"During the winter season, we hibernate inward," says Daniel Asher, culinary director of Root Down and Linger. But spring? Spring, he counters, "represents turning outward, feeling the sunshine on our skin and setting the tone for seasonality that takes us through the rest of the year." Spring, he adds, "gives us all an opportunity to eat food with beautiful tones and colors -- food that makes us feel energized, happy and free."
And Linger is celebrating the start of spring with a new menu -- and a collaborative kitchen crew that's no longer helmed by an executive chef.
Marty Steinke, who had been behind the line at Linger since day one -- and its executive chef for the majority of that time -- departed in March. "We dated, we had some good times and we had an amicable divorce," says owner Justin Cucci. "Marty was instrumental in taking Linger to where it is now, and his jersey will always be in the rafters, but he's gone and we're going executive-chefless, at least for a while," reveals Cucci. Instead, he, Asher and Jeremy Kittelson, exec chef of Root Down and an alum of Linger, are the dominant trifecta.
And the spring menu, says Cucci, is very much a synergistic effort. "Jeremy is the one who's more minimalist and restrained; Daniel is the funky guy who brings us this invaluable knowledge of sourcing, which means he pulls out all this shit that I've never heard of; and I'm the producer: Give me your raw, unfinished mix, and I'll give you a finished track -- that's how it works," explains Cucci, who describes the spring menu as "lighter and more feminine with a deft touch on seasonings, flavors and layers."
And, says Kittelson, it celebrates the "season of love, revitalization and rejuvenation." Winter is long, he notes, and "when spring finally arrives, you have to jump on it fast, because it's gone so quickly."
To that end, Linger's homage to spring, a parade of asparagus, English peas and mushrooms, haricot verts, baby artichokes and radishes, basil, mint and cucumbers, is in full force, and judging from the dishes I tried last week, it's a genuine love affair rather than a fling.
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Here's a photo recap of the new spring dishes.