Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Midweek Food Musings: With Chef Kelly Corcoran at Bar'Lees!

With Chef Kelly at Bar'Lees in Mamaroneck

When I lived in Spain (decades ago!), I became fond of many expressions; one of them is,  ¡El mundo es un pañuelo!,   This means that the world is so small (like a handkerchief!). Recently—and more and more—I feel the smallness of the world, and wow, I like it!

So here’s an example: before I went to live in Spain, I worked at a local on-the-water bar here in New Rochelle called Dudley’s Parkview. Dudley’s was one of those places that we could always go to find friends (back in those days, the drinking age was 18 so we were hanging out there as youngsters, practically!). Working there was an adventure—in many respects—and always a lot of fun.

AND it was there that I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Corcoran, my featured chef of the day!

Chef Kelly and I worked together for a couple of summers and then, as typically happens in life, lost touch: She moved to France for culinary school in Paris, and then to Switzerland before coming back to New York. And though we didn’t really see each other much, we caught glimpses/heard stories every once in a while.

Fast forward to last summer, when we were together at a party and shared ideas related to food, running restaurants. Fast forward to NOW, and, well, Kelly’s there: two months ago she opened her first restaurant, Bar’Lees in Mamaroneck! (By the way, Bar’Lees in an Australian expression and I encourage you to ask about it when you visit!)

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Bar’Lees several times now, and each time it’s been just great! Kelly, her partners Colin Goundrey and his wife (both of whom hail from Australia), as well as all the staff members, are lovely and warm; you will immediately feel welcomed there.  The bar—which features a lovely assortment of wines (and, my friends, so check out their wine tasting schedule!  Went to one and it was just great—I will definitely be back for more!) and whiskeys, and more. Ah—I had a Rye Manhattan, and that was dreamy (I’ll be back for another of those, too!).  Actually I think that Dennis, wonderful bartender, called it the Norma Jean.

But all this background brings me back to Chef Kelly and her food, which, my friends, is way beyond your standard pub grub.  I encourage you to try her pizzas (so fresh, so perfect!), her perfectly spiced warm nuts, her tacos, as well as her hummus and baba ganoush (wow!).  I’ll be back to sample more menu items, for sure.

So, about Kelly's background. She had always wanted to be in the restaurant business, and had worked in one kind or another since she was 13, but originally thought she'd be in the front of the house. In fact she said she decided to learn how to cook, " if my chef ever decided to walk out on the business, I could take over!" As it turns out, she liked the kitchen best, and so, well, that's where she stayed!

I asked Kelly how she met her partner. She said, she had recently moved back to Elkan Road in Larchmont after living in NYC for a lot of years and that they met on her street. Kelly continues,"Colin knew I had a food background and he shared with me his dream of opening a wine and whiskey bar." At the point of their discussion, she was looking for something different, and, well, their interests came together and his she continues, "I was looking for a new opportunity and Colin, being a wine and whiskey guy, was looking for someone to help him with the food and we kind of really clicked." Ah--the evidence, which you'll get from one visit to Bar'Lees, is proof of that! 
Some other Q's and A's: 
AG: Where do you get your menu inspiration from?
KC: From various things I've cooked before. I love the NY Times dining section, eating out, and seeing what looks good in the market

AG: What are your favorite dishes?
KC: I'm a big braising fan.  Anything slow cooked is a favorite.

AG: What advice do you give to people who are reluctant cooks, but who aspire to being better in the kitchen? 
KC: I think that anyone who wants to improve in the kitchen can learn a lot from the many cooking shows on TV. My niece, who didn't grow up in a cooking household and helps me in the kitchen at Bar'Lees, claims she knows nothing about cooking, but can spout off these pretty specific cooking terms and knows quite a few kitchen techniques from watching reality TV cooking shows.


And so, my friends, back to the small world theme, I have to say that I'm so proud to catch up with this chef, and see Kelly having realized her restaurant dream, which is one that's very much on my horizon as well. (We old friends, foodies, and small business owners need to support each other)

Also, if you have your own questions for Chef Kelly, I encourage you to ask her. But first and foremost, try her fare and the some of the wonderful drink Bar'Lees has to offer, as well as their tasting events and more, and do let me know how you like all! 

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