Looks like Max Brenner, the nonexistent "Bald Man" of high-concept choco-bar infamy, has started a trend: Call it the Willie Wonka–fication of the coffeehouse experience. The weirdness continues at the Roasting Plant, where freshly roasted coffee beans are sucked out of transparent vessels through overhead pipes and into a souped-up espresso machine. We're as baffled as anyone, but we also have to grudgingly admit that the shop's main attraction, a Rube Goldberg–meets–H.R. Giger device, looks pretty damn cool. And, who knows, perhaps the beans do stay fresher this way. We'll let Rob and Robin provide further explanation over at Grub Street.
The Roasting Plant’s Coffee Beans Dance Overhead [Grub Street]
Ever feel like a big, juicy, greasy hamburger doesn't pack quite big enough of a fat-and-cholesterol punch for you? The line cooks at BLT Burger to the rescue, then. Killing time at the end of a shift one night, the kitchen crew at Laurent Tourondel's Sixth Avenue outpost threw a burger in the deep fryer to see what would happen. The magnificent result was the King Burger, a five-ounce hunk of ground beef coated, fried, and served on a soft bun with lettuce, tomato, and onion. There's more to it, and it's this week's Sandwich of the Week.
Sandwich of the Week: BLT’s King Burger, in All Its Deep-Fried Glory [Grub Street]
Last time Grub Street checked in with Sam Mason, the former wd-50 pastry chef who's slowly working toward opening his own spot, Tailor, he was worried about the floor. Would the hardwood acclimate to the humidity? Would he have to have grout in his kitchen? This week, it's on to the ceiling and the stairs — who knew there are specific "staircase architects"? — and to that little manner of the menu. But first, it's time to get dessert with members of the Experimental Cuisine Collective. What's that? Find out at Grub Street.
Sam Mason Joins a Molecular Secret Society [Grub Street]
Happy National Grilled-Cheese Sandwich Month! We presume Hallmark has a card for the occasion — how could they not? — but Grub Street has an even better way to send cheesily good tidings: The Underground Gourmet's list of the eight best grilled-cheese sandwiches in New York. They all sound delicious, and they're this week's Sandwiches of the Week.
Sandwiches of the Week: In Celebration of National Grilled-Cheese Sandwich Month [Grub Street]
It's time for another Grub Street check-in with Sam Mason, the former wd-50 pastry chef who's working (and working and working) to open his own Soho spot, Tailor. Today we learn of yet another hiccup. Who knew you have to wait three days before laying hardwood floors? But there's an upside to that delay: It gave Sam time to go shopping for sexy Japanese knives. Everything you ever wanted to know about humidity, grout, and Japanese carbon steel awaits in The Launch at Grub Street.
Sam Mason on the Sexiness of Japanese Steel [Grub Street]
The Alice Watersization of New York cuisine is continuing apace, and now it's spreading to decidedly un-haute cuisine. Now that the budget is done, Albany leaders are finalizing a deal to give New York its first statewide Food Policy Council, charged with spreading the local-and-organic movement to corner bodegas and other places where lower-income New Yorkers shop. A Friday announcement by state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker explained that the new body will coordinate the mind-numbing minutiae involved in favorite sustainable-food efforts like getting New York State apples to the neighborhood deli and ensuring that community-supported agriculture-buying clubs are affordable to the poor. That last bit helped sell the plan to legislators less interested in dining at Chez Panisse than in combating low-income obesity — which is actually lending a little class tension to the plan. "The question is, is it just going to be a food-quality and local-food focus, or is it going to have a key anti-poverty focus?" asked Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "I hope this really doesn't end up a yuppie thing." Sigh. Doesn't everything around here these days? —Tracie McMillan
Something's particularly fishy around town right now, and it's not just all those Catholics abandoning meat. Or, actually, it ever so slightly is: Loosely timed to coincide with the Lenten season, McDonald's has debuted the Double Filet-o-Fish — and the Underground Gourmet is giddy. There's more to the sandwich than just a double dose of deep-fried mystery fish. What's the special twist? The UG tells all at Grub Street, where it's the Sandwich of the Week.
Filet-o-Fish Sandwich Now Twice As Delicious [Grub Street]
Self-styled muckraker Morgan Spurlock — whose facial hair, if you can believe it, is now even more irritating than when he first ate his way to prominence in Super Size Me — claims he's getting fat. And that's hardly a surprise when you consider what he's been eating: chicken parm, doughnuts, dinner at Per Se. He even had a burger! (Though it wasn't McDonald's.) Find out how else he's super-sizing himself in this week's New York Diet.
Morgan Spurlock Splurges at Per Se, Loves Peanut-Butter Doughnuts [Grub Street]
Former wd-50 pastry chef Sam Mason may have run into some speed bumps on the road to opening his Tailor, on Broome Street, but he's still chugging along, and he's still chronicling said chugging for Grub Street. In the latest installment, Mason sees his restaurant taking shape — literally: They're framing the kitchen and laying floors — and wonders how he'll make those floors look as weathered as he wants them to be. Stiletto-heeled dancing, anyone?
Sam Mason Needs Fifteen Women in Stilettos to Complete Construction [Grub Street]
We haven't yet been to Morandi, Keith McNally's new Italian spot in the West Village, but as lunchtime approaches — and as we learn about chef Jody Williams's duck sandwich — we must say we're tempted to head over. It's Muscovy duck breast on Balthazar Bakery bread, plus lots of other things. We'll let Williams explain, in this week's Annotated Dish at Grub Street.
