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  • Two Michelin Stars

    The Modern on Eater | September 30, 2015

    AWARDS SEASON Danny Meyer's The Modern Is The Big NYC Michelin Winner for 2016 by Ryan Sutton Sep 30, 2015, 5:29p @qualityrye   Here are the Michelin Star ratings for 2016.   Michelin, arguably the world's most recognized restaurant guide, unveiled its 2016 star ratings for New York restaurants today, and the big winner was Danny Meyer's The Modern, was elevated to two stars under chef Abram Bissell. Anonymous inspectors award worthy venues with either one star ("a very good restaurant in its category"), two stars ("excellent cuisine, worth a detour"), or three stars ("exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey"). No new restaurants were admitted into the three star category this year.   Another big winner was the service-included Atera ($235), which retained its two stars after chef Matthew Lightner left earlier this year; he was replaced by Danish chef Ronny Emborg. Semilla in Williamsburg, whose affordable vegetable tasting menu ($85) won over critics across town, earned a coveted star in its first year of business. Gabriel Kreuther, the longtime chef at The Modern, also earned a star for his eponymous effort on Bryant Park.   Michelin originally planned on announcing its results during a gala tonight in Lower Manhattan. Then something called "Twitter" happened. Excited chefs, who learned of their individual rankings after receiving phone calls from Michelin, started sharing their results all over social media yesterday and today. So the Red Guide went ahead and released its full list of starred restaurants a bit early.   Here are some initial thoughts on this year's guide, followed by the full list.   The Modern's elevation to two stars makes it the highest Danny Meyer-rated restaurant in the guide, and the first Union Square Hospitality Group restaurant to hold more than a single star since Meyer sold the three-starred Eleven Madison Park to chef Daniel Humm and General Manager Will Guidara. The Modern is Meyer's most expensive restaurant; set menus in the formal dining room run $98-$138.   Expensive – but not necessarily exorbitant – Japanese restaurants made up a good deal of the new starred selections. Among those venues were Cagen, which charges $130 for kappo tastings, Hirohisa, whose omakase menus run $100-$150, Sushi Yasuda, where a service-included meal will run $100-$150 before sake, and Tempura Matsuri, which charges $200 for a tasting that culminates in a bunch of fried stuff. Okay maybe that last's one's exorbitant.   Japanese restaurants also made up some of the bigger snubs of the year. Nakazawa, which received a rare four-star New York Times review in 2013 (as well as a three star review from this critic), was left off the list for yet another year. Also omitted were Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau's enormously popular Shuko ($135-$175), and Nancy and Tim Cushman's Boston-import O Ya ($185-$245). And sushi spot 15 East lost its star after chef Masato Shimizu left the restaurant to move to Bangkok with his wife.   Cosme, the New York debut of Enrique Olvera, arguably the world's most acclaimed Mexican chef, did not earn a spot on starred list for 2016, its first year of eligibility. The omission puts Michelin at odds with local reviewers; the New York Times, New York Magazine, and this critic all awarded three stars to the Flatiron District restaurant. Casa Enrique remains the city's only Michelin-starred Mexican spot.   All six of New York's three Michelin-starred restaurants kept that honor. Those venues, as one might expect, are all quite expensive. They are: Per Se ($310, service included), Brooklyn Fare ($306, service-included), Le Bernardin ($140-$205), Jean-Georges ($138-$218), Eleven Madison Park ($225), and Masa ($450, America's priciest restaurant).   On the Thai front, Zabb Elee in Queens was kicked off the list, but Issan-themed Somtum Der, known for its incendiary papaya salads, was added, as was Uncle Boons, whose lamb laab and rotisserie chicken earned it a glowing Eater review in April.   Major Food Group kept its stars for Carbone, a Rao's-style red sauce scene where high-rollers eat $63 veal chops, and for ZZ's Clam Bar, where a just few bites of Golden Eye snapper will set you back $50. But Michelin withheld stars from the group's two newer (and slightly more affordable) restaurants: Dirty French, a love letter to global gallic fare, and Santina, a hotspot underneath the High Line that hawks chickpea crepes with hot sauce.   Anissa, Anita Lo's very adult and very excellent fine dining spot in the Village, was left off the starred list for a second year in a row. New York Times critic Pete Wells upgraded the restaurant to three stars in 2014. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list was The Finch, a small American spot in Clinton Hill by Gabe McMackin (Stone Barns, Gramercy Tavern). Eater's Robert Sietsema enjoyed his meals there, praising the ambitious offerings in a two-star review. He wrote: "Best is a warm salad of shaved lamb tongue ($12) — impossibly tender glottal organs wagging in a puddle of lemon puree. Who knew lamb tongues were so delicate and tasty? Jonathan Benno, the longtime Per Se chef who went on to Italian-inspired acclaim at Lincoln (after a somewhat rocky start), did not earn a star for his efforts in the 2016 guide.   Pizza, barbecue, and ramen, three of New York's strongest and most vibrant cuisines, still remain unrepresented on the New York starred list. Instead, restaurants focusing on those wares, such as Roberta's, Mu Ramen, and Hometown Barbecue, are relegated to the Bib Gourmands, the Michelin guide's selection of cheap eats. Not impressive.   Rebelle, a gallic collaboration between chef Daniel Eddy (his raw fluke grenobloise with brown butter and capers is the real deal), and wine guru Patrick Cappiello (he only pours selections from the U.S. or France) earned a star. Contra, by contrast, the neo-bistrot that frequently hosts pop-ups by some of France's most important chefs, was left off the starred list again.   Estela by Ignacio Mattos, which President Barack Obama famously visited in 2014, was left off the list for another year. Michelin is well known for withholding stars, for no apparent reason, from wildly popular restaurants beloved by locals and critics alike; Roberta's and Momofuku Ssam Bar are both longtime members of that group.   The 2016 New York Michelin List of Starred Restaurants:   Three Stars Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare Eleven Madison Park Jean-Georges Le Bernardin Masa Per Se   Two Stars Aquavit Atera Blanca Daniel Ichimura Jungsik Marea Modern (The) Momofuku Ko Soto   One Star: Ai Fiori Aldea Andanada Aureole Babbo Bâtard Betony Blue Hill Bouley Breslin (The) Brushstroke Café Boulud Café China Cagen (new) Carbone Casa Enríque Casa Mono Caviar Russe Delaware and Hudson Del Posto Dovetail The Finch (new) Gabriel Kreuther (new) Gotham Bar and Grill Gramercy Tavern Hirohisa (new) Jewel Bako Juni Junoon Kajitsu Kyo Ya La Vara Luksus at Tørst Meadowsweet Minetta Tavern Musket Room (The) M. Wells Steakhouse NoMad Peter Luger Picholine Piora Pok Pok Ny Public Rebelle (new) River Café (The) Rosanjin Semilla (new) Somtum Der (new) Spotted Pig Sushi Azabu Sushi of Gari Sushi Yasuda (new) Take Root Telepan Tempura Matsui Tori Shin Tulsi Uncle Boons (new) Wallsé ZZ’s Clam Bar   Original Article

