Cafe enjoyment is often about strategy -- where you sit, how to coax the barista into making your coffee just so, making sure you get there before your beloved cinnamon roll is snapped up by someone else. Recently, my husband Tad and I figured out that if we wanted to be able to get a table for four on the weekends at our favorite local spot -- Iris Cafe -- we needed to arrive just before 9 am. We've managed to do it but it's not pretty. One of our kids usually leaves the house half pajama'd, and we end up sprint-walking -- no stopping to indulge one's curiosity in a sidewalk crack! -- there. But it's worth it so we can sit, each in our own seat, and stare at each other, half awake, as we gulp coffee and eat soft-boiled eggs with mashed avocado on toast.
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Iris Cafe, in many respects, is the consummate cafe. It's on an obscure street in Brooklyn Heights, so there's no street traffic. And this means all of its customers are devotees, who make it their destination. The room is relaxed like worn-in jeans, the coffee is delicious (Stumptown), they sell local eggs and dairy (Brooklyn badge of honor), and the food is exceptionally good.
On Tuesdays, when we do our weekly photo shoot at my apartment, we occasionally get take-out from Iris Cafe (dinner roll and chocolate cake weeks need lunch supplements!). One of the food52 team favorites is the Curried Smoked Turkey Salad. So, for my second installment of the Counterfeit Cook Office Lunch Series, Iris Cafe's owner, Rachel Graville, shared the recipe:
1/4 cup flame or golden raisins (dried cranberries wouldn't be bad, either!)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 large handfuls mixed greens
Olive oil, for sprinkling
Balsamic vinegar, for sprinkling
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
4 slices cranberry (or raisin) pecan bread, toasted and buttered
1. Make the mayonnaise. Mix the garlic relish and mayonnaise, and adjust to taste, adding more garlic relish for more curry flavor.
2. Combine the turkey, onion, celery, raisins and black pepper, and then, little by little, add in the mayo, folding it together with a spoon. The salad should just come together, but not be too wet. Only season with salt if necessary (smoked turkey is usually salted).
3. To serve: sprinkle a bowl of greens with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar (the curry mayo also acts as additional dressing so use oil and vinegar sparingly!). Serve a generous scoop of the turkey salad on top of greens, top with a handful of the chopped walnuts, and a little more black pepper. At Iris Cafe, they serve this salad with a piece of toasted cranberry pecan bread from Pain d'Avignon, in the Essex Street Market.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).