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Hasselhoff Continues to Show Up at Things

High Fidelity opening night. Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St., nr. Broadway, 5:30 p.m. Nick Hornby, Hope Davis, Alec Baldwin, Rachel Dratch, Lauren Bacall, Bebe Neuwirth, and David Hasselhoff expected. Free premise for aspiring "Shouts & Murmurs" writers: What if Nick Hornby had written Baywatch?

‘Time Out’ Likes Our Critics! They Really Like Our Critics!

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So Time Out New York is out today with a big cover story rating and ranking all the city's cultural critics. It must be said: We give two thumbs up to this review of the reviews. Of course, why wouldn't we? New York's critics fared well (if not quite as well as Time Out's own critics, who did — surprise! — fabulously). Our Peter G. Davis was the No. 2 classical-music reviewer, Adam Platt came in third for foodies, Jeremy McCarter was named the fourth best theater critic, and Mark Stevens was No. 6 among the art experts. The one exception was our esteemed film reviewer, David Edelstein, who ranked an unimpressive eleventh. Why is that? Well, according to his Zagatian write-up, it's because he's insufficiently attentive to independent film. "If you were to read only his column, you'd never know that foreign-language films and independent documentaries were opening," wrote one panelist. "A fine critic for first-run films. I wish he was able to write more about off-the-beaten-path films," wrote another. And just what industry experts came to these damning conclusions? Well, from the roster of reviewer-reviewers provided, we can pick out the director of the Film Forum; the publicist for the Film Forum; the publicist for the IFC Center, who was formerly at the Film Forum; the publicist for the Museum of the Moving Image; and two independent publicists of indie films. Hey, at least they know about indie film. Judgment Day [TONY]

Milk and Honey Owner to Do Beer and Wine — and Queens!

Sasha Petraske, owner of Milk and Honey and Little Branch, not to mention one of the city's most revered mixologists, plans on expanding his mini-empire. Shockingly — for those who aren't aware that Petraske worked at Von before conquering the cocktail world — the new venture will be a wine-and-Belgian-beer bar; he's calling it the Mighty Ocelot ("I really like cats," he tells us). Petraske first applied for a beer-and-wine license at 226 Broome Street, around the corner from Milk and Honey, but the rent would've busted his "shoe-string budget." So in January he'll taking over the former Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar space in the East Village; come March, he'll be offering cheese plates and light food. Not only this, but a project in Long Island City is also in the works. —Daniel Maurer

Iraq Study Group: Perhaps Monkier Than We Thought?

The Iraq Study Group report is out, obviously, and now, it seems, all the important players have weighed in: Bush says he doesn't want to decrease troop levels and the Post says the panel's chairmen are "Surrender Monkeys." Clearly it's time for another 20-Person Poll. New York's intrepid interns hit Madison Avenue to ask three questions. Question No. 1: The Iraq Study Group says "the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating." Does that come as a surprise to you? Big surprise: 2; no surprise: 18 Question No. 2: Who has a better plan for Iraq, President Bush or the Iraq Study Group? Bush: 3; ISG: 12; neither: 5 Question No. 3: Are James Baker and Lee Hamilton, the chairmen of the Study Group, in fact surrender monkeys? Yes, monkeys: 6; no, not monkeys: 14

Gordon Ramsay Finally Pissing Someone Off

The famously pugnacious Gordon Ramsay has managed not to alienate the entire city of New York — just his neighbors. The residents of 150 West 55th Street, the building that sits behind the recently opened Gordon Ramsay at the London, claim that the restaurateur has plunged them into what their spokesperson Elizabeth Hulings tells us is a "nightmare." "The smell of the third-floor exhaust fan guarantees that everyone in the building knows just what's being served that night," Hulings says. "The noise has people sleeping on their couches." According to an official release, two tenants "had to seek medical attention for respiratory problems" caused by "particulate matter" given off by garbage trucks. Ramsay's people didn't return our call right away, but Caterer and Housekeeper, a Website that covered the story earlier, quoted them as saying, "Such challenges are not uncommon during a major construction project such as undertaken at the hotel and restaurant," and added, "when brought to the attention of Gordon Ramsay Holdings by the hotel, the complaint was immediately addressed." Kitchen Nightmare for Gordon Ramsay in New York [Caterer and Housekeeper]

