Alissa Wagner knows a thing or two about good food. Not only is she the chef behind the much-Instagrammed downtown New York City healthy eating mecca Dimes, but since the restaurant’s spring 2015 expansion, she’s also in charge of sourcing all the high-quality goods on offer at the Dimes Market across the street, too.
“When I was younger, healthy food and cooking wasn’t super important to me,” recalls Wagner. “But in my mid-20s, I began to see the effects of food on my body and my energy levels and I started to get interested.”
She ended up enrolling in the chef’s training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute to delve deeper. “They teach a holistic approach to cooking and emphasize using all of the edible parts of the food, both for the nutritional value and to reduce waste,” she says. “I think that people are really unaware of how much of a plant is actually edible, so there are a lot of missed opportunities in cooking.”
And though she spends most of her days in the kitchen at Dimes, Wagner still finds time to cook at home when she can. “We tend to eat a little more simply at home,” she says. “I don’t always have the energy to put together a big meal, so I do simplified versions that still totally echo the philosophy of how we eat and cook at Dimes.”
Here, Alissa Wagner invites us into her kitchen and shows us what’s in her fridge.
Do you follow a specific diet?
I don’t. Neither [Dimes co-founder} Sabrina [DeSousa] nor I are vegetarian. We just like to really eat foods that come from a great source. That’s more important for us than anything; making sure that it’s sustainable if it’s an animal product and organic.
Where do you source the food that’s in your fridge?
Now that we have it, I actually do a lot of my grocery shopping at the Dimes Market. It’s great because I know where every product on the shelf comes from. We spend a lot of time with our sourcing and making sure we’re getting the best of everything, so it’s kind of a no-brainer.
What are some of the Dimes brand items in your fridge?
One is definitely our hot sauce. That’s been a big thing. We’ve had it since we opened and people have always been asking us to bottle it. So, when we opened the market we finally did. The salad dressing we make is another of my favorites. The one I have in my fridge is the rosemary sage balsamic; fresh rosemary, fresh sage, red balsamic, and garlic are the main flavors. It’s great for a winter salad—it goes super well with a really hearty winter root vegetable or any kind of squash. It also pairs really well with nuts and seeds.
Oh, and that rose water is amazing. I like to keep it in my fridge because it feels so nice and fresh when it’s cold. But you can use that on your face or in cooking. It’s actually something I love to spritz on fresh fruit. It’s really delicious.
You have a pretty amazing condiment game going on. What are some of your favorites in there?
There’s one brand called Mama O’s Kimchi. I like the normal kimchi, but then somewhere in the fridge there’s another one that’s just a kimchi paste—you can use it in stir-fry. I stir it into yogurt, too, and it gives you this amazing spiced, rich, fermented flavor.
And you’ve got a lot of hot sauces.
Oh yes. I’m a huge fan of spicy food and I feel like there’s a hot sauce for every occasion. So there’s Sriracha for Asian-style foods, and then I have the Frank’s RedHot for eggs and more American-style dishes. And the Dimes hot sauce is super versatile; it has a sweet spiciness to it that works well across the board. And then my other hot sauce is the Valentina, which is my favorite Mexican hot sauce. It’s so good.
Mustards are probably my other favorite. My husband is from Maine so we have a crazy stock of Raye’s Mustard, which is actually stone-ground on an island off the coast of Maine. They have every flavor imaginable. It’s delicious.
What’s that honeycomb in there?
That’s literally just a fresh raw honeycomb. It’s really thick and really sweet. It’s delicious. You slice into it and the top part is a little crunchy and then the honey has the creaminess of a raw honey. It goes great on cheese. We sell a version by Catskills Provisions in the market.
What are some of the fruits and veggies that you always keep stocked?
I always have berries—usually raspberries and blackberries—and pomegranate. And right now citrus. We have these great mandarin oranges at the market that are so delicious. And I have a lot of grapefruit in the winter. I put the berries and pomegranate in oatmeal or cereal for breakfast. They’re great to have around for smoothies too.
For vegetables, I like kale. And broccoli is one of my favorites, so I always keep it around. I like to do quick meals at home, so I tend to keep a lot of vegetables that are great for a super healthy stir-fry. So eggplant, broccoli, and mushrooms are usually in my fridge. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s a great way to get a ton of vegetables in one sitting without having to think too much or do too much work.
There are rumors of a Dimes West Coast expansion…is that happening?
People are always saying that we should open up in Los Angeles but there’s nothing in the works yet. It’s not on the calendar.