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The In Box

  1. The In-box
    Reader Pleads for a Cosmo-Free Birthday“Minus all the hoopla that usually surrounds the trashy, puke in the mouth into the entree 21st.”
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    Can I Take My Parents to the Red Hook Vendors This Weekend?Maybe not this weekend — or next weekend.
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    Ess-a-Bagel Customer Demands: ‘Stop the Scooping’A friend of Grub Street has alerted us to a trend among her fellow females that is as disturbing to bagel lovers as the whole “Jack and Diet” thing is to anyone who takes drinking seriously.
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    Satisfied Customer: It Was Bun While It LastedOur post about Bun running out of free food sparked a couple of angry comments but also some full-bellied defenders.
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    Why Has Amy’s Bread Been Invaded By the French?A Hell’s Kitchen reader wrote in not once but twice to ask us why her Amy’s Bread location has been “compromised” by rabid tourists.
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    Hey! What Do You Have Against the Bronx?A Bronx native gives our treatment of her home borough the proverbial Bronx cheer.
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    Where Can I Bring My Wheelchair-Bound Buddy for a Great Meal?“We don’t care where we go, as long as it’s wheelchair-accessible, fun, delicious, and south of 40th Street.”
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    ‘The Sopranos Are Coming! The Sopranos Are Coming!’ to ElementiAs often as publicists tout celebrity stop ins after the fact, this has to be the first time we’ve been clued in ahead of time.
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    Gael Greene’s Ko Conspirator Goes on the DefensiveBy now you might be almost as sick of hearing about Gael Greene’s and Tom Dobrowski’s Ko reservation debacle as you are of, say, trying to get a reservation at the place — but we thought we’d post Dobrowski’s latest e-mail to us by way of a coda.
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    Introducing the $12,000 Caviar, Kobe, Foie, Truffle, Moose-Snout KnishIs it as luxe as the $1,000 sushi roll?
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    I Want to Eat in a Place Where Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Exist Dear Grub Street, Where should I go for an anti–Valentines Day dinner? My girlfriend of four years just broke up with me, and I want to eat somewhere where I won’t see any couples, or think of couples, or anything connected with couples. I want to eat out somewhere that is a million miles from Valentines Day. Signed, Cupid’s Sworn Enemy
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    The New York ‘Post’ Distorted My 2nd Avenue Deli Review!Dear Grub Street, In the midst of a moral quandary, I’m appealing to you. The Post’s Sunday magazine, Page Six, asked me to have brunch at the 2nd Ave Deli and send them my opinions and rating of the restaurant. I had a really nice time and the food was very good, as was the service. So I gave the place four and a half stars. The piece was published last Sunday (it’s called “Let’s Do Brunch”) and they changed my rating to two and a half stars, and also put in a lot of things that didn’t really happen, including one pastrami sandwich that I didn’t even order! I know a little piece like this isn’t considered a real review, but I hate the thought that the Deli has to have a bad rating written by people who weren’t even there. Annie Newman Annie’s New York Eats
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    Rachael Ray Doesn’t Like Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Any More Than We Do A friend of Grub Street writes us: So a friend of mine was on set last week as Rachael Ray filmed her latest Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. According to her, Rachael stormed onto the set and snapped at everyone. Not news, I know, everyone knows she’s actually a gigantic asshole. BUT! I am also told she took one sip of her Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, yelled “What is this shit? Get me MY coffee,” and would not continue until she was given “her” coffee — i.e., Starbucks. If this is true, it’s the first thing we’ve read that makes us like Rachael Ray. Maybe her diva-ish behavior is what’s causing the turmoil at her magazine, but we’re with her on this one: Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is the worst.
