Rachael Ray Brushes Off Her Starbucks Scandal As ‘Ridiculous’
The blowback from last week’s item about Rachael Ray, in which the Food Network star was reputed to have demanded Starbucks rather than her own officially endorsed Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, has apparently reached Ray. OK! magazine sent a reporter to a Friday taping of The Rachael Ray Show to ask the inexplicably omnipresent food personality about the rumor and its possible damage to her relationship with Dunkin’ Donuts. The wholly predictable response? “It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous.” We agree, Rache! But you didn’t say whether it was true!
OK! Exclusive: Rachael Ray Denies Starbucks Rumor [OK!]
Related: Rachael Ray Doesn’t Like Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Any More Than We Do
Julia Jaksic, Now Head Chef at Employees Only, Shows Off New MenuJulia Jaksic, underground-dinner-club hostess and consulting chef at Smith and Mills, has been named head chef at Employees Only (where she was previously a sous-chef) and has completely revamped the menu. Look for nods to her Croatian heritage: A hamburger that’s served on a fluffy pita with pepper paste and carmac, and (on the brunch menu) polenta with smoked bacon and sauerkraut and brown butter. A hamburger that’s served on a fluffy pita with pepper paste, and (on the brunch menu) polenta with smoked bacon and sauerkraut and brown butter. Berkshire bacon makes another appearance wrapped around New Zealand lamb chops — an appetizer that’s fast becoming the Employees Only equivalent of Freemans’ devils on horseback. The late-night menu has also been jazzed up, surely good news for industry types still reeling from the loss of wee hours eating at Mas (farmhouse).
Employees Only dinner menu
Related: Sign Up for Secret Dinner Club’s Weekend Time Warp
At the End of the Day, Nicole Kaplan Likes Ring Dings
We told you on Wednesday that Nicole Kaplan was leaving Del Posto for the Plaza, and today we can tell you why: She’s not crazy about cooking Italian food. “I guess I just missed my style; I wasn’t loving Italian food as much as I thought I would. My style is American food with a strong French–training influence.”
Crosby Connection Will Rise Again; Los Dados the Last Breath of MeatpackingMeatpacking District: With the wave of recent restaurant and nightlife closings, this area seems doomed, but Los Dados and long-delayed Merkato 55 might be able to salvage the hip destination, at least “on its western perimeter.” [Zagat]
Midtown East: Midtown Lunch finagled a sneak peak of Sakae Sushi’s conveyor belt and loses his cool: “If you’ve been to an outlet overseas, you may end up disappointed by the first US location which lacks some of the uniqueness or ‘cool’ factor of the locations in Asia. That’s because they felt a more subdued location would be more appealing to the clientele of Midtown.… Even when we get something cool, we get screwed.” [Midtown Lunch]
Park Slope: Lebanese Laila has closed, which doesn’t seem like a surprise since it was across the street from “the better, cheaper Olive Vine.” [TONY]
South Slope: The Fourth Avenue soup man has officially given up his spot in preparation for a new fancy condo. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Upper West Side: China Fun is getting in on the New Year shill fest: Submit 500 words (or fewer) on why you want to celebrate the Year of the Rat at China Fun (email@example.com), and you could win a banquet for eight.
West Village: After losing its lease, Italian sandwich destination Crosby Connection is moving from its hole-in-the-wall to an actual restaurant space a couple of blocks away. [The Gluttoness]
George ‘Norm’ Wendt Plays Beer Pong at Brother Jimmy’s; Uma
A friend of Grub Street texted us last night to let us know that Camille Paglia was at French Roast, perusing The New Yorker in a suit jacket. As much as we love spotting “feminist bisexual egomaniacs” (her words, not ours), this didn’t quite sate our voyeuristic tendencies, so, as we do every week, we combed the gossip columns for mention of any other club and restaurant sightings.
Back of the House
Russ & Daughters Immortalized on PBSThe Jews of New York, PBS’s new documentary, could have any number of heroes; we were pleased to see that the family behind downtown lox legend Russ & Daughters was chosen to represent the New York–immigrant experience. As we recently noted here, their Houston Street store is one of the only things keeping the old Lower East Side’s Jewish life from disappearing into history. As scion Josh Russ Tupper tells us, “We’re perpetuating and cultivating the culture of Jewish experience. And whether we’re religious and go to temple is independent of the fact that we’re providing an experience of the Jewish–immigrant era of New York. It’s really important to maintain what it was like and what it is like.” Not to mention, they have some very nice herring there.
