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    John Ragan, Jack Mason, and Jeff Kellogg on PUNCH | February 12, 2015

    HOW CHAMPAGNE SNUCK ONTO NEW YORK'S ITALIAN WINE LISTS story: ZACHARY SUSSMAN illustration: NATALIE K NELSON   Welcome to "The List," a column exploring the country's most notable wine lists. This week, Zachary Sussman on why some of NYC's Italian restaurants—notably Marta and Maialino—are among the city's top destinations for Champagne.     During a three-week stretch this past November, photos of Champagne bottles kept barraging my Facebook feed. The entire New York wine industry, it seemed, was busy popping corks at Marta, the new pizza venture courtesy of Danny Meyers’s Union Square Hospitality Group, which immediately earned a reputation among members of the trade as one of the city’s most exciting destinations for drinking Champagne.   As understandable as Marta’s popularity might be—I mean, who doesn’t love pizza, or, for that matter, Champagne?—the restaurant’s claim to fame can’t help but underscore a subtle irony: For whatever reason, both in terms of fairness of cost and depth of selection, some of the best destinations for Champagne—that quintessentially French invention—happen to be Italian restaurants with otherwise exclusively Italian lists.   At Marta, for instance, the program currently features just eight sparkling wines from Italy, including one Lambrusco, compared to over 40 different selections of Champagne. Similarly, Italian bubbly occupies just half a page on sister restaurant Maialino’s list, with three allotted to Champagne. What are we to make of all this?   While it might seem like a strange break from trend to see Italian restaurants venture beyond the familiar paradigm of serving Italian food with Italian wine, it’s not without precedent. In fact, a closer look reveals not only a history of Champagne “guest starring” on New York’s top Italian lists, but an even older tradition of beverage programs in Italy doing the same.   Although they introduced New Yorkers to a certain “regional” approach to Italian cuisine, which redefined the genre, classic Manhattan forerunners like Babbo and Del Posto always championed Champagne. According to Jeff Porter, Beverage Director of the B&B Hospitality Group under whose umbrella both establishments operate, this intentionally reflects what one might expect to find in similar restaurants overseas.   “Based on my experience of traveling [in Italy], I can say that, across the board, Champagne plays an important role at the dinner table, especially at restaurants,” he mentions. “For Del Posto specifically, but for Babbo too, it’s a core part of the beverage program. Philosophically, the model that [partners] Joe [Bastianich] and Mario [Batali] set out to follow was that of the osteria, and you definitely see Champagne on those lists.”   This observation runs counter to the bias against foreign wines typically found in proud winemaking nations like Italy. As John Ragan, Director of Wine Operations for Union Square Hospitality Group, points out, “There aren’t too many wine lists in Italy where you’ll be able to find Argentine Malbec, for instance, or even Burgundy. The one caveat, though, is that just about every great list over there has a fantastic selection of Champagne.”   The reasons behind this paradox remain difficult to pinpoint. Perhaps the situation reflects the larger ways in which Champagne functions as a global symbol rather than a national one. Despite the growing interest in “metodo classico” wines from Franciacorta and Trento, Italy has also historically lacked a viable indigenous sparkling wine tradition to rival its famous Gallic competitor.   Given its status as a luxury brand, moreover, it makes sense that Champagne might resonate culturally with the same nation responsible for Prada and Gucci, particularly among the fashionable elite in cities like Rome or Milan. “Champagne is a big deal in Italy among people of the governing class,” says wine writer and historian Jeremy Parzen. “There have even been a couple of scandals in the last few years involving politicians celebrating New Year’s Eve with Champagne instead of an Italian sparkling wine.”   Along these lines, it’s safe to say that Champagne in Italy remains firmly tied to certain traditional stereotypes. “For many Italians, Champagne (and other spumanti, like Prosecco and Franciacorta) is still closely associated with celebration, and only a small percentage of drinkers would consume Champagne otherwise,” says Rome-based food and beverage educator and journalist Katie Parla. To her mind, this helps determine the contexts in which Italians enjoy it: “In Italy, well-heeled diners are encouraged to drink Champagne in expensive fish restaurants with crudo, but at a pizzeria the drink of choice is industrial beer.”   