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    I Worry That My Restaurant Will Steal My Recipes Dear Grub Street,I’m curious if you’ve heard goings-on about chefs selling their recipes to the restaurants where they work. I’m in the industry and coming across a situation where this could come up. Does this happen? Or are there chefs that walk away from recipes they’ve created and just leave them with the restaurants where they worked? Your inside knowledge is much appreciated. A Creator
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    The Case of the Accused Prostitutes at Maze We make no judgments on Grub Street. We got this e-mail earlier today and read it with raised eyebrows and no great credulousness: My husband and I were at the New York restaurant, Maze @ the London Hotel tonight 12-18-07. We were so upset. He had four clients he was taking out. At one point one of the clients noticed that there were two prostitutes at the bar, trying to pick up men. When my husband’s guest complained to the staff, they became hostile and asked us to leave. When we talked to the hotel staff, they informed us that, “This happens all the time, You need to talk to the management of Gordon Ramsey.” We were very upset — how could they let that go on? It’s almost like they were getting a cut of their action. We will never dine at a Gordon Ramsey Rest. We spend $800, and had to watch a common prostitute pick up her johns. It was very ugly, shame on Gordon Ramsey and Shame on the London. Shame indeed! But we have no idea if it was even true. We can never tell prostitutes in hotel bars even when we’re talking to them, let alone from at a table faraway. So we asked the restaurant’s PR agency, who got back to us with this response.
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    Grub Street’s Most Wanted: Check-Kiting Chef a Repeat Offender?When we Googled the name of Ralph Landi, the “Christian chef” who was accused of stealing a laptop and writing checks to himself at a soon-to-open midtown restaurant, we saw he had bounced around country and became immediately suspicious, as we always are of chefs who seek work outside of our fine city (especially in Vegas!). Sure enough, a former employer writes in with a bizarre tale about Landi that is best read in the voice of John Walsh.
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    Where to Get Your Real-Deal Chicken and Waffles On Last week not-exactly-starving comedian Aziz Ansari waxed poetic about chicken and waffles, to the delight of a commenter who wrote: Sweet. A famous person who actually eats! Also, we ARE talking waffles and dinges right? How long do you have to hunt for this thing? I mean I know they put the vicinity it is in on their website, but somehow I imagine hunting for it to be on part with a stoner-type cross between Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and the hunt for Excalibur.
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    I Want a Personal Chef To Cook Tiny Portions of French Food For My FamilyDear Grub Street, We are a family of four, seeking a top-notch private chef. We like nouvelle French, Italian, and American in that order. I would appreciate if you could direct us as to where to advertise. Thank you. —Chefless
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    Two Bucks for Ice at Bowery Hotel!? Register Your Customer Complaints HereEver wonder why cocktails are so pricey in this town? Maybe part of that $17 tab covers health insurance in case the barkeep gets a wrist injury from squeezing fresh pomegranate juice? According to an e-mail from a reader who actually asked why he was being charged extra for drinks at the Bowery Hotel’s bar, that’s not it at all — it’s actually because of the precious ice that goes into the drink! Read on for her tale of woe, and if you have one that’s equally horrifying, do use our nifty new comments feature to let it all out.
