Ethan Hawke Hits Qdoba; ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ Reunion at D’OrLast week Todd Barry told us he was a Chipotle man and we noted that a couple of respected chefs were too — but it seems Ethan Hawke, for one, prefers naked burritos to burrito bols, if a recent sighting at Qdoba Mexican Grill is any indicator. Are notable New Yorkers embracing casual dining chains? Lizzie Grubman did take her client Tailor Made to, um, the Olive Garden…
Ben Stiller Crashes a Party at Fiamma, Penélope Cruz Makes Out at
Every Friday a notable New Yorker tells us where they’ve been eating, but where are the rest of them chowing down? Starting this week we’ll sort through the gossip columns à la Ils Vont (RIP) to tell you who’s been seen where (casual sightings only — boring galas, vodka launches, and pluggy appearances don’t count). We’ll eventually compile a ranking of restaurants most often visited by celebs. Not that you care about that sort of thing! Oh, but if you do, won’t you please leave your own sightings in the comments?
Jody Williams’s Wine Bar Serving in the West VillageGreenwich Village: Send off truffle fever with a wine-sodden bang at Babbo’s December 3 Vintage series, which includes a white-truffle tasting menu with wine pairings discussed by Peter Jamros. [Grub Street]
Hell’s Kitchen: Kyotofu is hosting a seven-course dinner-and-dessert sake pairing tonight at 7 p.m. [Grub Street]
Midtown West: The Frederick’s space on West 58th Street will be transformed into Jour et Nuit, a French-American bistro offering, you guessed it, brasserie classics like croque monsieurs and moules frites. [Restaurant Girl]
Soho: Fiamma is a little too liberal with its “Napkins of Shame,” which according to Bruni are a “bit of patchwork that makes the table look clean again” to the embarrassment of the messy diner. The critic was subjected to one himself while on a date. [Diner’s Journal/NYT] The Vosges bacon-chocolate bar is accused of not reaching its potential and tasting “more like the barnyard than the pig and more like the rubber tree than the cocoa pod.” [Chop Talk/Epicurious]
West Village: Jody Williams is previewing her new enoteca and salumeria Gottino at Greenwich Avenue near Perry Street. [Eater] The chef’s main stage, Morandi, is also serving a Thanksgiving dinner of rosemary roasted turkey with fennel and bruschetta stuffing. Those looking for turkey alternatives can arrive early for regular breakfast. [Grub Street]
McNally Unites With the Workers of the WorldKeith McNally can appreciate the effectiveness of a good rally — you’ll recall he personally protested the billboard that’s going up atop the Gansevoort Hotel. So when workers rallied outside of Pastis over the restaurant’s use of provisions from Wild Edibles (which has been sued over allegations of unpaid overtime), you can bet McNally listened. Brandworkers International announced today that Balthazar, Schiller’s, Morandi, Pravda, and Lucky Strike will no longer use products from the company until the dispute is resolved. Comrade McNally, we’re heading to Pravda right now to toast you with a horseradish-and-poached-egg martini.
Earlier: Wild Edibles Gets Caught in the Net of the Law
Chef Roman à Clef: “I’m Not Abbe”Yesterday we speculated that Sympathy for the Restaurant Industry — a new site that is fictionalizing restaurant-industry players — was the work of PXThis blogger Abbe Diaz. The pillorying of Sam Mason, Keith McNally, et al sounded pretty much like e-mails from Abbe. But the author insists to us: “No, I’m not Abbe. She’s the original, the godmother of restaurant blogs and general awesomeness. I’m not worthy.” Hmm — suspiciously high praise.
Chef Roman à Clef Continues; Keith McNally PilloriedYesterday we treated you to the first chapter of a story seemingly based on Sam Mason and his trials and travails with Tailor. We can now confirm, after contacting the author — who is remaining anonymous (even to us!) because he or she is “notorious within the industry” — that the story is based on Mason and Johnny Iuzzini as well as other players. “Yes, I plan on continuing,” assures the well-connected scribe, “and yes, I have inside info. I’ve been getting a lot of mail, but I would never run anything that I hadn’t triple-checked to be true.”
Jody Williams Knows What to Do (and Not) With an Artichoke“I get a kick out of things that are so easy,” says Jody Williams, whose raw-artichoke salad at Morandi basically consists of the vegetable, some lemon juice, olive oil, and good cheese. Sometimes, especially in Italian cooking, the smartest thing a chef can do is get out of the way. Williams demonstrates the best possible method for making a perfect, simple summer dish in this Grub Street video.
