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Restaurant Openings & Buzz
Week of July 14, 2003

Call it a homecoming of sorts for chef Sue Torres, who made a name for herself and her inventive Mexican cooking at Chelsea’s Rocking Horse. She’s returned to her old neighborhood to open Sueños (“dreams” in Spanish), where as an owner she was able to make lots of big decisions, like hiring Larry Bogdanow to design the space and star sommelier Steven Olson to assemble the New World wines and organic-agave tequilas and mezcals. She’s even employed a designated tortilla cook to operate a griddle in the dining room. But all the really important choices—like whether to order the lobster-corn fritters with chipotle cream sauce, the chicken-and-squash-blossom enchiladas, or to brave the $50 four-course chili-tasting menu—she’s happily left to us.
311 West 17th Street

Fred’s at Barneys is no longer the only chic Italian place to fuel a shopping spree: The terrific Orchard Street café Angelina’s has opened a branch within the trendy Soho megaboutique Lounge. Like the original, this one offers luscious Italian snacks, sandwiches, and espresso. But to compete with the store’s D.J.’s, the occasional live-model window display, and all those shoes, partners Megan Cariola, Angela Trento, and Dino Hallas have bulked up their repertoire with daily pasta specials like rigatoni with tomato and basil, sausage and peppers, and Il Laboratorio del Gelato milkshakes, not to mention an all-Italian wine list and pear-sorbetto Bellinis. We’re sold.
164 Mercer Street


When partners Craig Bero (Grange Hall) and Lisa Cannistraci (Henrietta Hudson) decided to transform Bero’s Maine-fishing-lodge-y Anglers & Writers into the Chick-Inn, they wanted to satisfy what they saw as three widespread urban desires: comfort food, cheap prices, and Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. Their menu is pure Americana, from $1.75 Black Angus sliders and $2 Milwaukee kosher hot dogs to Amish-farm roast chicken with mashed potatoes and a roll. Breakfast is served all day. Soda-fountain specialties like egg creams, malteds, and milk shakes come from Bero’s Be-Speckled Trout candy shop next door.
420 Hudson Street


first taste

Island Paradise
When the sun sets, everyone looks peachy on the rear patio of the New Paradise Cafe in Sag Harbor. I never make it that far. We like to browse in the bookshop up front, then settle in to watch the Yankees on the bar telly. And now that a local hero, Robert Durkin (of Robert’s in Water Mill), has spruced up the place and jazzed up the menu, we’ll be back more often. I’ll want the shrimp, smartly peppery in their shells, and the luscious lamb-rack special—four fat chops (pictured), crusted and rare with roasted potatoes (but minus the sweet sauce). Not everything is equally splendid. The haricots verts may be near-raw; a knife can’t cut the carrots. My perfectly cooked salmon is dumbly bland. But I love tender crisps of calamari on a toss of frisée and jícama, the huge Niman Ranch pork chop on pineapple, and the Tuscan pot roast (but yoicks, hold that treacly sauce). And you’ll want to share the warm brownielike mousse cake. A three-course weeknight prix fixe is $25. --GAEL GREENE
New Paradise Cafe
126 Main Street, Sag Harbor


New Ice Cream Flavors
Last summer, New York voted Häagen-Dazs the best vanilla ice cream around, and we stand by our story. But that quasi-Danish outfit, good as it is, doesn’t go anywhere near the exotic flavors we’ve seen around town this season. A guide to several newcomers that would flummox the Dairy Queen.


Cream of Wheat
Due to the difficulty involved in bottling yeasty, unfiltered wheat beers, it’s taken Brooklyn Brewery seven years to get Brooklyner Weisse Beer anywhere but barroom taps. But it’s now in your local grocery, and the timing couldn’t be better for this suddenly sultry summer. Fresh and sharp, and nicely balanced between slightly sweet and tangy, with characteristic hints of clove, banana, and a little caramel, it goes down smoothly on its own or with food, provided the heat hasn’t killed your appetite. (Around $7 per six-pack; available at Fairway, at Whole Foods Market, and from FreshDirect.)


Ask Gael
Who’s really cooking in the lower Hudson valley?
My pal who weekends near Brewster hopes Finch Tavern in Croton Falls will be worth our half-hour detour. “Otherwise it’s burgers, mall grub, or spaghetti and meatballs around here,” she threatens. We are two at a teensy table for four, in the densely packed room, instantly won over by a fine mushroom soup, my romaine salad—a Caesar and then some, with really crisp bacon, chopped egg, radicchio, olives, and chickpeas—and the gargantuan prosciutto-wrapped pork chopn (pictured) we could easily have shared. The buttery apple tart is indulgence enough, but we’ve also given in to a voluptuous round of cheesecake. Too bad the talented Daniel Kish, émigré-chef from the faculty of you-know-which CIA, doesn’t know when to stop, as in a hapless hodgepodge of soggy soft-shell crab on sweet peppers with grapefruit beside a square of overcooked halibut. Even his simple is complex, but he scores anyway with grilled veal T-bone and lemon-scented gnocchi, caramelized mushrooms, garlic confit, as well as spinach with truffle jus. My pal has already reserved for her guy’s birthday.
Finch Tavern
592 Route 22, Croton Falls, N.Y.

In the Archives

July 7, 2003
That Little Cafe, Blue Goose Cafe; luscious lemonade at Dish; Citarella's devilishly delicious dessert; top five beer gardens; The BLT Cookbook; romance and ribs at Hacienda de Argentina.

June 23, 2003

Paradou, Ethos, 'inoteca; the city's top five iced teas; Danny Meyer's peanuts of desire; fresh from the farm veggies; local strawberries; Gael goes back in time at Sarge's Deli.

June 16, 2003
Ulysses, Zerza Bar, Pepe Rosso, Cafeteria at the Met; Mermaid Inn's lobster roll; Coach Farm's new fat-filled cheese; ice cream and cookies at 'Wichcraft; fiesta feast at Dos Caminos SoHo.

More Openings & Buzz

Photos: Kenneth Chen (1, 3), Carina Salvi (2, 4, 6), Liz Steger.

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