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]
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]