NYPress.com - New York's essential guide to culture, arts, politics, news and more » Dining West Side Spirit http://nypress.com New York's essential guide to culture, arts, politics, news and more Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:34:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 A Frozen Feast http://nypress.com/a-frozen-feast/ http://nypress.com/a-frozen-feast/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 03:01:02 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73008 Food_main story_souffl_fmt New store brings gourmet frozen cuisine to the neighborhood

It’s 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday, after a late day at the office, and I’m sitting down to a three-course dinner that begins with a hot bowl of velouté and a crusty roll, and will end just 30 minutes later with airy chocolate soufflé.

No cab ride home from a restaurant, no expensive check. No plastic takeout containers. No prep, food processing, or dirty dishes.

Instead, this impromptu weeknight meal came courtesy of Babeth’s Feast, a gourmet frozen food shop on Third Avenue, between 80th and 81st Streets that opened on August 6, where busy Upper East Siders can grab a full, multi-course meal in a pinch, or enough flash-frozen mini quiches, crab cakes and pigs in a blanket for a no-fuss cocktail party.

Dreamed up by Elisabeth de Kergorlay, a Paris transplant and investor in Le Pain Quotidian, Babeth’s Feast sells frozen food, and only frozen food—save a small selection of crackers and other dry goods for accompaniment with frozen meats or dips—from appetizer to entrée to dessert.

I visited Babeth’s Feast in the late morning eight days after it opened to meet de Kergorlay. A very tall and elegant woman with blonde hair knotted in a bun, de Kergorlay is both thin and athletic-looking, hardly the image of a woman who enjoys eating frozen dinners packaged in plastic trays. Echoing the concept of French chain Picard, a frozen food grocery popular in Paris, de Kergorlay hopes to redefine frozen cuisine in New York.

“Over here, you don’t shop for frozen food out of choice,” said de Kergorlay, who leaned on frozen food when she hosted weekly Sunday brunches while living in Paris. “You shop out of necessity, and that’s what we want to change.”

Babeth’s Feast carries around 360 different flash-frozen products, many French-inspired, and over half are Babeth’s Feast’s original creations, developed by American chef Susie Cover. The pristine store is neat and almost sparse, with the aesthetic of a frozen yogurt shop and the organization of an office supply store. Strolling from case to case, de Kergorlay pointed out breakfast foods, including a variety of croissants sold in quantities appropriate for brunch entertaining, French-leaning entrees such as chicken Provencal, and individual chocolate lava cakes, mini éclairs and petits fours.

I asked her to help me select a few dinner items and listed my dietary restrictions (a shellfish allergy and a desire for something healthy). Cover recommended the chicken Provencal, and de Kergorlay picked out a spinach soup with little cream. I also walked away with a bag of assorted dinner rolls, chocolate soufflés and a tomato crumble, a French-inspired side similar to a savory cobbler, all of which were packed into a silver, space-age cooler bag for easy commuting.

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Spinach and fava bean veloute from Babeth’s Feast, which could serve as a light meal or an appetizer course, served with thyme and olive rolls.

“Happy cooking!” de Kergorlay said as I walked out the door.

Babeth’s Feast is not alone in providing a service that lets home cooks present composed dishes without much preparation. Services like Blue Apron—which delivers a step-by-step recipe and all ingredients to customers’ doors—and Fresh Direct allow us to maintain the illusion that we’re cooking, but without much mess or a trip to the neighborhood grocery.

I arrived home with my frozen goods at 8:30 p.m., having told my fiancé that dinner was “taken care of.” Up to that point, frozen dinner was a last resort for me, occupying a lower rung on the food ladder than boxed macaroni and cheese. I saw frozen food as a convenience, an answer to an empty belly rather than eager taste buds. But this evening, frozen food was a choice, not a solution, and not much of a quick fix: the chicken Provencal and tomato crumble required at least 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

As my main course ‘cooked,’ I microwaved the spinach and fava bean velouté, which, frozen, resembled a green brick, though once ladled into bowls took on the color of cut grass and the consistency of condensed tomato soup. Though the portions barely came to the halfway mark in my bowls, served with earthy thyme and olive dinner rolls, it could pass as a light meal.

