Astoria: Leng Thai’s brown rice is delicious; they mix in red grains. [Joey in Astoria]
Clinton Hill: A new bakery is supposed to open around June on Fulton near the Met. Baker: "When I was young, we’d go to the bakery every Sunday after church for a fresh loaf of French bread, soft and still warm from the oven. I’d love to re-create that here.” Blogger: "OMGYAY!" [Clinton Hill Blog]
Murray Hill/Kips Bay: A former Sapa chef will head the kitchen at a new Pan-Asian restaurant called Prana, set to open in June in the old Scopa space. [Zagat]
Soho: Fabio Trabocchi has written a personal note to Bruni and has worked with B.R. Guest to lower prices across the board at Fiamma (including dropping the price of the seven-course menu from $138 to $125). Sorry to those who ate at Fiamma last week. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Williamsburg: Zak Pelaccio’s project with Robbie Richter might be called Fatty ‘Cue. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Related: Breaking: Zak Pelaccio and Robbie Richter to Collaborate on Asian Barbecue in WilliamsburgWest Village: If you want to celebrate the Irish all next week, August will be "toasting the Irish" through March 21 by serving Guinness Extra Stout and specials like house-made corned beef and cabbage. [Strong Buzz]
Former Hill Country pitmaster Robbie Richter has been lying low since his split with the restaurant, but that doesn’t mean the most decorated competition cooker in New York has been idle. Instead, he's been collaborating with Zak Pelaccio on a Southeast Asian barbecue restaurant in Williamsburg. Look for it in the fall on South 6th Street between Berry and Bedford.
It’s a sad day for New York barbecue: Hill Country and pitmaster Robbie Richter have parted ways, a mutual decision both sides say was amicable. Richter, whose salt-and-pepper-powered Texas-style barbecue has been a huge critical success, says “there are new barbecue horizons, new directions, a world of flavors and techniques that I need to start exploring.” What might those be? Richter won't say -- yet. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Hill Country owner Marc Glosserman calls Richter “a passionate cook and a great champion of barbecue.” Pitmaster duties will be taken over by Pete Daversa, a Blue Smoke veteran who's been running basic barbecue operations under Richter since Hill Country opened.
Related: The Mystery of the Pitmasters Stymies the ‘Times’
Bev Eggleston, the Virginia pig farmer trying to revive Ossabaw pigs, has refitted his truck to run on barbecue grease! He's struck up a symbiotic friendship with Hill Country’s Robbie Richter (Richter gets to try great pork, Bev gets to eat great barbecue), and the two have come to an understanding by which Richter will save his grease for Eggleston’s special diesel engine. The idea’s not as crazy as it sounds: San Francisco asks restaurants to recycle grease for the city's bus fleet.
The Times, touching on a story Grub Street broke when Moses was in short pants, had a big feature on the dearth of experienced pitmasters Sunday, pegged on GS pal Big Lou Elrose of Wildwood. The piece marvels at the quick ascent of Big Lou from working an Ozone Park lunch wagon to his current post, but in fact, Elrose’s bones were made as Adam Perry Lang’s right hand man in competition; the lunch wagon was just a lark. Still, the city’s top pitmasters are as baffling to food writers as they are to the general public. Their job is hard to understand, because nothing they do happens while customers are present to observe. The pitmaster's art is exercised in the dead night, in secrecy and silence, and outside observers rarely get any glimpse of what it involves. There is one factor that never changes, though, and will always separate real pitmasters from merely titular ones.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, not a few readers have written in to ask for advice about turkeys. Though we would never consider abandoning the big bird, we've had it grilled, boiled, deep-fried, stuffed with a duck, and just about any other way you can name — usually with little improvement to show for it. But smoking seems to be the one technique that brings turkey to the next level, and so we turned to our old pal Robbie Richter, pitmaster at Hill Country BBQ. We grabbed a turkey, a big syringe, a few other supplies, and headed out to Rego Park to Robbie's mother's house to do the backyard turkey thing par excellence. The results are here to see; the list of ingredients is available after the jump.