Red Hook Vendors: Safe for Six Years, But in What Form?The forces of good have triumphed! The Parks Department has issued a permit to the Red Hook food vendors, ensuring deliciousness at the Red Hook ball fields for at least another six years. But the vendors aren’t out of the woods yet. “Two hours ago I got a call from Parks saying we won the bid,” Carlos Fuentes, the vendors’ leader, tells us. “This has been an uphill battle. It’s by no means an end. It’s a big victory though. Now the biggest challenge is DOH compliance. In winning the bid we understood that we need to comply with health regulations. It might change the character of the affair — the ethnic, rustic, mercado style. We may have to turn into a more generic type of activity. We need to look at options in hopes of trying to find a way to preserve what we already had.”
Red Hook Vendors Bid for Ball FieldsIf Red Hook vendors want to cook at the ball fields, they’ll have to use approved food-preparation carts, according to a report in the Daily News. The city Parks Department is now accepting bids from vendors, but the traditional mom-and-pop stands may not be able to afford the upgrade. Plus, are those carts even suitable for the kind of deliciousness served in Red Hook? One vendor, who requires four grills to make her pupusas, says no: “We’re not just boiling hot dogs.” You said it, lady. The city will award vendor permits at the end of February.
New Rules May Grill Taco Stands [NYDN]
Earlier: Grub Street’s complete coverage of the Red Hook vendors.
Bourdain to Cook at Les Halles, Yearns for Giant Food CourtsTony Bourdain was at the Union Square Barnes & Noble last night to do a joint reading and signing with Michael Ruhlman, author of The Elements of Cooking. Interviewing Bourdain is effortless: The man is a nonstop font of opinions and bons mots, so we just took out our notebook and started writing. What, for instance, did he think of the reopening of his favorite bar, Siberia? (“When Siberia closed my life as an alcoholic ended,” he said wistfully. “Tracey [Westmoreland] is a man of many mysteries. I’m skeptical. Siberia reopening? [Sarcastically] Yeah, I’d like to see that.” Bourdain also told us that, sometime in the next two weeks, he was going to go back for one night to his old job at Les Halles, personally working the sauté station on a crowded night for his TV show, No Reservations. And he would not be alone back in the trenches: A few feet away, Eric Ripert would be working the grill station, cooking meat all night.
Given all of his travels, what does Bourdain think New York needs? A giant food court, of course.
Another Look at Bar BouludDavid Bouley is expanding his Tribeca empire with “an upscale Japanese-themed restaurant called Brushstrokes” which will take over the soon-to-be-former Delphi space. [NYS]
Gael Greene was on hand for last night’s first taste of Bar Boulud even though the opening has been pushed back a month or so. [Food Writer’s Diary/Nation’s Restaurant News]
Related: Exclusive: Feast Your Eyes on Bar Boulud, Coming in November
The next Next Iron Chef challenge is “cooking gourmet airline food with all the constraints of airline galleys. Holy smokes. It’s the exact same challenge as Top Chef.” [Serious Eats]
Red Hook Spokesman Strikes Back, Puts Down CoupThe Times reported dissension among the Red Hook vendors, and we were surprised. But not as surprised as Cesar Fuentes, who was furious when we talked with him over the weekend. “This wasn’t really dissension,” Fuentes says. “It was more of a coup d’état.” Seriously? What’s going on in Red Hook?
Senator Schumer Springs to the Red Hook Vendors’ Defense AgainAnother weekend went by without incident for the Red Hook food vendors, and don’t think we’re not happy about it. We’re grateful, too, because there’s reason to believe that the intervention of Senator Chuck Schumer halted the bulldozers of the Department of Health, much as he did the incipient threat from the Parks Department some weeks ago. Vendor representative Cesar Fuentes tells us that Schumer wrote Dr. Thomas Frieden, the department’s commissioner, thanking them for consideration and leniency. Fuentes, though, doesn’t feel that the vendors are out of the woods and not just because of the DOH: “As the deadline for our current TUA permit looms near, NYC Parks Dept. has not -as of yet- issued an extension for our operation to continue beyond Sept 8th and until the expected end of our season on Oct. 28th. As we are still hopeful this permit extension will be granted, we trust the Parks Dept. earlier decision to extend such permit is still in place -that it has not backed out of its decision, but just delayed it for unknown reasons…” The Parks Department to the left of them, the DOH to the right, on rode the food vendors.
