Imagine No Fracking and Maybe Buy a Carpet This Friday

There are still people out there who are sore at Yoko Ono for supposedly breaking up the Beatles, but for the rest of the left-leaning world, she’s emerged over the years as quite a hero. Say what you will about her, but you can’t deny that she’s been awfully consistent in her support of peace. Yes, it’s kind of a simple, single-issue platform, but it’s also hard to argue against it. Who doesn’t want peace? Of course, there are other ideas that support the concept of peace, and those include environmentalism, for which she is also a tireless advocate. With Earth Day coming up on Monday (have you done your shopping yet?) she’s throwing her considerable influence behind a specific cause that has rallied many in the entertainment industry: the fight against a type of natural gas extraction method known as fracking, which kind of sounds like another bad word. There’s evidence that fracking damages water supplies, and since most of us drink water, it’s something to be concerned about. And so, she’s organizing a celebrity-drenched event on Friday at Manhattan’s ABC Carpet & Home to raise awareness and rally support for the anti-fracking cause. 

Entitled "Imagine No Fracking" (there a display of her murals in the store’s windows with messages to this affect) the invite-only event will feature such celebrities as Adrian Grenier as co-host, Susan Sarandon as honorary co-chair, and Rufus Wainright as musical guest. There will be a few surprise celebrity cameos as well, along with food from ABC Kitchen. And while they got rid of the yurt years ago, there’s funky furniture and cool carpets to look at as you plan the interior design of your future dream house. Better get an SUV to lug it all home (I kid). 

I wish them luck in their fight against fracking, but it’s an uphill battle to be sure. Fracking projects are going at full speed all over New York State, although the environmental impact is still being measured. Of course there’s some benefit to having a new domestic energy source, and it will create tons of high-paying jobs (it will, right? Tons of good-paying jobs?) but from what I’ve heard it does beat the hell out of the earth. If only the same money, ferver, and political will were put behind clean energy sources we’d have global warming licked in no time.

And so, while Yoko Ono and her chums might be an easy target to pick on (her "I Love You Earth" poem in today’s Village Voice isn’t exactly Shakespeare), I’m glad she’s able to disregard the slings and arrows and keep pushing forward. Do you have a cause you’re as devoted to? 

Kitchit: Bringing All The Restaurants Back Home

Catering just got a lot more customized. Available in four cities, Kitchit sells a service it calls “bespoke dining,” an attempt to bring the experience of eating at a restaurant to a private home. That means not only the food, but the person who cooks it: The company has about 250 chefs on its roster from restaurants including ABC Kitchen in New York, Saison in San Francisco, and Eva in Los Angeles, as well as others who are professional caterers, cookbook authors, and even former Top Chef contestants like season one finalist Dave Martin.

To choose a chef, you just troll through profiles on Kitchit.com. It’s similar to using a dating website, only with a much better chance you’ll feel satisfied at the end of the night. Narrow down the choices by price range, date, number of guests, and cuisine. Once you’ve locked in a selection, you can correspond with the chef to request specific ingredients and dishes. Kitchit chefs also do preplanned signature events such as parties with only hors d’oeuvres, and some even give private cooking lessons.

For most events, the chef handles renting equipment, hiring wait staff, and as many of the other details as you want. “Most of the people don’t want to do any work,” says Kevin Lasko (pictured at top), the executive chef at Park Avenue Winter, who has been doing Kitchit events about once a month for the last year.

Kitchit was founded by three young entrepreneurs who met at Stanford, where two were in business school and one was studying computer science. They developed the idea through the university’s business accelerator program, and did test runs of dinner parties to prove its value. “We knew we had something special because we saw people’s fascination with the chef,” says CEO and co-founder Brendan Marshall. “They were having fun with the food since they were having a four-hour dinner party without having to worry about anything the whole time.” The company officially launched in San Francisco last year.

Kitchit Outside

Although the founders were confident that the concept was solid, they initially had difficulty persuading chefs to join. Eventually they drafted enough to sustain the business, and now chefs often initiate contact with the company. Kitchit also has a team focused on finding new chefs and training them on how the website and planning process work.

Kitchit chefs have catered events for as many as 500 people, with prices starting at about $60 per person. The chefs manage their own pricing and Kitchit charges a 12.5% commission. Lasko says he’s done corporate events and parties in the Hamptons that attract a wealthy clientele, but they’re not a huge moneymaker. The real draw for chefs is to promote their restaurants and their personal brands. Lasko prefers more intimate dinners with 20 or fewer diners, all the better to interact with guests and showcase the culinary process. 

