We’re currently reading Lush Life, novelist Richard Price’s tale of life and death on the LES. The plot centers on Eric Cash, the manager of Café Berkman, a thinly veiled take on Schiller’s Liquor Bar. At least, we think it’s Schiller’s:
On bright quiet mornings like this, when Berkmann’s was empty, delivered from the previous night’s overpacked boozy franticness, the place was an air palace, and there was nowhere better to be in this neighborhood than sitting in a lacquered wicker chair immersed in the serene luxury of a café au lait and the New York Times, sunlight splashing off the glazed ecru tiles, the racks of cryptically stencil-numbered wine bottles, the industrial-grade chicken-wired glass and partially desilvered mirrors, all found in various warehouses in New Jersey, by the owner, Harry Steele: restaurant dressed as theater dressed as nostalgia.
Does this sound like Schiller’s to you? Or is this a composite of other downtown nightspots? Your thoughts, please, in the comments.
We had a good bit of sport over the astronomical prices paid this past summer for white truffles in New York restaurants. But what if their black cousins, long the déclassé branch of the family, became even more expensive? Or disappeared entirely? That wouldn’t be so funny. And it wouldn’t be good for the price of white truffles, which, like Beluga caviar and shark-fin soup, could become a purely plutocratic pleasure sooner than we expected. (Not that truffles are evil in the way of Beluga caviar and shark-fin soup; we’re just thinking of endangered luxury foods, you understand.) An article in USA Today suggests that the global warming is currently bringing the hammer down on black-truffle production and that (gasp) “France's black truffle will one day be just a memory.” It’s a similar story around the world, as fish stocks are depleted, ecosystems are knocked out of whack, and global demand for things like toro and truffles move beyond a small cluster of ascot-wearing bons vivants.
Tokyo has had a taste of Michelin madness, we read in the Times yesterday, and didn’t like it much better than we did. (We wrote, at some length, of the banality and misjudgments which marred the famed restaurant guide last year.) We can’t speak to the accuracy of Michelin’s Tokyo picks, but we would have bet dollars to doughnuts that the Japanese could, and sure enough, the Times finds people to say as much: “Japanese food was created here, and only Japanese know it,” one chef is quoted as saying. “How can a bunch of foreigners show up and tell us what is good or bad?” Not to put too fine a point on it! The other interesting part is that Tokyo, which has six times as many restaurants as New York, is unhesitatingly pronounced by Michelin chief Jean-Luc Naret as the top restaurant city in the world. Which isn’t going to go over very well in Paris, or for that matter here. Something tells us Michelin should have stayed in France.
Michelin Gives Stars, but Tokyo Turns Up Nose [NYT]
Related: How to Eat in Tokyo, Michelin Capital of the WorldMichelin: Gastronomic Bible Reads Like In-Flight Advertorial
We had heard that New York was to have its own version of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (minus the sunshine, ocean, flowing sea breeze, and so on, of course). But only in paging through the Sunday Times at Jerry's Deli on Collins Avenue did we find this tidbit, from the big SOBE style section: “A version of the festival will soon be headed north. Last week Mr. Schrager came to an agreement with New York officials to run a two-day food festival in the meatpacking district on Columbus Day weekend. ‘We're going to close Ninth Avenue,’ he said.” Now that is good news. It's high time that Ninth Avenue was closed. To see our up-to-the-minute coverage of SOBE this past few days, click here.
Calling All Rock Stars in Aprons [NYT]
We met Top Chef hostess Padma Lakshmi on a yacht in Miami Beach yesterday. No, it was not a private cruise. Padma was shilling Vacheron watches and graced us with a brief interview.
I see they have a menu on the yacht tonight that is your doing.
I didn’t cook this menu. But if you try some of the recipes from my book, I know you’ll enjoy them.
Eh, I probably won’t. They’re all for healthy little salads and curries and so forth, right?
Uh, no! This just proves that you haven’t even opened my book up! [Laughing.] The best recipe in it is for brisket wrapped in bacon.
