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Week of November 26, 2001

Bash Decisions
In this year of lean holiday parties, there's something to be said for the intimate office gathering -- no clients or spousal equivalents, just an evening with your colleagues for eating, drinking, and merrymaking. Even this late in the season, many restaurants still have chic small-party spaces available, and the rates are uncommonly forgiving. Below, a few suggestions for the boss -- or, if you are the boss, a few ways to keep your staff and your balance sheet cheerful.--BETH LANDMAN KEIL

Hudson Cafeteria
What a cool boss you'd be if you hosted your festivities at the Cafeteria in the Hudson Hotel. For no minimum, parties of fourteen or fewer can reserve the communal table and order the Cuban lechon asado, chop suey, and chicken curry. For larger groups, there's a prix fixe starting at $48 per person.
2356 West 58th Street

No minimum here, and the cool-mid-century-themed restaurant will block off its alcove for parties of 30 to 40. You can order 25-piece platters (at $20 per), each with hors d'oeuvre like hanger steak, seared tuna, and pizettes with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and arugula. If you want a bigger spread, buffets start at $30 per person. Pitchers of sangria go for $25.
103 Second Avenue,at 6th Street

Baraonda is best for an office party with some exhibitionists attending, a place where the sound system occasionally transforms the cozy pumpkin-colored room and the guests mistake tables for a dance floor. The restaurant will take reservations for parties of up to 75; menus include a salad; a pasta; and veal, chicken, or fish and start at $35 per person.
1439 Second Avenue, at 75th Street

Ruby Foo's
Red lacquered walls, sushi and dim sum, oversize desserts, and sake-based punches in pitchers scream party (and hangover). Groups of fewer than fifteen can order à la carte; menus for larger parties start at $38 per person ($45 at the Times Square location).
2182 Broadway, at 77th Street

Two new private rooms on the second floor overlook the tables, the antiques, and the hand-painted murals of the main dining room at Scopa. A little on the classical side, the party menu here is three courses from $45 and includes a selection of cicchetti, or Italian tapas, among other menus.
79 Madison Ave., at 28th Street

You get medieval here at the gothic banquet tables, where up to 50 guests can order items like ginger-sesame-glazed salmon ($16.50) and barbecue pork chops ($19) off the à la carte menu, with no minimum. One private room, holding 100, is also available, starting at $35 per person.
116 East 16th Street

Best of the Week
Winter's Eve at Lincoln Square
We like to celebrate the coming of cold weather by hiding from it — and where better than a tasting tour devoted to fare from Rosa Mexicano, Gabriel's and eleven other boîtes? A $35 Dining Passport gains you access to the gastronomical kingdom; unlimited Trapiche wine adds incentive.
December 3 at Loews IMAX Theatre
Broadway at 68th Street

Object of Desire
Burger Nirvana
After tackling tandoori "pizzas," Indian pot roast, and pulled-lamb sandwiches downstairs at Bread Bar, Tabla chef Floyd Cardoz has turned his attention to the all-American burger. Cardoz seasons his rendition ($14 on Tabla's new la carte lunch menu) with Indian spices and fresh chilies and coats the pan-seared patty with panko crumbs to seal in the juices. It comes on a toasted black-pepper brioche bun with a crispy wedge of bacon-spiked rsti potatoes and a cup of something called Boodie's ketchup, which turns out to be his Indian mom's own kicky recipe.
11 Madison Avenue, at 25th Street

Simply Red
If you grew up in an Italian-American household, Fresco on the Go's new "Sunday Sauce" may evoke fond memories of weekend afternoons spent eating huge quantities of macaroni in meaty red sauce, sleeping it off . . . and then eating some more. For the convenience of local office workers, Fresco's sauce specialists have switched Sunday to Friday, when they feature rigatoni and slow-cooked gravy loaded with tender meatballs, sweet Italian sausage, and savory bits of pork ($10.95). For Sunday-supper traditionalists, a quart of the sauce alone ($16) is also available on Fridays, prepackaged for home consumption -- ideally in the vicinity of a couch.
Fresco on the Go
40 East 52nd Street


Brooklyn Bridging
Has the time come when Manhattan epicures will bypass Balducci's and Dean & DeLuca in favor of Brooklyn? Could be: New Restaurant Rows are attracting interborough crowds, a Red Hook Fairway is in the works, and two ambitious new shops for fancy-food fetishists are already open. Bierkraft (pictured), the Park Slope brainchild of Richard Scholz and his wife, Daphne, is a beer-drinker's paradise: a tasting room and Bud-free zone of more than 300 brews, arranged geographically from Louisiana's cult Abita Turbo Dog to a distinctly smoky Hecht Schlenferla Rauchbier from Germany. ("It grows on you," says Richard, a former bond trader and an avid home brewer.) But just because he's a member of the Malted Barley Appreciation Society, he doesn't expect everyone to be, which is why the Scholzes also stock ginger beer, effervescent Farnum Hill ciders, and snacks like wine biscuits, Asiago crackers, Zapp's potato chips, and sausages. Daphne plans to start selling local artisanal cheeses, but in the meantime, you can get them at Tuller Premium Food, a two-month-old market that's made Cobble Hill a dairy destination. "We have a public that demands Vacherin, that demands Epoisses," says Robert Tuller, like Scholz a finance guy turned professional taster. "They eat grilled fennel and haricots verts like nobody's business." Clearly, brownstone Brooklyn was primed for someone like Tuller, who's artfully stocked this petite retail space with Steve's Key-lime pies, Ortiz oil-packed ventresca tuna, Jacques Torres's chocolate bark, Salumeria Biellese sausages, and rustic loaves from Pain d'Avignon and Sullivan Street Bakery. Not to mention those 110 cheeses.--ROBIN RAISFELD
191 Fifth Avenue, near Union Street
Tuller Premium Food
199 Court Street, near Bergen Street

Ask Gael
Le Cirque's All Star team: Where are they now?
Sirio's habitues won't recognize Sottha Khunn (seated) out of context, stationed not far from Santa's throne amid the Christmas accessories at ABC Carpet & Home. But there he is, Le Cirque's retired four-star master chef, cheerfully tending shop for his old colleague and buddy, patissier Jacques Torres (at left), who delivers fresh bonbons ($50 a pound) and chocolate suckers every morning from his Willy Wonka workshop in Brooklyn. Stop by for chocolate tin soldiers, Santas, and Christmas trees (from eight inches to two feet tall), chocolate lollipops, truffles, and buttercrunch. Or slabs of addictive chocolate bark, studded with nuts, in milk or luscious bittersweet chocolate. Wicked Hot hot chocolate (fired up with ancho chili and chipotle) is the perfect gift for pepper-heads. Khunn, who bowed out of the kitchen heat last New Year's Eve at midnight, has been fantasizing about a career in fancy food and figures this holiday stint will give him a taste of what it might be like to go retail.
ABC Carpet & Home
888 Broadway, at 18th Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of November 19
Lunch bargain at Lutèce; Gael goes to Brooklyn's Cucina
Week of November 12
10 spots to spend Thanksgiving; City Bakery's salami and eggs; Gael gets a taste of France at 44
Week of November 5
Payard's Brazilian visitor; Jimmy's Uptown's soulful scene; Da Silvano's cookbook; Gael gets some Afghan comfort

and more ...

Photos: Patrick Rytikangas; Carina Salvi.

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