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    Marta in Time Out New York | December 10, 2014

    THE 100 BEST DISHES IN NEW YORK CITY 2014: TOP TEN   Food-world dynamos like the Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, Daisuke Nakazawa and Ivan Orkin are behind this year’s top ten dishes and drinks in NYC   By Time Out Contributors, Edited By Christina Izzo   The top 10 dishes and drinks of 2014 run the gamut from humble to high-minded, populist to pricey. There’s free Moroccan-spiced flatbread listed alongside $65 Peking duck, Italian ice cream sandwiches and golden, buttery uni sushi, and there’s a new bird ruling the city. These are the 10 defining dishes and drinks of the year.   7. Fungi pizza at Marta   Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz   At no point while eating the wafer-thin, mushroom-paved round at Danny Meyer’s Roman pizza temple will you miss the sauce. Hell, you’ll likely not even realize that it’s lacking the customary slick of red. That’s because distinguished dough puncher Nick Anderer layers his lightweight, ember-fired crusts with oozing, sharp fontina, red onion shavings, a touch of fragrant thyme and and the woodsy one-two punch of roasted chanterelles and maitakes. Pizzaiolas of New York, take note: this is how you do a mushroom pie. $18.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    SCHMALTZ IS BACK

    North End Grill's Eric Korsh in The New York Times | December 9, 2014

    SCHMALTZ FINDS A NEW, YOUNGER AUDIENCE By Melissa Clark   Schmaltz, rendered poultry fat, and gribenes, the crispy, crackling-like byproduct that comes from bits of chicken skin. Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times   Schmaltz doesn’t get the respect it deserves.   The butt of countless jokes about clogged arteries and an early grave, this rich, rendered, onion-scented chicken fat is synonymous with the heavy, plodding food of the shtetls. Even now, as medical science has given a nod to the moderate consumption of saturated animal fats, and the culinary elite has fallen hard for the likes of lard, tallow and duck fat, poor schmaltz remains the babushka-clad cousin not invited to the table.   This is a shame, because schmaltz is one the most versatile and flavorful fats you can use. Imagine the gentlest of butters infused with the taste of fried chicken, but with a fluffy lightness that melts in the mouth. When it’s properly made, schmaltz has a brawny, roasted character that comes from the bits of poultry skin that brown in the pan. (Those crunchy, golden fried pieces of skin are called gribenes, and they are an addictive snack in their own right.)   Some cooks brown onions in the fat as it renders, which adds a layer of honeyed sweetness. Without the onion, schmaltz is subtle and nutty. Either way, it is the most divine thing you can spread on toasted challah sprinkled with sea salt, and it is excellent for roasting vegetables.   Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times   It is also the backbone of Central and Eastern European Jewish cooking. A Yiddish word that actually refers to rendered poultry skin of all kinds (goose, chicken or duck), schmaltz is a staple ingredient for matzo ball soup, chopped liver and latkes. And it was schmaltz, not olive oil, in which Hanukkah latkes were fried. The holiday may be known as the miracle of oil, but for many Ashkenazi Jews, the celebration was fueled by poultry fat.   “Eastern European Jews were using schmaltz for latkes because that’s what they had,” said Rabbi Deborah Prinz, who studies Jewish foodways. Those communities raised geese, chickens and ducks, but not pigs, which are not kosher. (They also made butter from cow’s milk, but were prohibited by religious law from using it in a meal that also contained meat.)   Middle Eastern Jews traditionally do use oil for Hanukkah, but they don’t make latkes, added Rabbi Prinz, who noted that doughnuts are the holiday custom in Israel.   Frying latkes in olive oil grew in popularity in the United States in the 1980s, when home cooks started using olive oil more often in general, for health reasons. But by then schmaltz had been in decline for decades, after Jewish immigrants in America discovered cheap hydrogenated vegetable oils.   “Crisco was the number one factor in helping Jews assimilate into American society in the 1920s and ’30s,” said Tina Wasserman, the former food columnist of ReformJudaism.org and author of “Entrée to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora.”   “Putting Crisco in a pan and watching the solid white fat melt is identical to watching schmaltz melt, so it was familiar,” she said. “It was assumed to be the cleaner, modern way to cook.”   The fall of schmaltz was cemented with the cholesterol scare of the 1970s, which turned the wonderfully rich substance into a punch line.   But schmaltz has persisted, and in certain quarters you can catch the oniony whiff of a comeback.   The food writer Michael Ruhlman said he decided to write his 2013 cookbook “Schmaltz” because, after years of vilification, many people were scared to eat it. Mr. Ruhlman, the rare schmaltz proponent who is not Jewish, fell in love with it after trying it with a neighbor, who then gave him lessons in making it.   “I got tired of hearing people talk about schmaltz as a ‘heart attack on the plate,’ ” he said.   For Noah Bernamoff, an owner of the Mile End restaurants in New York, embracing schmaltz meant rebelling against his parents’ generation, which passed over homemade schmaltz in favor of hydrogenated margarine. “They had a screwed-up idea of what was healthy and what wasn’t,” he said.   Now he takes pride in using schmaltz as much as possible at his restaurants. He fries with it, spreads it on challah, grinds it into chopped liver, drizzles it into soup and garnishes roasted vegetables and chicken salad sandwiches with the gribenes.   “We use a disgusting amount of schmaltz,” said Mr. Bernamoff with love. “It has a richness you don’t get with vegetable oil.”   Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times   “I started buying whole chickens instead of packaged breasts, and then I’d render the fat,” he said. “You save so much money this way, and having all this beautiful poultry fat on hand gives you a lot of options.”   Now, as the chef at North End Grill in Battery Park City, Mr. Korsh renders the fat from both ducks and chickens and uses it for charcuterie, confit and some of the city’s best French fries. It wasn’t until he recalled his visits to Lower East Side delis with his Jewish grandfather that he made the connection: He had been making schmaltz all along.   Although rendering poultry fat is a simple task for chefs, the technique is a lost art for many home cooks. To help remedy this, Alana Newhouse, the editor of Tablet magazine, has an annual schmaltz-making party at her home in Brooklyn that she calls the “schmixer.”   Not only does she show people how to make traditional schmaltz, she also encourages guests to flavor individual batches with herbs, spices and even chiles. Everyone takes home a small Mason jar of the gorgeous fat.   All her guests love it. “One can easily peg this to nostalgia, and maybe that’s part of it,” Ms. Newhouse said. “But it’s also real engagement.”   She added that the newfound interest in schmaltz may parallel the resurgence of interest in tradition among Jews in their 20s and 30s, who, unlike their immigrant forebears, are not afraid that a display of Jewishness is a threat to their American identity. And schmaltz is delicious, which can come as a surprise to the uninitiated.   But the real showstoppers at the party, Ms. Newhouse said, are the gribenes, which guests wash down with shots of slivovitz, Eastern European plum brandy.   “There’s nothing quite like a slivovitz-gribenes high,” she said. “It turns out our ancestors were quite wise.”   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    JOY IN PAIRING