Senator Schumer’s letter to the Department of Health [pdf]
Earlier: Red Hook Vendors Make It Official: Their Fingers Are Crossed
Thor Struck Down on the LES; Bruni Rides the Bull in Midtown West?Clinton Hill: Recent openings: Manee Thai from the owners of Myrtle Thai and Nuevo Latino spot Tamboril. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Coney Island: The world’s largest “lollypop” has been installed by an artist to commemorate Philip’s Candy (1930–2001). [Kinetic Carnival]
Long Island City: LIC Bar at 45-58 Vernon Boulevard is hosting a BBQ and free concert with local bands this Sunday from 4 to 7:30 p.m. [Joey in Astoria]
Lower East Side: Thor gets gutted with no warning. [Eater]
Midtown West: Frank Bruni contemplated riding the bull at Johnny Utah’s. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Prospect Heights: Rye with fresh blackberries, mint, and ginger beer, and gin with peaches and homemade thyme syrup are among cocktails available at Flatbush Farm Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. during a farmer’s-market tasting event. [A Brooklyn Life]
Red Hook Vendors Make It Official: Their Fingers Are Crossed
Cesar Fuentes, the official face of the Red Hook food vendors, released a statement today, detailing some of the specifics of the vendors’ arrangement with the Department of Health. Though there’s little here Cesar didn’t tell us about the other day, the upshot of it seems to be that the vendors and the DOH are trying to work it all out and that the former has a shot at not getting shut down before the season ends. We hope so. That isn’t to say it’s a lock, and we would feel better if the statement included word of an actual promise by the DOH not to break out the bleach and shutdown notices. But we’re pulling for them. The full release is below.
Merkat Busts Out Its Own Secret Room; Red Hook Vendors Safe Through FallMerkat has its own secret, PDT-style back room, Merkat Negre, with a chalkboard menu and a “young, pleasantly noisy crowd.” [Restaurant Girl]
A typical weekend for a Red Hook soccer-fields vendor involves endless prep work, setting up by 7:30 a.m., cooking all day, and breaking the stand down at night … [NYT]
But the vendors’ rituals are safe until October 28, thanks to the intercession of Senator Chuck Schumer. [Serious Eats]
Your Limousine-Riding Chef Friends Don’t Impress MeDear Grub Street, I’m glad that you got all your yuppie-ass chef friends to “vouch” for the ball fields on Grub Street. It’s so nice to see a bunch of privileged jerks who probably take a limo down there slumming it and “gettin’ real” with the working class of New York … It’s funny that I have been going to the ball fields nearly every weekend for seven years and until last summer never saw more than a few Anglos there. I certainly never saw you there or any of these famous “chefs.” Why should I care about what Tom Colicchio, Aaron Sanchez, and Zak Pelaccio say about the ball fields?Jason
Senator Schumer Stands Up for the Red Hook Ball Fields; Di Fara Set to ReopenSenator Chuck Schumer visits the Red Hook ball fields and stands up for the vendors in front of rolling cameras: “Removing this for something that might make a little more money for the City of New York makes no sense. We don’t want McDonald’s here.” [NYDN]
Earlier: Senator Schumer Springs to the Red Hook Ball-Fields’ Defense
Di Fara will reopen by the end of the week. But it isn’t clear what owner Dom DeMarco will be doing to prevent another closure. [AMNY]
FreshDirect has a rival in tiny, Long Island City–based Bread-n-Brie. Unlike FreshDirect, with its vast inventory, Bread-n-Brie goes to good markets and gets things for you upon request. [NYT]
Senator Schumer Springs to the Red Hook Ball-Fields’ DefenseApparently, the righteous outrage over the threat to the Red Hook ball fields has reached beyond Grub Street to Washington, D.C., causing Senator Charles Schumer (N.Y.) to leap into action. The senator, flanked by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and a brigade of top New York chefs, will appear at the ball fields tomorrow at 1 p.m. to criticize the Parks Department’s decision to make the vendors bid for permits. According to a media alert, Schumer feels these vendors “are a Brooklyn treasure … that should be preserved and supported, not subject to the City’s bottom line.” We and our friends in the food world said as much earlier this week. But we’re glad to have Senator Schumer on board. The vendors need all the help they can get. If you’re wondering what the fuss is all about, make sure to check out the Grub Street video tour of the ball fields.
