes in an interview with The New York Times, after spending approximately 20 years in kitchens that were, "mostly soulless factories of catering," she wanted to do something completely different with her restaurant. She opted for simplicity over trendiness, and cultivated a French bistro-like atmosphere where people could feed their appetites and feel at home.
The menu is intentionally "not eclectic," and Hamilton is well-known for serving up fare that, she explains, is "very personal, it's food that I grew up eating or that I have a very close experience cooking, or that I personally know from the ground up and have made and loved." Her homestyle dishes include radishes with sweet butter, roasted marrow bones, fried sweet breads with bacon and capers, poached cod with cabbage, and veal breast cooked in milk; and for dessert she offers cornmeal poundcake with poached pears, butter pecan ice cream "drowned" in cold maple syrup, and a bitter chocolate pot de creme, among other tasty treats.
For more information about Prune's offerings, read Frank Bruni's New York Times review of the restaurant entitled, "No Pretense. Well, Hardly Any" or watch the video below from Savory New York.
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