    Gramercy Tavern and Juliette Pope on The Drink Nation | December 8, 2014

    NEW YORK GIFT CARDS THAT ARE AS NICE TO GIVE AS THEY ARE TO RECEIVE By Seanan Forbes   Let other people give gift cards to big corporate shops, international megaliths and digital superstores. This is New York. In this town, you can give gift cards with local flavor and a spirited kick. Here are four strong choices of ours, but if you have a local favorite, right around the corner from your home, health club or office, then give that spot your support – and share its name with us on Facebook or Twitter, so that the rest of New York can show them some love, too.     1. Gramercy Tavern (42 E 20th St.; 212-477-0777)   Why You Want It: Sure, there’s that award-winning beverage service, but this gift certificate is all about wine, cocktails and beer. Smart and sophisticated though she is, beverage director Juliette Pope still gets excited about excellent finds – and we’re not just talking about vintage wines. Pope can find joy in pairing craft beer with a guest’s lunch plate – and that joy is infectious. Pope’s selections are imaginative and excellent, but they taste better because she and her staff get a thrill out of sharing them. That itself is a gift.   The Recipient*: Someone who appreciates fine food and good beer. Ideally, someone who will choose you as a table companion.   You don’t need to break the bank to make a day. If it’s in your budget, then splash out on a gift certificate that will cover a dinnertime tasting menu and fancy glasses. If that’s beyond your current reach, then the Gramercy Tavern has tastefully affordable choices that will more than satisfy the pickiest person on your list.   At a very reasonable end of New York life, this gift card can be all about lunch. More accurately, it can be about lunch with killer beer pairings. Casting food aside – chef Michael Anthony never needs to know you did that – you can also buy a gift certificate that will cover a couple of cocktails, a glass of wine, or a good brew at the bar. Nobody will complain about the setting or the drinks.   You can buy Gramercy Tavern gift certificates at reception in the restaurant; online, through the Union Square Hospitality Group, as a physical or digital card; or over the phone by calling 212-477-0777.   *In all cases, “recipient” is taken to mean someone other than you. “Why you want it” acknowledges the fact that, if someone else offers you a gift certificate, then this is the one you want.   Photo by Maura McEvoy   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    DELTA PARTNERSHIP

    Blue Smoke and Mark Maynard-Parisi in Crain's New York Business | December 4, 2014

    SMOKE IN THE AIR More

    STAY FOR DESSERT

    Union Square Cafe's Sunny Raymond and North End Grill's Tracy Obolsky on Serious Eats | December 4, 2014

