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Calliope restaurant is named for a species of hummingbird, but it was, incidentally, also the name of the Greek muse said to have inspired Homer’s The Odyssey. I find this appropriate considering the long, strange, trip back home to NYC it has been for chef Eric Korsh and chef Ginervra Iverson.
Chef Eric Korsh and his partner, in life and in the new restaurant Calliope, Ginevra, are both veterans to the culinary world and heros of the economy. A perfect team of talented cooks with great taste, technique and tenacity to charge on the comeback trail. After both having cut their teeth and proven themselves in kitchens in Manhattan for a number of years; the pair packed it up and went West to manifest their destinies with a restaurant in the lauded wine country of Sonoma, CA. The project, Eloise, was a modest restaurant with great food served simply and straight out of their backyard. They grew their own vegetables, herbs etc. and served them fresh from the garden. Everything seemed like the ideal American, pastoral dream of living off the land in a beautiful place and living well. Then the bell went off and it was 2008, need I say more. People stopped buying wine and even more stopped traveling to the wine country just to eat and drink. Our heros gave it the hard try for a year and half and then it was back home to NYC.
After a couple successful years at the Waverly Inn, Korch came upon an opportunity to rekindle the dream he and Ginerva started in California. A new restaurant in the East Village on the corner of 2nd Ave and 4th St, Calliope has only been open since the beginning of June and the locals are already embracing it. This is a story of a pair of chefs who were casualties of a falling economy that pulled themselves back up without the aid of a bailout.
The restaurant serves “European Farmhouse” cuisine which has some roots in farm to table and some in traditional European preparation but the basic philosophy behind each dish is, “How would my grandfather cook this? And then make it look nice.” A focus on slow and traditional preparation methods, no restaurant tricks. Focus on process and craftsmanship using seasonal ingredients with an evolving menu. Ginevra describes Calliope as “High quality food and drink, reasonably priced and for the neighborhood. We are happy for people who choose to travel to Calliope but it is meant for the neighborhood.”
Eric and Ginevra have opted out from having a beverage director and have taken over the selection themselves. “We thought about it but, we both know wine and beer well and know our food better than anyone. We really wanted to keep it simple and only offer a small selection that will fit with our food and have a range in price for everyone. Sometimes the more people you add to the selection process the more complicated it can get.”
What is the main POV for the beverage selection?
“Balance. We didn’t want big, jammy wines that were super boozy. We wanted old world wines with structure, balance and nice acidity. We didn’t want over hoppy big IPA’s, we wanted drinkable balanced beers.” That explains the more Belgian style beers from Ommegang and La Chouffe and sweeter lagers of Narragansett.
The coffee is the same way, La Colombe embraces the more old world, Italian style of roasting and preparing espresso with a focus on balance and repeat drinkability opposed to more aggressive flavor profiles of West Coast roasters.
What do you look for in a vendor relationship?
“Comfort with the sales rep. youthful and like minded people that care about the products they represent and care about what our business is doing and tailoring suggestions around that rather than inserting their own agenda.”
Most important component when sourcing food, meat, veg?
“Relationship! We use local farms and fresh local veg. we are flexible and work with what meat is available from our producers. Sometimes rabbit is available so its on the menu.
I noticed you don’t list the farms you work with on your menu as a lot of more ethically conscious restaurants have been doing.
“We don’t need to beat our chests about our sourcing ethics. We believe it shouldn’t be an advertisement or marketing stunt but just become common place that anyone (chef or restaurant owner) that is a responsible person should be sourcing their food this way.”
I like that idea and hope it happens, in the meantime, does this seem to hurt or help your business?
“Helps, people do care that their food is sourced sustainably and will pay for the quality. We are probably not helping our PR or marketing efforts by keeping our methods to ourselves. The name Calliope is not the best for maximizing our search engine optimization for people looking for us either, but we are doing the food right.”
Well, since I am a huge proponent of sustainable sourcing and the great food of these chefs I will beat my chest for them…
Food Vendor list:
Blooming Hill Farms – tomatoes and veg.
Gabe the Fish Babe – black sea bass and additional fish
Pino Meats – dry-aged beef
Amish, Organic – chicken
John Fazio – rabbit, fruit and berries
Valley View Farms, NY – lettuces, fruits, onions, carrots, potatoes, sorrel etc.
84 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
Dinner 5pm – 2am
soon to be:
Accepts all credit cards and cash
please check out their menu at: