Back when Spotted Pig owner Ken Friedman first clued us in to the Rusty Knot, in the old West space, he said little more than, “We’re doing a little dive bar there — it’s going to have a pool table and a jukebox.” In this week’s issue, chef Joaquin Baca tells us what “dive bar” means (an addictive chicken liver, bacon, and avocado sandwich, it turns out), but he doesn’t say anything about the jukebox. All we can say is, don’t expect to hear Masta Ace or New Young Pony Club, like you might at the Pig.
“I tried to get a job at Chipotle when I got back from Japan, but they wouldn’t hire me,” he says. “They knew what I was up to.” It’s easy to see the parallels between Ssäm Bar and the Tex-Mex monolith that’s invaded Manhattan. “A lot of this is premised on what Chipotle’s done: Make affordable, good food, and do it with integrity.”
We weren’t surprised to read in "Page Six" today that Anna Wintour dined with LeBron James at the Waverly Inn. We passed their table on Tuesday, and when the ceilings are that low, it’s impossible to miss a six-foot-eight baller extracting himself from the center of a corner booth. James was patiently sitting next to the bathroom when we emerged, causing our waiter to remark, “You made LeBron James wait!” We couldn’t tell whether he was chastising us or congratulating us for no doubt costing the man a Benjamin of his time, but either way we felt a sense of accomplishment unknown since Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand queued up behind us at the Spotted Pig. The rest of this week’s sightings are heavy on the PDA.
Chace Crawford and J.C. Chasez hung out with girls and drank Cristal at a Vegas party thrown by Michael Strahan. A bunch of Upper East Side housewives at the premiere of The Real Housewives of New York City hated on the show. Because they were jealous. Among the stipulations in Kimora Lee Simmons's contract rider is that her glass of Champagne must be filled whenever it gets below one inch. Employees at Philippe may have been watching celebs like Tom Brady and Gisele hook up in the restaurant's private room via security camera. A party in honor of Baird Jones (open bar, naturally) will be held at Plumm this Friday, with a memorial service to be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine Saturday afternoon.
Earlier, we noted that La Esquina served grasshoppers at the bar during the Spotted Pig’s Super Bowl party, and there’s more reason to believe entomophagy is catching on. Next Tuesday, the Gastronauts, last seen eating python, will hold a bug-eating dinner at a “posh apartment.” Their master of ceremonies will be David Gracer, a Rhode Island enthusiast who lectures on edible insects and serves them at private parties. Gracer recently wrote on his blog, Bugs for Dinner!, that he was bummed he couldn’t find markets selling them in New York. To help Gracer in his quest, we turned to Miguel Calvo, a mixologist who will be serving cocktails rimmed with grasshopper salt at Crema this Valentine’s Day.
If you thought a burger in a can was nuts, consider the PickleSickle, a frozen treat coming out of (where else?) Texas. You’d think the guy who first sold these at a roller-skating rink (they’re now available in freezer-ready plastic tubes) would think twice about putting the word “sick” in the name of his product, but it’s actually not quite as disgusting as it sounds: It’s made from pressed pickles rather than pickle brine. Still! No matter what mascot PickleSickle Bob tells us about the health benefits of pickles (apparently they soften blood-sugar spikes after high-carb meals), we doubt the cherry and lemon-lime varieties go down as easy as, say, the “pot of pickles” at the Spotted Pig. That said, no way is the Pig’s menu as amusing as the spiel on the PickleSickle Website: “This is one of those crazy ideas that should’ve died a quick and horrible death from the beginning, right?” Well, we wouldn’t go that far…
PickleSickle [Official site]
Cheeseburger in a Can is Both the Best and Worst Thing I've Ever Seen [Gizmodo]
Our favorite celebrity sighting of the week was, of course, Lindsay Lohan at Peter Luger on Tuesday night — that’s because we saw her with our own eyes. Of course, we can’t be everywhere and see everyone, so as usual we’ve combed the gossip columns for other stop-ins. We’re sorry we missed Tracy Morgan at the Plumm, shirtless and offering to father babies as usual, and boy do we wish we were a fly on the wall when partners Ken Friedman and Taavo Somer, along with David Chang, dined with Stephen Starr at Buddakan. Is there a Spotted Buddafuku in the works?