As I scooped up the last of the surprisingly spicy soup, the timer on my oven went off and I retrieved the chicken and tomato crumble from the oven and let them cool on top of the stove. The chicken could easily pass as homemade cacciatore, but would benefit from some white rice or spaghetti. The hearty crumble tasted like a meeting of tomato soup and baked macaroni and cheese with a Ritz cracker topping, which is not to say bad at all. The crumble was intensely rich and I could only manage a few bites, which was just as well: one serving contains 440 calories and 32 grams of fat—nearly half the recommended daily intake.

At $19.99, the chicken Provencal was comparable in cost to the ingredients I’d need to cook a similar dish from scratch, and at an hour in the oven, didn’t save much time, but life’s a trade-off. Instead of laboring over a hot stove in the middle of August, I watched a re-run of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” while my dinner heated.

I was full after the main course, and should have stopped there, but I was most curious about the soufflés. After twenty minutes on 375 degrees, they delightfully puffed up like the timer on a Thanksgiving turkey. Served in dainty ceramic ramekins, the soufflés might work well at a dinner party.

The meal was over in half an hour, but the cooking time wasn’t much shorter than my typical weeknight meal from scratch, though it did give me three courses.

But the star of the evening was the cleanup. Aside from the utensils, soup bowls and dinner plates, all other trays and prep gear went into the trash, not the sink, and I went back to my re-runs instead of facing a stack of dirty dishes.

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Paying a Premium for the Corner Table http://nypress.com/paying-a-premium-for-the-corner-table/ http://nypress.com/paying-a-premium-for-the-corner-table/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:51:37 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=72849 Food_main story_Resy d_fmt1Food_main story_Resy di_fmtNew apps hope to transform the way we make dinner reservations – but not all are on board

Margaret Walker loves French food and impeccable service.

The psychotherapist, Midtown East resident and self-professed Manhattan foodie has dined at some of the hottest—and priciest—restaurants in the city, including Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park and Upper East Side restaurant Daniel.

She hopes to land a table at Columbus Circle restaurant Per Se before year’s end.

“That’s a really tough reservation to get,” Walker said. “You literally have to calculate the days, and then call on the day they open up reservations for the day you want to go. But I know these things because I’m insane about these things.”

In other words, Margaret Walker is not your average diner. And for many restaurant-goers in the city, a primetime table at Per Se may seem as elusive as an open cab during the 4 p.m. shift change.

But, as Uber did for ground transportation, a batch of new mobile applications are hoping to make sought-after restaurant reservations more easily and quickly available. New app Resy, which launched in June, is partnering with restaurants to sell last minute reservations at exclusive restaurants. And Resy’s not alone in the space: Killer Rezzy offers a similar service, and Zurvu sells reservations for a $5 ‘convenience fee’ per head.

Ben Leventhal, creator of dining news site Eater, founded Resy with entrepreneur and Uber investor Gary Vaynerchuk. Resy, Leventhal said, is designed to advance a dusty reservation system dominated by last-minute phone calls, back and forth emails to reservationists, and OpenTable, which offers a consumer-friendly interface, but not last-minute access, and charges restaurants for the service. Resy shares the revenue for each reservation with the restaurants.

“The most important thing that we’re trying to fix is the user experience of making restaurant reservations,” said Leventhal. “Whether you’re paying some premium for the table or not, the thing that’s broken is, you should be able to get the table that you want, when you want it. And it should be very fast on your phone to do that.”

Among Resy’s partners is Greenwich Avenue restaurant Rosemary’s, which doesn’t take reservations, making the typical wait a few hours. But diners can cut that step and purchase a table on Resy; a table for two at Rosemary’s on a Friday night is $10 and is one of the cheaper reservations on the app (though so far, nothing exceeds $50).

“If we execute, then you’re not going to be thinking about Resy as the place you go to pay for a reservation,” said Leventhal. “You’re just going to think about Resy as the place you go for a reservation.”

Opinions on the concept are mixed. Some, including Resy’s founders, consider it egalitarian. Alex Stupak, chef and owner of Empellón Taqueria, one of Resy’s partner restaurants, told the New York Times that reservation fees “discourage a no-show.”

Others find it alienating and even more exclusionary. Max Falkowitz, an editor at national food blog Serious Eats, compares apps like Resy to fast passes at amusement parks that cost more than general admission and allow guests to jump the lines. He worries that reservation apps encourage dining conformity and reinforce the idea that diners should seek “novelty” experiences instead of becoming regulars at neighborhood spots that might serve great food with fewer crowds.

