Saturday, February 14, 2009

The James Beard nominations

At the end of the list I chat about the places I've eaten and my very quirky thoughts and feelings about them.


Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern

April Bloomfield, the Spotted Pig

Terrance Brennan, Picholine

Floyd Cardoz, Tabla

Scott Conant, Scarpetta

Wylie Dufresne, wd~50

Caroline Fidanza, Marlow & Sons

John Fraser, Dovetail

Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Butter Restaurant

Kurt Gutenbrunner, Wallsé

Gabrielle Hamilton, Prune

Gabriel Kreuther, the Modern

Mark Ladner, Del Posto

Anita Lo, Annisa

Michael Psilakis, Anthos

Bill Telepan, Telepan

Laurent Tourondel, BLT Market

Michael White, Alto

Naomichi Yasuda, Sushi Yasuda

Galen Zamarra, Mas (farmhouse)

My silly narrative about the few places on the list at which I have eaten and my very random thoughts about my experiences there:

I feel so out of the loop. I love the Spotted Pig and have never had anything, but brilliant food there. It's more of a pub than a restaurant in it's feel: it is, like so many places in this city, very loud, very small, very crowded, very expensive and Oh such a scene! Obviously for good reason, but I would never think to even try to go for dinner, lunch is fine for me and it is outrageously expensive, I think we had a fairly simple salad at lunch and it was 17 bucks.

WD 50 is highly praised and I admire Chef Dufresne for his experimental verve, but the one time I ate there I hated the room, had kind of bad service and didn't think anyone at our table of three ordered anything that I would call tasty (in a good way). Neil and I did a tour of some of the finest restaurants in Barcelona several years back when the "look what weird things I can do with food" trend was at it's peak and, for the most part, it was the simple food that got me excited and although some of WD50's was very interesting it wasn't satisfying gustatorially, it was just interesting.

Tabla is a great old standby, Floyd Cardoza has been working hard for years. My favorite time to go is Winter as I think it's best suited for spicy, Indian influenced food. The manager, a wonderful middle aged women is a total charmer and reason enough to stop in.

Prune is wildly inconsistent and the last time I went they placed celery sticks and chemically altered, canned, pitted, black "ripe" olives on the table. Lost me, sorry. Canned, black "ripe" olives are one of my pet hates and for anyone who is even remotely interested in food, to serve them automatically loses my vote, I just think it's irresponsible. I don't by the whole "food as nostalgia" as being a valid excuse for serving something so processed, unnecessary, and down right nasty. And while the bacon sandwich on pumpernickel with marmalade was great, the next week my friend Jane ordered it again and it was inedible and had to be returned. Not the way to run a restaurant. Of all the places I have eaten on the list this seems the one that doesn't belong.

Gramercy Tavern is a classic, and I'm sorry to say it has been way too long since I last went (unemployment will do that to your fancy eating out budget). It's always been one of our favorite place for special celebrations. It's even our mothers' favorites!

Caroline Fidanza and her crew are a force to be reckoned with, I am a big fan. I love Marlowe and Sons although I think it's more about curating then cooking, it's about a cheese course and some oysters and maybe a salad. I find both Diner and Marlowe and Sons to be meat heavy (which is why they now have their own amazing local butcher store), but it makes it hard for me to eat there with Neil. my kosher bf. because, well, he can only eat the one fish dish on the menu and the last time we ate there (for our anniversary) the fish was so over cooked it was inedible and had to be sent back. They were very sweet about it, the servers are first rate. She also gets full marks for dedication to local ingredients. I just wish there were more things on the menu my non-meat/pseudo Kosher keeping friends could eat (small point really as we obviously are not the demographic). \

Oh and more desserts please! At lunch they offer one option. Then this week there was a piece somewhere about how since now they have a butcher shop, they are going to start making lard pastry for their desserts... so have some dead cow fat with your apple filling! It goes against everything I believe in and in my experience I have never eaten a lard/suet crust that came anywhere near tasting as heavenly as butter does. It's overkill and a bad idea as far as I'm concerned. And yes I know that in Ye Olde England they used beef suet for all sorts of things (mincemeat, fruit cake) we've moved on and I for one have no nostalgia for it. I think if you want to make a Beef Wellington with a pastry made of suet that's great, makes sense, but beef fat dessert? Why not add apple pie filling to your roast beef? I recently wrote them after reading about it and asked them to make sure that if they are serving a dessert that can't be eaten by vegetarians or Jews that they had better make sure it is clearly marked on their menu. Apparently a subject I feel strongly about.

Having said all that I think that Ms. Fidanza and her posse are on the cutting edge of the food scene in New York and deserves all the recognition she gets. I wish they had hired me when I applied for a job, but c'est la vie. Oh and Ms. Fidanza I'm still looking ;-)

Lastly, the Modern is a classy, instant classic. I've only eaten there once, at the bar with my friend Ansell, it was great I look forward to having the money to go back for dinner, certainly worth trying out for a special occasion if you live here or are going to be visiting.

Sadly, that's it, apparently I've spent too much time cooking and not enough time eating out this year! Could be worse ;-)


c james. said...

I enjoyed your review of restaurants...some of which I haven't had the pleasure of dining at yet, but you left out Fresco on 52nd. And who could miss rubbing elbows with Rosanna Scotto's peeps.

Urban Food Guy said...

Hey C. James thanks so much for your comments I greatly appreciate them! For some crazy reason I thought I wasn't suppose to respond to comments, but I'm told otherwise, so sorry about my silence. I love it when people comment!

I haven't been going out very much to fancy restaurants due to the, er, current lack of money! But I sure will put Fresco on the list.

Thanks again.


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