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“THE STRONG BUZZ July 16: The News (Adirondack Ice Cream, Parea Closes, Johnny Utah's, Brother Jimmy's, Hanger, Mercadito Cantina), Events, My Dinner at 5 Ninth”

Hello all and Welcome to the July 16th edition of THE STRONG BUZZ—The News (Adirondack Ice Cream, Parea Closes, Johnny Utah’s, Brother Jimmy’s, The Hanger, Mercadito Cantina), Events, My Dinner at 5 Ninth.

Adirondack Ice Cream Company
A few years ago, I did some freelance work as a legal recruiter. Random, I know but as I think most of you know, I used to be a lawyer and as a freelance writer, you always sort of need to supplement the piggy bank. So I placed lawyers for a little while on the side. Anyway, while I was working for this agency, I met a guy named Paul Nasrani who was the firm’s CFO. We were talking one day, maybe by the water cooler, when he told me he wanted to change his career. He confided that he didn’t want to crunch numbers anymore. He wanted to make ice cream. He said he’d already been experimenting out of his studio apartment and made so much of it that he’d been sharing it with friends. He said people liked it. Well, a few months later, he made the leap and quit his day job to make ice cream, not spread sheets, full time.

Paul’s goal was always to make ice cream as close to the source as possible, from fresh hormone-free milk and cream. Finally in 2006, he formed a relationship with a small family dairy in Kingston, NY, where he and his wife Simi now make all of their all natural (no preservative, artificial anything) ice cream base on-site, using hormone free cream and milk. Since they make their ice cream base in the same place that they freeze it, they’re also helping the environment by reducing diesel fuel consumption. They also only ship to markets within 100 miles of the Adirondack Creamery.

I had a chance to sample a few flavors last week on a sweltering night and I was impressed. It’s creamy and silky and balanced (not too sweet) and tastes of real honest ingredients. There’s Kulfi-Pistachio, Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Walnut Chip, Peanut Butter Cream, and my personal favorite. Whiteface Mint Chip.

Adirondack Creamery is sold in grocery stores in Manhattan including Fine Fare (Clinton St.), Garden of Eden (14th & 23rd Sts.), Amish Market (49th St.), and Westside Market (15th, 77th, and 110th Sts.)

Parea Closes
On Tuesday July 9th, Parea restaurant closed its doors. A source on the inside explains that the restaurant was shuttered, just over a year after opening, because of infighting between the owners. Chef Brian Goodman is on the market.

Johnny Utah’s
Get ready to ride, New York. We’re getting our first mechanical bull. (Funny, I thought we had those already. They’re called taxis in rush hour in midtown. But we digress.) So we’re getting a mechanical bull—one surrounded by metal chains and burning candles for a “ring of fire” effect—at a place called Johnny Utah’s, billed as an “urban cowboy” experience in Rockefeller Center. Aside from the presence of the big ole’ bull, the space was designed to evoke an old Western saloon with salvaged antiques, exposed columns, beamed ceilings, pony-hide furniture, and antler pendants (Duh). The menu, by chef Marlon Manty (formerly of Blue Smoke) supports the theme with smoky Southwestern plates like Hickory Smoked Chicken Wings with Blue Cheese Dip ($9), Beer-Braised Pork Belly with Onion Pickles ($24), Smoked Pork Spareribs with House BBQ Sauce and Coleslaw ($22), Crispy Catfish with Sweet Potato Fries ($19), and Smoked Trout Salad with Beets, Horseradish and Mint ($13). Johnny Utah’s opens July 18th at 25 West 51st Street, 212-275-UTAH, www.johnnyutahs.com.

Brother Jimmy’s
I think it’s safe to assume that at least 50% of the people reading The Strong Buzz have at some point spent an evening eating barbecue and drinking beer at Brother Jimmy’s. The place opened about 20 years ago, and I know that I spent an unjustified amount of time there when I was home on breaks from college. and come to think of it, even in my last year of High School. Ah, youth. Anyway, they’re opening a big shiny new branch of Brother Jimmy’s near Penn Station. This one also wears their signature rag-tag Honky Tonk look, with plywood walls and corrugated tin roofing, and Southern license plates and antique signage decorating the walls, but this one’s two levels and seats 150. Expect the same North Carolina pulled pork, chipped brisket and dry-ribs alongside their signature Swamp Water cocktail—64 ounces of lord knows what in a fishbowl. Ah, youth. Brother Jimmy’s is located at 416 Eighth Avenue, corner of 31st Street, 212-967-7603.