As a restaurant like Marta proves, this is far from the case in New York. To that end, if Champagne always factored into the city’s top Italian lists as an homage to Italy’s longstanding fascination with the category, the way that Marta (and others like it) have recently appropriated the trend signals an important shift in attitude.   It’s one thing to encounter Champagne at Michelin-starred restaurants like Babbo or Del Posto. To drink a bottle of Jacques Selosse Rosé Champagne with pizza after work, however, is a very different matter.   “It used to be that the only serious Champagne lists were at fancy restaurants,” says John Ragan. “Now there isn’t the same set of expectations. We’ve had great luck with that juxtaposition of ‘high’ and ‘low.’”   Today, as a more casual style of dining becomes the norm, a growing number of restaurants have adopted this “high-low” formula with great success. No matter how low the markups may be, Champagne tends to signify the “high” part of the equation, and it’s increasingly common to see it pop up in various unexpected comfort food contexts: not just with pizza and pasta, but even hot dogs or fried chicken.   By shaking up the “appropriate” frameworks in which to drink it, we’re potentially establishing a Champagne tradition of our own. “I know this isn’t necessarily an Italian thing,” Ragan concedes, “but it sure is a lot of fun.”   WHAT TO DRINK   Maialino   NV Emmanuel Brochet “Le Mont Benoit” 1er Cru, $99 Barely marked up above retail pricing, the “Le Mont Benoit” bottling from acclaimed grower Emmanuel Brochet is “the perfect mix of being drinkable and open, while still being serious enough to work very well with food,” according to Maialino Wine Director Jeff Kellogg. Certified organic and sourced from a single six-acre parcel in the village of Villers-aux-Nœuds, just outside Reims, the bottle will soon be available by the glass as well.   NV Egly-Ouriet “Les Vignes de Vrigny” 1er Cru, $88 “The ‘Vignes des Vrigny’ from Egly-Ouriet has the structure to stand up to [rich] dishes like the suckling pig,” says Kellogg. Chewy, full-bodied and full of red berry fruit, it highlights exactly what makes pinot meunier-based Champagnes so food-friendly.   2010 Vouette et Sorbée “Cuvée Fidèle Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut, $96 Showcasing all the depth you’d expect from a classic “blanc de noir” wine, but delivered through the lean, acid-driven frame of its “extra brut” style, this vintage-released Champagne from biodynamic winemaker Bertrand Gautherot epitomizes Champagne’s exciting new wave. Listed at under $100, it also happens to be a serious steal.   Marta   NV Bérêche & Fils Brut Reserve, $64 For Marta to request such a miniscule tariff (basically, the equivalent of what you’d expect to pay for a decent bottle of Cava or non-Champagne crémant on most New York lists) for the stunning entry-level wine from Bérêche seems like nothing short of an act of charity. Bright and crunchy, with the family-run estate’s signature mouth-coating nuttiness.   2007 Agrapart “Minéral” Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, $134 “There are not many Champagnes that show this much transparency of terroir and do so with so much balance,” says Marta wine director Jack Mason. Lean, chalky (as the cuvée’s name would suggest) and chardonnay-based, this is one of three vintages wines in Agrapart’s esteemed (and highly limited) portfolio.   2008 Paul Bara Rosé ‘Special Club’ Grand Cru, $178 “In the world of Rosé Champagnes, there are none that compare to the Bara Special Club Rosé,” Mason offers. From the Grand Cru Village of Bouzy, known for its pinot noir, Paul Bara’s top-of-the-line vintage rosé is earthy and intense. Drinking it with mushroom pizza is the way.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    Marta's Jack Mason and Maialino's Jeff Kellogg in Wine Enthusiast | February 5, 2015

    TOP 3 ITALIAN WINE TRENDS TO WATCH   Jeff Kellogg, of Maiolino (left) and Jack Mason, of Marta. PHOTOS BY NICOLE FRANZEN AND ALICE GAO   We tap two of New York's best sommeliers for their insider tips on what’s hot from this wine-producing powerhouse. Tip No. 1: Now’s the time to stock your cellar.   Hundreds of Italian vintners, local sommeliers and wine professionals gathered at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria from Feb. 2–6 for Vino 2015. The annual wine convention is a chance to taste Italy’s latest vintages and forecast trends in the American market.   So what’s the scoop?   "With wine being Italy's number one export and growing for the American market, we're very excited to see what happens in 2015," says Pier Paolo Celeste, executive director for the USA, Italian Trade Commission. "My prediction is to expect a large amount of growth in the more undiscovered Southern Regions of Italy including Puglia, Sicily, Campania and Calabria."   