In a Brooklyn Brownstone, an Easter dinner that shook up tradition

In a Brooklyn Brownstone, an Easter dinner that shook up tradition

It wasn’t love at first sight when chef and artist Fernando Aciar met Anna Polonsky, founder and creative director of the design and branding studio. Polonsky and his friends. “I didn’t have a good impression of her,” Aciar recalled of their chance encounter at a business event Polonsky hosted in 2012. “We definitely didn’t get along,” Polonsky confirms. About a year later, however, they crossed paths again at a farewell party for a mutual friend at a Greenpoint bar. This time, the two clicked. “It went really fast,” says Aciar. “Anna was leaving the next day to go to Berlin for a wedding. When she came back we went on a date Is she. Four months later, we were engaged.

Call it, then, love at second sight. Obviously, the couple are perfectly suited for each other. Both share a deep passion for food and a strong sense of design. At the same time, Aciar – his friends and family call him Fefo – can be a bit more intuitive and creatively hands-on, while Polonsky is more methodical and likely to stay focused on the big picture. The duo’s simple yet elegant style is evident in their three-story 1899 Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone, which they purchased in 2019 and spent two years meticulously renovating. From the custom curved bookcase and built-in sofa in the living room to the hand-mixed paint the earthenware color (a combination of Baked Terra Cotta and Benjamin Moore’s Salmon Stream) for the kitchen cabinets in the living room, no detail was too small for them to obsess over. The result is a beautiful home perfect for entertaining.

On a recent spring evening, the couple invited friends and neighbors over to enjoy an Easter meal that represented them both. Aciar is originally from Argentina and worked for six years with celebrity chef Francis Mallmann before spending time in the Bay Area of ​​California at Zuni Café and Chez Panisse. Polonsky is a born and bred Parisian, whose seven years at French restaurant and event guide Le Fooding inform both the spirit of Deligram, the bimonthly food newsletter she produces with photographer Teddy Wolff, and her own creative agency. Aciar was also preparing for the opening of OCafewhich will feature the cuisine of the month chefs in residence (as well as a wine bar, from May) adjacent to Studio, a co-working space for artists, architects, glassblowers, illustrators and others that he opened in 2019 on the border of Bed-Stuy and Bushwick. Since moving in, the couple have hosted several lunches, dinners and small parties at their welcoming home. “It seems natural to us. We cook a lot,” says Aciar. “A lot. But we are different. Anna makes all the things that take longer, the bigger and more elaborate concoctions. I always cook in 20 minutes. It can’t take longer than that. Otherwise, I’m bored.

Polonsky, pregnant with the couple’s first child, donned a Casa Velasquez floral-print apron over a Simone Rocha dress she picked up from a friend’s charity clothing swap. Aciar, dressed in 1/8 Takamura pants and a Nimes jacket, lit a fire in a screened iron fire pit in their backyard. A little later, just before sunset, guests including the fashion designer and store owner Beverly Nguyenleader Woldy Reyesdesigner and artist Sarah Nsikak, and Dior e-commerce manager Zohar Benjelloun started arriving. Afterwards, Aciar and Polonsky shared tips for throwing a spring dinner party with unexpected touches.

The couple are good friends with Franco Fubini, the founder and CEO of Natoora, a food delivery service that started in 2004 as an online farmer’s market. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Natoora changed its business model, offering products such as ramps, green almonds and fresh spigarello via an app to home cooks and not just professional chefs and restaurants. In this case, the service provided groceries that Polonsky and Aciar normally cannot get at their corner store. As the guests mingled in the courtyard, the couple served radishes which Polonsky placed on a Sette plate accompanied by a large knob of French butter and homemade anchoïade (a classic Provençal dip made with anchovies, salt and olive oil). To honor the essence of a French Easter dinner, Polonsky also made mimosa eggs – French deviled eggs whose yolks are designed to resemble the golden blossoms of a mimosa tree – topped with arugula blossoms. At the bar, perfectly ripe blood oranges, tangerines and kumquats filled ceramic bowls made by Aciar.