Related: In Season: Local Artichokes [NYM]
The New York Diet
Designer Cynthia Rowley Indulges in Super-Cheesy ‘Afternoon
Cynthia Rowley may be one of the most recognizable names in fashion (this week she returned to Design Star as a judge, and next month she’ll launch Avon’s first designer colors line), but that doesn’t stop her from surreptitiously approaching restaurant diners when she spots them wearing her clothes. “It’s exciting,” she says. “I tell them, ‘Wow, that dress looks great on you.’” So what does she eat when she’s out on the town? And during hectic preparations for Fashion Week, how hard does she try to live up to her childhood nickname, Slim (the title of her recently published “fantasy memoir”)? We were relieved to discover she’s actually a voracious eater.
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.
Nello Buys ‘Page Six’ on the Cheap; Jody Williams Trying Not toNello’s Nello Ballan gives Richard Johnson a $1,000 gift, and fifteen “Page Six” mentions of Ballan’s restaurant later, the embattled gossip column has the devil to pay. [NYT]
Jody Williams claims not to have read Frank Bruni’s review of Morandi, though she knows that people are laying odds on the date of her departure. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Related: Not So Bene [NYM]
Restaurant-industry lobbyists express a not-unexpected disappointment with the federal minimum-wage increase passed by Congress, finding it “entirely out of place” in a war-spending bill. [Nation’s Restaurant News]
City Gears Up to Better Police Labor Violations; Beef Threatens Fish at LeCity Council to introduce a bill giving authorities more power to crack down on restaurant labor violations like the alleged ones at Saigon Grill. [MetroNY]
Related: 100 Students to Protest Saigon Grill [Grub Street]
Kobe beef, having once appeared on Le Bernardin’s menu, is taking over and chasing the fish away – a fact chef Eric Ripert is less than thrilled about. [NYP]
Bizarre details of Mr. Chow’s abuse emerge from the lawsuit, including information about one employee who was forced to lie on the floor and be menaced and even kicked by the diminutive restaurateur. [Gawker]
McNally Takes a Cheap Shot at BruniIn yet another retributive strike by a restaurateur against Frank Bruni (Jeffrey Chodorow’s much-discussed broadside being the first), Morandi owner Keith McNally has planted a letter with Eater accusing the Times critic of being biased against woman chefs. “Bruni had never given a female chef in Manhattan anything more than one star, ever,” McNally writes. The complaint goes on for a long time and seems unlike McNally, who has almost always stayed above the fray. What’s especially unseemly is the way the letter dwells on Bruni’s attitude toward gender (“…when the chef is a man Bruni often makes quite a song and dance about it.”) Given the amount of food-world speculation about Bruni’s sexual orientation, this seems like a low blow, especially since the Times’ review echoed a near-universal critical consensus about Morandi. Times dining editor Pete Wells, asked to comment about the letter, agrees, saying simply, “Frank’s review speaks for itself. Period.”
Keith McNally: Bruni Has ‘Unremittingly Sexist Slant’ [Eater]
The Other Critics
One Reluctant Star to Morandi, Big Ups to Fette SauHaving earlier disposed of Balthazar, Bruni moves on to Morandi and asks: “Is this tribute or burlesque?” Though he doesn’t dig the menu’s “greatest-hits approach,” he concedes Jody Williams’s food is “getting a worse rap than it deserves” (seems he read the Platt review). Final word: “Morandi can simply feel tired before its time, and not quite worth the struggle to get in and stay upright in the scrum.” [NYT]
Spiga, meanwhile, isn’t taking a traditional approach and suffers for it, according to Tables for Two. Chef Salvatore Corea has ideas, but “too many ideas, in some cases”— starting with the cocoa gnocchi. [NYer]
Sietsema brings his own Wonder bread to publicity-starved Fette Sau and finds baseball-bat beef ribs, spectacular brisket, damn good flank steak and shredded lamb “fragrant with the odor of pasturage.” [VV]
Related: Williamsburg’s Weird Barbecue Place
The Other Critics
Anthos Gets a Rave; More Knocks for MorandiRandall Lane gives Anthos its first full-out rave, granting the restaurant five of six stars and writing about it in adoring terms. It’s a rare move for Lane, and a good omen for the more powerful critics still to come. [TONY]