WE also tapped Jack Mason and Jeff Kellogg, both wine directors at NYC's Marta and Maialino, respectively, and panelists at the event, to provide insider tips on what’s hot from this wine-producing powerhouse. Tip No. 1: Now’s the time to stock your cellar.   Sicily is Blowing Up Not literally, of course, but the volcanic island and its iconic Mount Etna are producing high-quality, polished reds and whites, according to Mason. “The wines are extremely dynamic, and offer the perfect bridge to both fish and meat.”   Kellogg agrees, pointing to the growing popularity of wines made from Carricante. “The amount planted right now is tiny, so you’ll never see these wines all over, but that only helps to make them desirable,” he says. “The best versions have the perfect mix of crispness, a rich mid-palate, and focused minerality on the finish.”   Aglianico’s Ascent Both Kellogg and Mason agree: Italy’s next big red is Aglianico. “I believe we have yet to see this wine come fully into its own,” says Mason. “Whether from Basilicata or Campania, Aglianico can truly express itself as a world-class wine.”   “I’m buying all that I can while it is still so inexpensive,” says Kellogg. “It is, without a doubt, one of the best grapes produced in Italy, and like Sangiovese or Nebbiolo, you can’t find it grown with great results anywhere else.”   Italian Sparkling Wines are Bubbling Over Franciacorta’s rising prices are keeping it behind France’s grower Champagnes, which “are getting less expensive and very interesting,” says Kellogg. “There’s not the same movement for the grape growers in Italy to bottle small-production sparkling wine at great prices like you see in Champagne. A trend I saw begin in 2014, and expect to see continue in 2015, is restaurants moving away from Italian sparkling wine.”   Mason, on the other hand, extols the virtues of dry Lambrusco. “There are many examples of Lambrusco hitting the market today that are fun, crisp and refreshing,” he says. “People are beginning to really enjoy these wines, and I foresee more and more dry examples hitting the market.”   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    Porchlight in The New York Times | February 3, 2015



    Porchlight on Eater NY | February 03, 2015

    DANNY MEYER OPENS HIS FIRST STANDALONE BAR, PORCHLIGHT, LATER THIS MONTH By Marguerite Preston   Danny Meyer and John-Paul Bourgeois   Expect Southern cocktails, and just a few bar snacks from Blue Smoke chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois.   Danny Meyer never rests. A little later this month he and Mark Maynard-Parisi (senior managing partner of Blue Smoke) will open Porchlight, the bar offshoot of his barbecue restaurant, Blue Smoke, out on 11th Avenue in West Chelsea. This is, as the Times points out, a somewhat rare undertaking: Not a lot of big-name restaurateurs operate bars that aren't attached to a restaurant or a hotel project, but that's exactly what this will be. A standalone bar is also not something Meyer himself has done until now.   The project has been in the works for over a year, but the concept hasn't changed. It will serve Southern-style cocktails like versions of a Sazerac and a Hurricane, and a "whisky and Coke" made with housemade cola syrup and Fernet, created by Booker and Dax vet Nicholas Bennett [Update: Bennett is head bartender, but did not create the cocktails]. There will also be food from Blue Smoke's chef, Jean-Paul Bourgeois (whose Southern dishes, in particular, recently impressed Pete Wells), but don't expect a full dinner menu. The food here will be more like bar snacks.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    Gramercy Tavern on Eater NY | January 30, 2015

    EIGHT OF NEW YORK'S MOST INFLUENTIAL WINE RESTAURANTS, PAST AND PRESENT By Levi Dalton   Which restaurants have had the greatest impact on the city's wine scene?   Classics Week logoWhat have been the classic wine restaurants of New York? One might count the number of selections on wine lists, or the number of years in business, to try to find an answer, but a more powerful indicator is alumni. Some restaurants have spawned numerous top sommeliers who have gone on to notable careers of their own, while some restaurants, even with a lot of wine on their lists, have had little or no legacy. So what have been the most influential wine restaurants in New York over time, and how do the various tribes of New York sommeliers relate? It turns out that a small handful of restaurants have supplied a great majority of the city’s sommeliers. What are those names?   