If you’ve ever been to Paris and enjoyed the gutsy bistro food that seems to be on almost every Rue, you may bemoan how hard it is to find this side of the pond. If so, here’s some good news. Commonwealth Restaurant Chef John Shanesy is so fond of the cuisine that for the next three weekends he will showcase it at a pop-up called Bar Naturel.
Shanesy’s brother Scott makes bread at NYC’s She Wolf Bakery, and Shanesy has long wanted to collaborate on a project combining his brother’s bread, the best ingredients of Virginia, and bold Parisian bistro cooking. “I love the oily fish, the charcuterie, the stinky cheeses,” says Shanesy. “It’s the restaurant and food and environment I would frequent most if I could.”
Why “naturel”? To accompany the food, The Wine Guild’s Will Curley has prepared a small wine list from producers that embrace the ethos of natural wines: organic, biodynamic, and sustainably grown grapes, native yeasts, and as little sulfur as possible. Similar to the natural wine bars that have blown up in Paris.
The full menu is posted below, but one dish that particularly excites Shanesy is sardines in goose fat. Like many food styles, chefs like to call this “simple food,” but to novices like us its preparation sounds anything but. First, Shanesy scales and rinses the sardines, and removes the head and offal. Rinse again. Next, he lines a sheet pan with the cleaned sardines and salts them liberally for an overnight cure.
The next day, he toasts sage, rosemary, and tangerine lace in a dry pan until aromatic, before adding tangerine peels and leeching out their oil. Next, he scoops rendered goose fat into the pan, and maintains a temperature of 180 degrees for thirty minutes. “Like tea,” says Shanesy. While that stays warm, Shanesy quarters apricots and tosses them in lemon juice. In a pan, he simmers sugar, butter and lemon juice before adding the apricots and cooking until jammy. He purees the mixture, passes it through a drum sieve, and cools.
Next, he rinses the salt from the sardines, grills them on high heat, places them in a tin, and covers them in the infused goose fat, before chilling overnight.
Finally, the next day he’s ready to serve. He gently warms the sardines, grills some bread, tosses frisee in mustard vinaigrette, and puts it all on a plate with the apricot jam and some nice pickles. “Destroy with a half bottle of wine or a whole bottle,” says Shanesy, “or a Reason Collaboration 29.”
Bar Naturel Details
Where: Penny Heart, 223 W. Main
When: July 12, 19, and 26; 6 pm until it’s gone
Tomme di Savoie
Tete de Cochon
Le Royale: Chef’s Picks for a Crowd
Malpeque Oysters, Mignonette
Marinated Castelvetrano Olives, Rosemary Orange
Roasted Almonds, Sesame
Red Corn Porridge Sourdough, Single Origin Butter
Tomato Salad, Blue d’Auvergne, Lardon, Frisee, Liver Vinaigrette
Whitefish Salad, Frisee, Piquillo, Fennel, Orange, Sprouted Rye
Bone Marrow, Frisee
Sardines, Goose Fat, Apricot, Thyme
Halibut, Olive, Potato
Lievre al Royal: Hare, Foie Gras, Polenta