“There’s a very substantial, important diversity to restaurant culture,” said Falkowitz, who lives in Queens and dines out frequently, but at restaurants that aren’t as expensive or exclusive as those found on Resy and other apps. “In directing people to a very small subset of certain restaurants, it contributes to the sense that we should all go to the same places.”

Storied restaurateur Pino Luongo, who was one of the original owners of Il Cantinori on East 10th Street, went on to build an Italian fine-dining empire and now only operates Morso on East 59th Street near Sutton Place. He remembers customers sneaking cash into a maître d’s hand in hopes of securing a coveted table on a Saturday night.

“Our industry has evolved,” said Luongo of the new apps. “And I don’t have anything against it. It’s an open market and we are all competing for customers all the time—at peak hours and not peak hours—and if there is a company that provides a service to have 100 percent occupancy during the night, so be it. I welcome it.”

About 70 percent of reservations at Morso are booked through OpenTable, Luongo said, and a reservation app wouldn’t make sense for his local, regular customers. And Luongo, who has seen his own restaurants shutter, recognizes a danger in charging for reservations that won’t always remain hot commodities.

“Trendiness doesn’t last forever,” he said.

Walker secures most of her evasive reservations on OpenTable. She hasn’t paid for a reservation yet, but isn’t against trying Resy.

“This is catered to a very specific individual, and it’s not really a large group,” she said. “The group of people who want to get in these restaurants but don’t know how to navigate the reservations, it’s very small.”

But Leventhal predicts a broader customer base. While Resy has about 20 restaurant partners in New York, including downtown spots Minetta Tavern and Balthazar, and Upper East Side restaurant Sant Ambroeus, he’s in ongoing dialogues with several restaurants in the city, and expects to grow Resy’s partner list to 50 restaurants before 2015. During a recent meeting, a well-known restaurateur (who Leventhal declined to name) compared the conversation to the ones he had with OpenTable in 1999.

“I think that’s the broad sentiment,” said Leventhal, who is looking at Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas as the next markets for the app. “In terms of the user experience, Resy is going to be the way the world goes. If Resy wins or another company wins, this notion of reservations will exist in 12 months, [...] and in 24 months, if you’re not on Resy as a restaurant, your customers are going to want to know why.”

The prospect of such ubiquity worries Falkowitz, who thinks of restaurants as social institutions. Unlike hailing a cab, he said, hospitality is a “vital part” of a restaurant meal, and diners want to feel cared for, not squeezed.

“As a diner, I’m going to feel really insulted if I have to pay to get in the door,” said Falkowitz. “If these things become a new standard, it raises the cost and anxiety of dining in the city, and it’s a city that’s full of high cost and transaction fees and a lot of anxiety already.”

As the platform grows, and with reservation costs based on demand, Leventhal said that, in the future, some reservations might be free, or sold at the $2 mark. And for diners who don’t want to pay, reservations can still be made the old-fashioned way, at no cost.

For Walker, that’s crucial.

“As long as all the options remain available, people won’t freak out,” said Walker, a lifelong New Yorker. “This is a city where you can be a millionaire and still not get into the most exclusive clubs. You don’t have to be rich to be the guy who can get past the velvet rope. If we’re creating a world where you do have to have the cash to get past the velvet rope, people will be pissed.”

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P.J. Clarke’s Petitions for its Place http://nypress.com/p-j-clarkes-petitions-for-its-place/ http://nypress.com/p-j-clarkes-petitions-for-its-place/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:50:11 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=72781 P.J. Clarke’s original restaurant opened on the East Side in 1884.

P.J. Clarke’s original restaurant opened on the East Side in 1884.

The popular restaurant is fighting its landlord and hopes to stave off eviction from its downtown home

What’s a neighborhood without a neighborhood restaurant?

That’s the question that Battery Park eatery P.J. Clarke’s is asking in a campaign against its landlord, Brookfield Office Properties, which is undergoing a massive, $250-million dollar renovation to its Brookfield Place retail areas. It’s a project that, the restaurant claims, the developer is using to try to force P.J. Clarke’s out of its space.

