Liberated Plutocrats Free to Swill Cheap WineThe rich keep getting richer: Word from one of our cognac-swilling, ascot-wearing friends is that caviar capital Petrossian, among the city’s most opulent spots, is waiving its corkage fees. This is actually quite a concession; most restaurants make their money from wine and liquor, of course, and a lot of top tables don’t let you bring your own wine in at all. “We don’t accept that, no,” a reservationist at Cru tells us helpfully, adding, “We do have an excellent wine selection.” Per Se, meanwhile, allows diners to bring their own — if they’re willing to shell out $90 a bottle to have it uncorked. In honor of their tax-breaks-for-the-rich generosity, we raise a glass to Petrossian — a glass of two-buck chuck, poured directly from a Trader Joe’s bag.
Text Messaging to Improve Midtown Worker-Drone Efficiency?
It’s not unusual for aggressive handbill men to slap flyers into our palms outside the Grub Street offices. But to actually try out a company whose ad we’ve just been handed — that’s positively extraordinary. Today, the unthinkable happened: We used Mobo, a new text-ahead restaurant service, whose handout has been sitting on our desk, to order lunch.
After creating an account with our credit card — this took about an hour to dope out — we found a participating nearby eatery, Two Boots at Rockefeller Center. (Mobo’s 25 participating restaurants all cluster in office areas.) We then ordered a small “Newman” pizza on our phone, via text message, while walking over that way. And sure enough, the food was waiting for us at pickup, already paid for. Mobo had actually worked, lending the smallest bit of convenience to the chaos that is our lunch hour. Of course, it would’ve been even easier if we’d just had something delivered.
Meanwhile, we await the day when someone figures out a way for us to digest lunch electronically. Then we’ll finally have a paperless office.
Meet Pawpaw for Dinner Tonight at SavoyThere are some southern specialties all the world loves, as our guide to local gulf-shrimp dishes makes clear. But some of these regional foods rarely make it past the Mason-Dixon line. Tonight, New Yorkers get the chance to sample an obscure treat: pawpaw, a large, tasty fruit, used in a variety of dishes. Savoy is hosting the second annual Betsy Lydon Slow Food Ark USA Award dinner. (Appropriately enough, the name’s a real mouthful.) Southern preparations like rabbit burgoo and Kentucky ham will complement pawpaw daiquiris and ice cream, as well as other recipes made with North America’s native tropical fruits. (The dinner, which costs $150, including tax and tip, starts at 6:30 p.m.)
In honor of the pawpaw, here’s our list of five of the most delicious southern foods you’ll find in New York.
Wanted: Restaurant CriticsReader reviews are back in full effect. We welcome you to share your opinions on places to eat, drink, and shop — in fact, you can comment on any of the site’s listings — but we’re guessing you’ll have the most to say about restaurants. Our critics, magisterial and all-knowing, have already delivered their verdicts. Now you can submit yours, whether it’s a “best friends forever” note (like mbean’s) or a full-force vituperation (like changeater88’s). Of course, terse, laconic types might prefer to punch in one-to-ten ratings for food, service, décor, and value. But we encourage you to express yourself, vehemently.
Chef Plans to Build a Better PigCesare Casella has always been a hands-on kind of guy. The Maremma chef, a leading light of Tuscan cookery in America, imports his own beans and makes his own sausages. It only follows, then, that sooner or later he’d invent his own pig. Casella is breeding the Large Black, the tastiest breed of swine we’ve ever eaten, with a Yorkshire-Duroc crossbreed, the most durable and healthy. Their offspring are being mated with Large Blacks, creating a pig that grows fast, lives long, causes little trouble, and tastes better than you can imagine — or at least, that’s the idea. The pigs will appear first at Maremma — after the current generation, which is still young, begins producing offspring at the end of this year or in early ‘07 — and later at other restaurants around town.
Lots of chefs create new pork dishes, but how many create new pigs? (It’s almost like Pygmalion. Except Higgins never ate Eliza.)
What to Eat Tonight
Gulf Shrimp Make a Comeback
You can’t keep good shrimp down. Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped out the tasty specimens inhabiting the gulf, but replenished stocks mean that in the past week white shrimps have begun to reappear in New York. Big and sweet, with a hint of iodine, the fall shrimp are the best of the year. (Their brown brethren, which were brought in over the summer, also have a certain charm.) Here’s a short list of restaurants that buy them fresh from Louisiana.
The Other Critics
Chef Goes From ‘Gag’ to GreatThis week, the food scribes turned in more raves than rants. Naturally, we lead with a rant.
• Frank Bruni, bucking the beau monde and betting odds, comes down with both feet on Freemans, the hipster hideaway beloved by downtown boulevardiers. (NYT)
‘Food Talk’ Finally Finds the Right Voice
WOR’s “Food Talk” radio show never quite recovered from the loss of its longtime host Arthur Schwartz. Like the CBS Evening News after Walter Cronkite or the Celtics after Larry Bird, “Food Talk” got by, but the magic was gone. Hiring celebrity chefs like Rocco DiSpirito and Tyler Florence to discuss home cooking, rather than the New York restaurant scene, didn’t help. Now, in a more promising move, WOR has brought on Mike Colameco, late of Colameco’s Food Show on PBS.
