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Q & A with Terrance Brennan

Posted on Jun 28, 2007 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Terrance Brennan pioneered the European cheese course at his Upper West Side institution, Picholine, single-handedly priming the American palate for a future of cheese worship.  After laying the groundwork at this haute French Mediterranean, he aggressively furthered the fromagerie movement with French brasserie, Artisanal, a sanctuary for all cheese-laden dining endeavors.  Still, aside from his gossamer cheese menus, it’s his culinary talents that have gained him the most recognition, receiving three stars from The New York Times.  His decadent riff on Chicken Kiev manifests itself a corn flake-coated breast, tenderly cloaking a sublime foie gras filling.  He affectionately glazes squab with licorice and skillfully integrates gruyere cheese into a snail-studded risotto.  A restless chef, as so many tend to be, Terrance plans to expand his empire and launch Artisanal fromageries all over the country. What did you want to...

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Brunch in Provence

Posted on Jun 27, 2007 in Gourmet Gossip

Let the critics say what they will about Soho’s recently rescued French bistro, Provence.  I, for one, immediately succumbed to the irresistible charms of the romantic, countryside aesthetics.  Besides, Marc Meyer & Vicki Freeman are having no problem packing the room with neighborhood types, lovers and long-time loyalists.  Now, Provence has just introduced a weekend brunch menu, their stellar raw bar fully in tote.  Who can resist the allure of oysters and a rose on a Sunday afternoon?  Well, I can’t.  Also, on the menu: cherry mimosas, salt cod cakes & eggs, asparagus soup and chocolate bread french toast. Seeing as brunch seems to be all the rage in dining lately, so stay tuned for a proper Brunch Wrap-up… Address: 38 MacDougal St., nr. Houston & Prince Sts. Phone: 212.475.7500 Brunch: Sat & Sun, 11:30am-3pm. Until we eat again,...

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Customized Cocktails With A Cherry on Top

Posted on Jun 25, 2007 in Gourmet Gossip

Just one of the novel flourishes bestowed upon the clientele at the restaurant formerly known as Park Avenue Cafe, presently Park Avenue Summer for those of you that didn’t get the memo, reveals itself as a do-it-yourself bar.  Perhaps the first of its kind in New York City, you can have your way…with your cocktail.  While you don’t have to do any of the actual work other than stroll over to a newly sleek, wood-topped bar with ice pockets auspiciously built in to display an alluring selection of liquors, just-squeezed mixers and fresh garnishes.  Let’s break it down, so you can mull over your choices: there’s two bubbly options, three types of vodka and summery mixers, which include lemon verbena, rhubarb lime and lychee basil.  After sampling all of them (they’ll happily oblige), I elected for a gentle rhubarb...

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Mercat Negre: Black Market Bites

Posted on Jun 24, 2007 in Gourmet Gossip

You might remember when this anticipated tapas joint finally opened its Noho doors in April.  Now that Mercat‘s (see my first bite review) happily settled into a local neighborhood groove and ironed out a few debut wrinkles, owner Jaime Reixach’s ready to mine another fashionable restaurant trend – the “underground restaurant”.  The mystery of exclusivity’s irresistible: unpublished phone numbers, subterranean hideaways and secret entrances.  It’s what makes holding table court in La Esquina and Waverly Inn so tragically satisfying.  While there’s nothing technically illicit being sold – as far as we know anyway – Mercat’s underground counterpart has remained very much under wraps.  Alas, I can’t keep a secret (sorry, boys). On Friday evening, Mercat unveiled Mercat Negre.  Only “friends & family” of Jamie and co-chefs David Seigal (Bouley) & Ryan Lowder (Jean-Georges) were invited to sample Mercat Negre’s...