The restaurant recently launched an online petition to keep P.J. Clarke’s in its current location. The petition, which amassed 130 signatures to date, states that “Brookfield has been using construction in the building to make it almost impossible for P.J. Clarke’s to succeed,” and that the landlord wants to lease the space to another restaurant at a higher rate. The restaurant’s lease expires in November 2020.

Online comments on the petition represent a range of supporters, from those unhappy with Brookfield’s management of the ongoing renovations, to fans of the restaurant’s burgers, to concerned citizens who don’t approve of a large developer forcing out a city staple.

“The petition is meant to rally people who care about P.J. Clarke’s but also all local community restaurants in New York City,” the Clarkes’ Group said in an email statement. “Our hope is that our landlord Brookfield Properties recognizes our importance to the neighborhood and works with us to mitigate the harm done by the intrusive construction to the property.”

In early June, P.J. Clarke’s filed a $40 million dollar lawsuit against its landlord, claiming that Brookfield is taking “deliberate and willful” steps to force the restaurant out of the Hudson River location. The legal documents state that Brookfield has asked the restaurant to relocate “several times” in order to make room for Keith McNally’s Meatpacking District bistro Pastis, which is presently closed for renovations.

The documents also claim that, since construction began in October 2012, Brookfield has obscured the restaurant’s entrance, parked food trucks directly outside the restaurant and erected scaffolding on the outdoor patio, obstructing views of the river and the Statue of Liberty. Accessible from the street through a temporary, labyrinthine maze erected for the construction project, P.J. Clarke’s claims that it has suffered a 50 percent decline in profits since construction began.

The restaurant has two other locations in Manhattan, including its iconic, red-brick flagship on Third Avenue and 55th Street, which opened in 1884. On its webpage, the restaurant celebrates its resistance to change over the decades, noting that, even after renovations, the Third Avenue location remained mostly unaltered. The Battery Park restaurant opened in 2004, and the restaurant maintains that its presence helped transform the neighborhood into a desirable destination.

In certain respects, the restaurant does not align with the direction Brookfield Place is taking its dining options. Brookfield’s recently opened Hudson Eats food court houses some of the city’s more sought after eateries, including Black Seed Bagel and Umami Burger, in a sleek, modern setting, quite a contrast to P.J. Clarke’s checkered tablecloths, dark mahogany bar and black-and white-tile floors. Some might say it’s classic New York. Others could call it stuffy and stodgy. Brookfield plans to open six new restaurants in the facility, including Italian eatery Parm and a New York outpost for Philadelphia tapas spot Amada.

P.J. Clarke’s familiar, laid-back atmosphere serves a cross-section of downtown clientele that, amidst the regular workday crowd from within Brookfield Place and the nearby Goldman Sachs building, also includes tourists and young families who live in the neighborhood. The bartender knows his customers by name, shakes hands with anyone who sits down and talks golf and music with the mostly male regulars. On a sunny day, young men in suits order chicken wings and Brooklyn Lagers and sit in the shadow of the scaffolding on the outdoor patio.

In addition to the online petition, the restaurant is handing out postcards, asking customers to write letters of support. Featuring vintage scenes from the restaurant and positioning P.J. Clarke’s as Manhattan’s answer to “Cheers,” the postcards are addressed to Ed Hogan, director of retail leasing for Brookfield Place.

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Needy New Yorkers Get Fancy Food Leftovers http://nypress.com/needy-new-yorkers-get-fancy-food-leftovers/ http://nypress.com/needy-new-yorkers-get-fancy-food-leftovers/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 19:24:06 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=72683 The Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center last week, which displayed dozens of upscale culinary vendors and later donated many of the leftovers to a local food pantry. Photo credit Specialty Food Association

The Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center last week, which displayed dozens of upscale culinary vendors and later donated many of the leftovers to a local food pantry. Photo credit Specialty Food Association

Leftover delicacies from the Summer Fancy Food Show were delivered to a food pantry on the Upper West Side

Some of the world’s fanciest foods are going to New Yorkers who can’t afford even basic meat-and-potato meals.

This week, they got about 90,000 pounds of delicacies left over from the largest marketplace of specialty foods and beverages in North America, the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York.

When the three-day display closed Tuesday at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on the West Side, hundreds of volunteers descended on mountains of artisanal cheeses, salsas and jams, plus chocolate, olive oil, prosciutto, spices and other items donated by many of this year’s 2,700 purveyors from 49 countries.