    Wine at USHG

    USHG Wine feature in The New York Times | September 17, 2015

    Danny Meyer Has a Wine for Everyone SEPT. 17, 2015 The Pour By ERIC ASIMOV   From haute cuisine to neighborhood bistro, New York is awash in great wine lists. No city offers a wider selection of wines or a larger number of places in which to enjoy them.   Yet, no set of restaurants matches the collective excellence of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group in offering wine lists with better combinations of great values, sheer deliciousness and sympathetic accompaniment to the food on the menu.   That’s not an unconsidered judgment. So many fine restaurants, high and low, do a superb, creative job of putting good wine in the glasses of eager diners. Think of the classicism of Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group; the penetratingly deep lists at Patrick Cappiello’s twin downtown outposts, Pearl & Ash and Rebelle; the nervy pleasures of Andrew Tarlow’s Marlow family of restaurants in Brooklyn; the voluminous intrigue at the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group; and the dozens of individual places with great lists all over.   Yet the Union Square group has taken an extra step toward making wine drinkers from novice to expert feel that they can order something better than what they may have imagined at a more-than-fair price.   Jack Mason, center, the wine director at Marta, helped devise a plan that would use Champagne as an invitation to explore the rest of the wine list. Credit Michael Nagle for The New York Times Consider Marta, the Romanesque pizzeria on East 29th Street. It just happens to have one of the best Champagne lists in town, and if you have to ask why a pizza-oriented restaurant would bother with good Champagne, you should know that pizza and Champagne are counterintuitively a brilliant pairing of food and wine.   What makes Marta’s list great, though, is not just the inspiration of offering a wide selection of Champagne, but the pricing. In a city where it’s hard to find good Champagne in most restaurants for less than $100 a bottle, Marta offers more than two dozen selections under $100, including ridiculously good deals like Bérêche & Fils Brut Réserve for $68 (it retails for $45 to $50) and Agrapart’s 7 Crus for $76 (it, too, retails for around $50). Most wine lists charge two to three times the retail price, so what gives?   “We were very conscious about wanting the wine program not to feel like a pizza place, a glass of barbera and see you later,” said John Ragan, the director of wine and restaurant operations for the Union Square group. Together with Jack Mason, the wine director at Marta, they devised a plan that would use Champagne as an invitation to explore the rest of the list, which likewise offers a great selection of Italian reds and whites, fairly priced though not as diminutively marked up as the Champagnes.   “People who don’t normally drink Champagne, who might reserve it for a special occasion, take us up on it,” Mr. Ragan said. “And if people get a $58 Champagne, maybe they order a second bottle of something different. If people drink two bottles instead of one, everybody wins.”   It may be tempting to repeat that formula at each of the restaurants. But instead of cookie-cutter lists that would diminish each restaurant’s individuality, the lists are structured in distinctive ways that amplify the personality of each place. Maialino, with its trattoria-style menu, offers a wonderfully in-depth Italian list. The wine director, Jeff Kellogg, has put a special emphasis on well-aged nebbiolo wines of the Piedmont, including Barolo, Barbaresco and beyond.   It, too, does not neglect the mid-budget consumer. You can find an excellent 2001 Barolo for $88 from Alessandro e Gian Natale Fantino. But you can also find stupendous values in much older, rarer wines that justify splurges, like a 1968 Vallana Montalbano Gattinara for $235, a 1998 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate-Le Coste for $275 and, if you can spare big bucks for a treasure, $875 for a 1961 Giacomo Conterno Barolo, one of the most unforgettable wines I’ve ever had.   Mia Van de Water, the wine director at the delightful North End Grill in Battery Park City, has put together one of the few collections in New York of older California red wines, which would go beautifully with many of Eric Korsh’s wood-grilled dishes. Excellent selections include five different vintages of Mount Eden’s great, underappreciated Santa Cruz Mountains cabernet sauvignon, from 1976 to 1994, from $198 to $336, and a 1990 Corison Napa Valley cabernet for $214.   At Untitled at the Whitney, a museum restaurant in the meatpacking district that serves full meals and light fare, it makes sense to have a concise, lower-priced list with terrific wines by the glass. The wine director, Eduardo Porto Carreiro, has added something he calls the Untitled Pour, a rotating selection of unusual wines by the glass priced at $11 to $14, a good deal in a city where restaurants routinely charge more than $15 for a glass of ordinary wine. Recent selections have included a 2014 Cuvée Pif from Clos Roche Blanche, the last vintage from this exceptional Loire producer, and a fresh, spicy 2014 trousseau gris from Jolie-Laide, a promising California producer.   “It’s a fun way to showcase up-and-coming producers and neat off-the-beaten-path regions, or unexpected expressions from classic regions,” Mr. Porto Carreiro said.   I haven’t even mentioned Gramercy Tavern, where Juliette Pope has put together possibly the best all-around wine list in the city, or the Modern, the Midtown restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art, where Michaël Engelmann’s list is unfathomably deep in the sort of bottles that appeal to value hunters and well-heeled art collectors. It’s extraordinarily diverse, with a special emphasis on the whites of Alsace, a nod to the heritage of Gabriel Kreuther, the restaurant’s founding chef, and Mr. Engelmann.   All the lists are infused by a philosophy on the part of Mr. Meyer and Mr. Ragan that emphasizes great value and passionate but humble service, in keeping with Mr. Meyer’s notion that despite all the hoopla about wine, its role is simply to make meals better. “People make such a big deal out of wine, but it’s a condiment,” Mr. Meyer said. “It’s a sauce to make the food taste better.”   Selling a lot of wine is good business, of course, yet as a consumer, one never gets the feeling at any of Mr. Meyer’s restaurants of having to strain to afford a good bottle.   “We’ve found that trying to be generous with the pricing is a pretty darn good business plan,” Mr. Ragan said. “Culturally, instead of saying, ‘How much can we charge for this?,’ we ask ourselves, ‘How little do we have to charge for this to stay in business?’ We firmly believe that will result in more people opening up the list, more people having a second bottle, and more people returning to the restaurant.”   Those generous touches may include a half-bottle of Krug Champagne at Union Square Cafe for $69, just a few dollars over what you may pay for it retail, or the $45 blend of grolleau and gamay from the Loire producer Pithon-Paillé at Gramercy Tavern, not, perhaps, what you’d order for a fancy dinner in the back dining room but exactly what you’d want sitting at the bar in the informal tavern room.   “At the end of the day, I wish I could fill every seat in a dining room with wine lovers,” Mr. Meyer said. “It’s just the fullest expression of what we’re trying to do in a restaurant.”     Original Article