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Posted on Jun 21, 2007 in Reviews

Address: 165 Allen St., btwn. Rivington & Stanton Sts. Phone: 212.253.8840 Cuisine: “Freestyle” Latin American & Spanish Scene: Island chic Hours: Dinner, Sun-Thu, 5:30-11pm, Fri & Sat, 5:30-12pm; Brunch, Fri & Sat, 10am-5pm. First Bite Impressions: An admirable work in progress with a truly inspired cocktail menu Don’t Miss Dish: Ecuadorian seafood stew Price: Appetizers, $13; Entrees, $25. Reservations: Reservations accepted. Chef-owner Maximo Tejada (Patria & Lucy) & restaurateur Hector Sanz couldn’t have chosen a more favorable season to introduce New Yorkers to their sexy, tropical oasis with a freestyle menu that liberally wanders through Latin America & Spain.  While Allen Street’s only just beginning to reap the benefits of a Lower East Side dining boom, this Latino-bent newcomer has undoubtedly made aesthetic strides on this otherwise bleak street.  Rayuela’s airy, two-story space is furbished with natural wood tables,...

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Varietal’s Last Breaths

Posted on Jun 18, 2007 in Gourmet Gossip

Not really a shock to those that have followed the restaurant drama that is Varietal, it seems nearly lights out for owner Gregory Hockenberry’s oenophilic love song.  Nearly…as the front bar remains open for now.  “We’ll see how that goes for awhile,” Gregory comments.  Even Chef Wayne Nish’s menu overhaul can’t save this Chelsea spot from inevitable doom.  Opening a self-consciously sleek restaurant in a gastronomic ghost town isn’t exactly a foolproof formula for success.  The Eater Deathwatch Committee appears to be right on the mark when they called a spade a spade as Varietal’s bar hangs in the balance. Let’s quickly review, shall we?  First, Varietal gets knocked around by New York Magazine’s Adam Platt, only to receive a restaurant-shattering blow from Frank Bruni.  The quick departure of both Chef Ed Witt (Il Buco) and pastry chef Jordan...

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Savoy’s Summer Clambake

Posted on Jun 15, 2007 in Gourmet Gossip

While I’m usually unsusceptible to gimmicks of the restaurant sorts, I’ll happily fall for the “Clam Bake” menu at Savoy again.  Especially when there’s an endless supply of rose in the mix.  For the second year, this Soho spot offers a $60 special that features clams on the half shell, Montauk Pt. lobster and a happy peach & blueberry cobbler ending ($45 for the rose-averse).  Either way, you aught not pass up this deal as Chef Peter Hoffman has his way with local fish at this cozy American. Address: 70 Prince St., at Crosby St. Phone: 212.219.8570 Clam Bake Menu: Available July 6-July 31 Until we eat again, Restaurant Girl **Don’t forget to subscribe for Restaurant Girl’s Weekly...

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Q & A with Scott Conant

Posted on Jun 13, 2007 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Best known for his mastery of Italian cooking, Scott Conant auspiciously implemented worthy menus at both L’Impero &  Alto.  But after his recent split from partner Chris Cannon, he bid adieu to both kitchens and ventured off on his own.  Thankfully, he’s resurfaced at retired Conde Nast CEO Steve Florio and partner Larry Baum’s casual Sag Harbor trattoria, Tutto Il Giorno, where beachgoers are already flocking for his signature truffle-crowned polenta & branzino tartare.  But that seems just the beginning for the ambitious young chef, who manages to finesse the most sublime flavors out of the simplest ingredients. He’s also launched his own cookware line and made his Home Shopping Network debut.  Showing no signs of slowing down, Conant’s even got an imminent NYC restaurant up his sleeve. Status: Soon to be married…In September, my fiancée Meltem and I...

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Branzini’s All but a Memory

Posted on Jun 12, 2007 in Gourmet Gossip

It seems we’ve lost this airy, small plates osteria and not to the Department of Health’s recently aggressive wrath.  Situated in The Library Hotel, chef Rick Moonen had provided shelter from the storm of Grand Central with a Mediterranean-bent menu, that once offered risotto rice croquettes and shellfish pappardelle.  Alas, no more.  The owners of Bookmark, The Library’s 14th floor bar, will be opening a bistro in its wake by the end of summer. Address: 299 Madison Ave., at 41 St. Phone: 212.557.3340 Until we eat again, Restaurant Girl **Don’t forget to subscribe for Restaurant Girl’s Free Weekly...

