Two of this season’s most anticipated restaurants the three-star Dovetail and Ed Brown’s Eighty One launched with female sommeliers. Former Daniel sommelier and wineshop owner Jean Luc Le Dû recently remarked to Grub Street that only a few years ago, non-white males in the role were considered an anomaly. Today, only three women (and 21 men) in the United States have the coveted “Master of Wine” designation, awarded to 264 sommeliers throughout the world. But in New York, women helm some of the city’s most respected wine programs, including Gramercy Tavern, the Modern, and the entire B.R. Guest group. We interviewed several of these ladies of the cellar for their ideas on the industry, their experiences on the floor, and picks on retail value bottles. Look for them at restaurants near you. Alexandra VallisSlideshow: Women in Wine
The first details on Charlie Trotter’s still-unnamed restaurant on Madison Square Park emerge: It will have 80 seats as well as a bar and lounge. [NYT]
Merkato 55 may be turning New Yorkers on to African cuisine, but there have been plenty of excellent, albeit under-the-radar, restaurants offering the continent’s cuisine for years. [TONY]
Related: Merkato 55’s Most Popular Dish: Doro WatThe Modern’s new wine director, Belinda Chang, is the kind of sommelier we want to be someday: “I’m definitely obsessed with magnums. They’re so fun to pour!” [NYS]
Brighton Beach: Brooklyn firefighter Jeffrey Scotto won the sixth-annual World Cares Center Iron Skillet Cook Off this week with this recipe for boneless rib-eye braciola and escarole salad. [NYDN]
Chinatown: Zagat might recommend the soup dumplings at Goodies, but you’re in for a treat if you opt for something the staff is eating like “winter melon soup and a plate of stir-fried pork liver and stomach.” [VV]
Midtown West: Danny Meyer has appointed a new executive sommelier, Belinda Chang, to oversee the wine program at the Modern and his restaurants in the Met. [NYS]
Tribeca: Apparently Craig Béro has opened a Tribeca Time Machine called the Cosmopolitan Cafe around the corner from his other restaurant, the Soda Shop. [NYT]
Union Square: From Quattro’s Game Farm’s stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays, “you can place an order, leave a deposit, and pick up your fresh bird on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.” [NYS]
Upper West Side: Danny Abrams's second outlet of the East Village’s Mermaid Inn has opened on 568 Amsterdam Avenue near 88th Street, and you get a free cup of puddin’ with dinner. [NYT]
West Village: Pichet Ong will give a demonstration at the next 4foodies, tasting on November 19. [4foodies]
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?”
How does Ania Zawieja describe her job as a sommelier? “I drink a lot and try to remember.” Rather than attending sommelier school, Zaweija got her start at a Philadelphia wine bar that rotated its 120 glasses every week. She eventually went on to help open Café Gray, then the Modern, and finally — after the food-and-beverage director of Joël Robuchon’s then-soon-to-open New York outpost dined at the Modern and succeeded in luring her away — she ended up at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Since female sommeliers have lately been a subject of some controversy, we asked her to uncork the particulars of her job.
Last week we noted that the once cutting-edge bathrooms of Brasserie were looking quite dull, but on the other side of 53rd Street is MoMA, a place that cultivates the sort of modernism that stands the test of time. Just step into the sexy lighting of the restrooms tucked behind the giant photomural in its ever-elegant eatery, the Modern.
Times are changing in the restaurant world – but just how fast? Tonight’s James Beard Awards will help answer the question of whether the traditional tablecloth restaurants, which seem to be on the way out, still wield their old clout in the gastronomic Establishment.
The Beard nominees for New York City’s Best Chef know that there’s more to the award than who makes the best plate of spaghetti. Looking back at previous years in which he was nominated, Picholine’s Terrance Brennan says, “Our customers were always loyal, but because I wasn’t playing the game, we were under the foodie radar. Being friends with the [Beard] committee helps I imagine if you know some people, your odds are probably better.”
Recently, apropos nothing much, a prominent young chef we were chatting with launched into a tirade about the restaurant world’s “labor problem.” “None of us can get enough good cooks!” he exclaimed, by way of explanation. Between 2000 and 2006, only a handful of high-end restaurants — Lespinasse, Meigas, Quilty’s — have closed, and there has been an avalanche of major openings: Robuchon, Ramsay, Per Se, Masa, Craft, Del Posto, Morimoto, A Voce, the Modern, Lever House, Buddakan, Cafe Gray, Alto — the list goes on and on. “And it’s not just the massive boom of restaurants,” Adam Platt tells us. “They also have to be either bigger, or chefs have to open multiple places, so that they can enjoy the economies of scale they need to compete.”
If you’ve read Eater in the past couple of weeks, you’ve heard of Primetimetables.com, a scalping-type service that gets you tough-to-score reservations for a flat fee. It’s true that the restaurant world could soon experience something similar to what’s happened on Broadway, where good seats at hot shows can go for as much as $500 – it’s simple market economics, and you don’t have to be a Marxist to see the downside. But it’s also true that $45 will get you a table at a top restaurant if you call that day before noon. Heady stuff. We thought we’d give it a whirl – see how well the system works, and just how dirty we felt afterward.
Über-restaurateur Danny Meyer will be at Bottlerocket Wine and & Spirits tonight talking about his new book, Setting the Table. If we had the courage, we'd fire off the following questions at the event.