Bill Murray Will Get You Drunk in Brooklyn This Weekend

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Bill Murray is pouring drinks this weekend in Brooklyn. The comedic actor and national treasure is bartending at 21 Greenpoint, a new restaurant in the former location of River Styx. The upscale eatery, owned by Syd Silver and Bill’s son, Homer Murray opens this weekend, serving locally sourced shared dishes.

Papa Murray will be behind the bar Friday and Saturday, starting at 7PM. He’ll be serving up some specialty cocktails by beverage director Sean McClure of Le Bernardin and Dirty French.

Lady Gaga Releasing Italian Cookbook with Papa Gaga

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Lady Gaga is an influencer of many artistic mediums from music to fashion to film. Now the woman of many talents can add culinary author to her resume. The pop icon will soon release a cookbook with her father.

Before she was Lady Gaga, she was Stefani Germanotta, daughter of Joe and Cynthia. Joe’s made a name in his own right as owner and operator of Joanne Trattoria on New York’s Upper West Side. Joe wrote a cookbook, Joanne Trattoria Cookbook: Classic Recipes and Scenes from an Italian American Restaurant, a collection of recipes and anecdotes from the father of Mother Monster who wrote the forward for the book.

The book will be available November 22, just in time for Christmas.

Another Limelight Incarnation Opens Tonight

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Club Kid Cards: Gregory Homs
Photography: Michael Fazakerley

A high-end Chinese boite, Jue Lan Club (pronounced “You Lan”), will open tonight in the back of the old Limelight space. I will attend even though that famous author Thomas Wolfe (and both my ex-wives) said “you can’t go home again.” I was the director of the infamous spot when it was a big bad disco owned by club mogul Peter Gatien.  Although it was the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion from 1844 until the 1970’s, when it was deconsecrated and transformed into a drug rehab facility called Odyssey House, it’s the Gatien years from 1983 to the early 2000’s that will forever define the space.

Subsequent nightclubs Estate and Avalon have been largely forgotten and rightfully so (sorry I brought them up). Since 2007, it’s been divvied up into the Limelight Market Place, a David Barton Gym and a Grimaldi’s Italian Restaurant. The 20th Street side, known as Shampoo during the Disco daze, was a failed restaurant for a minute and is now officially Jue Lan Club—the brainchild of restaurateur and managing partner Stratis Morfogen. Marketing guru Richie Romero and Robert Collins round out the team, while Chef Oscar Toro of Buddakan fame will keep the foodies happy.

I have mixed feelings about the place. I’ve been hired to do the landscaping of the 75 seat courtyard, which was a labor of love. I actually fell in love there when I met my second wife where I more recently planted Ilex and Wisteria. As I have walked through the Dutch East Interiors-designed space, the sounds of hammers and screw guns could barely drown out the echoes of parties past. The new paint does little to wipe away my memories.  I always peek into where my old office was and reminisce quietly about the ghosts of distant club nights. The workers must think I’m nuts standing there smiling or close to tears. Andy Warhol did the opening and years later club kids scampered away their youth here. Everyone knows the stories. It was front page news and subsequently the fodder of a half dozen flicks. It was the good, the bad and the beautiful; for me and so many others, it ended badly. Now I plant roses and my small efforts and the efforts of hundreds more will provide a new incarnation and clever fortune cookies.

I asked Morfogen how he came to the space and if he felt it came with any baggage: “After my exit at Philippe, I hooked up with Richie and Robert and sold landlord Ben Ashkenazy with our Chinese concept, [saying] it would be a huge hit in this iconic space,” he said. “I can’t find a negative. The space needed a deep reincarnation with food and service first, then alcohol. Once the concept and menus were created, we embraced the art history of the Limelight by incorporating Keith Haring, Andy Warhol-themed dining rooms with, of course, great playlists from the great ’70s Rock & Roll to contemporary tracks. The architecture with over 100 feet of Manhattan frontage and a stunning garden with 75 seats designed by [you]—I really can’t come up with a negative.”