Paul Crispin Quitoriano   Gramercy Tavern   Gramercy Tavern is the great American tap room, and many restaurants today owe something of their antique strewn, rustic throwback look to Gramercy. For beverages, Gramercy Tavern has long had a run of innovators associated with it, whether it be Steven Olson's bet on Rhône wines for the opening list, Paul Grieco's intensive approach to staff training, or Jim Meehan's cocktail program before he left for PDT.   Who worked at Gramercy Tavern?:   Steven Olson, who now consults and fills ambassador promotional roles for various wine regions   Paul Grieco, who would go on to open Hearth and the Terroir wine bars   Robert Bohr, who would open Cru and eventually Charlie Bird   Richard Luftig, who is now the wine buyer for Cookshop, Five Points, and Hundred Acres   Juliette Pope, who is the Beverage Director of Gramercy Tavern today   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    Gramercy Tavern on Eater NY | January 28, 2015

    GRAMERCY TAVERN, AT 20, IS NEW YORK'S QUINTESSENTIAL AMERICAN RESTAURANT By Eater Staff Photos by Paul Crispin Quitoriano   Shake Shack, with its crave-worthy burgers for sale in Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, might have become the global entry point for The Danny Meyer Hospitality Experience, but make no mistake: Manhattan's Gramercy Tavern is the heart and soul of that culinary empire. That’s all the more true as Meyer gets ready to shutter his beloved Union Square Cafe, a move that will make Gramercy, founded in 1994, his oldest restaurant. This reliable (and perennially-packed) mainstay is, without question, New York’s quintessential American restaurant, a status affirmed over the course of two recent visits by Eater critics Ryan Sutton and Robert Sietsema. Below, they both provide their takes.   WHAT GRAMERCY TAVERN MEANS   Robert Sietsema:   In an age when big ticket restaurants open nearly every day, when expensive and wildly creative tasting menus are a given, and when a cornucopia of small but colorful ingredients often explode across the city's small plates, we tend to forget how revolutionary Gramercy Tavern was when it was debuted in 1994 by Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio. Ruth Reichl gave the place two stars in 1994, noting somewhat shaky service and a few menu missteps, but also declaring, "Gramercy Tavern is a grand attempt to reinvent the American luxury restaurant." By 1996, she'd upped her rating to three stars, offering unstinting praise for Colicchio's cooking.   My East Village pals and I were well aware of Gramercy Tavern, too. It seemed like an entirely new sort of restaurant. While we'd never dared set foot in a luxury French establishment, Gramercy Tavern seemed strangely accessible, and the lure was the cheaper bar menu in the front room. I remember going several times in the mid-90s, happily downing a leg-of-lamb sandwich and a beer. The meat was richly textured, smoky like barbecue, and almost gamy. Most important, a satisfying meal could be had for $20 or so, a splurge my friends and I could afford.   Ryan Sutton:   Some tip their hats to Larry Forgione’s 1980s-era relic, American Place, in helping to break the French stranglehold on East Coast fine dining. But let's be real. Gramercy Tavern is the one that’s still alive and thriving. The 20th Street space has been sending out vegetable-focused tasting menus in the formal dining room long before it was the cool thing to do, and the more casual Tavern Room has been whipping up ambitious and affordable fare to a no-reservations crowd years before Momofuku Ssam Bar or Roberta’s championed that stripped-down style of dining.   Gramercy, like any decades-old establishment, went through at least one rough patch, when Michael Anthony took over the kitchen reins in 2006. Alan Richman of Bloomberg News (where I worked at the time) responded to his young tenure with a fast and furious takedown. But things improved soon after, and now, eight years later, Anthony is putting out clean American fare that’s occasionally as breathtaking as anything at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns.   THE DINING ROOM     Sutton:   The formal dining room is where half of the magic happens. So many chefs send out raw scallops with citrus, most of which are too cold, too bland, too acidic, or too sweet. Here, they could pass muster at Masa. Anthony’s Peconic bay mollusks pack that delicate balance of sugar and brine, with such a modicum of yuzu you wonder whether the fragrant Japanese fruit is simply a figment of your imagination.   That fine shellfish course, incidentally, kicks off a seven-course affair that could easily cost $150 at a lesser restaurant. Gramercy asks just $120 for its vegetable-heavy chef’s tasting, an exceedingly reasonable price tag. And for a few dollars less, Anthony also sells a $102 menu of equal length with even more vegetables (and no meat), as well as a $92 three-course menu (for those who get stressed out by small plates).   "The menu is all about celebrating modest ingredients," Anthony tells me, which is why we have dashi-braised turnips with turnip foam — edible rubies on a plate. He stuffs beets inside ravioli for a crimson punch of sugar and forges his finishing sauce not from a pound of cream but from a lighter parsnip puree. And he transforms lobster from a dominant protein into a equal dance partner for seasonal vegetables.   The tasting was quick by modern standards — about two and a half hours — and showed off clean, clear, accessible flavors. Sous-vide squash did its best impression of a ham steak, with the vegetable’s heft emphasized over its delicate sweetness. Anthony turned seafood chowder into study of surf and earth: flavors of ocean and brine (trout roe, halibut, mussels), contrasted against rich celery root soup (which, alas, didn’t exhibit any of the clam stock it was supposedly made with). And for a clever curveball, the kitchen slipped petals of brussels sprouts underneath three slices of duck breast, gently perfuming the gamy protein with their verdant musk.   One downside: Desserts by pastry chef Miro Uskovic didn’t manifest the same degree of compelling clarity as the savory courses; we sampled a run-of-the-mill banana pudding with the vegetable tasting, and a gritty pear panna cotta with sherry granita as a finale to the regular tasting.   Sietsema:   The waiters in their vests, ties, and neatly pressed shirts swept soundlessly from room to room, appearing and then disappearing through arches and behind pillars. The seasonal tasting menu proved heavy on the seafood, with nearly as many vegetables as the vegetable tasting menu, emphasizing seasonal turnips, tubers, and squashes. Starches were nearly nonexistent. If you craved meat, you were as equally out of luck on either menu. By current standards both bills of fare were a good value, given the number of courses, quality of the food, real estate occupied by the restaurant, and ambiance. I've paid more for less on obscure streets in Brooklyn.   Striking a New England note, the so-called celery root chowder on the seasonal menu was my favorite. The name was perplexing, since the soup contained a stamp-size swatch of halibut, two or three mussels, and wad of orange trout roe — didn't it deserve to be called seafood chowder? The soup arrived dry but was dramatically finished with an arc of creamy broth poured from a teapot, one of several tableside flourishes. A close second was the rare but crisp-skinned duck breast, three miniature slices that rolled in rather comically on an undercarriage of four small brussels sprouts. Also deserving of praise was the beet ravioli, finger-size half-moons in a buttery chive sauce. On the vegetable menu, best was a bowl of farro papardelle with assorted veggies and ‘shrooms.   The least desirable course was a lobster salad that comprised two very small cubes of lobster meat with a delicate carrot julienne, a shmear of orange squash, and a couple of tiny mushroom caps. It seems sad that a salad can no longer resemble a salad, at least at this level of the food culture. Foams were incorporated into several courses in a nod to science chefdom, and both menus collectively looked like a gallery of Lilliputian abstract paintings, like a stroll through a miniature MOMA circa 1965.   THE TAVERN ROOM     Sietsema:   The following Monday evening we arrived at 6:30 and presented ourselves in the front barroom, hoping to avoid the crowds. We were seated almost immediately at a two-top in a dramatic pool of light. It felt like being on stage. Periodically, the wood-burning oven, overhung with copper pots, flamed up as dishes on peels were thrust inside. The floral arrangements at our elbow were entirely white: ranunculuses, star flowers, and amaryllises, nodding their heads among heaps of sphagnum and assorted watering cans and flower pots. Welcome to my upstate mud room.   While the food in the formal dining rooms had been impressive in its precise platings and use of color, several of the dishes we ate a la carte in the tavern tasted significantly better. Standing in for the lamb sandwich of yore was a lamb flatbread ($14) singed in the oven, dotted with potato chunks and smothered in baby arugula. It was exquisite, and readily fell into shareable squares. Compared with the celeriac chowder encountered four days earlier, the kuri squash chowder was much livelier, its orange broth buoying lots of shrimp and sea bass flavored with caramelized onions and scallions, an unusual allium combination. The jerk pork chop ($24) was an inspired piece of meat, though the classic jerk flavorings had been abstracted: the allspice at a low hum, while the pickled habaneros shouted. Sadly, the pork chop was devoid of any accompanying starches.   