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So This 2nd Avenue Deli Reopening — Is It Good for the Jews?

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

Fernando Navas Brings El Bulli’s ‘Cheese Air’ to SushiSamba

Fernando Navas
About a year ago, Argentine-born Fernando Navas, then a sous-chef at Nobu Miami, got the news that he was one of the 50 applicants out of 6,000 chosen for a four-month stage at Spain’s El Bulli, the stomping grounds of hallowed molecular gastronomist Ferran Adrià and pretty much the most famous restaurant in the world. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays in January, Navas will present an Adrià-influenced $110 tasting menu at his current restaurant, SushiSamba. We’re not saying it’ll be as hard as scoring a table at El Bulli, but only twelve people will be accommodated per night. We asked Navas what it was like to fulfill every young chef’s dream.

Breaking: Chef Nicolas Cantrel Out at Bobo

Time Out New York’s blog reports that Nicolas Cantrel, the chef at Bobo, is leaving — a seemingly strange move for a brand-new restaurant, but maybe not that surprising. The word on the street has been that while the décor is aces, the food was strictly junior varsity (we haven’t eaten there so we can’t say). Anyway, no word yet on who Bobo’s new chef will be. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear. Exclusive: Bobo chef go-gos out the door [The Feed/TONY]

The Chef Comic We've Been Waiting For!

Grub Street’s with-it brother Vulture introduces us to new comics every week, but it’s taken almost a year to discover a manga that has to do with mangia. Vulture describes Wonton Soup as “a manga–meets–Gahan Wilson–meets–Iron Chef space-trucker opera,” which sounds pretty fantastic to us. Plus, this comic speaks truth! “My cooking is all about passion and fun,” laments the chef who trained at a ten-star restaurant. “Once all that gets taken away, it’s just food.” Click over to Vulture to read an excerpt.

Morton’s Arrives to Destroy the Last Bit of Brooklyn’s Soul

Now that Morton’s has announced that it’s opening a steakhouse in Brooklyn, the borough has lost its claim to a culinary soul. Morton’s — a chain steakhouse that presents its meat to customers under plastic wrap — is the culinary equivalent of the banks and drugstores that have pushed out mom-and-pop businesses all over town.

Nobu Looks for an Opulent Suitor

Do you have a valuable brand name? A blue-chip reputation sanctified by the food media? Do you need ready capital — for expansion, debt reduction, or even retirement in your golden years? Just sell out to the nearest major conglomerate looking to add a bit of class! On her Website’s new gossip page, New York’s Insatiable Critic, Gael Greene, reveals the details of the latest rumored arranged marriage: this one between Nobu and Colony Capital, “the force behind Xanadu, the 2.2.-million-square-foot sports, leisure, shopping and family entertainment complex sprouting in the Meadowlands.” Is Nobu Matsuhisa playing Kubla Kahn? Insatiable Critic: Short Order

White Is Just So Blah: Kitchen Fashions for the Preening Chef

It’s been noted that chefs are no longer the obscure functionaries they once were, content to bark orders in the kitchen among their pots and pans. No more shapeless, asexual whites for them, not when they’re called upon to preen before diners in the front of the house — any one of whom could be a Food Network scout! Crooked Brook, a chef’s fashion house — a "boutoque," if you will — fills this urgent need with a wide range of stylish kitchenwear. Put one of these babies on and you can be another Todd English or Rocco DiSpirito, or at least look the part, with a snug fit and ruffly little buttons. Nor are the ladies left out of Crooked Brook’s culinary couture: Just check out this wheat-colored wraparound seersucker jacket. (There’s no place for a thermometer in it, but who needs a thermometer when you’ve got sex appeal?) As for the food, let the sous-chef worry about that. Your place is out front, showing your plumage. In the back, you might get stained. Crooked Brook Chef Uniforms

The Locavore’s Guide to New York Will Keep You Green and Hungry

Everybody’s a locavore in a certain sense — as in, when your waiter says “these quinces are from a small farm in Yonkers” and you say, “Really! Well, they’re just delicious.” But the stricter sense, where you only eat things that are grown or raised within 300 miles of your house? A much harder proposition. That’s where the Locavore’s Guide to New York comes in handy. The Website gives the main suppliers for everything from soup to nuts, but after test-driving it, we noticed a couple of things right off the bat. First of all, you better like going to the Greenmarket if you plan on being a locavore, because by far the largest part of the suppliers are there and only there. Second, we don’t want to be a locavore! Reading about the milk, the apples, and so on, we realized how dismal our diet would become if we hewed to its Puritan ethos: no Scottish langoustines, no toro, no truffles, no San Marzano tomatoes … maybe we can just be breakfast locavores. Is that good enough? The Locavore's Guide to New York City [Local Fork]

