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Fall Fashion Week Party Guide: Damien Hirst, Djimon Hounsou, and the Hiltons

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Is Fashion Week about anything other than clothes? Uh, yeah—booze, music, and the best parties to hit town since, well, last Fashion Week. Velvet-rope crashers, beware: These are invite-only, so if your name doesn't grace that guest list, you'll have to read about them next day on Show & Talk.

Food Blog Awards Give Us Joy, Not Pain

Last week, the Wellfed Network gave out some food-blog awards. When we saw that we weren't among the nominees, our immediate response was rancor. But then we got that it was an award for individual bloggers, and we found a lot of pleasure in discovering some good ones. Among the winners we liked: Best Food Blog - New: Pinch My Salt. By a housewife in Sicily, this plain, recipe-centric blog has some of the most dazzling images around and is written in a totally simple and direct style that we wish we saw more of. Best Food Blog - Rural: Farmgirl Fare. Here at Grub Street, we hear a lot of talk about local cooking and seasonal ingredients, but this blog that is actually about life on a farm. Sometimes Farmgirl lays it on a little thick, but you do feel at times as if you're actually involved with her baby animals and various hay-related chores.

‘Times’ Rehashes Secret-Bar ‘Trend,’ Snoozes on GoldBar News

If the “Sunday Styles” piece on “secret bars” seems familiar, right down to the obligatory scene in trenddaddy of them all Milk and Honey, maybe it’s because you read “Buzz Off: Secret Bars That Spurn Hype” in 2000 or “Don’t Look for a Sign; Hot Spots Don’t Want Just Anyone to Find Them” in 2004. Strangely, the latest trend piece chose to single out tired examples like East Side Company Bar (um, didn’t this open more than a year and a half ago?) over, say, Gold Bar, the top-secret Bungalow-in-the-making we recently exposed. Which makes this a good time to let you in on a lil' something else about GoldBar: According to a well-placed source, they’ve enlisted bartenders Brian Miller of Pegu Club and Jim Kerns of Pegu and Freemans (both of whom are also putting in shifts at Death & Co.). But don’t tell anyone; it’s a “secret.” —Daniel Maurer

Startling Results of a Franco-American Summit; Queens Restaurant's Mob Ties

French journalists and top NY chefs and food personalities meet at Franco-American gastronomy summit. The consensus? The world needs fewer haute restaurants, more steakhouses, and to go to war to protect foie gras. [Bloomberg] Le Binge: Gael Greene's account of her French Eat-a-Thon [NYM] The city contracted with the nephew of a former acting Gambino boss to run Caffe on the Green, Bayside’s answer to Tavern on the Green. This on the heels of the news that the Colombo family and the Russian mob together operate a golf course in Brooklyn. [NYP] There are apparently a number of people who are enthusiastic about food and travel constantly sampling it. Among these are Jane and Michael Stern, Chowhound's Jim Leff, and a guy who works for a management and technology consulting firm. Who knew? [NYT] Chow provides a sorely-needed molecular gastronomy cheat sheet, which not only explains spherification, but even tells you how to pronounce the names of the movement’s major exponents. [Chow] A relatively inexpensive cooking school established in Westchester, boasting a 100% placement rate. Now about those wages ... [7online] The question of what constitutes “true Japanese” food to be settled once and for all, when the Japanese External Trade Organization begins certifying restaurants. [Mainichi Daily News]

Con Ed Terrifies East Village Bargoers

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For once, it wasn't a bar that caused an Alphabet City noise disruption; last night the culprit was Con Ed's East River Generation Station at 14th Street and the FDR Drive. Around 11 p.m., the plant began issuing dozens of deafeningly loud blasts of steam every fifteen seconds or so, and imbibers around the neighborhood decided it was a good time to step out for a ciggie and make sure the world wasn't coming to an end. A disheveled man who was awoken by the blasts held his cell up in the air so a friend could hear the ruckus. "You don't know what it is, but you like it," a woman chirped at her excited dog, while someone else likened the steam puffs to those of a volcano. "This hasn't happened once in 25 years," said a woman bedecked in eccentric chinoiserie as she retreated into an Avenue B apartment. "If that thing blows up, we're all fucked." (A transformer at the station did explode, causing a fire and a blackout, in 2002.)