He also shed light on the branding: “For the past 10 years, one of the most respected hoteliers in the hospitality business named Sant Chatwall, Chairman of Dream Hotel Group, has always been someone I really wanted to work with,” he said. “Once the concept was christened by the New York Times as the first Chinese restaurant to serve a selection of ‘Chinese Raw’ with the team we assembled, he was thrilled to give us the incredible opportunity in putting Jue Lan Club in the next 10-plus Dream hotels in the USA and around the world. This is a dream come true with a dream partner.”

Romero, charged with bringing the right people in and overall branding, echoed Morfogen’s sentiments:  “Limelight is iconic,” he said. “It will always be referred to as ‘Limelight.’ Some people question if it’s cursed or not, but people are excited for it.”

Collins said that Limelight itself is such a magical and special location, which is why the nightclub was such a success. “I always believe in keeping a piece of the past as I look forward to the future,” he said. “We have one of our private rooms that has club kids wallpaper, gorgeous black-and-white [photos] of the club’s VIP and special lighting that is a tribute to [past] locations. We will feature incredible art as the Limelight did. I feel the new tone, inviting design and warm service will bring a new feel to the place, while also keeping a little tribute to the past.”

Emarald Gruin, co-founder of the L.E.S. Rox Gallery, will be the in-house art curator to provide rotating and permanent exhibitions. The Jue Lan team is fully committed to bringing new life to what once was the liveliest of places.

I asked Michael Alig, the king of the club kids and bad egg, who brought the whole shebang to an end what he thought about the club kid card wallpaper and Jue Lan: “The club kid wallpaper is great, he said. “The cards were beautifully designed and I’ve always considered them works of art. The idea of a Chinese restaurant in a church isn’t any crazier than a gym full of Botox-crazed muscle queens. I think that whatever business does open there, the building’s notorious past is going to provide a certain dichotomy. The business will get a lot of attention because it’s in the space that housed one of the most decadent and debauched nightclubs in the history of New York; for that same reason, it’s going to carry a lot of baggage. Confucius says, ‘When man dines on Chinese-fusion in a converted church-cum-discotheque, there is definitely Sum Ting Wong.’”

Male Model and Celebrity Chef Rōze Traore Shares Two Exclusive Recipes For ‘BlackBook’

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Rōze Traore for A. SAUVAGE at London Fashion Week

A man who knows his way around the kitchen is a plus, but a model who’s professionally trained as a chef is preferred. New Yorker by way of London Rōze Traore is the dream anomaly: a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu and signed model with Fusion Models NYC, conquering the worlds of both recipe and runway.

When he’s not racing between casting calls and photoshoots, Traore is preparing meals for private celebrity events or slicing and dicing in the kitchens of distinguished Jean-George Vongerichten restaurants. A master multi-tasker, his everyday pursuits are not only high-octane, they’re high quality; Traore’s constantly surrounded by the best of French ingredients and getting booked by the freshest names in fashion from Telfar to Control Sector.

We asked the buzzing talent to take a break and put together two BlackBook-exclusive recipes: One, a refined pasta, decorated with crispy salmon and the other, a creamy kale with sweet, caramelized shallots.

Brown-Butter Sage Salmon with Gemelli Pasta

“I came up with this dish as I was cooking for a client in London. Originally I would use couscous as the bed, but adding the Gemelli pasta took it to another level.” – RT

Ingredients: (serves 5 people)

2 sticks of butter
2 lemon
1 pound Gemelli pasta
Sage
Salt
Pepper
1 lb Shiitake mushrooms
Shaved Parmesan cheese
1 pound salmon

Instructions

Mushrooms: Heat pan, add olive oil and then mushrooms. Salt and pepper and finish with a squeeze of lemon.

Brown Butter: Add butter and sage to your pan. Turn heat on low and cook until brown.

Gemelli Pasta: Season a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and plenty of salt. Bring to a boil and add your pasta. After 15 minutes, strain pasta when it is still al dente. Incorporate pasta with brown butter in pan and toss.

Salmon: Cut, season with salt and pepper, heat your pan and add olive oil. Place your salmon in the pan skin-side down. Keep your heat at a medium level. Once there is a nice crispy skin, place pan in the oven for 7 minutes on 350 degrees.