Steven Rinella Dons Locavore Camouflage

Steven Rinella’s op-ed piece in today’s Times, in which the Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine author makes the case that hunters are not really hobbyists who enjoy killing animals, but rather proto-locavores, struck us as disingenuous on so many levels that we had to respond to it. First, Rinella wraps himself in green language as if it were a Thinsulate camo parka. “Hunters are the original locavores,” Rinella writes, bragging that his family used to eat three or four deer a year, along with various other unlucky birds and squirrels, and that he “carried that subsistence aesthetic into adulthood.” Subsistence aesthetic! Rinella’s from Twin Lake, Michigan! We would bet the closest he got to subsistence culture was running out of Pop-Tarts.

Bourdain’s Duck Farm Was No Potemkin Village

There’s been some buzz the last few days about Anthony Bourdain's Holiday Special, a likable, perverse piece of holiday programming recently on the Discovery Channel. (It's like A Charlie Brown Christmas, except with foie gras, instead of a spindly tree.) The highlight of the show is Bourdain’s visit to a Hudson Valley foie gras farm, where he finds that ducks really don’t mind being force-fed and that foie gras is (surprise, surprise) all right to eat after all. Having visited the same farm ourselves, we can testify that the birds don’t seem to mind a periodic forced-stuffing; their long throats are built to handle whole spiny fishes, so a smooth tube going in for three seconds doesn’t bother them any more than a drunken handful of tater tots would you or me.

Facebook Brings Chefs Closer Together

We dedicate a lot of our time to obsessing over the restaurant industry's heavy hitters: Gordo, Mario, Fabio. But what about the bright young things who slave away in the shadows of the line? No doubt many of them will be destined for big things, and surely they're dreaming of the days when they'll have an empire and a single moniker ending in "o." So who's keeping an eye on them? After hours of prowling around Facebook, we can now enthusiastically assert that we are. We combed through the social-networking site, finding dozens of profiles and pulling the most useful for your reference. Who's the sous-chef with a dislike of olives and fake tits? Which pastry extern is friends with New York's Sexiest Chef? And why are so many Per Se–ers on the site? Does Thomas Keller make it a staff requirement or something?--Alexandra Vallis

Is Crack Back in the Kitchen?

Everyone knows that kitchen workers, and cooks in particular, lead an unwholesome lifestyle. But crack? From what we’re hearing, the rock is coming back to the junior toque set. “Guys are doing it all over the place,” a source told us the other night. “They use the glass pipe and everything.” We’ve heard similar stories elsewhere around town. Maybe it’s just our Reagan-era brainwashing, but aren’t you supposed to become a urine-stained beggar at the Port Authority the minute you try this drug? Or is it just a more concentrated, addictive form of cocaine, as reported by the sober verdict of science? Either way, crack could be the party drug of choice among tastemaking degenerates, at least until they start pilfering capons to feed the habit. So is coke just too pricey on a line cook's wages? We’re relying on rumor for now, so please narc in the comments.

Best This, Best That … We Say, ‘Who Cares?’

The year-end rush to give out awards has started in earnest, and two totally meaningless such contests present themselves to us today. On Endless Simmer, the nominations are in for Eater of the Year and include Tony Bourdain, Padma Lakshmi, some locavores, and Joey Chestnut. Are you kidding? Why even ask the question? If Joey Chestnut, having vanquished Kobayashi and established himself as the greatest competitive eater in the world, doesn’t get this award, why bother giving it? The man deserves it just for eating 103 Krystal burgers in eight minutes earlier this year.

The Mystery of the Pitmasters Stymies the ‘Times’

The Times, touching on a story Grub Street broke when Moses was in short pants, had a big feature on the dearth of experienced pitmasters Sunday, pegged on GS pal Big Lou Elrose of Wildwood. The piece marvels at the quick ascent of Big Lou from working an Ozone Park lunch wagon to his current post, but in fact, Elrose’s bones were made as Adam Perry Lang’s right hand man in competition; the lunch wagon was just a lark. Still, the city’s top pitmasters are as baffling to food writers as they are to the general public. Their job is hard to understand, because nothing they do happens while customers are present to observe. The pitmaster's art is exercised in the dead night, in secrecy and silence, and outside observers rarely get any glimpse of what it involves. There is one factor that never changes, though, and will always separate real pitmasters from merely titular ones.

