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Best Cocktails, Again

'Food & Wine' picks the best cocktail bars in the country.

By Daniel Maurer

Where the Chefs Eat

A handful of chefs recall their favorite meals of the year.

By Daniel Maurer

The Lower East Side's Latest Sustainable Restaurant; Plus, Rayuela's New Takeaway Outlet

Clinton Hill: Don’t be fooled by Met Foods window painting claiming the supermarket has the “[l]argest fresh organic products in the area.” You’ll be “hard-pressed to find any (just the usual half-rotten produce they usually carry). It’s clearly a reaction to the threat of all the discerning customers shopping at Green Planet.” [Clinton Hill Blog] Greenwich Village: The Starbucks on 8th Street between Fifth and University is closing and has posted in its window a bizarre, farewell letter of sorts, which begins, "This thing we have together, it’s bigger than this place." And in a weird way, the epistle is spot-on. [Gothamist] Harlem: Where can a gal just get a beer and a burger in this gentrifying area? [Uptown Flavor] Lower East Side: Rayuela is expanding with a Latin takeout spot set to open at the end of March in the former LoSide space. [Eater] Lee Gross’s organic eatery Broadway East opens March 7, and like this week’s ecofriendly thirst quenchers, "filters and carbonates its own water." [Strong Buzz] Freemans will totally let you order artichoke dip before you place your entrée order; they changed their policy two years ago after Bruni’s "Satisfactory" review. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]

Alicia Keys Takes Over Rayuela for a Couple of Afternoons

No way it’ll be quite as awesome as Justin Timberlake getting blasted out of Southern Hospitality in Pepsi’s Super Bowl ad, but we have intel that songstress Alicia Keys is shooting a commercial at Rayuela today and tomorrow. We’re not sure what the ad will be for, but chances are Rayuela’s dining-room olive tree will play into it. Between this and R.E.M.’s wine crawl, location scouts are all over the LES. Related: Pepsi's Super Bowl Ad Drags Justin Through NYC R.E.M. Goes on Lower East Side Wine Crawl, Performs for Lucky Few

Free Dewar's (and Debate) on the LES Tonight; Bar Boulud Answers Bruni's Calls

Astoria: Angelo & Son’s Bakery gets a modern renovation: green and red backlighting for their sign. [Joey in Astoria] Brooklyn Heights: The co-founder of La Bouillabaisse on Atlantic Avenue in the nineties has opened a wine bar on the corner of Henry and Cranberry streets. Food like oysters and mini Kobe burgers will also be on the menu. [Brooklyn Eagle via Brooklyn Heights Blog] Lower East Side: Rayuela serves an interesting cocktail called Rye which combines "guava, lemon, agave nectar, mint leaves, Michter’s Straight Rye, Becherovka," and it’s not even one of Junior Merino’s signature cocktails. [Down by the Hipster] Tonight at the Slipper Room, there’s a free yuppie-versus-hippie debate featuring Max Silvestri and Lang Fisher, and it’s sponsored by Dewar’s. [Brooklyn Vegan] Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens: Brooklyn & Slim bar has transformed into Step Too Cafe, but it doesn’t look like much has changed. [Across the Park] Union Square Park: Luna Park has been demolished in preparation for the area’s overhaul. [Eater] Upper East Side: Bruni calls Bar Boulud and reaches a human! It sounds like DB put some backup personnel on the lines. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]

Cuozzo Likes Wakiya; Bruni, Platt Agree on Rayuela

Steve Cuozzo bucks the early bad buzz on Wakiya, praising the place but cautioning that the chef will only be around one week a month. [NYP] Related: We Catch Wakiya’s First Guests on the Street Alan Richman submits a rare rave review for Soto, saying of its hot dishes “not one was less than wonderful. This is cooked food on a par with the most ingenious in New York.” Soto-san has to be pretty happy with that. [Bloomberg] Restaurant Girl’s debut in the Daily News takes the form of a mixed review on Gemma: She liked the branzino and the atmosphere, the other dishes not so much. Nothing in the write-up suggests that they were unduly influenced by knowing who she was. [NYDN] Related: Restaurant Girl Has a Face For Reviewing

The Center Cannot Hold, and Why Would You Want It To?