Kitchit events aim to nearly recreate restaurant dining, but unlike at a restaurant, guests get lots of face time with the person preparing their food.“ You’re cooking five feet away,” Lasko says. “I’ll actually serve the food with one server. It’s super hands on. You get to meet everyone and talk to everyone.” He even keeps track of who has attended and gives them special treatment when they come in to eat at his restaurant.

As with many of Kitchit’s chefs, Lasko’s events usually cost between $100 and $200 per person. But Marshall contends that you’re getting something for your money that no other catering service can provide. “The personality of that chef comes through, but also the personality of the customer comes through,” he says. “Instead of it just being a generic menu of ‘choose these three things,’ it lets you say, ‘Here are my likes and dislikes, and here’s my grandmother’s recipe I’d love to remake.’ So it goes from just food to a very personal, intimate experience when people are around the table.”

In December Kitchit launched in Chicago, and Marshall says it plans to expand to other markets later this year. And it’s continuing to recruit new chefs, so eventually you’ll never have to leave the house, no matter what you want for dinner.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Subscribe to the weekly BlackBook Happenings email newsletter]

Num Pang and ABC Kitchen Collaborate with ‘Guest Chefs Give Back’

If you’ve been to Num Pang you know it’s possibly the best place to get a Southeast-Asian inspired sandwich for lunch or dinner. But now, that’s not all they have for you, as owners Ben Daitz and Ratha Chaupoly have started the “Guest Chefs Give Back” series, which kicked off with Mario Batali’s Italian-Asian fusion sandwich last month.

Starting today, they are offering their second chef collaboration in the cycle and this time, it’s with chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen. The four men have created the ABC Pang, which features a semolina baguette slathered with cashew butter, Thai chilies, and candied ginger and stuffed with lemongrass poached chicken salad, Thai basil, chili mayonnaise, and lime. 
 
“It’s exciting to collaborate with our friends and watch them put their own personal spins on our sandwiches,” says Daitz. “We’re the biggest fans of ABC Kitchen, as is everybody, so we were really excited to work with Jean-Georges and Dan on this latest sandwich.”
 
The best part, while you chow down on the spicy-sweet combo, you can feel extra good about yourself given that the $9.25 meal donates $6 of each sale to the Edible Schoolyard and The Double H Ranch foundations. Last month’s collaboration with Batali raised about $10,000, which is approximately 1,666 individual orders. And that, says Chaupoly, “Is a lot of sandwiches!” 
 
You can get the special for a limited time at both the Grand Central and Union Square locations of Num Pang. 

Guest Chefs: Getting Chefs Out of the Restaurants

When Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen finalist Paula DaSilva showed her Miami heat to the James Beard House yesterday, the 1500 Degrees executive chef brought with her not only the whole kitchen staff, but a little bit of sunshine to the five-course menu. As the beaming DaSilva thanked everyone for coming, I felt the praise went to her for letting me try her Brazilian-inspired, farm-to-table food without ever having to step on a plane.

As the concept of celebrity chef becomes increasingly popular, a lot of other restaurants are sending their cooks to the city to showcase their food in a series of one-up dinners. Sine 1986 the not-for-profit James Beard House has been one of the biggest providers of this type of dining. Some upcoming meals to look forward to include the pork-centric feast by Daniel Doyle of Poogan’s Porch in Charleston on June 14. Then they host more Hell’s Kitchen alumni as Connecticut based chefs Kevin Cottle and Van Hurd do a soft shell crab extravaganza on July 11, and, on July 19, chef Adam Keough from the San Francisco will bring a taste of Absinthe Brasserie and Bar to the table.

City Grit is another way to experience chefs from around the country. Run by Food & Wine’s Home Cook Superstar Sarah Simmons, the pop-up establishment is meant to showcase chefs that don’t always get to be the stars of their own restaurants or ones visiting the city. Today and tomorrow, they feature award winning chef John Currence from City Grocery in Mississippi as part of their new series “Secrets Behind the Chef.” Past chefs have included Top Chef contestant Ty-Lor Boring previewing his upcoming restaurant and “the angry chef” from Atlanta, Ron Eyester. The schedule goes up monthly, so check it out for upcoming events.