Plating: Add your pasta and mushrooms to the center of the plate. Shave parmesan cheese and lemon zest over the pasta and top with salmon.

Creamy Kale with Caramelized Shallots

“This recipe has been passed down in my family for years. I’ve perfected it by adding my own touch and it was a hit this past Thanksgiving.”  – RT

Ingredients: (serves 5 people)

2 bunches Kale
1 stick Salted Butter
1 quart Heavy Cream
7 Shallots
Salt
Pepper
2 lemons
Nutmeg

Shallots: Thinly slice shallots, while adding olive oil to a well-heated pan. Add salt, pepper and lemon to taste. Reduce heat to medium and allow the shallots to caramelize for 15 minutes or until brown.

Kale: Clean kale by separating the leaves from the stems. In a large pot, season water with olive oil and salt. Bring to a boil. Add kale and cook for 6 minutes, then transfer to an ice bath.

Cream: Let cream simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat. Whisk in shaved parmesan and a stick of butter until the cream reaches a thick consistency. Combine your kale and shallots with the cream and garnish with zested nutmeg.

Entertainment Ringleader Matt Strauss Heralds in New Era of NYC Nightlife

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The Rickey and PHD Uptown opened with all the usual fanfare expected from an opening by the best players in town. The girls were tall and beautiful, and the men seemed wealthy and cognizant. All the usual and unusual players were in attendance, among them the extremely friendly Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead, who appeared to be unarmed, showered and enjoying life among the living.

By all accounts and observations the Dream “Team” folks have yet another hit. They make it look easy, but as one who’s created similar illusions before, the Hospitality business is hard work, packed with endless planning and sleepless, paranoid nights. A manager giving a final pep talk to staff instructed them to “smile as much as possible,” adding that “things would indeed go wrong, but a smile would most of the time save the day.” Could it be as simple as that?

My Facebook page has become littered with invites to club reunions from bygone days. A recent Nells reunion was one of the best parties in quite some time as revelers sought to relive a time often dubbed the “Glory Days of Nightlife.” Slated for the near future are even more reunions for Save The Robots, Danceteria, Limelight and Tunnel, but while those “Glory Days” were fun, today offers the same distractions (or even more) if you know where to look. Tonight there are still sexy people doing sexy things, dancing to the beats of a different drummer, finding and losing love and doing all that was ever done.

Nightlife in Manhattan has changed dramatically, since most of the debauchery has been dispatched to the outer boroughs. Manhattan’s no longer affordable to the unwashed masses, in return creating a club culture built on tourists and black card-wielding business types. Clubs now embrace both pop music and patrons who commonly hang with like-minded types, fostering painfully homogenous environments. The gays are hanging with the gays, whites with whites, blacks with blacks, and add to that class disparity. Diversity is essentially nonexistent.

At the opening of the Rickey, I was asked to DJ and came early to witness preparation for the opening of the doors, seeing the new nightlife firsthand—this softened maligned systematic nightlife. Those who complain about the state of things have plenty of choices to attend, but Strategic Group does it right and at its core are players like Matt Strauss with an MBA from Yale to go with his tireless obsession for making money off throwing fun parties.

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The Rickey

I caught up with Strauss, the managing partner of Food and Beverage at Dream Downtown and Dream Midtown Hotels in NYC, to gain some insight about the huge success of NYC’s most successful nightlife organization.

The opening of the Ricky at the Dream Midtown is the launch of a new brand. Tell me more about that.

“The Rickey takes its name for the turn of the 19th to 20th Century cocktail known as the ‘Lime Rickey.’  It was named after a Washington DC bar owner turned lobbyist named Colonel Joe Rickey, who was one of the first people at his bar to use fresh fruit in cocktails. We think this history and story is the perfect launching off point for The Rickey, which is a craft cocktail bar serving stylish, super fresh ingredient drinks and personally curated wines in Midtown. As this neighborhood is surrounded by office buildings that house some of the most powerful people in the world, we see The Rickey being the bar where guests can enjoy a high quality cocktail while doing real business.