Does the Spotted Pig have music cred? Yeah, maybe just a little bit. Owner Ken Friedman used to be an industry player, and his partner Jay-Z is, well, Jay-Z. We recall being kicked out of the upstairs alcove so that Franz Ferdinand could take it over after a show (front man Alex Kapranos is a fan of the lamb shank with crusted celery root). With these musician types having their run of the place, what’s playing on a quiet Tuesday night?
We can only imagine why Times writer Anna Jane Grossman rang Ken Friedman when she was looking for a quote about why folks forgo deodorant, but, boy, was he forthcoming about his use of what we call “meodorant”:
For those who managed to avoid underarm products, the idea of using them is anathema. “I never use deodorant,” said Ken Friedman, an owner of the Spotted Pig, a restaurant in the West Village. “I like girls who don’t use anything. They sort of smell like sex.”
The Tenjune lads aren’t the only ones to recommend not-exactly-under-the-radar places in Belvedere’s “keys to the city” series: The interview with Marquee’s “head doorman/actor” Wass makes us want to hand him a douche card, Centro Vinoteca’s Anne Burrell plugs no fewer than four Batali restaurants, and pretty much everyone plugs the Spotted Pig.
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]
It looks like Tamsin Lonsdale, the London socialite looking to make a splash with her new private dinner club, might just have a flop on her hands. The Observer today chats with a couple of the club’s disgruntled ambassadors, one of whom says, “She’s not offering a service to the boldface names. She’s using these people to bring in the mass.” Shocking! You mean this wasn’t merely a way to get people together to talk about the new Ang Lee flick? It was a marketing gimmick? Hilariously, one member gripes that she paid $100 for a meal at the Spotted Pig that normally would’ve cost her $40, and Londsale defends herself by saying that Jay-Z ended up dancing with everyone. But really if Gawker types can rub elbows with Jay-Z at the Pig, can’t anyone?
BURP! Sykes Sister Strikes Out! ‘Exclusive’ Brit Supper Club Lays an Egg [NYO]
EarlierSocialite Tamsin Lonsdale’s Supper Club Probably Doesn’t Want You
When it comes to New York restaurants, the Gobbler’s views on the addled Mandarins at the Michelin Guides are well known. But when news came, the other day, that the first-ever Michelin Guide to restaurants in Tokyo had awarded our distant sister city a mind-boggling total of 191 stars (compared to 65 in Paris and 54 in New York), the Gobbler had to admit that those crazy fools might be on to something. Not long ago, we spent a week rampaging through Tokyo in a kind of epicurean daze. The Gobbler still isn’t sure exactly what he consumed (fugu sperm sacks, possibly; grilled chicken uterus, definitely; a very nice chocolate éclair flavored with bamboo), but one thing’s for sure. It was all pretty damn good. Here are a few rules for eating yourself silly in that great restaurant mecca, Tokyo, Japan.
Gordo’s back on Fox TV for another season of Kitchen Nightmares, and he’s looking for a floundering restaurateur to belittle on national TV. [Eater]
It’s hard out there for a chef, according to Thomas Keller: “No longer are critically-acclaimed chefs allowed — as they might have been even ten years ago — to call it a day after opening a single successful restaurant. Instead, he said, food wizards like him are … expected to pen best-sellers, give lectures, judge reality TV shows and host benefits like the one he gave last night.” [NYO]
The massive, multistory Pop Burger at 14 East 58th Street will start serving baby crab cakes and grilled filet mignon in addition to burger boxes by mid-November. [Strong Buzz]
Related: Massive New Pop Burger Popping Up in Midtown
We are hearing that Spotted Pig co-owner Ken Friedman is planning on doing a restaurant with former Top Chef winner Ilan Hall. The rumor chorus places the new eatery down the street from the Pig on far West 11th Street and says it may be only a few months out. Friedman did not confirm any of this, but he didn’t deny it, either. “I hope all those things are true,” he responded when we repeated the details.
Dear Grub Street,
I'm in New York on business for a little while and will have the opportunity to try a handful of restaurants while I'm here. What are some of the top spots in the city where the chef whose name is on the door is still in the kitchen? I've eaten at both Lupa and Otto, but I imagine Mr. Batali's clogs haven't graced either kitchen in some time (though the food and service at both were excellent, especially Frank behind the bar at Otto). It's not that I need to see a celebrity chef in person … I just want to try good food from good chefs who are still plying their trade. For example, my understanding is that Wylie Dufresne actually still works at wd-50 every day, and, as you recently mentioned in one post, Eric Ripert is always in the kitchen at Le Bernardin. Anywhere else?
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