    Two Stars for Untitled

    Untitled Review in The New York Times | August 4, 2015

    Restaurant Review: Untitled at the Whitney in the Meatpacking District Untitled NYT Critics’ Pick ★★ American $$$ By PETE WELLSAUG. 4, 2015   If you can get past the name, a graduate-school groaner that I am supposed to underline, but won’t, there is nothing pretentious about Untitled.   Untitled is on the ground floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Whitney is the second major art museum in the city to choose Danny Meyer to run a big, semiformal restaurant — the Museum of Modern Art is the other — and yet Mr. Meyer is resolutely uninterested in arty food. When Eleven Madison Park began its swerve toward the conceptual, he sold it. The remaining holdings in his Union Square Hospitality Group are polite restaurants where polite people are in very little danger of being challenged or provoked. Although Mr. Meyer has worked to make his name synonymous with hospitality, what his restaurants sell above all is reassurance.   Imagine his relief that the Whitney decided against installing Charles Ray’s sculpture of a naked Huck Finn, bending over next to an 8-foot full-frontal Jim, on the plaza in front of Untitled. (Next door at Santina, which plays Nicki Minaj to Untitled’s Taylor Swift, they would have rearranged the tables for better views.)   The restaurant is slotted into a narrow quadrangle with glass curtain walls on three sides, designed, like the rest of the museum, by Renzo Piano. Untitled treats the architect deferentially. Too deferentially, I think: In its near-total lack of ornament, the dining room can look like an espresso shop. If Eero Saarinen’s cardinal-red chairs weren’t so comfortable, you might get antsy after an hour. An architect friend spent the night admiring Mr. Piano’s meticulous engineering, but also pointed out that interiors with curtain walls are only as beautiful as the building across the street. At Untitled, you look at a hulking industrial slab across Gansevoort Street. At least it is an improvement on the view from my old desk at Mr. Piano’s New York Times building, where I peered into the dark soul of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.   All the energy and beauty at Untitled are on the plates. They throb with color. It’s not just decoration, either. The color mostly comes from fruits and vegetables so ripe they’re ready to pop. Michael Anthony, the chef; Suzanne Cupps, the chef de cuisine; and Miro Uskokovic, the pastry chef, use market produce flamboyantly, as though they were trying to get the purse-lipped farm-to-table puritans who solemnly hand you a single baby zucchini to crack a smile.   A slice of the tender, rich poundcake is virtually swallowed up by ricotta, sabayon, strawberries and violas. More strawberries — and nearly every other berry under the summer sun — ring the gloriously slouching chamomile panna cotta in a great purple landslide. Around a towering ship’s-prow wedge of cake with sesame brittle and peanut-butter icing, servers pour a blueberry sauce with the spicy buzz of ginger, which rockets the dessert right out of PB&J territory.   The four menu categories aren’t labeled, but it’s obvious that the third section is turned over to vegetables. A few are best as side dishes, like the spoonable potato purée liquefied with melted Cheddar, too salty for more than a few bites. Most of the vegetables, though, have enough contrast and sophistication to be appetizers or even main courses.   Pickled wine-colored cherries, sunflower seeds and orange splashes of carrot vinaigrette make every bite of a kale-and-cabbage salad taste like a new dish. (If we are sentenced to see raw kale everywhere we go, every restaurant should dress it as exuberantly as Untitled does.) Earlier this summer, there were roasted and griddled leeks, as dark as roasted Japanese eggplants and almost that soft, with an intense, sweet-sour salsa sauce of citrus and pasilla chiles; I’ve never wanted to cheer for a plate of leeks before.   Every taste tells you how carefully (and recently) these chefs have done their shopping. A dinner companion was convinced that some ingredient had been injected into the flat beans to make them taste so alluring, and she didn’t think it had anything to do with the baby squid, hazelnuts and ancho chile sauce on the plate. But no, these were just excellent beans, grilled quickly so they still had some snap and juice.   You can tell that the rotisserie chicken had great flavor down to its core before it took its turn on the spit. If you’re not sure, try the fried chicken that comes on the same plate. Under the airy, crackling crust that owes something to Japan and Korea, there’s very fine meat.   If every dish were this good, Untitled might rank up there with Gramercy Tavern, where Mr. Anthony and Mr. Uskokovic hold the same titles they do here. But the kitchen isn’t there yet.   One night I’d brought along a native of Owensboro, Ky., the smoked mutton capital of the world. But it didn’t take a barbecue authority to know the smoked pork ribs were tough and undercooked, and coated in a paste that didn’t taste of anything but salt.   It was the only real disaster. In other dishes, the worst you could say is that the cooks packed too much into their shopping bags. The flavor of swordfish steaks disappears into a mashed eggplant that was a little too sharp and salty, and the taste of sea scallops can’t hold its head up in a bowl of sweet watermelon gazpacho with lemon cucumbers and peaches. At times the plates had so much going on that they left you with only a blurry impression of deliciousness. But as blurry impressions go, that one is hard to beat.   At the end of one dinner, Mr. Anthony stopped by my table. (I’d been spotted long ago.) He was enthusiastic about how the gray limestone floors and white-oak counter catch the light during the day. He was slightly less enthusiastic about the kitchen, which is as narrow as a scallion. When he said he and Ms. Cupps were taking inspiration from the overflowing planters up on the High Line, I understood the botanical profusion of their plates.   Maybe the wine director, Eduardo Porto Carreiro, can find some inspiration up there, too. Native plants grow on the High Line, and American art fills the Whitney, but Untitled’s wine list genuflects toward Europe. You can drink very well without spending a fortune, but it could get interesting if Mr. Porto Carreiro took his cues from the location.   Untitled is not really meant for museum visitors, who are much more likely to recuperate with an avocado toast at Mr. Meyer’s Studio Cafe on the eighth floor. Instead, the restaurant is one of the attractions the museum is peddling, part of its multipronged campaign to be seen as a neighborhood hot spot and not just some boring shed where there’s nothing to do but look at art.   Sometimes I miss those boring sheds, though I don’t miss the school lunchroom smell of their cafeterias. And at least the Whitney’s urge to pump itself up with crowds has given us Untitled.     Atmosphere An austere glass box on the ground floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art, where nothing distracts from Renzo Piano’s architecture. Service is Danny Meyer Nice®. Sound Remarkably low, given all the hard surfaces. Menu Recommended Dishes Kale salad; corn flatbread; pole beans, calamari and hazelnuts; golden tilefish with curried squash; roasted and fried chicken salad; strawberry ricotta poundcake; blueberry-peanut butter crunch cake. Snacks, appetizers and vegetables, $7 to $15; main courses, $24 to $29. Drinks and Wine A very inviting and affordable wine list, though more American bottles would make sense in this location. Price $$$ (expensive) Open Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations Accepted. Wheelchair Access The dining room and accessible restroom are level with the museum’s ramped plaza. What the Stars Mean Ratings range from zero to four stars. Zero is poor, fair or satisfactory. One star, good. Two stars, very good. Three stars, excellent. Four stars, extraordinary.   Original Article