And with the room designed with old and new elements ranging from green velvet couches to steam punk lamps, we see the brand building as the place in Midtown to get the best cocktails. With cocktails like ‘The Cartel,’ which has a coconut water ice cube block slowly melting into the drink as it matches with the rum, fresh pineapple juice and coco bean flavors, and ‘The Going Back to Cali’ that perfectly blends muddled avocado and hemp into a vodka-based drink, I know we are onto something special here that once people try, they will crave and want to come back for.”

PHD is the second incarnation of the brand with the first being at the Dream Downtown. Why expand the brand as opposed to launching another brand?

“The PHD brand has been a great success for us downtown and is the flagship brand of our partnership with the Dream Hotel group. We have built something downtown with PHD, which stands for ‘Penthouse at Dream’ that means, ‘this is not your run-of-the-mill rooftop.’  While it has great views of the city, it is a sexier spot than other rooftops, has better quality food and cocktails, and has a great crowd; this is what we are bringing to Midtown.”

At the opening I witnessed a great deal of the Strategic Group players on hand, from principals to promoters as well as staff from your other venues. Tell me how to launch a brand.

“For PHD we will be involving a number of our ‘usual suspects’ to help us bring some of our Downtown flavor to our new Midtown location. With the space being two floors, the smaller rooms will create a fun nightlife vibe with better energy than anything else in the neighborhood. The Rickey is our company’s first craft cocktail bar and we are excited to add this type of venue to our portfolio.”

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The PHD

How do you keep your brands from competing with each other?

“We work hard to make each nightlife brand one hundred percent its own unique experience.  PHD is a brand where you party while looking over the city you conquered that day. While it is a rooftop that gets the nightlife vibe more than other rooftops in NYC, it does get going on the earlier side compared to our other nightlife venue. When people are looking for a spot post-dinner in Midtown or Downtown to get the nightlife feel earlier, PHD is where to go, but if you want a more music-focused big club luxury nightlife experience, Marquee or Lavo are your spots. If you want the cool downtown ultra-stylish club that skews to hip-hop and open format music, Avenue or Tao Downtown nightclubs are your spots and if underground sexy rock den is your scene, then the Electric Room is for you. I don’t think our brands cannibalize or compete with each other because our guests want a specific experience each night and we are finding different ways to give it to them.”

You have a great education. How important is an education to the new breed of nightlife operators?

“Today the strong operators have high business acumen, as well as being real personable connectors with charisma to spare. The day-to-day managers are in this because they want to be the producers of the show. They are involved in so much more real business, from budgets being looked over by banks to high level HR, and team building to inventory controls. Higher education is a big help in the business. I personally utilize my MBA every day in my life and I am finding it to be a great help. But while some of my best managers have great educations from places like Northwestern and the University of Virginia, others have been just as strong due to high IQs and have learned on the job how to navigate this new world of nightlife and restaurants.”

What are you looking for in an employee?

“Some people fall into the restaurant and nightlife business out of necessity, but others have a real passion for hospitality. We train all our managers in the interview process to be looking for staff with this trait.  Honestly, if someone is a naturally happy person and is very enthusiastic about being in the service industry and not just doing this to make ends meet, then they are the staff we want no matter their experience. One step more important than that is looking for employees who’re genuinely excited and proud about working for the particular brand they are applying to working for.  If you have a staff that’s truly happy to come to work every day, that shines in the experiences they give to the guests.”

The Rickey and the new PHD join some of your other properties being located in hotels. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being in a mostly tourist location?

“I really like being in a hotel; there are certainly advantages. I don’t see it as a nuisance at all. On the day-to-day level you have a built-in audience of people who are living for a night or two right above or below your venues who all need a place to eat and drink. [They’re] all on vacation or a work trip with a per diem to spend on food and beverage. Our goal is to give these people a great experience where they don’t even have to leave the building. It’s exciting to have multiple venues and brands in the same venue that can feed off of each other. For instance at Dream Midtown people can come to The Rickey for a quieter drink and catch up before then heading upstairs to PHD for a more social and party atmosphere.”

Food and Beverage has had a pretty major boom in the past 10 to 15 years, while other industries have decline. What can you credit it to and where do you see it going?