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    Does the Name Chef Really Work in the Kitchen Anymore?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? Thanks, Meet the Chef
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    ‘Esquire’ Responds: We Do So Love New YorkEsquire’s John Mariani, responding to our outraged post from earlier today, writes in with some cooling remarks. We present them here unedited, leaving it to Grub Street readers to decide who’s in the right. Your comments on my list of Esquire’s 20 Best New Restaurants 2007 are fair enough insofar as your own preferences not making the list, though the inclusion of three NYC restaurants on a list of 20 (no other city has as many) hardly justifies your “Drop Dead” headline. And your assertion that “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!” may be churlish chauvinism but would only really be defensible if, as I did, you had in fact, eaten in more than 25 cities in the USA in the past year and dined at more than 80 restaurants in those cities…
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    Eye Candy: Where to Eat With an Interior DecoratorDear Grub Street, My interior-decorator friend is visiting soon, and I’d like to take her to see some interesting places. We can’t really afford to eat at Per Se et al, but maybe we could get a drink at some of the super fancy places. My concern is not to sacrifice taste with décor. Where would be good places to be wowed visually and orally? Where would be good for dessert or a drink just for their interiors? Thanks!! Grace
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    My Friend Does Not Understand the Concept of Grilled CheeseDear Grub Street,I’m hoping you can help settle a debate: A co-worker and I had a long, quasi-heated debate over the definition of a grilled cheese sandwich. The star of any grilled cheese sandwich is the cheese. Now, if you were to introduce a piece of meat, say ham for example, this would no longer be a grilled cheese sandwich, correct? The introduction of meat automatically negates the grilled-cheese moniker. This simply is a ham-and-cheese sandwich that happens to be grilled. Even if there is more cheese than meat … it is a “ham-and-cheese sandwich, easy on the ham.” I strongly feel that I am in the right here, but we trust you Grub Street. I could be wrong, but it’s highly unlikely. Signed,A Dogmatist
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    My Meal at Le Bernardin Makes Me Want to Keep My Sense of Taste!Facing the Final Hour (not his real name) wrote the Grub Street branch of the Make a Wish Foundation, asking where he should go in what could well be his final days with a sense of taste. We put him in touch with Eric Ripert, who agreed to cook the unhappy man a Doomsday Meal. We asked for a recap of the meal, and Facing the Final Hour delivered.
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    Readers Respond to Ripert’s Good Deed, Grieve for Lost TasteA couple of letters recently came in support of Facing My Final Hour, the young fellow who might lose his sense of taste this weekend. We set him up with a special dinner at Le Bernardin, but it turns out he’s hardly alone:
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    Eric Ripert to Feed Reader Who May Lose Sense of TasteDear 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
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    Daniel’s Burger Restaurant Inspires Hundreds of Suggestions, One Jeremiad Nothing could have prepared us for the avalanche of suggestions that resulted from last Friday’s invitation to name Daniel Boulud’s new restaurant on the Bowery. The entries were overwhelmingly similar, with DBurger and Boulud Burger accounting for the majority. Come on, people! Do you think the intelligences behind the Dinex group were incapable of coming up with that on their own? Several readers suggested names invoking French burgers, with names like Juteux (“juicy”) or, as an homage to Pulp Fiction, Royale With Cheese. Multiple readers posited B3 for Boulud Bowery Burger, and reader Sarah Kimball even had a rough idea for a logo. Then there were the wild cards: Genevieve Bahrenburg’s True Boulud, which we liked, and Beza Lemma’s The Happy Patty, which we liked even more. (Our own entry, Bowery Dan’s Hamburger Hotel, was not eligible.)
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    Take Your Teenager to the Chef’s Counter, Not the Chef’s Table Grub Street, I am attempting to find establishments that have a table in their kitchens. I have a teenager who is interested in the industry and I thought this would be fun to do together! Yours, An Encouraging Mother
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    Bialy Expert Says Kossar’s Not Quite the Final Word on BialysIn our tribute to Kossar’s bialys yesterday, we pointed to the imprimatur of the august Mimi Sheraton, whose book The Bialy Eaters is the definitive work on the subject. Well, the last we heard, Sheraton loved the place. But no more, apparently: “The Book was written a long time ago and times change, as do bialys,” Sheraton writes. “[Kossar’s makes them] barely with any onions and much too soft, bland and puffy, often with barely defined center wells. The only thing I buy there now are mini-discs, i.e. miniature pletzels, with poppy seeds and, with luck, onions.” So there it is. We’ll probably still go on eating Kossar’s bialys, but now with a diminished sense of triumph. Live and learn. But, Sheraton tells us, there is hope for a new yardstick bialy.
