The week’s most exciting celebrity sighting was that of beer-sippin’ McLovin at Diner. No other celebs were busted getting their underage drink on, but there were other surprises: Rachael Ray rolled into the Orchard with a posse bigger than Diddy’s, and Jennifer Garner liked the food at Fiamma so much she slipped into the kitchen to beg Fabio Trabocchi for recipes. We figure that makes up for supposedly getting dissed by Padma Lakshmi a couple weeks ago. (And yes, there a Padma sighting this week, too )
Self-styled badass chef Tony Bourdain plays 20 Questions, revealing that he lives with his wife and daughter on the Upper East Side these days — “proximity to Baby Gap is a priority” — and has a kitchen that is “small and functional and very crowded with baby food, cat food, a few essentials.” [Chicago Tribune]
Frank Bruni takes a moment to sort through the piles of food-related tomes that landed on his desk this year, finding his favorites to be David Kamp’s The Food Snob’s Dictionary and the recently released Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Related: David Kamp Adds Two More Entries to the Food Snob’s Dictionary
A recent NYU grad is suing Times Square club Arena for $2 million over a June incident in which he was overcharged by $1,000, beat up by the bouncer, and arrested for not buying enough alcohol. [NYP]
The 2nd Avenue Deli is back. But is it a harbinger of a Jewish renaissance or just the last fading pang of New York’s Jewish twilight? The question is raised in today’s issue of The Jewish Week, and it’s a good one. Despite the return of Chez Lebewohl, the world of Jewish food is already little more than a memory: Take away a few landmarks like Russ and Daughters, Katz’s, Yonah Schimmel, and Sammy’s Roumanian, and the entire world of Jewish food would be as forgotten as the Punic Wars. All the dairy restaurants, Romanian steakhouses, cafeterias, candy stores, bakeries, appetizing stores — they’re already forgotten, even in distant Brooklyn and Queens. The Week asked Arthur Schwartz, probably the city’s foremost authority on old-time New York food, and he gives a dismal picture: “Schwartz maintains that Jewish food has suffered greatly in quality over the last few decades, since Jews tend to eat their own food only on holidays — ‘and then we make everything we know, and then everyone gets sick.’” Add to that contemporary Jews' horror of the fatty meats that were the Jewish kitchen’s stock in trade, and you have a recipe for cultural oblivion. Can a revived 2nd Avenue Deli, or the brisket revival staged by a few barbejews, stem the tide? Stranger things have happened.
‘Not Just A Deli Like Any Other' [Jewish Week]
Related: It's Time to Get Excited About the Second Avenue Deli
Clinton Hill: Some rejoice to find that the rumor of a Starbucks on Myrtle will not become reality. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Long Island City: Vine Wine is discounting cases by 15 percent. [Joey in Astoria]
Murray Hill: Lines are still out the door at the 2nd Avenue Deli. [Eater] Video: Overheard at the 2nd Avenue Deli [Grub Street]
Park Slope: Co-op members are getting frisky on Craigslist. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Upper East Side: At Alice’s Tea Cup, the waitress will give you wings to wear while you sip, if you’re into that sort of thing. [The Upper East Side Scene]
White Plains: BLT Steak just opened at the Ritz-Carlton here, so no need to come to Manhattan for dinner anymore. [Journal News]
At the 2nd Avenue Deli yesterday it was even more jammed and chaotic than you may have heard a kind of Fall of Saigon in reverse, with pastrami sandwiches standing in for helicopters. But we were there on the spot, to see how the new place fared when measured against its legendary progenitor — especially in the minds of the city’s most ferociously loyal customers.
Video: Overheard at the 2nd Avenue Deli
New Yorkers watching Will Smith walk through the ruins of an uninhabited Manhattan onscreen in I Am Legend knew just how he felt; it was a week for contemplating loneliness. Rudy Giuliani, indulging in fantasy population control of his own, envisaged a city in which he’d deported 400,000 illegal aliens. (“I would have had fewer problems,” he’s quoted as saying in a new book.)
Chelsea: Ellisa Cooper returns to Bottlerocket on January 8 to kick off her Tuesday-night Explore Wine Series. [Bottlerocket]
East Village: Pyramid Club might become the city’s first "drag landmark." [Villager]
Midtown West: The owner of Le Marais and "Bourdain’s former boss at Les Halles," Jose Meireilles, has transformed his Spanish joint Tintol into a kosher bistro called the Clubhouse Cafe. (Tapas lovers can expect Tintol to make a comeback at an undisclosed downtown location.) [Eater]
Murray Hill/Kips Bay: 2nd Avenue Deli is hiring! So lovers of gribenes may have found their dream job. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Lower East Side: Two thieves stole $50,000 from a safe in the Hotel Rivington but were later apprehended. [NYP]
There's been plenty of coverage of the new 2nd Avenue Deli, but our feeling on Grub Street is that there just can't be enough. Into the Box TV, a real-estate video site, has an advanced tour of the deli. We like the finished interior, especially a mural depicting the old restaurant in its heyday that's an instant classic. And while there's a good video of owner Jeremy Lebewhol, we suggest reading Rob and Robin's more detailed one in this week's magazine.
