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“The Strong Buzz February 5th: News (Floating Market, Turkell's PLOG, BLT in LA, My Dinner at Gusto”
Hello all and welcome to this week’s edition of THE STRONG BUZZ: THE NEWS (Floating Market, PLOG, BLT in LA), The Strong Buzz Guide to Valentine’s Day Guide, and My Dinner at Gusto.
Superbowl Diets Revealed
This week in the Sunday Post, I interviewed Heidi Skolnik, nutritionist for the New York Giants, about what players need to eat to fuel their bodies through four quarters of racing for yards. I learned a lot doing the interview. For instance, I realized, for instance, that I eat enough for a 200-pound football player. Sadly, I don’t exercise as much as one. Oh well. Click here to read more.
Hurapan Kitchen opens Floating Market Room
This new West Village Thai spot has opened a downstairs lounge and restaurant inspired by Bangkok's "floating markets"—rthe ivers and canals where farmers and merchants sell produce and prepared foods from small boats. Dishes on the menu include: Yum Moo Yang (Grilled Pork Salad with Chili, Nam Pla, and Red Onion), Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cake with Tangy Cucumber and Chili Sauce); and Look Chin Ping (Grilled Meatballs with Chili, Cilantro, Lime, and Lemongrass). There’s also a list of specialty cocktails like the Chiang Mai Fizz (pomegranate juice and Champagne) and the Phang Hga Bay (Hangar One Mandarin Blossom, Campari, and fresh tangerine juice). Hurapan Kitchen and the Floating Market are located at 29 Seventh Avenue South, bet. Bedford & Morton Sts.), 212-727-2678
Michael Harlan Turkell’s PLOG
Michael Harlan Turkell, who you probably know from the Gatekeeper series on Eater, is a super talented photographer who has also been working on a show called Back of the House. For this project, which has been going on for a few years now, he gets inside the mind of a chef by hanging out behind the line, in the kitchen in the back of the house. His photos truly capture the energy, the craft, the passion, and the madness of the kitchen. He’s now started a photo blog, or a PLOG. Check it out!
BLT Steak LA
Laurent Tourondel will open a branch of his BLT Steak in LA this summer. It will be located at 8720 Sunset Blvd.
THE STRONG BUZZARD CLASSIFIED AD OF THE WEEK: Classifieds are now only $20 ($5 less than Craigslist—Post your ad or search for a job now!
SOUS CHEF -- New Italian opening soon
“Sous Chef needed for exciting new West Village Italian restaurant and wine bar. Applicants should have a passion for Italian food and wine, be creative, energetic and pleasant to work with. Team leading skills a must. Three years experience required. Great opportunity to be part of an opening team and work with a chef from "Iron Chef America". Forward resume via fax to 212-593-2281, Attention: Anne”
THE STRONG BUZZ GUIDE TO VALENTINE’S DAY
It’s easy to have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. All those pudgy naked cupids get sort of annoying if you’re single, and even if you’re not, it’s just so ridiculously Hallmarkified. I mean even if you’re with someone, and you’re in love, then what? You buy some candy and take them to an overpriced dinner? It’s sort of cliché. But then again, doing nothing isn’t really an option because then your girlfriend/boyfriend will think you don’t care. So, it’s sort of a Catch 22. Anyway, for those of you who have a sweetheart who you’d like to take to dinner, I’ve listed a bunch of options below at varying price points, from cheapest to most expensive. Don’t forget, you can actually cook something for him/her at home, too! (And dessert can be, well, you.) Whatever you do, whether with a lover, a friend, or a friend you hope will be a lover, have a great Valentine’s Day everyone.
Heart Shaped Pizza in a Box! (No, I am not kidding.)
At Cronkite, chef Michael Ayoub’s killer new pizza joint, you can have your bubbly fresh baked pizza in the shape of a heart so that you can have a pizza picnic/love-fest at home. Add red wine (and some Sinatra, perhaps), and you’re set. Cronkite serves 29 different delicious pizzas (one for every wife!) ranging from a traditional Margherita to Patate e Salsiccia with homemade fennel sausage (my favorite). Cronkite Pizzeria & Wine Bar is located at 133 Norfolk Street (at Rivington Street). To place a Valentine’s Day order (they’ll even deliver!), call 212-375-1500, and specify the heart-shaped pizza. (You might want to sing the Justin Timberlake song that also relates to a box when you open the box for your sweetie.)