There were missteps in the front room, too. A cassoulet stinted on the beans, and the sausage and pork belly never really assimilated themselves into the kind of gluey, crumb-topped mass one expects from this Gascon specialty. However, the meal ended agreeably with a dessert called Dutch baby, an early American recipe reverently recreated by pastry chef Miro Uskokovic.   Sutton:   The real drawback of the tasting menus is where you physically eat them — in the stodgy, old world back room. The tavern room, by contrast, is as sleek as any modern venue, with giant windows, a fire-breathing wood oven, and Robert Kushner’s famed "Cornucopia" mural, an avant-garde ode to produce.   But is the tavern menu, where everything’s listed at $24 or under, any less ambitious or delicious than the formal dining room fare? Not really. Fluke tartare, with its firm flesh and bright cilantro, packed flavors that were nearly on par with the tasting menu's Peconic Bay scallops. Kuri squash soup, with ruby red shrimp exhibiting the soft texture of more expensive langoustines, didn’t posses any less depth than the dining room’s fancier seafood chowder. And a coriander-studded duck sausage with creamy yellow-eyed beans made for such a nimble cassoulet one could serve it in the dead of summer at Daniel and no one would be any worse off.   So why not ignore the increasingly irrelevant distinctions between refinement and rusticity, between "reservation food" and "walk-in food," and offer every option, everywhere, throughout the two dining rooms? Bar diners deserve tasting menus just as much as back room diners deserve an a la carte option during dinner service.   Still. None of that quibbling makes Gramercy Tavern any less of a classic.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    North End Grill's Tracy Obolsky in Food & Wine | January 26, 2015

    POPCORN-OBSESSED PASTRY CHEF BAKES HER WAY THROUGH 50-POUND BAGS OF KERNELS By Chelsea Morse   Popcorn sundae at New York City's North End Grill © Derek Edward Pfohl   “Who doesn’t love popcorn?” says pastry chef Tracy Obolsky. “Going to the movies growing up, I remember loving the salty popcorn with extra butter—so much butter that it was wet.” Now she goes through popcorn in 50-pound bags at North End Grill, where she translates her snack obsession into nostalgic, sweet creations for the dessert menu. Her latest stroke of inspiration: an outrageously good popcorn soufflé. Here, she describes the path of her addiction:   “My popcorn obsession started the first time I made a sweet corn panna cotta with candied popcorn as a garnish—the interplay of textures was so great. After that, I resolved to make popcorn ice cream, but I wanted it to be smooth and to taste like popcorn without just copping out and tossing chunks of popcorn into a vanilla base. Once I’d created the popcorn ice cream, I thought, ‘Wow, this would make a great sundae.’ So I ended up making a popcorn sundae with popcorn-flavored ice cream (made with real, freshly popped popcorn) with chunks of homemade popcorn financier, drizzled with salted butterscotch sauce and topped with black pepper whipped cream.   With the sundae, I realized that you can do a lot more with popcorn than just make ice cream. That’s when the soufflé came into play. Over three weeks, I tested out eight different recipes, looking to achieve the buttery-salty popcorn flavor but with the lightness of the soufflé. I spent a lot of time adjusting ratios and playing around...grinding the popcorn finer, trying different temperatures and times. The popcorn is actually incorporated into the mixture, which could cause the meringue to deflate, so it’s a very delicate balance—it’s kind of like an ecosystem where one change affects everything else. When I first made it, it looked like a muffin—I don’t want to make muffins! I want to make a truly delicious, iconic soufflé! After many weeks, we arrived at the final result: a popcorn soufflé with salted butterscotch sauce, candied popcorn and vanilla pink peppercorn ice cream. I finally got it right.”   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    Marta in Travel + Leisure | January, 2015



    Blue Smoke and Maialino in The New York Post | January 20, 2015