Fodor’s goes to the Tony Bourdain well today for the latest in their “Top Chef Travels” feature, and though it’s all probably stuff you’ve heard him enthuse about before (Barney Greengrass, Ssäm Bar, Del Posto), we did enjoy his curmudgeonly take on the city’s live-music scene: “I don't know which is worse: to be packed in a room with a lot of people half your age, in which case you feel like an idiot, or even worse, go see someone you've really loved for a long time, like Elvis Costello, and you look around and see all the other original fans and they're all old and hideous just like you.”
Top Chef Travels — Anthony Bourdain [Fodor's]
As promised, the Voice’s Robert Sietsema blows the lid off Iron Chef, in a very long and detailed account of an Iron Chef taping. According to Sietsema, the chefs know what they’re going to do, recook everything for the judges, and the whole thing is fixed anyway. It’s a pretty deflating account, but for Iron Chef viewers, it’s a must-read. Unless they like the show.
Iron Chef Boyardee [VV]
Earlier: Sietsema to Blow the Lid Off ‘Iron Chef’ Tomorrow
Having seen an advance screener of the Top Chef premiere, we’re all set and ready to dig in and immerse ourselves in the show’s patented straight-faced lunacy this season. But something is getting in the way. The most annoying of the new cheftestants this season’s Howie is the high-strung Andrew, supposedly a cook somewhere here in New York. But where? His Top Chef bio calls him a “Sous Chef in NYC,” but no one seems to be able to give us a hint of where. (One tipster seemed to think that it was at Tocqueville, but the lead was a dead end: Jo Ann Makovitzky, Tocqueville’s co-owner, tells us, “He does not look familiar to me.”) Have you seen this man? Tell us all about him in the comments.
Top Chef Cheftestant Bio: Andrew [Bravo]
Related: What to Expect From the New ‘Top Chef’Update: The mystery has been solved. An Eater reader has IDed Andrew D'Ambrosi as a sous chef at Le Cirque.
Tony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlmann, the scourges of the restaurant business, are at it again. The pair's facetious awards, the Golden Clogs, will be given away this Friday at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. We speculated last fall about who the possible nominees might be, but Bourdain’s complete list with commentary is on Eater. Some of our favorites are below.
In what can only be called a case of intra-celebrity-chef warfare, Martha Stewart Omnimedia has swallowed up Emeril Lagasse's TV properties, including Emeril Live and The Essence of Emeril as well as Emeril's various cookbooks and other assorted Emeril-related media. We're glad to see that the diminutive chef is going to see a big payday for his shows, the production of which was recently canceled by the Food Network. (Old episodes should continue to fill the airwaves until the sun turns red.) This move signals a resurgence of the Martha juggernaut, however. Something tells us that this isn't the last big acquisition she will be making. Watch out, Rachael Ray! Martha is back.
Martha Stewart to buy TV chef's media properties: report [Reuters]
Articles about some well-heeled journalist's quest for eating/drinking/smoking/owning the “best ever” usually leave us pretty cold, but Mike Steinberger’s Slate essay about trying to drink the legendary 1947 Cheval Blanc might be one of the most enjoyable wine tales we’ve ever read. The best part of the piece isn’t about the wine itself, a freak Bordeaux that somehow has only gotten better over 61 years or even that [SPOILER WARNING!] Steinberger gets to drink it (“The '47 Cheval I drank that night now ranks as the greatest wine of my life, a title I doubt it will relinquish”). Reading the essay, you actually get some feeling for what the wine is like and how it’s possible for a vintage Bordeaux to be accurately likened to Forrest Gump. A great read.
The Greatest Wine on the Planet [Slate]
Mia Dona, Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis’s new restaurant is open and busy, though still BYOB. We previewed the food in our video, but the menu turns out to be larger and significantly cheaper than expected. The gnudi with truffle-butter sauce, mushrooms, and crispy speck that was so popular at the old Dona is back, one of only two survivors from the old menu. Mia Dona skews Italian more than the old Dona did, but there are a number of Greco-Psilakisian numbers on it, as well, especially a grilled octopus with olives, Feta, and anchovy vinaigrette. The bar menu, meanwhile, is completely separate and includes a burger (as seen on our video), a pork belly BLT, and crispy baccalà that is the only other Dona holdover. Check out the dinner menu, part of our ever-expanding database, for yourself.
