Is Setagaya the Romulus of Ramen?
When we announced the opening of Setagaya, the new ramen spot’s manager Charlie Huh insisted his product was more authentic than that of nearby Momofuku, prompting David Chang to post a snarky sign bragging that his noodles were made with 90 percent American ingredients. The joke, however, may be on Chang: Last Saturday at 9:45 p.m., we were told the wait at Setagaya was 30 minutes, with fifteen people (almost all of them of the Asian persuasion) lined up at the door. At Momofuku, the wait was only 20 to 25 minutes, and there were a measly eight gaijin milling about. We’ll continue to check in throughout the week, though only time will tell whether Setagaya is truly top ramen — after all, you don’t see people lining up at Beard Papa anymore.
Earlier: New East Village Ramen Spot Insists It’s More Authentic Than Momofuku
Related: Ramen War Brewing in East Village: Momofuku 1, Setagaya 1 [Eater]
Le Cirque Scrambles for Relevance; P*ONG ExpandingA myriad of consultants and experts are surrounding Sirio Maccioni, giving advice on how Le Cirque can recapture its now-departed magic. [Insatiable Critic]
Dessert bars are a hot enough trend right now that some restaurants and bakeries are transforming themselves at certain hours, while others, like P*ONG, are built expressly for the genre. [NYP]
Related: Because Our Desserts Are as Good as Everyone Else’s Entire Meals
Speaking of which, Asian dessert guru Pichet Ong will open a shop devoted to ice cream, pudding, and cookies next door to P*ONG on August 17. [Strong Buzz]
Back of the House
Jean-Georges Vongerichten on His Gift for DelegationNo chef in New York restaurant history has been more successful, or more influential, than Jean-Georges Vongerichten. As he begins his third decade of cooking and running restaurants in New York, we sat down to ask him some questions about the scene: how it’s changed and where it’s going.
The Other Critics
Ssäm Bar Vindicated; Haute Cuisine Gets No LoveMomofuku Ssäm Bar wins two stars (!) from Bruni and completes a success story that seemed pretty unlikely a few months ago, when the place was selling Asian burritos to a handful of customers. The review is also a watershed in the changing culture of restaurants: Formal is now officially out, casual now officially legit. [NYT]
Related: The I Chang [NYM]
Meanwhile, Randall Lane is a lone dissenter, calling out Ssäm Bar for its unevenness, lack of focus, and the steep prices of some of its main dishes. On the whole, though, he seems to have missed the point — David Chang’s loose, unfettered approach to good cooking. [TONY]
Steve Cuozzo joins in the chorus of approval greeting Wayne Nish’s transformation of the stuffy March into the swinging, fusion-y Nish. The message: Remain formal at your own peril. (See reviews of Dennis Foy and Gordon Ramsay.) [NYP]
Related: Bedeviled [NYM]
Pelaccio Opens in London; Hotel Gansevoort BoycottedZak Pelaccio’s new London restaurant (first announced here) finally opens and issues a press release with a menu. [Snack]
In a recent post, we called Michael Ruhlman a mandarin and critiqued his hauteur. Count us wrong on both counts: This response, titled “Grub Street Wankers,” and the vitriol that follows in the comment section, isn’t exactly high-minded. [Ruhlman]
Related: In Defense of Rachael Ray and the Food Network [Grub Street]
The big billboards erected on Hudson Street by the Hotel Gansevoort are so ugly that Pastis’ Keith McNally and 5 Ninth’s Joel Michel are refusing to take hotel reservations in protest. [NYP]
Morandi! McNally! And Now — Menu!Morandi may be the opening of the winter, and Rob and Robin have come through with a sneak peek at the much-awaited Italian restaurant and an interview with owner Keith McNally. And now, in a powerful addition to the ever-growing glory that is our database, we’ve got Morandi’s menu, too. We could tell you how tasty these Sicilian-inflected classics look, but why not just click through yourself?
