Why is being freelance so much fun? Because you get to do cool things like projects with Ralph Lauren Home, where you are offered the opportunity not only interview the hottest chefs, but also be photographed with them. As intimidated as I was to meet Angie Mar, owner and executive chef of the much-lauded Beatrice Inn, she was a blast to hang with. Oh, and I got to taste her indescribable 160-day whiskey-aged beef. Here’s the story:
Angie Mar is standing in the kitchen of New York’s Beatrice Inn, inspecting a side of beef rib. With its marbleized mosaic, buds of faded lavender nestled into its edges, it is quite a vision of beauty. She gives her ok, and sous chef Nicole Averkiou carries it to the grill.
One of the first things I notice about Mar is her style. Despite not being the tallest person in the room, she is a dominant figure. With a mane of jet black hair, piercing eyes whose lids are colored in black shadow, she is wearing a vintage leopard coat over a black leather shirt. She makes bold pronunciations, and yet is quick with a laugh. Look up the term “bad ass” in the dictionary, and there she is. Her confidence in the kitchen translates to the way she designed the Beatrice’s two dining rooms: one is dark and wood-paneled—very men’s club—while the other is light and airy with a retro safari vibe. Against the dark green leather upholstered banquettes and white tablecloths, the Ralph Lauren leopard print dinnerware reflects Mar’s penchant for bold style.
“I want people to come to the Beatrice and feel its storied history,” explains Mar. “For a restaurant that has such a rich past, I feel honored being part of the next chapter.”
It’s been just over a year since Mar took ownership of the Beatrice Inn, having purchased it from Graydon Carter and partners Emil Varda and Brett Rasinski (she had been chef there since 2013). She promptly dropped the dress code and turned its fledgling menu into a carnivore’s delight, a decision heavily influenced by famed French butcher Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, whose steak Mar dined on during a meal in Paris prompted her to learn the art of aging beef from the master himself.
“I don’t speak French and he doesn’t speak English, but we communicated through the food’s taste, smell and how it looked,” she recalls.
Mar returned home and began working on creating her own version of aged beef, playing around with the number of days in which to age the Beatrice’s whiskey-soaked, cloth-wrapped beef. She found the sweet spot at 160, and word soon began to spread about this American anomaly.
“I’m still not sure exactly how the science of my technique works, or why I get a 20% more yield on my whiskey beef than if it wasn’t aged in whiskey,” she laughs. “But I don’t really need to know why, because I know it works. The wait list is usually about a month long, but I always make sure we have enough for our regular customers.”
Hospitality is in Mar’s blood. Her aunt was Ruby Chow, of the eponymous Seattle restaurant, but it was shuttered before Mar was born.
“She always carried on with the hospitality and entertaining aspect of it,” remembers Mar. “The importance of that was something I learned from a very young age.”
Then perhaps that’s why, despite a successful prior career in real estate, the professional kitchen called to her.
“I’ve never felt at home in my own skin as I do now that I’m a chef. We all want to be passionate about what we do, and I’m so grateful that I’ve found that passion.”
Mar’s passion for what’s on the plate carries over to the table itself.
“On the bottom of my menu is a quote from Hyman G. Rickover that reads, ‘The devil is in the details. So is salvation.’ I think that’s a quote to live by. We carry that philosophy in our drinks, we implement it in our food, and on our table. At a restaurant, everything starts at the table.”
Mar and I are seated at a corner banquette in the back dining room one late Fall afternoon. As the first slice of beef explodes on my tongue, I close my eyes and take inventory of my taste buds. Mar picks up the bone of her famous Tomahawk Rib Eye, then, as she begins making her way along its marvelous bits, gestures for me to do the same. Vegetarians would be aghast. I do not hesitate.
“We’re a very specific restaurant and we have a very specific point of view here,” she says. “I never want to have to apologize for that, ever.”
Soon, she hopes to be unapologetic across the pond as well. Plans to open a Beatrice Inn in London are in nascent stages.
“London has the right climate for our menu, so our food translates perfectly,” she affirms. “My mom grew up there, it’s like going home.”
This year, she heads to her real childhood home, in Seattle, where Thanksgiving dinner includes close to 25. “My father is one of ten kids, so I have a really extended family, and we go all-out with the food. There’s a turkey, but there’s also corned beef, prime rib. And we always make my dad’s stuffing, which is this beautiful mix of east and west. He makes it with brioche breadcrumbs, Chinese sausage lap cheong, bacon, shiitake mushrooms and oysters, and all the herbs. It’s the most insane stuffing ever.”
Spending the better part of night and day with the Beatrice staff, she has formed a tight bunch who do their own pre-holiday celebration, where everyone contributes a dish and even former employees come back.
She dreams of merging her Beatrice and Seattle families someday, but has somewhat loftier goals when asked who’d turn up to her fantasy holiday feast.
“Julia Child would carve the turkey, our wine director Nathan Wooden would serve the wine and Antanas our bartender would make the Christmas absinthe punch. My father would drink the whole bottle of Madeira 27, but maybe he’d share some with Auguste Escoffier. Marco Pierre White would be there, too standing behind me, criticizing my food. God, I would love that.”