“I think back in the ’80s and early ’90s, the Yuppies were spending their expendable income on toys.  It was a bragger’s world where people wanted the coolest car, the biggest boat and the latest gadget in their apartment from the Sharper Image. Money was being spent on possessions. Overtime, there was this shift where people wanted to spend their money on experiences and having good times. If you speak to anyone who graduated college in the last 20 years, they would say in their twenties they spent most of their income on rent and going to bars and restaurants. It’s just what people began to do and there are different levels of this.”

How are you addressing the younger generation?

“Today with social media culture, people are doing things for the experience, but almost not to experience, but to show others the experience. A friend of mine Matt Britton wrote a very cool book about this called, ‘YOUTHNATION,’ where he wrote that the youth of today are living by the expression, ‘I did it all for the Instagram.’  I completely agree with this and think that it plays a key role in the direction of where our business is going.  Everyone has to find a way to constantly work at giving people experiences that people are proud to say they have done. It is almost as if the brands have to be an extension of what people want as their personality.”

How does the group assure quality in so many venues spread over the country?

“I believe it is all in the leaders we hire and in the training process.  All of our managers and day-to-day operators of the venues love their brands, but they really love producing the show and not being in the show. Therefore, when they implement all of our company steps of service and back of the house details that make the venues run well, they do it with joy and pride—they aren’t too stiff acting like robots who are overseeing one store of a franchised chain and yet they also aren’t in the mix partying with the guests. It’s finding that perfect balance that starts from top, where the leaders on the floor love what they do, and take pride in the details and the party atmosphere. [They’re] always being a great host rather than the great partier.”

Have Dinner at La Pecora Bianca, A Rustic Italian Farmhouse in the Heart of NoMad

la-pecora-bianca-in-nomad
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Photo: Brian Park 

Restauranteur Mark Barak gives his Provençal restaurant Claudette an Italian cousin with the opening of La Pecora Bianca in NoMad this week. Translating to “the white sheep” in Italian, the restaurant serves a casual but classic Italian menu that focuses on light, seasonal cooking made with local ingredients, most of which are sourced from the Hudson Valley. The space, located in the historic St. James building on Broadway, is reminiscent of an Italian farmhouse. The 85-seat dining room features a mix of wood and marble-top tables, mossy green chairs, and wooden floors. A marble wine bar and staircase, plus hand-painted wall tiles, add to the rustic, homey vibe.

Chef Simone Bonelli’s menu emphasizes pasta and vegetable dishes that suit well for summer dining. Antipasti plates include a gazpacho with beets, red peppers, watermelon and strawberries, and Long Island fluke crudo. The selection of housemade pastas features sheep’s milk ricotta cavatelli with blue crab, summer squash, mint and breadcrumbs, and durum trenetti with clams, chorizo and tomatoes. The wine list is strictly Italian, featuring more than 100 bottles as well as wines by the glass and carafe. Cocktail wise, there’s a wide selection of Italian aperitivos, Negronis, and prosecco-based drinks.

The restaurant is currently open for dinner from 5 PM to midnight, and will start breakfast, lunch, and all-day service soon.

 

GIADA

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Celeb chef Giada De Laurentiis does simple but lovely creations like fregolotto with morels, risotto with crab & scallops and veal saltimbocca for couples making googly eyes at each other and the Bellagio fountain views. The light-flooded room is all low-key romanticism, and there’ s a patio for more temperate times. 

Joanne Trattoria

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This charming but unassuming trattoria has a distinguishing feature: it’s run by Lady Gaga’s parents. In a cozy brick-walled and sky-lit space, Joe and Cynthia Germanotta serve it up old-school: caprese salad, arancini alla nonna, linguini vognole, lasagna della casa and woodstone pizzas. The pastas are the way to go, though it’s all on the pricey side for the simple presentation. Snag a table on the lovely back patio. 

Bodega Taqueria y Tequila

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At first look, it’s an Airstream trailer selling awesome $3 – $5 tacos (go for the Camaron BLT, with shrimp and, well, blt), as well as tortas and daily ceviche specials. But sneak through a secret door, and you’re in one of Miami’s hippest cocktail dens – where a cool, glitz-averse crowd downs Smoked Horchata shots and Don Diablo signature cocktails and grooves late into the night. Different.