Russes among stars of ‘The Jews of New York’ [Alfred University]
Back of the House
Green Bay Is Getting Off Easy in This Year’s Food Bet
The unavoidable wager between the mayors of Green Bay and New York has been made, and AP has dutifully reported it. But as usual, New York is getting the worse of the deal. Green Bay mayor, Jim Schmitt, is betting a basket of cheese, some spread, and some New York strip steaks (New York strips! Imagine!), with some candy — a pair of cheese-wedge sunglasses. That’s if we win. If they win, the self-appointed “Titletown” gets twenty pounds of Peter Luger porterhouses, a case of Brooklyn Lager, and a cheesecake (take that, cheese heads!) from Carnegie Deli. Green Bay is getting the much better deal here. We suggest Bloomberg match Schmitt’s bet with a gristly steak from Tad’s and a black-and-white cookie from a random deli.
Bloomberg places bet on Giants-Packers game [Newsday]
Under the Bridge in Williamsburg, We Could Not Get Enough Pies-N-ThighsLining up for one last look.Photo: Melissa HomOur photographer Melissa Hom, whose love of fried chicken has been well documented (by herself), hit the scene at Pies-N-Thighs last night and somehow managed to snap some photos through teary eyes. She had this to report: “There was a huge line out the door and around the corner. The two e-mail sign-up sheets weren’t enough for fans eager to hear where they move next, so the crowd started tacking up their own sheets and taping business cards to the wall. Lots of free food, well-wishing in the form of big tips, and wistful smiles.” Sigh.
Omido Chef and Maybe AvroKo to Join Chris Eddy in Nolita ProjectYesterday, we brought news that Chris Eddy, owner of barmarché, has plans for the Forty Deuce space; today, Eddy tells us that he’ll be joined in the venture by Omido chef-owner and founding SushiSamba chef Eliji “Taka” Takase. “We’ve been trying to do a restaurant for ten years now,” Eddy says. Can we assume that AvroKo, designers of Omido and owners of nearby Public, will be on board? Nothing is final yet, but it’s a very good assumption. Eddy plans to open in summer and says that, although certain neighbors are concerned about rising property values, he’s working with them and has been assured by the community board that, if he agrees to certain concessions, he’ll have a liquor license by February. Wherever Ivan Kane is these days, he must be sick with envy.
Related: Chris Eddy of Barmarché and industry (food) Goes After Forty Deuce Space
Falafel Mecca Offers City Gluttons a Challenge Not Easily Refused
We love Forest Hills, and we love falafel, at least in the form in which it appears at On the Grill, our number one go-to shawarma-and-falafel place in the five boroughs. But are we, or you, man or woman enough to beat On the Grill’s falafel challenge? Gothamist’s Joe DiStefano reports that the restaurant has instituted the Great Falafel Eating Contest, which stipulates that anyone who eats five falafel sandwiches in 29 minutes gets them free, plus a $50 gift certificate – presumably, to be spent on more falafel sandwiches. If you’re thinking, “Pshaw! There’s no meat in falafel! I can eat all I want!,” be warned: Tzur Kalaf, On the Grill’s colorful owner, bakes huge, puffy pitas in-house, every one of which could paralyze an average person. And his sandwiches aren’t small. Which is maybe one more reason why you should go to On the Grill and make the effort.
On the Grill, 98-102 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills; 718-897-4829.
Competitive Eating Comes to Forest Hills, Well Sorta [Gothamist]
Engines of Gastronomy
At Insieme, Marco Canora Makes Pasta Like It’s 1875In the wonderful world of pasta, there is the fresh (usually made with eggs and rolled-out), and there is the dried (usually eggless and extruded). And then there is the unusual hybrid of sorts that Marco Canora has recently introduced on his Insieme menu. While surfing the Web, as all blog-obsessed chefs are wont to do, Canora discovered an old Venetian–style hand-cranked pasta extruder known as the Bigolaro, a.k.a. the Torchio, and if he had his doubts about its decidedly low-tech looks, the price, at $280, was right. The rustic gadget, which was patented in 1875, clamps on to any sturdy tabletop, and although it requires the strength of two Greco–Roman wrestlers to operate, the results are worth the effort.
