Wonder chef Paul Liebrandt, presumably having some time on his hands while he keeps the world waiting for his restaurant to open, has started a blog, we read in The Feed today, and what a blog it is! The usually garrulous and acerbic Liebrandt’s posts are so brief, pointless, and banal that they can only be read as a middle finger extended into the blogosphere. Among the bombshells dropped:
The conjunction in the last few days of a Salon article and a Discovery documentary about the greatest living Japanese knife-maker, Keijiro Doi, and his fiery arts has had chefs buzzing around town. Most all of them fetishize Japanese knives: The Salon article name-checks Thomas Keller, Jean Georges, Eric Ripert, and David Bouley. But the commanding figure in the article is Doi, and it so happens that the only place in America where you can actually buy the 80-year-old blacksmith’s legendary creations is here, at Korin Trading Company downtown. Korin sells a $4,720 yanagi, or sashimi knife, although it is so rare it isn’t even on the company’s Website, as well as a lesser yanagi, a bargain at $720. Korin founder Saori Kawano tells us that Doi inspired her to found the company, the premier Japanese-knife story in America, as a way to honor Japanese knife-smithing.
Alan Richman won’t confirm if he quit Bloomberg or was fired, but denies that it was a dispute with his editors that led to the break. “Rumors that I left Bloomberg because of a fight with an editor are obviously untrue. If that were a cause to leave a job, there wouldn't be an employed writer left in America,” he tells us. Too true! So what's next? Richman hasn’t announced anything yet, but we bet he won't be working as a critic for the Times-Picayune.
Related: Alan Richman Confirmed Out at Bloomberg
Top Chef has announced its new cheftestants, and we, like everybody else who got the press release, were delighted to see that there are even more NYC cooks than ever before, from restaurants including Mai House, Buddakan, Public, 24 Prince, and Dos Caminos. You can’t go by where they work, though: Among last season's rivals, Casey was a “personal chef,” whatever that means, and made it to finale, while poor Lia was at Jean Georges and got bounced halfway through the season. Still, we’re already thinking deeply about this crew — and looking forward to making fun of them in IM conversations a few months hence.
'Top Chef' Chicago Premieres in March [Bravo press release]
Related: Adam Platt Was Right About ‘Top Chef’ All Along
For those of you who only know Adam Platt from his mordant restaurant reviews and IM chats, the next best thing is Friday’s interview with Mike Colameco on "Food Talk." Colameco has been on a tear lately recent guests have included Frank Bruni, Tom Colicchio, and Marco Pierre White. But there’s only one Platt. You won’t get the hangdog expression, the pumpkin-size head, the blinking, beady eyes, but you’ll get a sense of what Platt is like in person. Listen to the MP3 to find out what Platt’s looking forward to in 2008.
Adam Platt on WOR’S Food Talk [mp3]
The story is a sadly familiar one, but Crain’s tells it well today: how crazy-ass Manhattan rents are driving even successful businesses into the potter’s field and how a restaurant recession may well be in the works as a result. None of the places mentioned in the article, such as Frank’s, Tuscan Square, or the brilliant Itzocan Cafe, were by any means empty, which makes us worry for places that don’t happen to have huge buzz machines and/or celebrity chefs behind them. Of course, if they are forced to move to the bleak outer-borough neighborhoods, where one of Grub Street’s editors resides, we won’t complain.
Eateries Forced Out by Soaring Rents [Crain's NY]
The Jews of New York, PBS’s new documentary, could have any number of heroes; we were pleased to see that the family behind downtown lox legend Russ & Daughters was chosen to represent the New York–immigrant experience. As we recently noted here, their Houston Street store is one of the only things keeping the old Lower East Side’s Jewish life from disappearing into history. As scion Josh Russ Tupper tells us, “We’re perpetuating and cultivating the culture of Jewish experience. And whether we’re religious and go to temple is independent of the fact that we’re providing an experience of the Jewish–immigrant era of New York. It’s really important to maintain what it was like and what it is like.” Not to mention, they have some very nice herring there.
