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Posts from the ‘Restauranting’ Category

Would You Rather? Indie-ish Darlings Edition


Photo: Attilio Maranzano/Fondazione Prada

Snack at Bar Luce, the Wes Anderson-designed cafe that’s opening in Milan.


Dine at Agrikol, Arcade Fire’s Haitian restaurant that will be “more of an art project.” (Not actual footage of Agrikol.)

Singapore on the Hudson

The so-called Bourdain Market, which will purportedly offer food from around the world in 40 to 50 stalls, is certainly generating a lot of interest.

Though Calvin Trilling might argue otherwise (scroll to the very last paragraph), recreating the Singaporean hawker center experience in NYC has always been my fantasy, assuming that one day I became old, wealthy and persuasive enough to make it happen.

(Sometimes this fantasy goes a step further and I imagine having a superpower–invisibility and flying are so overrated–where you could beam yourself anywhere at any time so I could lunch on char kway teow or laksa in Singapore [though it would be the middle of the night] and then materialize right back at my desk afterward.)

Of course I wouldn’t call my food center Garcia Market because that would be really arrogant and stupid, plus it would cause people to expect nachos and I wouldn’t be selling them.

The latest news is that K.F. Seetoh, Singapore’s chowhound-in-chief, will be involved to some degree with Bourdain’s project. I’ve been to Seetoh’s highly curated Gluttons Bay, though sadly I only got some satay to go and took very few pictures because sickness become the overriding theme on that trip. I will say that five years ago I never would’ve imagined a NYC equivalent ever coming to fruition.

It can be fun watching food shows with people who have no interest in food or food personalities. An episode of Parts Unknown focused on Bahia, once appeared on my TV screen and Anthony Bourdain was sitting on a beach eating wedges of grilled cheese on a stick when the scene slowly faded to an attractive woman in a bikini showering al fresco. The cable-free friend posited how funny it would be with a gender reversal. Indeed, a weathered 58-year-old, white-haired woman in shades, drinking caipirinhas, morphing into a hot young man in Speedos would never ever be on TV–though it’s sadly hilarious to imagine it.

Beef Tongue Had a Very Good Year

Last year I embraced the ubiquitous year-end best of list without adding my own to the online clutter.

This year I present only a single micro-trend: fried, shredded beef tongue with flowers, a curiosity that I non-purposely encountered three times this year in three geographically diverse restaurants. It only leads me to believe that there must be many more renditions being executed around the globe.

Has anyone else had a run-in with flowery tongue?

Mugaritz shhh...muerdete la lengua

April 2011, Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain. "Shhh…muerdete la lengua," is all the menu gives away. You are brought the tangle of  mystery meat and asked to guess its origin after eating it. Despite the clue in the description , I would not have identified the crispy floss as tongue. This is the type of playfulness I would expect from an iconic Basque restaurant, and assumed it was a unique house creation.

Castagna summer squash with beef marrow, tongue, onion blossom

July 2011, Castagna, Portland, Oregon. My hometown is a lot of things food-wise–it's hard to get more seasonal, local, handmade, food trucky–but cutting-edge, it's not.  My visit coincided with Chef Matthew Lightner's final week at Castagna before decamping to NYC (Atera still hasn't opened) and I was charmed by the ambitious style of cooking. Then bafflement took over when Summer Squash with Beef Marrow, Tongue, Onion Blossom arrived with a cascade of beef tongue wisps adorned with leaves and flower petals cleaving to the side of the dish. A coincidence or homage?

Town house beef cheek...pastoral

September 2011, Town House, Chilhowie, Virginia.  Experiencing acutely on-trend food–ashes, pine, hay, and weedy herbs galore–in the middle of nowhere was pleasantly jarring.  The unexpected continued with Beef Cheek…Pastoral. The colorful tableau was graced with ruddy strands of fried  beef tongue! Flowers were a given. Used more as complement than a focus, its presence was still hard to ignore.

Should I be waiting for the trickle down effect? As long as we're still scared of pesto (yes, I'm obsessed with that story) I don't see beef tongue and flowers showing up at Olive Garden any time soon. Maybe Brick House Tavern + Tap–they're extreme, right?

Chicken Scratch


I can’t decide if Fedora’s unusual fried chicken presentation is creepy or creative.

Chicken foot

I encountered the naked chicken claw a few Christmases ago when I bought a Chinatown bird to roast. Leaving on the gnarly feet, never even occurred to me.

Baked stargazy pie

Then again, I thought baking a fish head pie would be cute.

So, verdict: creative.

Fried chicken photo: Metromix

But Will There Be Beggar’s Purses?

Qg photo Finally. As much as I disparage false nostalgia in music and fashion, I have been waiting for the ‘80s to show up in cuisine, even if only for a night (and far more highbrow than my first-hand experiences). Vinegar Hill House will viewing the decade through the lens of American Psycho for New Year's Eve.

My suburban take would feature Cajun blackened redfish, Southwestern something, quiche, wine coolers, goat cheese, raspberry vinaigrette, taco salads in giant fried tortillas—and obviously, bread bowls. Odd how sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, sushi and pesto never went away.

