Week of February 18, 2002

French Dip

For years, the humble red-skinned radish, even when it was all dressed up with its little rose cutout, was the forever-lonely wallflower of the cocktail-party-tray circuit. Lacking the social graces of the other crudités, it couldn't decide whether it was a legitimate hors d'oeuvre or just a garnish. Recently, though, a few young chefs have rediscovered its simple, elegant Parisian-café appeal. Inside's Charleen Badman serves the peppery roots the traditional French-bistro way (pictured), stems trimmed but not removed, with sweet butter and salt for dipping and dusting. They're occasionally available on Inside's (9 Jones Street; 212-229-9999) bar menu or as an amuse-bouche at brunch or dinner and make a nice crisp accompaniment to a beer, a cocktail, or a citrusy white wine. "I send them out just to get the customers started, to wake up their taste buds," says Badman, who got the idea from her friend Gabrielle Hamilton at Prune (54 E. 1st Street; 212-677-6221) -- somewhat of a kitchen-cupboard genius herself, capable of turning Triscuits and canned sardines into a hot commodity. At Paradou (8 Little West 12th Street; 212-463-8345), the Provençal-inspired bistro à vin in the meatpacking district, radishes with butter and salt are a natural fit and a freebie at the bar. For now, Jean-François Bruel of DB Bistro Moderne (55 W. 44th Street; 212-391-2400) merely garnishes his tapenade with julienned radishes, but once he gets his hands on the dainty, "slightly sweeter, slightly less bitter" French Breakfast variety this spring, he plans to go the butter-and-salt route, too. To Badman, this is missing the point. "What I like about them is they're just basic radishes," she says. "Nothing fancy." ROB PATRONITE


best of the week
Rendezvous With a Chef
Book your spot early for this series of dinners, which kicks off at Le Bernardin on February 25. The chef-owners of Aureole, Daniel, and the above-mentioned boîte will walk you through the kitchen and then serve you a four-course meal. ($150 per person; to reserve for any of the dinners, call 212-838-6327.)



Coop de Ville
Over the past eight years, Two Little Red Hens has become a Park Slope institution --or at least, its Brooklyn blackout cake has. Now the bakery's wonderfully dense evocation of Ebinger's has materialized in Yorkville at the bakery's new Manhattan outpost, along with its signature sticky buns, birthday cakes, apple-crumb pies and almond-plum tarts. There's a handful of seats for lingering over coffee and cake, and an incipient collection of the folksy hen paraphernalia that adorns the Brooklyn store.
Two Little Red Hens
1652 Second Avenue, near 85th Street


Hot Product
Home breadmakers have for years been counseled to use clay tiles to halfheartedly reproduce a bakery's brick oven. But tiles do nothing compared with the ceramic HearthKit, the brainchild of bread guru Charles Van Over, which in our tests produced breads and pizzas (and roasts) with crunchy crusts that compare with any professional's. The HearthKit has, in fact, impressed no less an authority than the hero of home bakers: Rose Levy Beranbaum, the author of The Cake Bible and its sequels devoted to pie and pastry. Levy, who's currently working on a bread book, calls it the most important piece of new kitchen equipment since the Cuisinart. (Available at Broadway Panhandler, 477 Broome Street, 212-966-3434, $168.95; and Zabar's, 2245 Broadway, at 80th Street, 212-787-2000, $169.98.) GILLIAN DUFFY


Ask Gael
Are you suggesting dinner in a pool hall?
I haven't given a thought to pool since Paul Newman showed us The Color of Money. But I am drawn irresistibly to Slate the very day I get my hands on the new comfort-food menu whipped up by consulting whisk Stephen Kalt (of the late, lamented Spartina). We're talking catnip for a junk-food queen: serious chili, lollipop wings, cheese-and-chili fries, New Orleans shrimp po'boy, a Cuban sandwich. Braving a not exactly tony crowd, giant TVs, and painful techno throb, we settle into a booth to share hypercrackling calamari and splendid chopped salad served by a perky doll who plays along as if we blend in. Slate's big cheese-and-mushroom-stuffed burger alone is worth crossing this cultural divide, and the chewy rare hanger steak is remarkable. We dip the first-rate fries in a modest béarnaise meant for the grilled asparagus. Alas, the grilled pizzas are not much bigger than a salad plate-so hoard the excellent merguez-sausage crisp with roasted garlic and feta. Who knows? Maybe you shoot a mean stick.
54 West 21st Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of February 11
Hadom scores; Rockefeller Center gets a Pulse; Mardi Gras at Café Boulud; NoLIta's sweetest couple; Chef Tom Valenti's cookbook; Gael discovers a new talent in Yorkville
Week of February 4
Savoia's dream team; Bid on Valentine's Day; Dim Sum Go Go celebrates the Year of the Horse ; City Bakery's "Love Potion"; Brian McNally opts for simplicity
Week of January 28
A Royal feast; Valentine's Day at Daniel; Le Zinc's devilish treat; Brooklyn's answer to Balducci's; Gael's cure for the mid-winter blues

and more ...

Photos: From top to bottom- Kenneth Chen; Carina Salvi (2); Patrik Rytikangas