    The Downtown Revival

    North End Grill in The New York Times | June 23, 2015

    Manhattan’s Dining Center of Gravity Shifts Downtown By JEFF GORDINIER JUNE 23, 2015     For restaurateurs along the southwest waterfront of Manhattan, from lower TriBeCa down through Battery Park City and into the financial district, the last few decades have been a challenge, to say the least.   They’ve seen the area pulverized by the 9/11 attacks, swamped by Hurricane Sandy and reflexively derided by food-loving New Yorkers more likely to mount a culinary quest out to Red Hook, Brooklyn, or Flushing, Queens, than to some shiny new pack of malls and condos clustered around the hull of 1 World Trade Center.   But now those restaurateurs are beginning to see something else: people. Thousands of them.   Crowds are snapping up charcuterie and rotisserie-juicy meats at Le District, the new French-themed market in Brookfield Place, and floating up the Winter Garden escalator for noshes from Black Seed Bagels, Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque and Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar in the Hudson Eats food court.   Throngs are mobbing the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue, steps from the Irish Hunger Memorial, as they pour into El Vez, Blue Smoke and North End Grill for workday lunches and post-punch-clock cocktails.   On North End Grill’s rooftop garden in Lower Manhattan, the sous-chef Matt McCarthy, left, and the executive chef Eric Korsh. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times And editors from Condé Nast are wandering north to bring fresh chatter to the tables at the Odeon, the 35-year-old TriBeCa bistro that had flirted with dowdiness since the days when its vampy neon sign graced the cover of Jay McInerney’s 1984 novel, “Bright Lights, Big City.”   The change hasn’t happened overnight; the Downtown Alliance has been pushing for revitalization since 1995, when vacancy rates in the area were punishingly high. But for the restaurant owners and downtown advocates who have been making this bet for years, a sudden validating tang of “if you build it, they will come” lingers in the air.   With development booming, and media companies like Condé Nast starting to populate the area’s skyscrapers, Lower Manhattan’s Neil Patrick Harris-like image turnaround seems to be in full swing.   It’s as if the island’s center of gravity has shifted, as it has a habit of doing.   “It’s beyond our wildest dreams,” said Peter Poulakakos, a restaurant entrepreneur who has invested in this swath of downtown since 1999. It has gone from sliding toward becoming a ghost town, he said, to “a neighborhood that competes with all the major developing cities in the world.”   In the aftermath of 9/11, municipal and state governments offered enticements and incentives to get companies to plant a flag close to the perimeter of ground zero.   Now, the rush for space by top chefs and entrepreneurs can look like a sprint to Sutter’s Mill, and the gold-dust ardor is spilling over into the dense Dutch-planned streets where the City of New York was born.   Nobu, which is extracting itself from a more northerly location in TriBeCa, is planning a move here, and a new version of Eataly, from the chef Mario Batali and his business comrades, is in the works.   The owners of the Four Seasons have talked about leaving their Midtown sanctuary for a new start downtown. And to the east, April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, of the Spotted Pig and the Breslin Bar & Dining Room, are mapping out a towering palace of a restaurant that would take up four stories of an apartment complex at 70 Pine Street.   Keith McNally, the impresario of Balthazar and Cherche Midi, is planning to open a restaurant in a forthcoming financial district spot called the Beekman Hotel. So is the Craft chef Tom Colicchio, while the modernist trailblazer Wylie Dufresne hopes to check in to the A K A Wall Street hotel early next year. And the revered French chef Joël Robuchon is scheduled to move into Brookfield Place in the fall.   James Gersten, the president and chief executive of the BR Guest Hospitality restaurant group, whose portfolio includes Dos Caminos, Isabella’s, Blue Fin and Bill’s Bar & Burger, said his team was eager to set up shop, too.   “We’re looking aggressively,” Mr. Gersten said. “Tastemakers are moving. And those are people that we have catered to before, and want to continue to cater to.”   Those big names will be showing up with their gold-prospecting gear only to find that early adopters like Danny Meyer, Andrew Carmellini and Stephen Starr have already set up camp. They built restaurants in anticipation of a growth spurt, and since Condé Nast started moving into 1 World Trade Center in November, they’ve been adjusting their menus and schedules to fit the eating habits of editors from Vogue and GQ.   The Odeon has added a breakfast service. Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, Dan Peres of Details, Pilar Guzmán of Condé Nast Traveler and Michael Hainey of GQ can be spotted there on a regular basis, commanding tables or phone-tapping privately at the bar.   “I hadn’t been to the Odeon in probably 10 years, but I’ve been three times since we’ve moved down here,” said Andrew Knowlton, the restaurant and drinks editor of Bon Appétit.   “It’s a nice choice when all you really want after a hard day’s work is a 50/50 martini, an omelet and a plate of French fries.” (He added: “Our new home in the financial district beats the heck out of our old home in Times Square when it comes to food options. Chinatown delivery!”)   