Last season’s Top Chef winner Hung Huynh, who previously cooked at Per Se, Gilt, Manhattan Ocean Club, and others, is back from a year and a half at Guy Savoy in Las Vegas — this week he started as executive chef at Solo. The Mediterranean-Asian restaurant happens to be kosher, meaning Huynh can’t use his beloved fish sauce or sherry vinegar. “I’m pretty limited to proteins,” he tells us. “I have to be a little bit more creative with my flavor profiles.” If Padma and Tom paid a visit, he says, he’d probably serve them his sweetbreads glazed with truffles and served with lemon-honey carrots. But forget what he’s cooking; we’re more interested in what he ate this week.
We had a good bit of sport over the astronomical prices paid this past summer for white truffles in New York restaurants. But what if their black cousins, long the déclassé branch of the family, became even more expensive? Or disappeared entirely? That wouldn’t be so funny. And it wouldn’t be good for the price of white truffles, which, like Beluga caviar and shark-fin soup, could become a purely plutocratic pleasure sooner than we expected. (Not that truffles are evil in the way of Beluga caviar and shark-fin soup; we’re just thinking of endangered luxury foods, you understand.) An article in USA Today suggests that the global warming is currently bringing the hammer down on black-truffle production and that (gasp) “France's black truffle will one day be just a memory.” It’s a similar story around the world, as fish stocks are depleted, ecosystems are knocked out of whack, and global demand for things like toro and truffles move beyond a small cluster of ascot-wearing bons vivants.
A Food & Wine contributing editor has been working as a hostess at Dovetail, the new three-star restaurant, for the past two months. Part of her arrangement with chef John Fraser? To spot food writers and alert the kitchen, but apparently she was no help in pointing out Frank Bruni. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Shake Shack and Burger Joint will face off tonight at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival for the title of champion in the “Burger Bash.” [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Landmarc at the Time Warner Center is throwing an Oscar party of sorts this Sunday, featuring a five-course tasting menu and two flat-screen TVs in the dining room. [Zagat]
Rest assured the “solids” at Tailor are just the start of the molecular madness. Esteemed French mixologists Fernando Castellon and Richard Lambert are working with Cointreau to bring what they call “caviar” — sort of like tapioca pearls, but with about half an ounce of liquid booze inside — to your next drink. Tomorrow they’ll show a select group of 40 bartenders (from Per Se, wd-50, PDT, and the like) how to prepare the spheres by mixing Cointreau and alginate and then using a syringe to drop the flavor combo into a calcium bath. Castellon tells us a mixologist using an immersion mixer would normally have to wait six hours for air bubbles to disappear, but their kit equips bartenders with a magnetic agitator so they can set up in eight minutes at the beginning of the night and make each drink in 30 seconds. The procedure took a year to research (finding an alginate that gets along with 80-proof liquor ain’t easy), but let's hope it proves worth it when you take your first sip (and bite) of a “Cointreaupolitan.”
Related:Eben Freeman Turns His Cocktails Solid Just for the Hell of It
With all the exciting new restaurants opening in town, you’d never know there’s talk of a recession. But Frank Bruni figures anything opening now was planned a few years ago in better economic times, which makes us worry about restaurant openings in 2010. [NYT]
Death & Co. can continue to operate until mid-April, but don’t expect owner David Kaplan to produce any more nightlife destinations after that: “I’ll never open another bar, another restaurant, a deli, a fucking bodega — I’ll never open up anything ever again in New York.” [NYO]
The current cocktail craze has led to a lot of handmade – and therefore illegal – ingredients being mixed into drinks. Marijuana-infused gin, anyone? [NYP]
The Man Who Ate the World, British restaurant critic Jay Rayner’s tour of the planet's great restaurant cities will be coming out soon, as Gawker noted yesterday. Its piece lingered over Super Mario’s latest profanity-laced anti-blogger tirade, which was almost as enjoyable as his last one. But having read the New York chapter, we were hit by how much other good stuff was in it.
