City to Reenact Calorie-Display Rule; Bloodbath Near Spotlight LiveThe city’s Board of Health is set to reenact its legally contested rule requiring all restaurants with fifteen or more eateries nationwide to post the caloric value of food items on their menus. [NYDN]
Related: Fast-Food Biz Wins Fight Against City Hall
Restaurants and nightclubs currently owe the city $14 million in health-code violation fines, which means that high-roller venues like the Rainbow Room can get away with stiffing the city out of $50. [NYP]
Times Square’s Spotlight Live became the latest scene of club violence when one man was killed and five others stabbed there yesterday morning. [NYDN]
Dave Chappelle Tiffs With the Wife at Coffee Shop, ‘Entourage’-ers
This week’s juiciest bit of celeb-sighting gossip was, of course, the Post’s report that after a performer dumped a drink on Demi and Ashton, Box honcho Simon Hammerstein sent an e-mail to his partner and a GM saying, “I can’t stand those two” — apparently because they’re “so far up their own arses” and “don’t spend anything” — “and I applaud whoever spilt a drink on them.” We’re thinking Kid Rock got kinder treatment when he went to Southern Hospitality, or there would’ve been a Tommy Lee–style throwdown.
Eight-Cent Falafels Worth Every Penny in the East Village; Chris Lee Has aCobble Hill: Sahadi’s might have a fancy new sign to flaunt at Trader Joe’s, but are they cutting corners to compete? The Brooklyn Paper reports that customers are “fuming that the grocer has replaced the classic glass jars with generic plastic containers in the nuts, dried fruits and candies section.” [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
East Village: Next Friday, Tasty Falafel on St. Marks Place will sell sandwiches for 8 cents each from 4 to 9 p.m. and host a falafel-eating contest at 6. [Gridskipper]
Lower East Side: A new wine bar is on the way, and Gino and Guido are now accepting applications in the TRE space at 173 Ludlow. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Midtown East: Gilt has announced that chef Chris Lee has spent $8,000 on a 1.51-pound white truffle, which is “significantly larger than the truffle that Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque won in a highly publicized October bidding.” We wonder what GM Elli Jafari thinks about that tougher tuber. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Upper East Side: Serendipity 3 has pushed back its reopening from tonight to December 5, after being closed by the DOH. [Eater]
Who Is Le Cirque’s Mystery Ragamuffin?Brave is the man who strolls into Le Cirque without a jacket: Woody Allen once made the front page of the Post when he was turned away after doing just that, and Frank Zappa, upon being forced to wear one, famously told Sirio, “This better be the best fucking meal of my life … If I don’t like this meal, you’re paying for the suit.” (They went on to become buddies.) We were intrigued, then, when the subject of yesterday’s Ask a Waiter column, Elli Jafari, told us that to this day, just one man is allowed to break the rules. “He normally wears a sweater and a vest,” is all she would give us. “He’s one of the richest people in New York City.” Any Le Cirque regulars — or astute hypothesizers — want to speculate as to who this frowsy fat cat might be? Here’s a clue: We hear his personal life isn’t so perfect. Your guesses in the comments below, please.
Earlier: Elli Jafari Tells You How to Order Like a VIP at Le Cirque
Ask a Waiter
Elli Jafari Tells You How to Order Like a VIP at Le Cirque
Elli Jafari helped open Spago in San Francisco, the Bellagio in Vegas, and Pearl and Nikki Beach in Miami before eventually moving to New York to help open Aer in the meatpacking district. Six months ago she landed the job of GM at Le Cirque. She was at first intimidated by “Sirio’s people,” as the 30-year regulars are called, but they took kindly to her during her first month on the job. And who wouldn’t? We asked her how she navigates the world of VIPs and “Super Super VIPs.”
Have White Truffles Finally Gone Too Far?We have some bad news. The bagel, that beloved, affordable symbol of New York cuisine, has gentrified. Chef Frank Tujague of the Westin hotel in Times Square (where else?) has unveiled the $1,000 white-truffle bagel, “topped with white truffle cream cheese and goji berry infused Riesling jelly with golden leaves.” Now we love all truffles, far too much to ever be so rash as to declare them to be so over, and there may not be a thing on earth that’s not improved by them (we’ve even considered using truffle oil as conditioner — it probably works wonders for split ends). But now that truffles are toying with the doughy purity of simple bagels, we have to wonder: Is this white-truffle thing not getting just a bit too precious?
Are Tuscan Chefs That Good? Find Out This WeekOn the list of people we want to see destroyed, the recently returned Tuscan tourist ranks high. Everyone has met this person. Nothing is quite the same as it is in Italy; “the pasta we have here just doesn’t compare…” “the ingredients are handled with such simplicity…” and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, they have the same flour, olive oil, and wooden spoons in both places, so what’s the big deal? We aim to find out this week, when “Five Days to Taste Tuscany’s Maremma” hits New York.