Russes among stars of ‘The Jews of New York’ [Alfred University]
The unavoidable wager between the mayors of Green Bay and New York has been made, and AP has dutifully reported it. But as usual, New York is getting the worse of the deal. Green Bay mayor, Jim Schmitt, is betting a basket of cheese, some spread, and some New York strip steaks (New York strips! Imagine!), with some candy — a pair of cheese-wedge sunglasses. That’s if we win. If they win, the self-appointed “Titletown” gets twenty pounds of Peter Luger porterhouses, a case of Brooklyn Lager, and a cheesecake (take that, cheese heads!) from Carnegie Deli. Green Bay is getting the much better deal here. We suggest Bloomberg match Schmitt’s bet with a gristly steak from Tad’s and a black-and-white cookie from a random deli.
Bloomberg places bet on Giants-Packers game [Newsday]
Gourmet magazine’s new Website launched today, and, having test-driven it, we have to say it’s a pretty sleek piece of work. We often wondered why Gourmet, traditionally the leading food magazine, had so much of its content buried in the vast, boggy mystery that was Epicurious.com. (After a year of trying, we could never sort out what Epicurious was supposed to cover, even though it always has a lot of great content.) But now Gourmet seems to have finally gotten its act together. It’s all there, fully formed: original videos (the first is a Fabio Trabocchi demo), clips from Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie TV series on PBS, classic articles from around the magazine, and the full database of all the recipes, among other things. It’s a great resource, and we’re glad it finally happened.
Gourmet Magazine Website
Though it may not be a journalistic scandal up there with the Judith Miller saga, the missing notebook found in Brasserie 44, which may or may not belong to Danyelle “Restaurant Girl” Freeman, is getting a lot of play this morning. The story: Notes were left behind at a dinner and, according to their finders, could only be those of a restaurant critic. And, since Freeman is reviewing Brasserie 44 this week, they are naturally thought to be hers. What's the big deal? Aside from the sloppiness factor on the critic's part, which is fun for a quick snicker, what real difference does it make to the reviewer, the reader, or the restaurateur if someone has a piece of paper that says “mushy chicken” on it? Something about Danyelle Freeman just brings out the hate, but we can't say it's not entertaining to watch from the sidelines. Meanwhile, it's a good thing Adam Platt only scribbles his mordant asides on a vellum tablet, or we'd be in trouble here at New York.
Which NYC Food Critic Is An Idiot? (Hint: Danyelle Freeman!) [Gawker]
We knew something looked vaguely familiar when we saw, in this week’s magazine’s Openings, the image of Persephone’s dish of seafood yiouvetsi. Oh, that’s right — seafood yiouvetsi is a signature dish at Anthos! The only difference is that this one doesn’t come in the actual yiouvetsi pot. But everything else seems to be there, down to the orzo in a saffron broth at the bottom. They say there's nothing new under the sun, but Anthos's yiouvetsi was pretty novel when it came out, as the dish is traditionally reserved for lamb shanks and the like. Deepening our suspicions of Persephone's, um, inspiration is the fact that the other dishes mentioned at Persephone — the pikilia-spread sampler, the Greek meatballs in tomato sauce — are right off the menu of Anthos’s sister Kefi. Of course, given how crowded Anthos and Kefi are, the chance to eat simulacra in another good restaurant is much welcome. But otherwise, this might be one of the most brazen Greek heists since Lord Elgin looted the Parthenon marbles.Openings: Persephone, Greene Grape Provisions, Dean's, ’Beca Restaurant, Dram Shop, and City Girl Café [NYM]
Vinnie Gruppuso, the founder of Kozy Shack pudding, died today. It is a dark day on Grub Street, since Kozy Shack was not just our favorite pudding (a confection so potent it practically qualified as a controlled substance), but also a modern rarity: a New York–area manufacturing story without an unhappy ending. The Kozy Shack factory in Hicksville is no Wonka–like wonderland, but the sight of an entire eighteen-wheeler loaded with whole milk, the secret to the pudding’s mouth-filling fullness, gave us that kind of feeling. And Gruppuso’s story is a kind of ultimate foodie fantasy. He was a blue-collar guy, a bread deliveryman who happened to fall in love with the pudding made by a deli in Ridgefield. We’ve all had such crushes. But Gruppuso bought the recipe when the deli closed and essentially married it, investing everything in Kozy Shack and eventually building a pudding empire. Tonight we will have a toast for Vinnie Gruppuso with our favorite cordial: Kozy Shack chocolate pudding, straight from the tub, with a chaser of melancholy.
