Chef-owner Brandon Boudet oversees the culinary development of 101 Coffee Shop, Little Dom's, Dominick's and, since last year Tom Bergin's Tavern by trying to focus on the cuisine rather than the chef behind it. “When people think about where they're going to go eat, they're normally thinking about a dish or a cuisine. I think that chef-driven restaurant has a bit of a shorter life expectancy.”

Boudet and his business partner Warren Ebbink opened 101 Coffee Shop in late 2000. Twelve years later, the diner still keeps customer favorites on the menu.

“The idea was to create an old school 1960s diner, so we looked into what's done well at a diner in California back in the day. What were they serving? Just going back and having things like fried chicken as a special. But also updating and giving it a twist to accommodate today's clientele, such as [the eggless dish] No Huevos Rancheros.”

Even as they've opened more restaurants over the years, the strategy continues to be idea-driven. Boudet is often on the phone speaking with his chefs and going over concepts. A few months ago, he came across vegan cheeses at Erewhon. Around that time, he was making an almond milk whiskey with raw Italian almonds.

“I was noticing the pulp from the mixture that comes out of making almond milk and thinking that there's something we can use with that,” says Boudet. “I did a little research online, looked around and figured out that you can actually make almond milk ricotta.”

Boudet was skeptical about the taste when he looked at the first batch. He and two sous chefs decided to add some olive oil, salt, black pepper and fresh herbs; they baked it and served it on top of grilled eggplant. The almond milk ricotta is not meant to be an exact substitute for cow's milk ricotta. “We thought, 'Oh wow, this is really good.' It has a different unique taste, because you taste the almond. I was pleasantly surprised by it.”

At the time of this writing, Boudet and his team had already settled on the recipe for almond milk ricotta. He's now looking to add the baked almond milk ricotta with a salad of black kale to the menu at Little Dom's.

Credit: Brandon Boudet

Credit: Brandon Boudet

Oven-Baked Almond Milk Ricotta on Black Kale Salad

From: Brandon Boudet

Servings: 2

Almond Milk Ricotta:

2 cups raw Italian almonds soaked in water overnight then peeled

1 cup filtered water

1/3 teaspoons acidophilus

1. Purée peeled almonds with a cup of filtered water and 1/3 teaspoons acidophilus in a Vitamix.

2. Pour mixture in a cheesecloth over a colandar, cover, and allow to drain for 8 hours before serving.

Salad and assembly:

1 cup almond milk ricotta

4 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cups black kale, chopped

1 ear grilled corn, kernels removed

2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced in wedges

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt to taste

Crushed red pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit. Brush a small baking dish with a half tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Spoon almond milk ricotta onto the dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top has browned slightly.

2. Toss all ingredients together except ricotta. Place salad on plate and top with baked almond milk ricotta.

And in related news:

Meatless Mondays: Vegan Cooking at Mohawk Bend + A Recipe for Mole Pizza

Meatless Mondays: Olive & Thyme's Roasted Beet Farro Salad Recipe

Meatless Mondays: Maximiliano Chef Andre Guerrero + A Recipe for Lemon Rapini Linguine

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