New York Chefs Confront Rising Food Costs With Whip and ChairFood costs go up and up, but prices — especially high ones — aren’t supposed to. Given that the rent in most New York restaurants isn’t going to come down anytime soon, this creates a problem for owners. The Wall Street Journal did an excellent feature on this subject on Saturday, showing how some restaurants were dealing with it — Blue Water Grill’s selling beef trimmings as part of a chipotle roll, for example, or Ssäm Bar’s dropping truffles. But we were curious about how some of the other chefs we know, particularly those with a well-heeled clientele, are making do. So we asked around, and here’s what we heard.
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Babbo Tops Zagat Italian List, Followed by RelicsWe’re not surprised that Babbo is the city’s top Italian restaurant, according to Zagat’s new America’s 1,000 Top Italian Restaurants book — its popularity alone is enough, in Zagat-land, to ensure yearly dominance. And in fact, Babbo is a wonderful restaurant, four stars by our lights, and justly beloved. But if you had any doubt how unreliable the Zagat surveyors are, just check out number two: Village relic Il Mulino! Now, don’t get us wrong: Il Mulino is a fine restaurant and uses very expensive ingredients to good effect. The tuxedoed wait staff are as servile as ever. But it should be the second-most-popular Italian restaurant of 1958. Haven’t the matrons of Secaucus ever heard of A Voce? Or
Boston Mayor Makes Good on Super Bowl Bet; Diet Sodas Linked to MetabolicRemember that little food bet Hizzoner made with Boston’s mayor over who’d win the Super Bowl? Well, pay-up time has come, and our northern neighbors will be donating 100 cups of New England clam chowder, 42 lbs. of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, twelve dozen Boston cream pies and twelve dozen Parker house rolls, 100 Old Tyme hot dogs and 100 Al Fresco chicken sausages, twenty pizzas, five cases of Brigham’s Boston You’re My Home ice cream, five cases of Cherry on the Top frozen-yogurt bars from Elan, and 100 servings of Stonyfield Farm Organic Yogurt to City Harvest. Happily, no one has to eat it. [Zagat Buzz]
Drop that Diet Coke! Researchers have found a correlation between the consumption of diet soda and incidences of metabolic syndrome, a series of unhealthful factors that can lead to diabetes and heart disease. [NYT]
More bad news for fish: The FDA confirmed that several outbreaks of ciguatera fish poisoning have taken place across the country due to consumption of fish harvested in the northern Gulf of Mexico. [AP]
Sparkling-Pink Sake Might Tickle Your V-Day Fancy in Hell’s Kitchen; CommerceChelsea: RUB and Swich are just two under-$10 lunch options in this list devoted to the nabe. [Gridskipper]
East Village: A Spanish wine bar called Pata Negra opens Friday at 345 East 12th Street. [NYT]
Flatiron: A Voce pastry chef Josh Gripper classifies himself as single and dangerous. [Restaurant Girl]
Fort Greene: Don’t hold your breath waiting for lamb sliders from the French-Moroccan restaurant that was supposed to open on DeKalb Avenue; the space wasn’t completed, and the sign and menu have already been taken down. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Hell’s Kitchen: If you want to explore dining options outside our comprehensive Valentine’s Day Guide, you could look to Kyotofu, which is serving a three-course dessert prix fixe promising a raspberry Valrhona-dark-chocolate fondue and Hou Hou Shu pink-sparkling sake. [Kyotofu]
West Village: Commerce opens tomorrow in the former Blue Mill Tavern space and there will be a 20 percent discount on food through Monday. [NYT]; the last outlet of Flor’s Kitchen will shut itself down this Sunday citing problems with the landlord. [Eater]
The Annotated Dish
A Voce’s Roasted Woodcock Shows Love of the GameGame season has started, but there’s only a handful of places in New York that make an effort to prepare wild animals the way the meat deserves. One such is A Voce, where Andrew Carmellini is cooking woodcock, a small woodland bird, for all it’s worth. “It’s not as gamey as grouse,” the chef says, “but it has a special wild taste that really needs to be experienced.” As always, mouse over the different elements to hear them described in the chef’s own words.