Having Seconds at The Second Avenue Deli [Into The Box]
Related:You Can Take the Deli Out of Second Avenue [NYM]
Astoria: The “Sophia Loren” pie at Michael Angelo’s II on 23rd Avenue near 29th Street is said to blow away the neighborhood’s pizza competitors, and with the not-so-innovative toppings of mozzarella, tomato, basil, and sauce. [Joey in Astoria]
Carroll Gardens: Lucali overwhelmingly won an albeit mini-poll for the hood’s best pizza parlor. [Bergen Carroll]
Chinatown: The owners of new restaurant U-Choose Express on Mott Street have decided to decorate their space with an old sign from fifties diner Lonnie’s Coffee Shoppe that was uncovered during renovation. [NYT via Lost City]
East Village: After only five months American Grill is giving up the ghost. Did its blintzes really fail to lure 4 a.m. drunks away from Odessa, was it flat-screen overdose, or just the constant reminder of Kiev’s death by gentrification that did the mod diner in? [Eater]
Hell’s Kitchen: Artisanal Premium Cheese Center is hosting a sake and cheese tasting on December 5 to “showcase the lovely synergies that superior Sakes and exquisite (Artisanal Premium) Cheeses share.” [Artisanal Cheese]
Midtown East: They may be hoisting their sign today, but the 2nd Avenue Deli probably won’t open until January. [Eater]
Midtown West: Bruni’s first impression of Brasserie 44 (after, he notes, Rob and Robin’s) : It looks Scandinavian. [Diner’s Journal/NYT] Sangria 46 at 338 West 46th Street will feature a different sangria each day for the twelve days before Christmas starting on December 13 with three-berry rosé. [Grub Street]
Ah, had we the luxury to lie around and read densely packed food features! As it happens, there are two out now both worth your time. In the current New Yorker, everybody's favorite roving food writer, Bill Buford, does a number on the chocolate wars and the quest, now dominating the minds of choconauts, to find the perfect cacao bean. And here we were just coming up to speed on coffee! (The article is not online, but there's a cool slideshow from Buford's trip.) The other piece, on a subject matter we're much more familiar with, is a very fine feature from the Times magazine on the Lebewohl family and their efforts to relaunch, in the face of an increasingly alien world, the new and improved 2nd Avenue Deli.
A Counter History [NYT]
Slideshow: Food of the Gods [NYer]
After all the woman got canned from The Next Iron Chef, Aaron Sanchez was overheard warning Morou Ouattara, “Next they’ll be going after the brown people.” [Ruhlman] And last night Morou was one of two chefs booted. [Serious Eats]
Related: Who Will Be Cut Next on ‘The Next Iron Chef’?
One classic New York deli is fighting the good fight against history, the Zeitgeist, and its own storied past. 2nd Avenue Deli reopens next month with the same name and a new location on East 33rd Street near Lexington Avenue. [NYT]
Now that his guides are competing with Zagat in New York, Michelin Guide director Jean-Luc Naret says he’s also eyeing Boston, Miami, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. [AP]
Related: Michelin’s Madness Drives Ed Levine (and Us) Up a Wall
• A soda-size can of phosgene, the deadly chemical Saddam used to kill countless Kurds in the eighties, was discovered stashed away in a U.N. office yesterday, but no one has any idea how it got there after weapons inspectors brought it back from Iraq in the mid-nineties. Reassuring. [NYT]
We’re glad that the Second Avenue Deli will be making a comeback, even if it is on Third Avenue. But there’s no getting away from the fact that — between cultural assimilation and the continued ascendancy of corporate chains — old-time Jewish delis are an endangered species. That’s why David Sax launched Save the Deli, a Website that he promises will include “essays on deli culture, a growing database of Jewish delis around the world, podcasts, video, [and] photos.” (Sax has previously contributed to Daily Intelligencer.) Not only that, but he’ll be hawking merchandise — shirts, hats, and even thongs with the site’s logo on them — gotta pay for all that chopped liver one way or another. Sax will travel across the U.S. and Canada, documenting the delis as they disappear like sour tomatoes from a jar. David, we salute you. Our complimentary thong can be sent care of New York Magazine.
Save the Deli [Official site]
This spring — a season which we’re glad to remind ourselves of as we enter drab February — the Institute of Culinary Education will be offering a roster of recreational classes that we heartily recommend, despite the fact that (full disclosure) self-deprecating Grub Street editor Josh Ozersky will be teaching one. Many friends of Grub Street — and a colleague, Gael Greene, who will head up “An Evening of Excess” — will be passing along wisdom on everything from blintzes to methylcellulose.
David Katz, a writer given to elegiac moods, just published a column on knishes in the Jewish Quarterly. He decries the decay of the knish, which under the pressure of assimilation went from a delicate mashed-potato pastry to a tough square of deep-fried dough. "There's a word for these street knishes, which are still sold today, and that word is vile," Katz pronounces. The column concludes with a paragraph of praise for Yonah Schimmel's old-time knishery, noted by us recently in our pre-obituary for Gertel's last week.