The Hanger
This East Village boutique for vintage clothes is celebrating its 3rd anniversary with a new line of cocktails for summer and a fresh crop of original vintage looks on sale beginning July 20th. Owners Betsy Nadel and Natakla Burian met in 2001 and developed their patented business model for the Hanger—get people drunk and let them shop. They opened The Hanger—half bar/half boutique—in 2004, and two years later partnered with Veronica DeFeo, a fashion buyer who’d worked at the DV boutique and with Prada to source their collection. To celebrate their new summer arrivals (dresses, tops and skirts), they brought on mixologist Alex Ott who’s created high end cocktails with names like the Galliano, the Halston and the Coco Chanel ($10 each). To keep the boys happy while you shop, there’s a pool table and $2 PBRs on tap. (It’s very Mars/Venus.) The Hanger is open from 4pm-4am (the clothes stay out until 7pm) and is located at 217 3rd Street, 212-228-1030.

Mercadito Cantina

I don’t know about you but I could spend days drinking Pepinos (chile and cucumber margaritas) and feasting on assorted tacos at Mercadito. Executive chef-owner Patricio Sandoval has hit on a simple formula that does the trick. He’s expanding his taco empire this fall with Mercadito Cantina—the first in a series of concept taquerias under the Mercadito banner.

The taco-focused menu will include roughly 12 original recipes (all different from the ones at Mercadito) served in pairs, sort of like beers at McSorely’s. There will also be about 10 different sides to choose from, including rice, beans and other traditional accompaniments. Patricio will also have a Guacamole and Salsa Bar featuring 6 to 7 varieties of each, a Mexican Beer (about 12-15 brands) and a Sangria Bar (3 red and 3 white). Mercadito Cantina is slated to open at the end of September 2007. It will be located at 172 Avenue B, no phone yet.

Looking for a recipe developer and tester? Need a new chef or manager? In the market for a new restaurant space? Check out THE STRONG BUZZ CLASSIFIEDS!

EVENTS, complied and written by Celine Valensi
Strong Buzz Judges Rare Bleecker Street’s Between the Buns Contest -- WED JULY 18th
Please join me along with my esteemed food-writing colleagues Adam Kuban (www.ahamburgertoday.com) and Ed Levine (www.seriouseats.com), actor Jerry Adler (Hesh on the Sopranos) and NY1’s Janine Ramirez for Rare’s first annual Between the Buns Hamburger contest. Over 400 recipes were submitted and we’ll eat our way to the winner. (Well, we won’t eat 400, just the top four.) The event starts at 5 and goes until 9pm. There will be free wine and mini-burgers to all who attend. Hope you can make it. Rare Bleecker Street is located at 228 Bleecker Street, 212-691-7273.

Divine Bar’s Vino-versity
On Wednesday, July 18th from 7-10 pm, Sopranos’ star Lorraine Bracco is teaming up with Divine Bar WEST’s “vino-versity” program to host a three-hour walk-around tasting event featuring her portfolio of wines where she’ll discuss the expression and style of her vinos! A buffet of Italian fare will be served to compliment the wine selections. Tickets are $90 a pop and to make a necessary reservation, go to www.vino-versity.com or call (212) 265-WINE. Divine Bar is located at 236 West 54th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue). To learn more about the wines, visit www.braccowines.com.

Chefs and Champagne
On Saturday July 21st, from 5-8pm, the James Beard Foundation invites you to celebrate summer (as if you haven’t started already) at their annual Wolffer Estate summer tasting party and silent auction honoring culinary icon Charlie Trotter. Participating chefs include Alex Ureña of Ureña, Pichet Ong of P*ONG, and Amanda Freitag of Gusto. The silent auction will feature a wide variety of trips, dining experiences, state-of-the-art cookware, unique gifts, and limited edition wines and spirits. Chef and Champagne will be held at Wolffer Estates, 139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack. Tickets are $200 for members and $275 general public. The VIP experience will run you $500 ($300 is a tax-deductible charitable donation) and includes special seating, tastings of a Charles Heidsieck Rosé 1999 champagne, a photo opportunity with guest of honor Charlie Trotter, a take-home gift, and admission to the after party. For reservations, call (212) 627-2308 or visit jamesbeard.org. For directions to the Wolffer Estate, visit www.wolffer.com.

