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Week of April 15, 2002

Water Torture
Restaurants have a new weapon in the bottled-water war, a tactic they're betting will make the most penny-pinching diner pony up for Pellegrino: good old-fashioned guilt. Now that the city is officially experiencing a drought, requesting tap water in certain upscale restaurants has become an environmental offense, tantamount to leaving the lights and air-conditioning on during an energy crisis. According to city officials, restaurants are required to abstain from pouring tap water unless requested, but rumors are circulating about certain places that won't serve it at all. And even though there's no legal obligation to provide drinking water on request, "It's a rather poor business decision not to," says Chuck Hunt of the New York Restaurant Association. (More water is used to wash dishes and cook than to hydrate parched diners, so it might be more environmentally correct for waiters to refrain from replacing the silverware after every bite.) We appreciate the fact that restaurants like Fiamma and Tavern on the Green have slashed their exorbitant boutique-water prices, but we reserve the right not to buy it. Let's pray for rain, and in the meantime, we'll resist the hard sell, swig our beer out of the bottle, and ration our showers. Even the Department of Environmental Protection frowns on up-selling disguised as conservation. It might not be illegal, says DEP chief of staff Charles Sturcken. "But to me, it's a moral issue."— ROBIN RAISFELD


best of the week
Share Our Strength
These evenings hosted by chef Daniel Boulud at Daniel, Café Boulud, and DB Bistro Moderne come with hefty price tags (as much as $1,000 per plate), but the cause couldn't be worthier: All three dinners raise money for the anti-hunger group Share Our Strength. (April 21; for ticket information, call 800-969-4767.)

Ask Gael
Is Blue Smoke the way to hog heaven?
We junk-food freaks and certified fressers have been pawing the pavement impatiently since Danny Meyer promised us Blue Smoke. And the place, dim and funky, feels good -- with precious old photos (especially young Satchmo eating ribs), big band wailing on the juke, and the sexy jazz parlor below. Sublimely greasy fry bread, burnt-ends chili, iceberg wedges with Roquefort-bacon dressing, and a basket of fries soothe the savage beast to start. But it's the smoked and grilled salmon with fragrant hominy that takes the prize tonight. What's with these wimpy ribs? This is not the down-and-dirty folk food of our fantasies. Uptight and proper, this is white-collar barbecue. Looking at his spiffy casual dress, I find it hard to believe that Meyer, growing up in St. Louis, ever got grease on his face. But looks are deceiving. And ever a stickler for perfection, he reminds us: "It's a work in progress."
Blue Smoke
116 East 27th Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of April 8
Au naturel dining; is Paris unfair to our homeboy Jean Georges?
Week of April 1
Cabaret at Café Sabarsky; the latest in couture food
Week of March 18
Mugsy's Patio dining; Gael indulges at Orsay

and more ...

Photo: Kenneth Chen

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