Is ‘Top Chef’ Recycling Its Foul-Mouthed, ‘Faux’-HawkedGawker agrees with us that Erik is the new Howie and points out that indeed all of this season’s chefs seem like rehashes of previous contestants:
Hung and Ilan have been combined into Dale, who is both Asian and smug. Erik, chrome-domed and prone to silver rings, is the new Howie. Spike, bluff and handsome, is the new C.J., and Stephanie, the winner or last night’s challenge, is the new Lia.
Best Week Ever agrees the cheftestants overuse the word “motherfucker” and points out the still more hilarious ubiquity of fake mohawks: “Faux-hawks (or ‘foie-hawks’ as they shall henceforth be known when referring to Top Chefs) are clearly the secret ingredient to culinary success.” Sam Mason, you heard! Don’t miss the gallery.
Related: ‘Top Chef’ Is Full of Motherfuckers [Gawker]
The 10 Greatest Faux-Hawks in ‘Top Chef’ History [Best Week Ever]
‘Top Chef’ Is Back, and Adam Platt Isn’t Happy About It [NYM]
Wireless Restaurateurs Ponder Laptop EtiquetteYesterday Gawker lamented, “How sad and kind of pathetic is it that coffee shops and even bars have been taken over by computers and their zombie-eyed owners?” This got us wondering about the extent to which Wi-Fi–equipped restaurants welcome laptop users, so we rang up a few of them.
Rachael Ray Encounters a Setback in Global-Domination SchemeWait, what happened to the Rachael Ray bandwagon? The last thing time we looked, the peppy home-cooking guru was the poor woman’s Martha Stewart. Well, maybe not: According to “Page Six” today, Ray’s syndicated TV show looks to be circling the bowl. “Anything below a 2.0 [Nielsen rating] is asking for trouble,” according to “an insider.” Perhaps Ray diluted her brand too much — we don’t want to see her interview Gene Simmons (like she did on Tuesday’s show) as much as we want to watch her prepare “jerky turkey burgers.” Warning to her staff: In these trying times, don’t bring Rach anything besides Starbucks. Just a suggestion.
Update! CBS Television Distribution reps are sending out e-mails all over town disputing the Page Six story: “Page Six’s report today that the Rachael Ray show is being taken of the air is completely false and in fact our show is growing and renewed through 2010.”
Trouble Cooking for Ray Show [NYP]
Related: Rachael Ray Doesn’t Like Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Any More Than We Do
Anthony Bourdain Insults Alan Richman Right BackAlan Richman’s review of Brasserie Les Halles yesterday on his GQ blog seemed a not especially subtle slam of Tony Bourdain. “When I phoned the restaurant to ask [Bourdain’s] role there,” the critic wrote, “I was told he acts as a ‘consultant,’ although it’s hard to know what a place that specializes in the hoariest of French dishes would need from an American who wasn’t much of a chef back in the days when he worked at being one.” Meow! Given how long Les Halles has been around and how universally understood its mediocrity is, there could be no other reason to review it than to lay the hurt on Tony Bourdain. Bourdain, though, is unfazed by the attack: He tells Grub Street, “It was like being mauled by Gumby. Afterwards, you’re not sure it even happened.”
Kitchen Inconsequential [GQ]
Wine-Geek Heaven on the Way to the East VillageIt’s been a while since we first got wind of it, but the Hearth’s long-awaited spinoff wine bar, Terroir, is finally close to becoming a reality. The space, known in its former life as Bikes by George, will begin its transformation right after Thanksgiving, and co-owners Paul Grieco and Marco Canora hope to open the place by New Year’s. Grieco, the wine director, is a wine geek’s wine geek, which means he’s got some lofty plans.
Dufresne, Goldfarb, and AvroKo Are ‘Unconventional Geniuses,’ in
Liquor Marketing Gimmick #2,391— randomly hand out awards! Tonight Chopin Vodka honors eight “Unconventional Geniuses,” and among them are Wylie Dufresne, the AvroKo design firm, and (per the press release) “pioneer in the pastry movement” Will Goldfarb. Apparently a whopping three-eighths of today’s unconventional geniuses are associated with the restaurant world! (Non-chef picks include director John Cameron Mitchell and artist Kenny Scharf, if you’re looking for perspective.) You’ll have to attend the party tonight at Peter White Studio to find out what the top-secret award looks like, but, as a point of reference, Johnnie Walker’s “30 Under 30” (none of them chefs) received personally engraved bottles of Johnnie Black. Dare to dream, unconventional geniuses!
