Above the Fray: How Restaurants Become Impervious to Criticism

New York's Grand Central Oyster Bar.Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

I first heard the term "shit line" from a British journalist who’d spent years in the trenches of Fleet Street. He was describing a venerable old gasbag editor of his, a once-reputable gentleman who was now beyond reproach, despite the fact that he drank himself senseless at lunchtime and took lengthy afternoon naps. This was not meant as a putdown. On the contrary, those who ascend above the mythical demarcation are impervious to the random quibbles and criticisms of everyday life. Those below (i.e., most of us) are judged by harsher standards, and doomed to a life of striving and disappointment. But to be above the shit line is to enter the realm of immortality and myth. There are politicians who qualify (but, like Bill Clinton, many tend to be retired from politics — or dead), and actors (Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts), as well as authors, some of whom are geniuses (Philip Roth), and others whose books sell millions of copies no matter what kind of drivel they write. The same goes for restaurants, of course. Anyone who has spent time eating around this great dining city knows that there are plenty of treasured establishments (and one or two chefs) that have achieved an enviable, bulletproof status, whether they deserve it or not.

Peter Luger, we're looking at you. »

10/20/14

Here’s an Entire Japanese New Year’s Feast That Comes in a Pokemon Ball

Pika?

Have no clue what you're doing for New Year's yet? Well, maybe now you at least have dinner figured out: With this precooked 26-dish osechi set for ¥14,580 (about $136, delivery included), you can stuff yourself on crab legs, daikon, and chestnut paste, and still have plenty of leftovers the next day. It's Kenko Sansai's healthier version of the traditional year-end feast, but inside a Poké Ball, and with at least 100 percent more manga than usual.

Read more »

Brave Chili’s Cook Vows to Capitalize on Shirtless Viral Photo Shoot That Got Him Fired

Calendar boy.

Like his forebears lettuce-stomping guy and Subway penis dude, Justin J Speekz knew the decision to pose "sexy" and shirtless in the Tampa Bay Chili's kitchen where he cooked would be a few steps backwards in respect and job prospects. Speekz posted the pictures (which he says were taken after-hours) to Facebook anyhow, with the caption "Some Pics for the 'Sexy Cooks Of Chili's' Calender that the company is putting together lmmfaooo ya boy is the main feature/headliner! Bahahahaha! :D I'll have copies for $15 Yeyyyy!" Then he tagged his own restaurant in the post.

He's autographing aprons. »

First Look at Empellon al Pastor, Now Open in the East Village

The main attraction.Photo: Melissa Hom

The corn for the masa has been nixtamalized, the tortilla machine is cranking out the tortillas, and the giant pork trompo is spinning. Yes, it's true. Alex Stupak has flung open the doors to Empellón al Pastor, his so-called bar-tortilleria in the East Village, and now the two questions on everyone’s mind await their answers: Is taco eating all about context, as Stupak’s Theory of Tacotivity states? And do tacos taste better served on paper plates in a bar-tortilleria than they do on fancy china in a well-appointed restaurant? Well, for Stupak’s sake, let’s hope so. “We’ve named it Empellón al Pastor because I’m not giving myself an out,” says the chef. “We have to master this taco. If we fail at everything else in this restaurant, we have to get this one thing right. I’ve never been more terrified.” Take a look at Empellón al Pastor's raison d'être and the space, straight ahead.

"Never trust punk" »

Eataly’s Wine Shop Makes a Triumphant Return

Welcome back, Mr. Montepulciano.Photo: Paola Messana/AFP/Getty Images

Back in March, pretty much everyone who'd ever purchased an excellent Barbera d'Alba from Eataly Vino was utterly crushed to find out that the wine shop was facing a $500,000 fine and a six-month closure imposed by the New York State Liquor Authority. Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich's group was censured by the agency because it had allegedly "suppressed information" about connections between their wine production and retail divisions. The partners rolled all the barolo from the shelves at cut rates and installed a spiffy new Nutella bar, much to the delight of many thousands of crepe- and cookie-adoring fans.

Read more »

The Race to Create America’s Premier Carbonated Cold Brew

It's the Champagne of carbonated cold-brew coffees.Photo: Hugh Merwin

Anyone who's opened a bottle of Manhattan Special — the espresso soda that was invented in Brooklyn circa 1895 — might think that carbonated coffee is due for an upgrade. Despite decades of innovation in the way coffee is sourced, prepared, and sold, the addition of bubbles is an innovation that has largely been ignored. That, however, appears to be changing thanks to a collection of coffee nerds and roasters large and small who recognize carbonated coffee as an idea that's time has come — and one that's about to hit the mainstream.