Airplanes and Stem Cells

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• A single-engine plane crashed into the driveway of a New Jersey home last night, killing the pilot and barely missing a row of houses. Details are still murky at the moment; the flight originated in North Carolina and was headed for the Essex County airport in bad weather. [WNBC] • Governor Spitzer is about to sign off on a $1 billion government-financed stem-cell research initiative. Before we get too proud, however (or scream godless pinko), let's recall that California is spending three times the amount on the same. And their governor used to kill clones personally. [NYT] • The NYPD has been cracking down on one of its formerly invincible nemeses — diplomats who use their immunity to park wherever they want. The city's already collected $3 million and is still owed $18 million more, from 77 countries. Worst offender? Egypt ($1.9 million in unpaid tickets). [NYDN] • Miss New Jersey USA has resigned because she's pregnant, and you can't compete while pregnant. (By the way: Why not?) The runner-up, Erin Abramson, is presumed to be running around the living room yelling "I won I won I won I won." [amNY] • And a French-born New Yorker got slapped with an insulting "foreigner fee" at Aquagrill; the story is remarkable for marking the first time in the years the Post published a photo of a French person without Photoshopping a weasel head on him. [NYP]

You Can't Spell MLK Without Al Sharpton

When New York politicians think of the Reverend Martin Luther King, they think of the Reverend Al Sharpton. They have to, because Sharpton has built his annual “public policy forum” into a mandatory Martin Luther King Day stop for politicos across the state. Today’s gathering, at Sharpton’s new digs off the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and 145th Street, was no exception. Honored guests included Governor Eliot Spitzer, Lieutenant Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, several members of Congress, and Attorney General Anthony Cuomo, who joked that he was modeling a Phat Farm suit by Russell Simmons, as the hip-hop mogul looked on approvingly from the dais. The most popular speech topics were critiques of the Iraq war, police brutality, and racial discrimination, along with repeated praise for Sharpton. Queens congressman Gregory Meeks was the most effusive, calling Sharpton a modern-day Martin Luther King. Indeed, it’s a testament to Sharpton’s tenacious chutzpa that he’s taken the official holiday devoted to Dr. King and fused it with a celebration of himself, a day for some of the most powerful New Yorkers to pay homage to both men in one easy stop. And lest they forget, Sharpton told Spitzer today: "You run Albany, but I run things here!” Sharpton, who has recently stoked rumors of another presidential run, asked Bloomberg if he would run against him. Bloomberg replied that he already had a New Yorker in mind for the job: Charlie Rangel. If Sharpton's out campaigning next January, perhaps Martin Luther King Jr. will have the day all to himself.
—Ari Melber

Inside the Topsy-Turvy World of New York Barbecue

Has the cold weather got you nostalgic for barbecue? We've got good and bad news, plus fallout from an ugly incident upstate. First, the good: Pitmaster Scotty Smith is now serving two weekly specials at RUB. Mondays it's full-beef short rib; Tuesdays there's spicy Asian pork belly, marinated for a week in a brew of chiles, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and the sweet soy sauce called kecap manis. then smoked for hours before being flash-finished in a hot oven.

Chef's Desperate Plea: Nominate Me for an Award!

We recently came across a poignant email written by a prominent young chef whose flashy cooking has earned him much praise, including ours. Judging by the note, which you can find after the jump, those plaudits weren't enough: The chef pleads with his friends to nominate him for a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award (the organization takes suggestions on their Website, as we explained last week). Prepare to cringe. (Identifying details have been removed.)

