Ringside Seats at the Chef’s CounterChef’s tables used to be the final word on special treatment: the one table in a good restaurant to which the chef paid personal attention. But as the entertainment ante is upped each year — blurring the line between gastronomy and theater — chef’s tables have given way to the even more intimate chef’s counters. There, the lucky diner sits only a few feet of burnished wood away from the action. From the high-end bar at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon to the counter-only option at Momofuku Ko, diners are eager to see the sausage being made. Here are a few of our favorite counters, each an example of the narrow border between feeder and fed.
Despaña’s Churros: One Less Reason to Move to MadridDespaña, our favorite spot for a café bonbon (a thick, caramel-like coffee made with condensed milk) and an extravagant sandwich, has been missing one thing until recently — churros, the Spanish doughnuts that Madrileños eat at the bar while playing One-Armed Bandits. Maybe in response to our threats to picket the place unless they added churros to the takeout menu, they’re now serving four of them swaddled in paper for $5, or two of them with chocolate a la taza (a small cup of thick hot chocolate) for $3.50. The pre-fried, frozen Casimiro churros are also available by the box ($15) should you want to bake them at home.
My Edgy, Broke Cousin Wants to Hit the Hot Spots!
Dear Grub Street,My cousin is coming in next week from Indiana and wants to see the “hottest” NYC restaurants that he has read about on your Weblog and in New York Magazine. Where do you think I should take him? He likes “edgy” places and doesn’t have a lot of money to spend (nor do I). Should we go to the Spotted Pig or Casa Mono? Momofuku Ssäm Bar? Where? Any advice would be great.Gloria
Wish There Were Another Spotted Pig and Another Casa Mono? Guess What.
Don’t envy Las Vegas for having the very newest Batali-Bastianich restaurant, B&B Ristorante: We are about to get two more. A source high inside the restaurant organization tells us that a second Spotted Pig is on the way, this one a seafood concept helmed by newly minted Food & Wine Best New Chef April Bloomfield of the West Village original. Moreover, Casa Mono is also set to get a spinoff somewhere in NYC. The locations will be revealed when the deal is closed within a few days; in the meantime, this is good news for anyone who ever fought in vain to get into either place.
Back of the House
Time to Fill Out Our James Beard BracketsThe nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.
Back of the House
‘Top Chef’ Winner Revealed — For Real!As you no doubt remember, Ilan Hall quit his post at Casa Mono last week, fueling speculation that he’d taken top prize in Top Chef. Now we have an apparent confirmation: Eater LA has the text of an article that went up on Food & Wine’s Website for about fifteen minutes yesterday. The teaser? “How did Ilan Hall, the 24-year-old with the Tintin ‘do, beat out fourteen other contestants to become Top Chef on the Bravo reality show? And what’s he planning to do with the $100,000 he won?” Oops. Something tells us Food & Wine won’t have such an easy time getting the inside scoop next time.
Top Chef Spoiled Again [Eater L.A.]
‘Top Chef’ Wannabes, Now Is Your Chance — to Get Baked With Padma Lakshmi [Grub Street]
Sam Talbot (Formerly) of ‘Top Chef’ Splurges at Nobu [Grub Street]
Red Cat Owner Betting on Ilan to Win ‘Top Chef’ [Grub Street]
So Hot She’s Flammable: Host roasted by top chefs. [NYM]
‘Top Chef’’s Marcel Doesn’t Love Joël Robuchon That Much [Daily Intel]
The Kingdom of Navarra Comes to the Borough of ManhattanThe Kingdom of Navarra, as it is fancifully called today, is an autonomous community which is technically a part of Spain and which produces some of the most admired Basque-influenced cookery in the world. We don’t see much of it here in New York, but that will change on Friday, when Navarra Gastronomic Week begins. Classic Navarran dishes like warm partridge and Jabugo ham salad, artichokes fried with tocino (bacon), stuffed piquillo peppers, and a number of Navarran wines and cheeses to go with them will be available at the following restaurants through February 4.
A Salumi-Obsessed Chef’s New GigWhen we were told that Italian Wine Merchants had a new chef, our first thought was, Why would a wine store need a chef? In fact, the Batali-owned specialty shop does a huge banquet business and is booked for private events nearly year-round. The new chef is Liz Chapman, a veteran of Craft, Casa Mono, and Babbo, and a big part of her mandate is to create the cured meats that Mario & Co. so adore. Chapman, whose fiancé is Per Se chef de cuisine Jonathan Benno, tells us, “I’m really here for the salumi. I wake up in the morning, and they’re all I think about.” We know how you feel, Liz. Just don’t tell Benno!
What to Eat Tonight
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
With Halloween around the corner, pumpkins are everywhere — on stoops, in soups, and, of course, at the Greenmarket. (Zoe Singer tells us which ones to buy this week in At the Greenmarket.) Some of the better restaurants around town are getting into the spirit and serving up pumpkin in its many forms. Here are a few we can get behind.