Earlier:The Threat to Red Hook’s Street-Food Paradise Unites New York Foodies
Tour the Red Hook Ball Fields With Chef Aaron Sanchez
Tour the Red Hook Ball Fields With Chef Aaron Sanchez
The ad hoc Latin American food court at the Red Hook ball fields is one of New York’s great cultural centers, a place where anyone can go to experience South and Central American home cooking. The ideal person to guide you through it is Aaron Sanchez, one of the city’s top Latin chefs (Centrico, Paladar) and the author of La Comida Del Barrio: Latin-American Cooking in the USA. Aaron gave us an insider’s tour. If this doesn’t inspire you to get out to Red Hook this summer (here’s a map!), consider the following: The permit for the ball fields, which has been given to the vendors for many years, will be opened up by the Parks Department for bids from all comers in the fall. That means this summer could be your last chance to taste some of the best Latin American food in the city.
Related: The Threat to Red Hook Unites New York’s Foodies
Back of the House
The Threat to Red Hook’s Street-Food Paradise Unites New York FoodiesWhen we heard that the Latin American food vendors in Red Hook Park might lose their temporary-use permit at the end of the summer, the news hit us like a goat taco after a night of heavy drinking. And we weren’t alone. An animated Chowhound thread immediately formed (and was almost as quickly censored), and a protest site sprang into existence. Hidden within Red Hook, the vendors have created a community of cooking, a cultural exchange as much as a place to eat. (Click here to take a video tour with Paladar chef Aaron Sanchez.) We canvassed the city’s food elite for their take on the situation; here is what we heard.
Is This the Last Summer of the Red Hook Park Vendors?
Brace yourselves, Latin-food lovers: The Red Hook ball fields, home to the city’s most beloved cluster of food vendors, may be closing for good in September. The city, eager as ever for the fat stacks that only a bidding war by commercial concessions can offer, has given the vendors notice that their Temporary Use Agreement, the permit given to them by the Department of Parks and Recreation, won’t be renewed. The city wants to open the parks up for concession bids, which will almost certainly mean an end to the makeshift food stalls that have been operating there for over ten years.
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]
Mmmm, the Red Hook Ball Fields
Local asparagus, the Beard Awards, the shattered hopes of Knicks fans — there are a lot of unmistakable signs of spring in New York. But none trump the opening of the Red Hook Ball Fields, an explosion of ethnic home cooking and children’s soccer.
Restaurant High Trains Chefs of the Future; Les Halles Takes a BeatingWelcome to Food and Finance High, which trains New York’s future chefs and restaurateurs. They diligently study the work of Dave Thomas, the origins of pizza, and read Fast Food Nation in preparation for the job market. [NYT]
Les Halles is taking a beating: They’ve got a Department of Health closure uptown and construction troubles downtown . [NYP]
The Red Hook ball fields, home to one of the city’s greatest gatherings of Central and South American food vendors, may finally see the trucks roll in this Sunday. [Eat for Victory/VV]