This week brings together some disparate threads of the great suffocating quilt that is the New York food world. Modern Spanish and Latin food have almost nothing in common, other than, in the form of Suba and Rayuela, getting one star each from Adam Platt. Uptown Gael Greene rocks out Southern Hospitality. Downtown, Rob and Robin find a chef that knows all there is to know about the frying game and discover what’s happened to restaurant matchbooks in these days of the smoking ban. Plus, Kirby cucumbers are in season this week.

Monkey Bar Gets Hit; Three Stars for Café Boulud

Paul Adams liked some things about Monkey Bar, but it’s never a good sign if you hire a famous Chinese chef (Patricia Yeo) and the review includes the words “My neighborhood Chinese takeout does better dumplings.” [NYS] Café Boulud, in an important rereview, gets three stars — enough to add momentum to Daniel Boulud’s empire building. [NYT] Insieme looks dull, observes Lauren Collins in The New Yorker, but “profligate flavor and spirited service” show themselves once the food starts coming. [NYer]

Rayuela Brings More Brunch to the LES

Dumbo/Fulton Ferry: Friday night at Rebar promises “free partial-nude drawing.” [Dumbo NYC] East Village: Simone on First Avenue is closed, but let’s pray not for good. [Down by the Hipster] Lower East Side: Rayuela has launched a weekend brunch with arepas and poached eggs, churros and Mayan chocolate, and guanabana mimosas plus live salsa music Sundays. [Grub Street] Midtown West: Just when you thought he'd had enough of the limelight, Rocco DiSpirito will be the guest chef tomorrow at the Condé Nast cafeteria. [Eater] Times Square: Ruby Tuesday will sidle up next to Red Lobster but may fare better with New York diners thanks to “fully upholstered chairs.” [Lost City] Williamsburg: New fro-yo destination /eks/ whips up fresh organic yogurt and incorporates recycling holes into its cartoon-covered walls. [Gridskipper]

Mercat Is Loud, Rayuela Is Packed, and Chicken Competition Is Fierce in Flushing

Frank Bruni thinks Mercat’s tapas are good, as long as you steer clear of the seafood and don’t mind salt, but he’s a sourpuss when it comes to the atmosphere. “Some wonderful food, some clangorous acoustics: these are the defining traits.” Something to do with the glass of wine that was spilled on his vestments? [NYT] Bruni may have been better off dining at Mercat’s bar, where Randall Lane dug the “lively scene.” He also liked what he ate — not exactly the case at Seamus Mullen’s relaunch of Suba. [TONY] Ryan Sutton stalks chef Riccardo Buitoni at his new Soho spot Aurora and after spying him sipping wine declares him a “master of chill” — and apparently a fan of truffles. Meanwhile he finds Rayuela packed during an early visit and predicts it could be a “serious cocktail destination” with some tweaks. [Bloomberg] Related: Rayuela Mixologist Junior Merino to Uncork His Latino Cocktail Program on Friday

Rayuela Mixologist Junior Merino to Uncork His Latino Cocktail Program on Friday

Junior Merino, the young mixologist who drew national attention at the Modern, enjoyed the praise but had his eyes trained on something bigger all along: New York’s first major Latin cocktail lounge. And he plans on launching it at Rayuela, the big new Pan-Latino restaurant opening on the Lower East Side on Friday. Most discussion about the restaurant has centered on Maximo Tejada, its Nuevo Latino chef who has run some of the city’s top Latin kitchens, including Patria and Lucy. But given that the entire ground floor of the place is devoted to bar and lounge space, it will likely be Merino’s drink menu that the place fails or succeeds on, especially since it's in the lounge-happy Lower East Side. “Since I’m Latino, I grew up with a lot of different fruits and flowers that people wouldn’t think of eating, and that’s where my knowledge of ingredients is larger than most people’s,” Merino says.