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FR.OG Had to Choose Between Death and Didier

Here’s what we know about the departure of Didier Virot from FR.OG. The fact that he’s gone and the restaurant is still there may just prove something we had heard and only half-believed: that the chef was in fact an employee and not a partner. A source tells us that that the restaurant had been struggling (not helped by its name, which every food writer with an Internet connection had sport with). Rather than just close shop — a real consideration, we’re told – owner Philip Kirsh let the chef, who made a very significant salary, go to his next job, a cushy gig at the Palm Court. Currently, the menu is being produced by the line cooks. Efforts to reach Virot haven’t been successful, but should he be up for talking about the endgame at FR.OG, we’ll let you know the score. Leaping From FR.OG [NYT]

The Box Appears on ‘Gossip Girl,’ Officially Jumps the Shark

We thought the Box lost its remaining counterculture cred when the Times, of all things, called it out on being pretty much any other club. Not so! The real point of no return came last night when it appeared, in the guise of club Victrola, on teenybopper drama du jour Gossip Girl. The place must’ve loosened its rules against interior photography, because the first scene has Chuck Bass (a son every bit as wayward as Simon Hammerstein) explaining why his father should support him by investing in the burlesque club: “No judgments. Pure escape. What happens at Victrola stays at Victrola” (until the Health Department shows up, anyway).

PDT Guru Jim Meehan's New Project Pays Tribute to Baltimore

Now here’s an example of what a small world the New York restaurant scene is: Monday night we’re at Taste of New York, chatting it up with Jim Meehan, the cocktail guru at PDT and brother to our comrade in gluttony, Times $25 and Under critic Peter Meehan. Tuesday, we run a post on Maite Montenegro, the new maître’ d' at Daniel. (Stay with us here.) Then last night we run into Maite Montenegro’s husband, cooking consultant Kevin Patricio, and he tells us that he’s planning a restaurant with Jim Meehan! Quite the daisy chain there. Anyhow, Meehan confirms it: He and Patricio are trying to find investors for Pony Trading Co., a restaurant and lounge with an odd dual mission.

Good Dog Rolls Over and Dies

It’s always hard when a favorite pet dies, and we’re taking this one especially hard. We’re getting reports from Down by the Hipster that Good Dog on St. Marks is kaput. For the eulogy, we go to a local office worker.

Danny DeVito Teaches You How to Pour His Limoncello

Because being a celebrity means having your own brand of something, Danny DeVito is in the limoncello business (fitting, as he rather famously appeared on The View one morning, and after acting, um, blotto, he admitted to having stayed up all night drinking limoncellos with George Clooney). We had the chance to drop in for a Danny DeVito’s Limoncello training session at the Marriott Marquis the other night, and we have to say, we wish Johnny Walker were this much fun. The cute-as-a-button actor didn’t have to show up to tutor the staff on how to pour his personally branded liqueur, but that’s just the kind of guy he is — really! “Did you drink it yet?” he asked us. We told him no, and he handed us an autographed bottle, thrusting it into our hands like the warm, tiny, Italian uncle we never had. “Here, have a bottle!”

Union Hall's Nutso Taxidermy Contest Ruins Our Appetite for Beer Cheese

Last week Union Hall hosted the third annual Carnivorous Nights taxidermy contest, and as a Daily Intel post testifies, it was a hot ticket. Who were we rooting for amid the two-headed cats and squirrels in Pope hats? Well, Nate Hill, of course — he’s the soft-spoken man known to Grub Street readers for his tours of Chinatown trash piles. Hill used the bounty from those forages to build the head of his A.D.A.M. (A Dead Animal Man), and once you’ve taken a gander at it, you probably won’t blame us for not being very hungry after the contest. Hipsters Marvel at the Kind of Stuffed Animals You Don't Want for Christmas [Daily Intel] Related: Rogue Taxidermist Shows You How to Fish for Animal Parts

Daniel Hires Its First Female Maître D'

The position of chef remains overwhelmingly male, a fact we wrote about recently in the magazine, but maître d', the functional boss of the dining room, has been if anything even more so. That’s why the promotion of Maite Montenegro to head maître’ d' at Daniel this week is so notable. The maître d’ is the ultimate restaurant authority figure, the person that knows how to treat everybody and whom everybody trusts and looks to for guidance.

Neighbors Block Sale of Williamsburg Hip-Hop Bar to Balthazar Bartender

We’ve heard plenty about bars being shot down by the community when they try to open, but what about when they’re trying to close? Lindsey Caldwell sent us a desperate e-mail on behalf of her husband Myles Tipley, a co-owner of the artsy Williamsburg hip-hop bar Triple Crown, saying that “the community board refuses to allow [the owners] to sell the place.” The bar has been closed for eight months (with events here and there) after the burden of addressing noise complaints proved too much. But in the meantime, rent and bills have cost the owners $135,000, plus an average of about $7,000 per week in lost revenue, Caldwell says.

It’s Offish: Forty Deuce Space is Back on the Market

While Todd English has no comment about rumored plans to open at 98 Kenmare, what we can tell you about the status of Kenmare Street’s future swankitude is this: According to broker James Famularo of NYCRS, the space that was to be Forty Deuce is back on the market at the price of $35,000 per month (“reduced!” says a property listing e-mailed to us today), no key money. Party at neighborhood activist Janet Freeman’s house! Earlier: Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce: Alive?!?!

BRGR Adopts Brandt Beef, Meat-lovers Rejoice

BRGR does pretty good business in Chelsea, but wanna-be burger barons need to step up their game in this meat-manic town of ours. So BRGR, with little fanfare, has raised the caliber of its product, becoming the city’s first restaurant to adopt Brandt hamburger. Brandt is one of the most innovative beef producers in the country — their steaks already appear at Porter House New York, Craftsteak, and Park Avenue Autumn.