Le District, in the former World Financial Center, has a liaison on staff, Lucie Rizzi, to set up wine tastings, shopping outings and corporate dinners in record time. Her work is only getting started.   “You have to remember the building right above us is empty right now,” said Mr. Poulakakos, an owner of Le District. “Time Inc. and Bank of New York will be there by the end of the year.”   Some chefs have engaged in acts of outright courtship. Marc Forgione, who is behind three kitchens in TriBeCa (Restaurant Marc Forgione, Khe-Yo and American Cut), introduced himself to Vanity Fair by dispatching a heap of his “everything” biscuits over to the staff.   Racines NY, a Chambers Street offshoot of the wine-fixated bars in Paris, will roll out lunch this summer, with an array of light options that are intended to woo salad-loving editors from Condé Nast and Refinery29.   “With everybody moving in, it definitely makes sense,” said Arnaud Tronche, an owner and the sommelier at Racines. “And it’s a good crowd for us.”   Certainly, magazine editors are not the only hungry people in Lower Manhattan. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum has vastly increased on-foot tourist traffic since it opened in May 2014. Apartment towers seem to be sprouting on every other block (there are now about 60,000 residents, up from about 14,000 two decades ago), and the streets still teem with brigades of suits from Wall Street.   The area has long been notorious for clearing out at dusk, as workers fled their cubicles and caught the ferry back to New Jersey. But barkeeps and maître d’s are noticing a sizable uptick in cocktail and dinner business, from Racines NY and Warren 77 in TriBeCa down south to the Dead Rabbit bar on Water Street.   Kevin Richer, the general manager at North End Grill, stood in the restaurant’s rooftop garden the other day, while the chef Eric Korsh plucked herbs and strawberries for that night’s dinner service. Mr. Richer pointed out the surrounding skyscrapers, both new and old, and checked off the names of their high-profile tenants: Goldman Sachs, American Express, Condé Nast.   “The neighborhood in the last few months has just exploded with people,” Mr. Richer said. That afternoon, North End Grill had served about 200 customers for lunch. On a recent weekend, he said, there had been 1,300.   “It seems like people are no longer afraid to come down here,” he said. “There are more people out there saying, ‘Actually, it’s not that hard to get to.’ ”   Such was not the case when Mr. Meyer opened North End Grill in 2012, having already hatched a Shake Shack branch nearby. Although “it’s almost like we were greeted with rose petals from residents” in the area, Mr. Meyer said, coaxing customers to cross the wide car-clogged gulf of West Street from the east proved to be a puzzle. “Emotionally it’s like the Mississippi River.”   And Mr. Meyer said his team had “a tough time convincing other New Yorkers that Battery Park City was not Cincinnati.” The scrubbed, gleaming, Dubai-like newness of Battery Park City can be a source of cognitive dissonance to New Yorkers who are accustomed to traditional stimuli like fire escapes, brownstones and piles of trash.   What started persuading diners to cross town, or just the street, was critical mass. “We started to get some company,” Mr. Meyer said, like El Vez, Mr. Starr’s sprawling tribute to Mexican food. Hudson Eats and Le District opened in Brookfield Place, a short walk away, helping foster the feeling of a gastronomic destination.   Mr. Meyer had been “pulling out my hair for three years,” he said. “Now there’s nowhere else I’d rather have the restaurant.”   Ask various editors and publishers from Condé Nast, and they’ll list their favorite spots: Little Park, where the chefs Mr. Carmellini and Min Kong are serving fare in which vegetables play a starring role, as well as the Odeon, North End Grill, Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs, Warren 77, P. J. Clarke’s, Khe-Yo and Blaue Gans.   “I do think Carmellini was smart to get ahead of the game by opening Little Park,” said Adam Rapoport, the editor in chief of Bon Appétit. “Lends itself to business lunches — subdued vibes, not-too-heavy food, et cetera.”   Tatiana Boncompagni, the lifestyle editor of Self, wrote in an email that “Little Park is editor central at breakfast time. Fresh-pressed juices, organic oatmeal and an omelet stuffed with seasonal veg — what more could you want?”   The Odeon, meanwhile, has the benefit of four decades of urban folklore, dating from the days when neighborhoods like SoHo and TriBeCa (as captured in Martin Scorsese’s 1985 romp “After Hours”) were still viewed as delightfully dodgy precincts of bohemian mischief.   “That’s a very helpful thing,” said Judi Wong, part of the team that manages the Odeon. “Everybody has a story about the Odeon, because it’s been around for a long time.”   Mr. Poulakakos, the man behind numerous restaurants in the area (including Ulysses’ and Harry’s Italian) as well as Le District, has vivid memories of a very different time, back when the destruction of the twin towers turned block after block into a soot-shrouded wasteland.   “It almost became a mini war zone down here,” he said, while grabbing lunch at a bar counter in Le District. “You couldn’t get your vehicle down here for I don’t know how long.”   Mr. Poulakakos glanced around at the throngs of shoppers elbowing their way through the aisles at the French marketplace, which opened for business only two months ago. His mother died in 2003, Mr. Poulakakos said. “She would be in shock if she saw this,” he said. “It is psychedelic. It really is. It’s a new downtown.”   Original Article

