By Gretchen Kurtz
By Mark Antonation
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By Jamie Swinnerton
By Jamie Swinnerton
I've got Chris Golub from Swimclub32 on the phone, just back from a trip to Spain with his partner, Grant Gingerich. Chris is in fine form, talking a mile a minute, excited by just about everything under the sun.
"So we're talking to the guy, and we're like, 'Man, can you get us into El Bulli?' And the guy's like, 'What's El Bulli?' -- which is just crazy, right? I mean, you're in the business and you don't know El Bulli? Come on..."
The "guy" was (I think) a wine seller they were meeting with in Spain, one of the growers or exporters who are now super best friends with Swimclub's owners, because Swimclub's owners are now totally into the new-old, wicked-cheap Spanish grenaches and siesta wines they found on their trip.
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"But that's cool," Golub continues. "Next time we're gonna go. We've got a connection, and that's probably what it's all about, right? Having a connection? This guy is like, 'No problem. Next time you come, you call a week in advance, he'll have a cancellation.' That's how you get a table these days."
"Dude, I can't even tell you...you know, right? It's Ferran Adria. And it's fast food. Like, we've got Chipotle here with all the good meats and stuff, and that's great. But this is...God, okay. So we had a perfect little confit of tomatoes with fresh mozzarella packed in this little plastic to-go box. And then there were white sardines. And the hamburger? Oh...it was on this super-airy, light/crispy bread -- like a focaccia, but thinner and way lighter -- and the burger was, I don't know. The only way Grant and I could describe it was like wet meat. And, of course, this is like El Bulli, so it couldn't just have lettuce or anything, but it had baby mache and microgreens. We ordered up probably 95 percent of the menu just to see what it was like, and it was all over the place. Like really wild, complicated stuff to things like the confit. The chicken was straight-up Indian; there was Thai. And I wanted to talk to the cook in the back, so I asked if he spoke any English because I'm a stupid American tourist, right? I don't speak any Spanish. But the guy spoke a little English, so we talked, and he said they plan to take Fast Good to all the European cities in the hopes of bringing it to America."
Got that? Fast Good. Ferran Adria. Coming to America. I can't fucking wait.
Once Golub stops talking about Madrid, we start talking about Swimclub, the two-year-old restaurant at 3628 West 32nd Avenue, and the "new vision for the wine program" that sprang straight from Golub and Gingerich's travels through Spain's producing regions. What was once a deep (and somewhat unwieldly) list is getting pared down to a slim and trim 32 bottles of hand-picked vintages.
"Super cheap wines," Golub says. "Cheap as balls. And we're turning on the neighborhood to this stuff. These guys are really not into the bling marketing, you know? Their costs are low. These guys are still taking siestas every afternoon. So they're producing this stuff cheaply, where it can retail for six or eight bucks. And it's just killer juice, man. Straight-ahead, beautiful wine that goes down like a hooker on payday."
Swimclub is also bringing in hand-picked beers and is planning monthly dinners when Golub and Gingerich will offer menu pairings and tastings with new wines, whiskeys, tequilas and mezcals. They're calling each special night "Dinner With the Kid" -- "the Kid" being Golub's nickname, because whenever he gets around wines or new foods, he's "like a little kid. I'm so excited, I'm doing the little-kid dance everywhere."
And beyond that, the partners have (another) new vision for Swimclub's menu. "We've learned something, Jason," Golub insists. "We really have. You know, I'm 41 now, and I'm learning, like, a thousand times more than I learned when I was 31."
So what has he learned? That people like a certain amount of stability. That they love the tuna tartare and don't want to see it rotated on and off the menu when the seasons change. "In the beginning, I was like, no, fuck that, I don't want to be repetitive," he explains. "But you know, we're here to please people, so that's what we're going to do."
As a result, the menu will now hang on to some of the regular favorites while also making rotational changes. The melon salad is going because the Rocky Ford melons are nearly done for the year, and they'll be replaced with something new. Another salad, Golub thinks. Or maybe one of his winter soups. "Or braised meats," he says. "After that trip, I'm really into braised meats. Because they're so simple, you know? You just pick a good meat, put it in the oven, let it cook slow and stay out of its way."