You’re going to regret not going to Per Se the last time you had a chunk of change to burn: Thomas Keller’s luxe restaurant has raised prices for both the regular and vegetarian menus to $275 for nine courses. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Violence continues in the Flatiron club district, as two men were arrested for stabbing a patron and a bouncer at Club Spy after a fight erupted in the VIP room. [NYP]
As part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Green the Capitol project, the cafeterias are getting a locavore makeover, with the goal to sell as much locally grown, organic food as possible. [WP]
Danny Meyer and the Union Square Partnership are planning to renovate the north end of Union Square Park, including a transformation of the decaying pavilion into a windowless restaurant space. [NYO]
Mia Dona, Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis’s newest baby, will start serving up rustic Italian with Greek influences in midtown next month. Marc Forgione, most recently the corporate chef for the BLT Restaurant Group, is planning an American restaurant for a spring opening. [NYT]
Forget about bringing your junior gastronomes to the finest restaurant Disney World has to offer: Victoria & Albert’s has banned all kids under the age of 10. [NYP]
We dedicate a lot of our time to obsessing over the restaurant industry's heavy hitters: Gordo, Mario, Fabio. But what about the bright young things who slave away in the shadows of the line? No doubt many of them will be destined for big things, and surely they're dreaming of the days when they'll have an empire and a single moniker ending in "o." So who's keeping an eye on them? After hours of prowling around Facebook, we can now enthusiastically assert that we are. We combed through the social-networking site, finding dozens of profiles and pulling the most useful for your reference. Who's the sous-chef with a dislike of olives and fake tits? Which pastry extern is friends with New York's Sexiest Chef? And why are so many Per Se–ers on the site? Does Thomas Keller make it a staff requirement or something?--Alexandra Vallis
Mix up your holiday charitable giving by entering a raffle for a coffee date with Per Se’s Thomas Keller or Ferran Adrià of Spain’s El Bulli. [NYT]
Related: Ferran Adrià, Molecular Gastronomist—Who, Me? [NYM]
On his No Reservations holiday special, Anthony Bourdain spoke with a veterinarian who explained that foie gras production is not the demonic act it has been portrayed as by animal-rights groups, so eat up! [Eat for Victory/VV]
If Amy Sacco didn’t convince you of the growing synergy between restaurants and real estate, consider that Centovini has just struck a deal with luxe condo Soho Mews that offers not only delivery to the building but also the option to have executive chef Patti Jackson provide in-home cooking. [NYP]
We are so, so torn on the matter of the white truffle. Late last week, we professed our unconditional love for the fungi (and also learned that Alterna offers white-truffle haircare products) but, given that the Waverly Inn just raised their truffle macaroni and cheese to $85 and Le Cirque's massive truffle acquisition and the truffle shortage and the $1,000 truffle bagel and, you know, just the general deluge of "truffles are expensive and awesome"-related media as of late, we wondered if this whole white-truffle business had gotten a little bit out of control. Then our very own magazine came out on Monday, complete with more truffle talk, and we knew that there was no point in fighting. There's nothing we can do but accept the darling 'shroom, regardless of whether we could ever afford it in our lifetimes.
And it's a good thing we've come to terms with the situation, because it just got a lot more intense.
Cuozzo fantasizes about the possible successes Jeffrey Chodorow could develop if he signs a lease on the enormous space at Broadway and 63rd Street. They include stellar risotto, traditional dim sum, and haute Lebanese — if only he doesn’t “blow it on another howler like Rocco’s or a limping dud like Kobe Club.” [NYP]
A Queens dumpling celebrity, a chef in northern China before transplanting to the U.S., has been persuaded to supply her specialty to TKettle on St. Marks Place. Get there early, though; she’s only agreed to hand-make 1,000 per day for the bubble-tea shop. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Two young female patrons of the Box have been abducted from outside the club and raped on separate occasions in less than a month, and the predator has not been apprehended. [NYP]
Today marks the tenth anniversary of Chelsea Market, a place we would avoid if there were anyplace else to get Setaro pasta. The supremacy of the Campagnan product, sold only in Buonitalia at the market, is something we never stop hearing about: last night, Kevin Garcia of Accademia del Vino told us, “All the top chefs I know use it it’s the pasta of choice, the best I’ve ever been able to find.” Mark Ladner of Del Posto, Jonathan Benno at Per Se, and any number of other food luminaries swear by the stuff. But why? Buonitalia co-owner Antonio Magliulo says, “This company, Setaro, is very small. They don’t produce a lot of pasta. And when they dry it, it’s at low temperatures, so it keeps the flavor and texture. The way it cooks, the bite that it keeps it’s something special.”