    THE 10 BEST NEW PASTA DISHES IN NYC   By Steve Cuzzo   The city is boiling over with luscious new pasta dishes topped with everything from truffles to egg yolks. We rank the best, including short rib lasagna at Arlington Club (left), bigoli with duck ragu at Stella (top right) and "Pastalaya" at Blue Smoke (bottom right). Photo: Gabi Porter   New York pasta has come a long way since the days when it was “macaroni” to generations of Italian-Americans.   Durum wheat semolina and its cousins now pop up in innumerable varieties, reflecting the tastes of actual Italian regions — and of chefs heedless of tradition, with results from silly to sublime. Pasta by any name is many eaters’ idea of comfort food on cold days and nights. But most of the choices I sampled aim higher. Black truffles, butter, strong cheeses and runny eggs dominated the field. Several dishes I tried were so rich, my normally insatiable pasta palate gave out before I could finish.   I gobbled my way through some of the most creative new dishes around town as well as a few old standbys that were recently added to menus. To keep a level playing field, I tried only Italian-style noodles — no risotto, farro or Asian dishes.   Hog heaven   Pork-stuffed pasta is topped with black truffles at Maialino. Photo: Gabi Porter   Lumaconi, $38 with black truffles, $23 without at Maialino, 2 Lexington Ave. (Dinner only.) (212) 777-2410   The dish: Large, snail-shaped pasta filled with pork sausage, pecorino cheese and cognac, finished with lemon and adorned by black truffles generously shaved on top by waiter.   Worth the dough? The citrus parries the inherent richness of the sauce. Cognac lends a welcome sweet complexion, while sausage and touch of cream stand up well to aromatic truffles. Alas, my pasta shells was seriously undercooked — a rare flub from chef de cuisine Jason Pfeifer’s kitchen.   Fusion fest   Blue Smoke’s pasta is Italian by way of Louisiana. Photo: Gabi Porter   “Pastalaya,” $22 at Blue Smoke, 116 E. 27th St., 212-447-7733   The dish: Yup, pasta in a barbecue joint. Chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois cooked Cajun and Creole in Louisiana, but later mastered Italian working at Maialino. Orecchiette anchors a spicy jambalaya of pulled smoked chicken, andouille sausage and a sofrito-like pork base.   Worth the dough? Little “ears” nicely bear the Cajun “trinity” (bell peppers, onions and celery). Pasta thickens moderately spicy sauce, making it less sharp than conventional jambalaya. Substituting pasta for rice is a gimmick, but it’s a well-executed one.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    Gramercy Tavern's Michael Anthony in Saveur | January 19, 2015

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    North End Grill's Tracy Obolsky in The Wall Street Journal | January 16, 2015

    THE BEST APRES-SKI RECIPES   Ski-condo kitchens aren’t always the best-equipped, but that shouldn’t stop you from going for the gold when you come in from the cold. These recipes for Swiss rösti, lamb shanks with currants and chickpeas, and peppermint schnapps whoopie pies will warm and satisfy after a day on the slopes   By Matthew Kronsberg   COOL FUEL | Clockwise from left: rösti; lamb shanks with currants and chickpeas; peppermint schnapps whoopie pies STEPHEN KENT JOHNSON FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, FOOD STYLING BY JAMIE KIMM, PROP STYLING BY STEPHANIE HANES   EATING WELL (or at least heartily) is one of the great, earned pleasures of a day spent skiing or snowboarding. Often less pleasurable is negotiating the ski-town dining scene: Expensive food and long waits can make a home-cooked meal back at the rental look attractive. That is, until you think about the typical ski-condo kitchen.   There’s the set of cut-rate knives, all serrated, most gaptoothed; the iPad-size cutting board; and the skillet that lost its nonstick coating sometime during the second Clinton administration. There always seems to be, inexplicably, a hand-cranked egg beater—and quite explicably, given the priorities of the après-ski set, no fewer than nine bottle openers. You’ve seen this movie before, at the beach house (and at least that had a grill).   But scarce gear shouldn’t spell defeat. “I don’t think you need a lot of equipment,” said Daniel Humm, the Swiss chef and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park in New York and an avid skier. “You’d be surprised how many things you can make in a toaster.”   After a day on the mountain, simple and sustaining will win every time. “When you go to the mountain house, it’s like, ‘We’re going to have pancakes with extra butter for breakfast, then we’re going to put something in the oven to cook low and slow with tons of fat for dinner,” said Mike Solomonov, chef and partner of Zahav in Philadelphia and a serious snowboarder.   