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    A Restaurant World ‘Howl’ A reader sent us this Ginsbergian screed earlier this week, which struck us as a perfect snapshot of the restaurant world, circa summer 2007. We leave you now for the holiday weekend. Enjoy! DanYelle as a restaurant critic? Anne Burell shticking it up in the kitchen with a skirt with horsies on it? David Chang morphing from shy nice smiley ramen guy to F-bomb dropping Esquire spread noodle mob boss? Johnny Iuzzini in a meringue body stocking? Tattoos as the new talent. Top Chef as the new Michelin. Glorified fryers, grass fed peaches, 1,000 day meat. I mean, it’s as if we are all now Cracker Jacks ripping open the next prize every time we open a menu. It’s always going to be a disposable toy. Or wash-off ink. It’s a 3 onion ring circus, this industry. We have our freaks and our clowns and our daredevils and our bearded ladies. It’s “I invented the lobster roll and that white wicker chair to sit on while you eat it.” Huh? It’s sellouts: Bertoli, Starbucks, Target, FreshDirect, Appleby’s. It’s all hypocritical: Eat fresh … and then buy my frozen dinner meals. Hitchcock would have tapped into a whole new genre with the horror of the food world. —An Appalled Spectator
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    What Do You Mean? We Love the Upper East Side! Dear Grub Street, The Upper West Side is teeming with activity, as is every other area of Manhattan, but I very rarely see anything on the Upper East Side. What have you got against the several hundred thousand people who live there and their restaurants and chefs? — A reader with a valid gripe.
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    I Love It When You Call Me Beard Papa
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    BBQ Brethren Speaks! Now here we thought that the Barbecue Brethren were a bunch of byzantine schemers, taking potshots at their enemies and vice versa, while the world looked on in indifference. But it turns out that we were wrong! Eric Devlin, an articulate fellow who happens to belong to that group, set us straight in a missive as notable for its refined tone and polished eloquence as for the fact that it is totally insane. Further proof of the Brethren’s non-omnipotence can be found in the fact that none of their members won last weekend’s Ribfest; the laurels went to Boston’s I Que.
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    Little Britain: Peace in Our Time! This is what we came home last night to find waiting with our doorman. (We have never, for the record, mentioned our name to the Tea & Sympathy people, nor said exactly where we live.) It was tasty, we were charmed, and now, we confess, we think we’ve reached acceptance. We’re Daily Intel, and we live in Little Britain. God save the queen! Earlier: Daily Intel’s coverage of Little Britain
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    Little Britain: We’ll Close Our Eyes and Think of CakeOh, thank God. Turns out our little conversation with the Little Britain people didn’t end yesterday afternoon, as we feared it would. Not at all. They still like us, they assured us last night. They really still like us! And now they’re offering us cake (and using fun Britishisms): From: info@ campaignforlittlebritain.com Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 8:26:25 PM To: intel Subject: Tally-ho! Intel, You know we love you. You’d definitely have a point if all the business on the block hadn’t signed individual letters of support, if we hadn’t collected over 1,000 signatures in person in the stores, if we hadn’t received over 90 letters of thanks from community groups we’ve supported over the last year, if a fine, upstanding pillar of the community hadn’t spoken in support at the Community Board 2 meeting. But they all did.
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    The Battle of (Little) Britain Rages On We wonder if perhaps our across-the-street/pond conversation with the jolly good folks at the Campaign for Little Britain is coming to an end. We’ve received another missive from them this afternoon, and this time there’s no humor, no suggestions of a special relationship. We’re keeping a stiff upper lip, but we’re concerned: From: info@campaignforlittlebritain.com Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 12:41:38 PM To: intel Dear Intel Let’s address the real issue, regardless of any rational arguments and examples of precedent we might make you can’t get over your central objection — “it’s a marketing gimmick.” This is a specious.
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    Little Britain: We Will Never Give In, Never Give In, Never Never NeverWe’ve received an offer of détente in our ongoing battle with the Campaign for Little Britain, to which we have heretofore entirely objected. Yesterday we suggested, dismissively, that if they succeed in getting Greenwich Avenue between West 12th and West 13th Streets — the British-ish shops Tea & Sympathy and A Salt and Battery are on the north side of that block — renamed “Little Britain,” we’ll campaign to have the southern side of that same block, from which we’re writing this, renamed “Little Place Where Some Jewish Writers Live.” Late in the day, we received a supportive reply. Here, a Balfour Declaration just for us: From: info@campaignforlittlebritain.com Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 2:41:42 PM To: intel Terrific idea! We’ll vote for you if you vote for us. We’ve put the kettle on… Sean Sigh. If only we could bring ourselves to vote for them. Earlier: Daily Intel’s self-indulgent coverage of Little Britain.