Who Is Le Cirque’s Mystery Ragamuffin?Brave is the man who strolls into Le Cirque without a jacket: Woody Allen once made the front page of the Post when he was turned away after doing just that, and Frank Zappa, upon being forced to wear one, famously told Sirio, “This better be the best fucking meal of my life … If I don’t like this meal, you’re paying for the suit.” (They went on to become buddies.) We were intrigued, then, when the subject of yesterday’s Ask a Waiter column, Elli Jafari, told us that to this day, just one man is allowed to break the rules. “He normally wears a sweater and a vest,” is all she would give us. “He’s one of the richest people in New York City.” Any Le Cirque regulars — or astute hypothesizers — want to speculate as to who this frowsy fat cat might be? Here’s a clue: We hear his personal life isn’t so perfect. Your guesses in the comments below, please.
Earlier: Elli Jafari Tells You How to Order Like a VIP at Le Cirque
Fancy Jell-O-Shot Movement Began in the East Village, Of CourseEast Village: Looks like a haute-Jell-O-shot movement might be jiggling into town; Detour used to feature a seasonal special, and now avant-garde recipes like this one, which combines apple, bourbon, and bacon, are popping up. [Mouthing Off/Food&Wine]
Hell’s Kitchen: If you want to share a dessert with a pal at Kyotofu, expect to pay a $5 toll, per person. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Midtown East: Alto did not disappoint Bruni like so many other fine restaurants, who’ve concluded many a meal by serving an even amount of petits fours to his odd-numbered party: “This is not a give-me-more-food complaint. This is a who’s-doing-the-arithmetic expression of befuddlement.” [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Upper East Side: Park Avenue Autumn will begin its winter transformations on November 27, and VIPs will get to taste the menu and see a sneak peek of the décor on that same night. [Zagat]
West Village: There’s still time to book a Thanksgiving table, and now Anne Burrell has designed a special menu for Centro Vinoteca that includes brined-herb-crusted-turkey with polenta corn bread. [NYM]
1OAK and Touch Delayed, Clubland Remains Dormant
Community Board 4’s licensing committee met last night to again consider the curious case of the Butter boys’ new project 1OAK. The nitty-gritty on this one: The club’s space is licensed by the SLA to hold a piano bar (probably the plans of a previous tenant); Sartiano and Akiva have now submitted an alteration request reflecting their new plan for a restaurant. The request was met with a 4-4 deadlock that will be mulled over by full community board on December 5 — meaning the club won’t be opening quite as soon as we had hoped.
Breaking: Another Freakish White Truffle Comes to TownWe are so, so torn on the matter of the white truffle. Late last week, we professed our unconditional love for the fungi (and also learned that Alterna offers white-truffle haircare products) but, given that the Waverly Inn just raised their truffle macaroni and cheese to $85 and Le Cirque’s massive truffle acquisition and the truffle shortage and the $1,000 truffle bagel and, you know, just the general deluge of “truffles are expensive and awesome”-related media as of late, we wondered if this whole white-truffle business had gotten a little bit out of control. Then our very own magazine came out on Monday, complete with more truffle talk, and we knew that there was no point in fighting. There’s nothing we can do but accept the darling ‘shroom, regardless of whether we could ever afford it in our lifetimes.
And it’s a good thing we’ve come to terms with the situation, because it just got a lot more intense.
Food Blog Awards Give Us Joy, Not PainLast week, the Wellfed Network gave out some food-blog awards. When we saw that we weren’t among the nominees, our immediate response was rancor. But then we got that it was an award for individual bloggers, and we found a lot of pleasure in discovering some good ones. Among the winners we liked:
Best Food Blog - New: Pinch My Salt. By a housewife in Sicily, this plain, recipe-centric blog has some of the most dazzling images around and is written in a totally simple and direct style that we wish we saw more of.
Best Food Blog - Rural: Farmgirl Fare. Here at Grub Street, we hear a lot of talk about local cooking and seasonal ingredients, but this blog that is actually about life on a farm. Sometimes Farmgirl lays it on a little thick, but you do feel at times as if you’re actually involved with her baby animals and various hay-related chores.