Morandi Menu [NYM]
Click and Save
Forget ‘Top Chef,’ Here’s What Real Cooking Looks Like
The cooking on Top Chef is, as most chefs will tell you, about as realistic as the medicine practiced on House. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see the real thing if you look hard enough. Consider RealMeals, a brand-new, just-launched website which specializes in videos of both professional and amateur chefs actually cooking. This kind of instructional/aspirational video has been coming into vogue in recent months (Chow has produced a number of really good ones.) But RealMeals is both more interesting and more New York-oriented.
Read Poe on the Pot at Zucco: Le French Diner
With just twenty seats (most wedged between the bar and a wall), Zucco: Le French Diner is one of the most lilliputian eateries in the city. Once we located the bathroom jammed in the back corner next to a prep table — and tapped on the cook’s shoulder so he could make room for us to open the door — we weren’t surprised to find that it’s also tres petite. Thankfully, what the loo lacks in size, it makes up for with Godardian flair.
GoldBar Finally Emerges from the Vault
You might have heard a little bit about GoldBar lately. It’s the hottest thing since Death & Co. two weeks ago and until Star Lounge goes into soft launch … this weekend. We were pretty confident the décor of this Cain offshoot would be gold, and the involvement of skulls seemed likely. But until last night’s opening to “friends and family,” all details were little more than informed speculation. Now, finally, the truth can be told.
Back of the House
Rocket Rod Dances Back Into the River Café; Nobody Likes IlanRod Stewart, banned for life at the River Café for pulling his own “rod” out, gets readmitted after a penitential jig for owner Buzzy O’Keefe. [NYDN]
McDonald’s coffee “the cheapest and the best,” according to Consumer Reports. Of course, it was only going up against Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Starbucks. [NYDN]
Frank Bruni also thinks Marcel got the shaft in the Top Chef finale. Does Ilan have any fans in the media at all? [NYT]
The New York Diet
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand Dines at Sony’s Private RestaurantFor the past month, Franz Ferdinand front man Alex Kapranos has been spending long hours in a Chelsea studio producing a record by tourmates the Cribs; staying at the Greenpoint apartment of his girlfriend of four years Eleanor Friedberger, lead singer of the Fiery Furnaces; and celebrating the publication of Sound Bites: Eating on Tour With Franz Ferdinand, in which the culinary adventurer and former chef recounts everything from buffets in Singapore to bull’s testicles in Argentina. Before he returns to Glasgow next week to start work on a new record (and to tuck into his favorite curry), we thought we’d ask him where he’s been finding nourishment in his adopted city.
Park Slope Gastropub Serves Guinness on Tap — and as a Foam!
A few months ago, we alerted you that the “gastropub” phenomenon, deftly explored by Rob and Robin, was infiltrating Park Slope. Well, on February 21 the eagle lands in the form of Alchemy, the love child of former Lucky Strike barkeep Kevin Read and Jared King, previously a chef at Peacock Alley, Windows on the World, and Oceana. Their collection of antique jars isn’t the most impressive in town (guys, how could you let Simon Hammerstein beat you? Those things come so cheap at the Seventh Avenue flea market), but the menu, available for you here exclusively, is nothing to scoff at. Hanger steak served with bone marrow? Scallops with acorn-squash purée and Guinness froth? Cuttlefish with chorizo-oil mayonnaise? O’Connor’s across the street better step up its game bar nuts ain’t going to cut it anymore. Daniel Maurer
Earlier: The Slope Gets Gastropub — With Garden, Perfect for Six Months From Now
What to Eat This Week
Good Eats for Fashion Plates
With Fashion Week almost here, some of you may have switched gears, thinking less about “Where can I find the perfect piece of foie gras?” and more about “How can I fit into a size 0 by Saturday?” We can’t presume to help you with that one, but we can recommend three guilt-free, non-Atkins options for eating well as the models parade into town.
Trans Fats Versus Razor Blades; ‘Times’ Inspired by Our RestroomBruni ponders bathrooms, giving a shout-out to Grub Street’s Restroom Report; apparently the Sultan had a pretty nasty encounter with the ones at Gordon Ramsay. [NYT]
Hamptons officials loosen up and consider lifting the music ban in restaurants — if there’s very tight regulation of it. [NYP]
E! wrap-up on the Top Chef finale, including a plate-by-plate account of the competition’s Last Supper, which is more interesting, to us anyway, than whether Ilan got his money and new oven. [E!]