Celebrate Flatiron Chefs!
On Tuesday, July 17, 2007 from 6:30-8:30pm, restaurants like Boqueria, Hill Country, Eleven Madison Park, Fleur de Sel, and the Shake Shack will serve their signature plates for the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s annual summer tasting party. There will also be live bluegrass music and raffle prizes. Admission is $150 for general and $250 for VIP (5:30pm is the arrival time for VIP ticket holders). Funds raised will go to helping keep the historic Madison Square Park clean and green while supporting free art, music, readings and kids programs in the park. Purchase tickets online at www.madisonsquarepark.org or call 212-538-9310. Enter Madison Square Park at Madison Avenue and 24th Street.


I know many of you may be scratching your head at this review, thinking, “What’s she doing writing about 5 Ninth? Doesn’t she know that this restaurant opened three years ago? Is she getting soft in the head?”

Well, I can appreciate your confusion. (And I may be going soft in the head.) 5 Ninth did open three years ago. But it opened with a chef who recently departed. That chef was a young guy who’d developed a cult following for his locally foraged, Brooklyn Global menu at the Chickenbone Café in Williamsburg. Zak Pelaccio was (and remains) a culinary wunderkind, an outside the lines talent, a redheaded renegade with an untamed passion for pig, and a lust for the Far East and the lands of Malaysia and Thailand. 5 Ninth was his stage for three years, enough time for him to have a son, open Fatty Crab, and to strike a deal with Jeffery Chodorow to open a place called Borough Food & Drink.

When Zak resigned about a month ago, 5 Ninth’s owners Vincent Seufert, Joel Michel and Rick Camac considered the restaurant. They loved the space they’d created—an 1848 brownstone with three floors, six fireplaces, and a spare, organic design, but they wanted to make some changes. They’d remain true to the spirit of the place and continue to support locally farmed foods, offer a menu alive with big bright flavors. But perhaps they could do this with a bit more accessibility. Zak’s full-on nose to tail eating was great and all, but some customers were craving something other than the snout.

To take things down a notch, they brought in a chef who’d worked for many years with Zak, a guy named Chino. Yes, like Cher and Madonna, Chino goes by one name and one name alone (though his given name is Daniel Parilla). Before working with Zak, he worked at Sumile, Union Pacific, Bouley, Café Boulud, and at The Tasting Room. Not too shabby.

He’s retooled the menu at 5 Ninth and worked it into an impressive document that makes me want to eat at 5 Ninth several times a week. At brunch, I’d probably have the skillet eggs with panzanella, proscuitto, and Pecorino ($11) and a one of their secret recipe Bloody Marys ($10). For lunch, maybe the fried oyster Po Boy with spicy remoulade, romaine lettuce, and tomato ($16). And for dinner, well, that’s what we’re here to discuss. It is the reason for this review: Dinner at 5 Ninth. It’s good. Really good.

Craig and I had dinner in the garden at 5 Ninth with two friends, two Joshes, actually. One Josh was visiting from Dallas for the Fancy Food Show, and the other Josh lives, and explores the meaning of life (and how to meet and marry a nice Jewish woman on J-date) here in New York City. He’s 31, sweet, a real mensch, girls.

Anyway, we sat down in the garden and I thought, well, Andrea, this was a mistake. (The garden, not the restaurant.) I didn’t realize how much of an oven it was outside when I had requested our table in the leafy reprieve. Somehow I thought a magical breeze would be waiting for us back there. No such luck. While the lights were twinkling and pretty, I was contemplating how it might be if I took a wine bucket full of ice and turned it over on top of my head. Would anyone notice? If I was quiet about it, maybe not? Craig and the Joshes were mopping their brows. We were all melting. Oh, dear. Instead of the wine bucket over our heads, we kept hydrating with glasses of Vincent’s refreshing rum-based sangria. It helped a little, but eventually we just realized we’d lose a lot of water weight during dinner. Not such a bad thing.