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    Correction: The British Are Bemused! The British Are Bemused!If anthropomorphization is when human characteristics are applied to things not human, what’s the opposite? Because we got another letter today from the Campaign for Little Britain, which writes very much as though it’s one human being but signs its notes as though it’s an intangible entity. In any event, our new pen pal Campaign takes issue with both our response to his (her?) letter yesterday, and with our (punning) headline description of the Brits as angry. Here’s London calling, from a far-too-close place: From: info@campaignforlittlebritain.com Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 1:11:08 PM To: intel Subject: Angry? Me? Dearest Intel Not remotely angry. Bemused, perhaps.
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    The British Are Angry! The British Are Angry!Earlier this afternoon we noted our disgust with the PR-driven plan to rename a block of Greenwich Avenue as “Little Britain,” a ploy by the proprietors of two British-ish businesses on that block to get themselves onto the city’s official street map. We objected to many things, among them the attempt to liken this designation to Chinatown or Little Italy, which, we argued, organically developed because of the immigrant populations who clustered in the area, not because a tea shop got a few bucks from Richard Branson to hire a PR firm. The Campaign for Little Britain responded, refuting some of our claim and charmingly using the words “recognised” and “cheers”: From: info@campaignforlittlebritain.com Sent: Monday, July 16, 2007 2:20:24 PM To: intel Hi Got to take issue with your article, it is in the tradition of already recognised neighborhoods, check out Little Brazil, Koreatown, or Little India — they were started by businesses, too.
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    I Want to Surprise My Parents With the Gift of Dance Dear Grub Street,My parents are going to have their 40th anniversary next month, and I want to do something special for them: a surprise party. It would be really great if it were at a restaurant that had a garden so that they could dance outdoors, which is a big deal for them. Where can we go? We want to get them in without their knowing it’s a big affair.Barry
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    Please Call Andrea Peyser a BimboWednesday we pointed out what might well be the best New York Post cover ever, a Photoshop job of adoring throngs lifting a fresh-out-of- prison Paris Hilton. But we also noticed a curious coincidence: “Paris Liberated, Bimbos Rejoice,” read the cover line — and inside the paper marquee columnist Andrea Peyser was, in fact, rejoicing. Was the Post calling its own writer a bimbo? And, if so, how would she feel about that? From today’s e-mail: From: Peyser, Andrea [SMTP:xxxx@nypost.com] Sent: Friday, June 29, 2007 11:00:56 AM To: intel Subject: bimbo? I love you! Oh, we love you, too, you little bimbo. Earlier: ‘Post’ Either Loves or Hates Paris Hilton
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    Why Won’t Someone Tell Me About Brunch at Robuchon?Dear Grub Street,I am e-mailing you in a last, desperate attempt to find information about brunch at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. The Web boasts scores of reviews on the dinner menu, but I find not one mention of the merit of brunch, a menu, nothing.Cara Gouldey
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    Your Limousine-Riding Chef Friends Don’t Impress MeDear Grub Street, I’m glad that you got all your yuppie-ass chef friends to “vouch” for the ball fields on Grub Street. It’s so nice to see a bunch of privileged jerks who probably take a limo down there slumming it and “gettin’ real” with the working class of New York … It’s funny that I have been going to the ball fields nearly every weekend for seven years and until last summer never saw more than a few Anglos there. I certainly never saw you there or any of these famous “chefs.” Why should I care about what Tom Colicchio, Aaron Sanchez, and Zak Pelaccio say about the ball fields?Jason
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    I Wonder If ‘New York Pizza’ Is a Total JokeDear Grub Street,What’s the deal with Patsy’s and Grimaldi’s? The guy’s name was Patsy Grimaldi, right? Didn’t the place under the Brooklyn Bridge used to be called Patsy’s? I remember going there when I used to come out for AAU games. And where else would you recommend for true “New York–style” pizza? Or is that term a total joke?DeWayne
