Chef Daniel Humm’s perfect Saturday in New York
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This article is part of a guide to New York from FT Globetrotter
New York City has been my home for the past 15 years, and I’m always delighted to discover new parts of it. Luckily for me, this city provides a never-ending source of inspiration for two of my great passions: food and art. And as much as I relish the nonstop energy of the city, I also find it imperative to seek moments of calm. For this I head to one of Manhattan’s green spaces to exercise my body (with a good run) or mind (for a game of chess with a fellow New Yorker) — or to one of the temples of gastronomy for a good omakase.
Here I’ve shared my itinerary for an ideal Saturday or day off work in New York.
Stop 1: Running in Central Park
We’ve had a running club at my restaurant Eleven Madison Park for many years, and a few times a week I prioritise getting in a workout either solo or with my team members. I live downtown, but Central Park and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir are my go-to running spots. I often meet my chef de cuisine, Dominique Roy, for a revitalising run and some out-of-the-kitchen thinking. These moments allow us to see our professional purpose with fresh eyes. Our favourite route is a couple of loops around the reservoir, which ends up being a perfect 5k. We are currently training for the NYC Marathon, which I plan to run every year until my legs fall off.
Stop 2: Breakfast and coffee (post-workout)
After a workout I’m typically thinking about two things: coffee and food. I’m not typically a big breakfast person, but when I’m in the mood for a treat I go to Fabrique Bakery on West 14th Street. The Swedish bakery is famous for its delicious cardamom and cinnamon buns. I love snacking in the back of the café, near the open kitchen, and watching the experts laminate and twist the dough that will eventually be baked into buns.
For coffee I head to Madman Espresso on University Place, where my usual order is a large oat-milk cappuccino to go (the stronger the better). Marco Vacchi opened this café a few years ago, and it’s conveniently around the corner from my apartment, so it’s been easy to become a regular.
Stop 3: Washington Square Park
I tend to walk through Washington Square Park daily, and whether it’s for a short stroll or 45 minutes of concentration and conversation over a chessboard with Rahim, the king of New York City’s chess hustlers, the park makes me feel alive. (Anyone who visits the park should ask for his board.) I met Rahim years ago, and I can always count on him for a pick-up game of chess, his wise words and shared laughter. My daughters have also learned the game, and playing chess together is something we look forward to as a family. After my inevitable loss, I’ll head to my next stop while listening to a podcast. One of my favourites at the moment is Armchair Expert, hosted by Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. Their genuine care and interest in the guests they interview really comes through, and listening in every week is something that makes the to-do list.
Stop 4: Queens
On weekends I try my best to get out of the house, especially when the weather is nice. Art is one of my deepest passions, so more often than not this involves a gallery or museum. The Noguchi Museum in Queens is a frequent stop and a perfect hideaway from the bustle of the city and its millions of people. I feel connected to Isamu Noguchi’s work in the way that he used organic forms and natural materials, which feels a lot like how I approach cuisine. He coaxed beauty from stone and wood, and I find inspiration in what he was able to do with such a limited palette. When we decided to transition my restaurant to a plant-based menu, Noguchi’s sculptures were some of the works that I referenced. They are subtle and powerful, and I could spend all afternoon studying them and sitting in the peaceful museum garden.
Not far from the museum is chef Cosme Aguilar’s southern Mexican restaurant Casa Enrique, which has earned a Michelin star. Whenever I’m in Long Island City, I stop in for a spicy Margarita and Doña Blanca enchilada, which is made with roasted poblano peppers. The restaurant’s lively, energetic atmosphere combined with thoughtful, delicious dishes make it a place I want to eat at on my day off.
Stop 5: The Union Square Greenmarket
The Union Square Greenmarket is like a home from home for me. I have been going for years and in that time have developed some great friendships with the farmers and folks who work at their stands. I like to stop by Norwich Meadows to see what Zaid and his wife Haifa have been growing with their team in upstate New York. They’ve incorporated Egyptian farming techniques at their farm near Syracuse, and they produce some of the best eggplant that I’ve tasted. I always keep a jar of something fermented from the biodynamic farm Hawthorne Valley in my fridge (its curtido is my top choice), and Stokes Farm is another of my favourite family-run operations.
Stop 6: Matinee showing of ‘Macbeth’
I was anticipating this limited run of Macbeth for a long time, and snagged tickets as soon as they were available. Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga are masters of their craft. The entire cast’s performances are deft and haunting — paying homage to the classic tragedy while adding inflections of modern relevance to Shakespeare’s evergreen themes. My favourite thing about matinees is that you have all evening to discuss the show over a leisurely dinner.
Last stop: Dinner
Dinner at Kajitsu, where chef Hiroki Abe and his team create the most beautiful vegetarian dishes in the style of Japanese shojin cuisine, which originates in Zen Buddhism. It is a 10-course omakase that changes monthly; every single bite is prepared and presented with such care, and I marvel at the creativity with which chef Abe handles vegetables. It was here that I first tried nama fu, a protein made from wheat gluten and rice flour. I find this particularly impressive because these simple ingredients can take on a variety of textures and flavours. I especially love it when it’s given a super-intense umami mushroom profile. I usually finish with a cup of Ippodo green tea — the perfect way to end the day.
Tell us how you’d spend your perfect Saturday in New York in the comments
Daniel Humm will be speaking at the US edition of the FT Weekend Festival on Saturday May 7 in Washington DC, and online. For tickets, go to ftweekendfestival.com