The Stanton Social, 99 Stanton Street; 212-995-0099, as many courses (and friends) as you want; a la carte menu, plus Petrossian American caviar service.
Papatzul, 55 Grand Street, 212-274-8225, www.Papatzul.com), 3 courses,
$58.00 per person
The Harrison, 355 Greenwich Street (212-274-9310), 4 courses, $65
The Central Park Boathouse, East 72nd St. & Park Drive North (212-517-2233), 3 courses, $65
Sumile Sushi, 154 West 13th Street (212-989-7699), 4 courses, $70 includes “after dinner treats," complete with a mini pastry bag filled with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and strawberries. Behave!
5 Ninth, 5 Ninth Avenue (212-929-9460), 3 courses, $75.00 Per Person
Aix Restaurant, 2293 Broadway, near 89th Street (212-874-7400), 3 courses $76/6 courses, $110 Per Person
Klee Brasserie, 200 Ninth Avenue, 3 courses “the essence of flowers,” $60 per person
The Little Owl, 90 Bedford Street, corner of Grove (212-741-4695), 4 courses, $80 per person.
L’Impero, 45 Tudor City Place (212.599.5043), four courses, $95 per person; seven courses, $135 per person. Both dinners come with Champagne and an assagino of the chef’s choice.
Wallsé, 344 West 11th Street (212-352-2300), five courses, $150 per person.
The Monday Room, 210 Elizabeth St., (212-343-7011), 6 courses, paired with fine Champagne, $150.
MY DINNER AT GUSTO
I don’t know about you all, but lately I feel very overscheduled, like there are just not enough hours in the day or days in the week. I want time to see my family, to hang out with my friends, my main man Craig. Then I need time to network, or at least try to make an attempt at some professional socializing. I need to take an hour for the gym. (Like the whites, it’s gotta be done.) I want to take classes. I want to teach classes. I want to volunteer and try to make a difference. And there are days when I just want to lay on my couch and watch a movie and order in sushi, or spend a whole day cooking. But lately, I feel stretched thin, like I need like ten days in my week. Cry me a river, I know, but I imagine that every one of you reading this feels the same way, if not worse, because many of you have a lot more going on than I do. We’re all juggling so many commitments and intentions and promises that there’s really no way to prevent some of those from hitting the floor—KERPLAT! Indeed, sometimes, despite the most genuine of intentions to honor all commitments—family, friends, relationship, gym, work—some of those plans end up on the cutting room floor.
Case in point is the situation with my friend John DeLucie (who is now the chef at Waverly Inn). We’ve known each other forever, and early last year he and I were trying to get together to visit another mutual friend of ours, Amanda Freitag, who was then the chef of Sette in Brooklyn. My friend Jamie, who used to be a pastry chef and had worked with Amanda at Verbena and worked with John back in the day at Park Avalon, was also going to come. We thought we’d have a little reunion of sorts. Needless to say, despite our best efforts, we never made that joint trip out to visit Amanda. Then, this past September, about ten months from the time we initially discussed our dinner in Brooklyn, Amanda took over the kitchen at Gusto in Greenwich Village, just a few blocks from John at Waverly Inn. (She replaced chef Jodi Williams, who’s about to open Morandi, Sir Keith’s Italian kitchen around the corner from Gusto.) When we heard Amanda had moved to a restaurant in the city, Jamie and I again promised to visit her there. It took four months, but last week, we did. We wanted John to join us, but since he was in the throes of opening Waverly we knew he wouldn’t be able to join. We decided we’d visit Amanda on our own, and make a separate trip to see John.
So last week, after manicures and pedicures at Janna (some times I love being a girl), Jamie and I walked down the block to Gusto where we were seated in a cozy corner banquette by the bay window. The tables up by the windows afford sweeping views of the dining room, which is one the city’s most glamorous Italian restaurants. It is washed in black and white, a Fellini-esque palate interrupted only by the twinkle of a grand old Art Deco chandelier that casts a sexy pale over the room. Forget ubiquitous rusticity, this place is sleek—like a long, soft velvet glove pulled tight over a slender pale hand, all the way up to the elbow.
