Blue-eyed and baby faced, Ian MacGregor surveys the dining room of Cull & Pistol, his year-old oyster bar and seafood restaurant in Chelsea. Discriminating diners slurp oysters and dine on squid-ink tagliatelle with Santa Barbara uni and Long Island Clam Toast peppered with local ham from their Chelsea Market neighbor, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats.
Next-door is The Lobster Place, the fish market that Ian’s parents started 40 years ago. Ian lovingly describes the market and how it has changed over the years.
Rod and Joan MacGregor opened their lobster restaurant in 1974 because the two New Yorkers bemoaned the fact that they had to wait until their annual summer trips to Maine to taste lobster. The MacGregor’s began The Lobster Place with only two employees and a less-than-posh Amsterdam Avenue address on the Upper West Side.
In 1996 they relocated to Chelsea, a neighborhood that was more seedy than swanky. An offer they could not refuse landed them a 20-year lease in a dilapidated warehouse that used to be a Nabisco cookie factory. The Lobster Place became the first tenant of Chelsea Market, finally making it possible for New Yorkers to eat the beloved crustacean without leaving Manhattan.
Ian took ownership of The Lobster Place in 2002. These days, it is New York’s largest wholesale and retail seafood purveyor, supplying to 500 NYC restaurants, including, of course, his own Cull & Pistol.
Ian offers full transparency when faced with questions of sustainability and personal standards regarding seafood. He acknowledges that seafood choices are complex issues and believes that reducing seafood varieties into a color-coded system is over-simplifying the discussion. Instead, he prefers to educate customers without dictating their choices.
The universal sentiment Ian has heard from vendors is, “your father is the only true gentleman I know in this business.” He likes to think he was cut from the same cloth. Surely the vendors would agree.
Long Island Clam Toast from Cull & Pistol
Chef Dave Seigal of Cull & Pistol has assembled a seafood-focused menu that showcases the skills he picked up while working in Spain. In his recipes, unexpected ingredients distinguish otherwise classic dishes.
2 lbs manila clams
1 lb littleneck clams
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
3 ounces olive oil
3 shallots, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
2 cups white wine
2 tablespoons chives, sliced very thin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces Dickson’s Tasso ham (can substitute bacon)
2 ounces garlic aioli (can make your own or use mayo + garlic oil)
3 slices crusty Italian bread or ciabatta (grilled, or toasted in a pan)
1. Rinse all the clams under cold running water to remove any sand.
2. Sautee the Tasso ham in a pan over medium heat with oil for 4 minutes until the fat starts to render out and the ham gets crispy.
3. Add garlic and shallots and sautee until they become translucent (about 3 minutes).
4. Add salt, pepper, chili flakes and all clams, and white wine. Cover pan and steam on high heat for about 4 minutes or until all clams open.
5. Remove clams from pan once they open (discard any that do not open). Reduce liquid in pan by half, and reserve the liquid-shallot-ham juice.
6. Remove all clams from their shells and combine with liquid.
7. Grill slice of bread (or toast) and spread thin layer of garlic aioli.
8. Top bread with warm clams and a little juice, sprinkle with lemon juice and fresh chives.
Photo Credit: Facebook / Cull and Pistol