‘Times’ Rehashes Secret-Bar ‘Trend,’ Snoozes on GoldBarIf the “Sunday Styles” piece on “secret bars” seems familiar, right down to the obligatory scene in trenddaddy of them all Milk and Honey, maybe it’s because you read “Buzz Off: Secret Bars That Spurn Hype” in 2000 or “Don’t Look for a Sign; Hot Spots Don’t Want Just Anyone to Find Them” in 2004. Strangely, the latest trend piece chose to single out tired examples like East Side Company Bar (um, didn’t this open more than a year and a half ago?) over, say, Gold Bar, the top-secret Bungalow-in-the-making we recently exposed. Which makes this a good time to let you in on a lil’ something else about GoldBar: According to a well-placed source, they’ve enlisted bartenders Brian Miller of Pegu Club and Jim Kerns of Pegu and Freemans (both of whom are also putting in shifts at Death & Co.). But don’t tell anyone; it’s a “secret.” —Daniel Maurer
Back of the House
Startling Results of a Franco-American Summit; Queens Restaurant’s MobFrench journalists and top NY chefs and food personalities meet at Franco-American gastronomy summit. The consensus? The world needs fewer haute restaurants, more steakhouses, and to go to war to protect foie gras. [Bloomberg]
Le Binge: Gael Greene’s account of her French Eat-a-Thon [NYM]
The city contracted with the nephew of a former acting Gambino boss to run Caffe on the Green, Bayside’s answer to Tavern on the Green. This on the heels of the news that the Colombo family and the Russian mob together operate a golf course in Brooklyn. [NYP]
There are apparently a number of people who are enthusiastic about food and travel constantly sampling it. Among these are Jane and Michael Stern, Chowhound’s Jim Leff, and a guy who works for a
management and technology consulting firm. Who knew? [NYT]
Chow provides a sorely-needed molecular gastronomy cheat sheet, which not only explains
spherification, but even tells you how to pronounce the names of the movement’s major
A relatively inexpensive cooking school established in Westchester, boasting a 100% placement rate. Now about those wages … [7online]
The question of what constitutes “true Japanese” food to be settled once and for all, when the Japanese External Trade Organization begins certifying restaurants. [Mainichi Daily News]
Back of the House
Inside the Topsy-Turvy World of New York BarbecueHas the cold weather got you nostalgic for barbecue? We’ve got good and bad news, plus fallout from an ugly incident upstate. First, the good: Pitmaster Scotty Smith is now serving two weekly specials at RUB. Mondays it’s full-beef short rib; Tuesdays there’s spicy Asian pork belly, marinated for a week in a brew of chiles, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and the sweet soy sauce called kecap manis. then smoked for hours before being flash-finished in a hot oven.
Chef’s Desperate Plea: Nominate Me for an Award!
We recently came across a poignant email written by a prominent young chef whose flashy cooking has earned him much praise, including ours. Judging by the note, which you can find after the jump, those plaudits weren’t enough: The chef pleads with his friends to nominate him for a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award (the organization takes suggestions on their Website, as we explained last week). Prepare to cringe. (Identifying details have been removed.)
‘Speakeasy’ Exposes Itself
About a year ago, everyone was atwitter about the opening of modern-day “speakeasy” the Blue Owl: “You’ll spot it by an image of a blue owl hanging unobtrusively over a staircase,” UrbanDaddy teased. Scratch that: On Saturday, the owners erected the ginormous sign you see above. If business doesn’t perk up, they could always turn the place into a Hooters. — Daniel Maurer
We Spot-Check Gordon Ramsay’s StinkWe recently noted that the notoriously truculent Gordon Ramsay has finally pissed someone off with his new Gordon Ramsay at the London. His neighbors in the apartment building behind the restaurant have been complaining bitterly about the noise and smell produced by the restaurant’s air exhausts, among other things. We decided to see for ourselves just how bad they really have it. Our correspondent, who shot the photograph above, was led into an apartment right across from an apparently unfiltered exhaust vent. “A steady, noticeable hum is apparent,” he reports. “This becomes much louder when the windows are opened. I can definitely see how it would impact people living on that side of the building within a few floors of the vent.” Then there’s the smell. Shirley Lemmon, the residence manager, told our reporter that, “We know what they’re having for dinner. Sometimes it’s bacon, which I don’t mind. I like bacon. But sometimes it’s duck, and the smell is terrible.” (Lemmon also claims that Ramsay’s air-conditioning unit has been measured at 75 decibels. History’s loudest rock concert — the Who at Leeds — peaked at 120 decibels.) Ramsay’s people told us that “the hotel has addressed the problem and is working to resolve all issues.” Something tells us they’re not taking duck off the menu.