Related: Ilan Won, Yes, But What Does It All Mean?
How Not to Have a Soul-Crushing Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is typically the busiest restaurant night of the year, so of course it sucks. But the food, rendered an afterthought, suffers most of all: The restaurateurs are busy counting their money, not watching the kitchen, and the couples, well, they’re wondering why they’re participating in this charade in the first place, seeing as how the flame flickered out years ago, and what were we saying? Oh, right. We understand why Valentine’s dates might not seem to be worth the trouble, so we thought long and hard about which holiday recommendations to make.
In the Magazine
Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Box
If you’d rather wait to experience it in person (assuming you can score an invite to the next launch party), you’ll want to avert your eyes from the centerfold-worthy interior shot of the Box in this week’s magazine. William Van Meter’s profile of its primary owner Simon Hammerstein is also plenty revealing: Turns out the Rogers & Hammerstein progeny is a reformed raver. There won’t be any glow sticks at his dinner theater just a twenty-inch-tall woman named Firefly, a G-stringed Russian gymnast, and (why not?) the “Hammerstein Beauties.” Daniel Maurer
What’s in the Box? [NYM]
Related: Simon Hammerstein’s Personal Pimpmobile?
Ask a Waiter
Dirty Delta of Lucky Cheng’s Serves Orgy Bowls to Britney Spears
Dirty Delta came to New York eighteen years ago and was introduced to the gay scene via nightspots like Club 58. It wasn’t until she got a job at Lucky Cheng’s a month after it opened that she fell in with the drag queens; for thirteen years the bartender and server has seen the East Village institution through visits from disco divas (“Grace Jones came in and tried to cop pot. We had to let her go”), East Village freaks (“my family”), as well as swarms of “crazy bachelorettes and crazy birthday girls.” As it turns out, her most unforgettable encounter (that we could print) was with a certain pop star.
Spoiler Alert: The Story of Oedipus, With Scenes of “Vegetable
If you missed its debut on the Sundance channel last week (or its showing at the actual Sundance festival), prepare to veg out to the above: Jason Wishnow’s take on Oedipus is, the subtitle informs, “the story of Oedipus, in 8 minutes, performed by vegetables.” The stop-motion flick, featuring elaborate stage sets worthy of Ben Hur, depicts what is perhaps the goriest vegetable-on-utensil violence since food surrealist Jan Svankmajer’s Exhaustive Discussion as well as the only tomato-on-potato incest scene we can remember (and trust us, we’d remember). The day after a party for the film at Manitoba’s (owner Handsome Dick isn’t exactly a veggie guy, but we’ll disregard that), we asked director Wishnow what it was like to spend two years of his life shooting produce.
Ramsay Feeling the Love — in Britain, AnyhowLooks like his status as (an admittedly lower-tier) gay icon isn’t all the embattled Gordon Ramsay has to be thankful for these days. Ramsay’s Petrus was awarded two stars in the 2007 Michelin Guide to Britain, and his new London restaurant, La Noisette, got its first star. (None of his already-starred outposts were demoted, either.) Good going, Gordo. Just don’t get a big head over it, okay?
Chef Ramsay Still on Top in New Guide [Yahoo News]
Gordon Ramsay, Gay Icon [Grub Street]
Gordon Ramsay Would Like the Honor of Humiliating You [Grub Street]
We Spot-Check Gordon Ramsay’s Stink [Grub Street]
What to Eat Tonight
Spin the Shawarma Wheel
Edible Brooklyn has a piece on a subject very dear to our hearts: Those mysterious wheels of meat called shawarma that you find in falafel and gyro joints around town. The article covers the best of Brooklyn; our picks for outside of Brooklyn follow.
Is GoldBar Readying Its Blowtorches for Cain’s Biggest Spenders?The plot grows thicker in the curious case of Little Italy hot-spot-to-be GoldBar: A tipster says the owners of Cain (who are joined in the secretive opening by David Tetens, former operator of Lotus) have been tracking that bar’s biggest spenders so they can give them VIP cards for the new place. (“As for Cain tracking top clients, of course they do …” e-mails a publicist. “But are Cain clients getting VIP cards to GoldBar? NO.”) So what can we expect when it opens on February 1?
