"I grew up being totally obsessed with going to Maine and getting a lobster roll. Everything you eat when you're a kid, you get very picky about it when you're older. It's got to be exactly the way you remember it."
Ever since that glorious, immortal, probably imaginary day when the Earl of Sandwich, unwilling to leave his gaming table, directed a manservant to put meat between two slices of bread, the art of sandwich-making has flourished. Esquire’s “Best Sandwiches in America” offers a deluxe overview of America’s best, and we have to say, it’s about the most judicious such survey we've seen. The sandwiches chosen for the cities we know well, like the pork-and-provolone number at John’s Roast Pork in Philadelphia, or the Monte Cristo at Canter’s in L.A., are exactly the ones we would have picked, and the ones from cities we’ve never visited, like the Reggie Deluxe in Pine State Biscuits in Portland, Oregon (“fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, gravy, and an over-easy egg on a cream-top buttermilk biscuit still hot from the outdoor oven”), make us want to travel more.
We just got a look at the Ssäm Bar New Year’s Eve party, and while we won’t be attending (that $300 is earmarked for a new car), we have to say that it looks pretty impressive. For your three bills, you get open bar (beer, sake and wine only), plus Champagne (but for how long?), and, in the food department, such Ssäm standbys as artisanal-ham plates, aged steak, and a slow-cooked pork butt, d.b.a. Bo Ssäm usually $180 when you order it on the menu. We still can't figure out the economics of Ssäm Bar, but given Chang's resistance to moneymaking (through expansion, cookbooks, etc.), we doubt he's looking to make much money. And if the “unlimited beer, wine, and sake” really are unlimited, the Soupman could well end up on the red side of the ledger.
David Chang's New Year's Party
Are you kidding us? Only a trio of New York spots made Esquire’s “best new restaurants” list. And while the places described all sound good, if the likes of Rialto in Cambridge have all but three New York restaurants beat, then Pace is the new Harvard. The fact is this list represents a kind of trans-Hudson affirmative action for the restaurant world. Food columnist John Mariani picks good restaurants located outside New York in place of the more deserving restaurants inside the city limits, such as Insieme, Sfoglia, Ssäm Bar, Suba, Hill Country, and many others. It’s not their fault that New York has more good places than the rest of the country put together!
We stopped by Soho House last night to speak to Fergus Henderson, the celebrated London chef whose gospel of offal, Nose to Tail Eating, conquered the culinary world back in 2004. Henderson and his friend Justin Piers Gellatly, his dessert chef at London’s St. John, have written a sequel to Nose to Tail called Beyond Nose to Tail (“It’s like Buzz Lightyear, isn’t it? Infinity and beyond?” Fergus said of the illogical title). Henderson will be cooking some of his signature dishes from St. John tomorrow night at Savoy and Wednesday at the Spotted Pig; both evenings are open to the public.
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
Is the David Chang superstar era over yet? If not, can you wake us when it is? We just opened the October Gourmet, and there’s a multipage lovefest to the Momofuku Man, complete with the usual musings on pork (“a mystical, magical animal,” he calls it, echoing Homer Simpson) and the usual close-ups of him eating. Coming on the heels of Bon Appétit’s even more ridiculous Chef of the Year award, we think the time may have come to say what everyone we know is already thinking: that Chang, earnest and talented as he is, has turned into the Sanjaya of Soup and needs to be reassessed.
The September issue of Esquire is the gift that keeps on giving: Last week it introduced us to the foppish Thomas Crowley of Bar Veloce and his hilarious MySpace page; today it brings us “Angry Young Men,” a “new generation of mavericks” selected to wear $1,500 suits and glower for the camera. Two of our favorite mavericks made the cut: nightlife impresario Simon Hammerstein, looking tough with a burned-down cig and a stripy fall suit, and culinary “It” boy David Chang, mad as hell in classic houndstooth. We can see how running the Box would wear a guy out, but what got in D.C.’s craw? He looks like somebody just told him he had to use Boar’s Head bacon at Ssäm Bar. That said, he does look sharp.
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When top out-of-town chefs move to New York, it’s always a crapshoot. Some, like Fort Worth’s Tim Love, come in conspicuously and wash out; others, like Atlanta’s Sotohiro Kosugi, now at Soto, come in under the radar but quickly grab our attention. L.A.’s Govind Armstrong doesn’t expect much of a problem: The ultra-laid-back chef made South Beach his own and expects New York to treat him equally well. “A lot of New Yorkers come down here to Miami, and I’ve been coming up there forever, so I have a lot of friends to support me,” he tells us. “I’m not trying to reinvent the way New Yorkers eat. But I can’t not grow, you know?”
You might think that Michael Psilakis would have had enough of opening restaurants: In the past year, he created Kefi on the Upper West Side, a low-end sensation, and midtown’s Anthos, a major undertaking. Now the chef tells us that he’s looking to open not one but two more restaurants. “I’ve been thinking about opening something downtown,” he says. “I don’t know if it would be another restaurant just like Kefi, or maybe something a little more in between Kefi and Anthos. I want a presence down there, but a lot depends on the space, the lease, and the location.” Psilakis likes the idea of a late-night dining scene, presumably along the lines of Ssäm Bar. There’s no question about the food, though: “It would be Greek, for sure, whatever it was.”