Earlier: Gordon Ramsay Finally Pissing Someone Off
Back of the House
Alexander Litvinenko Food NewsDaily Intel points out something that never would’ve occurred to us in a million years: Since former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko dined on possibly polonium-tainted sushi at what has officially been the most publicized restaurant meal of 2006, the eatery, Itsu Sushi, has been on a roll. Riding a wave of publicity, the owners plan on opening a branch in New York. “It sounds macabre and opportunistic to say that this is Itsu’s moment, but they just have to make sure they manage it properly,” brand consultant Graham Hales told Bloomberg. “There is a point of notoriety that Itsu has achieved that it can now build upon.” Now for the “fusion” cooking jokes.
New Restaurant to Test Whether There Actually Is Such a Thing as Bad Publicity [Daily Intel]
Bummer Indeed: Gray’s Papaya Finally Raises PricesWhen Gray’s Papaya announced in September that the price of its Al Franken–endorsed frank was to go up from 95 cents, founder Nicholas A. B. Gray was keeping mum about the math. We visited the Sixth Avenue location this weekend and can now report that as of the beginning of the month, the price is $1.25. This exceeds even the 25-cent jump (from 50 cents to 75 cents) of 1999. Still more devastating, the Recession Special — two dogs and a small drink — has gone from $2.75 to $3.50. Not that we would forsake Gray’s for an inferior imitator, but when we called every other listed Papaya stand in the city, we made an all-too-sobering discovery: These days you’ll have to go out to Queens to get a 95-cent frank. Here’s how much fourteen different dogs will set you back.
Back of the House
Restaurant Guru Predicts the Future, Assumes We’ll Eventually Get HungryMichael Whiteman — the restaurateur who, with his late partner, the legendary Joe Baum, created the Rainbow Room, Windows on the World, the Hudson River Club, and a number of other historically important places — has issued his annual predictions for next year’s restaurant trends, including “tropical superfruits,” “ethical eating,” and “wildly flavored chocolates.” The list is pretty wide-ranging, but if we were handicapping all ten wrinkles, we’d say the odds are on “chef-driven steakhouses” (as Whiteman has persuasively argued), “Japanese small plates” (i.e., izakayas), and “burgers with pedigrees,” like those promised by Joe Bastianich’s Heritage Burger (which we announced the other day). The long shots for ‘07? Peruvian cooking, those spice-flavored chocolates, and the popularization of molecular gastronomy (“equivalent to a gastronomic IQ test in which typical diners are all below average”). Then again, no one ever said we were the oracle.
‘Party-Colored Beets’: 2007 Buzzword Preview [Eater]
Remembering Joe Baum [NYM]
The Great Bagel Debate, Redux; How to Open an Oyster; Beer!It’s prime oyster-eating season (or so we’ve told you); this illustrated guide on opening the bivalves comes at exactly the right time. [Chow]
The Times throws readers a handful of Flushing restaurant picks, solid as far as it goes. (Rob and Robin’s guide to Flushing’s Prince Street went further.) [NYT]
A debate on the relative merits of Queens and Brooklyn bagels. [Chowhound]
In the Magazine
Two More on the Burger Bandwagon; Hardly Any Space for BunsA blizzard of burger openings has recently hit the city: BLT Burger, Royale, the new Goodburger, and Fort Greene’s 67 Burger. And there are more on the way: Heritage Burger, the concept for which we recently sketched out, and the still-secret chef-driven East Village place that we announced in late October. This week, Rob and Robin introduce two more newbies — Stand and the convenient-to-text-message brgr — breaking them down by beef, bun, and condiments. It’s all practically enough to make you forget the name Shake Shack.