For those wanting to try star chef’s food in a more intimate setting, and give something to charity, on July 24 Just Food and the Sylvia Centerhave put together A City Farmer, A Chef, and A Host a series of 14 dinners that take place at private homes around the city. Though this event is geared toward local chefs, it’s a good way to try some food from some of the hottest restaurants around and features chefs like Dan Kluger from ABC Kitchen, Robert Gurvich of Alison Eighteen, and Andrew Carmellini of The Dutch. It’s expensive, sure, but lets you experience these chefs in a whole new light.

No matter which way you go, the time of having to go to one restaurant (or many, if it’s Danny Meyer) to sample a chef’s cuisine is slowly changing, which is great for many diners. 

Spinning the Beatbox by Dr. Dre

There’s only a few things that can make a lunch at Jean Georges’ ABC Kitchen better, and one of those things is a special guest. I had the chance to preview the new Beats™ by Dr. Dre™ Beatbox Portable in the white color. While we couldn’t actually test the unit in the restaurant, the weight and size was a clear indicator of how powerful the speakers were. Fortunately, the BlackBook offices are across the street, so we were able to take the Beatbox back and take it for a spin.

While blasting Flosstradamus’ remix of Major Lazer’s "Original Don," we noticed the sound was super clear and incredibly powerful. The sound was well-balanced and maintained the same quality of sound that the other products in the Beats by Dr. Dre line hold standard. Our rep informed us that the March 14 episode of American Idol will feature the speakers in action as Jimmy Lovine will integrate the functionalities of the speakers into his vocal training.

One great function of the device was that it supports wireless connections to most smartphones and will be targeted towards the HTC 1X (with Beats by Dr. Dre integration). The large handles on either side make the speakers easy to carry for days in the park or to the beach the embossed  “b” in the speaker grill is definitely a nice touch. At a great price point and aesthetic value, this is one guest everyone should try to invite to their next social function.

Beatbox Portable will be available exclusively from AT&T* in white or black at company-owned stores or online at www.att.com beginning March 11 for $399.00.

Locavore’s NYC: Favorite Farm to Table Restaurants

Summer is officially over. Lush green foliage, weekend trips to greener pastures, and nautical stripes will be replaced by colder temps, tighter deadlines, and, in some cases, wider waistlines. But, like our inevitable Indian Summer, some things needn’t be phased out so quickly. Running along the river will still be nice until they begin to turn off the water fountains in November, and you can still enjoy fresh farm-to-table eating, as green markets are open year round. However, robust organic shoppers aside, most of us will prefer to get our fall gourmet fixes at cozy, heated restaurants—and as luck (or living in New York) would have it, you can continue your summery locavore habits at a multitude of restaurants around the city. Even better, you can enjoy fall’s ever-changing harvests with their daily seasonal offerings. These are some of my favorite restaurants that support healthy and sustainable eating—good for you and for the environment.

ABC Kitchen Locavoricious spread drops organic, pesticide-free versions of homemade ravioli, whole wheat pizza, roast pork with apple and Meyer lemon. Herbs and micro-greens imported from the rooftop garden. Green buzzwords also apply to chic rustic décor: reclaimed wood tables, handmade porcelain tableware, bread baskets by the Mapuche people of Patagonia. Makes living the zeitgeist as easy as A, B, C.

We’re only a few blocks from the Greenmarket and will create dishes based on whatever we find. Everything—vegetables, fruit, cheeses, meats, flowers—is sourced as locally as possible.” — Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Anella Seasonal American trattoria—so seasonal they source from Greenpoint’s Rooftop Farms and their own backyard. The green theme carries over to the petite bar, which is made of workbenches recycled from the Steinway factory. Menu boasts brick-oven pizza, bread baked in flower pots, Chatham cod with wine-braised fennel and olives.

Cookshop Comfort food for the organic set from the pros behind NoHo power luncher Five Points. Open kitchen, modern, subtle farmhouse vibe—though the dinner check would run an actual farm for a week. Extend your life with sustainable poultry, local fish, and grass-fed meat. Grilled Montauk squid and Catskill duck breast keep it close to home. Happy food makes for happy arteries. Cancer is for losers.