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Summer’s Best Cocktails

Posted on Jun 11, 2007 in Best Of, Holiday Eats

It’s summer.  Perhaps time to mix things up, maybe switch out that vodka martini for a minty mojito or opt for lillet over rose.  There’s plenty of summery elixirs to be had in New York and with the onslaught of serious cocktail chefs around every corner, you’re bound to stumble upon a fresh-squeezed concoction.  You just have to know where to hunt the best down, so here’s a list of the latest & greatest summer cocktails around town…   Little Branch – Ease into a booth at this moody subterranean lounge with a Queens Park Swizzle – a mojito riff punched up with a bit of bitters – and let yourself be lulled by live jazz Sundays through Wednesdays. Address: 20 Seventh Ave., at Leroy St. Phone:212.929.4360 A60 – Tragically reserved for the New York elite, befriend a gifted...

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Hill Country

Posted on Jun 9, 2007 in Reviews

If opening night is any indication of Hill Country’s big city debut, New Yorkers are rolling out the welcome wagon for the newest in barbecue.  This generous bi-level space on the outskirts of the Flatiron District, embraces its down & dirty southern roots with Western accoutrements, unfinished wood floors, communal tables and Americana signage.   First-time restaurateur Marc Glosserman, an ambitious Jew from nowhere near the Lone Star state (Maryland), has wisely recruited Queens pitmaster Robbie Richter and “lady of the grill”, Elizabeth Karmel, to run three high-tech Hickory smokers and a well-endowed assemblage of southern-stamped sides and desserts. Pass your wait at the front bar, where you can buy a round of tequila shots, browse the all-Texan wine list or elect for a cocktail.  I kept returning to an addictively refreshing caipirita, a cilantro-spiked blend of tequila, lemon &...

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Posted on Jun 7, 2007 in Reviews

Address: 9 Jones St., near W.4th St. Phone: 212.929.6868 Cuisine: Asian-influenced American Scene: Irresistibly bustling gem Hours: Dinner, Mon-Thu, 5:30-10:30pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11pm, Sundays, 5-10pm. First Bite Impressions: Ethereal experience Note to Self: Order spicy duck meatballs Don’t Miss Dish: Langoustines in sweet peppercorn sauce Price: Appetizers, $11; Entrees, $25. Reservations: Reservations essential. The secret’s indisputably out on Top Chef Harold Dieterle and his gracious partner Alicia Nosenzo’s first restaurant endeavor as prime time reservations at this month-old restaurant have become preciously scarce.  Tucked away in a quiet Greenwich Village nook, Perilla has quickly found itself a destination audience.  Rotating on an American-bent axis, Harold wanders into Asian, Italian and even South American territories.  Clearly a stage for the confident young chef to make his real world debut, but the real question on everyone’s minds — can a...

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Q & A with Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony

Posted on Jun 5, 2007 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

On the eve of Frank Bruni’s reconsideration of Gramercy Tavern post-Colicchio, I bring you the new chef in question: Michael Anthony.  Who knows what’s in the New York Times stars for Danny Meyer’s distinguished New American?  I doubt it will make it any less impossible to secure a reservation at the “Zagat’s most popular” restaurant in New York City.  Fresh from Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Daniel & March, Michael brings his delicate  sensibilities to the rustic barnyard fare.  Dishes like sturgeon washed in a lemon fennel sauce & succulent venison paired with onion marmalade humbly, unveil chef Anthony’s mastery of Gramercy’s kitchen.  Status: Engaged.  We are planning a wedding for this summer. What did you want to be when you grew up? You mean when I grow up?? A journalist. How did you get into food? Starvation and...

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Summer Dining Al Fresco

Posted on Jun 3, 2007 in Best Of

Seeing as summer’s officially arrived, I’d say we’re due for an al fresco dining roundup. Afterall, we should seize these few precious months of sunny days and balmy nights.  Albeit cement sidewalks & fire escapes dangling from above may not be your idea of romance, but it’s New York City and there’s a boundless supply of great restaurants to be had.  My top ten picks for summer: Falai – Former Le Cirque chef Iacopa Falai has built a successful mini-empire on the Lower East Side, launching with this sleek modern Italian.  Spend an evening in a romantically lit, 15-seat backyard patio, where you can nibble on fresh baked breads and perhaps the best brown butter-bathed gnudi in town. Address: 68 Clinton St., at Rivington St. Phone: 212.253.1960 Spitzer’s Corner – (Premiering this summer) While owners Will & Rob Shamlian...

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