Burger Madness [NYM]
How to Make Restaurant Desserts at Home (Hint: Use Methylcellulose)Making weird restaurant dishes at home is a dicey business, especially when you’re talking about avant-garde trademarks like Room 4 Dessert’s “Ice Ice Café.” (Ingredients: white coffee sabayon, espresso fluid gel, basil-seeds caviar, and passion-fruit sponge cake.) Still, ambitious suckers now have a glimmer of hope: Will Goldfarb, Room 4 Dessert’s chef, doesn’t mind giving away a few secrets, if it means another revenue stream. Through a service he’s calling “Willpowder,” Goldfarb’s selling the obscure (in the supermarket, at least) constituents he uses to make his dishes — and offering live advice over the phone to supplement the recipes on his Website. “The idea is to be able to reproduce anything you had in our restaurant,” Goldfarb tells us. You want it, he’s got it: methylcellulose (a stabilizer: “it makes ingredients hold together so you can aerate them”), lecithin (an emulsifying agent: “hot chocolate mousse that doesn’t fall or break”), and flavor agents like tandoori masala. But isn’t Goldfarb worried about every nut in town calling and interrupting him and his people in the kitchen? “Nah. Every nut in town calls me up already.”
Ralph Lauren to Feed East Hamptonites, TooOn Daily Intelligencer today, you’ll find a story on upper-crust icon Ralph Lauren opening an eatery next to his boutique in the East Hampton. The former Blue Parrot has been bought by the former Ralph Lipschitz, who is said to be refashioning it along the lines of the Ivy in Beverly Hills. (The prior owner has moved to L.A. to pursue an acting career.) Lauren already has a big restaurant in Chicago, but somehow, this locale just seems like it was meant to be. Perhaps this summer we’ll change our name, buy some new shirts, and drop in.
Ralph Lauren to Open Hamptons Eatery, No Doubt to Be Filled With Old-Time Americana [Daily Intel]
How a $750 Entrée Will Fill the Aching Void in Your LifeUpper East Side grandees are fond of each other’s company and eat at restaurants like Nello to make sure they get it. Why else would anyone pay $22 for a celery heart or $38 for spaghetti with clam sauce? But we thought that even the lonely and ultrarich might balk at the new $750 Kobe steak that, according to “Page Six,” the restaurant is now serving. Given that the best of these steaks seldom top $125 in town, how can Nello justify the price? “It’s a small quantity of product that’s available,” owner Nello Balan tells us, as if that justified anything more than the going rate. “They distribute it all over from Moscow to Paris to New York. It’s a novelty.” A novelty it may be to Balan’s crowd, but the rest of New York has pretty much gotten the whole Kobe thing by now. And yet, there’s no arguing with Nello’s results: “We sell ten or fifteen a day.” At least the rich aren’t always getting richer.
Steer Heaven [NYP]
Sasha Petraske to Take on Fine Dining, Too
Earlier we reported the Milk and Honey owner-mixologist Sasha Petraske was going into the beer, wine, and cheese business. He’s not stopping there: Petraske is also eyeing the still-vacant Grange Hall and Blue Mill space, a venue he’s loved since he had his eighth-grade graduation party there (he grew up a couple of blocks away). Why hasn’t he snatched it up? The restaurant-world newcomer has yet to click with a chef who shares his vision of serving cocktails before and after dinner rather than simply during. “I’m trying to find some partners who’ll let me do my thing in the front of the space; someone who’s doing something of serious quality.” If anyone fits the bill, you can reach Sasha at the secret number divulged here, though it may change soon. — Daniel Maurer
Milk and Honey Owner to Do Beer and Wine — and Queens!
Zagat Fails to Number-Close Milk and Honey
The New York Diet
Radio Host Leonard Lopate Skips Lunch But Enjoys Bone Marrow in the Evening
Besides interviewing his share of Nobel, Pulitzer, and Oscar winners for his eponymous WNYC show, Leonard Lopate has picked up a few commendations himself, including a James Beard Award for a conversation in which Ruth Reichl and his favorite chef, Daniel Boulud, explored the relationship between scent and taste. This past week, the Park Slope resident treated his nose to some of the city’s finest bagels and (possibly) the best baguettes outside of Europe.
Back of the House
Foodies Fear Not Death; No Drinking and Riding?Number of E. coli victims doubles; Cali green onions probably to blame. [NYT]
Long Island Railroad to curb bar-car pre-parties. [NYP]
After deadly mêlée at the Greenmarket, foodies continue seeking out Fuji apples. [NYDN]
Dream Hotel’s Restaurant Still a Dream, But Opening in JanuaryCancel your Outlook reminder about the opening of Amalia, the swank restaurant and lounge that Greg Brier of Jet East was supposed to bring to the Dream Hotel a couple of weeks ago: Perhaps because Brier is also managing the opening of Lan-Beijing in China, it’ll be late January before the bi-level space (88-person dining room upstairs, 200-person downstairs lounge) will be ready for Ivy Stark’s American-Mediterranean dishes. To tide you over, we’ve got exclusive renderings of what the space will look like — one’s above; the other’s after the jump — paired with designer Steve Lewis’s shopping list (lifted more or less intact, we should note, from a press release. Quotations around “‘enchanted forest’” ours).
