Calçotada at Savoy


On the corner of Prince and Crosby outside Savoy, a musician strummed his guitar as the wind picked up smoke from the grill on the sidewalk. Chefs Peter Hoffman and Ryan Tate used thongs to flip batches of charred leeks dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Not long after, Hoffman was inside demonstrating how to drink a stream of rosé from the spout of a porrón held in his hand a foot away. Happy Monday.

Wood Grilled Leeks with Romesco Sauce (Photo: Arthur Bovino).

Peter Hoffman has been holding his annual spring Calçotada celebration for a decade at Savoy. “I went to a Calçotada in Spain and it was quite magical and delicious, and I decided that it was going to be my pagan holiday to celebrate the return of spring,” he explained.

“I’ve been doing it for ten years and I don’t understand why I’m the only guy who does it. I’ve tried to spread the word, tried to get a couple of magazine articles written about it. There are plenty of Spanish restaurants in New York, and in this country, but it hasn’t hit a chord, except for with my customers.”

Three years ago he inaugurated the festival at Back Forty. Savoy was packed last night and tonight’s event is sold out (if you plan, put it on next spring’s calendar).

The $70 menu (plus tax and tip) is simple. Grilled Calçots (leeks from Guy Jones of Blooming Hill Farm) served with a textured Romesco. They’re not actually calçots, but leeks that have been wintered over. “They aren’t something that went into the ground in April, because you couldn’t have anything of that thickness and girth,” Hoffman noted. “They’re planted in the way that calçots are, in the fall. They’re growing, then they winter, and start growing again in the spring. They have several months of growth on them instead of just a quick fix.”

The calçots are followed by House-Made Botifarra Sausage with large, garlicky, white beans. Wonderfully medium rare lamb—sliced about a quarter-inch thick, pink and juicy. There was the slight bitterness of Sauteéd Broccoli Rabe, and a smooth Crema Catalana with its sweet, brittle sugar brûlée. Then of course, the all-you-can-drink rosé.

Even if you haven’t had the real thing, or attended one of Hoffman’s festivals, there’s no reason for weekend grill-masters not to hold their own. Grilling the leeks and meat is easy, and recipes for Romesco and beans aren’t tough to follow. All you need to complete the festivities is a group of friends, and more bottles of rosé than they should possibly drink in one night.

As the evening progressed, the staff’s heavy pour of rosé continued. So did the contentment, which was punctuated regularly by joyful exclamations instigated by the porrón being passed around the room by Hoffman who danced between tables.

Crema Catalana (Photo: Arthur Bovino).

Back outside by the grill, custom-made salamanders sat in the orange-red coals. Cooks, waiters, and bartenders took turns using them to caramelize the granulated brown sugar on top of the Crema Catalana.

“I only had to prep four dishes,” noted chef Tate. “I wish we could do this every night.”

Don’t we all.