The Insider: Sarah Simmons
Fried chicken and champagne—they’re a kind of unlikely combination, but they really work. In fact, they’re so MFEO that chef Sarah Simmons—known for her supper-club-style hit City Grit—opened an NYC restaurant in their honor. It’s called Birds & Bubbles, and people are going nuts for it. Just like they go gaga over its unreasonably charming creator.
Q; What’s your favorite party theme?
A: I love a good Derby Day party, especially in New York. It’s just starting to warm up, and who doesn’t love champagne around mint juleps? You serve that with some Kentucky Hot Browns, which are just great sandwiches.
Q: If you could have dinner anywhere tonight, where would ya go?
A: Right now, I’ve been traveling on the weekends and cooking at college football games, and it’s making me really homesick for Athens, Georgia, which is where I went to college. So if I could go anywhere right now for dinner, it would be to The National in Athens. I would just let Peter Dale, who is the chef and owner, cook for me. I would eat anything he made. But I might make sure that I had some sautéed okra. I might.
Q: What ingredient are you playing on repeat right now?
A: This is less “playing on repeat” and more “hoarding.” I had been traveling to the South for these football games, and it’s the end of shelled-pea season. So I had been coming back to New York with just bags of peas. Recently, I rolled into town with, like, three bushels of pink-eyed shelled peas that I bought on the side of the road on the way to the airport. Before that in North Carolina, I bought a bushel of shelled lima beans. It’s a little insane.
Q: What food fad are you so completely over?
A: I wish that people would stop smoking everything. That would be awesome.
Q: Tell us the story of your most epic cooking disaster.
A: Oh my god, it’s so easy. Like five years ago, I was cooking this ridiculous Thanksgiving. Everything was from-scratch. The jams. The compotes. I had been fermenting black beans to fold into this bean salad. Really, I was Martha Stewart-ing it up. So, I had planned to brine the turkey, and everything was prepped. I had this whole schedule mapped out in Microsoft Project. I woke up that day, went to the dog park, got coffee, and had plenty of time before my guests arrived. Then I was pulling something out of the fridge and broke the turkey brine bag. Turkey brine went everywhere. Not only did I have to start over from a prep standpoint but because I was scared that the turkey juice had gotten into things, I also had to disinfect my whole refrigerator and kitchen.
Q: And? How did it turn out?
A: I crushed it. It was a mad race to the finish, but I crushed it.