We chatted with chef Christopher Lee of the beloved Barcelona Wine Bar (which boasts multiple locations from Massachusetts to Tennessee) before his dinner at the James Beard House to find out what he adores about New York dining, why he thinks Indian food is the next big trend, and how he creatively prepares clams.
Chef Christopher Lee of Barcelona Wine Bar.
It’s finally starting to feel like spring—and some days even give us a tease of summer. What better way to celebrate warmer, sunnier days than with Spanish cuisine like shareable tapas and wines? Enter chef Christopher Lee of Barcelona Wine Bar who will bring a taste of the country to NYC with his Sexy Flavors of Spain dinner at the James Beard House on Tuesday, May 16 (member price, $135; public price: $175, on jamesbeard.org). Guests will start with hors d’oeuvres like Iberian chorizo-cheese croquettes and diver sea scallop crudo with green tomato water and serrano chiles, then move on to mains like jamón Ibérico belly with apricot mojo picón and rainbow trout with almonds, rosemary, and jamón broth. The evening ends with an imperial almond-egg tart with apricots for dessert and is complemented by wines throughout.
We caught up with Lee to get his views on the NYC foodie scene and a favorite clam recipe.
What is your favorite place to eat in New York and what do you order there? CHRISTOPHER LEE:Katz's Deli is legendary and my order is pastrami on rye with spicy mustard and a knish. A close second is The Halal Guys—the cart on 53rd and Sixth Ave. And third would have to be David Chang’s chicken sandwich at Fuku.
In your opinion, who is a rising-star chef to watch in New York? CL: Justin Bogle, chef de cuisine at Le Coucou.
If you could have dinner with any New York chef, dead or alive, who would it be? CL: Nobu.
What New York City neighborhood do you think has the best food scene? CL: It’s a toss-up between the East Village and the Gramercy area. Between those two neighborhoods, you can find plenty of New York institutions.
What are you most looking forward to about the James Beard Foundation event? CL: It’s always an honor to hang at Mr. Beard’s house. Some chefs get their kicks walking the halls of the White House—but for me, cooking in a kitchen where the best chefs in the world have cooked is the greatest honor.
What kind of food does New York need more of? CL: Mark my words, Indian food is the next craze. As our palates develop, we will demand stronger and bolder flavors, which is the foundation to Indian cuisine.
Little Neck clams with chorizo and marcona amonds
Yields: 4 portions Portion size: 8 clams
1 Tablespoon canola oil 8 ounces fresh chorizo 3 shallots, finely diced 6 garlic cloves, minced 6 piquillo peppers, finely diced 32 Littleneck clams, scrubbed clean 4 cups white wine 1 cup marcona almonds, lightly toasted in the oven and chopped ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil Juice of 1 lemon 1 cup parsley leaves, chopped 4 slices country bread, grilled or toasted
Heat canola oil in a large pan over high heat. Add chorizo and cook until lightly brown. Reduce heat to medium, then add shallots, garlic, and peppers; sauté briefly. Add clams followed by white wine and cover the pan until all clams open.
Remove lid, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add almonds, butter, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley; stir to combine.
Place 1 slice of bread and 8 clams in each serving bowl. Leave the sauce in the pan for now.
Return the pan with sauce and garnishes to the stove to reduce until thickened to your liking. Spoon sauce evenly into each bowl and serve immediately.