A half-dozen tractor-trailers then delivered the food to pantries and community programs.

“We throw away so much food in this country while so many people are going hungry,” said Maria Vives as she led a nine-person team through the aisles of the 370,000-square-foot center.

They were volunteers for the massive food giveaway — an annual joint effort by the Specialty Food Association that produces the show and City Harvest, a leading anti-hunger nonprofit that feeds at least half a million New Yorkers a week.

Nearly a fifth of the 8.4 million people who live in New York are estimated to suffer from what’s called food insecurity, meaning they don’t have consistent access to safe, nutritious food, according to the hunger-relief nonprofit Feeding America.

When the show ended, the convention center turned into a mammoth culinary demolition derby, with exhibitors packing products and dismantling displays while workers ripped up carpeting and forklifts zigzagged to waiting trucks.

Volunteer teams rushed around the aisles forming a sea of green, the color of their City Harvest T-shirts.

Those in need came the next morning to a pantry on the Upper West Side that received about 6,000 pounds of products from the show that filled shelves and refrigerators.

For anyone who wanted it along with staples, there was something special, such as Italian panettone, a sweet, fruit-filled bread.

Among the recipients was Lina Hernandez, who on many days doesn’t have enough money for a simple meal for her four children. But just before the Fourth of July, she was picking up milk, bread and vegetables at the pantry that also offered a veritable feast including the foie gras with truffles worth $80 a pound, duck breast and fine Mexican chocolate wafers.

“It’s very nice to have something different,” said Hernandez, 29, as foie gras was being passed around, spread on gourmet crackers.

Brooklyn-based Les Trois Petit Cochons (French for “three little pigs”) donated the foie gras, along with the duck and a huge cured ham that all landed at The West Side Campaign Against Hunger in the church basement “where we come to get our food,” said Marcos Galvez, Hernandez’s 8-year-old son, cracking a smile.

The Bronx family had lost its steady income when the children’s father had to stop working at a restaurant where he slipped and fell, badly damaging his back.

Matthew Reich, City Harvest’s vice president of food sourcing, said the effort is a break from the norm.

“For the people we serve in New York City every day, when they don’t have enough to eat, we normally deliver potatoes, cabbage, onions, apples — a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables; we normally don’t deliver $30-a-pound cheese or pate,” Reich said. “So this is a treat for all.”

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50 Years of Fine French Dining http://nypress.com/50-years-of-fine-french-dining/ http://nypress.com/50-years-of-fine-french-dining/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 16:37:32 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=72610 Owner Georges Briguet, right, serving patrons at Le Perigord.

Waiters serving patrons at Le Perigord.

Manhattan institution Le Perigord celebrates a half-century in business

In a city where restaurants can open and close within a matter of months, longevity is impressive, and 50 years of longevity is a reason to celebrate.

Le Perigord, a traditional French restaurant on the East Side, is toasting its golden anniversary this year. It opened in 1964, among what was once a sea of Grand Dame white linen dining spots, staffed with French-accented maître d’s and tuxedoed waiters. Many of its brethren have closed, but Le Perigord has managed to hold onto its luster under the continuous command of owner Georges Briguet.

Briguet was originally born in Switzerland, where he worked at the Baur-au-Lac in Zurich. In 1961 he was recruited to work at the Waldorf’s Marco Polo, one of the city’s premier private clubs at the time.

After working at the Waldorf for a few years, Briguet took the skills he had acquired and opened a new restaurant, Le Perigord. He attributes his half century of operation to an adherence to high standards.

“I appreciate the fine dining experience, the elegance,” Briguet said. “I believe in the quality of the French cuisine.”

Briguet is a gregarious man, who credits his education as the key to his success; he studied and worked with some of the finest chefs and restaurants in the world. Additionally, while working as a chef he received a degree in business from the American Business School, in midtown Manhattan This education pushed him to think about his business as both a chef and business man.

“Nothing is wasted here. We are opened 7 days a week because the food doesn’t sleep,” Briguet said. “Nothing is pre-cooked, we make food fresh one day at a time.”

At this 50th anniversary, Briguet is looking to his son Christopher to continue the tradition of French fine dining. Christopher, a humble, more reserved man than his father, started at the restaurant working in the coatroom and handling phones. He worked his way up, from cleaning the dishes to now handling the finances and running the restaurant. He has a great knowledge of the business, and growing up there gives him a respect and care for it.

