Meet and Eat: Niki Achitoff-Gray, Serious Eats Intern
Editor's note: It's time to meet another one of our stellar interns. Say hey-llo to Niki!
Guilty pleasures? I can't believe I'm admitting this publicly, but when I was exceptionally poor, I used to really enjoy a bizarre concoction of ramen with butter, ketchup, sesame seeds, and parmesan cheese. Nowadays, I'd have to say it's eating exceptionally large portions of prosciutto or taramasalata.
Describe your perfect meal. An appetizer of steak tartare followed by a family-style seafood tower of oysters, raw clams, and lobster, to be shared amongst friends. And lots of wine!
What food won't you eat? I honestly haven't found an answer to that yet, though I suspect balut (a boiled fertilized egg) may be where I draw the line.
Favorite food person? I love Rozanne Gold's 1-2-3 cookbooks. My grandmother gave me the recipe for her three ingredient chocolate mousse when I was first learning how to cook, so there's certainly some sentimental value there. More importantly, the delicious simplicity of Gold's recipes has served as a constant reminder of the importance of minimalism in cooking. This isn't to say that I have a problem with elaborately seasoned meals with extensive shopping lists and multiple steps, but I feel that a dedicated cook of any level should have an awareness of the essential role that each ingredient plays in a dish. I love to begin with a three ingredient recipe and consider the value that every addition will bring to the flavor profile.
When did you first realize you were a serious eater? When I was about five years old, my mom took me to the oyster bar in Grand Central. She told me I could try one to see if I liked it and to her surprise and amusement, I threw it back "like a sailor" and politely asked for more.
What do your family and friends think of your food obsessions? They tend to be pretty pleased and supportive when I'm cooking for them but perhaps less so when I'm ordering things like bull penis in their company at a Japanese restaurant.
Favorite food sites or blogs (besides Serious Eats)? I'm afraid I'm not too unique on this front...I spend a lot of time on Smitten Kitchen, Food in Jars, Food52, and Lottie and Doofe. And I'm in love with the photography on What Katie Ate.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? I rarely pick up the phone for a restaurant recommendation. Far more often, I find myself combing sites like SE, the New York Times, Chowhound, and FREEWilliamsburg.
What is your favorite meal of the day and where do you get it? Brunch, for sure! My new favorite spot is Santos Anne, in South Williamsburg. With a delicious French-Mexican fusion menu, a spacious and sunny backyard with a pétanque court(!), and the most congenial staff imaginable, it's my top dining destination for pretty much any meal of the day.
Do you ever cook? What's the best dish you make? I love to cook! When I was in college, I studied abroad in Paris where my host "mother" fed me a life-changing endive tart. After a great deal of experimenting, I now make a pretty mean endive and shallot tart with anchovies, topped with boucheron de chèvre. It's become a staple in my recipe arsenal.