So, back to that dinner menu. Chino’s palate is very Pelaccio (a good thing), so there’s still a lot of pork, tons of chilis, loads of picklings, and a nice respect for local ingredients. But Chino’s dishes are tuned down an octave. There’s less fear, more comfort. A luscious hunk of braised and roasted black pepper pork belly is tucked into a cool crisp cup of Bibb lettuce, and topped with a sweet-hot roasted garlic and chili jam ($14). A salad of cucumber mango and green papaya is tossed with charred long beans, peanuts and lip-licking spicy tamarind sauce ($14). Lobster wontons ($15) are piping hot and crunchy, made from egg roll dough folded over like origami envelopes, and filled up with lumps of lobster with a soy sake vinaigrette and a salad of spring garlic.

The menu also includes a selection of sandwiches, a nice option for those who aren’t interested in a huge dinner. But these are far from petite or delicate. There’s a smoked beef brisket with Vermont cheddar, grilled onions, pickled chilis and beef jus ($14), and a remarkable Cuban stuffed with Berkshire pork, prosciutto di Parma and pickled jalapenos ($15). We shared a grilled cheese of brie, tomato, and basil to start. It was just what you crave in a grilled cheese—ooey, gooey melting cheese sandwiched between buttery griddled bread ($11). Plus, we went for the side of warm tomato soup ($6) for dipping—a rich roasted tomato puree that tastes of bright hot summer.

The decision of what to have for dinner was a tough one. This menu reads like a walk through Kirna Zabete or Intermix. I wanted everything. (For guys, I’d say the equivalent is a fantasy baseball draft, where you have the number one pick.) One of the specials called me. It was sort of a Greenmarket eggs benedict. Chino places a poached egg on top of a circle of brioche, tops it with whipped hollandaise, and gives it a side of a handful of grilled asparagus and a little mini Caesar salad ($19). It was pretty much breakfast, but I was into it. I love breakfast for dinner. But I was most amazed by the late night menu’s fried beer-battered jalapenos—hot poppers stuffed with a mix of cheddar and diced ham. These will have me making nocturnal journeys to Five Ninth in my PJs.
And while I was roasting in the garden, I couldn’t resist the Korean-braised short ribs with white kimchi and chilis over steamed rice. The short ribs were rich, dark, moist and meaty, picked up with the pungent bite of the kimchi and the racy heat of the chilis. But there was too much food. Craig helped me with my shortribs in between bites of rabbit ravioli ($21), lovely little spheres filled with up with rabbit confit and set in a fresh tomato sauce peppered with olive tapenade and topped with a spray of light Parmesan foam. I had flashbacks of Marcel on Top Chef, but I survived.

One of the Joshes was hankering for a bowl of pasta, and he went for the gnocchi, handmade into small and creamy rounds, shaped like little balls of mozzarella. They were light and ethereal, dressed in nothing but a warm fresh sauce of sweet sautéed cherry tomatoes and summer truffles ($26).

The other Josh went for the seared snapper, a crispy-skinned fillet set on a smooth bed of polenta showered with chorizo, tomatoes, and corn ($29). Speaking of corn, Craig’s brother Adam had been lamenting that he couldn’t find a place to get a simple side of corn on the cob. Granted, he could cook it, but that would require turning on (and locating) the stove. Not happening. But there on the menu was the answer to his craving—Corn on the Cob. It could not be any simpler, but really what’s better?

And I left 5 Ninth thinking just that about the restaurant. It’s hitting a new stride and it feels really good. The place is still gorgeous, that rare space that really works the raw organic simplicity of its original design, letting the bones of the building take the spotlight. And Chino has a good thing going there. I appreciate that his menu offers something for everyone. I like that intrepid eaters can find safety in a plate of fried chicken and biscuits, those yearning for something more flashy can dig into the likes of soba noodles with Daikon, edamame and nori, Malaysian chicken wings, or a deviled pork panzenella with pickled chilis and spring parsley. In any case, I’m happy to report that in its third year, 5 Ninth is experiencing a rebirth of sorts. It’s growing up a bit. I think they call it evolving? I was impressed. And I encourage you all to make a journey to that Disney Land known as the Meatpacking and grab a table in the garden. There’s eating to be done, and plenty of Sangria to keep you cool.

Five Ninth is located at 5 Ninth Avenue, near Little West 12th Street, 212-929-9460, www.5ninth.com.


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