    NYC'S BEST RESTAURANTS TO STAY FOR DESSERT By Niko Triantafillou   North End Grill's Pumpkin Tart. [Photographs: Niko Triantafillou, unless otherwise noted]   New York is home to many great restaurants, but how many of them offer truly great desserts? I'm not talking about serving one signature item that's been on the menu for years. I'm talking about kitchens where the pastry chef has as much creativity and free rein as the chef de cuisine. I mean destinations that dish up ever-changing but reliably breathtaking sweets worth a trip just for dessert.   Answering this question has basically been my life's work, and there are countless ways to do so. So before we dig in, let me share some personal thoughts and parameters on what makes a dessert special.   Presentation: I love seeing artful and unique presentations on the plate. There's only so many ways you can plate roast chicken, but cake can be formed into so many different shapes, so let's see some creativity! The more expensive a restaurant is, the greater my expectations for that presentation. That several-hundred-dollar tasting menu better end with a dessert that could be displayed in a museum.   Thoughtful Construction: Years ago I visited a fine dining restaurant and ordered a chocolate tart with a molten chocolate filling. When it arrived it looked great. But the shell was made of thick, dense, dark chocolate, and I couldn't figure out how to eat it. I didn't want to cut it for fear of half the shell shooting across the table, spraying chocolate sauce everywhere. So I finally asked for a steak knife and prayed for the best. Since then I've paid keen attention to whether a chef has thought about how guests will eat their desserts.   Whimsy: The dessert course at a restaurant should be fun. It should make you feel like a kid, if only a little. And the more formal the restaurant is, the more playful the dessert can be. There's a reason the Four Seasons still sends out pink cotton candy at the end of a meal—even white-haired businessmen were children once.   Sweetness: Most desserts are meant to be sweet. But when sweetness or sugar becomes the defining characteristic of a dish, that dessert is dead to me! The best desserts let ingredients shine through with a minimum of sweetness, or balance out sugar with salty, sour, or bitter components.   Seasonal Ingredients: The best restaurant desserts make using seasonal ingredients look easy.   There are many great restaurants in New York with stellar desserts, but with the above criteria in mind, here are eight Serious Eats-approved spots—all wonderful destinations on the savory side—that earn stripes for their must-try sweets.   North End Grill   North End Grill's Popcorn Sundae.   At the very south end of Manhattan, North End Grill isn't the most convenient restaurant to visit. But if you want to try some of New York's most fun and whimsical desserts in a comfortable, airy setting, it's well worth a trip. Pastry chef Tracy Obolsky has a passion for turning humdrum Americana on its head. Fairground funnel cake at one point was transformed into a chai-spiced fritter ringed with orange-spiked caramel and topped with tea ice cream.   Those with even passing interest in ice cream should go for one of Obolsky's ice cream sundaes. I was enamored with her Caramel Popcorn Sundae ($10), which started with popcorn-flavored ice cream and added chunky financiers made with ground caramel popcorn flour, salty butterscotch, and black pepper whipped cream. Her newest, a Sticky Bun version ($10), features sticky buns cooked directly into the ice cream base, then has mini sticky buns, candied pecans, vanilla-bourbon whipped cream, and a salty sauce that tastes like a distillation of the sticky bun experience.   If ice cream isn't your thing, go for one of the beautifully presented seasonal tarts. The delicious Maple Pumpkin Tart ($10) with cranberry and pumpkin seed brittle is highly recommended. The pumpkin is smooth but not sweet and the tart shell is soft and buttery. Swirls of torched meringue add some sweetness while peanut brittle brings crunch and a salty sweet element   Union Square Cafe   Pumpkin Cheesecake at Union Square Cafe.   Union Square Cafe has been offering great food and service to New Yorkers for nearly three decades. However, its pastry chef Sunny Raymond has flown under the radar for the last four years despite her diverse repertoire of desserts.   On the seasonal side, try the immensely satisfying Pumpkin Cheesecake ($9.50) with toasted pumpkin seeds. It's light, airy, and the texture is more like a smooth mousse than a cheesecake. On top, a thin nest of crisped carrots add a pleasant crunch, and the whipped cream is flavored with toasted coconut. The cake's beautiful colors and mild sweetness make it easy to love.   Another crowd pleaser is the Banana Tart ($9.50). Imagine a banana tarte tatin, except with a crunchy brûléed crust and a well-baked butter cookie base. It's proof this tart isn't just for apples.   Finally, I would be remiss not to mention Raymond's crème brûlée scones, which remind me of a less sweet Macao-style Portuguese egg custard tart. They're available all day and in the brunch pastry basket.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    SKUNKING