‘Speakeasy’ Exposes Itself

About a year ago, everyone was atwitter about the opening of modern-day "speakeasy" the Blue Owl: "You'll spot it by an image of a blue owl hanging unobtrusively over a staircase," UrbanDaddy teased. Scratch that: On Saturday, the owners erected the ginormous sign you see above. If business doesn't perk up, they could always turn the place into a Hooters. — Daniel Maurer

We Spot-Check Gordon Ramsay's Stink

We recently noted that the notoriously truculent Gordon Ramsay has finally pissed someone off with his new Gordon Ramsay at the London. His neighbors in the apartment building behind the restaurant have been complaining bitterly about the noise and smell produced by the restaurant's air exhausts, among other things. We decided to see for ourselves just how bad they really have it. Our correspondent, who shot the photograph above, was led into an apartment right across from an apparently unfiltered exhaust vent. "A steady, noticeable hum is apparent," he reports. "This becomes much louder when the windows are opened. I can definitely see how it would impact people living on that side of the building within a few floors of the vent." Then there's the smell. Shirley Lemmon, the residence manager, told our reporter that, "We know what they're having for dinner. Sometimes it's bacon, which I don't mind. I like bacon. But sometimes it's duck, and the smell is terrible." (Lemmon also claims that Ramsay's air-conditioning unit has been measured at 75 decibels. History's loudest rock concert — the Who at Leeds — peaked at 120 decibels.) Ramsay's people told us that "the hotel has addressed the problem and is working to resolve all issues." Something tells us they're not taking duck off the menu. Earlier: Gordon Ramsay Finally Pissing Someone Off

Matt Damon Learns an Important Lesson

The Good Shepherd premiere. Ziegfeld Theater, 141 W. 54th St., nr. Sixth Ave., 7 p.m. Director Robert DeNiro and stars Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Billy Crudup, and John Turturro expected. Based on the movie's title and trailer, we're supposing that a white-haired mentor figure will shoehorn some sort of half-assed allegory about sheep into a conversation with Matt Damon's character. • Partnership for Public Service gala. Cipriani, 110 E. 42nd St., nr. Vanderbilt Ave., 6:30 p.m. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly will award Senator Joe Lieberman with the Theodore Roosevelt Award for the Advancement of Public Service. Humorously, Dennis Haysbert will be honored for the "portrayal" of public service but sadly will not receive it from Commissioner Tony Scali.

Alexander Litvinenko Food News

Daily Intel points out something that never would've occurred to us in a million years: Since former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko dined on possibly polonium-tainted sushi at what has officially been the most publicized restaurant meal of 2006, the eatery, Itsu Sushi, has been on a roll. Riding a wave of publicity, the owners plan on opening a branch in New York. "It sounds macabre and opportunistic to say that this is Itsu's moment, but they just have to make sure they manage it properly," brand consultant Graham Hales told Bloomberg. "There is a point of notoriety that Itsu has achieved that it can now build upon." Now for the "fusion" cooking jokes. New Restaurant to Test Whether There Actually Is Such a Thing as Bad Publicity [Daily Intel]

Hark! The Herald Angels Burn Energy!

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Amazingly enough, there really is some religious devotion to be found in this godless city. And how is it displayed? With enormous, expensive lighting displays, naturally. The good people at Gowanus Lounge took a trip over the weekend to Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, which is apparently the extravagant-Christmas-lights capital of New York City. This picture's our favorite, mostly for the rows of herald angels flanking the entryway, which provide a nice counterpoint to the usual excessive rows of lights and signs. But there's lots more what that came from. And, hey, Merry December 11! Dyker Heights Lights! The Photos [Gowanus Lounge]

Bummer Indeed: Gray's Papaya Finally Raises Prices

When Gray's Papaya announced in September that the price of its Al Franken–endorsed frank was to go up from 95 cents, founder Nicholas A. B. Gray was keeping mum about the math. We visited the Sixth Avenue location this weekend and can now report that as of the beginning of the month, the price is $1.25. This exceeds even the 25-cent jump (from 50 cents to 75 cents) of 1999. Still more devastating, the Recession Special — two dogs and a small drink — has gone from $2.75 to $3.50. Not that we would forsake Gray's for an inferior imitator, but when we called every other listed Papaya stand in the city, we made an all-too-sobering discovery: These days you'll have to go out to Queens to get a 95-cent frank. Here's how much fourteen different dogs will set you back.

