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Week of September 3, 2001

Object of Desire

Killer Tomatoes
Beppe's Cesare Casella is putting the summer's most mouthwatering crop to good use. His three-way triangolo appetizer celebrates the fruit in a luscious bread-and-tomato soup, a molded panzanella salad, and a mini-focaccia sandwich with homemade herb mayonnaise. Those who prefer to let their tomatoes speak for themselves will like the side dish of sliced heirlooms grown from Casella's stash of Tuscan seeds, cultivated in the Catskills by boutique farmer Rick Bishop, who also satisfies Casella's nostalgic demand for wild arugula and bitter green radicchio.
45 East 22nd Street

Best of the Week

Saturday Night Dining at Alain Ducasse
What recession? All those well-off gourmands who railed against Alain Ducasse for closing on weekends have seen their culinary prayers answered. Starting September 8, Saturday dinner is available for — here's the catch — private parties only. Start calling friends now.
Alain Ducasse at the Essex House
155 West 58th St

Robins' hood: Chef Gary Robins spices up the kitchen at Mi.


All About Mi
Having rescued the kitchen at Il Buco last year after the chef walked out, whisk-for-hire Gary Robins (best known for his Pan-Asian pyrotechnics at Aja and Match Uptown) has just resurfaced at Mi Restaurant and quickly whipped the kitchen into shape. Robins fans will recognize signature dishes like Thai grilled-squid salad with chickpeas and green-chili-cilantro oil, and five-spice-crusted breast of duckling; neophytes who think Asian fusion is so nineties will find the cooking a revelation.
Mi Restaurant
66 Madison Avenue, near 27th Street

Ask Gael

What does a high-heeled shoe have to do with it?
Milton Glaser's fruit-filled pump strikes me as a deliciously perfect logo to celebrate Danzón, the narrow little duplex Zarela Martínez and her daughter Marissa Sánchez dedicate to the fragrant, often fiery mix of Mexican, Spanish, and African cooking unique to Veracruz. It's early and some of the staff is still quite raw, but we're mellowed out on fine margaritas. Go easy, you gourmand Magellans. Most everything is meant to share. Our ravenous posse overindulges in starters — crisp seafood tacos, a smartly citric guacamole with house-made chips, polentalike corn masa and shredded pork baked in terra cotta, and a lively shrimp-and-avocado salad that's a dance on its own. No way we can do justice to so many entrées: Veracruz's classic red snapper baked whole with pickled jalapeños. A Mexican-style paella. Fragrant chicken in a chili-orange-vanilla sauce, pork carnitas in pumpkin sauce, and a surprisingly delicious side of mashed plantains. Lush, complex morita-chili sauce almost saves the too-cooked hanger steak. Why the shoes? Zarela, ramrod-straight atop spiky ankle-straps, explains: "Because Mexican girls are born with two things: pierced ears and high heels."
126 East 28th Street

Bites & Buzz Archive
Week of August 20
Heartland malts; crayfish week at Aquavit; Opia den; Gael on Aureole
Week of August 13
Pollen's nothing to sneeze at; corn dogs and corn cakes; monkey see, monkey re-do
Week of August 6
Best of both worlds at Medi, La Fondita's tacos, Hamptons home cooking

and more ...

Photos: Carina Salvi(2); Kenneth Chen.

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