    Hospitality Quotient's Susan Salgado in Inc. | December 4, 2014

    THE PROBLEM WITH SKUNKS: HOW TO DEAL WITH A TOXIC EMPLOYEE How one employee's bad energy can turn your work environment toxic.   By Susan Reilly Salgado, PH.D.     IMAGE: Getty Images When you think about skunks, what do you think? Of course, the most common response I hear to that simple question is, "They stink!" And as I always say, the irony is that they are really quite adorable little animals, with a terrible reputation. It doesn't matter how soft their fur is or how sweet their faces are if they release that foul spray. Why do skunks spray? They spray when they are scared, defensive, territorial, angry, trapped, or frustrated.   People can be much the same. When we feel those emotions, people are often prone to "spray"--by giving off negative energy all around the office, for example, such that everyone within two miles feels the impact. And like skunks, it doesn't matter how nice a person you really are, deep down, if what you're known for is "skunking." Our CEO, Danny Meyer, coined this term in his best-selling book, Setting the Table. At Hospitality Quotient, we believe that having skunks on your team is a sure recipe for creating a toxic work environment.   Most organizations have a skunk or two (or more). Our clients know what we mean immediately when we talk about skunking. Most people have worked with one--the eye-rolling, sarcastic, negative, complaining, everything-is-wrong kind of co-worker. The impact of this behavior is pretty universal. Productivity suffers, customer experience is inconsistent or downright poor, morale sinks, and the toxicity spreads.   So, we can all agree that skunking is incredibly detrimental to workplace culture. But I find that many leaders have a hard time dealing with skunks, because they don't know how to hold people accountable for behaviors that are not directly tied to the outputs of their job. While it's easy to manage staff members' performance on the basis of the quality or timeliness of their work, it's harder to hold people accountable to the more subjective performance measures. How do you tell someone that he complains too much? That he doesn't smile enough? That his behavior has a negative impact on the team?   The first step in dealing with workplace issues like skunking is setting clear behavioral expectations for your team. Behavior is just as important as the objective job performance metrics. Being specific about what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable is as simple as describing what you see and the impact those behaviors have on others. Employees will only know your definition of success in their jobs if you share it with them--and it's your job, as the leader, to set those expectations, embody them consistently, and hold people accountable to them. The second step is to address the skunking as soon as it occurs. It is always preferable to give this feedback immediately in order to stop the behavior quickly, remembering that if you don't acknowledge the behavior as being inappropriate, you are condoning it.   Skunking behavior can stem from a personal issue or a work issue. It's important to determine the root cause, so that you as a leader have the opportunity to build greater trust around understanding what's going on with your team members personally, or in the case of a work issue, to seek a solution. Either way, the information you can glean from learning more about why people are skunking can help you create a stronger, more productive workplace.   It's also important to have a dose of empathy in how you approach the matter. Sometimes when people are skunking, they don't realize what they're doing or how it affects others. So your feedback can, in fact, build self-awareness that will help improve behavior.   In many organizations, there is a high level of frustration among the staff because leaders are not doing anything about the skunks. Ignoring skunking behavior sends a message to your team that you condone it, and unfortunately, skunking is contagious. So the longer you put off dealing with skunks, the more frustration you will have. It only takes one skunk to turn an otherwise positive and energetic workplace into a toxic wasteland if the negativity is allowed to continue. If you don't quell skunking behavior as soon as you see it, you'll be missing an opportunity to give the "skunk" feedback, and the rest of the team will have to suffer with the intolerable negativity.   So, as much as you may be tempted to just accept skunking as part of workplace life, don't be fooled by those cute faces and bushy tales. Set clear behavioral expectations, and hold skunks accountable; your work environment depends on it.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    DANNY MEYER PROFILE