New and improved Momofuku Noodle Bar set to open next week. [NYT]
Related: Keeping Up With the Momofukus [NYM]
More Greek chefs are invading New York; “gastro-taverna” Athens Tavern opens today with a menu from top Athens chef Yianni Baxevanis. [NYT]
Related: Psilakis Isn’t the Only Chef Who Knows Greek
The chairwoman of the board of trustees of the James Beard Foundation resigned yesterday saying that her role as host of the PBS series Chef’s Story would make the show ineligible for awards. [NYT]
New York’s little red book, the 2008 Zagat guide, is out today. It is more significant to the restaurant world than the Michelin guide, and for good reason: The same people who use it are the ones who write it. So what if it’s a popularity contest? Life is a popularity contest. There were some minor shakeups in this year’s rankings, such as Union Square Cafe retaking its sibling Gramercy as most popular restaurant, and Daniel retaking the top spot in cuisine from Le Bernardin. But the more interesting points required a slightly closer look.
Dear Grub Street, Next weekend I’m getting surgery done on an impacted wisdom tooth which is growing very close to a central nerve. I’ve been told that if this nerve is damaged, there’s a chance I will lose a large part of feeling in my face – including a loss of my sense of taste. I’ve gone into “doomsday mode”, thinking of all the best flavors this city has to offer in an effort to get them ingrained into my gray memory. As of now I’ve got a reservation at Degustation, will be making at least three visits minimum to Ssäm Bar, and another to Sasabune. Are there maybe two or three dishes or places that should be added to this ever-growing list? Le Bernardin is in my sights of course, but understandably may be difficult to get into.
Signed, Facing My Final Hour
Frank Bruni, surprisingly grants Gemma a single star. Bruni sees the place as a slicker, less technically accomplished Morandi — an insta-enoteca calculated to the nth degree to please modern middlebrows. Which, we guess, is worth a single star these days. [NYT]
Ryan Sutton is, as usual, the first to review Tailor, which he finds a molecular wonderland of trippy but delicious foods: exactly what a certain kind of restaurantgoer needs to hear to get the buzz going. [Bloomberg]
Moira Hodgson thinks that Alex Ureña's new direction at Pamplona — modern, imaginative Spanish cookery minus the bells and whistles — is exactly what he needed and rewards him with two stars. “So this is bistro food? I don’t care what he calls it, it’s great.” [NYO]
As a waiter in Brooklyn, Phoebe Damrosch had the opportunity to serve one of her heroes, Thomas Keller. She parlayed that encounter into a job helping to open Per Se where, after a crash course in Gewurztraminer jelly (and even dancing lessons to improve her moves on the floor), she eventually became a captain. The result is her memoir, Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter, out today. We asked her about vomiting patrons, fancy pens, and recent speculation that Chef Keller is spreading himself too thin.
We normally reserve our Ask a Waiter column for, well, waiters (and bartenders, maître d’s, sommeliers, and the like), but if you’ve got $7,500 a year to blow on a service like Four Hundred — started in March by Tony Abrams along with Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum of Tenjune— you can also call upon still another industry professional: the lifestylist. Assuming you have his unlisted office number, you can contact Michael Lerner and ask him to make your every wish and whim come true, whether it be scoring you a table at Per Se or flying Kobe beef to your derby party in Kentucky. We asked Lerner how he works his magic.
Customers get drunk, carry on, and throw up even at the finest restaurants. Especially at the finest restaurants: “More people throw up in the dining room of Per Se than your average college bar.” [NYT]
The City Council is considering a law that would put labor violations on par with health violations, in an effort to protect vulnerable immigrant workers. [NPR]
Mocktails are on the rise, thanks to “the whole rehab thing,” and nowhere more successfully than at Indochine. [NYP]