We Solve Traver Rains's Testicle Troubles

Traver Rains
So designer Traver Rains of Heatherette can’t get cow balls here in New York? Well, why didn’t he ask us? Not that we are enthusiasts of the crinkly treats; the things have little taste and the gnarliest of textures (think of calves brains, but chewier). However, if the famished designer really wants them, they can be had. Ali frequently serves the dish at Astoria’s Kebab Café, and we’ve heard that they can be found occasionally at Kenka, the East Village izakaya that seems to specialize in weird bits and pieces. The ultimate place for this kind of thing, though, is probably A Fan Ti, a Flushing restaurant that has every part of the lamb and goat from the eyes to the oysters. As for the traditional Wild West breaded prairie oyster? That still hasn’t come to New York. Maybe a profitable new sideline for Heatherette? Related: Traver Rains Loves Him Some Cow Balls [Daily Intel]

Murray Klein, Zabar's Co-owner, Dies at 84

Murray Klein, who as much as anyone was the founder of the Zabar’s we know today (he created the mezzanine and expanded the store vastly beyond its original scale), died Wednesday night at the age of 84. He was one of the last of the old-time Jewish businessmen, one who would rather sell caviar at a loss than back down from a fight with Macy's. His obituary is in the Times, but his monument is on Broadway and 80th Street. Former Co-Owner of Zabar’s, Murray Klein, Dies at 84 [NYT]

The ‘Top Chef’–‘Project Runway’ Mash-up We've Been Waiting For

Dale and Jack
How did such a coupling take so long? Top Chef’s Dale Levitski (who was NOT invited back for this week’s holiday special) and Project Runway’s Jack Mackenroth are dating! Here’s the dirt: “We randomly met over MySpace,” says Dale. “I like keeping it incestuous. Keep it in the Bravo family,” says Jack. Other pairings we’d like to see: Sam Talbot and Uli Herzner Mike Midgley and Wendy Pepper Elia Aboumrad and Michael Knight Have any suggestions for hot Project RunwayTop Chef crossovers? Play matchmaker in the comments. Real Reality Couple: Jack Mackenroth and Dale Levitski Dating [BreakOUT News via Towleroad]

Former Dictators Issue Punk-Rock Food Rules

Whether the Dictators were the first New York punk band, there’s no question about whom Grub Street’s loyalties go to. (We never ate at White Castle with the Voidoids.) With the newly released The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists, edited by former Dictators front man Handsome Dick Manitoba, the underrepresented punk-rock-food connection becomes clearer, thanks to such lists as Mykel Board’s "9 Ways That Vegetarians Are Destroying the Earth," Jon Spencer’s "14 Foods to Avoid on Tour," and even a few bonus lists from the likes of Mario Batali and Jean-Luc Le Dû. But we’re all about the Dictators here, so we bring you two: one from HDM himself, and the other from Dictators songwriter-guitarist Andy Shernoff, now a certified sommelier.

Platt Sees Only Disaster and Peril for Out-of-Town Chefs

With the recent news that the celebrated Charlie Trotter might be opening up an outpost here in New York, our thoughts turned to the whole phenomenon of out-of-town chefs and their usually disastrous forays to New York. We thought to contact our dour friend Adam Platt to see what kind of world-weary wisdom he might dispense on the subject. As expected, the big man had deep thoughts at the ready, and we transcribed our exchange for posterity, in case Charlie Trotter wants something to put on his refrigerator.

Biggest Truffle Yet Commands Record Price, Blah Blah Blah

“This looks like the brain of a man … but it's nice, very nice,” says Alfonso Iaccarrino, chef at the Lisboa Hotel in Micau, the new owner of the world’s biggest and most expensive white truffle, a 3.3-pound monster for which the hotel paid $330,000. That's way out of proportion to the already insane low-double-digit figures being paid for previous giant truffles, but since there can apparently never be too much truffle coverage, it’s our grim duty to direct you to it. Grub Street is your source for truffle news on the march, even when they look like brains. Giant Truffle Sold at Auction [Reuters] Related: What Chef Rides the Truffle Train for Free? Breaking: Another Freakish White Truffle Comes to Town Have White Truffles Finally Gone Too Far?