Semilla

When I started food blogging again, I did not give any thought to a theme, shtick, or goal. I just knew that I enjoyed talking about food, and a blog would be the easiest way as I do not have someone always around to converse with (perennially single). Previous food blogging was more about sharing recipes, but as I cook so infrequently now, I have no content. Writing about what I eat when out is the obvious choice, but I always wonder if I do need a shtick. I can talk about dining alone, but there is not a whole lot to that. There are dozens upon dozens (hundreds upon hundreds?) of food blogs about NYC restaurants, and I have no unique take beyond my personhood. I read all the same print and online sources that the rest of them do. Hell, I read the rest of them. I have no relevant expertise or experience, and I do not like the idea of giving a review, per se. I am also a carb-addicted, picky eater in recovery, so my adventures are quite tame.

My party line is that this is a project for myself. But I do like sharing my adventures with my faraway friends who cannot join me… or to prove that I do not just hermit away with Netflix. Even when feeling confident in going forward with a blog, one thing I am always torn about is whether to write about super trendy/new/hyped restaurants. Is it worth telling you that I got swept up by the Fear of Missing Out? My own discomfort with it is the real reason I wonder whether to post about such places because you can, again, read the blogs and view the heat maps for yourself.

Is it enjoyable to read another voice that contributes to the hype machine? Only my page views will reveal the answer. This brings me to Semilla, a new “vegetable-forward” tasting menu restaurant in Williamsburg. It is getting lots of written and Instagram buzz, most especially for its bread course (a huge draw for me), and for the fact that it is more meat-as-condiment than vegetarian. Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan would approve, I am sure. A pescatarian friend and I were all over trying to secure reservations for a holiday celebration.

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Grilled celeriac and beer soup, celeriac “tagliatelle,” cheddar cheese, quinoa

If a restaurant aims to be seasonal, what do you think that might entail for a month like December? Nothing very pretty or fresh tasting. Root vegetables, right? Those lumpy masses that can often still carry nuances of their literal mother earth. Could you handle eight savoury courses of winter vegetables? We did, and they were delicious. Perhaps not put-down-your-fork-and-sigh delicious, but creative, tasty, and unexpected. All of the major players had a part: celeriac, rutabaga, turnips, potatoes, and beets. And because you cannot have a winter menu without it, squash showed herself in the final savoury course. Accents included salt cod (the only non-dairy protein), whey, fermented ramps, and preserved blueberries. The two sweet courses were not indulgent, but the flavours of grape and grapefruit left their mark.

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Fermented concord grape sorbet, kombu cream, malt

The indulgence for us was the bread basket. Yes, please, to that offer of a refill. That night, it was an oat porridge loaf (a direct shout out to Chad Robertson of Tartine?). I feel like you are either a person who gets the magic of bread and butter or does not. I am sorry if you do not. I am not going to get into the intense pleasure and comfort that can come from a slice of fresh bread with a slathering of good butter. I do not consider it other worldly. It is a pleasure that reconnects me to the simplicity of life and what we can make with fire and our hands. Sorry again—I got into it. Taking a bite-sized buttered piece of that bread and then dipping it into the sour buttermilk was an exciting change of pace. Just a quick dip, though, to avoid any sogginess.

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Pam’s oat porridge bread, Cowbella butter and buttermilk

I would totally return during a different season to see how the menu changes because while $75 is very reasonable for 10 courses, I will not be rushing back for the rutabaga spring rolls. But, I am glad that I did not face my FOMO so I could have them.

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