And while beach cooking often benefits from proximity to a farmstand, winter demands you work from a different larder. But there are treats here too. Mr. Humm said, “In Switzerland, there’s always great dairy—cheese, yogurt, milk, cream—and cured meats.” During visits to his parents’ ski apartment in the Swiss mountain town of Arosa, he steps away from the stove and revels in his mother’s cooking. Among his favorite dishes is rösti, a skillet-size potato pancake that can easily anchor a meal. “She would put prosciutto on top, with sliced tomatoes and cheese, then put it back in the oven. That plus a salad is a full meal,” Mr. Humm said. In Vermont, where Mr. Solomonov attended college and still snowboards, “the food culture is incredible,” he said. “We would go to the Shed brewery in Stowe, get some super dark beer and make beer-cheese soup. We’d make really good sour-cream pancakes in the morning with local maple syrup.”   Tracy Obolsky, pastry chef at Manhattan’s North End Grill, worked in snowboard shops before taking to the kitchen. Recently she found inspiration in a drink she had in her retail days. “I was up at Stratton Mountain for a demo day with Ride Snowboards,” she recalled, “and they were handing out Dirty Girl Scouts: hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps.” She decided to apply those flavors to whoopie pies and developed a recipe far easier to execute than her signature mountainside move: a frontside nosepress on a rail.   The attitude to take with après-ski cooking is pretty much the same as that for skiing itself: Know your limits and don’t let ambition get in the way of fun. “If I can take a trip to California or Colorado, I’ll absolutely do that,” said Mr. Solomonov, “but I’m also fine with driving to the Poconos. I just want to get up on the mountain and ride.”   Peppermint Schnapps Whoopie Pies Adapted from Tracy Obolsky of North End Grill, New York   Peppermint Schnapps Whoopie Pies STEPHEN KENT JOHNSON FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, FOOD STYLING BY JAMIE KIMM, PROP STYLING BY STEPHANIE HANES   This dessert from pastry chef Tracy Obolsky is based on a minty, spiked hot chocolate. It’s both comforting and refreshing after a long, active day in the cold.   Total Time: 1 hour Makes: 18 3-inch whoopie pies   6 tablespoons cocoa powder 6 tablespoons granulated sugar 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1¼ teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon plus ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks 2 tablespoons brewed coffee 6 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil 1 teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ½ cup buttermilk ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1½ cups heavy cream ½ cup powdered sugar 3 tablespoons peppermint schnapps or liqueur   1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together cocoa, granulated sugar, flour, baking powder and soda and 1 teaspoon salt. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, coffee, oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla and buttermilk until smooth. Slowly pour liquid into dry mixture, whisking together until smooth. Stir in melted butter.   2. Spoon batter, one scant tablespoon at a time, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, 2-3 inches apart. Bake until slightly risen and just dry in the center, 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. (If using a pair of standard-size baking sheets, this will take about 3 batches.)   3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat heavy cream, powdered sugar, remaining vanilla, remaining salt and peppermint schnapps until firm peaks form.   4. Sandwich 2 tablespoons whipped cream between 2 cooled cookies. Repeat with remaining cookies.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    Gramercy Tavern and The Modern on Business Insider | January 15, 2015

    THE 13 BEST TASTING MENUS IN NYC By Portia Crowe   New York City is home to some of the world's most celebrated restaurants, with the most celebrated dishes — and that can get a little overwhelming. That's why we have tasting menus.   The Infatuation helped us compile a list of the best tasting menus in NYC, spread throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.   Dig in and enjoy.     Gramercy Tavern   42 E. 20th St., Manhattan   The Infatuation loves Gramercy Tavern – especially its tasting menu ($48 for four courses).   "There aren't many better Fine Dining experiences in this city – or even in the world," wrote Chris Stang.   The seasonal menu features lots of seafood — scallops, oyster chowder, and halibut — as well as a tasty duck breast with bacon. Or try the vegetarian tasting menu with butternut squash and pappardelle.     The Modern   9 W. 53rd St., Manhattan   Located inside the Museum of Modern Art, The Modern serves delicious American fare in an elegant dining room overlooking the museum's garden.   The tasting menu costs $128 for six courses (that's counting caviar, foie gras, and black truffle separately, but not counting their $18 or $28 dollar cheese options).   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)