Out of all the dishes a chef envisions, tests, and eventually serves, how does one become a restaurant’s signature? For Longoven’s Andrew Manning, Megan Fitzroy Phelan, and Patrick Phelan, the defining menu item is the thing they’ve never been able to stop fiddling with: a savory egg custard that they’ve topped with everything from uni to summer flowers. As the team journeyed from DIY pop-up stalwarts to the owners
of a new brick-and-mortar location, a version of this dish has always anchored their constantly changing restaurant.
November 2016: Jasmine Rice Custard
Two years into the Longoven bi-weekly pop-up, Manning wants to put a savory custard on the menu (he’s a chawanmushi fanatic). This month he finally does, mixing jasmine-rice-steeped milk with egg yolks, steaming it, then topping with crunchy cauliflower mushrooms, yuzu jelly, and Maine uni (Phelan’s a fanatic). After the chefs wrap their day jobs (butchering, catering, and teaching pastry), the three refine the dish through late-night phone calls. In the end, the uni custard scores with diners. That’s validation for the team, who are balancing their ambitious roving restaurant with regular work.
August 2017: Corn Custard
It’s summer, and Manning sees blue crabs and corn everywhere, so he makes a corn custard covered with fat hunks of Chesapeake blue crab, a double dose of shiitake (jelly and mushrooms), seaweed-cured egg, and shiso. More late-night calls ensue as they finalize this month’s pop-up menu. It’s been a hectic ride: They’re
six months into the renovation of Longoven’s future home.
June 2018: Asparagus Custard
More blue crab! Manning plays off the classic pairing of crab and asparagus with this summer-flower-crowned custard. This iteration earns a spot on Longoven’s debut menu in the new space, a familiar note among the chaos of opening. “Surreal” is the way the chefs describe the first night. Sometimes they forget they’re not a pop-up and don’t have to crank out 38 dishes at once. It’s not until they get back to their homes, late after service, that they realize they’re finally doing what they’ve been dreaming of the past four years.