Morandi's Deceptively Simple Duck Sandwich [Grub Street]
If it were us, we might not have named the thing a Lobster-Roll Ice-Cream Sandwich, because it sounds, well, gross. But look at the picture and consider the ingredients: a buttered-and-griddled top-cut hot-dog bun, filled with chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, and more chocolate sauce. And then remember that had Ed McFarland, of Ed's Lobster Bar, called it something else, it might not be this week's Sandwich of the Week. And then where would we be?
That's Right: A Lobster-Roll-Inspired Ice-Cream Sandwich [Grub Street]
So what does a chef actually eat? Grub Street dared to ask the question of Chef Daniel Boulud. Turns out he eats regularly at his own restaurant Daniel. But he also spares twenty minutes for sushi at Sushi Yasuda, samples new spice mixes, and previews his upcoming spring menu. Sunday means brunch at Balthazar and the occasional Citymeals-on-Wheels gala, where Boulud can sample hors d’oeuvre from the city's finest chefs. So work, eat, and raise $1.1 million. Not a bad gig. To find out who makes Chef's favorite tart flambé, check out Grub Street.
Chef Daniel Boulud Eats Sushi at $10 Per Minute [Grub Street]
The battle of Saigon Grill rages on. Two weeks after the Vietnamese mini-chain locked out its delivery workers, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 36 of those workers — and today a gaggle of New York politicians joined the Chinese Staff and Workers Association's daily protests at the Upper West Side location. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called conditions for delivery workers "a dirty secret that needs to get exposed." "Being paid $1.60 an hour, sometimes getting robbed and told to reimburse the employer … is unacceptable in today's society," he said. State Senator Eric Schneiderman, who spoke in both English and Mandarin, said he believed there was "strong evidence" that Saigon Grill's Chinese-Cambodian owner, Simon Nget, was trying to get the workers to sign "an illegal contract" before he locked them out. A state assemblywoman and a city councilwoman were there, too, and Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Charlie Rangel sent representatives. And while all of this is going on, there's also this bad news: There's still no delivery service. —Mary ReinholzEarlier:Labor Troubles at Saigon Grill Mean No Delivery for You
From Scotland to England: New York's inimitable and indomitable Adam Platt spent five days eating his way through London for this week's magazine. He learned that now, finally, there's plenty worth eating alongside the Thames but that there's more density and variety — and less cost — next to the Hudson. But he also learned a whole lot more, which couldn't all fit into his allotted magazine space. Head, then, to Grub Street, where he provides the Gobbler's Ten Rules for Eating Well in London. (Hint: You'd better like lamb.)
How to Eat in London [Grub Street]
For no good reason we can ascertain, four teams of New Yorkers gathered at a Tribeca bar last night to attempt to eat all the contents of a vending machine. It was the second annual LVHRD Master-Disaster Vending Machine Challenge, billed as "the world’s only competitive eating vending machine event." Each team had three members, and The Onion faced off against amNew York while MoMA took on Pocket Change. The inimitable Murray Hill hosted, amNew York and Pocket Change won, and Jaime Lynn-DiScala and Lance Bass were, for some reason, in attendance. Oh, and three people threw up. Fun!
Eve Dunlop has been a waitress at Nolita's neighborhood Thai joint, Lovely Day, for two years, and she tries to give the place a "hangout" kind of vibe. "We're trying to make a friendly environment," she says. "Anyone's welcome to join in our conversation." So might the locals who come by to hang out and converse — some of whom have been known to get naked ("we're all friends here," Dunlop says) — be the sort you'd call hipsters? Not at all, she says. "They're neighborhood people, young working professionals who are into music and art." Of course. Totally different. Eve's got much more to say at Grub Street; she's this week's Ask a Waiter.
Eve Dunlop of Lovely Day Insists Her Customers Aren't Hipsters [Grub Street]
Moroccan in Bay Ridge? Turkish in Gravesend? Sign us up. Grub Street has prepared a quick, opinionated guide to the more offbeat pleasures of Brooklyn Restaurant Week. At some places, the three-courses-for-$21.12 model actually sounds like a markup (how much chicken do you need to put away at Los Pollitos II to even hit that total?), but hell, that's part of the charm.
Take the Cab to Deepest Brooklyn for Restaurant Week [Grub Street]
Tila "Tequila" Nguyen is the queen of MySpace (or the "Madonna of MySpace," if you read Time), with about 1.7 million virtual friends. She flies back and forth from Los Angeles to New York for photo shoots (here) and celebrity appearances (there). And when she's in town, Tila likes to sample the room service at the W Hotel and the vegan faux-meat goodness at Red Bamboo. Sound pricey? Don't fret. Tila's allergic to alcohol. "I'm still a cheap date," she assures Grub Street.
‘MySpace Queen’ Tila Tequila Drinks Sprite with her Fugu, Likes her Omelets with Ketchup [Grub Street]
Where, o where, in this city of hiply casual dress codes and hautely fusioned cuisine options and Danny Meyerly chatty service can one find a good, old-fashioned, exorbitantly expensive, extravagantly presented, high French meal? That's what the Gobbler's globe-trotting friend Maurice wanted to know. And the Gobbler, as is his wont, came up with the answers. His list of New York's top 10 outposts of continental opulence is at Grub Street.
Where to Send Your French Friend Maurice for Continental Opulence [Grub Street]
A further sign — as if more were needed — that New York is today a bastion of late-Roman decadence: One city slice shop now serves a $1,000 pizza. The pricey pie comes laden not with gold but with caviar, and Grub Street had the chance to taste it yesterday. So what does caviar'd pizza taste like? Bagels and lox, apparently. In which case we humbly remind you that the Zabar's premade bagel-and-nova sandwich costs something like four bucks. We're just saying.
We Try a $1,000 Pizza, Maintain That We Aren't Publicity Tools [Grub Street]