“Our goal in moving forward is to continue the tradition, with some small modern changes,” said Christopher. “We will continue the history of the finest quality of food and service. I want to continue what my father has done, especially when other restaurants are not continuing this tradition.”

The restaurant has an extensive menu, both pre-fixe and a la carte, with sizable portions. In addition to modern adaptations of traditional French cuisine, they carry classic dishes like Duck L’orange, Sweet Bread, Kidneys, and Lobster Thermidor. Celebrities, U.N officials, and loyal customers frequently visit the restaurant due to the available room for private parties in the back.

Among the planned changes are the addition of music and candles within the restaurant while keeping with the traditional aesthetic. The family sees the neighborhood as a reflection of the restaurant’s integrity.

“I love this restaurant, and in a city if you are nice with people, they will come back,” Briguet said.

Now the Briguet family hopes to embark on another 50 years of service.

“The future is bright, a 50th anniversary is huge,” said Christopher. “This is my whole life in a way, I don’t really consider it a job.”

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Finally, the Farmer’s Market http://nypress.com/finally-the-farmers-market/ http://nypress.com/finally-the-farmers-market/#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 13:25:16 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=72204 Food main story_Liz Ne_fmtAfter suffering through a monotonous winter, it’s time to rejoice in the variety of local green-markets

If you are a loyal local food eater like me, you carried the flag all winter long. Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and beets all share that glorious characteristic of being good storage veggies. They formed the foundation of many a winter meal, roasted or pureed, steamed or sautéed. Married with apples, leeks, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggs and the occasional greenhouse goodies, the market yielded many a delicious meal.

Three weeks ago, I found my first ramps of the season in the Union Square Market; two weeks later, asparagus and spring onions; a week ago, rhubarb and spring garlic; Saturday, fiddleheads; and at my own Hudson Valley farm this weekend, field head lettuce and other early greens are rapidly maturing.

The season is on and it’s time for the market!

Do homework before you go; most markets list the weekly vendors online, which is helpful in planning ahead. I try to get to the market early for the best selection and before specialty items run out (like the first fiddleheads or tomatoes of the season). Take the family – it is a perfect place to connect children to ingredients and new tastes. (It’s the precursor to getting them into the kitchen to cook.)

Bring one or two large canvas or durable bags along with some smaller recycled plastic bags to help you feel virtuous. To lighten the load, consider a small wheel-able cart – there are some durable ones that are not pricey; some are even insulated. If it’s hot out, you might want to bring an insulated bag or frozen cold packs for meat or fish or delicate greens.

Shoppers enjoy forming relationships – at the supermarket, dry cleaners or nail salon. It’s the same in the market. With a little consistency, you can get to know the farmer or his/her staff. I like to hear crop updates as well as snippets about life or family. Once you are a regular, they will readily engage with you. Feel free to put food photos on social media and reference the farm. Farmers work hard and many leave pre-dawn to get here. I often bring my friends a homemade snack – a selection of my pickles or a frittata or cake, with market bought ingredients, a good example of a closed loop.

It can be interesting to compare prices within one market. I am curious about the varying cost of chicken eggs or differences between conventional and organic produce. I do taste comparisons on lettuce mixes and am always surprised by the wide range of flavors. Everyone has opinions on which apples they prefer and from whom.

If you go to different neighborhoods, the variations on price and selection are intriguing, reflecting ethnic preferences or simply what different farmers bring, a reason to shop around and explore other parts of the city.

The produce you buy in the market is typically much fresher than the supermarket, as it is harvested a day or two in advance. For many items, it means an extended shelf life once home. I find that staples like market onions, potatoes and carrots taste better.

Beyond seasonal fruits and vegetables, there are fishermen, a wide range of meat purveyors, pickle makers, bakers, cheese makers, and vendors with honey, maple syrup, wines, beer, pasta, plants, flowers and grains.

Markets offer more than just shopping. You can get recipes from market managers who also arrange cooking demos (get the calendar). Greenmarket has several sites where you can compost your kitchen scraps or bring textiles for recycling. Most markets accept EBT (food stamps) but rarely credit cards.