To match the décor, the crowd is divided between tables of chic women and seriously stylish boys who all appear to cleanse, exfoliate, tone, moisturize, rinse, and repeat, at least two times daily.
As we took in the scene, we took a look at the wine list. It took us no time to pick a wine once we found a Rosso di Montefalco on the list, a wine we fell in love with while traveling through Umbria this October. But the menu took a bit more attention since it’s one of those that makes you want to order everything.
We started with a few antipasti, including wafer-thin foccacia made in house and topped with sheer slices of apple with gorgonzola and bitter honey that brought me close to heaven with its hot crispy crust, tart apples, ripe cheese, and warm sticky honey. I could eat that every day. Even twice a day. Ditto a fresh salad of blood oranges, fennel and arugula that packs a juicy punch of Vitamin C with its fresh sweet-tart citrus.
In classic Italian form, the menu moves on to pastas and then secondi, and we followed the menu’s direction and went for a couple of pastas, most of which Amanda makes in house. The pappardelle had that texture I remember from Italy; there’s a sort of delicate nutty chewiness to it that lets you know someone’s floured fingers have kneaded that dough, rolled it out, passed it though a pasta machine a few times and cut it by hand. The braised oxtail ragout tops a tangle of those fresh egg noodles with a dollop of fresh ricotta and herbs, and the gnocchi ($19), also made in house and fashioned into light potato pillows, were just lovely, bedded with seasonal mushrooms in a sauce that was equal parts herbs, butter and mushroom jus.
The main courses, quite simply, rock. Something called uccelletti scappati ($22) was hands down the best pork dish I have had this year. (Okay, maybe tied with The Little Owl pork chop, but it’s different,) Amanda takes a pork loin and stuffs it with pig feet, almonds, grapes, artichokes and pecorino, and wraps it tight with pancetta. Then it gets seared and then roasted it so resembles a fat griddled sausage. Slice through the smoky, crisp pancetta wrapper, and you get the texture and flavor of that stuffing against the tender pork. It’s brilliant. For those of you who like a nice veal chop, there’s a beauty here, lemon-roasted and stuffed with herb ricotta cheese ($36). The scallops ($22) are also on the level of genius. The size of silver dollars, the scallops are plump and moist, seared to caramelized sweetness and plated with braised dandelion greens and topped with melted lardo that’s been pureed, and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs. For the final touch, Amansa adds a hit of saba—a dark, sweet compote made from reduced grape must. I wanted to take a tub of this saba home with me. Next time, I’m coming with Tupperware.
As we decided on dessert, the door opened. We turned to see who was walking in, and low and behold, it was John. He’d been reviewed in the Times that day, and had just finished his night at The Waverly Inn and was coming over to visit with Amanda. And so at 11pm, a year after our original plan to visit Amanda in Brooklyn, Jamie, John and I finally had our night together. John ordered a glass of red and a bowl of house made tonnarelli with cacio e pepe ($16). Amanda brought it up from the kitchen, and it was all hot and creamy and twisted up with cacio. I wanted to ask for a bite, but I didn’t. We had eaten already, and he needed his nourishment after a long day in the trenches known as the kitchen. (He is looking for a sous chef.) While he had his pasta, Jamie and I worked on a few desserts—a dark chocolate torte with pine nuts that was sadly unimpressive, and a heavenly collection of ricotta fritters, light and airy pom poms dusted with cinnamon sugar that more than made up for the disappointing chocolate cake. The four of us toasted to the review, which was a tongue-in-cheek email from Frannie@guccipucci.com to Graydonisgood@Vanityfair.com (the folks at Waverly were all very happy with it). We had a grand old time, dishing about life, love, Italy, the business, and how time flies.
Soon, the restaurant had emptied and the streets outside grew quiet, and it was time to go. As we got up to leave, we made a promise to get together again soon. I hope it happens. Really, I do. I am not just saying that. But the way things are, the way life takes hold, who knows when we’ll all find a night that works. But maybe we need to forget the planning. Maybe it’s better to leave some things to chance.
Gusto is located at 60 Greenwich Avenue, near Perry Street, 212-924-8000.
And that’s THE STRONG BUZZ for this week! Thanks for reading and until next week, READ IT AND EAT!
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