    Danny Meyer in Delta Sky Magazine | December 2014

    THE TAO OF DANNY More

    CRUST & TOPPINGS

    Marta in GQ | December 2014

    CAN DANNY MEYER DO FOR PIZZA WHAT HE DID FOR BURGERS? By Alan Richman     Somewhat like cake and icing, pizza is divided into two parts.   There's the crust, and then there's the topping. I suspect that normal eaters, a category that excludes food writers, care more about toppings than whatever regional style of crust they're eating. I seldom feel that way, unless pepperoni is involved.   I consider myself a pizza obsessive, one who participates in the critical analysis of crusts. Such studies have something to do with urban sociology, something to do with food science, and much to do with history. Crusts differ, usually in admirable and fascinating ways, wherever pizza is beloved. When thoughtfully prepared, the pizza crust is a simple food that pleases a majority of our senses. Inasmuch as it's a cousin to warm bread, the earthy fragrance triggers memories of pleasures past, while the texture, be it crunchy, soft, or crackling, provides primal bliss. Toppings are an indulgence, somewhat like your choice of syrup on an ice cream sundae.   There is little in the food world that compares with the thrill of a well-prepared pizza arriving at your table. Pizza is a harbinger of happiness.   The crust, to get back to business, comes in at least six fundamental forms, by my reckoning. To begin, there is Neapolitan-style (fast-cooked, very thin on the bottom, with a bulbous, puffy, outer rim), pan-style (sometimes called Sicilian and similar to a flat-topped focaccia with caramelized, crunchy edges), and nouveau-American-style (closer to bread-baking than pizza-tossing, resulting in an airy, light, aromatic crust). New York has an admirable style that deserves a subcategory of its own, a pie with a fairly thin and appealingly droopy crust. The New York pizza is best enjoyed when purchased by the slice, deftly folded, and consumed while walking along an overcrowded street.   These days, the New York slice is in decline, often sold in a sorrowful state. New Yorkers, always eager for something new, are looking elsewhere. We already have an abundance of Neapolitan, pan, and nouveau-American pies. Now two other styles have reappeared, their popularity restored. In pizza, we are like one of those Pacific islands populated by non-native species of wildlife that wash ashore.   Receiving considerable attention of late is deep-dish Chicago-style (very slow-cooked, sometimes flaky and sweet, but usually rather hard, and always a carbohydrate bomb), and thin-style (sometimes called Roman-style, but known as tavern-style in Chicago when it is sliced haphazardly, as though a slasher and not a pizzaiola were at work). Chicago-style deep-dish gained fame when Pizzeria Uno arrived here a few decades ago. The pie was a sensation at first, but the thrill faded. Thin-style pizza, which has a bottom crust even thinner than what you'll find on a New York pie, first received attention in 2003, when Mario Batali opened Otto to cries of dismay, including mine. His early crust was barely edible. It's now much improved.   The pies at Marta, the first pizza enterprise from Danny Meyer, who we all thought was too busy making Shake Shack burgers to care about much else, are being classified as Roman. This style of pie has never been unarguably defined, and Meyer's are somewhat different from others I've encountered. Marta, in fact, is an odd sort of pizzeria. Located on the ground floor of the Martha Washington hotel on East 29th street in Manhattan, it's vast, clearly the showpiece of the new and extensive renovation. The restaurant has more in common with the Roman Coliseum than with a Roman pizzeria.   The two oversized ovens are wood-burning, which always makes the heart race with joy, but in truth a couple minutes in a wood-burning oven does not add a great deal of flavor to a pie. There are two dining levels, as well as chandeliers that resemble giant pick-up sticks. Should you happen to be seated facing away from the ovens, you will actually have no idea that you are in a pizzeria. In fact, while Marta is being categorized as just that, the menu offers far more. The wine list is outsized, with ten Champagnes for $90 and under, and more than a dozen better-than decent bottles for less than $40, a pleasing variation on the theme of Manhattan sticker shock.   The sad truth is that the thin-crust pizza remains the most inexplicable of all pies. The crust is often flat, flabby and flavorless, which means without merit. Or it might be flat, flavorless, and crisp, which some find pleasing, although I do not. At Marta, the bottom crust is soft, supple, and very thin. The outer rim that rises above is crackling and crunchy, reminiscent of matzo.   The toppings are for the most part complex and inventive. My Patate alla Carbonara had very soft potatoes (verging on smashed), an almost-uncooked egg, guanciale (cured pork cheek), pepper, and pecorino cheese. Regardless of what pie you select from Marta's list of eleven, you will not be bored.   At the tiny Emmett's, on MacDougal Street just outside the official limits of Greenwich Village, Emmett Burke makes both deep-dish and thin-crust, tavern-style pies. His undersized spot, which seats about 30, including 11 at the bar, possesses a charm that puts most establishments located within the Village proper to shame. It's a lovely throwback to what New York used to be. The entire front-of-the-house staff the day I went consisted of one young woman who took orders, carried pies to the tables, worked behind the bar, and remained cheerful throughout. Inasmuch as deep-dish pies can take more than 30 minutes to cook, her work load was not excessive.   The tables are barely large enough to hold a single pie plus a couple plates, and the dining area lacks an entryway, which means the front door opens directly to the outside. Whenever a customer enters (usually to inquiry about the wait time for a table), a blast of cold air also arrives, dropping the room temperature about five degrees. I recommend the following toppings: the crumbled sausage and a warm, woolly sweater.   Emmett's deep-dish pies are conventionally round and come in four sizes, eight through 14 inches. The optional toppings are fundamental and few, a touch of old-world simplicity. The tavern-style pizza—not on the written menu—is square, comes in one size, and is particularly lovely when topped with sausage, the red, brown and orange hues a welcome sight to a hungry man stopping by after a night of bowling.   All of the Emmett's pies are attractive, and the tomato sauce is herbaceous and spicy. The problem here is the crusts. They are not good. In fact, they are depressing. The tavern-style crust was very thin and slightly doughy, as though it was supposed to rise but did not. Any crust this tasteless should at least be crunchy, but mine was not. The deep-dish crust was nicely browned but totally bland, with the flavor profile of a thick, dry, unsalted cracker, one of those English things. The several-inch-high crust encircled a reservoir filled with too much cheese and even more chunky tomato sauce. Emmett isn't to blame, for such a filling is an essential component of every deep-dish pie. One might as well drink tomato sauce directly from the can.   I don't think either of these establishments, despite their virtues, offers the best pies in New York. They are in business for several reasons: Danny Meyer has always been fascinated by all things Roman, and Emmett Burke hails from the suburbs of Chicago. A fundamental reason for the early success of both places is that New Yorkers are forever after what is new, not what they have always known and loved. That's not how pizza is enjoyed in the rest of America.   By my count, five of the six fundamental American pizza options are now ensconced within the city. Yet to arrive, to my knowledge, is grilled-style pizza (a specialty of Providence, Rhode Island, and tastier than you might think). We are close to having it all, and, to be honest, New Yorkers demand nothing less.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    OLD SCHOOL