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    If Wylie Dufresne Is So Original, Why Didn’t He Write a Book?Note: Readers with only a limited appetite for endless Talmudic hairsplitting over chef etiquette might want to quickly scan this exchange between us and the Gurgling Cod, a blogger even more fascinated by the Marcel Egg Scandal than we are. Grub Street,While Marcel Vigneron certainly rips off Wylie Dufresne, the charge of plagiarism does not make sense. There’s no assertion of the work’s origination with Vigneron anywhere in the Wired piece that started this whole fuss. If you attend a musical performance, there is no such expectation that, say, Yo-Yo Ma wrote the cello suite he is performing. In this context, cooking is more like playing the cello than writing a book. If Dufresne wants to protect his intellectual property, he should write a book, which would be copyright protected. Like all artists, cooks rip each other off all the time. I suspect that the current mania for molecular gastronomy may work to create a notion of the molecular chef as auteur, rather than artisan, and thus these allegations of plagiarism.The Gurgling Cod
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    Hungry for Dollars Last week, we chided City Councilman Eric Gioia for realizing the difficulty of eating nutritious meals on a budget of $28 a week. Gioia, following in the footsteps of Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski, ate only what he could buy with food stamps to advocate increased funding for the program. A week’s worth of ramen and off-brand white bread can make anyone cranky, and Councilman Gioia’s office took issue with our treatment of his efforts. We also heard from Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, who joined Gioia’s diet last week. Their words are after the jump.
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    David Chang Gives My Boyfriend a HeadacheGrub Street, I live less than two blocks from Momofuku , and I used to eat there all the time and I thought it was good but not some kind of shrine. When did David Chang become such a food god? The soup there gives my boyfriend headaches, and I never saw what was so great about Ssäm Bar. To me there are any number of places in Flushing that beat the pants off Chang. Lillian
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    Yes, You Are Too Old, and I Don’t Want You in My KitchenWe recently got a letter from Keith, a 45-year-old reader who hated his job and asked us, “Am I just too old” to become a chef? A number of letters have come in, encouraging the guy in his dream: “On my 62nd birthday,” wrote one, “I retired from a long-time corporate career in risk management to follow my daydream of becoming a cook … and now, three years later, work as a prep cook at Amalia.” But lest Keith get the idea that the cooking world as a whole is filled with love and understanding, here’s a wake-up call from chef Dawn Fornear of Vessel restaurant in Seattle. Fornear writes:
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    Rodents Not Just in Restaurants; They’re Also in the Freezer Aisle! We thought we’d have to trek out to Park Slope’s Salinas to get a taste of guinea pig, a.k.a. cuy, the rodent that according to one of our favorite cookbooks Unmentionable Cuisine, accounts for 50 percent of the protein eaten in Peru. Since the restaurant usually sells out of the delicacy by the unholy time we rise and shine on weekends, we were interested — and okay, a little freaked out — to find out that Compare Foods in Bushwick sells the critters frozen. If the slaughtering instructions (trust us, you don’t want to know) and the recipe for Creole-style guinea pig in Unmentionable Cuisine don’t convince you they’re coveted by diners, allow us to share an unforgettable story of guinea-pig smuggling.
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    Am I Too Old to Throw It All Aside and Become a Cook? Dear Grub Street,I’m a religious reader of Grub Street and a major foodie who watches the industry like a hawk … I’m 44 and stuck in a job I hate. What I really want is to be in a kitchen creating amazing food and enjoying the camaraderie that I see there. I have enough savings to live on for a while, so the money isn’t that important to me, but do I need to go to a cooking school? Or am I just too old? Keith
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