The New York Diet
Chef Odette Fada Refuses to Eat Anyone Else’s Pasta
When she’s not commanding the kitchen of the venerable San Domenico, as she has done for over a decade, Odette Fada rummages for cheese, sausage, and foie gras in her fridge; goes for late-night dinners at Balthazar and Blue Ribbon; or stops in at her friends’ restaurants to enjoy off-the-menu items. Will you ever catch the Parmigiano Reggiano obsessive ordering pasta at one of these places? Probably not: “The only person here who can cook pasta,” she says, “is me!” We asked her what culinary pleasures she experienced this week.
Ask a Waiter
You Won’t Catch El Faro’s Miguel Hernandez Smelling Like Garlic After WorkMiguel Hernandez has been a fixture at El Faro since before he could legally drink (his uncle Jose was a bartender there for twenty years, and Hernandez would visit regularly from his native Spain). Five years ago, when he finally moved to New York, Hernandez took a job as a server. Now he splits his time between working the floor and serving margaritas and sangrias from behind his uncle’s old bar. He’s studying for a career in hospitality management; we thought we’d ask him what it’s like working in one of the city’s most timeless (and fragrant) restaurants before he graduates.
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]
Back of the House
Boulud Versus Giant Rat; New York Versus Los AngelesIn praise of the braise: a long feature about the art of slow immersive cooking, pegged on Daniel Boulud’s and Claudia Roden’s new books. [NYS]
More on Boulud’s ongoing conflict with the Restaurant Opportunities Center and their giant inflatable rat. [NYT]
Related: We’ve been on this story for a while; this was Daniel Under Attack! (Again).
A tale of two cities: Leuzzi compares N.Y. and L.A. The latter is more casual, less cohesive, and doesn’t give a damn about French restaurants. [NYS]
The big restaurant in Lincoln Center to be reborn as Patina, sister to the big restaurant in LA; owners of Divine Bar open Funky Diner on the UES, Bret Thorn reports. [NYS]
Asian chefs love black chicken but have to admit “it’s a scary-looking creature.” Also: Four markets where you can buy the things, including a scary one in the Bronx. [NYT]
The gourmet burger business comes to Brooklyn in the form of Brooklyn Burger Bar (already in soft opening) and 67 Burger in Fort Greene. Also: Barça 18 gets its brief Times epitaph. [NYT]
Restaurant Week: Big-name places where you won’t be able to get a table. And good places where you might get a table. [NYP]
Profile of a smoked-fish factory in Greenpoint. [NYDN]
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]
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]
The New York Diet
Novelist Colson Whitehead Is a Big Fan of Meat Inside DoughColson Whitehead, author of John Henry Days, The Colossus of New York, and Apex Hides the Hurt, is currently holed up in the bistros of his neighborhood, Fort Greene, at work on his next novel, which is about a teenager who subsists on TV dinners and toils at an ice-cream parlor (the novelist’s traumatic summers in a Hamptons scoop shop are documented in his New York Times essay “Eat Memory, I Scream”). Readers familiar with Whitehead’s odes to cocktail-party buffets in The Intuitionist already know that food inspires him. “The adjectives I use when I write about food come from a different place,” he says. So what has he been eating lately?
What to Eat Tonight
It Was a Very Good Beer ...This morning we reported that Gramercy Tavern has a new menu; this afternoon we’re recommending that you check out another new thing at the restaurant: their program of vintage (that is, aged) beers and ciders, one of the few of its kind in town. Kevin Barry — the restaurant’s assistant beverage director and the list’s co-creator, along with Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver — shared his enthusiasm for some of the highlights with us.
In the Magazine
One Coffee, One Falafel, and One Yogurt to GoIn the magazine this week, Rob and Robin unveil three humble new restaurants, each good for the kind of pit-stop nourishment needed to get through the day. The East Village’s Taj-Almoulouk is turning out top-notch falafel, Chelsea’s Café Grumpy is pouring good Counter Culture Coffee, and the West Village’s Yoláto is serving up the “gelato of frozen yogurts.” Read more in this week’s bulletin from the Underground Gourmet.
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.