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Raij Back at El Quinto Pino

The Txikito owner has worked out an agreement with her former partners at Tía Pol.

By Daniel Maurer

Todd Barry Not the Only One Who Worships at the Altar of Chipotle

As you now know, Todd Barry is a big fan of Chipotle, and he’s not the only one that considers it one of New York’s “great restaurants.” The Tex-Mex chain is just one of five joints (along with Tia Pol, wd-50, Hearth, and the Spotted Pig) that Momofuku lists as “friends” on its Website, and in this magazine’s profile of David Chang, he makes clear that it influenced Ssäm Bar:

“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've noted that Bobby Flay is also possibly a fan of Chipotle (indeed Bret Thorn overheard him calling it "good food"). And we're sure Chang and Flay aren't the only ones. So when will Chipotle’s founder, Steve Ells, finally be nominated for a Beard Award? Related: Comedian Todd Barry Eschews Tomatoes, Eggs, and Mayo, But Not 33-Cent Cookies

TV Hostess Kelly Choi Likes Her Sandwiches With Mayo and Mustard

If you haven’t seen Kelly Choi sporting a trench coat on her show Secrets of New York, you’ve probably seen her donning skimpier attire as the host of New York Eats. She also just appeared as a judge on Iron Chef and will soon team with a liquor sponsor to publish The 25 Most Delicious Dishes in New York. What’s one of them? The moussaka at Pylos. “I’m crazy about Greek and Middle Eastern food,” Choi tells us. She doesn’t have the extravagant expense account you’d expect, and she isn’t often hungry for complimentary desserts — but still, the former Ford model managed to put away quite a bit this week.

Gusto Now Going to Look and Taste Like Centro Vinoteca

Chelsea: It doesn’t look good for those who are just getting used to the belly; pig’s ears are the latest trend, and even the version at stellar tapas spot Tía Pol was described by Peter Meehan as "crunchy and sticky with a funky pigskin flavor." [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine] Financial District: Don’t forget, the trial run for the proposed year-round seasonal market at South Street Seaport starts on December 16 (and Molto Mario will be there). [Grub Street] Park Slope: Tempo Presto is closing this Friday because the restaurant can’t keep up with the pricey rent. [Gowanus Lounge] Upper West Side: Dovetail‘s opening next week. [Zagat] West Village: Sasha Muniak must feel really good about the Centro Vinoteca formula; after tapping chef Anne Burrell to take over for Amanda Freitag, he plans to redesign the Gusto space by next year with help from Centro Vinoteca and Jean Georges designer Thomas Juul-Hansen. [Restaurant Girl] Andrea Strong unveils renderings of Jason Neroni’s new gig, 10 Downing. [Strong Buzz via Eater] Magnolia Bakery will be open regular hours every day this holiday season except for Christmas, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on December 24, kids can pick up a cupcake that comes with a note to Santa. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch] Williamsburg: A benefit party at Supreme Trading tomorrow night promises an open Bass Ale Beer bar from 7 to 8 p.m. and "one of the most difficult cuisines to find in New York City: Rwandan." [Cakehead]

Cipriani Still Living High on the Hog; Another Mechanical Bull Comes to New York

The nation can rest easy in the knowledge that Giuseppe Cipriani is still cruising around in a Rolls-Royce, has kept his private jet, and may even build another yacht in addition to the one he already owns. [NYP] The Shamalian boys opened their rockabilly bar on Essex last night even though it's unfinished, and there really is a bull! [Eater] The Federal Trade Commission has launched their second attack against the Whole Foods–Wild Oats merger vowing that even though money has already exchanged hands that the integration can still be stopped. [NYT]

Despaña’s Churros: One Less Reason to Move to Madrid

Despaña, our favorite spot for a café bonbon (a thick, caramel-like coffee made with condensed milk) and an extravagant sandwich, has been missing one thing until recently — churros, the Spanish doughnuts that Madrileños eat at the bar while playing One-Armed Bandits. Maybe in response to our threats to picket the place unless they added churros to the takeout menu, they're now serving four of them swaddled in paper for $5, or two of them with chocolate a la taza (a small cup of thick hot chocolate) for $3.50. The pre-fried, frozen Casimiro churros are also available by the box ($15) should you want to bake them at home.

Time to Fill Out Our James Beard Brackets

The nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.

The Kingdom of Navarra Comes to the Borough of Manhattan

The Kingdom of Navarra, as it is fancifully called today, is an autonomous community which is technically a part of Spain and which produces some of the most admired Basque-influenced cookery in the world. We don’t see much of it here in New York, but that will change on Friday, when Navarra Gastronomic Week begins. Classic Navarran dishes like warm partridge and Jabugo ham salad, artichokes fried with tocino (bacon), stuffed piquillo peppers, and a number of Navarran wines and cheeses to go with them will be available at the following restaurants through February 4.

Brits Get No Tips at the London?; Lower Eastpacking District Opening

Flo chart: Guy Martin snubs N.Y. for Boston, the scoop on Tía Pol's new place, and more. [NYT] Ramsay's non-union Brits getting stripped of tips? [Eater] Marco Moreira to open a Japanese-y restaurant in his old Tocqueville space. [NYS] The shutter comes down on Park Ave. Cafe. [Crain's] The Beard House steps up its game for the celebrity-chef era. [WSJ] A thirteen-pound sausage belonging to Batali goes missing. [LAT] Mr. Chow celebrates his new flick with Sharon Stone and Sidney Poitier. [NYP] Prepare for yet another food festival, this one care of Food Network. [NYP] Another bar in the Lower Eastpacking District [NYP] Wagyu import restrictions have eased; Cuozzo explores the "mouth-filling, artery-busting glory" of it all. [NYP] Dos Caminos, numero tres. [NYP]