Chef Counters on the Rise; Chefs Put in Their Time on the LineAs chefs and cooks take on more roles of service, they cut out more costs and create a more intimate dining experience, especially at restaurants with counters overlooking the food preparation. [NYT]
Related: Ringside Seats at the Chef’s Counter
Apparently, restaurants’ hanging of red velvet curtains in colder months signals metaphors of birth and womblike spaces for diners. Ew. [NYO]
Chefs like Akhtar Nawab of Elettaria and Josh Eden of Shorty’s.32 both spent years cooking on the line before being able to fly solo. [TONY]
Back of the House
The Mystery of the Pitmasters Stymies the ‘Times’The Times, touching on a story Grub Street broke when Moses was in short pants, had a big feature on the dearth of experienced pitmasters Sunday, pegged on GS pal Big Lou Elrose of Wildwood. The piece marvels at the quick ascent of Big Lou from working an Ozone Park lunch wagon to his current post, but in fact, Elrose’s bones were made as Adam Perry Lang’s right hand man in competition; the lunch wagon was just a lark. Still, the city’s top pitmasters are as baffling to food writers as they are to the general public. Their job is hard to understand, because nothing they do happens while customers are present to observe. The pitmaster’s art is exercised in the dead night, in secrecy and silence, and outside observers rarely get any glimpse of what it involves. There is one factor that never changes, though, and will always separate real pitmasters from merely titular ones.
Dom De Marco’s Hands of Steel; Smith’s Opens Tonight in the South VillageAstoria: The Sparrow’s pain perdu dessert is “basically a grilled chocolate croissant with homemade butterscotch syrup on it, with a dollop of real whipped cream on the side.” [Joey in Astoria]
Harlem: Doug E.’s Fresh Chicken and Waffles still isn’t ready to open. [Uptown Flavor]
Gramercy: Blue Smoke takes top honors in this roundup of the city’s best sweet-potato fries. [Gridskipper]
Greenwich Village: Smith’s from this week’s Openings starts serving tonight. [Eater]
Midwood: Yes, Dom De Marco’s pies at Di Fara’s are impressive, but what’s really cause for amazement is “his asbestos hands. That man can pull a square pie out of the oven, which must be about 800 degrees, with his bare hands.” [Eat for Victory/VV]
Nolita: Public’s butternut-squash soup with spiced marshmallows, crispy chickpeas, and pumpkin-seed oil is just one example in this list of fall dishes showing up all over town. [Restaurant Girl]
Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens: Meytex Lounge is now calling itself Meytex Cafe, but their tasty fried chicken hasn’t changed. [Across the Park]
Hard Times Drive Wall Street to Drink; Happy Birthday, Big MacThe unused Building D of Essex Street Market may get new life. Residents want low-rent housing there; city law compels the building to be used for food-related businesses. [NYT]
Two veterans of Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke will open Huckleberry Bar, described as “the bar at your favorite Danny Meyer restaurant” but in East Williamsburg. There will also be British and southern mix of small plates from a 5 Ninth alum, no doubt like the food at your favorite Zak Pelaccio restaurant. [Strong Buzz]
Hard liquor sales on Wall Street are up significantly since the stock market plummeted on August. 16, says one wine shop owner. [NYT]
Meatopia V: Grilled Gore and Guts The response to our Meatopia V contest has been overwhelming. Grub Street is populated by committed carnivores who have filled our meat cooler with brilliant ideas for next year’s edible animal gala. We’ll highlight some of the best throughout the day and announce the winners tomorrow. (Entry deadline is 6 p.m. today.) Here are three of our favorites.
In the Magazine
What Is Summer for But Barbecue, Ice Cream, and Vegetables?Summer’s end is already in sight: The All-Star Game is in the books, and another Fourth of July has passed without America being challenged by either the British or savage conquerors from another planet. All that remains are the most basic elements of summer eating: barbecue, ice cream, and fresh vegetables. And that happy trinity constitutes this week’s food section. Adam Platt finally finds barbecue happiness at Hill Country, so much so that the loquacious critic was reduced to declaring the ribs “really, really good.” Also on the subject of barbecue, Rob and Robin announce the debut of three more places, from a New Hampshire Yankee, a former boy-band star, and two ex–Blue Smoke cooks. The Robs also give the world their definitive list of the city’s top four ice-cream places (the best one rhymes with “Tom”). Finally, there’s a conspicuously healthy recipe for zucchini with mint and scallions via the Slow Food haven Franny’s, in (where else?) Park Slope.