At times, Alan Richman likes the food at Morandi a lot, but when it’s late and the place gets busy, he considers it to be a kind of restaurant hell. He won’t be going back after 9 p.m. “any time in my life.” [Bloomberg]
Paul Adams felt much the same about Morandi, calling out its fine fried foods but dissing its heavy pastas, “theme park” atmosphere, and lousy entrées. It’s unanimous: The critics all dislike Morandi. Meanwhile, Keith McNally is crying all the way to the bank. [NYS]
Related: Not So Bene [NYM]
The Other Critics
Morandi Takes Another Hit; a Haute Barnyard SpreeThe Four Seasons gets perhaps the most negative two-star review in the history of the Times; Bruni seems to think the stars were grandfathered in. A telling example of how reputation floats reviews. [NYT]
Meehan, meanwhile, visits a chowhound’s paradise, a Hindu temple in Flushing. [NYT]
Morandi takes another blow, this time from Time Out’s Randall Lane, who like our own Adam Platt, finds it overdesigned and unimpressive, albeit with a few decent dishes. [TONY]
Related: Not So Bene [NYM]
In the Magazine
The Robs Go Oeuf Their Rockers, Platt Stops Short of Giving Morandi a Goose EggThis week’s magazine is an overflowing egg basket of fascinating features. First, Adam Platt proves himself a glutton for punishment: Just a week after successfully securing a table at the Waverly Inn without being a movie star (just the brother of one), he charges head first into the dining crunch at Morandi. Rob and Robin, meanwhile, take on the equally ambitious task of attempting the perfect poached egg — part of an “egg primer” that rounds up their favorite dishes and introduces us to specialty eggs that don’t exactly taste like chicken. Meanwhile, Gael Greene opts to down her egg in fish form at the newly opened counter at Wild Edibles.
The Annotated Dish
Morandi’s Deceptively Simple Duck Sandwich
Chef Jody Williams had made her mark as a master of Italian cuisine at Gusto when Keith McNally hired her to run the kitchen at Morandi. Like most of her cooking, this duck sandwich with quince and apple mostarda and green savoy cabbage appears simple and rustic but was created with a great deal of thought and technique. Mouse over the arrows for Jody Williams’s explanation of each ingredient.
Morandi Breaks Out the Breakfast Menu in the West VillageChelsea: Markt your calendars: New location set to open ahead of previous expectations — early this week, in fact. [Eater]
Dumbo: Things not looking so good for Bubby’s Brooklyn: “kids overran the joint.” [Brooklyn Record]
Gramercy: Yow! Gramercy Hotel’s rooftop bar opening soon? [Down by the Hipster]
Tribeca: Robert De Niro’s hotel, which will house an outpost of L.A. hot spot Ago, now has a name. Take note: “It will make the Bowery Hotel look like a Red Roof Inn.” [Down by the Hipster]
West Village: Perhaps trying to deflect attention away from that Times review of Balthazar, Morandi tells us it will roll out breakfast in a couple of weeks. [Grub Street]
The Other Critics
Dueling Views on Morandi; Varietal Taken to TaskMorandi gets absolutely slaughtered by Steve Cuozzo. Keith McNally has hardly received a bad review yet. [NYP]
Meanwhile, Moira Hodgson loves the place: “You’ll want to taste everything on this menu.” She seems to have liked all of it, with the possible exception of an overpriced veal chop. Did these two even go to the same restaurant? [NYO]
Bruni one-stars Varietal, calling the food creative but uneven and lambasting avant-garde dessert chef Jordan Kahn, who has enjoyed a lot of critical love. The desserts “don’t so much eschew convention as pummel and shatter it — literally, and often pointlessly.” [NYT]
Morandi Is On for Lunch: Care to See the Menu?Morandi, the love child of Keith McNally and Jody Williams, has started serving lunch. Allow us to show you the menu, which is available from noon until 3 p.m. weekdays (reservations are taken up to one week in advance) and features poached-salmon paninis, saltimbocca, and pollo alla diavola. Good as the food sounds, you may be more excited by the fact that, first, you’ll now be able to score a seat during civilized hours (we just asked for a one o’clock table tomorrow and felt no pain) and, second, the weather is nice enough for them to have thrown open the French doors. Better still: outdoor tables in the summer and brunch coming soon. —Daniel Maurer
Related: Restaurant Openings [NYM]