Gordo Envisions Demise of Bruni; David Burke Scores Cabaret LicenseGordo scoffs at Frank Bruni for panning his restaurant after the Times critic called to “schmarm” him and ask about a dish since “if you don’t know what you’re criticising, then don’t write about it.” But the snappy chef still feels generous toward food critics: He’ll “do all the canapés at their funerals free of charge.” [Daily Star]
David Burke just acquired a cabaret license for Hawaiian Tropic Zone, though thankfully it won’t be Burke himself doing the dancing but rather professionals copying the Pussycat Dolls. [NYP]
Smart small businesses like Little Cupcake Bake Shop in Bay Ridge are leading the green front because they can “benefit from conservation efforts in two ways — by saving money on their monthly utility bills and by raising their profile in the community for much less money than they might spend on local advertising.” [NYT]
Come Summer, a New Look for DanielDaniel, arguably the grandest of the city’s top dining rooms is planning a rehab, though it won’t be until the summer. Though neither the restaurant nor its patrons are dissatisfied with the current room (and why would they be? It looks like the gateway to the afterlife, circa 1895!), the renovation will keep the place fresh. “Upper East Side ladies get their face-lifts before they’re needed,” spokeswoman Georgette Farkas tells us. “It’s something we’ve been thinking about. But Daniel doesn’t want to do anything too revolutionary.” Farkas wouldn’t name names, but a source close to the restaurant says designer Adam Tihany, who did Le Cirque 3.0 and Osteria del Circo, is topping the short list of candidates. In the meantime, the Daniel empire has plenty to keep it busy: Bar Boulud is still slated for a December opening; Maison Boulud, in Bejing, will open in March; and Boulud’s downtown burger bar is, sadly, still unnamed.
Related: Exclusive: Feast Your Eyes on Bar Boulud, Coming in November
The Annotated Dish
A ‘Clean, Elegant’ Lamb Trio at Le CirqueChristophe Bellanca, the new chef at Le Cirque, is a veteran of a number of Michelin-starred kitchens in France, and his work at the venerable restaurant shows off classical French technique in spades. Everything is pared down to its most basic essence, and even dishes like this lamb trio seem elemental in a very purified, austere way. “I wanted something that was interesting, clean, and elegant,” the chef says, and he got it. As always, mouse over the different sections of the image to hear it described in Bellanca’s own words.
Back of the House
Recent ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner Stands By Her ChickenSara Mair could not escape elimination on last night’s Top Chef when she began the episode by serving Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque an undercooked potato-wrapped sea bass and concluded with poorly flavored and undercooked chicken for deans of the French Culinary Institute. Today she talks to us about reconciling with Howie and Hung’s lack of heart.
Ask a Waiter
Chris Wilgos of Gilt Serves the Anonymous Superrich
Under chef Christopher Lee, Chris Wilgos worked his way up from a runner to a captain at Philadelphia’s premier restaurant, the Striped Bass. When Lee replaced chef Paul Liebrandt at Gilt about a year ago, Wilgos followed. He’s been waiting tables and acting here ever since. We asked him about his wealthy clientele and those who yearn for Le Cirque.
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]
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Restaurant BusinessDid you know that Daniel has closed-circuit cameras watching every plate? That’s one of ten dark secrets of the restaurant business [SmartMoney]
How good can a pizza delivered to New York from Oregon be? Pretty damn good, apparently. [Serious Eats]
Balthazar’s not all that — and not just because it’s busy, either. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Going for Gold in the Gilt RestroomsFirst Le Cirque 2000 was out at the over-the-top opulent Palace Hotel and Gilt was in; then foam fiend Paul Liebrant was out, along with his wallet-busting lunches, and the more sedate Christopher Lee was in. We wondered how the bathrooms were surviving the changes (had the toilets been sold on eBay along with the bar?), so we slipped into the surprisingly shabby stairwell leading to a carpeted hallway.
Back of the House
Restaurants Not Feeling the Love Last Night; Menu Secrets Kept From RiffraffA brutal Valentine’s Day for New York restaurants, battered by cancellations owing to the lousy weather. [WCBS]
Many of the city’s best restaurants have off-the-menu specials: foie gras donuts at Telepan, Daniel Boulud’s lobster ravioli at Le Cirque, and more, all revealed here. [Restaurant Girl]
Chocolate, of all things, turns out to be New York’s No. 1 specialty-food export — if you eat it on the East Coast, chances are it came from here. Food processing is “by far the most stable major manufacturing sector” in the city, and one of the last. [NYT]
Children: Can’t Live With ‘Em, Can’t Not Take ‘Em toRestaurant critics suffer all kinds of afflictions as a result of their curious jobs, but solitude isn’t one of them. The Gobbler’s 3-year-old daughter, Penelope, is just beginning to terrorize waiters around town, and we recently included an abbreviated list of our 7-year-old daughter Jane’s favorite dessert joints in the magazine’s roundup of the best places to eat in 2007. Since then we have been barraged with requests for tips — okay, one person wanted to know — on how to dine out in restaurants with young children. The short answer is that it’s easy, sort of. In the Gobbler’s experience, most restaurants in the city, including many of the very expensive ones like Le Bernardin and Le Cirque, will go out of their way to accommodate young children. All you need as a parent is experience, endurance, and a high capacity for shame. And the Gobbler’s rules for dining with kids.
The Other Critics
The Amateur Gourmet Goes Power Mad
Everyone likes a free meal, and bloggers are especially adept at schnorring them from restaurants who hope for good publicity in return. But no one does it with quite the audacity of the Amateur Gourmet, the world-class mooch whose Wellfed food-blog award we recently lauded. In a new post on Serious Eats, the Gourmet treats us to an especially shocking dose of his trademark hubris.
Ask a Waiter
Daniel’s Bernard Vrod Serves Presidents, Gets Wife Free Meals
An ex-pat of gloomy Brittany like so many classic French waiters, Bernard Vrod has been working under fellow farmboy Daniel Boulud for sixteen years, first as a waiter at Le Cirque and, these days, as a maitre d’ at Daniel. We asked him to take us into the latter’s hallowed halls and got tales of Secret Service shakedowns, fowl on the floor, and marriage proposals nearly gone awry.