Milk and Honey Owner to Do Beer and Wine — and Queens!Sasha Petraske, owner of Milk and Honey and Little Branch, not to mention one of the city’s most revered mixologists, plans on expanding his mini-empire. Shockingly — for those who aren’t aware that Petraske worked at Von before conquering the cocktail world — the new venture will be a wine-and-Belgian-beer bar; he’s calling it the Mighty Ocelot (“I really like cats,” he tells us). Petraske first applied for a beer-and-wine license at 226 Broome Street, around the corner from Milk and Honey, but the rent would’ve busted his “shoe-string budget.” So in January he’ll taking over the former Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar space in the East Village; come March, he’ll be offering cheese plates and light food. Not only this, but a project in Long Island City is also in the works. —Daniel Maurer
Back of the House
Gordon Ramsay Finally Pissing Someone OffThe famously pugnacious Gordon Ramsay has managed not to alienate the entire city of New York — just his neighbors. The residents of 150 West 55th Street, the building that sits behind the recently opened Gordon Ramsay at the London, claim that the restaurateur has plunged them into what their spokesperson Elizabeth Hulings tells us is a “nightmare.” “The smell of the third-floor exhaust fan guarantees that everyone in the building knows just what’s being served that night,” Hulings says. “The noise has people sleeping on their couches.” According to an official release, two tenants “had to seek medical attention for respiratory problems” caused by “particulate matter” given off by garbage trucks. Ramsay’s people didn’t return our call right away, but Caterer and Housekeeper, a Website that covered the story earlier, quoted them as saying, “Such challenges are not uncommon during a major construction project such as undertaken at the hotel and restaurant,” and added, “when brought to the attention of Gordon Ramsay Holdings by the hotel, the complaint was immediately addressed.”
Kitchen Nightmare for Gordon Ramsay in New York [Caterer and Housekeeper]
What to Eat This Week
New York Oysters Are Fat and SassyOysters 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.
Ms. Gobbler’s Turn: Her Favorite RestaurantsIn pale imitation of great gastronome scribblers like Calvin Trillin and the late Johnny Apple, the Gobbler has written, perhaps too often, about his wife’s taste in food and restaurants (just read his last review). Possibly also like them (the Gobbler doesn’t know Mr. Trillin, but he met Apple during his gruff, un-cuddly, pre-foodie days), the Gobbler is often accused by his wife of egregiously distorting her views (you bet he does). Ms. Gobbler would like the world to know that her most-used word is not “yummy,” that if given the choice, she’d prefer to eat at home, and that her favorite drink really is champagne. “Also, you always make me sound elfin,” she told the Gobbler just a moment ago, “and I am not elfin.” In a hasty (and desperate) attempt to clarify the record, I’ve asked Ms Gobbler to list her current favorite restaurants in town. It goes without saying that Mr. Gobbler approves of these fine establishments, too.
The Underground Gourmet
Teach a Man to Make a Sandwich of the Week …
Last week, the Underground Gourmet recommended Zingerman’s Reuben sandwich kit as the perfect holiday gift for the sandwich nut on your list. This week — in acknowledgement of the fact that even Kate’s Paperie cannot wrap a Reuben sandwich well enough so that placing it beneath a Christmas tree for several days would not run the risk of Taco-Belling the giftee — the UG has come up with a superb alternative gift idea. It’s the new book, called Simple Italian Sandwiches (HarperCollins; $21.95), by Jennifer and Jason Denton, and it requires no refrigeration. As anyone who knows anything about Italian sandwiches is aware, Jason Denton is to panini, bruschetta, and tramezzini what Masa Takayama is to sushi, sashimi, and Kobe sukiyaki. The Dentons opened the West Village panini parlor ‘ino back in 1998, and it’s fair to say that they started the whole local craze for delicately balanced, deceptively simple Italian sandwiches, and that no one outside of the Boot does a better job of it.
