Forget cronuts and heritage-breed pork; the biggest culinary sensation these days is April Bloomfield.
The British chef has taken New York by storm, opening a string of hits over the last several years including The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, The John Dory Oyster Bar and Salvation Taco. And now with her partners, among them Sean Penn—yes, that Sean Penn—she has remade San Francisco landmark Tosca Cafe, which just debuted a couple weeks ago after nearly a year in development. Bloomfield describes the cuisine as “very humble, rustic Italian, not specific to any region. The food is fun, earthy and vibrant.”
While Bloomfield may be famous for her love of offal and cockles, she’s also a fan of adding spirits to food recipes. “I definitely like to use booze in my cooking, especially in desserts,” she says. “I think the flavors can elevate a dish and make it more interesting.”
And in her own house, “I usually have gin, specifically Ransom Old Tom Gin, as well as Amaro Nonino, and a bottle of Stoli somewhere,” she says. “I typically have some type of IPA and wine at home as well.”
“I love a cocktail before dinner, both floral and stiff types of drinks,” Bloomfield says. When she has guests over, “I enjoy making simple, classic cocktails such as a Gin & Tonic or an Old Fashioned.” In a few weeks for the holidays, she’ll whip up big bowls of Mulled Wine that call for a range of spices like vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and even bay leaves.
And when she gets a rare night off she will often visit a favorite bar. “I like anything from a really great dive bar to an elegant cocktail bar,” she says. “There’s an art to having and making a cocktail; I like the whole elegance of it.”
In London she usually drinks at The Ivy and its members-only The Club at The Ivy: “It’s kind of old-school.” In New York, “I love the Waterfront Ale House, as well as Pegu Club and Employees Only.” And in San Francisco, “I like Bourbon & Branch and The Slanted Door.”
So it only makes sense that she believes the bar to be a key part of a restaurant’s success. “If you have a good bar that sells amazing cocktails, people are going to come back and remember that aspect of their experience,” she says. It also helps the bottom line. “A good beverage program offsets the food cost and balances everything out, so having a strong bar is good financially for businesses.”
At Tosca, the beverage program is led by Isaac Shumway, who offers an array of perfectly executed standards. Plus, there is a selection of traditional Italian digestifs like amaro and Fernet-Branca.
Perfect for Bloomfield who, after all, likes to end a long shift with “a nice refreshing beer, and then I may have an amaro with one ice cube.”
(Photo courtesy Melanie Dunea)