“I grew up in the countryside,” Aciar says of his childhood in Argentina. “I mean, really country – no city at all. Every Easter weekend we went to my grandmother’s adobe house half an hour away. On Thursday we would have fried fish and mashed potatoes; on Friday, chickpea soup; then empanadas on Saturday. For his own gathering, he topped a simple chickpea soup with veal brain croquettes, sourcing the meat from butcher Bushwick Foster Sundry, and made the empanadas with Swiss chard. Aciar also made his own tortillas a la brasa, an Andean flatbread, which he toasted while guests enjoyed their cocktails and rosca de Pascua, a ring-shaped sweet bread traditionally made in Argentina at Easter that he braided with pieces of chocolate. Before serving it to his guests towards the end of the night, Aciar said he was 14 when he first used a family friend’s wooden brick oven in exchange for two roscas : he made a total of 15, selling the rest to earn some extra cash. .

For the main course, Polonsky opted for a traditional French shoulder of lamb (also from Foster Sundry), which was braised for hours with shallots and carrots and served with what Polonsky described as “French green sauce “, including herbs, anchovies and olive oil. . Braising can seem daunting for novice chefs, but if you allow enough time and keep an eye on the heat (too hot and the meat dries out and becomes tough) it can be an easy and stress-free way to guarantee a delicious meal. “I love making one-pot meals that you can cook the night before. I think it takes a lot of the stress out of the day,” says Polonsky. To add an Argentinian touch to the main course, Aciar added chicory and green beans on the side, which were grilled over an open flame. “Food represents your emotions,” says Aciar. “At the moment, when the weather is nice, I push Anna to the barbecue. And she’s like, ‘Oh, again, barbecue?’ But we love it. We always end up inviting a couple of friends to join us.

As well as being a trained chef, Aciar is also an experienced ceramist with Fefo studio. His pieces played a part in almost every moment of the meal – making up everything from bowls and platters of fruit to the various serving platters and several lamps that decorated the couple’s home. Best of all were the Aciar sip cups specifically designed for serving mezcal and tequila. (He originally created the vessels for the Mexican restaurant cosme.) Designed to be cradled in the palm of your hand, with an opening burst just large enough for you to inhale the alcohol before taking a sip, they elevated the evening without pretension.

Although the couple have been self-proclaimed perfectionists when it comes to designing their home – they can spend hours browsing antique shops in France and upstate New York in search of the perfect linens and glassware vintage – Polonsky shared that their indecision has its benefits. “We still haven’t found the perfect chair,” she says of their seating area. “It’s been two years. In the end, we realized we liked having pillows on the floor instead. By living and using the space themselves, the couple was able to clarify what they really needed and how the pieces worked. “I think it’s nice to be able to see how you live in a place,” says Polonsky.

“It might be very French,” says Polonsky, “but usually we have nest-shaped desserts for Easter.” In addition to the rosca de Pascua d’Aciar, the couple made a Vacherin, or ice cream meringue cake. Polonsky chose Cara Cara Creamsicle from Bad habit, a Bushwick ice cream purveyor short of couple Jesse Merchant Zuñiga and Javier Zuñiga’s apartment whose flavors (such as chocolate tahini and honeycomb) and extra-dense creaminess mean its pints sell out almost instantly at select New York retailers where they are worn. During dinner, Aciar covered the cake with freshly whipped Chantilly cream, while Polonsky sprinkled with crushed pistachios. The slices were served with a dollop of kumquat jam. At the very end of the evening, when everyone was preparing to leave, the couple distributed paper take-out bags. Inside each were fancy-sized chocolate Easter eggs brushed with edible gold, containing sea salt and mint truffles, made especially for the evening by Ground Cocoaa Bronx-based bean-to-bar chocolatier run by Dominic, Nicholas and Daniel Maloney, three brothers who grew up in the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago and whose great-grandparents were cocoa farmers.