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Week of February 3, 2003

This Meal’s on Fire
Talk about an old-fashioned Sunday supper: Savoy’s $35 Hearthside Dinner (Sunday evenings through March) is cooked entirely in the restaurant’s upstairs fireplace. Chef-owner Peter Hoffman begins, rustically enough, with kale-and-clam soup ladled from a cast-iron Dutch oven suspended over the flames. Then he goes completely Stone Age for the main event, tossing an herb-and-garlic-marinated pork loin directly into the ashes. For the grand finale, he gives a tutorial on how the earliest Soho settlers must have burned the tops of their wildflower-honey crème brûlée: not with a propane torch but with a salamander, a long-handled gadget with a heavy steel disc at the end that’s heated up in the blaze. For you home cooks out there, a branding iron would do the trick.
70 Prince Street

best of the week
"Les Nouvelles Mères Cuisinières" at Le Bernardin
Five woman chefs from France and Spain take over Le Bernardin’s kitchen for a night. Don’t flinch at the $250 tab—it benefits City Harvest and celebrates a rare moment of female food-world power. (To reserve, call 212-554-1117.)

La Paulée de New York
In what is fast becoming an oenophile tradition and midwinter bacchanal, Drew Nieporent has once again convened his vast network of chefs and sommeliers for the 2003 edition of La Paulée de New York, the annual Burgundy blowout. Part informal tasting, part feast, La Paulée (organized by Nieporent’s resident wine geek, Daniel Johnnes) just might be the fanciest BYO party in town. On February 8, fifteen Burgundian winemakers lug their latest releases, plus select older vintages, to the W New York hotel, where for $250 daytime attendees sip and sniff their way around the room, coating their stomachs with gourmet morsels from places like Café Boulud, City Hall, Esca, and Veritas. Serious drinkers can shell out $1,200 and hang around for the gala dinner and charity auction, when vintners and guests alike share rarities unearthed from private cellars, and Alain Chapel’s Philippe Jousse cooks the 75 hens he’s flying in for the occasion.
W Hotel
541 Lexington Avenue, at 49th Street
Call 212-625-2519 for tickets.

Isn’t It Romantic?
We’ve had a month to recuperate from post-traumatic holiday-stress disorder only to find ourselves confronting the eternal dilemma of Valentine’s Day, and how to celebrate it. Not that we haven’t had plenty of suggestions: Virtually every restaurant seizes the opportunity to contrive an overpriced, jokey menu strewn with the usual amatory culprits, from oysters to chocolate. As the pressure mounts to secure a reservation—or a box of boutique truffles—we’ve sorted through the heart-shaped oddments to find a few of the more intriguing Valentine’s Day destinations and delicacies. The heart may want what it wants, but the stomach does, too.
1032 Lexington Avenue, near 73rd Street
François Payard imports rosewater and violet essences from Morocco and France to flavor his ethereally light macaroons; tart passion fruit completes the jewel-box set ($55).

Garrison Confections
Every bonbon in chocolatier Andrew Shotts’s “Legendary Lovers Collection” ($16) is named for a famous paramour, from Romeo (vanilla) to Scheherazade (bergamot). Like the ideal mate, they’re tasteful, elegant, and rich.

46 West 22nd Street
Humor is a turn-on, which bodes well for the two-part special at this streamlined Flatiron ristorante. Begin with a three-course $125 prix fixe, then head next door to the Gotham Comedy Club for a free show and an open bar.

City Hall
131 Duane Street
If you fancy yourself and your loved one a latter-day Nick and Nora, go for the old-world glamour of dinner and swing music—in this case, a sharing menu featuring “For Two” courses like oysters, chateaubriand, and a hot-fudge sundae, followed by a Flying Neutrinos set downstairs in the Granite Room ($150 per couple).

100 West Houston Street
The romantic trip to the Maine coast might have to wait six months, but you can fantasize with a $45 three-course lobster dinner, ending delightfully unseasonably with strawberries and champagne sabayon.

109 Ludlow Street
In love, it’s good to preserve a sense of mystery, which is what intrigues us about the finale of the $75 three-course nouvelle Spanish menu: a trio of desserts by gifted consulting chef Luis Bollo, served with a blindfold. No peeking.

Ask Gael
Is it true the hip-hopping Turk is back?
The ponytailed hit-and-run restaurant-spinner Orhan Yegen has bounced back from his boffo smash and swift exit at uptown Beyoglu, moving on to what he calls “fast-served Turkish food” at Efendi (it means “Mister”). “You will see the food—Turkish family food—before your eyes and choose,” he announces. He'll sell the classical mezes and meaty stews by the pound to go, or by the portion to eat at his small tables. It is all unique and brilliant, as he will tell you, twice, if you linger. Yegen has tricked up a small Greek coffee shop and installed a tandoor to make bread—“just like they do in Turkish villages.” As full of himself and his cuisinary genius as ever (best not to mention that Beyoglu somehow still survives and pleases), he promises to add new adventures to the Turkish table as we now know it. “Whenever I open a restaurant, I always introduce new things.”
1030 Second Avenue, near 54th Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of January 27
Brooklyn's bread baker; Pig Pickin' Sunday at Biscuit.
Week of January 13
Wall Street's new lunch retreat; Cipriani's specialty drink to go; a culinary delight in Washington Heights.
Week of January 6
The BLT gets upscaled at RM; Beyoglu's Sultan of Swagger has gone.

and more ...

Photos:Tina Rupp (1-3), Kenneth Chen

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