Butter is the sort of place that’s a destination for both a get-together over cocktails or a serious dining experience with an award-winning wine list. And with chef Alexander Guarnaschelli at the kitchen’s helm, the food is indeed the star. Consider her seasonal, market-driven menu: from the mixed homemade charcuterie plate (coffee-rubbed bacon, duck mortadella and veal pate) to the grilled octopus with meyer lemon confit, from the braised lamb shank to the fall green ravioli, Guarnaschelli’s American cuisine is infused with her classic French training and imaginative twists.
Aside from her role at Butter, she also regularly appears on television: on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” (as both a challenger and a judge), on “Chopped” and on her own shows, “The Cooking Loft,” as well as “Alex’s Day Off.”
Haute Living: What’s new at Butter?
Alex Guarnaschelli: We are working on some new fall cocktails for our cocktail program. We are also making some new charcuterie items for the fall menu. I especially love the recipe testing phase — so tasty!
HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at Butter?
AG: I love the Cavatappi Pasta with Spicy Lamb Sausage and Yellow Tomato Sauce. A classic that we make and eat in the kitchen as well as for the customers! I also have a rack of lab dish right now with some anchovy. Eggplant and Feta cheese with Sherry dressing. So tasty. Love the raspberry beignets. A classic. Butter has had those on the menu since day one.
HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
AG: I love Hearth. It’s probably my favorite restaurant in Manhattan. A lot of good food memories there. I love breakfast or a Croque Madame at Pastis. I’m addicted to Minetta Tavern’s hamburgers. I need Sfoglitella from Ferrara Bakery. I love sushi at Soto and the potato pizza at Five Points.
HL: What’s your ideal meal?
AG: One that someone cooks for me using super fresh ingredients or a really melty grilled cheese with tomato at a greasy spoon.
HL: Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
AG: I love La Grenouille. So elegant and old school. The food also has so much taste. I also have a special place in my heart for Felidia but my all-time fave is Jean Georges at the Trump International Hotel.
HL: What’s your favorite New York City neighborhood?
AG: For walking around and enjoying a true New York moment of peace? The West Village.
HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?
AG: I like to drink too much coffee at “Joe” and wander around. I love going to the Greenmarket.
HL: What is your favorite vacation destination?
AG: I haven’t found my favorite yet, but Nantucket comes pretty close so far.
HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
AG: Fourteen courses at Osteria Da Fiore in Venice, Italy, with Marcella Hazan and my mother.
HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
AG: Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, shallots, corn, star anise.
(Editor’s Note: Chef Guarnaschelli also added mustard, lobster, duck and vanilla beans.)