"... we are always experimenting with different techniques and flavors ..." »

Ben & Jerry’s Defends Its ‘Hazed & Confused’ Ice Cream

The "hazed" part comes from its hazelnuts.

The timing on this one could've been a lot better, with a New Jersey school now roiling in yet another hazing incident, but Ben & Jerry's says that after carefully considering the complaints by the parents of a Florida teen who died during a fraternity "hell week" hazing ritual, it has decided not to rename the new "Hazed & Confused" flavor. Sean Greenwood, a spokesperson, said that no one at the ice-cream company meant to "condone — nor support in any manner — the act of hazing or bullying," going on to say the practice has "no place in our society." Greenwood said that the "pop culture reference" had an established precedent and wasn't much different from Cherry Garcia or Phish Food, in other words.

"... it's a pop culture reference ..." »

Yotam Ottolenghi on Instant Ramen, Plenty More, and His Secret Candy Stash

"People are becoming quite precious about what they eat."Photo: Pal Hansen

London-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi published his fourth cookbook last week — a follow-up to his best-selling Plenty — called, straightforwardly, Plenty More. It's got 150 vegetarian recipes — including Iranian-style pasta, curry-roasted root vegetables, pea-and-mint croquettes, and black-currant friands. In honor of the release, we sat down Ottolenghi — arguably one of the most trusted cookbook authors in the world, as well as a health-food aficionado — to discuss the new ingredients he features, the recipe most likely to impress a date, and Michelle Obama's viral turnip video. Plus: We've got three of his favorite recipes from the book.

"I keep eat cheap candy in my car's glove compartment." »

New York Taste Returns Next Month

More than 40 chefs and restaurants will participate.

Get ready: New York Taste, our annual feasting extravaganza, will take place on November 10. This year's lineup, curated by New York's culinary editor Gillian Duffy, is as impressive as ever. Expect chefs like Jonathan Waxman, Bâtard's Marks Glocker, Jesse Schenker, Dale Talde, Lafayette pastry whiz Jennifer Yee, Nomad's Mark Welker, Chad Brauze from Rôtisserie Georgette, and plenty others (not to mention drinks from the likes of Audrey Saunders and Julie Reiner).

How to get in on the action... »

The 10 Best Lines From Jay Rayner’s Brutal Steakhouse Takedown

This is going to get messy.

Because everyone loves an absolutely devastating restaurant review, here are some choice bits from The Guardian's most read story this weekend — now at 550 comments and counting — in the form of Jay Rayner's Sunday Observer review. A new high-end, formidably named London restaurant specializing in Norwegian red king crab and Nebraskan steak called Beast, the critic writes, is "the most unintentionally funny restaurant to open in London in a very long time."

"Got any friends who are, say, international drug barons?" »

Danny Meyer’s Untitled at the Whitney Closed in Advance of Its Move Downtown

It'll be back in the spring of 2015.Photo: Melissa Hom

The final weekend of the Whitney Museum of American Art before its big move downtown also signaled the temporary closing of Untitled, the farm-to-table café helmed by chef Chris Bradley and operated by Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group. Yesterday, the restaurateur thanked the venue's regulars on Instagram while pinpointing May of next year as the expected date for Untitled's Meatpacking District debut.

Read more »

10/19/14

The 12 Best Garlicky Dishes in New York Right Now

Like corn and tomatoes, garlic has a season—or make that seasons. Locavores track the odoriferous allium’s progress throughout its growth cycle, from spring’s green shoots to summer’s curvy scapes to fall’s papery bulbs, which are cured for several weeks after their late-summer harvest. Local hard-neck varieties—trickier to grow but more complexly flavored than the soft-necks from California, China, and Latin America—can be found now at Greenmarket stands like Keith’s Farm, which bundles them as holiday gifts. Get in the spirit by gobbling every last one of our picks for some of New York’s best garlickiest dishes. Then go off in the woods alone until the pungent bouquet wafting from your every pore subsides.

Pizza, sesame noodles, fried chicken, and more. »

10/17/14

A New Study Shows That Calorie Counts on Menus Don’t Do Much at All

"Your total comes to seven miles, sir."

A provision in the Affordable Care Act means that calorie counts will soon be de facto parts of chain menus, but rigorous studies have shown that listing three- and (in some egregious cases) four-digit numbers has almost no effect on curbing high-calorie consumption, so what's a health advocate to do? Researchers at Johns Hopkins say we might all want to start listing how many miles it takes to get rid of that item instead of barraging people with random numbers.

