Keedick Coulter Brings a Little South To Alphabet City
Keedick Coulter Brings a Little South To Alphabet CityFebruary 17, 2012
Of all the things I miss about the South (family, friends, warm February days) I miss the food. Particularly biscuits. And while living in Manhattan, I’ve often longed for my Southern staples to be as close as they were in my mother’s kitchen. And now … it’s happened. Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter has recently opened and is in walking distance from my East Village apartment.
Bobwhite owner Keedick Coulter, a 33-year-old transplant from Roanoke Virginia, left his job healthcare consulting to enter the NYC restaurant scene. And the food is the real show here. My weakness resides in the realm of fluffy biscuits, baked every morning and somehow still light and delicious well beyond noon. Recently, Bobwhite added a trio of Pimento Cheese biscuits to the list of specials and sides.
Photo: Jenny Adams
The food here is so mouth-wateringly addictive, even my Staten Island-born, Italian American roommate has eaten the pork chop sandwich three times this week. And, yes, that's homemade chow chow on top (Coulter's maternal-grandmother's recipe).
Photo: Jenny Adams
I recently sat down with owner Coulter (below) to discuss the risks and rewards of opening a Southern place in Alphabet City, which is a largely Puerto Rican and Cuban influenced section of the East Village.
Photo: Jenny Adams
Where did you come by the name “Bob White?”
I was reading one of my favorite cookbooks, Edna Lewis’ The Taste of Country Cooking. She’s from Virginia, and in the first chapter Spring, she talks about running around as a kid, and whenever they would hear the bobwhite quail making its call, they would yell back, “Bobwhite! bobwhite! Are your peaches ripe?” I’d never heard it before reading that, but someone came in here a few days ago and recognized it. That was a cool moment.
Why open a Southern lunch counter in Alphabet City?
I didn’t have my heart set on any particular neighborhood. But one of the things we wanted was to offer this type of food, while being accessible as possible in price. The price point, the service and the feel of it – I think that the vibe in Alphabet City is conducive to that. Alphabet city isn’t like the rest of Manhattan. A lot of people in this city in the more upscale neighborhoods don’t pay attention to what they are paying for food. They don’t have to. This area, however, is more like the rest of the country. It makes a difference to the locals here how much they pay.
I was also very excited about the ethnicity of this location. I love the idea of introducing new foods to new people. My favorite moments are A: when people come in from the south and we can give them something to be nostalgic about. And B: when the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and Cubans come in, and they’ve never had a biscuit. I serve them one, and they love it.
Where did you get your recipes?
Most of the menu is family recipes handed down by heart and memory. The closest thing we have to a family cookbook is like a 1934 Joy of Cooking with lots of scraps and notes. The tomato pudding is from my mother. We ate it always on January 1st because it goes really well with black-eyed peas and collards. Don’t laugh, but my mother uses Hunt’s canned tomatoes, and that’s what we use here. It’s delicious.
His Grandmother’s Stewed Tomato Pudding:
2 large cans of whole tomatoes, undrained
8 whole cloves
8 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf – at least 1 in long
Salt (to taste)
½ yellow onion, diced medium
3 tbsp.T. brown sugar
3-to-4 slices white bread pulled into dime size pieces
2 tbsp. butter
Put cloves, peppercorns and bay leaf in cheesecloth bag.
Cook tomatoes, cheesecloth bag, and dash of salt on top of stove, uncovered on a slow simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Stir ingredients occasionally to prevent burning.
Add onion, sugar, bread and butter and stir to combine. Place in greased baking dish. When ready to bake, remove cheesecloth bag, and bake at 400 degrees, for at least 1 hour. Serve in a bowl or on top of toasted bruschetta.
(Note: You can cook this a very, very long time. Up to 3 hours, and with added time, it gets much thicker and much better. It helps to lower the oven to 300 degrees after an hour. You want a bit of char on the top.)