AvroKO’s New One May Open in Late Spring, First Book Out in the MeantimeAvroKO, the firm that designed newly opened Omido, among others, is in the process of locking down a new restaurant space near the Bond Street location it abandoned after community protest, and partner Adam Farmerie tells us it could be ready to open in as little as four months. In the meantime, you’ll be able to explore the world of AvroKO in print when the firm publishes its first book, Best Ugly, on February 19. The 265-page tome profiles six restaurants, starting with raw-space snapshots and moving on to floor plans, process sketches, and sexy interior shots. Readers will also get an eye into what inspired the designs (the wall at Stanton Social, for instance, is modeled after deconstructed suit jackets). Our advice: Keep this beauty off your coffee table, or you’ll be tempted to go splurge at Public every time you pick it up.
Back of the House
Kozy Shack Founder Dies, Grub Street Mourns
Vinnie Gruppuso, the founder of Kozy Shack pudding, died today. It is a dark day on Grub Street, since Kozy Shack was not just our favorite pudding (a confection so potent it practically qualified as a controlled substance), but also a modern rarity: a New York–area manufacturing story without an unhappy ending. The Kozy Shack factory in Hicksville is no Wonka–like wonderland, but the sight of an entire eighteen-wheeler loaded with whole milk, the secret to the pudding’s mouth-filling fullness, gave us that kind of feeling. And Gruppuso’s story is a kind of ultimate foodie fantasy. He was a blue-collar guy, a bread deliveryman who happened to fall in love with the pudding made by a deli in Ridgefield. We’ve all had such crushes. But Gruppuso bought the recipe when the deli closed and essentially married it, investing everything in Kozy Shack and eventually building a pudding empire. Tonight we will have a toast for Vinnie Gruppuso with our favorite cordial: Kozy Shack chocolate pudding, straight from the tub, with a chaser of melancholy.
Vincent Gruppuso, 67, Seller of Pudding Snacks, Dies [NYT]
A Sausage-Fest Welcome in Chelsea; Gramercy Tavern RecipesChelsea: On January 15–20, Trestle on Tenth will begin its own yearly tradition of Metzgete, a Swiss winter celebration of sausage, choucroute, and wine. [Trestle on Tenth]
Flatiron: Adam Shepard hasn’t yet been able to clone the success of his Boerum Hill original at Lunetta, in the old Mayrose space, but Frank Bruni thinks he’s capable of making the necessary adjustments. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Gramercy: Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony provided this recipe for East Coast blackfish over spaghetti squash, but we have his recipe for fork-crushed purple majesty potatoes in our database. [Restaurant Girl]
Hells Kitchen: How is this world going to stop mispronouncing chipotle as “chi-POLE-tay” if restaurants like Kevin St. James on Eighth Avenue can’t even spell it right? [East Village Idiot]
Midtown West: Our In-box submission claiming there are prostitutes at Maze has inspired a call for the best restaurants that attract good ol’ traditional gold diggers. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Upper East Side: Agata & Valentina Ristorante has permanently closed, but the original gourmet shop is still lively. [Eater]
Choking: The Universal LanguageMichael Touchard of the Hell’s Kitchen bistro Tout Va Bien speaks fluent French, fluent English, and kitchen Spanish. But he doesn’t speak — or read — a word of Chinese. Neither do many of his customers. So let’s hope nobody chokes.
Better Get to That Wild Edibles Party Early!
Being lifelong fans of labor strife and (especially) guerrilla street theater, we received this press release with some excitement. We are passing it on without comment, except to ask why this doesn’t happen more often. What could dramatize the struggle of labor versus management better than the preannounced crashing of ritzy parties?
We’ll Take Celebrity Chefs Over Emo Food Memoirs Any DayHartford Courant restaurant critic Elissa Altman has a very long and very powerful essay over at the Huffington Post about the state of food writing, and it repeats something we’ve heard often: Personal, heartfelt memoirs about food should trump the fembots of the Food Network and their ilk. It’s an argument we can well understand, but we disagree.
Back of the House
This Year’s ‘Saveur’ 100 Is Thin on the NYC Love
We know another year has gone by in the food world because the Saveur 100 is out. The list “offers a vivid snapshot of the wide … world of food,” says the magazine, so the picks skewed global licorice from New Zealand, anyone? — but we are, as always, only interested in the New York stuff.