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A Voce’s New Pastry Chef Is HomegrownThere’s a new, high-powered young dessert chef in town. And get this — he’s homegrown! His name is Joshua Gripper, and his new boss, A Voce’s Andrew Carmellini, vouches for him thusly: “He’s the shit.” Gripper, a 27-year-old Queens native, has worked with Carmellini at Café Boulud and is also a member of A.C.’s hip-hop combo, the Crown. Primarily, though, he’s said to be a talented technician with a simpatico sensibility and eight years of classical training. So what is he doing at A Voce?
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The Post returned to an evergreen feature idea today, every editor’s best friend: the “overrated” list. Since our philosophy has always been to slavishly ape the Post in every way short of peppering our posts with the phrase “tot-slay suspect,” we thought we might add a few of our own. Since the Post didn’t limit itself to specific dishes at specific restaurants, we won’t either. Here are a few things that we find ourselves less than overawed with these days.
A Voce Sequels to Appear Soon in a City Near You?
We hear from multiple sources that plans are under way to re-create A Voce in other cities. At least two are in the works, we hear, but chef Andrew Carmellini warns us that no leases are signed yet. “You can have meetings every day, but it’s all bullshit until you sign on the dotted line.” We couldn’t agree more!
More Meatopia: Our Readers Get All Old Testament
Meatopia, the Woodstock of edible animals, has captured the imagination of Grub Street readers. Suggestions for next year’s theme have flooded in, nearly overwhelming both the Grub Street in-box and our wildest expectations. Send your idea to email@example.com by 6 p.m., and we might see you tomorrow. Among the contenders:
Tables Available at San Domenico; A Voce Mostly BookedIt’s 4 p.m., and that means it’s time to play Two for Eight. We just asked ten restaurants the best time they can squeeze a couple in for dinner; you need only make your chosen reservation. (As always, we make the calls but don’t guarantee the results.) Today: Gourmet Italian.
New York is Now Fat City; Korean KFC Comes to New YorkFat is where it’s at in New York today, thanks to the efforts of what Adam Platt would call the “refined meathead” school of chefs like David Chang and Zak Pelaccio. [NYT]
Related: You Know You’re a Meathead When… [NYM]
Kyochon Chicken, the Korean chain behind the current wave of Korean fried-chicken restaurants, has opened in Flushing. Two more locations are planned for Bayside. [NYT]
Ilan Hall defeated Sam Talbot in their outdoor Top Chef rematch yesterday, Hall’s soft-shell crab salad triumphing over Talbot’s grilled quail and potatoes. [NYDN]
Ask a Waiter
Nicoye Banks of A Voce Chops It Up With Denzel Washington
New Orleans native Nicoye Banks has been a captain at A Voce ever since its buzzy opening last year (he was at the Tribeca Grand before that). In addition, he’s acted in movies such as Invincible and the upcoming Colin Farrell and Ed Norton drama Pride and Glory. Though he’s not one to “do the Hollywood thing” on the job, he’s had opportunity not only to serve but also to sit down with heroes like Denzel Washington and Laurence Fishburne, and his acting background has proven more than handy in selling duck meatballs to just about everyone who walks in.
Andrew Carmellini Wants to Stir the Melting PotConsidering how successful Andrew Carmellini’s A Voce has been, we were hardly surprised to hear he was looking at new projects. But Carmellini tells us that, although “I’d like to open another [A Voce] in a good urban market,” he has other, more intriguing (to us, anyway) plans in store too. Carmellini wants to create a multi-ethnic American restaurant at some point in the near future. Given that he made his name at Café Boulud cooking from a wide range of traditions, the idea seems a natural for him.
