The most anticipated restaurant opening of the season takes place today: it’s Lincoln Ristorante, part of the newly redesigned Lincoln Center complex.
This restaurant has been eagerly awaited for several reasons. Lincoln has major design impact; it is covered by a sloping lawn roof and overlooks the reflecting pool and the Henry Moore sculpture in front of the Vivian Beaumont Theater (design by Diller Scofidio + Renfro). It has an impeccable culinary pedigree; the head chef is Jonathan Benno, who was the chef de cuisine at Per Se for five years. And, last but not least, it cost $20 million; it is ambitious, to put it mildly.
We ate there last night, as part of the friends and family tastings that took place over the last couple of weeks. The experience was extraordinary, and I expect Lincoln to have a major impact on the restaurant culture of this city (big statement, I know).
The creators of Lincoln thought big from the start, and they have made a restaurant that is decidedly not a neighborhood place, but a destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike. So far, they seem to be doing everything right.
To continue with a theme that I am pondering this season, here is another example that the food world is in the process of turning ass over teakettle in a hurry. I visited Fatty ‘Cue in Williamsburg, Zak Pelaccio’s newest restaurant, last week and had a remarkable meal. Having said that, I have to agree with SAM SIFTON who said that although the food is extraordinary, be prepared for maximum discomfort while you’re eating there. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – you are inside, under cover after all, and everyone who works there is so nice that the inauspicious setting is ameliorated by other factors.
Even though Sifton’s review encapsulates the experience aptly, I found the best line in one of the NYT reader’s comments: “The three T's meet at Fatty ‘Cue, Trendy, Tasty and TINY!” The space is so small, and the signage so dark, that you are almost guaranteed to walk past the door the first time you arrive at Fatty ‘Cue. Inside is a very raw space, on three levels, filled with the enticing aroma of barbecue.
Linda Pelaccio, Zak’s mom, is a member of an organization I belong to called Les Dames d’Escoffier – a group of elite women in the food profession. (One of Linda’s vocations is to prepare chefs and foodies to appear on television without making fools of themselves.) When the tom-toms started beating for Fatty ‘Cue, a year before its opening, I kept in mind that Linda might help me petition for a Les Dames group meal there. Linda is a nice person, so she did just that.
I finally made it to The Monkey Bar. What a coincidence: I dined at the latest incarnation of The Monkey Bar in the same week as the New York Times published an article about such restaurants, titled, “A Vision of the City as It Once Was”. There is a zeitgeist in the New York restaurant world right now, and I’ve been thinking about it hard; it looks like I am not the only one.
In a time when many of the old-time restaurants are dying or being killed off, restaurateurs and would-be restaurateurs are suffering pangs of nostalgia for the old days, or, more importantly, what they think the old days were, or should have been. The Plaza’s Oak Room, Minetta Tavern, Waverly Inn and, the reason for the article, the Lion, are all loving re-creations of days-gone-by.
“Gentrification over the past quarter-century has killed so many old dinner spots,” Graydon Carter was quoted in the article. “I think it’s important to give people an alternative to the chic place-of-the-moment look so prevalent with new ones.”
So, I got all gussied up and swanned into the Monkey Bar last week. After walking through the spacious bar and lounge, I was greeted by a handsome, flop-haired young man (25 years old, I’d say), who was exceedingly happy to see me. It turns out that he’s the son of the actor Peter Coyote, and he’s full of charm.
A FANTASTIC RECIPE
FOR SPRING AND SUMMER
BY / JENIFER LANG
A couple of years ago I spent the summer on the Costa Brava, in a town called Tossa de Mar. As the name suggests, the town is on the sea, with a beautiful broad beach. The highlight for me was high on the cliff overlooking the ocean, flanking the medieval castle: a bronze almost-lifesize statue of Ava Gardner, in honor of the film she made in the sleepy fishing village in 1951. (She was married to Frank Sinatra at the time, and he was crazy jealous of her affair with a Spanish bullfighter, so he followed her to Spain.) Kooky.