A word of advice: unlike markets in some other cities, Greenmarket offers little in the way of prepared food. But with a little imagination you can construct an al fresco meal (bread+apple+cheese). So don’t arrive hungry, otherwise you will have to hurry home and start cooking.

Liz Neumark is chief executive of the catering company Great Performances.

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Downtown Favorite Parm to Open on U.W.S. http://nypress.com/downtown-favorite-parm-to-open-on-u-w-s/ http://nypress.com/downtown-favorite-parm-to-open-on-u-w-s/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 15:57:40 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=72158 Food_Main story_Parm 2_fmtThe trio behind the classic Italian spot is bringing their red sauce fare to the neighborhood

Parm, an Italian-American “soul food” hotspot beloved by diners and critics alike, is slated to open on Columbus Avenue and 70th Street by the end of the summer. The original restaurant, helmed by Rich Torrisi, Jeff Zalaznick and Mario Carbone of the Major Food Group, opened in Little Italy in 2011 and quickly attracted attention for its casual but sophisticated menu, which focuses on small plates and huge, messy sandwiches such as—of course—chicken parmesan and sausage and peppers heroes. New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells awarded the restaurant two stars in 2012.

Though the restaurant group currently runs a Parm outpost at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the Upper West Side spot will be the trio’s second full-service location, occupying a whopping 2800 square feet that was previously Lanksy’s Deli. Such a move was not coincidental for Parm, whose owners note on the restaurant’s website that they “seek to find locations that are significant to the history of food in New York.”

“Location always plays into every decision we make,” said Zalaznick. “The Lansky’s space is a great one, one with a lot of New York character that will definitely have an effect on the style and direction of the restaurant.”

Zalaznick said that the restaurant team had been looking to make a move to the Upper West Side for some time, and seized the opportunity when the deli closed last February.

Food_Main story_Parm 1_fmt“We’ve always loved the neighborhood,” he said. “It has a strong sense of community and history.”

At the new location, diners can expect more of the red-sauce Italian-American fare that Parm is famous for, like tender, long-braised veal, beef and sausage meatballs piled on a seeded roll, baked clams and pizza knots. It’s this kind of food that has endeared the restaurant to both customers and critics—comforting and immediately recognizable to most New Yorkers.

Parm’s dishes are also prepared with the attention to detail that is a hallmark of Torrisi’s and Carbone’s time spent behind the stove at white-tablecloth restaurants such as Mario Batali’s Babbo and Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50.

“We work very hard, we are very passionate about what we do and we have a lot of fun doing it,” Zalaznick said of the team’s success. “I think that comes through in the places we create.”

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Popular Online Donut Shop Holey Donuts! Opens a Brick-and-Mortar http://nypress.com/popular-online-donut-shop-holey-donuts-opens-a-brick-and-mortar/ http://nypress.com/popular-online-donut-shop-holey-donuts-opens-a-brick-and-mortar/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 15:26:12 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=72015 Holey Donuts!, a ten-year-old donut company started by Frank Dilullo, went the opposite route of most traditional businesses: after a decade of online success shipping its frozen treats across the country, Holey Donuts! has taken up shop in a corner storefront on Seventh Avenue South.

These aren’t just any old donuts, though: they’re low fat, containing about a quarter of the fat and calories of a standard donut. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the pastries: they’re the same size and shape as a normal donut, and come in all the classic flavors such as chocolate-frosted with sprinkles, Boston cream and jelly-filled. A top-secret cooking process—Dilullo said the donuts are hand-made via a 22-step process and then cooked in computer-controlled ovens—leaves the desserts a desirable choice for dieters.

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Guilt-Free Fish http://nypress.com/guilt-free-fish-2/ http://nypress.com/guilt-free-fish-2/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 12:39:23 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=72045 Food_seafood SP_Mermai_fmtNew York City celebrates sustainable seafood

Beginning on Tuesday, a group of local fishermen, restaurant chefs and organizations around the city have gathered to discuss the peril that faces our oceans: a fast-dwindling supply of seafood. This week marks New York’s second annual Sustainable Seafood Week. Due to overfishing, the destruction of marine habitats caused by development and acidification of the oceans created by climate change, 70 percent of the world’s fish populations are threatened, with some of the most popular species in particular crisis: the Pacific Bluefin tuna population, for example, has suffered a 96 percent decline.