    Union Square Cafe on Eater | November 26, 2014

    THE HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE FOR NEW YORK CITY FOOD LOVERS By Eater Staff   Great gift ideas for every type, from New York establishments both old and new.   Almost any New Yorker will agree that one of the best things about this city is its food. There are decades-old establishments turning out the same pastries or sausages they have for generations, but also upstart distilleries and small-scale coffee roasters appearing on every block in Brooklyn. Needless to say, these things all make great gifts. So whether you're shopping for your favorite home cook, the coffee nerd in your life, or your meat-loving brother-in-law, here are some choice options, ranging from the old classics to the newest and the hottest. And if you don't find something here, there are a lot more excellent gift ideas over on Eater.com.     Old School: The Union Square Cafe Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano Come this time next year, Union Square Cafe will be closing up its doors in Union Square for good. But whether or not it returns, as Danny Meyer promises it will, this classic cookbook captures some of the restaurants iconic dishes, like hot garlic potato chips and stuffed squash blossoms. The recipes are straightforward, and many come with notes explaining how the dish is served at the restaurant. $19.99 at the restaurant or $13.32 on Barnes&Noble.com   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    SEASONAL SPIRITS

    Gramercy Tavern and Maialino in Cheers | November 25, 2014

    SPIRITS OF THE SEASON     What do guests crave this time of year? Dishes that coax out feelings of nostalgia, drinks mixing heavier, fuller-bodied spirits and other ingredients, and offerings that incorporate late fall’s and early winter’s bounty, to name a few things.   During the holidays, “guests are willing to be more indulgent and pick heartier, braised meats and partake in dessert more often,” notes Matt Adler, executive chef of Osteria Morini in Washington, D.C. “It’s a mixture of wanting to eat seasonally and replicate the holiday feasts and gatherings most people grew up with.”   The 160-seat restaurant, which also has locations in New York and Bernardsville, NJ, focuses on the cuisine of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Ingredients that will find their way onto the menu this time of year include short ribs, lamb shank, oxtail ravioli and butternut squash, as well as brown butter, sage and warming spices like nutmeg and star anise.   As for the drinks, Osteria Morini beverage manager Kristi Green also reaches for baking spices and similar holiday flavors for her concoctions, including cardamom, cinnamon, clove and smoke. “Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, so I always strive for holiday cocktails with great aromatics,” she says.   Green also gravitates towards brandy, bitters and bubbles. “They’re warm, familiar and classic,” she says.   The Seelbach alla Romagna ($15) is her take on the classic sparkling-wine cocktail that was created at the namesake Louisville, KY, hotel. Green’s version replaces bourbon with Vecchia Romagna brandy, and uses Luxardo Triplum liqueur instead of Cointreau; it also includes Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, topped with Champagne and garnished with a lemon peel.   Osteria Morini’s Vecchi Campi cocktail ($14) is inspired by the Vieux Carré. It’s made with mezcal, Bénédictine, aged Irish whiskey and Bitter Truth aromatic bitters, built in a rocks glass and garnished with a flamed orange peel.   Green is working on several Negroni variations using glassware that is smoked with a cedar plank, evocative of crackling fireplaces and burning piles of leaves. “These will be bold in terms of color and flavor, and the aromatics of the cedar plank are pure holiday.”   Gramercy Tavern, a 140-seat American restaurant in New York operated by the 12-concept Union Square Hospitality Group, follows the seasons for the beverage program, says wine director Juliette Pope.   During the fall/holiday period, guests are more apt to remain at the table, sipping a cocktail, fortified wine like port or Madeira, or a complex spirit, she says.   Darker spirits such as rye, bourbon, Cognac and aged rums are the base for many of the cocktails at Gramercy Tavern around the holidays. The Fall Classic is an ode to the apple, with bourbon, Calvados, apple cider, lemon, Angostura bitters and a thyme-infused simple syrup.   Gramercy’s Concord Crush blends Tito’s Handmade vodka and lime with a local Concord grape purée, while the Cranberry Daiquiri shakes Goslings rum and lime juice with a cranberry syrup infused with cinnamon and orange, garnished with spice- and citrus-poached cranberries. All cocktails are priced at $14.   Maialino, another Union Square Hospitality concept in New York, lets the farmers’ market fare drive menu ingredients. “We’re always adapting to what’s available seasonally, which as winter approaches typically means root vegetables, hearty winter greens, etc.,” notes bar manager Chris Johnson.   The guests at the 92-seat, Roman-inspired trattoria who gravitate towards the best-selling Negronis and Aperol Spritzes in the summer tend to become partial to the Boulevardier ($12) as the thermometer dips, Johnson says. Maialino’s version is stirred with Elijah Craig 12 Year Old bourbon, Campari and Carpano Antica, served over a large rock.   