My goal for the sojourn in Catalonia was to find and eat wonderful food, which I did, again and again. Of course, the Spanish serve paella constantly in restaurants, especially in those serving tourists, so we couldn’t avoid it. It was hardly ever bad, but when it was good it was very very good. So, of course I had to develop a recipe for the perfect paella when I came home. I decided to make the Catalonian version, a dish called fideuà, or paella made with noodles instead of rice. I was taught the technique by one of the best chefs in Barcelona, Toni Martin (pronounced mar-teen).
It’s a great dish for this season because you can make it outside, on the grill. I highly recommend getting a paella pan, though, because the dish cooks better and looks magnificent when it comes to the table.
TALES FROM THE WORLD OF FINE DINING
PART ONE / RESTAURANT DANIEL
BY / JENIFER LANG
When Restaurant Daniel first opened eleven years ago on East 65th Street, it was magnificent, and a welcome addition to the New York scene. To create his flagship restaurant, Daniel Boulud chose a designer who had never done a commercial space before, and who was known for creating luxurious residential interiors. The idea was a good one – an attempt to build a dining room that looked as inviting as the apartment of a very rich family. The effect, however, was charming but awkward.
Daniel Boulud’s success rests on his singular attention to detail, and his discipline. He is the most relentless of restaurateurs, and that is why his places are so pristine. So, in a few short years, he completely redesigned Restaurant Daniel, this time using the famous ADAM TIHANY, who is renowned for his commercial interiors, specifically those he has conceived for restaurants.
Last year Restaurant Daniel reopened after the re-design, and the results are worth the decade-long wait. The dining room feels substantial, and creamy, and hospitable. The lighting is particularly good, and everyone looks lovely, and happy. As with all of Tihany’s best designs, the space is a skillful blend of contemporary and classical. Good thing, too, because if you’re spending about $400 for dinner for two people, you (I guess I should say I) want the surroundings to match the food.
A very sophisticated woman of a certain age recently quipped, “The clothes I wear today to go out at night I wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing to the supermarket thirty years ago.” That got me to thinking about how much fashion has changed in just a generation. And when I say fashion, I mean food fashion, since that’s my obsession.
If it’s true, as fashion anthropologists report, that the formal clothing of today is the casual clothing of the past, then the same can be said for the evolution of food. The high end restaurants of this era are serving food that was decidedly low end in our parents’ time. This became clear to me when I visited the Louis XV restaurant in the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, when it first opened under the direction of Alain Ducasse. In one of the most formal dining rooms in the world (the Louis XV was the first restaurant to offer little upholstered stools to hold ladies’ handbags during dinner), one could order a completely boned-out pig’s foot, breaded and crisp-fried. Mon Dieux! Shocking, and shockingly delicious.
First the de-formalizing of the food, then came the atmosphere. Some of the most highly touted restaurants in the world today are emphatically informal. The Spotted Pig, which has been hotter-than-a-pistol since it opened a couple of years ago in the West Village, doesn’t take reservations, and many of its seats are backless. No teeny upholstered stool for your purse in that place.
A SELECTION OF CHIC SUMMER WINES
FROM ROBERTA MORRELL
BY / JENIFER LANG
Summer hit full force this week (“Where are my shorts? Where did I hang that cute dress I bought at the end of August?”). It’s time to think about eating outside, dusting off the grill, cocktails with umbrellas and, of course, summer wine.
I called my friend Roberta Morrell, of the perennially chic MORRELL WINE in Rockefeller Center to ask for her advice on what wines to stock up on for summer entertaining. She came up with a brilliant selection, heavy on rosé, which is exactly right. Rosé wine has become hyper trendy in the last few years, because it’s light and delicious for summer. As a result, winemakers have been producing more and more interesting types of rosé.
After I received Roberta’s suggestions, I realized that the mixed case of wine would be a fabulous gift for a weekend host (“so much better than a piece of china” said Roberta).
Be sure to sign up for the email NEWSLETTER of Morrell Wine; Roberta has free tastings all the time, usually from 3 to 6PM, and always featuring dynamic winemakers themselves.
