August was a big news month for Ducks Eatery, a restaurant on East 12th Street in New York City. They introduced a dish featuring smoked watermelon and the internet went crazy. The original YouTube video posted by Food Insider has 2.3 million views, and other videos by other groups (including Food Network, Fox Business, Food Beast, and Brunch Boys) account for hundreds of thousands of additional views.
In its early stages, Ducks Eatery was the restaurant partnered with SPiN, the table tennis social club in New York. And the owners, siblings Will and Julie Horowitz, are both table tennis players. Will grew up in the sport and credits some of the table tennis travel and international exposure to his development as a chef. In the last decade he has been a part of clubs in New York, Florida, Colorado, and Rhode Island. Will’s father, Steven Horowitz (currently the Chief of Cardiology at Stamford Hospital), is credited with teaching the family to play – as he was a strong New York player who knew some of the greats like Marty Reisman and Dick Miles.
Ducks Eatery spun away from its ping pong club roots in 2012. The new restaurant has been known for a diverse menu, healthy and sustainable foods and ingredients, and innovative flavors. They use older techniques, such as smoking, and specialize in the strange and obscure. The current menu includes spicy brisket jerky, smoked duck salad, smoked cantaloupe burger, and smoked whole goat neck. The whole menu is not filled with the obscure, they also have a variety of salads, wings, ribs, clams and mussels – but in a city known for its amazing food selections, it’s clearly the innovative dishes that are the headliners.
Speaking of which, the smoked watermelon dish is currently so popular, that one must order it a week in advance. When asked about this creation, Will explained that some of the most acclaimed dishes at the restaurant were their smoked pastrami and other smoked meats. This lead to experimentation with a smoked cantaloupe burger which has remained on the menu, and with the smoked watermelon.
This watermelon “ham” is smoked twice for eight hours and soaked in brine for four days. The result of this labor is a vegetarian dish with a meaty flavor of salt and ash and spices on the outside, but with sweet fruit on the inside. When the melon arrives at the table it looks like a ham, though once cut, the red inside of the fruit is revealed. It’s a whole new spin on watermelon, and we can’t wait to see what Will and Julie come up with next.
Ducks’ Melon Featured on Food Insider:
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