Malcolm Gladwell, 4-Year-Old Sheriff

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So we happened past New Yorker scribe Malcolm Gladwell's blog today — don't ask; we have no good excuse — and we were struck by what we found there. It seems Gladwell is in a big ol' blog fight with professional conservative Steve Sailer, and the argument has driven the extravagantly coiffed author — heretofore known for his incisive journalism, his best-sellers, and, well, his exuberant coif — to adopt another claim to fame. Perhaps, from now on, he will be known as the Internet sheriff who saddled up on his blog and roped one errant hive-mind contributor like a straggling baby calf:
Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that Steve Sailer doesn't allow readers to comment on his posts. Can you believe that? Here we have the aggrieved Steve Sailer, donning the cloak of victim as he decries my attempt at censorship. Here we have the allies of Steve Sailer, speaking out on behalf of the virutes [sic] of the free exchange of ideas, the importance of confronting one's critics, the necessity of fighting the good fight in arena of free speech. And all the while their leader is cowering behind the gates of a comment-free blog. Oh my. Is it possible that in addition to everything else, Steve Sailer is also a chicken?
See? That's what's so revolutionary about the Internet: It can turn a dude with a camera phone into a photojournalist, some dorky grad students into billionaires, and, it now seems, Malcolm Gladwell into a 4-year-old. Imagine My Surprise … [Gladwell.com]

Restaurant Guru Predicts the Future, Assumes We'll Eventually Get Hungry

Michael Whiteman — the restaurateur who, with his late partner, the legendary Joe Baum, created the Rainbow Room, Windows on the World, the Hudson River Club, and a number of other historically important places — has issued his annual predictions for next year's restaurant trends, including "tropical superfruits," "ethical eating," and "wildly flavored chocolates." The list is pretty wide-ranging, but if we were handicapping all ten wrinkles, we'd say the odds are on "chef-driven steakhouses" (as Whiteman has persuasively argued), "Japanese small plates" (i.e., izakayas), and "burgers with pedigrees," like those promised by Joe Bastianich's Heritage Burger (which we announced the other day). The long shots for '07? Peruvian cooking, those spice-flavored chocolates, and the popularization of molecular gastronomy ("equivalent to a gastronomic IQ test in which typical diners are all below average"). Then again, no one ever said we were the oracle. 'Party-Colored Beets': 2007 Buzzword Preview [Eater] Remembering Joe Baum [NYM]

Michael Chabon, Defender of the Acknowledgment

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Last week, Times books reporter Julie Bosman took a swipe at Norman Mailer's Aeneid-length acknowledgments. In today's letter column, Pulitzer-winning novelist Michael Chabon presents a defense:
Here's a crazy reason your article did not mention for including an acknowledgment at the end of your novel: to acknowledge. If there is some kind of old-fashioned virtue in concealing one's debt to and gratitude for the hard work of others, it's difficult for me to see where it lies.
But of course Chabon approves of the public airing of private gratitude. He's married, after all, to novelist Ayelet Waldman, who famously published a certain delightful bit in a March 2005 "Modern Love" column. What did she have to say?

Upscale Dry Cleaning Comes to Harlem

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Astoria: Shooting on location is On 31st Street, coming soon to Greek TV. [Columbia Journalist via Joey in Astoria] Brooklyn Heights: Brigate Bocce got the boot in the first round of the New York Fall Bocce Playoffs. We'll keep you updated. [Brooklyn Heights Blog] Chelsea: Burgers & Cupcakes waits till after dark to erect a new awning on its 23rd Street location. [Blog Chelsea] Fort Greene: Are hedge-fund managers actually invading, or is that a real-estate urban legend? [Set Speed aka One Hanson Place] Harlem: New condo buildings bring with them new dry cleaners. [Uptown Flavor] Midtown: Inside the closed stacks (right) of the New York Public Library. [NewYorkology] Red Hook: The Revere Sugar factory is going down, but slowly at first. [Gowanus Lounge]