The results are effortless fun, with dishes pointing to the pair’s obsession with local farming, quirky menu items and clinically obsessive behavior. Oysters, which rotate daily, arrive only from East Coast waters. And that dry-aged rib eye? Chances are one of the chefs stood in the field where the cow feasted on five types of tender grass, which Rembold can name from memory.
We found them back in Brooklyn for a quick chat.
How does working as a duo help you in the kitchen?
Sean Rembold: At a restaurant like Marlow & Sons, people don’t just appreciate fine dining, but also fun and whimsy. So from Dave and I having fun together and trusting one another and calling each other on our days off, a lot of great ideas are born. We tend to get excited when we get together to talk about menu design. It actually doesn’t feel like work.
Dave Gould: It usually happens over Budweiser and Kentucky whiskey.
SR: Yes, that’s the third chef de cuisine.
How do you settle disagreements in the kitchen?
SR: We have something called the “I need this rule” for the situation where we might be running into a wall on something. Perhaps it’s the difference of whether we are going to poach and egg or fry an egg. I’m partial to fried, Dave prefers poached. One of us wins by “needing it.”
The hyper-localized menu is almost a cliché at this point. How do you actually practice what you preach?
SR: It’s difficult given the confines of New York City, in terms of availability. We are actually trying to meet the farmers and get to know them. We want to stand in the field where the carrots we are cooking have been picked from and take many field trips with our staff—be it upstate New York or upstate Vermont. [See Rembold's favorite ingredients]
I was trying to call you but your phone sounded like it was dead. Were you on a trip?
DG: We were at this small meat processing plant out in rural Pennsylvania. They finish cows there from local farms on these great grass pastures. Everybody in the city wants grass-fed cows, including us, and we were checking it out.
What do you mean by finish?
DG: Finishing is the time between the cow being weaned off its mother and slaughter, which is around 18 to 22 months. They feed off the grass and become full of nicely marbled fat and flavor.
SR: Most cows are finished with grain because the schedule is often really tight and it is difficult to find available grass. That’s why this farm is really unique.
When you’re ordering entire cows at a time, how do you prioritize where the meat is going, and when?
DG: It’s interesting because the animals tell you what needs to go, and when. The drop loins of the beef hang and then dry, so you don’t need to touch them for a week when we cut them into steaks. It’s a matter of what needs to go first, what needs to go second. In a way it’s easier than ordering 50 pounds if sirloin wrapped in Cryovac each week and running out. We meet with the butcher daily.
You also specialize in serving obscure, East Coast–only oysters—year-round. In August?
SR: That time of year most of the oysters are going to be generally Canadian, from Prince Edward Island. We pay a lot for our oysters, which means we don’t necessarily make a whole lot of money back. It’s exciting because you aren’t going to see Malpecs or Blue Points every day.
Describe the perfect oyster…
DG: There are a lot of characteristics that people like and dislike. Some are plump and meaty. Some are watery and flimsy. I prefer somewhere in the middle. Salty and briny describes the East Coast oyster, where as on the West Coast they tend to be sweeter.
SR: The fresher the better is how it goes. It should be like standing on the beach.
Do you serve any other transporting food items?
DG: Cooking seasonal does that for you. The first batch of ramps we received, you put that in a pan with butter and you’re there. It’s spring time. The same in the summer when you slice that first tomato. Or in the fall when you eat the first butternut squash.
Photo by Melissa Hom