Mia Dona Dinner MenuRelated:Video: Inside Mia Dona’s Kitchen
In a shameless (but successful, and we have to admit, brilliant) bid for free publicity, James Sakatos, executive chef at the Carlyle hotel, has come up with a menu of dishes inspired by this year’s Oscar nominees. There’s a tart for Juno (a cheap shot), “black ink risotto with blood orange foam for There Will Be Blood,” the ink standing in for oil, and the blood-orange foam for, well, blood; Dover sole for Michael Clayton because “George Clooney's morally conflicted lawyer found his ‘sole’ and ultimately did the right thing,” and so on.
In a city already starved for first-class steak, there’s going to be a lot less of it to go around, at least for a little while: Master Purveyors in the Bronx, one of the city’s top meat suppliers and a little piece of its history, suffered extensive damage from a fire at its Hunts Point building last night. Masters, as it was called, was a family business that had been supplying the city’s top steakhouses for generations, and it can’t be easily replaced: It’s the meat equivalent to Russ & Daughters burning down, or the Strand being evicted and replaced with a Virgin Megastore. Along with Pat La Frieda, the Piccinini Brothers, and DeBragga and Spitler, Master Purveyors are the last of the city's great old-guard meat purveyors. Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May and (formerly) Robert's Steakhouse, one of Masters' most devoted clients, says, “This is a tragedy, but I know they’ll bounce back. They’re survivors they’re the real deal and they have so much integrity.” Whether they will bounce back is still unclear. We hope to have more information tomorrow.
Fire Damages Big Market in the Bronx [NYT]
Ever since that glorious, immortal, probably imaginary day when the Earl of Sandwich, unwilling to leave his gaming table, directed a manservant to put meat between two slices of bread, the art of sandwich-making has flourished. Esquire’s “Best Sandwiches in America” offers a deluxe overview of America’s best, and we have to say, it’s about the most judicious such survey we've seen. The sandwiches chosen for the cities we know well, like the pork-and-provolone number at John’s Roast Pork in Philadelphia, or the Monte Cristo at Canter’s in L.A., are exactly the ones we would have picked, and the ones from cities we’ve never visited, like the Reggie Deluxe in Pine State Biscuits in Portland, Oregon (“fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, gravy, and an over-easy egg on a cream-top buttermilk biscuit still hot from the outdoor oven”), make us want to travel more.
The Man Who Ate the World, British restaurant critic Jay Rayner’s tour of the planet's great restaurant cities will be coming out soon, as Gawker noted yesterday. Its piece lingered over Super Mario’s latest profanity-laced anti-blogger tirade, which was almost as enjoyable as his last one. But having read the New York chapter, we were hit by how much other good stuff was in it.
Dom De Marco raised the price of a Di Fara's slice to $4, and Chowhounders are aghast, reports Slice's Adam Kuban. But do the accusations of making a quick buck lobbed against the Saint of Avenue J have any merit? We did a little research into the cost of ingredients at Di Fara and confirmed our suspicion that De Marco doesn't make much money.
If you had to rank all the nation’s top pancake chains by degrees of hipness, we think it would be fair to say that IHOP would come out at or near the top. First it created, or seemed to create, a shadow restaurant in Times Square; then a “hip-hop IHOP” in downtown Brooklyn; and now, to celebrate their 50th anniversary, it created IHOP’s own line of casual wear for the flapjack fashionista with a love of breakfast corporate branding. The shirts seem to mimic the primitivist vibe of the seventies retro tees pioneered from the Cotton Factory and a million other manufacturers. There’s even a trucker hat. But don’t wear it to the hip-hop IHOP. Or anywhere, for that matter.
IHOP Celebrates Birthday With Clothing Line [NRN]