Nothing Gets Between Dakota and Her Jacobs

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Marc Jacobs, it seems, likes 'em young. He has unveiled his new ad campaign — it breaks in February issues of fashion mags, and you can see two of the shots above — featuring 12-year-old actress Dakota Fanning, as WWD reported today. Slightly skeevy fashion advertising, of course, is nothing new, but, still, this one manages to be, we think, a bit creepier than shaved pubic hair (Gucci), awkward celebrity stand-ins (Versace), or emaciated models (pretty much all of the major labels). Perhaps Marc's avant-garde taste is more attuned to European tastes: WWD also reports that he'll be showing Marc by Marc in the London shows for the first time this February. —Kendall Herbst On Your Marc [WWD]

Christmas Trees Look Good in Chelsea, Struggle in the Slope

Chelsea: The Hotel Chelsea gets festive in the lobby. Or at least more so than the Allerton. [Living With Legends] • Coney Island: So which is worse, Thor Equities or Forest City Ratner? [Gowanus Lounge] • Flatbush: With Yvette Clarke on her way to Washington, the fiasco to fill her City Council seat begins. [Daily Gotham] • Flatiron: No more feeling inferior to every other area of Manhattan with an H&M. But we'll miss Daffy's. [Metroblogging NYC] • Park Slope: This place has questionable Christmas trees, at best. [Brooklynian via Daily Heights] • Sunset Park: How long will one man's fight against litter last? [Cloud Starchaser via Sunset Parker]

New York Oysters Are Fat and Sassy

Oysters are born in the summer and get nice and fat with the onset of winter. This year has brought an especially good crop of New York varieties: Pine Island, Fisher's Island, Blue Point, Great South Bay, etc. They're all the same species (Crassostrea virginica), but their flavors are marked by the waters in which they're raised. Here are three top places to slurp your share of the local abundance.

XBox Beats PS3, Saves Relationships

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At the PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 Challenge at the Apollo Theater yesterday, H3TV — apparently "the only high-definition flat screen that allows players to simultaneously compete on both gaming systems" — allowed players to, well, simultaneously complete on both systems. (The crowd seemed to prefer the cheaper XBox.) Juelz Santana of Harlem's beloved Diplomats rap crew — also known as Dipset — sat down for a spirited game of Madden and was all business, dodging both autograph requests and an aggressive pass rush from his opponent, an anonymous Dipset affiliate he swore was the crew's resident gaming ringer. Santana came up short, but he made it out of the loss with his swagger intact, turning right around to sign those autographs for his patient fans and to extol the virtues of the H3TV. "If you're always playing your game, your girl can watch Lifetime or something. She ain't got to leave the room. It's good for relationships!" Armed with that, we're sure you can finally convince your girlfriend to let you buy a high-def flat-screen. —Amos Barshad

Doing Good at Ralph Lauren; Eating Late With David Bouley

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MIAMI BEACH — Fashion met art at Art Basel Miami beach last night, and this was not necessarily a good thing. The worlds collided in David Bouley's place — specifically, his gorgeous new South Beach restaurant, Evolution, where Jimmy Choo's Tamara Mellon was throwing a fête for the Whitney. The problem: There were other, nearly as important places to be, and stops at those other events made everyone very late for this one. What were the rivals? A Russell Simmons dinner at the Delano penthouse, and a lush UBS-sponsored dinner, where billionaires were as common as palm trees. At the packed and chaotic Ralph Lauren party to benefit RxArt, which was one of the rare and welcome charity events at the otherwise largely venal Art Basel, the wife of a hedgie, bearing an invitation, was initially denied entrance — to a store, she noted, annoyed — because she hadn't RSVP'd. (Once she got inside, she'd find Andrew Shriver, Nikki Haskell, Gene Pressman, Bob Colacello, the lovely mom of Ralph Lauren exec David Calle, and some nice clothes.) But what about back at swanky Evolution?