The Other Critics
Ilili Makes An Enemy in Steve Cuozzo; Bruni Picks on GrayzThough the food sounded pretty good at Ilili, the place treated Steve Cuozzo so badly that the Cuozz was forced to pay them back with an atomic review — one that sounds richly deserved. [NYP]
In one of his silliest reviews, Frank Bruni goes on for half the article complaining that restaurants don’t always fit in neat categories, then punishes Grayz for it with a blistering one-star review. Odd. [NYT]
Bruni’s mini-review in Dining Briefs is much more logical and succinct: “That’s Belcourt: the predictable made surprising; comfort with a wink.” Meanwhile, on the undercard, Peter Meehan was mostly pleased with Graffiti, despite its minute size, and Marian Burros not so happy with Lucy of Gramercy. [NYT]
Bobby Flay Enters the Burger Game; Serendipity 3 ReopensBobby Flay is entering the upscale-burger game with a chain of restaurants called Bobby’s Burger Palace. [GlobeSt.com via A Hamburger Today]
Gossip Girl fanatics will be happy to know that Gilt has added Serena’s much-beloved grilled cheese with truffle oil to the bar menu. Only $50! [Zagat]
Related: Is ‘Gossip Girl’ the Most Restauranty Show Since ‘Sex and the City’?
The Times says the entrée is on its way out at restaurants all over the country, thanks to a loss of interest in “big, protein-laden main dishes.” [NYT]
Smith’s Plays Stevie Wonder, Thievery Corporation, and Bud PowellJust because we couldn’t care less what a chef is playing in the kitchen doesn’t mean we aren’t curious about what’s playing in the dining room the better to avoid spots that blast “Who Let the Dogs Out” (we’ll give El Sombrero a pass for playing “La Macarena” because, well, it’s El Sombrero). And if they’re playing Weezer’s “The World Has Turned” like Momofuku was Sunday night, we’re there with cowbells on. That’s why every week we’ll pick a new or notable eatery and list ten songs you might hear there. This week: Smith’s, the new one from Danny Abrams and Cindy Smith.
The Annotated Dish
Strawberry Dessert Quartet at Jean GeorgesJohnny Iuzzini of Jean Georges is one of the leading figures in the modern Dessert Revolution and arguably the most influential dessert chef working today. Typically, any meal at Jean Georges ends with one of four dessert tastings four dishes united by a single theme. While summer strawberries last (likely another two or three weeks), this strawberry tasting will be available for both lunch and dinner. “The idea is to show how versatile strawberries are,” Iuzzini says. “There are so many ways to manipulate it and yet still maintain its integrity.” As always, mouse over the different desserts to hear them described in the chef’s own words.
Gael Greene Unmasked and on the Loose in Midtown WestAstoria: Sakura sushi has just opened on Ditmars near 36th Street, and they have quite an extensive menu. [Joey in Astoria]
Flatiron: Macaroni-and-cheese porn has been posted to tease an upcoming roundup on the city’s best, and Mayrose already sounds like it has a leg up on the crusty contenders: “Down and dirty, this macaroni. It will fight you on the way down, and you may lose.” [Gridskipper]
Midtown West: Gael Greene unmasks herself at BLT Market and is treated to some nice extras. “A note to my pal, Restaurantgirl, ” she writes, “that’s what a restaurant can do when you’re not anonymous.” [Insatiable Critic]
Upper East Side: An Alto Adige white on Sfoglia’s wine list does not name the varietals because producer Elena Walch refuses to share what grapes she uses. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
West Village: Julius on West 10th Street is open again after a brief seizure by New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and “crammed with the usual ancient drunkard queens.” [Eater]
The Brooklyn Food Mag You Should Be ReadingEdible Brooklyn’s summer issue just landed in our mailbox, and, as usual, we can’t get over how good it is. The Edible series publishes magazines about regional food around the country, but we’ve looked at some of the others and they’re strictly from hunger. However, Brooklyn is right to have a better food magazine than, say, Missoula. But we’re proud that, rather than the semi-literate foodie ‘zine we would expect, editor Gabrielle Langholtz’s staff of one somehow manages to regularly compile so much good editorial and visual content for each issue. This issue’s includes a tour of Jonathan Lethem’s refrigerator, a mouthwatering profile of a live poultry market, and a big profile of Prospect Park’s food concessions by Grub Street regular Zoe Singer. After all that, there’s a piece on LeNell’s private-label rye whiskey, and a panegyric to Frankies 457 Spuntino, published alongside an almost pornographic photo essay featuring meatballs. When you think how lame the glossy food magazines are these days, you have to wonder what their excuse is.