People have no clue what "a typical soda has 250 calories" means. »

New York Attorney General Sues Papa John's Franchisee for Labor Violations

Not worth it.

Yesterday New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a lawsuit against a Papa John's franchisee on behalf of more than 400 workers, to the tune of more than $2 million. The state alleges Ronald Johnson and New Majority Holdings, LLC, which has four stores uptown and in Harlem, regularly rounded down hours while calculating employee payroll, failed to pay overtime, and otherwise violated State Labor Law with all kinds of nasty stuff. Worse still, the A.G.'s office alleges that delivery workers at these Papa John's locations received just $5 an hour, which is a few bucks short of the state-mandated minimum wage, and shockingly even less than the tipped minimum wage. The suit goes on to say that workers had to buy their own bicycles, helmets, safety gear, locks, and chains, which are all the responsibility of the business owner.

"... my tips disappeared right from under me ..." »

Some Poor Waitress Had to Tell President Obama That His Credit Card Was Declined

This is why you don't use Diners Club, sir.Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

While discussing the matter of credit-card fraud earlier today, President Obama revealed that his own card was declined during a recent dinner in New York City. And while he didn't specify where exactly the snafu took place, all signs point to his recent night out at Estela. But the problems didn't arise because of unpaid bills or the fact that Obama carries some weird off-brand card that nobody takes. "Turns out I guess I don’t use it enough,” the president said of the real reason why his card might be declined. "They thought there was some fraud going on."

Read more »

Starbucks Gets One Step Closer to Having Your Drinks Ready the Moment You Arrive

One step closer to ordering fraps by mental suggestion.

It turns out, sorry to say, that iPhone 6 users won't be Apple Paying for Pumpkin Spice Lattes when the digital wallet service launches on Monday. Yet here's a bit of wilder news if you still feel like blaming Starbucks for killing paper money or whatever: The company said yesterday it is about to start testing mobile orders, which means customers place orders, pay by app, and all those venti-green-tea-frap-extra-matcha-no-whipped-cream drinks are hot and ready upon arrival. Portland residents get to try it out by year end, with a nationwide rollout planned for sometime in 2015.

Paying by app could also score free Starbucks for "life." »

Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings: Take Root, Marta, and More

Photo: iStockphoto

Each week, Grub Street surveys the entire restaurant landscape of New York City, crunches the numbers, and comes up with this: the most-talked-about, must-visit places in the city. They might be new, or they could be older places that have gotten a recent jolt of buzz. No matter what, these are the restaurants where you should make a point to eat sooner rather than later.

Read more »

French Bakery Maman Sells NYC’s Most Impressive New Chocolate-Chip Cookie

Watch your back, Levain.Photo: Melissa Hom

Earlier this month, a Michelin-starred chef quietly opened a small French bakery and café on Centre Street, called Maman. It's a collaboration between Armand Arnal (the aforementioned chef, who cooks at La Chassagnette in the South of France), Experimental Cocktail Group's Benjamin Sormonte, and baker and designer Elisa Marshall. The team has nailed every detail: a stunning space (complete with an open kitchen and separate back dining room adorned with vintage windows); solid savory options like a beetroot-hummus tartinette and a quiche with Parisian ham; and pastries like lemon-thyme madeleines and apple tarts. But the real standout is something even humbler: Maman's chocolate-chip cookie, which is pretty much the Platonic ideal.

Croissants and chocolate and oh my God. »

Garrett Oliver to David Chang: Shut Up About Crappy Beer Already

It's Oliver vs. Chang.Photo: Kent Miller/James Beard Awards; Patrick McMullan

David Chang is in amused martyr mode after penning yesterday's ode to awful, cheapo beer in GQ — "I've never gotten so many hate emails in my life," he writes. But now he has his pal Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver to contend with.

"You are the epicurean snob set!" »

Kate Mara Grabs Coffee at La Colombe; Mindy Kaling and Malcolm Gladwell Party at the Standard

Photo: Splash News/Corbis

The New Yorker Festival and the New York Film Festival brought stars including Sting, Mindy Kaling, and Ed Norton to town this week. Plus: Usher celebrated his 36th birthday at the Box, Kate Mara kept it low-key at La Colombe, and John C. Reilly stopped by Tea & Sympathy. Read it all, straight ahead.

Tom Hanks, Nick Kroll, and more. »

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