Steakhouses are valued for one thing: their meat. There are no chefs, and no one goes there for the décor. So if the meat is available elsewhere, such as DeBragga and Spitler’s new retail operation, why bother with the steakhouse? The beef supplier, one of New York’s most established, was once the source for most of the city’s top steakhouses, and still supplies some of the best, such as Craftsteak and BLT Prime. Now you can buy a steak that is “exactly, absolutely” the same, says DeBragga’s Marc Sarrazin. Other top meat operations, like elite-meat specialist Pat LaFrieda, and small-farm evangelist Heritage Food USA, have made their stuff available to the public as well. So the question is this: Is it worth it?
Got dinner reservations for New Year’s Eve but still don’t know what to wear? We’ve got you covered. If you’re eating at Craftsteak, we recommend pairing your Wagyu New York strip with a Ralph Lauren charcoal suit and a Diane Von Furstenberg velvet wrap dress. Our Everything Guide to New Year’s has even more suggestions for your evening. And the photos are hot.
New Year, New Look
Bev Eggleston, the Virginia pig farmer trying to revive Ossabaw pigs, has refitted his truck to run on barbecue grease! He's struck up a symbiotic friendship with Hill Country’s Robbie Richter (Richter gets to try great pork, Bev gets to eat great barbecue), and the two have come to an understanding by which Richter will save his grease for Eggleston’s special diesel engine. The idea’s not as crazy as it sounds: San Francisco asks restaurants to recycle grease for the city's bus fleet.
It’s event season in the New York restaurant world, so it’s not exactly news that there’s another charity gala featuring chefs from local restaurants giving out signature samples. But we love Careers through Culinary Arts Program’s A Taste of Fall. For one thing C-CAP is one of the coolest programs we know of, encouraging culinary talents in public high schools to find careers in the restaurant business. (The participating chefs are all New York City public-high-school graduates, the pride of Long Island City, Harlem, and Prospect Heights.) Plus, the scale of the event is a lot more manageable: It’s only $110, and $75 of that is tax deductible. C-CAP students will assist chefs from Asiate, the Four Seasons, Tabla, and other good restaurants. While you’re eating, $5 raffle tickets could score you a bunch of good stuff, including lunch at Café Boulud, dinner at Craftsteak, or a session with “hairstylist to the stars” Michael Stinchcomb (that’s the one we’re hoping for). So stop by Taj tonight you can buy tickets at the door.
A Taste of Fall [C-CAP]
Just a few weeks after David Burke announced plans to open three restaurants in the new MGM Grand at Foxwoods, Craftsteak has planted its own flag. And chef Tom Colicchio predicts a bright future for the new casino. “What’s going on at the MGM at Foxwoods isn’t just a Craftsteak,” he said. “It’s a community of chefs; it reminds me of what was going on at the MGM in Vegas when I first got there. We’re going to put Foxwoods on the culinary map.” The MGM in Las Vegas helped create the current haute cuisine paradise that Sin City has become, but the Craftsteak planned for Foxwoods will be very much in the spirit of the New York original: high-end food with concomitant prices and little in the way of frippery. A chef has not been announced, but current Craftsteak sachem Shane McBride will likely oversee the opening, Colicchio says.
Earlier:Why Have One David Burke Restaurant When You Can Have Three?
This whole Tom Colicchio–as–bear thing has gotten out of hand. Anybody who’s ever looked at a Tom of Finland album can tell you that it takes more than a bald head and a vaguely burly frame to be a bear. “Coleek” doesn’t even have a mustache! And yet there is Queer Eye alum Ted Allen, in his Top Chef blog, propagating the Ursine Mystique even further: “While I would love to see Tom cooking in stilettos and a teddy as much as the next guy, it’s not likely to happen at least, not on television. He’d lose all his cred with the ‘bear’ community.” Scandalous!
In an effort to change its image as an “upscale Hooters,” Hawaiian Tropic Zone is hiring a beefy male staff "with personality." [NYDN]
Does Sam Mason need a new financial backer to open Tailor? Those delays cost major cash. [Down by the Hipster]
China has formed a cabinet-level committee to monitor food safety but still calls the national coverage of tainted exports “viciously sensationalized.” [NYT]
When the first thing we hear about a piece of meat is that “it doesn’t taste at all like Roquefort cheese,” we tend not to get overly excited. But when it’s Shane McBride talking, we stop and listen. Craftsteak holds the record for the longest-aged steaks in New York, topping out, until recently, at a ridiculous 56 days. (That’s about twice as long as the standard month, which itself is a rarity in this day and age.) Now the chef has taken to serving strip steaks aged for truly unheard-of lengths of time — including one that went 78 days before cooking. We’d assume that such extreme mummification would result in the meat taking on a ghoulish funk, but McBride assures us otherwise.