Photo of Quilted Giraffe's beggar's purses and truffles from Insatiable Critic

Beyond Chilean Sea Bass

Aaron sanchez at prochile lunch I balk at broadcasting freebies-to-me (what few there are) but Chilean food is so scarce in NYC (to my knowledge we only have so-so Pomaire in the Theater District and wonderful San Antonio Bakery #2 in Astoria) that I feel ok with mentioning the ProChile promotional menu being offered at Centrico until July 3. Who cares if it’s a Mexican restaurant—chef Aaron Sanchez makes a convincing ambassador for the South American country’s products. (I was most taken with merken, a spice blend using dried, smoked cacho de cabra chiles and coriander.)

The continent’s cuisine is certainly gaining in popularity. Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio opened his first American restaurant last fall and appears to have plans for US expansion (I almost tried Astrid y Gaston in Madrid a few months ago but it didn’t seem right to be eating high end Peruvian food in Spain). And grill master Francis Mallmann seems to be everywhere lately due to his new cookbook, “Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way.” Could Chile be next?

These are the four courses you'll receive for $35 at Centrico.

Ceviche de salmon

Ceviche de Salmon
Chilean salmon, myrtle berries, chile habanero, passion fruit

Tostadas de centolla

Tostadas de Centolla
Chilean king crab, merken aioli, baby lettuces, avocado

Lomo de carne

Lomo de Carne
Strip loin, Olave salsa verde, bone marrow, cactus fingerling potato picadillo

Chilean olive oil cake with carica

Chilean Olive Oil Cake with Carica
Chilean honey ice cream and Miski goat’s milk dulce de leche cream

In Polite Company

Politeness I'm plan-crazy, pretty much because it's a way to procrastinate pressing matters, and my latest time-waster involves researching what to eat and drink in my hometown of Portland, where I might possibly go for a short getaway in late summer. It's not as if the scene will radically change in the next three months.

In the 11 years I've been away good ol' Stumptown has apparently morphed into the epicenter of all that's twee, do-good and cloying. I mean, it was always an indie-spirit type of place but full of poor downtrodden folks who couldn't get their shit together if they tried where now it's teeming with transplants with the emotional and financial stability to make good on their dreams.

I don't know what to think. Frankly, I'm scared of the place, which is probably why I've only been back twice in over a decade (the real reason is that with limited funds and vacation days I'd rather leave the country than visit the west coast). But I'm alone in my wariness judging from number-one-ranked, "Frugal Portland" being the most e-mailed story in the New York Times on Sunday. (For the record, Portland also takes the number one spot in depression and suicidal tendencies as well as general unhappiness)

As I explore restaurants online, I've noticed a growing trend (ok, two so far—I'll only need one more example to seal the deal) of passive assholiness at the bottom of menus.

Beast and Le Pigeon both use the phrase, "Substitutions politely declined."

Now, is that really polite? I don't have any problems with chefs putting the kibosh on substitutions (I've never asked for one in my life) but New York me wants them to just say what they mean, no need to be all squirrelly and Northwest about it.

Image from Chinglish

A Piece of Cake

Demel pastries
Photograph from schmuela on Flickr

No follower of the pastry scene, modern or historic, I wasn’t familiar with Austria’s iconic Demel until reading (ok, skimming) an article in the latest Saveur.

Now I know what the Frankie’s Spuntino Franks were referring to in their description of Café Pedlar, scheduled to open Wednesday.

“It will be like a little Demel’s from Vienna,” Mr. Castronuovo said, “with sacher tortes, linzer tortes, and strudels.”

Ignoring the superfluous apostrophe S for now, isn’t that a bit of hubris? I was beginning to soften on all those Brooklyn culinary artisans but what would make someone whose success has come from home-style Italian food believe that mastering Viennese pastry arts would be the next step?

Maybe I just limit myself with a chronic lack of healthy NYC-style confidence (and funding for pies in the sky). Why not just go for it? I have no formal Chinese culinary training but wouldn’t it be cool if I opened up a peking duck shop? I’m sure I could figure out how to source plump fowl, do that thing where you blow air between the skin and flesh, build a brick oven. Sure, I should apprentice with a master first, but my one beginner Mandarin class wouldn’t get me far.

Eh, who cares? There’s no limiting my desire to provide peking duck to South Brooklyn. It’ll be like a little Quanjude’s.

What Would a Libertine Do?

Just got back from discount oysters and nearly half-priced beers at The Libertine. Not sure if it’s a true indication of Wall Street’s collapse, but the bar was dead (granted, on a Monday night). As a cheap crowd-phobic who has a job for the time being, I will continue indulging in cut-rate specials. Enjoyed my half-dozen West Coast bivalves, but the most entertaining part was how due to renovations the bathrooms are actually in hotel rooms on the Gild Hall’s third floor via key cards available at the front desk. I guess only common decency would prevent one from bouncing on the bed or whatnot. It did not inhibit whoever used the room before me from taking a odorific dump in the toilet, though.

The Friendly Skies


Leave it to the Taiwanese. First they stirred up the pot with their lavatory-themed restaurant, Modern Toilet, and now they’ve recreated airplane dining with A380 In-Flight Kitchen. Airline food has a bad rap, but plastic trays would be step up from toilet bowls, don’t you think?

Photo from Reuters. See more.