One of the most inspiring things about New York City is the community that exists within the abundance of creative endeavors scattered about. Sitting cheerfully at 61 Hester St. in the Lower East Side is L’estudio – a café, ceramics studio, catering company, and home base for the team behind all of these operations.
Alejandro (a chef), Fernando (a ceramist), and Jess (the creative / operational liaison and general power woman), along with a few other team players, have succeeded in creating their own urban micro-community. They’ve also succeeded in creating a beautiful café stocked with beautiful food and ceramics alike, and kindly welcome anyone who walks through the doors as if they were family. Ah, good people. Pia and I swung by L’estudio to chat creative business, interiors and other pleasantries, as well as to snag the recipe for their wildly flavorful barley, lentil, and roasted vegetable dish.
Tell me a little about the cafe and the other spaces you guys occupy – what do you do here / what was the catalyst to open them?
For a small team we take up a lot of space. We occupy the café, adjacent ceramic studio which is also used for private dinners & events, the catering kitchen, and our office space is just across the street where we work on limited design projects in various mediums.
The ceramics studio is just as it sounds, that’s where we make everything that you see in the café that we use for daily service. We are working on a larger core collection that will be available for purchase here and online. The live, work, eat environment lends itself to a feeling of celebration. In short, the catalyst was about us coming together through NYC old school happenstance, and friends with a likeminded vision. That and the timing – we have spent years on this block in past incarnations, the moment felt right and the concept was an organic progression of where we were all coming from.
What was the process behind designing L’estudio, both the interior and the menu – what was the goal & the non-negotiable aspects?
Our initiatives are all ingredient and experience driven. We wanted to create a unique space that was inviting and felt like an extension of home, a place where you might want to come everyday for your favorite bite. It was important to bring in color and various textures, comforting yet healthy food that was being authentically prepared using the best possible ingredients. Our non-negotiable aspect is quality. We’re not willing to compromise on the quality or beauty of what we produce, from the small ceramic milk pitcher, to the sides of greens, to the entree dishes.
The marriage of food and hand made ceramics is a match made in heaven – where does the inspiration for each of these come from?
The very initial inspiration came from way back when Alejandro lived in the south of France with the goal to learn pottery and instead realized he was a better cook than ceramist. Then last year Alejandro and Fernando reconnected. As we formulated our concept we wanted to create our own version of an ecosystem and have everything essentially under one roof. The processes are actually very similar, food and making ceramics. Most similar to making bread, both require such intricacy and the perfect timing, and patience in drying time, rising time, baking time. Heat and fire being essential to cooking, to ceramics, and life in general.
Goals for the future?
The expansion of our studio into an actual retail/storefront. An eventual artist residency program has come into recent conversation and also in development is a zero waste refillable product line. The shortest term goal is to open for dinner this spring.
Barley, Lentils & Roasted Vegetables | Chef Joel Viehland
Ingredients (serves 4):
Barley soaked and cooked in water with one clove of garlic
Green Lentils soaked and cooked in water with one clove of garlic
1 medium carrot
3 baby beets
5 brussel sprouts
1 cup diced eggplant
1 cubanelle peppers
30 mint leaves
15 parsley & cilantro leaves
1Tbsp each black and white sesame seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
4Tbsp fresh horse radish root, grated
Zest from 1/2 an orange
Combine even amount of seed mixture to salad and add:
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grapeseed oil
6oz Sherry vinegar
2Tbsp lemon juice
2Tbsp pomegranate molasses
Salt & pepper to taste
Toasted then ground coriander
Toasted then ground cumin
Toasted then ground fennel seed
Method of prep:
Cut vegetables separately into 1/2-3/4 inch pieces, season with salt and pepper and lightly dress with olive oil. Roast each vegetable separately in a 400 degree oven until proper color and doneness is achieved.
Roast beets in 1/2 inch of water with 2Tbsp of aged sherry vinegar, covered with aluminum foil. Roast in oven at 400 until fork tender and cool down. While still warm use a paper towel to remove the beet skin from the beets and cut into quarters.
Mix the barley & lentils, add a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper and warm in the oven. Reheat the vegetables mixed together with a touch of olive oil.
Once hot enough, remove from oven and place into a bowl with the herbs. Add enough vinaigrette to sufficiently flavor the salad to your specifications, add a touch of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Place mixture into a bowl and garnish with seed mixture, grated horseradish, and orange zest.