Those figures weighed heavily on Sean Dixon’s mind last year when he and his Village Fishmonger co-founders, Samantha Lee and Dennis O’Connor, launched the first annual Sustainable Seafood Week. The trio, who run a sustainable seafood company here in the city as well as a popular CSF, or community-supported fishery program, decided that New York City diners—a seafood-loving bunch—ought to know more about how their dinners are caught.

“We as the founders wanted to do two things,” Dixon said. “Firstly, we just wanted fresher seafood options for ourselves, as diners and lovers of seafood. And secondly, we wanted to change how the whole city looks at seafood. We wanted to remind people that at its roots, New York is, and has always been, a fishing town.”

Sustainable Seafood Week runs through Sunday, with star chefs including Tom Colicchio, April Bloomfield, David Chang, Anita Lo and Bill Telepan participating in events, like a “Sustainable Seafood Shindig” and an interactive supper club, which will mix food and fun with education.

For Dixon, eating New York-caught seafood fits right in with the wider trend of eating local.

“There are so many locally-made products out there today, from cheeses to beer to yogurt to honey,” he said. “The freshness of locally-caught fish, that’s the same thing. It’s like a tomato that’s plucked off a backyard vine as opposed to one that’s shipped halfway across the country: there’s no contest.”

Adam Conrad, marketing and social media manager at the Mermaid Inn on Amsterdam Avenue, agreed. Both restaurant locations—the original Mermaid Inn is located in the East Village—are supplied by the sustainable seafood companies Wild Edibles and Homarus, a lobster company that catches Maine lobsters each morning and delivers them to New York restaurants within 24 hours of the catch.

“These lobsters are incredibly fresh and our customers just love them,” Conrad said.

During Sustainable Seafood Week, both locations of the Mermaid Inn will serve a different responsibly-sourced seafood dish each night.

“The highlight it definitely going to be our Homarus lobster roll,” Conrad said.

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Back to the Tavern http://nypress.com/back-to-the-tavern/ http://nypress.com/back-to-the-tavern/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 16:55:51 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=71874 Food_Tavern on the Gr_fmt2Central Park’s famous eatery reopens with a new and welcome twist

Four years ago, Tavern on the Green closed its beloved doors and the city proceeded to smash it to bits. Last Thursday, the dust finally settled on the extensive, $28 million renovation, revealing a refreshing update on a modern classic.

On its first night back in business, under the purview of restaurateur partners David Salama and Jim Caiola, the dining rooms were filled with the buzz of guests from the neighborhood, around the five boroughs, and the world. The sparkling new Tavern on the Green welcomes all through its doors – while the three dining rooms’ 345 indoor seats are booked solid for the next several months, diners can stroll through the park and score a spot at the circular bar, with access to the kitchen’s full menu, any time.

Gone is the fusty, exclusive atmosphere and the infamously boring food. The small plates ($9-18), while delectable, are tiny, and only big enough to share with one other person. But who wouldn’t want to share, for example, the Serrano ham, cave-aged Gruyere and sage toast with anchovy-caper sauce ($18) which is a long-winded way to describe a sophisticated, grown-up version of the best grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich ever, or the delicate and savory trio of local sea scallops with citrus butter, fried shallots and capers ($16).

The large plates ($18-$54) are proportionately large, and chef Katy Sparks applies the same attention to detail to the entrée-sized dishes as to the small ones, using familiar ingredients in inventive ways while still letting good food speak for itself. The burger ($18), for example, is described simply as grass-fed beef, and accoutrements like sharp cheddar, bacon or red onion marmalade are extra add-ons. There is no question as to how the diner would like it cooked, and no offering of ketchup when it arrives, and neither are needed.

Staples like roasted chicken, pork chops and salmon round out the menu. The desserts push surprising vegetables into the spotlight, like the red velvet cake featuring roasted beets ($11) or the outstanding ricotta cheesecake with shaved fresh fennel and orange gracing the top ($11).

The service is friendly, open and impeccable, as is the décor. The cocktail menu features drinks named for each of the five boroughs, and aside from being rather tasty, they indicate the new direction of Tavern on the Green. Like the city, it may be a little too pricy for some, but if you can make it work, even for a glass of wine at the bar or ice cream sandwich from the soon-to-be-opened takeaway window, the place will welcome you, and you’ll be glad to be there.

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