Blind Item: Name That After-hours!

What Chinese restaurant by day sometimes operates as an after-hours club, complete with smoke machines and vest-wearing barkeeps? A couple of clues: It’s hidden away in the basement of a Financial District office building and LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy was spotted there late Saturday morning. Click on the headline and leave your suggestions in the comments.

NYC Deli Owners Try Out a Barbecue Franchise

Just when you thought the New York barbecue marketplace was sated — and believe us, we thought so too — comes word that yet another megabarbecue is coming to the city. And not just one location, either: Famous Dave’s has sold a territorial franchise to open seven restaurants in New York and Westchester to Sammy Benmoha, owner of Maxie’s Deli, and, with his father Jacob, the Roxy and BenAsh Delis. What is this Famous Dave’s anyway? And how can there possibly be room for seven more megabarbecues, with Spanky’s, Hill Country, Virgil’s, RUB, Blue Smoke, Daisy May, Dinosaur, and half a dozen others already feeding the masses, and B. R. Guest’s Wildwood on the way?

Exclusive: Todd English Teams With Thompson Hotel Group

Todd English
Boston boy Todd English tells us he has just inked a deal to install a restaurant in the Thompson Hotel Group’s Wall Street project, Gild Hall, which should open at 15 Gold Street (formerly a Holiday Inn) sometime in the spring. No name fixed just yet, but the first floor will feature a raw bar and a menu of what English calls (asking us to forgive the pun) “modern English comfort food,” emphasizing “protein on the plate.” Think brined pork chops and appetizers from $6 to $12, and entrées in the high teens and twenties.

Jonathan Waxman to Open a New Barbuto Uptown

Barbuto, Jonathan Waxman’s Haute Barnyard outpost in the Far West Village, has always been a restaurant noted as much for its unique space as for its menu. That might not be the case for the new Barbuto, which we hear is planned for next year in the Columbus Circle area. The Susan Magrino Agency, which handles Barbuto’s PR, wouldn’t proffer any details just yet but confirmed that the restaurant had a target opening date of September 2008.

Waverly Inn Chef John DeLucie to Publish Tell-All

From toque to bard.

Photo: Patrick McMullan

We’ve always thought that what happens at the Waverly Inn stays at the Waverly Inn, but that may change, given this recent deal announcement on Publishers Marketplace:
Chef at New York's The Waverly Inn John DeLucie's THE HUNGER, a la Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, [sold] to Dan Halpern and Emily Takoudes at Ecco, for publication in Spring 2009, by Rebecca Oliver and Richard Abate at Endeavor (NA).

Chef Centerfold Calendar Ready for 2008

We just got our copy of the Gourmet Institute calendar, and though we expected it to be pretty good (the pictures are by My Last Supper author Melanie Dunea), it turns out to be almost surreal. Dunea really gets the the absurdity of chef glamour shots, but rather than try to tone down the portraits, she folds her insight back into the photograph. The pictures are so high-concept that they transcend their original food-porn purposes. Brilliant! The calendar, which helps to support City Meals on Wheels, features twelve big-shot chefs in her signature style, and includes such awesome shots as Maremma's Cesare Casella in a cowboy suit, looking like a tough Tuscan sheriff of the plains; Esca's David Pasternack, looking totally looped, pouring liquor into the mouth of his fish companion; and Barbuto's Jonathan Waxman, throwing what we hope is flour around in a gleeful, Tony Montana–like spree. The Chefs of the Gourmet Institute 2008 Calendar Related: Eating the Last Supper

Tell L'Impero What You Feel Like Eating Sunday Night

Sunday suppers, when they’ve been offered by New York restaurants, have generally been big red-sauce feeds, and none too exciting. But when, one month ago, L’Impero launched its Domenica Rustica menu, the city got a pretty outrageous bargain. Meant to be more homey and casual than you might normally expect from L’Impero, it starts early (4:30), ends early (9:30), and comes at the cost of four courses for $42. It’s still not really homey or casual, but it’s really good, and that’s the key thing. Also: L’Impero wants Grub Street readers to have a say in what they serve.

Borough Food and Drink Kills the Retail Counter

The relaunching of Borough Food and Drink under Zak Pelaccio has already begun in earnest, but in an unexpected way: The restaurant has given its retail counter, one of the main pillars of its identity, the heave-ho. Why? More drinking space was needed! “The bar was getting too crowded,” BFD representative Meryl Scheinman tells us. “We loved the retail area, but it created a bottleneck. This makes it more welcoming, less crowded, and warms the room up a little.” Other big changes — you know, the ones to the menu — are still in the works, but intel is under wraps as of right now. In the meantime, if you didn’t get your Bosnian butter or Brighton Beach Russian bacon at the now-defunct counter, our condolences. Commiserate over a drink at the spacious bar, perhaps? Related: Zak Pelaccio Taking Over Borough Food and Drink From Jeffrey Chodorow

Update: Le Souk Back After Flame-Permit Suspension

And just like that, the mystery behind Le Souk’s weeklong closure is solved. A rep from the SLA tells us that the restaurant was suspended from October 19 until the 29th and fined $12,000 for failing to produce an open-flame permit on August 13, 2005, and failing to produce a Certificate of Occupancy and an assembly permit on January 5, 2006. Seven other charges were dismissed. Is this the end of it? You bet not! “There are still open cases which will be addressed in the future,” the SLA rep assures. In the meantime the place will be open for business tonight, so undo those top three buttons and party down. Earlier: Is Le Souk Finally Sunk?