Memorial Day 2007: A Modern American Menu (Chicken Wings, Cheesecakes, and the Self–Made Man)

by Tejal Rao
May 2007

Chef Noah Tucker’s menu at Brick reflects an interest in the evolutionary process of classic and contemporary American dishes. Tucker was inspired to cook by his mother, but not in the way one would expect. “She was such a terrible cook and I really enjoyed eating. As soon as I realized that food could be a real profession, I got into it.” Tucker’s confit buffalo wings begin with slow-cooking wing, leg, and thigh meat in duck fat, fragrant with garlic and rosemary stems. The meat is then pulled, wrapped around the clean bones, and bound with caul fat. On the plate, Tucker finishes them with a drizzle of cider vinegar-habanero gastrique and a dollop of gorgonzola foam for a sophisticated faux-chicken wing. But hot wing purists needn’t worry - under the confit shreds maintain a certain level of Americana: the “wings” are deep fried and slathered in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.

If the wings aren’t immoderate enough, get a load of Tucker’s butter bath - the pinnacle of American culinary excess: “I rest my rib-eye, and other meats too, in a 112°F butter bath, infused with thyme and garlic, for about 10 minutes. It adds so much flavor!” After its quick soak, the rib-eye is served with an espresso-beef jus and chocolate-Maldon salt.

Pastry Chef Matt Tinder began his career at 12 cleaning grease traps at local restaurants. After flipping burgers at 14 in Kauai, Hawaii, Tinder worked in Charlie Trotter, Jean Joho, and Paul Kahn’s savory kitchens before dabbling in ice creams and sorbets and reading up on techniques in On Food and Cooking. Now he’s taken over Tucker’s pastry kitchen where he builds desserts with the daring of a savory chef. His take on the all-American cheesecake (the chevre-cake) has got it all going on: sweet and sour syrup of hibiscus and molasses, herbaceous basil buds, and a mild pistachio crème Chantilly. The tender cube of cake, which is only mildly sweet, feels more like part of a composed cheese course. This isn’t unusual in Tinder’s repertoire where strong cheeses, horseradish, pancetta, and pickled fruits all elbow their way in with delicate vanilla-scented grits or shortbreads. “You can always change your mind,” Tinder says, when asked about his culinary philosophy, “but you won’t know if you don’t try.”

This Memorial Day, in the spirit of all things American – chicken wings, the self-made man, cheesecakes – here’s a modern American menu from Brick in San Francisco: