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Five Spots to Try Sunny Saffron Dishes This Winter

The precious spice is appearing in everything from pasta to ice cream sandwiches.

Chefs and bartenders around the city are tapping the earthy, aromatic notes and vibrant yellow hues of one of the world’s most coveted spices for their dishes and drinks.

“Saffron is delicate and difficult to harvest, so there is a sense of rarity and specialty that comes in using it,” says chef Carlos Gaytán of Tzuco. “We’re continuing to realize that it can add a touch of luxury to any dish.”

Local distillers Apologue Liqueurs launched a saffron liqueur last summer, and many bar programs have employed it in drinks, including Passerotto and Lula Café. Here are five other ways to sample saffron now.

Saffron Tagliatelle at Giant

Photo: Anjali Pinto

A little bit of saffron goes a long way, and at Giant, chef Jason Vincent incorporates a few threads of it in his tagliatelle. He tosses the pasta with butter and accents it with Calabrian chili, lemon, and Dungeness crab.

Chilled Octopus with Saffron Chips at Marisol

Photo: Neil Burger

Chef Jason Hammel serves his marinated octopus with thick potato chips coated in saffron spice powder. Heighten those contrasting textures and sweet-savory flavors with wine from the region — namely the 2018 Vegas Altas, an herbaceous orange wine from Extremadura, Spain.

Mejillones at Tzuco

Photo: Courtesy of Tzuco

Gaytán draws on French techniques at Tzuco, as in the mussels dish, which is made with white wine, cream, and shallots, plus dried chorizo, jalapeños, and saffron. The saffron imparts just enough sweetness to round out the smoky, spicy mix.

Martini at Good Fortune

Photo: Jacquelyn Trezzo

This house martini is made with a few dashes of orange saffron bitters from Weatherby’s, a local, small-batch bitters maker. “The drink was built around the bitters, which are at once delicate, robust, and aromatic,” bartender Joe Schmaling says. He worked with his team to round out the cocktail, which consists of London dry gin, vermouth, and two kinds of sherry.

Parle-G Ice Cream Sandwich at Superkhana International 

Photo: Belen Aquino

Chefs Zeeshan Shah and Yoshi Yamada took inspiration from Indian kulfi — plus a snack session of chai tea and Parle-G biscuits — to concoct this ice cream sandwich. Two sweet cookies sandwich saffron, rosewater, and cardamom ice cream, which is then rolled in crushed candied pistachios for crunch.

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