Edible Brooklyn [Official site]
Murray Hill Restaurant Set to Make Cinematic Debut
What would Katz’s Deli be without When Harry Met Sally? Tom’s Restaurant without Seinfeld? Trio, without, well, Trio? If the last reference eludes you, that’s because the shoot for director Danny Aiello III’s short film is just now wrapping up at the Croatian-owned Italian eatery in Murray Hill. “The movie is named for the bar, as well as for the trio of characters in the bar,” producer-star Jennifer Bogush tells us. “It’s about a young woman who is haunted by the memory of her ex-boyfriend and can’t move on with her life, but it’s actually much better than that sounds.” Bogush, who knows the owner, wrote the script herself after tiring of auditioning for unappealing projects — which might be why she plays the lead. Aiello — whose father starred as a Tribeca restaurant owner in the movie Dinner Rush — came on board, and they hired David Fumero (One Life to Live) and Amy Carlson (Third Watch, Law & Order: Trial by Jury) as cast members. Bogush, who plans to take the film to festivals like Telluride and Cannes, hopes “the short version will be a vehicle for the feature length for us … I am in the midst of writing that.” Say you saw it first by (quietly) stopping by the shoot this weekend — though we’re sorry to report there’s no orgasm scene. — Lori Fradkin
The New York Diet
Sam Talbot (Formerly) of ‘Top Chef’ Splurges at NobuAround the time he helmed the kitchen at Williamsburgh Café, before becoming an executive chef at Punch and then a contestant on Top Chef, Forbes named Sam Talbot one of the city’s up-and-coming chefs and Zink declared him one of its sexiest: “He is like a girl when it comes to shopping and grooming himself,” his Bravo bio reads. Unfortunately this didn’t cut it with the judges, and Sam was kicked to the curb on this week’s penultimate episode. Admirers will be happy to hear, however, that he’s still zipping around on his Vespa and consulting with the owners of Fat Baby on their two new Lower East Side restaurants. We asked him what he ate this week and learned that he likes his food cheap but solid aside from his monthly splurge at Nobu.
A Restaurant Week Guide to the Forgotten and UnderappreciatedThe Restaurant Week participants we’re about to endorse aren’t obscure, strictly speaking. You just wouldn’t find their names in the same sentence as the word “buzz” – not, at least, since the Clinton years. But they’re all more than worth the $24.07 you’ll pay for lunch ($35 for dinner) starting on Monday, and you might even beat the crowds.
America the BurgerfulBy a happy coincidence, two videos, both demonstrating the breadth of the human experience as encompassed by the mighty but still humble hamburger, have just turned up on the Web. In one, artist David Greg Harth stands in front of a Greenwich Village McDonald’s offering to buy random pedestrians a free meal. Banal performance “happening,” in which a trustafarian art student spends his grant money? Maybe. But a mere eleven minutes in, angry cops, sicced on the hapless Harth by the corporate behemoth he so obliquely critiques, rush the video to its disturbing but somehow inevitable dénouement. Meanwhile, Serious Eats is showing a clip from George Motz’s Hamburger America documentary, featuring a kindly old soul in Meers, Oklahoma, who lovingly raises heritage Texas longhorn cattle only to slaughter and then serve the beasts in his roadside restaurant. One video’s a portrait of a gentle man tending to a disappearing culture; the other, a gritty look at corporate culture’s hard, paradoxical realities. And yet neither would not have been possible without that patty-shaped embodiment of American culture. Another reason to love your hamburgers, America.
Free Burger! [Neatorama]
Hamburger America: The Meers Store [Serious Eats]
Click and Save
Finally, a Restaurant Guide That Makes It Okay to Look Like a TouristYou may remember that not so long ago our friend the Gobbler presented his case against the Michelin guide. Among his objections: “Lofty opinions are fine, but what New Yorkers really want in a restaurant guide is facility and ease of use. In other words, they want the goddamn address and phone number right now.” Ken Shepps knows the feeling. His new green guidebook not only includes the goddamn address and phone number but also comes in the form of an accordion-style map. One side shows the island from Battery Park to 121st Street, plotted with subway stops and 117 numbered squares. Each number corresponds to a restaurant listing in one of eight fold-out panels. (No. 51 on the map, for instance, goes with Balthazar, a “superlative brasserie and next door patisserie.”) On the other side, there are mini-maps with neighborhood descriptions and specialty stores, like Lady M Cake Boutique on the Upper East Side and Sullivan St. Bakery in Soho. Is this the perfect portable NYC restaurant guide? Well, you’ll definitely look like tourist if you consult it in public, and we’ve got our own opinions on where to eat. But this is definitely a step in the right direction. — Lori Fradkin
Mappetite [Official site]