Paying for Drinks, Partying With Deitch

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MIAMI BEACH — South Beach started to resemble spring break last night — but with much more money, and with Europeans. There was a preview of the actual art at Art Basel from 6 to 8, which gave everyone a chance to check out the maze of work from galleries all over the world. A VIP collectors' suite was actually for collectors of other expensive things, like jets and beachside condos. Cipriani, Related, Netjets, and Bulgari had outposts to offer consolation prizes if you couldn't get the art you wanted because it had already been bought or, more likely, because the gallery wanted to sell it to someone better than you. Unlike New York corporate parties, however, there were no free drinks flowing to impair inhibitions. These companies may have had enough marketing cash to be in a classy place, but there was a cash register set up on the bar. Not classy at all. But later things got classier.

Ms. Gobbler's Turn: Her Favorite Restaurants

In pale imitation of great gastronome scribblers like Calvin Trillin and the late Johnny Apple, the Gobbler has written, perhaps too often, about his wife's taste in food and restaurants (just read his last review). Possibly also like them (the Gobbler doesn't know Mr. Trillin, but he met Apple during his gruff, un-cuddly, pre-foodie days), the Gobbler is often accused by his wife of egregiously distorting her views (you bet he does). Ms. Gobbler would like the world to know that her most-used word is not "yummy," that if given the choice, she'd prefer to eat at home, and that her favorite drink really is champagne. "Also, you always make me sound elfin," she told the Gobbler just a moment ago, "and I am not elfin." In a hasty (and desperate) attempt to clarify the record, I've asked Ms Gobbler to list her current favorite restaurants in town. It goes without saying that Mr. Gobbler approves of these fine establishments, too.

Managing Traffic for Efficiency and Hilarity

We noted several weeks ago the city's ambitious new plan to dedicate whole lanes of traffic to ultrafast buses with their own curbside turnstiles. And how would these buses battle unauthorized motorists slipping in and out of the lanes? By snapping pictures of them and ratting them out to the city. Nice. But not nearly as effective as a high-tech — yet awesomely brutal — solution implemented in Great Britain. Marvel at cars getting mauled by weight-sensing, automated retractable bollards. Bollard Porn [StreetsBlog] Earlier: It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a … Bus!

Teach a Man to Make a Sandwich of the Week ...

Last week, the Underground Gourmet recommended Zingerman's Reuben sandwich kit as the perfect holiday gift for the sandwich nut on your list. This week — in acknowledgement of the fact that even Kate's Paperie cannot wrap a Reuben sandwich well enough so that placing it beneath a Christmas tree for several days would not run the risk of Taco-Belling the giftee — the UG has come up with a superb alternative gift idea. It's the new book, called Simple Italian Sandwiches (HarperCollins; $21.95), by Jennifer and Jason Denton, and it requires no refrigeration. As anyone who knows anything about Italian sandwiches is aware, Jason Denton is to panini, bruschetta, and tramezzini what Masa Takayama is to sushi, sashimi, and Kobe sukiyaki. The Dentons opened the West Village panini parlor 'ino back in 1998, and it's fair to say that they started the whole local craze for delicately balanced, deceptively simple Italian sandwiches, and that no one outside of the Boot does a better job of it.

M&M's Opens Times Square Store, Tortures Willing Pedestrians

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If you're anything like us, nothing attracts your sweet tooth like "heavy, thin, old and young New Yorkers" sprayed in candy coating. So when we received a press release from the M&M's people announcing that they'd be marking the opening of their new Times Square location by spraying those folks in their favorite M&M's colors — and then branding their chests with an M, candy style — we knew we'd have to attend. Intern Everett was on the scene, where he snapped some pix and reported that nothing says yum like bikini-clad people, standing in 40-degree weather, getting sprayed with cold paint. Hey, at least the victims froze in their mouths, not in their hands.