Exotic Dessert (Supposedly) Enrapturing New Yorkers
We’re not usually in the habit of perusing Indian news media — other than when the latest Amitabh movie opens, of course — but a food item recently caught our eye. Most New Yorkers probably have never heard of kulfi, the ultra-dense Indian version of ice cream that’s traditionally made with water buffalo milk. But don’t tell that to Mumbai Newsline, who published an exuberant feature last week on how the obscure dessert is supposedly taking the city by storm. The piece references NYC’s handful of outstanding Indian and pan-asian restaurnants, including Devi, Spice Market, 66, and Tabla, going into loving detail relating the restaurants’ particular recipes. Although the writer admits that “the man on the street” isn’t yet fixated on the treat, the piece implies that a kulfi craze may well overtake the nation: “Could we be seeing the next popsicle?”
Let’s hope so — for Mumbai’s sake.
Update: Ex-Waitress Swats Back, Suing Megu for Sex HarassmentA sexual-harassment lawsuit filed today by a former waitress for Megu, the Tribeca outpost of the high-end Japanese restaurant empire, is hot enough to melt the place’s trademark Buddha ice sculpture. The ex-waitress, Satomi Southward, a 31-year-old single mother described by her lawyer as “demure, pretty, with long hair,” is seeking $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages from the restaurant (which earned two stars from the Times) and its parent company, Food Scope America. Her complaint lists a variety of unappetizing behaviors, some of which involve the kitchen utensils, one of which involved felony sexual abuse charges being filed, and all of which were, she alleges, tolerated by the owners of the restaurant, who she accuses of having a yen to keep more than the sushi fresh around there. Food Scope president Hiro Nishida did not immediately return calls for comment, and efforts to reach the company’s lawyers were unsuccessful.
Eater Scores With Ducasse Scoop, Restaurateur on BruniOur friends at Eater have been on fire this week. First, they broke the story of Alain Ducasse’s closing, a plum scoop if ever there was one. And yesterday, they posted a first-person account, written by William Tigertt of Freemans, of what a restaurant owner goes through when the Sultan of Bruni visits. (Tigertt’s a real asset: His booze-markup piece gave drinkers plenty to fume about last week.)
The Godzilla RatioIntroducing Adam Platt’s periodic Internet musings, under the pseudonym of the Gobbler.
Restaurant critics are used to operating under assumed names (even if we’re usually recognized), so let me explain the etymology of Gobbler. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (online edition), “to gobble” means “to swallow or eat greedily.” Likewise, a “gobbler” is “a male turkey,” or “one that gobbles.” It’s as fitting a designation as any for someone whose job it is to sit in spangled, overpriced restaurants all night, and sometimes all day, sipping ridiculously festive cocktail drinks, taking not-so-surreptitious notes under the table, smiling wearily as the sixteenth foie gras preparation of the week comes clattering down on the table.
City’s Chinese Brasseries DoubleFact: Chinatown Brasserie, an out-and-out Chinese restaurant without, happily, even a hint of French fusion, opened in August and has done a fairly brisk business ever since.
Fact: Mainland, one of Chinatown Brasserie’s primary rivals in the high-end-Chinese sweepstakes, announced last week that they’re morphing into …Ollie’s Brasserie.
It’s Raining MenusWe slave away here at Grub Street to bring you the punchiest posts and whitest-hot food news every day. But the sober fact, and we know it, is that a lot of people come to the restaurant page to read our encyclopedic food listings.
So we’re giving these a major upgrade. In addition to the reviews by our food writers, you’ll now find hundreds of menus in our listings. The restaurants included range from some of the city’s best and most popular — the Spotted Pig, Felidia, 5 Ninth — to humble takeout operations like the Mee Noodle Shop and Grill and Philly Slim’s Cheesesteaks. Soon we’ll even have a menu search engine.
Do you own a restaurant and wonder why your menu isn’t on our site? Send it to us!
Here’s a sample list: a menu of menus.
Don’t Eat the Spinach! (Try These Greens Instead.)In a stunning rebuke to vegetarians everywhere, sinister germ E. coli, known for its frequent appearances in gnarly fast-food hamburgers, has appeared in spinach. The government has quarantined the nation’s supply, but demand hasn’t completely waned. Who besides Bluto (and possibly Wimpy) would be cheered by this crisis? From spanakopita to creamed spinach, it’s one vegetable everybody seems to love.
And so we turn to “At the Greenmarket” writer Zoe Singer, who suggests the following replacements:
The Underground Gourmet
The Latest Gourmet Food Cart Is Here
There are two types of New Yorkers, the Underground Gourmet has always thought. There are those for whom eating a street-vendor hot dog (a.k.a. dirty-water dog) is an urban rite of passage, not to mention a show of defiance in this age of culinary correctness. And then there are those for whom it is an indication of mental incapacity, a deviant act that should best be left to ne’er-do-wells and unsuspecting tourists or healthy adults caught up in an emergency situation — like being locked overnight in a bank vault with a cache of Sabretts. Jeremy Spector, the chef of Employees Only, falls into the latter camp.
At the Greenmarket
Fragrant Eggplants and Chiles That Don’t Sting
The Union Square Greenmarket celebrated its 30th birthday this past Saturday, and fall officially begins at the end of the week. While the forward-thinking are canning tomatoes and hedonists are gorging on peaches and corn, farmers are talking about the Frost. Upstate farms could experience a nighttime freeze by October, but until then, the late-summer parade continues.
Hollywood Desserts and Soho GoblinsThis week in the magazine, Rob and Robin track two openings: the wildly successful Hollywood frozen-yogurt chain Pinkberry, and Goblin Market, a new Soho eatery named after lascivious young men in a poem by Christina Rossetti. Pinkberry, they report, is “the talk of the L.A. food blogs.” We tracked down a few of those blogs.