Food Editor Laura Shunk Bids Adieu to the Village Voice


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Editor’s note: Today food editor Laura Shunk says farewell to the Village Voice and New York. She’s leaving us to undertake a year-long appointment as a Henry Luce Fellow.

Each year the Luce Scholarship Program awards up to eighteen fellowships, choosing from a pool of nominations submitted by 75 participating colleges and universities. The fellowships provide a stipend, language training, and individualized placement in Asia to young leaders whose main unifying characteristic is a total lack of experience in Asian studies.

Next month Shunk will move to Beijing, China, where she will work with one of the few organic farmers’ markets in that vast country. Her task: to begin to understand the nascent realm of sustainable agriculture in China.

I’ve eaten out an average of twelve meals per week over the past two years, and the observation that’s stuck with me most in that time is that New Yorkers dine vigorously. We want our meals like our city: vibrant, pulsing, brilliant. Wow us, we cry. Connect with us. Our time is limited, our ambitions high, our tolerance for mediocrity nonexistent. And there are so many mind-blowing meals to be had here, be they from an outer-borough family joint or a Manhattan gastronomic temple, that it can feel a slap in the face to swallow (quite literally) a disappointment. The New York diner, I believe, is why this city is one of the best in the world for eating, and constantly improving. Collectively, we push restaurants to be better, and our chefs and restaurateurs, themselves often diners, rise to the challenge in their own kitchens and dining rooms.

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I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to observe this scene professionally, to sink my teeth in with, I hope, the same vigor as all New York diners and then work to capture it and record it at the Voice.

A quick toast to the bars and restaurants that anchor me when I’m taking a break from my official duties, and to a few people who have made my time here really special.

First, here’s to the chefs, the line cooks, the stages and externs, the bakers, the bartenders, the servers, the dishwashers, the restaurateurs, the maître d’s and hosts, the porters, the backwaiters and barbacks, the sommeliers, the janitors, the PR people and marketers, the baristas, the restaurant accountants, the delivery people, the suppliers, the farmers, the butchers, the wholesalers, and everyone else who works in or with a restaurant or bar or coffee shop in this town. Thank you for busting your asses to keep this city an unstoppable international culinary destination. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you.

Here’s to Blue Hill (75 Washington Place, 212-539-1776), where I spent many a meal at the bar, and to chef and restaurateur Dan Barber, who inspired me, via his own story, to work on our global food system. Here’s to Taqueria St. Mark’s (79 St. Mark’s Place, 646-964-5614), which used to be Taqueria Lower East Side. I’ve eaten at that restaurant more than any other in the city because it reminds me of the unpretentious Mexican restaurants I grew up with in the west. I will forever dream about those carnitas. Here’s to Buvette (42 Grove Street, 212-255-3590), where casual dinners transformed into hours-long feasts over the course of several bottles of well-priced French wine. Here’s to Cafe Katja (79 Orchard Street, 212-219-9545), the ultimate neighborhood joint, where I can never pass up a warm pretzel, a half liter of Steigl, and a sausage sampler. Here’s to Emmett’s (50 Macdougal Street, 917-639-3571), my secret answer to the question, “What’s your favorite pizza joint in NYC?” It’s secret because Emmett’s serves Chicago-style, deep-dish pies, and loving them seems traitorous in this land of thin crust. But I like shooting the shit with the guys who own the place; the pizza is delicious, deep dish or no; and I feel the gravitational pull of that bar every time I’m in the area.

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Here’s to Juliana’s (19 Old Fulton Street, 718-596-6700), my favorite New York-style parlor, and the first place I saw one of my stories posted on a wall (in this case, plastered to the front window). Here’s to Russ & Daughters (179 East Houston Street, 212-475-4880) for supporting my smoked fish addiction, and to Nordic Preserves (120 Essex Street, 646-450-4544) in Essex Market for doing the same, supplying whole smoked trout without the long wait. Here’s to Peter Luger Steak House (178 Broadway, Brooklyn; 718-387-7400), where I wish I’d spent more Friday lunches eating a burger and key lime pie and drinking a martini. Here’s to El Atoradero (800 East 149th Street, Bronx; 718-292-7949), which serves some of the best Mexican food I’ve consumed anywhere, and is worthy of the long trip up to the Bronx. Here’s to Flushing, where I ate myself into more than one food coma, and to Amor y Amargo (443 East 6th Street, 212-614-6818), my favorite place to take the edge off of a too-large meal. Sometimes, bitters are better at soothing a stomach than Pepto.

Here’s to September Wine and Spirits (100 Stanton Street no. 4, 212-388-0770) for its exceptional wine selection and patient and knowledgeable staff; here’s to Top Hops (94 Orchard Street, 212-254-4677), where most of my local beer education in this city took place. To Murray’s (254 Bleecker Street, 212-243-3289) for schooling me on cheese.

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Here’s to Bar Jamón (125 East 17th Street, 212-253-2773) for great conversations over wine and ham, to Pine Box Rock Shop (12 Grattan Street, Brooklyn; 718-366-6311) for bloody marys and trivia, to Torst (615 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-389-6034) for blowing my mind with beer, and to Boilermaker (13 First Avenue, 212-995-5400) for being such a solid neighborhood bar that it became my default neighborhood bar, even though it’s a touch outside of my neighborhood. The burgers and fries there certainly don’t hurt.

Here’s to The Magician (118 Rivington Street, 212-673-7851) for a cheap happy hour and for hosting the Voice food writers, ostensibly having a work meeting, twice a month.

Finally, here’s to the writers and editors I’ve worked with at the Voice, each one a joy to read, each one passionate about digging deep into this city’s culture to expose all the wonderful things happening here. And thank you, in particular, to the food and drink writers for digging deep into this industry to find those vibrant, pulsing, and brilliant places, and bring them to light through stories. Each one is a vigorous diner determined to make this city, this food, this industry better, and I’m so glad to have crossed paths with them.