The Vendy Awards, a.k.a. the Homeless Beards, are upon us again, and the finalists for Street Vendor of the year have just been announced. As at the Beards, a familiar cluster of luminaries dominates the nominations. These are not necessarily the very best carts going, but the ones whose years of service and body of work has earned them a high reputation among sidewalk gastronomes. The nominees, and our handicapping, are below.
Top Chef viewers may have been impressed that Howie, the token Mr. Hyde of the show, magically morphed back into Dr. Jekyll when he finally got the boot, but we hear he was less than happy to leave. Our source, who works on the show, tells us that after walking off the set, Howie hurled his knives in a room full of crew members before storming out to a parking lot. (He was polite to the other cheftestants, though.) Outside, cameras tracked his every chain-smoking move, but the tantrum never aired.
What’s toughest about being Gordon Ramsay? We’d be hard-pressed to say, but somehow getting his balls roasted by an oven has to rate even higher than accusations of fraud, demotion from the top spot in London, and his ongoing problems here in New York. Scotch Highland Oysters were the special of the house recently, the result of a kitchen accident the profane chef boasted good-naturedly about to the Daily Mirror the other day. Of course, this was bound to happen. Since the chef famously eschews long-sleeved chef’s whites, it’s no surprise that he’s going commando in the kitchen.
Ramsay’s Yells Kitchen [Daily Mirror]
Top Chef villain Howie Kleinberg, beloved in some corners but reviled in most, was finally eliminated last night. Despite his last minute conversion from self-serving aggressor to avowed team player, the judges unanimously agreed that his hors d'oeuvre lacked imagination and flavor. Today Howie talks to us about his sweaty head and why you don't want to be his enemy.
Connoisseurs of bad art and worse restaurants will get a charge from a story in today’s Post about Nello Balan and his run-in with artist Jerome Lucani. There are so many levels of absurdity to this that it would take Nathaniel West to do it justice, but let’s start with the basics: Balan, who owns restaurants catering to stodgy plutocrats, allegedly agreed to front the money for Lucani to produce hideous celebrity photomontages in exchange for a 40 percent cut on sales. Lucani claims that Balan is “keeping [his] paintings hostage” and demanded a $500,000 fee plus a 50-50 split on sales. Now that’s how you do business!
Last night’s Top Chef claimed Tre Wilcox, the affable Texas chef and audience favorite. Acting as executive chef for Restaurant April, three of his dishes bombed and the judges reluctantly singled him out as the night’s loser. He spoke with us about his new female fans and why he thinks Hung will become this season’s Top Chef.
Top Chef lost its last hometown hero this week when Sara Nguyen, formerly an executive sous-chef at Boucarou, let the increasingly volatile Howie get under her skin. (Adam Platt called her a “sacrificial lamb,” but we question anyone who puts ice in a milk shake.) Today, Sara tells us about Howie’s greatest weakness and who might suffer him next.
Having dismissed Bacon Salt as the final sign that America’s favorite breakfast meat had jumped the shark, we received this ironic action figure in the mail from Bacon Salt’s makers, along with handwritten “care instructions for Fonzie.” They describe three meals and a snack, each to be liberally doused with the seasoning and served to the plastic Fonz. We’ve now tried the stuff, by the way, and found it every bit as awful as we had imagined it would be. But the truth is, we like things that represent jumping the shark, from Sinatra’s version of “Both Sides Now” to the Burger King quad stacker. Bacon Salt may be bad, but at least it’s an interesting kind of bad.
Earlier: Bacon Has Jumped the Shark
Usually, when a restaurant announces that it’s closing for dinner service, whitewashed windows and snarky obits aren’t far off. But there’s reason to think that Dani, which we’ve learned will be closing at 6 p.m. between now and Labor Day, might not be in such dire straits.
Top Chef contestant Joey Paulino may have been a victim of casting last night when he was eliminated instead of Howie or Hung, who both made bigger mistakes but also seem to be the show’s emerging villains. Still, the native Long Islander and executive chef of Café des Artistes saved his ire for guest judge Rocco DiSpirito. He talked to us about why his fellow Long Islander is a “douche bag”.
The good people of La Barge, Wyoming, know a great diner when they see one: Moondance Diner, having been banished from Manhattan by greedy land barons, has found a home in Big Sky territory, where it will serve up wholesome food to good folk. That’s the beauty of a freestanding diner, of which Moondance was the last in Manhattan: You can just lift it up and tow it to wherever you like. La Barge doesn’t just want the diner for its nostalgia value: The closest restaurant is a Mexican joint twenty miles to the north. A town made up of 500 residents, one full-time policeman, and what was once the most picturesque diner in New York? We’re making vacation plans.
To Find This New York Diner, Head to Wyoming [NYS]
Earlier: Well, It's a Marvelous Night for Luxury Condos [Daily Intel]
No Reservations, the new movie where Catherine Zeta-Jones plays (history's most gorgeous) chef, had a prescreening last night, and Justin Ravitz was there to take down the red-carpet thoughts of the principals and attendees. The movie’s stew of rom-com clichés, from the hard-talking but vulnerable lady boss to the brash young hunk who breaks down her defenses, was tired when the Automat opened, so our questions ranged far outside of the kitchen, and so did the answers (Abigail Breslin? Just too cute). Aaron Eckhart said that he doesn’t know about the “cool and popular” new restaurants, citing Raoul’s as his favorite place to eat. Now there’s a sentiment we have “no reservations” about.
See pictures and quotes from Catherine Zeta-Jones, Katie Lee Joel, Aaron Eckhart, Alto chef Michael White, and others from the No Reservations premiere in Party Lines [NYM]
The nation’s infatuation with bacon gets stronger every year, but now it may have gone too far. We were members of the Bacon of the Month club from way back. We too fell in love with the bacon-flavored chocolate promoted at the Fancy Food Show recently. We even hosted occasional bacon tastings, and just for good measure included everyone’s favorite breakfast meat in our recent Grub Street grilling video. But to say “everything should taste like bacon,” like the zealous producers of Bacon Salt do, is perhaps taking the obsession too far.
Given that Alan Richman has become a kind of professional debunker, the Amazing Randi of the food world, it was with some relief that we read his critical overview of Brooklyn in the new issue of GQ. The verdict: Brooklyn rules! Gramercy Tavern, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and the cities of Las Vegas and New Orleans, all victims of his scorn over the last few years, must be fuming.