It’s spring, verging on summer, and I am anxiously incorporating seasonal ingredients into my kitchen (it’s been a long winter). That means asparagus, RAMPS (see what I wrote about them last year) and strawberries. Finding myself with a plethora of strawberries last week and an urge to make cookies I did what I always do when looking for recipes – I googled. I came up with a strawberry-chocolate chip cookie that’s so delicious my friends are asking for more. Here is my version of that recipe. (If you choose to use the food coloring, you might want to spring for some professional strength coloring, available at NY Cake and Baking Distributor NY CAKE. Using professional colors as opposed to the supermarket variety elevates your baked goods from pallid to powerful.
FESTIVAL SCOOP / COCHON 555
& VILLAGE VOICE CHOICE EATS
BY / JENIFER LANG
What's the opposite of fine dining?
Standing in line to get into a cavernous space filled with various food stalls. Fighting crowds of people reaching for small plates of food of myriad provenance. Eating something sweet, then something spicy, then something nasty, then something mysterious, then something delicious. Searching for something to wash it down with and finding many choices, but nothing recognizable – wines from odd places, cocktails with colors not found in nature.
So, starting with this point of view, I went to two such events this week, and – SHOCK – had a really good time at both. I guess they’re generically called “tastings”. True story: at both places, as I was standing in line to get in, a hipster [new word: “fauxhemian”] spoke into a cell phone, “I’m going to a tasting dude, standing in line now.”
It’s “tasting” season, it seems, and there are many to choose from. Chefs from all over the city vie for a spot at one of these events, because it gives them marketing exposure. It’s also a way for chefs to party with each other – something that doesn’t happen in NY as much as it should (as compared with chefs in, say, LA or San Francisco).The two events I went to represent the high and the low of this genre, and both were fun for different reasons.
Everyone has his favorite restaurant in Paris – there are so many to choose from. You can stumble around that city and fall into a place that will turn out to be truly memorable. It’s just that kind of town. I have eaten everywhere in Paris (ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve eaten in Paris a lot). I have had many remarkable meals.
There’s the restaurant that specializes in soufflés, La Cigale – what fun. One of my perennial favorites is Le Grand Colbert, a classic brasserie that give a sense of 19th century Paris. (I have always eaten there, but I became hyper-interested in that place when I discovered that the driver of Princess Diana had gotten drunk there before getting behind the wheel and crashing her car. Morbid, right?) I like Alain Ducasse’s modern restaurant, Spoon. I could go on and on.
In spite of all that, my one favorite restaurant of all of Paris is Chez Denise (5, rue Prouvaires, First; (33-1) 126.96.36.199). When I send my friends there they go back again and again during even the shortest trips; it’s that good.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME
YOU SAW A REAL COQ AU VIN?
BY / JENIFER LANG
This is a foodie fairy tale: Once upon a time, there was a little boy who was born in Gascony in France. He wanted to cook and so he went to school to learn. Then, of course, he traveled to Paris, where he began his professional cooking career in the famous Café de la Paix.
Like many cooks before him, this little boy had wanderlust, and so he traveled the world, cooking, eventually ending up in New York. He became a great cook, and then one of the most celebrated cooks in the world.
Christian Delouvrier, the French boy, eventually earned a four-star review from the New York Times for his cooking at Lespinasse restaurant, in the St. Regis Hotel. He had other high-profile chef jobs, including at Les Celebrités and Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. Chefs don’t get more important or talented than Christian Delouvrier.
IDEAS FOR ENTERTAINING
SUPER BOWL STYLE
BY / JENIFER LANG
I admit it: I am a fair-weather football fan. I follow the sport in a cursory fashion; wait – does watching “Friday Night Lights” count? Okay, then I am not really a football fan at all, but I LOVE the Super Bowl. I like watching the game, and the commercials (I leave the room when the half-time show comes on – it’s never good), and I get caught up in the excitement. Over the years, I’ve had parties on Super Bowl night; it’s a good excuse to have fun. The people at the parties who care about the game are generally men, so designing a menu is different from your usual Sunday Night Supper.
Here are some ideas for serving cocktail party food during the Super Bowl that will impress your men friends/boyfriend/husband/significant other – whatever.