Last week, I had the honor of interviewing Danny Gagnon of Season 5's Top Chef for Spot On Long Island, a fantastic online magazine headed a good friend of mine. Spot On LI Features all things Long Island including restaurants, recipes, interviews, features, music, and event listings. So when my friend asked me if I wanted to interview Danny at his new restaurant, Bar Social in Uniondale, LI (formerly Chrebet's), I jumped at the chance. Danny was all you would expect him to be and more - gregarious, funny, so sweet, and so excited. I was a little sad, though, because he wasn't sporting that crazy design in his beard from Top Chef.
Danny and I share a bit of common history. We were both born in Flushing, Queens and grew up on Long Island about 15 minutes away from each other. We actually went to rival high schools (I graduated in 1999, he graduated in 2000), and we both love pistachio pudding cake.
During my interview, I learned some fun tidbits about the former "cheftestant" (I really hate that word): He and Season 2 winner Ilan Hall were actually roommates at CIA and it was actually Ilan who convinced him to do Top Chef, his guilty chef pleasure is White Castle (I suggested that he check out the infamous Valentine's Day Menu) and soggy oreos in milk that he eats like a bowl of cereal, and that his last meal would be bacala salad. A true Italian at heart.
Danny has brought a style of cooking to Bar Social that he likes to call "Itasian" - a hybrid of Italian and Asian fusion. He wanted us to try one of his favorite dishes at the restaurant: Fried Calamari with a Sweet Thai Sauce that was beautifully adorned with micro-greens, carrots, red peppers.
Of course, I did what any respectable food blogger would do: Take a lot of pictures while the food got cold as my friend and Editor-in-Chief stood there impatiently (but remained very nice about it all - Thanks, Christine :) ).
I swore I wouldn't eat, as my high school reunion was just two days away. Of course, when this plate was put in front of me, I started to chow down. Look at it. How could I not have stuffed my face?
I hardly eat fried food. I just don't like it. I know, I know. I'm nuts. But I ate half of this thing. And I couldn't stop. And I wanted to kill myself afterwards, but for the time being, it was oh-so-good. The calamari was perfectly crisp and fried to perfection. The sweet soy sauce that covered the plate was addictive, with it's rich, complex flavors that paired so well with the sweet, soft red peppers and was lifted up with the light carrots, scallions, and microgreens. This was more than bar food. This was a diet killer.
The bar itself is absolutely gorgeous. The walls are adorned with stunning paintings from a local artist and the restaurant is broken up into two parts: an upstairs sports bar and a downstairs trendy lounge (which I did not get pictures of, but trust me, it is stunning. I even asked for the name of the interior decorator, knowing that I probably wouldn't do anything with that information, but it made me feel like I was important.
Sure, there were lots of questions I really wanted to ask: Are Tom Colicchio's eyes the window to his soul? Tell me what you really think of Padma. Don't you want to pinch Gail Simmons cheeks? Did Stefan and Fabio have man crushes on each other? I really wanted the dirt. But I kept it professional, despite my desire for the Top Chef gossip.
Check out my interview and the rest of Spot On Long Island here! And I cannot stress enough, if you are on Long Island, eat at this restaurant. The food is outstanding and they have fried twinkies on the dessert menu. Can you really say no to fried twinkies?