Do you watch Top Chef and wish it were you getting abused by Padma? Here’s your chance: Auditions are being held Sunday at Craftsteak. [Gothamist]
Related: ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner Lia on What Went Wrong‘Top Chef’ Biases Finally Out on the Table
Believe it or not, Patricia Yeo doesn’t buy the kitchen material in No Reservations, especially Catherine Zeta-Jones’s spotless whites: “She was so perfect. There was no way she could have a worked a real service.” [NYDN]
Is this curtains for the Hamburglar? McDonald’s announces that they won’t market unhealthy foods to kids under 12. [NRN]
Boerum Hill: Trader Joe’s held a parade yesterday to officially announce its Brooklyn expansion into the former Sovereign Bank building. [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
Chelsea: Top Chef open call has been moved from the French Culinary Institute to Craftsteak on July 22. The hours have also been moved up and are now 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. [Eat for Victory/VV]
East Village: Southeast Asian restaurant Tigerland will give up the ghost next week, so now is the time to O.D. on Thai coffee cupcakes. [Gawker]
Sagaponack: Townline BBQ won’t open until July 19, but a peek at the raw wood space shows it’s ready for 'cue. [Restaurant Girl]
West Village: Beatrice Inn welcomes Trekkies, as long as they don’t wear flip-flops. [Down by the Hipsters] Chumley’s owner takes a shot in the dark and declares October 1 the famed bar’s reopening date. [Villager]
Alan Richman has a few qualms about Wild Salmon – its reason for being, for example – but likes both the food (except for the sauces) and the service (when it’s not too friendly). Given how ready Richman is to knock restaurants, owner Jeffrey Chodorow has to feel pretty good about this one. [Bloomberg]
Related: Wild Salmon Swims Into View. Yes, ‘Pun Intended’ [Grub Street]
The newly revamped Craftsteak and Craftbar get rereviewed by Bruni, who awards the less than the white-hot former a much-needed second star, and the latter, “more or less back on track” after earlier troubles, a (borderline) single star. [NYT]
Time Out’s Randall Lane lays four stars (out of six) on Gilt, finding Chris Lee’s cooking admirable all around, if less risky than that of his predecessor, Paul Liebrandt, who still keeps popping up whenever the restaurant is discussed. [TONY]
Related: Gramercy Rehab [NYM]
Restaurant Girl reported earlier today that Shane McBride, formerly of 7Square (RIP), had been hired as the chef at Craftsteak, taking over for Chris Albrecht, apparently nudged out in January. Craft emperor Tom Colicchio set the record straight with us: “Here’s the deal,” he tells us. “For the last three months, Damon Wise has been the acting chef at Craftsteak and has completely changed the way things are done there: the suppliers, the menu, everything. Shane has been hired specifically to execute the menu that Damon created. Damon has worked his ass off day and night, and I want him to get credit for that.” Done and done.
We’ve learned that Chris Albrecht, executive chef at Craftsteak, has left the kitchen — apparently as part of owner Tom Colicchio’s effort to improve the restaurant’s disappointing performance. “Overall the restaurant wasn’t going in the direction we wanted,” Colicchio tells us. “It was time for him to go.” Though their Las Vegas location is a big hit, higher standards prevail in New York. “We need to break out of the steakhouse mind-set,” Colicchio says, “and start thinking about this as a Craft restaurant that happens to be a celebration of meat — all meat.” Damon Wise, chef de cuisine at Colicchio’s flagship Craft, will take over until Albrecht’s replacement is found.
As part of a serious effort to soup up the food at Craftsteak, celebrity chef and Craft mogul Tom Colicchio has been working the raw bar at the restaurant the last couple of nights. It's worth checking out, and not just for a chance to ask about his Top Chef co-host Padma Lakshmi. Colicchio and his right-hand man, Grateful Dead–loving Craft chef Damon Wise, have created a new menu of composed crudi dishes, including an eye-opening cobia (a dense white Florida ocean fish) with cured lardo, and sea urchin with pickled cucumber. The meat program has changed as well. Colicchio has adopted two of the country’s best beef sources for steak: Wolf’s Neck Farms beef from Maine, a richly marbled, complex, all-organic product, and Brandt Ranch steak from California, another all-natural meat that chefs all over New York are falling in love with. Colicchio called the mixed reviews of Craftsteak a “wakeup call” that led him to sever his ties with Gramercy Tavern in order to devote all his time to the Craft restaurants. Between the new fish and the new meat, Craftsteak seems geared for a major upgrade.
Oysters are born in the summer and get nice and fat with the onset of winter. This year has brought an especially good crop of New York varieties: Pine Island, Fisher's Island, Blue Point, Great South Bay, etc. They're all the same species (Crassostrea virginica), but their flavors are marked by the waters in which they're raised. Here are three top places to slurp your share of the local abundance.
Two big, intense features recently stopped us in our tracks: a Slate piece going into great detail about contemporary steak, with a taste test comparing grass-fed, grain-fed, dry-aged, and wet-aged steaks; and On the Broiler's photo-essay about the cutting of a 400-pound tuna in a Japanese shopping center in New Jersey. The tuna pics are just plain cool — in fact, our photographer happened to shoot a few of her own, which we're featuring here — but the Slate article is a must-read for anyone who plans on passing within a few yards of a New York steakhouse, particularly the new breed of restaurants, like Craftsteak and STK, that specify the feed and provenance of their meat. And the upshot of the comparison test? The clear winner was grass-fed beef from Alderspring Ranch in Idaho. Grain-fed, non-aged beef from Niman Ranch came in second.
Which Steak Tastes the Best? [Slate]
The Mitsuwa Tuna Cut [Off the Broiler]
Now here's an event the city's carnescenti can get behind: St. Francis' Big Red, a meat-and-wine feast to be held Monday night at the Westside Loft. The event benefits educational programs of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food and costs $100 for AIWF members ($150 for nonmembers). But if buy your tickets over the phone and mention Grub Street, $50 will come off the top.
Among the bovine highlights will be Wagyu skirt steak, courtesy of Craftsteak; mustard-roasted beef-short-rib salad, via Porter House New York; and smoked prime filet mignon, from Keens Steakhouse. Wines, which will be poured in abundance, are by St. Francis Winery in Sonoma; cookout guru Elizabeth Karmel will give a grilling demonstration; and a five-night trip to Antigua will be raffled off.
Read more at the St. Francis' Big Red Website.