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Week of September 2, 2002

in print
Drink to Them
For 25 years, Kevin Zraly has presided over what has become the city's best-known wine school, and until last September, he did it on the top two floors of the World Trade Center. The class has since relocated to the Marriott Marquis, but it continues to bear the name Windows on the World Wine School, just as his essential primer, updated each year, continues to be titled Windows on the World Complete Wine Course (Sterling; $24.95). The new 2003 edition dispenses valuable information in Zraly's characteristically unpretentious, entertaining style, but the author's exuberance is tempered by a bittersweet preface in which he recounts the quarter-century history of Windows on the World from a very personal perspective, with reminiscences from its owners, employees, and guests. One dollar from the sale of each book goes to a relief fund for the families of the 72 Windows employees who died on September 11 and to whom the book is dedicated.

object of desire
Made for Each Other
In the dessert world, few old married couples get along as well as the classic Latin-Caribbean combo of guava and cream cheese. "It's a perfect match," says Mary Arda, the Cuban-born caterer and owner of Mary's Off Jane, a new sweet-as-can-be bakery and café. "Guava and just about any kind of cheese is perfect," she says. "Guava and Brie-sounds weird, but it's fabulous." That one has yet to land in her display case, but in its place Arda bakes cream-cheese Romeo and Juliet cookies topped with guava paste, as well as pastelitos (little puff-pastry turnovers), filled with guava and cream cheese. Her crowning achievement is a nicely tart and sweet New York-style cheesecake with a lovely pale-pink streak of guava purée running through it and a sugar-cookie crust. It's a fitting tribute to her Cuban heritage and her chosen city.
Mary's Off Jane
34 Eighth Avenue

in print
Zagat Report
Like its companion restaurant guide, the new Zagat Survey 2003 New York City Marketplace ($12.95) is more than a directory of food purveyors: It's a chronicle in miniature of our eating, drinking, and shopping habits. So what's new this year? We are becoming a city of winos, cheeseheads, sugar junkies, and tea freaks-with vino, fromage, fancy chocolate, and tea shops opening all over town; women (64 percent) are still doing most of the shopping (or at least Zagat-survey responding); and while we cruise the aisles and checkout counters, the crowds are what annoy us most, but we're pretty much okay with rudeness and attitude. As far as quality ratings go, meat has supplanted flowers: Lobel's (formerly No. 2) has dethroned Robert Isabell, the last survey's winner. And surprising news in the Major Gourmet Market category: Texas-based interloper Whole Foods takes fourth place for quality. Watch your backs, Zabar's, Citarella, and Dean & DeLuca.

best of the week
He made Oceana a destination restaurant (those sea scallops!). Now chef Rick Moonen is hoping to reel customers in to his new place with a 15 percent preview discount as the kitchen gets up and running. Through September 17.
33 East 60th Street
Call 212-319-3800 to reserve


Ask Gael
Is western Long Island a hopeless wasteland?
I urge weekending friends unhappy with their gastronomic void to make a detour to Garden City Park's Ecco. Just taste the lush Gorgonzola-stuffed figs in wood-oven-crisped curls of prosciutto, and you know this Italian kitchen is a cut above. Michael Psilakis never planned to be a cook. Then one day, his chefs walked out. Self-taught, he proves to have an instinct for the food of his wife Anna's homeland. She is the vibrant welcome in the dining room, with its tasseled brocade curtains and Modigliani prints, a sedate setting for his cleanly fried calamari with two sauces, seared sea scallops with braised cauliflower and dried cherries in brown butter or paired with foie gras, and irresistible homemade gnocchi in cremini-mushroom ragú with truffle oil-all outsize portions. Grilled rack of lamb and pan-roasted chicken follow, more pleasing in their simplicity than too chewy duck breast choking in blackberry sauce. Even the apple Napoleon is huge, but then, Long Island demands big. Photograph by carina salvi.
2370 Jericho Turnpike

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of August 19
Caffeine culture in Queens; Jell-O dessert with strawberries and champagne; Bleeker Street's new sweets; Christmas memories at Rockefeller center; Rick Moonen's Branzini; Gael finds splurging civilized at Oceana
Week of August 12
Orchard Street's new sweet spot; dinner-time stories raise money at Cendrillon; David Ruggiero introduces the McRouge; Clambakes at St.Bart's; Harlem's Revival
Week of August 5
Chefs get creative with their favorite summer fruit; Gael goes to Naples

and more ...

Photos: Aimée Herring (first and third); Kenneth Chen; Carina Salvi

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