Tonight’s Beard Awards: a Referendum on Haute Cuisine
Times are changing in the restaurant world – but just how fast? Tonight’s James Beard Awards will help answer the question of whether the traditional tablecloth restaurants, which seem to be on the way out, still wield their old clout in the gastronomic Establishment.
Andrew Carmellini Stands Up for the BeardsThe Beard Foundation is taking a battering these days; even on the eve of its big night, its finances are being questioned, and foodies and cooks left and right have had a field day abusing them on the Web. And let’s not forget the huge embezzling scandal that engulfed the organization a couple of years ago. But there’s at least one chef who will speak up for the awards: Andrew Carmellini of A Voce.
A Voce’s Alfresco Slurpees Come to FlatironBrooklyn Heights: Mike’s Knife Sharpener, operating out of a truck, is back, spotted on Willow Street. [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
Dumbo: South Beach Wine & Food Festival may be re-created in this hood by next year, with help from the Food Network and Food & Wine. [Dumbo NYC]
East Village: Gnocco’s fine Roman-style pizza will now be available by the slice from noon to 4 p.m. [Grub Street] And the Italian restaurant Gemma, coming to the Bowery Hotel, looks to be on its way to an opening. [Down by the Hipster] Le Souk loses its liquor license, albeit temporarily. [Eater]
Financial District: Gold St. debuts a menu of original cocktails including herbaceous recipes like a Lavender Martini and the Rosemary Cream. [Grub Street]
Flatiron: A Voce to debut its new alfresco section, where you can repose in the sun and drink alcoholic Italian slurpees, among other things. [The Strong Buzz]
Fort Greene: A new batch of local Devil’s Doodad organic hot sauce is now available at the farmer’s market. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Harlem: Citarella’s 125th Street branch now accepting food stamps. [NYM] Tickets now available for A Taste of Harlem held at City College’s Great Hall on Wednesday, May 16. [Uptown Flavor]
Park Slope: Unnamed market selling $22 chickens. [Dope on the Slope]
Soho: To celebrate the arrival of new chef Wen Chen, Lucky Strike is offering a bizarre lottery that incorporates a Champagne bucket filled with table numbers, praying, and free meals for your entire party. [Gawker] Lure Fishbar will open for lunch and brunch starting Mother’s Day weekend. [Grub Street]
New Hope for the Moondance DinerWell-heeled fans of the soon-to-be-closed Moondance Diner consider jacking the place up and moving it somewhere else. [NYT]
Related: Well, It’s a Marvelous Night for Luxury Condos [Daily Intel]
Rachael Ray seizes control of her own E! True Hollywood Story. [Buffalo News]
The only difference between the Rao’s in New York and the Rao’s in Las Vegas: The latter has a terrace overlooking the Caesar’s Palace hotel pool. And you can actually eat at the Vegas location. [NYS]
Is There a Warrant Out on Jason Neroni?The owner of Porchetta claims that not only was Jason Neroni fired but that the termination was for misappropriation of funds — and there’s a warrant out for his arrest. (If so, the Desperate Chef is hiding in plain sight, as we just saw him last night at the TONY awards.) [Eater]
Nearly everyone got an award at last night’s Time Out New York food awards, including Per Se for Best Splurge and A Voce for New Restaurant of the Year. But the Russian Tea Room for Best Reopening? Those manipulated blurbs must be working. [TONY]
Talk about gross dereliction: The Department of Health, it turns out, ignored complaints about that KFC–Taco Bell for two months before sending an inspector — who did such a bad job that she would have been fired had she not just quit. [NYP]
Hark! James Beard Award NominationsAfter much speculation, the 2007 nominees for the James Beard Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant world, are in. Adam Platt, Rob Patronite, Robin Raisfeld, and Grub Street all filled out Beard brackets (or at least revealed whom we’d like to see win) on Friday. Here’s how the academy’s coming down.