Vincent Gruppuso, 67, Seller of Pudding Snacks, Dies [NYT]
Since Sam Mason and Tailor absorbed a world of abuse for the ongoing chronicle that was the Launch, most chefs have been pretty wary about broadcasting the development of their restaurant projects. But clearly Laurent Gras, the talented chef best known here for his work at Peacock Alley, wasn’t fazed. Gras is launching an ambitious haute cuisine restaurant in Chicago, L20, and recently launched a blog detailing the process: the how and why of the butter program, the bread, even the very wood of the place. It’s a fascinating view of how one of the country’s top chefs thinks about creating a restaurant, told in the first person. It may not have the unintentional comedic value of the Launch, but it’s a great read and may actually give you a reason to want to visit Chicago.
Is there anything more frustrating than seeing good people grope in the dark for something they already have? We feel it whenever a romantic-comedy heroine searches around for Mr. Right, while all the time the awkward but soulful male lead is mooning for her. Likewise with this thread on Chowhound, where the posters are striving to find the right place in Rego Park to eat Uzbek kebabs. Haven’t these guys ever heard of the Orange Line? Much of the discussion centers on Cheburechnaya, a big kebab house on 63rd Drive that always seems to have a couple of black Mercedes parked out front, contributing to the mobbed-up feeling. Forget that place — it’s all about Arzu. Read and learn, chowhounds: You have nothing to lose but your chebureks.
Out of this world central Asian in the FH/Rego Pk area? [Chowhound]
Related: Riding the V Line: Coming Back Around to Russia
Jimmy Eng, the owner and patriarch of Fresh Meadows' King Yum, died on New Year’s Eve, and something died with him. King Yum’s GM, Jimmy Chen, says you’ll be able to sing karaoke and drink mai tais for many years to come, but beyond the tiki statues, the unreconstructed Cantonese-American menu, and the waiters in red jackets
toting spareribs under dragon lamps, the soul of the place was the ancient Eng.
Given the macho atmosphere of most izakayas, with their clientele of hard-drinking salarymen and meat-centric menus, it might come as a surprise to learn that the chef of three of the city’s best — Yakitori Totto, Torys, and the brand-new Soba Totto — are all under the control of a woman. Mika Ohie is a first-class cook and kitchen manager who runs all three restaurants with an iron hand, says her boss, owner Ryuichi “Bobby” Munekata. “I hardly go in the kitchen at Yakitori Totto,” he says. “I leave it all up to her.” But Ohie admits kitchens are not the friendliest places. “Kitchens are very tough. You need to accept the challenge of running one,” she tells us. “I love to cook, but restaurant work is definitely tough.”
Dani has closed, apparently. Eater has it from a sign on the window that Don Pintabona’s much-praised, but seldom-visited, Southern Italian restaurant on the fringes of Hudson Square has gone into the banquet business full-time. While that’s generally been an indicator of failure, there’s no doubt that a lot of restaurants (Guastavino’s comes to mind) have continued to make pretty good money by not serving meals. The restaurant business is truly a strange one.
Deathwatching: Dani Goes Bye-Bye [Eater]
Related: Dani Says, ‘You Be the Chef — and the Investor!’
The voracious maw that is daily journalism goes through fresh phrases like they were going out of style, which they always are. This week’s “maximum cockupancy” is next week’s “tell it to the hand.” Now that Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of banished words, it appears that “organic” has entered the dustbin of history, joined by such deserving phrases as “throw under the bus,” “X is the new Y,” “back in the day,” and “post 9/11.” “Organic” has been especially hated for years by both farmers and consumers, but we doubt it’s going anywhere. There are (much-criticized) government regulations in place concerning the use of the “organic” label, and every day more shitty products up their sales because of the moniker. (Although, as one commenter to Lake Superior's list pointed out, all the food we eat is technically organic.) Still, the fact that the word is taking abuse is a sign that maybe, just maybe, the Haute Barnyard movement has reached its peak.
Lake Superior State University Banished Words List [LSSU]
Related: The Haute Barnyard Hall of Fame
We know another year has gone by in the food world because the Saveur 100 is out. The list “offers a vivid snapshot of the wide … world of food,” says the magazine, so the picks skewed global licorice from New Zealand, anyone? — but we are, as always, only interested in the New York stuff.
“Life fades vision dims and all that remains is memory.” Such are the haunting first words of The Road Warrior, and we can’t help but think of them as we look back, through heavy lids, at the year that was. 2007 was a memorable restaurant year in so many ways, but there are a few that stick out in our minds. Our favorite moments of the last year would definitely have to include: