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Week of April 22, 2002

underground gourmet
Smoking Allowed
Danny "Blue Smoke" Meyer isn't the only city slicker with barbecue on the brain. Ron Crismon, the chef-owner of Bubby's in TriBeCa, recently returned from a Kerouackian 'cue crusade of his own, where he toured and tasted his way through Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Tupelo. (It's a wonder he and Meyer didn't cross paths in some piggy park along the way and trade smoking tips for Tums.) Although Crismon has served ribs before, he admits they were a pale imitation of the real thing. "Before the trip," he says, "I didn't even know what barbecue was. I thought it was Dallas BBQ." An epiphany came at a Texas brisket shack: "I walked into the place and was brought to my knees, weeping." Still, Crismon's biggest score was closer to home: After some sweet-talking, buttering-up, and outright begging, an Arkansan friend of a friend of his Arkansas-born fiancée-partner, Catherine McRae, agreed to give Bubby's the family recipe for a lip-smacking vinegar-based sauce invented by his grandfather, "Frog" Parker, a bush-league baseball catcher. Crismon plans to bottle it and cut the Parker family in on the profits; until then, you can squirt it over Bubby's delicious dry-rubbed pulled pork, the highlight of the new $21.95 all-you-can-eat barbecue plate, consisting of three sides and your choice of three meats, including smoky pork ribs; tasty chicken; sliced brisket; and the succulent pulled pork, all slow-cooked in a new hardwood smoker hidden away in Bubby's basement. If this keeps up, who knows? Future 'cue students may not have to hit the road to do their homework. — ROB PATRONITE
120 Hudson Street


best of the week
12th Annual Windows on Long Island Wine on April 29
All proceeds from this hugely popular tasting and silent auction-formerly held at Windows on the World, now at Guastavino's-will benefit Windows of Hope and the Earth Pledge Foundation. (April 29; $100 in advance, $125 at the door; for more information, call 212-725-6611, extension 225.)


new menu
Kind of Blue
It's been months since we heard that famed French chef Claude Troisgros (pictured) was checking out of the Delano to open a Manhattan branch of that Miami hotel's restaurant, Blue Door, at the Royalton. He must still be working on his tan, since he's postponed his move north until the end of the year. In the interim, to generate some South Beach sizzle at '44,' the Royalton has launched a new teaser of a three-course prix fixe menu called "Baby Blue" ($44 for lunch and pretheater; $55 after 7 p.m.), showcasing the chef's tropical French flair and his predilection for exotic fruits and crunchy caramelized nuts. Troisgros flew north to train the '44' kitchen to stuff ravioli with South American celery root, enliven a New York strip with jalapeño and wasabi, and thread scallops on a breadstick skewer for his "Saint Jacques stick."
44 West 44th Street


in print
Molto Mario
Now that Mario Batali has published The Babbo Cookbook (Clarkson Potter; $40), you too can learn the finer points of turning hog jowls into guanciale, ridding tripe of "the uric smell most people find objectionable," and testing the mettle of your butcher: "The real ones buy whole pigs on occasion and can save a head for a regular customer." To cook well, you must shop well-or, as Batali puts it, "Shop hard and shop smart." And even though there's enough pasta and antipasti to keep vegetarians happy, herbivores are clearly not Batali's target demographic. "Bottom line, find a butcher, make a friend, get your hands dirty, and let's have some dinner." In that case, you'll want wine, and as luck (and a mutual publisher) would have it, Batali's partner Joe Bastianich and Babbo wine director David Lynch have just collaborated on Vino Italiano ($35), a vastly informative, entertaining tome that breaks down the convoluted world of Italian wine by region, with detailed appendices on grape varieties, producers, importers, and retailers (including the Manhattan wine shop co-owned by Batali and Bastianich). With recipes by Batali and Joe's mother, Lidia, this might be the only wine book to ever make you hungry.


Ask Gael
Am I walking into a time warp?
With its intimations of the late, lamented Jams — waiters in suits, art (more or less) everywhere, and Jonathan Waxman himself tipping a sauté pan in the open kitchen — Washington Park is like coming home again. In this era of frippery, you almost gasp at the audacity: simple food, simply done. Just great produce and sparkling fish. Line-caught salmon, as rare as you wish. Striped bass with green garlic on cranberry beans. A perfect roast chicken with fries. There's a smart cornichon crunch in the sweet-pea gazpacho. And you can almost taste the garden in beet-and-blood-orange salad. Perhaps the rib eye could be thicker, the sundae more flamboyant. So many morels in the pasta call for more noodles (the Road Food Warrior's complaint). I miss strawberry-rhubarb pie, replaced one evening by a too-sweet crisp. But sorbets are smooth and tart, and the chocolate cake with its irresistible crackle cannot be denied.
Washington Park
24 Fifth Avenue

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of April 15
NYC's new water pressure; Is Blue Smoke the way to hog heaven?
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

and more ...

Photo: From top to bottom- Carina Salvi; Dasha Wright Ewing; Kenneth Chen (2)

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