Back of the House
Epicurean Gentrification; New Orleans Fights Back; Kids Equal Liquor LicenseEssex Street Market not just for obscure South American root vegetables anymore: “Epicurean gentrification” under way. [NYT]
Fire-struck Medina reopening after a year and a half; London sushi chain to land in financial district. [NYT]
$4.25 mil gets you Hamptons hot spot Star Room. [NYP]
Alan Richman now No. 1 on New Orleans shit list: “I’d like to throw him in the back room at Tipitina’s with all the Neville brothers and see if he still thinks Creoles don’t exist.” [NYT]
Related: Richman Kicks New Orleans While It’s Down
Grey Dog Coffee plays the kid card to clinch liquor license for new location. [Gothamist]
Caterer Marcey Brownstein opens up a place in Chelsea; possibly the only time you’ll see muffulettas and edamame on the same menu. [Strong Buzz]
Back of the House
Zagat Fails to Number-Close Milk and HoneyThough we agree that table-scoring strategy is important (we winced when we recently overheard a woman pleading with a French gatekeeper, “I speak French, does that matter?”), Zagat’s recent tips of the trade aren’t exactly that useful: As the authors admit, all you really have to do to score a table these days at La Esquina is call, and their advice on clinching the perennial prize of every Moscow Mule worshipper (Milk and Honey’s secret number) doesn’t quite ring true. Per Google, the new number is nowhere on the Internet (owner Sasha scolds sites that post it, and he disconnected the old one 212-625-3897 not long ago), so don’t waste time on the recommended Web search. Next time the digits change, simply ask sister bar Little Branch for them. In the meantime, call two, one, two, eight, one, zero, seven, six, five, four. —Daniel Maurer
Back of the House
Taste of Arby’s in Fort Greene; Another Wine Bar, Burger JointFlo notices the new wine and drink lounges Rob and Robin mentioned, adds Unwined at Symphony Space to the mix. [NYT]
Foie-foe councilman says it wasn’t a constituent’s call that made him think twice about proposing a ban. [VV]
Bar Martignetti and its secret-ish underground lair now open to anyone who can’t get into La Esquina. [Thrillist]
The New York Diet
Actor-Director Ajay Naidu Will Eat Sugar But Only for Uma ThurmanAjay Naidu — known for his role as Sameer in Office Space and for parts in The West Wing and other shows — reported to the set of Griffin Dunne’s new romantic comedy, The Accidental Husband, while also doing post-production work on his directorial debut, Ashes. We wondered how a man who was at the mercy of Craft services and who had recently quit sugar (making it “doubly hard to get around and be satisfied in New York”) could survive for a week. Luckily, his co-star Uma Thurman convinced him to eat a cookie.
‘Cold, Sweet, Liquid Crack’ MournedDaniel Maurer recently wrote about the fact that El Sombrero is no longer offering their margaritas (or, as we like to call them, “crackaritas”) to go.
Dear Grub Street,
The crackdown at the Hat is the biggest heartbreaker. I am totally convinced that those margaritas were filled with crack. Cold, sweet, delicious, barely detectable crack. The guy gave me a wink and said they would be back, just give them time. So my fingers are crossed.
Dear Grub Street,
FYI: The secret ingredient of the “crackarita” was not tequila at all but Everclear. I used to live across the street in the apartment above the wine store and saw them pour a bottle of Everclear into every batch.
Elizabeth and Mario,
The restaurant says it uses Tortilla Tequila Silver, an obscure favorite of fratire author Tucker Max that’s pretty much the cheapest tequila money can buy.
Jason Neroni: I Love Wylie, But …A friend of Porchetta chef Jason Neroni has alerted us to the fact that, despite having taken over for Wylie Dufresne at 71 Clinton Fresh Foods before starting his new gig, Neroni does not consider Dufresne his mentor. “Because Wylie made such a name for 71 Clinton Fresh Food, I think people tend to compare our styles a lot,” Neroni tells us. “But Smith Street isn’t the Lower East Side, and I’m in this business to do what I love, and to be myself.” The chef credits Alice Waters and Dan Hill for teaching him about ingredients, Floyd Cardoz for teaching him about “multidimensionality,” and Alain Ducasse for teaching him to “slow down, combine all the elements, and create a cuisine that I could, for the first time, truly consider to be mine.”
A Restaurant Revolution on Smith Street? [Grub Street]