    Danny Meyer, TIME 100

    Danny Meyer in TIME 100 | April 16, 2015

    TIME's 100 Most Influential People: Danny Meyer, Dining's best boss Tom Colicchio April 16, 2015     On a late summer day in 1992, Danny Meyer and I sat down in Union Square Park to talk about a new kind of restaurant—one that married the warmest form of great service with soulful, indelible food. The result was Gramercy Tavern, a restaurant that ushered in a new era of American dining. But that day in the park we didn’t talk about menus or decor. We talked about how to make people on both sides of the table feel valued and cared for. How putting employees first would translate to a memorable experience for our guests.   As Danny’s business has grown, from a single restaurant to a nearly $2 billion Shake Shack burger empire with outlets around the world, its core has never changed. It’s what has made him a leader in our industry. I’m proud to have been his partner and still proud to be his friend.   Colicchio is a celebrated chef, television host and antihunger activist   Original Article




    Mac & Cheese Frites

    Union Square Events in the New York Post | April 9, 2015

    CITI FIELD'S MAC-AND-CHEESE FRIES ARE THE ULTIMATE FRANKENFOOD by Hailey Eber   The Mets are putting a new spin on ballpark dining with tasty Mac & Cheese Frites (left). Since Mr. Met (right) is hungry for a winner, he may find it in new food like that — and more — at Citi Field. Photo: Tamara Beckwith; Paul J. Bereswill   The Mets will have an exciting new lineup for their Monday home opener. No, we’re not talking about Michael Cuddyer and Wilmer Flores.   We’re talking about the rookie star in the concession stands — Mac & Cheese Frites ($9.25 at Box Frites, in the center field food court area).   While there’s a whole roster of exciting edibles debuting at Citi Field this season — hearty gourmet panini and grilled cheese sandwiches from Pressed by Lure chef Josh Capon; s’mores-dipped bacon (as disgusting/delicious as it sounds) from Pig Guy NYC; a trio of seafood sliders from Esca chef Dave Pasternack — this cheesy Frankenfood is the player to watch.   “We are anticipating a strong season,” says John Karangis, the executive chef for Union Square Events, an offshoot of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group that handles several concessions at the ballpark.   The frites feature elbow pasta coated in a rich sauce made from local Five Acre Farms milk and freshly grated Gouda and Cheddar.   The resulting mac and cheese is formed into thick “fries,” coated in ground Arborio rice and deep-fried. They’re served with a homemade smoked-tomato ketchup and an Aleppo-pepper cheese sauce.   Getting them just right took a lot of practice.   “I must have changed and made the recipe 20 times until I was happy with it,” Karangis says. “I felt something was missing, and I remembered an Arborio rice coating I once used for coating scallops a few years back, where I put the rice in a coffee grinder.”   All those hours of spring training have paid off with a perfect ballpark treat, one that should appeal equally to children and adults, drunks and teetotalers, junk-food lovers and artisanal-ingredient snobs.   In short, a perfect play.   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    Danny Meyer on | April 8, 2015

    THE RISE (AND FALL AND RISE) OF SHAKE SHACK'S DANNY MEYER by Liz Welch   When Danny Meyer opened Union Square Cafe in 1985, the then 27-year-old had no idea that he'd someday be at the helm of one of the most successful restaurant companies in New York City.   Starting a business is like any other beginning: The first task is survival. But even in those early days, what founder doesn’t dream of doing something really huge--like building a business that rapidly remakes a fusty sector, as Warby Parker’s Neil Blumenthal has, or seizing an early opportunity to dominate an industry, the way Whole Foods’ John Mackey has? The entrepreneurs who fulfill such dreams are the ones we call icons, and we know them when we see them: Barbara Corcoran slyly grilling a supplicant on the hit show Shark Tank, for instance, or Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer, as he succeeds on his mission to boldly transform American dining. How does one proceed from frantic founder to ultra-successful entrepreneur? We've taken a close look at four icons to find out.   A Change of Plans   The world came close to being without a Shake Shack or Gramercy Tavern; Danny Meyer almost became a lawyer. In the early ’80s, after he had moved to New York City, he took the LSATs, and then realized he didn’t want that career. “But I didn’t know what else to do,” he recalls. He knew he loved good food, so he got a job as a host at Pesca, a seafood restaurant. Two years later, he opened his first restaurant: Union Square Cafe.   That’s where Meyer began to realize that the role of a restaurant was more than putting good stuff on the plate and in the glass. “It’s also to make sure people are a little happier when they leave than when they came in,” he says. As Union Square Cafe racked up awards for its spectacular food and service, Meyer was there every night, working the room. “The thinking back then was, to have a successful restaurant, the owner had to be there 24/7,” Meyer recalls. “If you wanted a day off, you should close the restaurant. And if you wanted a vacation, you should close for two weeks.”   Going Slow   It took nine years and a death in the family for Meyer to open his second restaurant, Gramercy Tavern, in 1994. He had seen what had happened to his father, a serial entrepreneur who had owned hotels, restaurants, and a travel agency--and who had filed for bankruptcy at age 42 and again in his 50s. “I waited until he died to give myself permission,” Meyer says he concluded later on. “I equated expansion with bankruptcy. He did too much--so I wanted to do one thing really well.”   