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Week of July 1, 2002

A Little Bit Country
This summer, after more than a decade of plying New York with palmiers and pains au chocolat, Maury Rubin, French-trained pastry chef and owner of the highly urbane City Bakery, reveals his inner hayseed at the first annual City Bakery State Fair. "It's a nice turn into this American arena," he says -- not to mention a great way to add a line of heartlandish fruit pies to his repertoire. From July 10 through 20, Rubin plans to carpet the place with hay, erect a picket fence around the checkout counters, paper the mezzanine walls with spin art, and indulge his city-slicker clientele's appetite for corn dogs, corn on the cob, and farmer's lemonade (tinged with a drop of cream).

The festivities culminate on July 17, the Night of Food Games, when a $45 ticket ($10 for kids) buys you unlimited servings of the state-fair menu, plus fried chicken, cotton candy, and beer floats; western swing from the band Cowboy Jive; and amusement-park attractions like the mallet swing. And starting this week, aspiring competitive eaters and expert expectorators can sign up to participate in three contests that Rubin's been impishly plotting for months. In the two-person marshmallow toss, one partner takes aim (through a tart-ring hoop) and attempts to lob a snack into a partner's open mouth. The watermelon-seed-spitting contest has mini lemon tarts for targets: Land your seed on the inch-wide pastry and you win a 100-tart year's supply. And finally, the peach-pie-eating contest, to be conducted three ways (all you can eat, all you can eat in two minutes, and blindfolded, in which, Rubin chuckles perversely, "you feed pie to your blindfolded partner until the relationship is over"). The evening will be emceed by Ira (This American Life) Glass, a first-grade chum of Rubin's. If this sounds like fun, just wait till next year. "I want to close 18th Street and truck some farm animals in from Wisconsin," says Rubin. "We're already working on it."—ROBIN RAISFELD
City Bakery
3 West 18th Street


object of desire
Cold Comfort
I taste. I shiver. I sit up straighter. My invisible antennae are trembling. I taste again. This cassata gelato with its confetti of glazed fruit and a collar of syrupy slices of confited orange is not merely seriously great ice cream. I try the nocciola, the coffee, the boldly tart ricotta—what can I say? With his stubborn devotion to old-world ways, Bussola's Gino Cammarata churns out classic gelato—lush, creamy, seductive, with pure essences of vanilla, hazelnut, espresso. Buy a cone or cup or even a pint in the annex next door, or settle at a table in the bar area to celebrate la dolce vita. Linger for espresso or a glass of prosecco and gelati-filled cannoli or the cocoa-dusted "porcini" or a dish of Sicilian pistachio. Definitely worth a detour if you're dining or bar-hopping nearby, or emerging from Off Broadway theater.—GAEL GREENE
Gino Cammarata
65 Fourth Avenue


Clambake Kid
There's no summertime feast more gloriously American than a clambake. That's why Jonathan Waxman, avatar of ingredient-driven American cuisine and chef-partner of the distinctly seasonal Washington Park, is celebrating Independence Day with a full-blown urban clambake at his restaurant this Thursday. Of course, Waxman won't be gathering driftwood or digging a fire pit on lower Fifth Avenue, those pesky environmental codes being what they are. But to get in the spirit, the staff will swap their boldly checked -- but not very beachy -- Thomas Pink shirts for polos and shorts, while Waxman will muster up an à la carte menu of seaweed-steamed Maine lobster, grilled corn with red-chili butter, cherrystone clams, and his signature JW fried chicken, plus a few twists like Montauk-bluefin-tuna steak, Texas-style barbecue ribs, and a dessert menu as unabashedly all-American as a Grucci fireworks display.
Washington Park
24 Fifth Avenue


Ask Gael
What is that hullabaloo south of Bleecker?
I've never quite understood what draws these passionate partisans to Da Silvano. Not the food, surely. And now with the launch of Da Silvano Cantinetta next door (pretty much the same Tuscan fare, arguably a tad cheaper), the sidewalk drama is hotter than ever. Happily, an awning catches tonight's drizzle so we can oogle the parade of Village effluvia. The kitchen blows hot and cold. I like chewy bread cubes in my panzanella, not this sodden mush, and the octopus is lazily bland and tastes like yesterday's reject. But the special seafood linguine steamed in foil is okay, and the fusilli with sausage, string beans, and grape tomatoes is wonderful. The bustling servers are agreeable, too. "Lemon, yes, instantly," he promises, smiling at the passing parade, the sidewalk cutups and a crew of their fellows serenading a birthday, even if the lemon never shows. Silvano himself races from one colony to the next, congratulating himself for not retiring . . . You just know Anna Wintour and Diane von Furstenberg are basking in the shadows, even if you haven't a clue who owns the red Jaguar parked at the fire hydrant.
Da Silvano Cantinetta
260 Sixth Avenue

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of June 17
Manhattan clambakes; Turkish dining at Beyoglu; a chilled peach drink; and Gael Greene on classic dishes from Naples at Il Gattopardo.
Week of June 10
Brooklyn's Sardinian wine bar; Aquavit's Herring Week; strawberry fever; the Greek yogurt tycoon; Gael finds the perfect spot for tête-à-têtes.
Week of June 3
Supper Time; Blue Crab Festival; Godiva's new ice cream bar; Jimmy Rodriguez heats up 57th Street.

and more ...

Photos: From top to bottom- Deborah Ory; Patrik Rytikangas (second and fourth); Kenneth Chen.

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