When a dish proclaims itself a Welsh rarebit but comes to the table looking like a bird’s nest complete with an egg, you know you’re about to have an exciting meal.
At Fair Weather Bushwick, chef John Creger channels his artist’s sensibility to create dishes that sing the merits of local seasonal ingredients while presenting familiar flavors in unexpected ways.
The Welsh rarebit dish, or Welsh rabbit as it is also called, for example, was the first course of a recent tasting menu by Creger. It was a deconstructed version of the British dish, with a small potato that he cooked sous-vide for two hours, resting among fried, shredded potato and resembling a bird’s egg. Underneath was an umami-loaded cheese sauce of Parmesan, Pale Ale, and herb oil. A sprig of local Affilla Cress (a microgreen that tastes like sweet peas) completed it.
Creger, who has worked at Artisanal and Le Cirque, was a rock musician before he started cooking full time. He also took up drawing for a while.
Cooking was always the side gig that he thought would support his artistic endeavors. But when he moved to New York, hoping to further his musical career while working at local restaurants, he realized cooking could be as much of a creative outlet as his music.
It’s no wonder then that a musical component is very much present in his creations.
For the tasting menu, a 10-course meal served every Tuesday ($65, additional $30 with beer pairings), Creger puts on a music playlist that evolves along with the progression of the meal.
At an early April dinner, the first few courses started off with bold flavors, matching the energy of the tunes.
A cauliflower dish featured slow-roasted purple florets plated with a smear of gremolata purée, sprinkled with brown butter powder and tingling Bengal spice powder.
Next came a bowl of frisée, with bits of smoked trout brightened by sherry vinaigrette and topped with grapes and capers. The medley of flavors was flawless.
When the sunchoke velouté arrived, the music took a brighter, more upbeat turn, matching the lightness of the dish. Its nuttiness was enhanced by hazelnuts and coffee foam.
As the meal progressed to the more filling dishes, the music became more mellow. Creger does it intentionally so that people can converse as they enjoy the heartier dishes.
One of those dishes was pork belly, cooked sous-vide for 18 hours until soft and supple, and glazed with harissa maple. Its butteriness was cut by a subtle, lovely tartness in the accompanying quinoa. The quinoa, as it turned out, was infused with coconut vinegar.
Creger creates playful flavors with spices and the natural taste of the ingredients. He rarely uses butter, preferring to transform ingredients into different versions of themselves. A recent beet dish featured slices of pickled beets folded in half, with pesto-ricotta cheese inside, accompanied by beet caramel and dehydrated beet bits.
At other times, he presents familiar dishes in a new form, like his take on clam chowder: a clam shell resting on small rocks, with potato-bacon purée, crispy fried leeks, and trout roe sitting on top of the briny clam meat.
A dessert of panna cotta marries vanilla and saffron. The panna cotta’s pudding-like texture turned out to be a fantastic complement, enlivened by a balsamic-poached fig and blood orange jelly.
Creger plans to change the tasting menu every month or so, allowing him to be inspired by whatever produce is in season. He took up gardening about three years ago, and has come to appreciate the hard work it takes to grow vegetables.
On the tasting menu, it’s not the name of the dish that comes first—it’s the farm from where the ingredients are sourced, to show support for the local farmers. “It’s about being true to what is supposed to be in season,” he said.
For the spring, he’s excited to use the pea shoots that he grew in the backyard of the restaurant, for a creamy chilled pea soup with crispy prosciutto. “It’s literally farm to table,” he said. He recently cooked up some horseradish that he planted on his girlfriend’s farm in New Jersey two years ago. He’s looking forward to showcasing more of the fruits of his labor this summer.
Fair Weather Bushwick only recently started offering full service meals. Previously, it was a cafe. Owner Ebru Brun said she decided to convert Fair Weather into a restaurant this March because she saw the neighborhood lacked a place for the community to gather and enjoy themselves.
She envisioned something like a “big house party,” where diners sit at communal tables, make new friends, and admire the works by local artists on display at the restaurant.
Brun also recently launched a weekday lunch service, where Creger puts his spin on American comfort food, like a Pork Belly Hash with honey chipotle glaze, peppers, onions, potatoes, and runny egg ($12); and ‘Nduja Mac and Cheese, spreadable Italian pork sausage baked with rigatoni pasta, smoked gouda, and aged cheddar ($10).
On weekends, Fair Weather takes brunch staples up a notch, like with the Avocado Hash Toast, smashed avocado on a potato cake, with radishes and chipotle aioli ($9); and the Churro Waffle, with Mexican spices like cloves, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and orange zest, topped with blueberries and hazelnut butter ($10).
Fair Weather Bushwick
274 Wyckoff Ave. (between Gates Avenue & Linden Street)
Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday 6 p.m –9 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 6 p.m.–10 p.m.
Monday–Friday 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
Tasting Menu Dinner:
Tuesday 8 p.m. (approximately 2 hours; by reservation only)