Within one week of opening Gramercy Tavern, the managers started talking about opening a third restaurant, which made Meyer panic. “This was already the scariest thing I’d ever done in my life,” he says. “I was completely convinced that I was an imposter--that Union Square was somehow a fluke.” To his mind, Gramercy Tavern wasn’t as successful as Union Square had been, and Union Square was suffering because of his divided focus. “That caused me huge anxiety,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep. Union Square Cafe dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 in the Zagat survey of New York City’s best restaurants, and I said to myself, ‘See? You failed.’ ”   It took time for Meyer to realize he was being too hard on himself. “Some people are near- or farsighted--I’m thorn-sighted,” he explains. “The thorns on the rose are in really sharp definition for me, the rose petals a little fuzzier.”   Admitting Defeat   In the first paragraph of Meyer’s 2006 memoir, Setting the Table, he lists the 11 restaurants he had opened by then and states, “So far, I haven’t had the experience of closing any of them, and I pray I never will.” But the 2007 recession caused Tabla, an upscale Indian restaurant that Meyer had opened in 1998, to struggle. “I learned that you shouldn’t take your most esoteric concept and fit it into the largest space with the highest fixed costs,” Meyer says. “It puts too much pressure on the restaurant to hit grand slams every day when there just aren’t enough people who want to watch that sport.”   Meyer felt a deep loyalty to his staff, and some of the managers had agreed to pay cuts to keep the restaurant going. As Tabla continued to lose money, Meyer personally subsidized it for two years to keep the doors open. Finally, his leadership team at Union Square Hospitality Group, which Meyer had launched in 1998 to oversee his properties, staged an intervention. “They argued that keeping a sinking ship afloat was the worst possible way to take care of the staff,” recalls Meyer. “They said, ‘If you truly want to take care of these people, you need to close the place. It’s actually being selfish not to.’ ”   Meyer shifted his focus from saving the restaurant to saving the people who worked there. “I started thinking, ‘What if we could get these people more uplifting job opportunities either within or outside of our company?’ ” Meyer says. “Still, I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard in my life as the day that I went to our managers to tell them it was over.” He felt better once he was able to find other jobs for most of the team. The former general manager and assistant general manager of Tabla now run other Danny Meyer restaurants.   Fostering Entrepreneurs   As Meyer’s company took off, he started to see there wasn’t enough room for people to grow within it. “If you rose to a certain level, there came a point when we were almost forcing you to take the off-ramp, because there weren’t entrepreneurial opportunities for you,” he says. So when Nick Anderer, the chef from Maialino, Meyer’s Roman trattoria on Gramercy Park, wanted to open a pizzeria called Marta, Meyer backed the idea and let him take the lead. And when Mark Maynard-Parisi, the managing partner of Meyer’s barbecue joint, Blue Smoke--who used to take reservations at Union Square Cafe--wanted to open a Southern bar, Meyer met with him.   He looks for fresh ideas that can attract a fervent following--and talented, passionate leaders. “Once I greenlight an idea, the leadership team meets to decide if the numbers add up,” says Meyer. They did for the Southern bar; Porchlight opened in March. Over the years, Meyer has seen his role change dramatically. “Earlier in my career, I needed to be the writer, casting director, set designer, leading man, and producer,” Meyer says. “I’ve been eliminating a lot of those jobs. I’m an executive producer right now. I still get to pick the best screenplays.” From Hot Dogs to Hot IPO   Shake Shack started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park--part of a community art project to support the park. It was so popular that Meyer received a permit to open a permanent kiosk there, and he expanded the menu and introduced a “fast food” concept that adhered to his rules of excellence--the hamburger meat was from Pat LaFrieda (the same butcher who supplied some of Meyer’s high-end restaurants), the “special sauce” was made in the kitchen of Meyer’s upscale Eleven Madison Park, and the frozen custard is something Meyer says he’d be proud to serve at any of his establishments. “My job is to give and get pleasure from delivering this great food to you,” he explains. “That shouldn’t apply only to the rarefied experience of fine dining and the small population that can afford that.” Word spread, and the lines grew.   By February 2015, Shake Shack had opened more than 60 locations worldwide, spun off from Union Square Hospitality Group, and raised $112.3 million in an IPO with Randy Garutti as CEO. “I first interviewed Randy in 1999 for a job at Eleven Madison Park,” Meyer recalls. “He then became general manager of Tabla--and he’s now running Shake Shack in a way that is far better than I ever could.” This makes Meyer happy. “I never had a desire to be COO of a chain,” he says. “Shake Shack really taught me how to let go to the right people.” The long-term plan is to expand to 450 locations in the U.S. Still, the sheer volume of restaurants feels surreal at times. “Today, we opened a Shake Shack in Boston, and I’m not there for the opening,” he says. “It’s a big deal. I’ve come a long way from having to be able to watch all the restaurants. Can you imagine not going to the opening of a restaurant?”   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    North End Grill's Eric Korsh in The Wall Street Journal | April 8, 2015