Spicing it up   “Lately, we’ve been excited to use bigger, spicier scents and flavors, evoking a rustic feel reminiscent of a campfire,” Johnson says. The smoky Lion’s Mane ($12) has Famous Grouse Scotch, Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro and Carpano Antica, served up with an orange twist. “The smokiness from the Zucca and the peat from the Scotch meld together, and the Antica gives an herbal, coffee note to the drink.” Bartenders reach for amaro year-round, but the deep, warming spice notes are especially fitting around the holidays, Johnson adds.   Guests at the 201-room mountainside St. Julien Hotel and Spa in Boulder, CO, also crave warming, spice-driven elements, in sips that are both locally and seasonally focused. The Asian Pear Martini ($12) combines Breckenridge vodka, fresh pear juice, and citrus with ginger syrup and St. George Spiced Pear liqueur; The Hotckiss ($13) combines CapRock Organic vodka, freshly squeezed Colorado apple juice and citrus, topped with a cinnamon-apple foam; and the Pumpkin Old Fashioned ($10) mixes Breckenridge bourbon, Grand Marnier, maple syrup and pumpkin purée, served up with an orange twist.   “Crafting cocktails should be designed around the best products that are available to you in the current season,” says St. Julien beverage and entertainment manager Bryan Amaro. “What is fresh, local and accessible is what bartenders tend to gravitate to.”   Seasonal sips for warm locales   Of course, not all venues are located in climates that turn cold during the holidays. So how do warm-weather spots incorporate holiday elements into menus? It’s a balancing act, says Daven Wardynski, executive chef for the nine dining concepts at the 404-room Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort on Florida’s Amelia Island.   “I’m a farm boy from Michigan, with very strong feelings about the four seasons. I’m challenged to blend Michigan with the flavors of the beach,” says Wardynski, a frequent forager. He sources local ingredients like briny sea beans, which grow rampantly; aloe vera, which offers a tequila-like flavor and a starchy okra texture, and winter citrus like Meyer lemons and Satsuma oranges.   His surroundings inspired seasonal dishes like seared Pompano Beach swordfish with miso, lemon and mango, which has a fennel aioli spiced with cinnamon, star anise and mulled apple cider. A chilled ginger carrot soup is blended with creamy coconut, fresh Florida oranges and cilantro from The Sprouting Project, the hotel’s new aquaponic greenhouse, organic garden, beehives and smokehouse.   The Plant City blueberry salad, made with wild arugula, local goat cheese and flaxseed crunch, is topped with honey-pine vinaigrette from the Omni’s hive-procured galberry honey infused with native sand pine needles. Those needles, reminiscent of freshly cut Christmas trees, also find their way into cakes, mulled cider and to rim cocktail glasses.   As far as the drinks go, director of food and beverage Chris Walling hedges his bets. “You’ve got to play both fields—be prepared for the cold days, and then pool days, and have a good mix of drinks that appeal to all palates.” He added some small-batch brown sipping spirits to the lobby bar.   Walling is mindful of appealing to guests flying in from the Northeast and other cold climates, who might be interested in brown spirits and heavier flavors. He often plays with classic recipes, however, tweaking a Hot Toddy, for example, by using añejo or reposado tequila to make it more modern.   Paramount to the resort’s holiday cocktail program this year is a selection of house-infused suckers. Guests can pick from 10 flavors—from clove to honey—to accompany any of the cocktails. For instance, the Cranberry Amelia ($10) mixes Herradura Omni reposado tequila with cranberry juice, lime agave and cloves, topped with Champagne and recommended with a cranberry sucker.   One of Walling’s favorite childhood holiday memories was grabbing sweet, boozy cherries from his parents’ glasses as they two-stepped at a Christmas party. “Since those days, a frothy Whiskey Alexander has been my nostalgic link to holidays past.”   The resort’s My Favorite Whiskey Alexander blends Jack Daniels Single Barrel Omni Tennessee sipping whiskey with dark crème de cacao and house-made, vanilla-bean ice cream. It’s whipped in a blender and garnished with grated nutmeg and served with a nutmeg sucker.   Memories like those, conjured up by unforgettable flavors and aromas, are what the holidays are all about. Guests tend to linger longer this time of year, sipping and savoring, so a good balance on the menu of the familiar and the innovative will offer wide appeal.   As Pope says, “the cold and the holidays call for warmth, comfort and conviviality more than challenge and adventure per se. It’s about festivity surrounding old ties and new ones.”   Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer and wine educator in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter or Instagram @kmagyarics.   YULETIDE MARTINI     2 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin   2 tsp. Cranberry sauce   ¼ oz. Dry Curaçao   ¼ oz. Cinnamon syrup   Dash five-spice bitters (such as Bar Keep)   Combine ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a Martini glass.   Tacy Rowland of Bol in Vail, CO, created this recipe.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    THANKSGIVING TABLE