Taxi Driver Speaks: ‘An Asshole Tax’

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Think this latest taxi-fare increase — which doubled the cost of standing time — sucks for passengers? Think again. Cab driver and self-styled livery-industry pundit Alexander Stone Dale calls us from time to time to give us his take on the business. Here's his latest insight:
The new fare increase — it's brilliant. It's an asshole tax! Only four of my passengers paid more than they normally do. And all four were totally stupid assholes who didn't want to hear about it, wanted to go the way they always go, weren't concerned about my fucking convenience, weren't concerned about anything. And all four freaked out. It was amazing. If you're not an asshole, cab fares have remained unchanged.
An asshole tax? That we can get behind. Earlier: Taxi Fares Rise, and Only the Oil Companies Win Are Taxi Drivers Metering All the Way to the Bank?

Epicurean Gentrification; New Orleans Fights Back; Kids Equal Liquor License

Essex Street Market not just for obscure South American root vegetables anymore: "Epicurean gentrification" under way. [NYT] Fire-struck Medina reopening after a year and a half; London sushi chain to land in financial district. [NYT] $4.25 mil gets you Hamptons hot spot Star Room. [NYP] Alan Richman now No. 1 on New Orleans shit list: "I'd like to throw him in the back room at Tipitina's with all the Neville brothers and see if he still thinks Creoles don't exist." [NYT] Related: Richman Kicks New Orleans While It's Down Grey Dog Coffee plays the kid card to clinch liquor license for new location. [Gothamist] Caterer Marcey Brownstein opens up a place in Chelsea; possibly the only time you'll see muffulettas and edamame on the same menu. [Strong Buzz]

Amy Sacco Is Still Probably Not Selling Bungalow

Lindsay Lohan wrote a long and incoherent e-mail, which for some reason referenced Al Gore and Bill Clinton. Amy Sacco says she's actually not selling Bungalow 8, the Observer's reporting to the contrary notwithstanding. (Daily Intel readers already knew that.) Mary-Louise Parker may be dating her Weeds co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Pataki consigliere Charles Gargano says he'll keep his seat on the Port Authority board, even with his man gone from Albany. Frustrated Knicks fans, here's your chance to vent: Garden chief Jim Dolan is performing with his band tonight at B.B. King's. (It is, however, a cancer benefit, so don't be too mean.) Paramount/Dreamworks execs are pushing Beyoncé over Jennifer Hudson for a Best Actress Oscar nod, and Jennifer Hudson is okay with it. Lenny Kravitz went to the dermatologist. Anna Wintour found The Devil Wears Prada "entertaining" and has had the same haircut since she was 15, she tells Barbara Walters during her "10 Most Fascinating People" interview (in which Wintour actually does wear Prada). TomKat didn't invite Oprah to their wedding, and they didn't invite her to their post-honeymoon bash, either. Kevin Federline showed up at a book reading for the free booze. Jordan's Queen Rania and King Abdullah are on the rocks. Damon Wayans was fined $320 for dropping the n-word sixteen times at L.A.'s Laugh Factory. Jessica Alba and the Duff sisters are hosting a New Year's Eve party at a club in Miami and are doing it for free. Ellen Pompeo wants to gain five to ten pounds, because they'd go straight to her boobs, she told Playboy. Robert Evans is suing the electrical company that installed a screening room in his home that mysteriously burned down. Liz Smith cried at the end of Dakota Fanning's Charlotte's Web.

The New York ‘Post’ Will Never Cut and Run (We Hope)

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We have nothing to add to today's Post wood. We just wanted to make sure you saw it. And we wanted to make sure you realize how much poorer life in our fair city would be without the delightfully gleeful nut jobs at the Post. Thank you, Rupert, for this philanthropic contribution to city life, and may you never — even in the face of continuing multi-million-dollar losses at the paper — become a surrender monkey. Iraq 'Appease' Squeeze on W. [NYP]