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Week of July 30, 2001

Le Pain Quotidien
Belgian chef Alain Coumont, the globe-trotting founder of the bakery-café chain Le Pain Quotidien, bakes rolls for Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Alfred Portale, supernally buttery croissants, and the best baguettes in town. But Coumont himself remains devoted to pain au levain, a naturally fermented whole-wheat sourdough, even though it's vexingly sensitive to the vagaries of temperature and temperament. "I can always tell what baker was working that day," says Coumont, who decided to consolidate citywide pain au levain production in his newest branch, which just opened at ABC Carpet & Home. Here, the natural starter—"the mother," in baker lingo—remains uncontaminated by competing yeasts. And customers get to observe the entire artisanal process through a wall of wood-shuttered windows, from starter to finish.
38 East 19th Street
 Cuisine: French Bakery

Parched Turtle Bay bon vivants might beg to differ, but there's much more to Zarela Martínez than the sublime margaritas (and terrific regional specialties) that keep her fourteen-year-old restaurant, Zarela, hopping. A self-proclaimed conservator of Mexican culture, she's written a cookbook on the food and culture of Oaxaca and has now turned her culinary attention to Veracruz, the Mexican state whose distinctive cuisine integrates Spanish, African, Cuban, Italian, and indigenous flavors and ingredients in a savory stew that Martínez discovered while she was there shooting a cooking show. "I fell in love," she says, and out of that grand passion came not only the thirteen-episode Zarela! La Cocina Veracruzana, premiering in October on WLIW, but also Zarela's Veracruz, a cookbook due out next month, and Danzón, Martínez's second restaurant, which she opened last week with her daughter Marissa Sánchez (pictured). As in the state of Veracruz itself, seafood dominates the menu, from fried rolled fish tacos and lime-marinated conch cocktail to the classic red snapper veracruzana. And Martínez couldn't be happier with the wine list, which is limited to Spanish and Mexican producers: "I'm sick of people eating my food with margaritas."
126 East 28th Street
 Cuisine: Mexican

In a gastronomical collision of sorts, Tuscan and Provencal delicacies will be vying for your attention on August 8 as the long-awaited Medi, brought to you by owner Roberto Ruggeri (Tuscan) and chef Roger Verge (French), finally opens its doors.
45 Rockefeller Plaza
 Cuisine: French/Italian
Looking Ahead...


Fiamma, 206 Spring St. (212) 653-0100
Opening Date: Early September
Set-up: Tri-level space in SoHo with exterior glass elevator and 130 seats
Cuisine: Italian
Chef: Michael White (formerly at the four-star Spiaggia in Chicago and chef di cucina at Ristorante San Domenico in Imola, Italy)
Owners: Stephen Hanson (Blue Water Grill, Park Avalon, Ruby Foo's)


The Harrison, 355 Greenwich St.
Opening Date: Early October
Set-up: Designer Mark Zeff creates a 100-seat dining room filled with wainscoting, handmade chandeliers, and a walnut bar. Nine French doors will open onto the street, with an additional 40 seats available for sidewalk dining.
Cuisine: Eclectic American
Chef: Joey Campanaro (protégé of Jonathan Waxman)
Owners: Jimmy Bradley and Danny Abrams (The Red Cat)


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Openings Archive
Week of July 23
Mai-Lin, Fiorucci Fashion Cafe, Bread from Beirut
Week of July 16
Pizza 33, Thom
Week of July 9
Minotaur, Union Square Ballroom, Glass

and more ...

Photos: Kenneth Chen.
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