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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

Juelz Santana
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

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

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

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’

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)

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]

Everything Good Is Bad for You

• A massive, almost Gangs of New York–style group fight in the unlikeliest of settings — Union Square's Greenmarket — left one teenager dead. The two bands of high-school rivals, numbering around 50, wielded "canes, belts, fists and more." Another teen is in serious condition at St. Vincent's with multiple stab wounds. [WNBC] • Vegetables are bad for you, part two: Two more Taco Bells closed, both on Long Island, amid region-wide E. coli poisonings (99 to date and counting). The infection has been traced, surprisingly, to the scallions the company sprinkles atop its ground mystery meat. [amNY] • Reading is bad for you: P.S. 150 in Queens is pulling a young-adult book about coming out, a poetry collection that uses naughty words, and other titles. [NYDN] • Tishman Speyer, taking a break from its historic buying spree, casually set another record by selling 666 Fifth Avenue — which the company bought six years ago for about $500 million — to the Kushner family for $1.8 billion, the largest sum ever paid for a single building. [NYT] • And the Times runs a thoughtful piece about the perils of taking the little ones to Broadway shows. In a case of unfortunate placement, however, the article is rendered unbelievably gross by its proximity to another report: "Broadway Actor Denies Sex Charge." Yet another peril. [NYT]

Boldfaced Names Flock South for Art Basel Winter

Art Basel has sucked New York's boldfaced types down to Miami's $4.99 early-bird dinner buffets. We are left with a surfeit of socialites, a David Mamet play without David Mamet, and Geraldo. • Ugg Australia grand opening. 79 Mercer St., nr. Broome St., 7 p.m. Guests scheduled to include Molly Sims, Jacinda Barrett, and Dr. Lisa Airan, who's the only socialite in the Socialite Rank Top 20 with a medical degree. She's an emergency-room trauma surgeon in the South Bronx. Just kidding, she's a dermatologist.

Trump's Soho Plan Foiled by Internet?

Will Donald Trump's quest to build his Spring Street condo-hotel be trumped by his own Website? Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, certainly hopes so. Berman fired off a letter today to Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster and Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden calling attention to what he says is "is further proof that Mr. Trump and his development partners have every intention of violating the law." The area, zoned for manufacturing, is not generally open to construction of residential buildings, but hotels are allowed. Last month word spread that the city will approve Trump's project with a provision that will restrict stays there an apparently hotel-like 100 or 150 days. But visitors checking the TrumpSoho.com Website today to find out how they can live downtown Donald style were asked to indicate whether they plan on using the units as a "primary residence," "secondary residence," or "investment property." That section has since been removed (Curbed has a screen shot), but Berman and his crew, whose past successes include downsizing the far West Village to ice out hulking towers there, hope the snafu will make city officials examine the project much more closely. For the record, no permits have been issued yet. —S. Jhoanna Robledo Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation Letter [pdf] CurbedWire: Trump Soho's Delicate Question [Curbed]

The Strange Thing We Learned About Ryan Adams This Week

He's apparently a big Friends fan. A fan inexplicably yelled "Monica!" between songs at the first of the prolific troubadour's three Town Hall shows Monday night, and that was all the cue Adams needed. "Don't get me started on the Geller family," he said, and then got started. On a monologue: "Why can't they keep it together for America? And, I mean, he wants to go play a sergeant on Broadway?" Adams was referring now to David Schwimmer's recent and not particularly acclaimed stint in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. "No one's gonna believe you're a sergeant, man. They're just waiting for Chandler to walk in!" No one, thankfully, asked him about Joey. —Rebecca Milzoff

At This Year's Art Basel, Not All VIPs Are Created Equal

MIAMI BEACH — Money walks. And strides. And even pushes, as it did when the huge metal doors swung open at Art Basel Miami Beach today and several thousand collectors poured into the art fair. Soon enough, developer Aby Rosen was chatting with Larry Gagosian by a Lichtenstein nude, Benedikt Taschen was inquiring about prices for most of the Zwirner booth's works, and Keanu Reeves was drawing a small, neck-turning crowd as he shopped. The Miami Beach Convention Center was so crowded that some dealers from rival fairs closed their booths for the afternoon. "Everybody's here," said Robert Goff, of the buzzy NADA fair, where Steve Cohen and Charles Saatchi are usual shoppers. Art Basel is expected to attract 40,000 shoppers over five days, and a quick look at its wares shows how radically the art market has changed since last year's event.

Amy Sacco Might Be Done With Bungalow, and Fabian Basabe Will Happily Dance on Its Grave

Today's Observer brings the sad news that Bungalow 8, the West Chelsea lounge you're nowhere near famous enough to get into, will likely soon be divested from club queen Amy Sacco's empire. "I'm gonna do whatever I feel is necessary for myself," she tells the paper. "But I'm not going to stay if I can't get my customers to walk down the block." Mother of mercy, is this the end of Bungalow? We asked someone who'd know: Party boy about town Fabian Basabe, who was a Bungalow regular until he filed a pesky little lawsuit in August after he was denied entrance and subsequently, he claims, punched by the doorman. Basabe was less gleeful than we'd have expected, but he also got right to the point:
I think that when certain people started going and other people stopped going, it died. There isn't that kind of exclusivity on 27th Street anymore. The Gramercy Hotel and Double Seven blow Bungalow away.
Presumably, of course, those places are still letting him in. — Brian Niemietz UPDATE: Sacco calls back to tell us that reports of her desire to sell Bungalow are "total bullshit." A Nightlife Queen Gets Ready to Sell Her Chilly Hotspot [NYO] Bungalow 8 Update II: Sacco Maybe Just Airing Frustration, Maybe Not Selling [Eater]

To Boldly Go Where No Toque Has Gone Before

You thought NASA wanted to establish a base on the moon just to further the causes of science and exploration? Hardly. The space race is back, baby, and this time the enemies challenging America's rightful dominance are — zut alors! the French. Pardon? That's right. Apparently bored of Tang and freeze-dried ice cream, NASA will soon be sending astronauts to space with meals crafted by Rachael Ray. The cheese-eating surrender monkeys, however, have contributed menus to the International Space Station, via the European Space Agency, by none other than multi-Michelin'd Alain Ducasse. Grub Street has the details — and, now that the battle is joined, will no doubt imminently have news of France's surrender. Ducasse, Ray Feeding Astronauts [Grub Street]