A Shoe Entrepreneur’s Globally Inspired Barbecue


Ten years ago, Mickey Ashmore was working in finance when he decided to start a side business selling handmade shoes under the label Sabah, which means “morning” in Turkish. Early on, he convinced a neighbor to let him borrow the parlor floor of her townhouse in the East Village to host Sunday afternoon trunk shows, which he called Sabah Sundays. At these convivial get-togethers, he served wine and snacks, played music and sold pair after pair of the leather slip-ons, a traditional style he had discovered while living in Istanbul between 2010 and 2012. “He had told me it would be just ‘a few friends coming over,’” Pamela Bell, the generous neighbor with the townhouse, recalled recently. “It wasn’t long before we needed a bouncer!”

Today, Ashmore — whose brand has expanded to include sunglasses, housewares and fragrance, with stores in New York, London, Dallas and San Francisco — still loves to throw parties. These days, though, he’s able to host at his own place on Long Island. Having stood empty for years, the 1950s shingled ranch-style bungalow in East Hampton’s Springs area “looked like a haunted house” when he bought it in 2021, Ashmore says. But with the help of his friend Ishtiaq Rafiuddin, an architect based in Detroit, Ashmore transformed the place into a comfortable and unpretentious weekend retreat featuring a plywood-sheathed kitchen and an open living-dining area decorated with Turkish rugs, Eames chairs and vibrant paintings by the self-taught New Mexican artist and Sabah collaborator Phillip Vigil. In the shady backyard, Ashmore planted native ferns and bayberry bushes and installed a gravel patio with a fire pit.

That fire pit was blazing on an unseasonably chilly Saturday in early June when Ashmore and his girlfriend, Madeleine MacGillivray, a climate advocate, invited several friends, including Bell, to the house for an afternoon barbecue. “Since most of us love to cook, we often prepare meals together,” he said. “It’s a very international crowd, so we usually end up with a global feast.” David Isaac, one of Ashmore’s closest friends and a frequent kitchen companion, roasted eggplant in the fire pit for baba ghanouj and rolled out dough for homemade pita, dusting it with za’atar before putting it on the grill. The secret ingredient in both recipes, explained Isaac, a Lebanese Canadian creative producer, is nafas. “It’s an Arabic word for the love and attention you put into cooking,” he said. “Like what moms do.” In the kitchen, MacGillivray assembled salads and taste-tested the torta de plátano, a plantain casserole made by Isaac’s girlfriend, María González, a graphic designer. Meanwhile, Ashmore — who grew up in Texas — turned up the music, poured drinks and fussed over the many racks of baby back ribs that he had been smoking since the morning on his prized possession, a Hasty Bake grill that was a housewarming gift from his father. “I’ve always enjoyed gathering folks, feeding them and making them feel welcome,” he said. “I’ve always thought of Sabah as a hospitality company that sells shoes.”

The attendees: Ashmore, 36, and MacGillivray, 27, hosted Isaac, 39, and González, 37, as well as the finance executive Sarah Bennani, 36, and the artist Misha Ilin, 37, for the weekend. They were joined for the meal by Bell, 57, a fashion entrepreneur, and her husband, the pathologist Carlos Cordon-Cardo, 66, who have a house in nearby Water Mill, and the pasta entrepreneur Dylan Carroll, 33, who lives in Southampton.

The table: Ashmore and MacGillivray dressed the outdoor table with a checked cloth from All Roads — a Yucca Valley, Calif., company whose handwoven linens are sold at Sabah’s stores — and cobalt blue dishes from the California dinnerware brand Heath Ceramics. Crowning the table were a pair of terra-cotta vases shaped like heads by the Oaxacan pottery studio Taller Manos Que Ven (also available at Sabah), filled with snapdragons grown at Balsam Farms in Amagansett.

The food: The meal started off with Isaac’s smoky baba ghanouj and tender grilled pita. Then, alongside Ashmore’s baby back ribs, the friends feasted on carrot salad, grilled corn succotash and two versions of González’s torta de plátano, one traditional (made with condensed milk and cheese) and one vegan. For dessert, Ilin and Bennani prepared a warm sticky rice topped with mango (“a recipe from the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija’s cookbook,” said Ilin) and, in a nod to Bennani’s Moroccan roots, strawberries with orange-blossom-infused whipped cream.

The drinks: As they prepped the meal, the friends sipped Modelo and Ashmore’s signature cocktail, a refreshing mix of Cap Corse Blanc (an aromatized wine similar to the French aperitif Lillet), soda water and lemon and orange juice finished with a sprig of rosemary. “I call it the Windward Spritz,” said Ashmore, after the name of his street. Later, with dinner, the guests drank Spanish reds and sampled some fizzy orange wines.

The music: The eclectic global playlist came straight from Sabah House #8, one of 30 Spotify compilations curated for the brand by Ashmore, who moonlights as the company’s in-house D.J. Among the tracks: “Saude,” by the German electronica trio Pupkulies & Rebecca, featuring the Cape Verdean singer Tibau Tavares; “Zoom Zoom” by the Parisian electro-dance duo Polo & Pan; “Funky Fiesta” by the Venezuelan funk-soul-Caribbean band Rawayana; and “Expensive Shit” by the Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.

The conversation: Dinner table topics ranged from the trend for orange wine (“overrated” was the group’s general opinion) to the state of the New York subway system post-Covid (thumbs down) to the city’s just-passed legislation mandating that residents separate food scraps from their regular waste starting in 2024 (big thumbs up). “Our freezer is packed solid with food scraps,” said MacGillivray. “We need to build a compost bin for the house tomorrow!”

A barbecue tip: Ashmore swears by his Hasty Bake, a charcoal-fueled combination grill and smoker that’s been made in Tulsa, Okla., since 1948. He describes the tanklike contraption, which is beloved for its ability to maintain steady low temperatures, as “heavy as hell, almost impossible to get in New York and a real Southern thing.” The actor and famously enthusiastic carnivore Nick Offerman is among its other passionate fans.

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