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Time to Fill Out Our James Beard BracketsThe nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.
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The Great Chef CrisisRecently, apropos nothing much, a prominent young chef we were chatting with launched into a tirade about the restaurant world’s “labor problem.” “None of us can get enough good cooks!” he exclaimed, by way of explanation. Between 2000 and 2006, only a handful of high-end restaurants — Lespinasse, Meigas, Quilty’s — have closed, and there has been an avalanche of major openings: Robuchon, Ramsay, Per Se, Masa, Craft, Del Posto, Morimoto, A Voce, the Modern, Lever House, Buddakan, Cafe Gray, Alto — the list goes on and on. “And it’s not just the massive boom of restaurants,” Adam Platt tells us. “They also have to be either bigger, or chefs have to open multiple places, so that they can enjoy the economies of scale they need to compete.”
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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.
In the Magazine
New Year’s Eve: Where to Eat Before You Get HammeredThe usual New Year’s Eve drill, of course, is to get hammered at a party while noshing away at whatever happens to be put out. This year, why not preface the evening with a real meal, sending out the old with one last act of gluttony? In one of this week’s Short Lists —
“Out With a Bang” — Rob and Robin suggest the most extravagant NYE dinner options. For those of us who have made resolutions to spend something less than $650 on holiday meals, there are some other possibilities more likely to fall within your credit limit.
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New York Chefs Tell of Nightmarish BeginningsKimberly Witherspoon and Peter Meehan’s fine new book, How I Learned to Cook, is a collection of first-person accounts of celebrated chefs’ rocky beginnings. Some of the best chapters are by New York cooks: Andrew Carmellini of A Voce, Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, David Chang of Momofuku and Ssäm Bar, and Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. In case you have any doubts about adding it to your Amazon wish list, here’s a breakdown of the hometown highlights.
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Delays at Park Chinois, Flood at E.U., Another BLTYau’s Park Chinois not ready for prime time. [Eater]
Pipes, owner’s blood vessel burst at E.U.[Eater]
Ray-Ray’s husband a foot freak? [Chow]
Bye-bye, Tang Tang. [This Is What We Do Now]
Sushi Sasabune: Menu, shmenu. [Strong Buzz]
Pork fiends, drink this. [NYT]
Chocoholics, go here. [ Gothamist]
Travel + Leisure’s top 50: usual suspects, plus news of yet another BLT, as Tourondel jumps on the “market-driven” bandwagon. [Travel + Leisure]
Wine authors order $11 bottle at A Voce. [NYP]
What to Eat Tonight
How to Make Women More Tender, for Only $2,400 Per Pound
Alexandre Dumas reckoned that white truffles can, “on certain occasions, make women more tender and men more lovable.” We would hope so — the ‘shrooms, imported from Piemonte, Italy, were selling last week for as much as $2,400 per pound. If you’re going to throw down for some, you best leave their preparation to the city’s top Italian chefs. (Or, better yet, go straight to the source — here’s our five-point Piemonte Weekend Escape Plan.)
Wait until you hear what these cooks are doing with truffles (hint: it doesn’t involve pizza).
Finally, a Restaurant Blog We Can Bear EndorsingFrankly, we’re not always flattered to be part of that great, wide, amateurish group of people known as food bloggers. But some blogs we very much admire — like Augieland, based in our own fair city (though sometimes Augie, as the man called himself when we got in touch, does write from the road, too). It’s easy to say whether you love or hate a restaurant. But on this particular site, there’s always a wealth of physical detail: “The starchy thickness of the tartares made the thin chips useless for scooping them, leaving the three of us to use chopsticks to scoop bits onto the chips,” reads a copiously illustrated review of Japonais. But all that work doesn’t mean no play: Augieland doles out ratings using stars seemingly from another galaxy (A Voce earns 211 lewinskibillion stars) and supplements reviews with random, highly enjoyable rants and wonky features, like this one on the quest to make a perfect baguette.