Day Into Night with Ana Ortiz
2 years ago by
I first met Ana Ortiz on a dance floor of a small boîte de nuit in Paris. It was my birthday and she was new in town; we had been introduced by a close mutual friend in California. It was Ana’s year of ‘oui’ and she soon became the ultimate wing woman: a trusted confidant, an agile dance partner, and the creator of exquisite gatherings. With culinary and cultural influences culled from her childhood in Puerto Rico, her Spanish grandmother’s cooking, and stints living and working in New York, California and France, Ana possessed a knack for bringing people and flavors together in a way that was both surprising and full of ease.
It’s no surprise then that her brainchild, Day Into Night at home, is a membership offering that consists of twice monthly curated meals, playlists and mood boards designed for members to partake of in the comfort of their homes.
For years Ana has been creating high vibrational culinary experiences for clients of various scales in both the private and corporate realms. Think: foraged mushroom feasts and a winter “sugar shacks” in upstate New York, a Puerto Rican pop-up series in Paris; and guava tarts for the Planned Parenthood bake sale created by Ana’s friend and neighbor Natasha Pickowicz.
The Day Into Night at home membership incarnation comes as a logical evolution, combining Ana’s talent for creating intimate, memorable experiences with the fact that people are spending drastically more time at home, and – let’s be honest – often frustrated by lack of inspiration or a perceived lack of skill.
More on how this gifted chef and all around magical human has gracefully pivoted from a physical business to something accessible, remote, and yet connective.
Tell me about Day Into Night and Day Into Night at home.
Day Into Night is a small creative food company that specializes in cooking celebratory meals for people as well as consulting and recipe development.
I started Day Into Night after many years working as a pastry cook and eventually a pastry chef. Pastry was and will always be my first love, but having spent years waiting tables before I ever set foot in a kitchen I really missed the interaction with people and I also wanted to expand my repertoire. When I worked the line as a pastry cook in smaller restaurants I learned other stations like garde manger and sauté. I wanted more of that but I was also 43 at the time and didn’t want to be back on the kitchen line; it’s so brutal on your body. I really like the discipline and structure of a restaurant’s kitchen, and the deep sense of camaraderie that can exist if you are in a good one, but it’s also exhausting and the pay is often terrible. And again, that part about hosting and hospitality that really feeds me was missing, but really it was mostly about my love for dinner parties and hosting. Mostly, I wanted to be my own boss and start weaving all the things I love into my work.
This year, I created Day Into Night at home, a membership series delivering two exclusive emails to subscribers each month. Each contains a menu with links to recipes, a playlist, a moodboard, as well as guidance for feeling more inspired for both cooking and celebrating. I also offer personalized curated dinners. These are similar to the dinners offered in the membership but with a direct, extensive discussion about each client’s needs, desires and the actual reason for the celebration. In this case, the menu and the recipes are tailor made for each person and occasion.
How have your cultural heritage and upbringing influenced you?
Puerto Rico influences everything. Puerto Rican food is not as vast and regionally nuanced as other places because Puerto Rico is a small island, but our food is vibrant and flavor-forward. There is a lot of garlic, oregano and cumin. There is brightness mostly from our hot sauce, which offers more vinegar than heat, and there is often a little sweetness, like from the pumpkin that gets stewed with the beans. I adore and feel inspired by all tropical fruits and root vegetables. I bring them into my dishes whenever I can. For clients, I often use a tuber called yautia instead of potatoes because I know it’s most likely something no one at that table has had and the flavor, both earthy and delicate, is really yummy.
But before the food, first and foremost I think the biggest influence has been the long, lingering family meals of my life, as well as what we call the sobremesa, or the time people spend at the table chatting after meals. I have memories that go back to being very small and all the kids, all the cousins, getting up and playing after a meal and all the adults sitting around deep in conversation. There is such a sense of wellness around that for me. As a child it always felt so good to play or fall asleep with the chatter of adults in the background and as an adult to sit at a table after a meal fills the moment with a sense of ease. I have always been aware of how different that time and space is from anything else. It’s kind of a restorative, active, connective rest.
That was one of the first things I thought about when I started Day Into Night. How do you make a meal that makes people want to linger at the table? Can food actually impact that lingering? I thought about that constantly in the beginning. I still think about it now. On my end as the person shopping, prepping and cooking the food I feel the meal has to be nourishing, delicious, simple, and indulgent all at once for you to feel good, satiated, and relaxed after you eat. And with the Day Into Night at home membership I am constantly hinting at this as well.
And what about the various places you have called home over the past 20 plus years?
In my adult life, I have lived in Los Angeles, Paris, the French countryside and New York. Those have had a more emotional and ethereal influence on me and my cooking. Anywhere you live there is always something to fall in love with and something that drives you nuts. I think the biggest influence of any place I have lived or spent time in is simply what has come into my life by being open to living at that place’s pace. Each place surprises your senses in a different way. If you let that place’s energy into your life, if you sync your life to it, your life becomes enriched in immeasurable ways. Whether that energy agrees with you long term or not is a different story, but I’m always nostalgic for any place I’ve ever lived, for the meals I’ve eaten there, for the company I kept and for the light, which is always unique to each place.
Music plays a big part in your membership dinners. Tell me about this.
Yes, sometimes I think the playlists are the secret sauce. Each time I make one I try to create an atmosphere, to set a scene. I imagine you cooking in your kitchen and the intention is that I want the music to make you feel transported, relaxed, in your senses, and having fun. All restaurants do this. They create ambiance and atmosphere through lighting and music. Why not create a little of this at home?
You truly vibrate on a high level and this comes through in your cooking, your gatherings and now through your digital offering – not an easy feat! How do you do you beyond the kitchen?
Last year I did my first Reiki attunement with Lara Elliott. I was thinking I would do the second attunement this year but that had to be put on hold. There never was a concrete vision as to why I wanted to do that. I work with my hands. I hold space for people as they celebrate important moments in their lives. It just felt right to open myself more to Reiki.
The older I get the more I seek to fill my life with as many restorative, inspiring and regenerative activities as possible. I think it makes me a better worker, a better dreamer, a better manager, and a better collaborator.
Whether we talk about Reiki, my beloved plyometrics class with Marina Trejo, Rolfing, Morning Pages or looking at a favorite painting, the essence is the same: fill your life up as much you can with the things that energize you and light you, filter them through you, then shine them back out in every way.
What do you envision Day Into Night (at home) growing into over time?
Creating a conversation community with more interactivity between members is a priority for me in the next phases. I’ll be developing some short videos for members, explaining techniques that may feel intimidating, especially in baking and pastry. And I’m creating a system for cooking questions. But, yes, I’m most excited about IRL gatherings and doing pop-up dinners in different cities with long sobremesas so the community can meet. So we can all linger at the table drinking tea or sipping an amaro.
See HERE and happy cooking!
ANA is truly a doll. I recently learned to make quince jam because of her. So generous and giving. NY is lucky to have her. We need more Ana’s in San Juan please, more pastry chefs, more delicious treats. More innovation of the sweet side of the kitchen. Thank you Doré for stories like this, with diversity and inclusion front and center. Your platform certainly benefits from the insights of these champions and us the readers grow and evolve with them. May you have many more LATINX creators in 2021. Happy to send some names along!
Hi Jen! Glad you like the article. I’m open to suggestions of LATINX creators. Send ’em my way.
goodness! These look awesome!! this is really an astounding article