    Danny Meyer in The New York Times | November 25, 2014

    CHART YOUR SEATING Tips on Setting the Thanksgiving Table   By Sam Sifton   Photograph by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times; prop styling by Sara Abalan   Thursday morning comes quickly out of the dark, and with it the promise of the Thanksgiving feast. Have you set the table yet? You should. Set it as if for a sacrament. The Thanksgiving meal is America’s most holy secular ritual.   “There are three things that people pick up on the instant they walk into your home on Thanksgiving,” said Danny Meyer, the New York restaurateur, who does not celebrate the holiday at Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, North End Grill or any of his other considerable number of restaurants, but always with family at home. “They will be able to feel the human energy. They’ll smell the food. And they will see, instantly, the table. The combination — if you’re in a good mood, and you’ve taken time with the table, and the turkey is cooking — sends a message that, no matter what, everything is going to be O.K.”   How to Be the Perfect Thanksgiving GuestNOV. 24, 2014 Get that table done early so you’re not in a rush right before the guests arrive, bickering with family or friends. Admire it a little, and make tweaks to serve your mood.   Start with a tablecloth. “Anything goes,” Letitia Baldrige wrote in 1978 in her revision of “Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette,” first published in 1952 and still a cornerstone of proper behavior before, during and after formal meals. “Hostesses are using fashion-designer sheets as tablecloths, combining them with coordinating solid-color napkins. Our grandmothers would have fainted.”   Use what you have, ironed if you can manage it, and work from there. (Some will use a pad beneath the cloth, to add a formal restaurant-like feel under the forearm.) You can lay a runner down the center of the table, in a contrasting color or fabric. Ned Martel, a Los Angeles television writer who used to be the Style editor of The Washington Post, encourages the commingling of the monogrammed and the mass-produced. “Put an olive-drab cloth from the surplus store across Nana’s Irish lace,” he said.   The point is to make the best of what is available to you. Mr. Martel paraphrased the hostess and composer Mary Rodgers Guettel, “We needn’t stand on ceremony, but let’s not live like pigs.”   Set out chairs for your guests. They need not match. But they should be arranged thoughtfully, so that they offer a visual balance between the ones you usually use and the ones you unfolded from the garage or borrowed from the neighbors or dragged out from the children’s room.   How close together are they? “People actually get somewhat larger and require even more space over the course of a Thanksgiving meal,” said Mr. Meyer, suggesting that you take a moment to sit in them, enlisting another to sit alongside you, making sure there is actually room for all.   No room? Tables may join other tables, or a plywood sheet and sawhorses may be deployed. This wreaks havoc on the tablecloth game. But that is why you set a table early. You may need to improvise.   Plates and silverware and glasses do not have to match, anymore than the chairs. But if you have good stuff, put it out. “That’s what it was made for,” said Bryan Batt, the actor and designer who runs the Hazelnut décor shop in New Orleans. “Its sole purpose was to make dining more beautiful and elegant. Nothing ever had fun sitting on a shelf.”   So one setting gets an old family plate and some flatware from the big-box store. The next gets a plate from there and silverware from Grandma. Mr. Martel: “Polished copper, meet rust! Stemware, say hey to Mason jars.”   The rules are simple. Each person needs a plate, and at least a knife and a fork, a water glass and a vessel for wine, and a napkin, which really should be cloth if you can manage it. Why cloth? “It sets the stage that dinner is going to be extra special,” Mr. Meyer said. Mr. Batt, for his part, pointed out that cloth napkins may be acquired at many different prices and at whatever cost will pay dividends at many dinners to come. (You can get a dozen cotton napkins for around $25 at the big box, and have them for 10 years or more.)   Fold the napkins carefully, though as Ms. Baldrige pointed out, channeling Ms. Vanderbilt, “simplicity is most appropriate” in a formal setting like Thanksgiving. A simple rectangle, folded to the left so that the cloth’s spine is facing right, should be placed on a bare plate or beneath the fork to its left. The knife goes on the plate’s right side, its blade facing left to indicate a lack of aggression toward one’s tablemate to the right. The spoon sits to the right of the knife.   Above the knife, toward the center of the table, place a water glass and at least one for wine, more if you have the glasses and many different varietals are in store for the feast.   Decorate the table carefully. Small gourds and low flowers are nice. Some families deploy trinkets that evoke the fall. Candles are an excellent touch. “Everyone looks so much better in candlelight,” Mr. Batt said. But use nothing scented, which would compete with the smell of the turkey, and avoid tall tapers, which act as an obstacle to one of the feast’s most pressing needs: eye contact between all.   Enlist children or the artistic to make simple place cards, the Thanksgiving host’s best friends. Place cards allow for deft social engineering at the table, putting buffers between family members who argue and guests of different political stripes, and offering the opportunity to seat the gregarious next to the shy, to the benefit of the entire table.   Will you pass platters at the table when it comes to the feast? Do a test run with bare ones to make sure there’s room for them and, if not, clear space nearby for a sideboard.   Will you play music during the meal? “If you’re a bunch of 20-somethings, new to town and away from your families, music might be just the thing,” Mr. Meyer said. “If you’re four generations of a family, 8 months to 80 years, you might not need it. Think about it ahead of time, and make your playlists accordingly. You don’t need the stress on the day itself.”   Now all that’s left is to pour water before everyone sits down to eat. You can place open bottles of wine up and down the spread as well. What you want from your finished table, Mr. Martel said, is a sense of the magical and unexpected, that anything could happen this glorious Thanksgiving Day.   “Let the thought cross every mind,” he said. “ ‘Is this going to get weird?’ ”   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

    ORIGINS

    Danny Meyer and Questlove on Forbes.com | November 24, 2014

    QUESTLOVE + DANNY MEYER: ORIGINS     (ORIGINAL VIDEO)   Musical and culinary beginnings are revealed as the bandleader of The Roots talks with the restaurateur behind Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack about defining moments in their careers. From the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia, PA.