    FOUR SPRING ARTICHOKE RECIPES THAT THINK OUTSIDE THE STEAMER by Kitty Greenwald   When artichokes return to farmers’ markets in mid-spring, our hearts skip a beat. These recipes are really four mash notes to the vegetable from chefs around the country.   Clockwise from top left: Spaghetti with Artichokes and Bottarga, Shaved Raw Artichoke Salad, Quick Braised Artichokes with Peas, Carrots and Fresh Ricotta, Five-Spice Fried Artichokes. Photo: Victor Prado for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Heather Meldrom, Prop Styling by Carla Gonzalez-Hart   Quick Braised Artichokes with Peas, Carrots and Fresh Ricotta   Total Time: 35 minutes Serves: 4   Peel off and discard dark outer leaves of 8 medium artichokes. Use a chef’s knife to remove remaining tough leaves and skin until tender artichoke heart is exposed. Rub exterior with flesh of half a lemon. Halve artichokes lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove hairy chokes from centers of artichokes, then rub interiors with lemon. Quarter hearts, then transfer to a bowl filled with ice water and juice of 1 lemon. Set aside.   In a medium lidded pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 quarts chicken stock, zest of 1 lemon, 1 cup olive oil, 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, 6 cloves garlic, 1 cup white wine, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds and 1 tablespoon toasted fennel seeds to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer until broth is flavorful, about 15 minutes.   Add artichoke hearts, cover, and gently simmer until just tender, 10-15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked artichokes to a plate.   Add 4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced, to pot of simmering water and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Return artichokes to pot, along with 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas. Simmer until peas are bright green, about 2 minutes more. Turn off heat and season to taste with salt.   Ladle vegetables into a deep serving dish or individual bowls. Strain remaining cooking broth and pour it over vegetables until they are about ⅓ submerged. Garnish with 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley and 2 tablespoons roughly chopped tarragon. Dollop 1 cup fresh ricotta (total) over top. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Serve with country bread.   —Adapted from Eric Korsh of North End Grill, New York   (ORIGINAL ARTICLE)


    Marta in The New Yorker | April 3, 2015



    The Modern on Conde Nast Traveler | April 3, 2015



    Marta in Conde Nast Traveler | April 2, 2015