Mas Farmhouse The chef from Bouley employs classic French technique, but with local and seasonal American foods. Farm-raised pork belly and guinea hen, domestic cheeses, house-made sorbet. Honors seasonal vegetables as much as guests; both are beautifully attended and respectfully served. Perk: Chef Galen Zamarra changes his menu daily.

The Green Table Table heavy in local ingredients and country charm serves all-organic sustainable food and wine. Tender Manx Station grass-fed beef, slow-roasted Satur Farms baby heirloom beet salad, ever-changing vegan “farm plate” showcasing the best in seasonal fixings. Quaint kitchen surroundings and never-ending wine list enhance the feel-good experience.

Savoy Mediterranean-tinged traditional American like salt-crusted baked duck, which is just as decadent as it sounds, and a plumnose snapper as fun to eat as it is to say. Fresh green stuff straight from the farmer and homemade desserts. Manicured globe-trotting wine list touches down everywhere from Chile to Basque country.

Blue Hill BH is a staple in the locavore’s list of restaurants. Seasonal produce from the Hudson Valley, which we’ve heard is somewhere nearby. Foie gras with rhubarb and black pepper, poached duck and roast pork, among many spectacular achievements. Unparalleled commitment to freshness and ingenuity. Spare, elegant, unpretentious ex-speakeasy space. Seasonal tasting menus may result in embarrassing foodgasm a la Meg Ryan, but try to keep it down, as this is a classy place.

Main Photo Via Brooklyn Paper

Where Celebs Go Out: Hilary Duff, Michelle Trachtenberg, Kristin Bell

Martha Stewart at Good Housekeeping‘s 125th anniversary “Shine On” benefit for the National Women’s History Museum – Mmm. I love La Grenouille. I love everything of Jean Georges. I love everything of Daniel. And I love Benoit, right around the corner, yeah. Every one of them has its specialty, of course. If you go to Benoit, you can have the oysters—they’re delicious. The souflees are like the best. And at Grenouille—the frog’s legs.

Hilary Duff – That’s a good one, I have to answer that. In L.A, Giorgio Baldi. ● Meryl Streep – Women’s National History Museum, which is yet-to-be-built on the mall, in D.C. ● Michelle TrachtenbergYerba Buena. ● Kristin Bell – In Los Angeles, Real Food Daily. ● Gayle King – I love Jean Georges and I just discovered Quality Meats the other day on 58th, really good. ● Candice BergenJean Georges at the Mark, at the moment. ● Liz SmithSwifty’s, at Lexington between 72nd and 73rd. It inherited the old Mortimer’s crowd, but it’s smaller. They just have the kind of food I love. I can always find something wonderful to eat there: tuna carpaccio, their little hamburgers, vichysoisse. I like everything they do. ● Carolyn Maloney – I go in my neighborhood—Paola’s, right next door, hot dogs on the street the Four Seasons is always a great restaurant. Every corner has a great restaurant. ● Marlo Thomas: – I love Nello, Bella Blue, Il Mulino, and Primola. I’ve got a million of ’em. ● Phil Donahue – We enjoy Nello and Primola. We’re an east side crowd, so those are two of them. And I don’t get out like I used to, so I don’t have as many to suggest to you. But I hope those two will be fine, and I haven’t hurt their reputation by endorsing them. ● Laura BenantiABC Kitchen. I like Back Forty as well. They’re incredible. Their hamburger is the best in the city. And they’re both all local and organic. ● Anika Noni Rose – Dang it, I just went completely blank! Wait a minute. Give me a second because I love to eat, and I am a restaurant girl. Pio Pio is Peruvian and has the best chicken in the world. It’s on 44th and 10th Avenue. ● Cheryl Tiegs – I live in Los Angeles. The Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge, and MyHouse.

Where Celebs Go Out: Hugh Jackman, Parker Posey, Reshma Shetty

At the premiere of City Island:

● ANDY GARCIA – “In New York there are so many great restaurants. There’s an old one I’ve gone here for many years that I like to visit, just out of nostalgia. It’s a very good restaurant. It’s called Il Vagabondo. It has a bocce court in it. It’s just a very picturesque place; very, good food. Cipriani’s. There’s a new one called Nino’s. Scalinatella — a lot of Italian restaurants, you can tell. I always pop my head into Victor’s Cafe. And then, I’ve got to have a Gray’s Papaya hot dog here.” Any plans to visit Cuba? “Oh, I dream about visiting Cuba every day. But some people have to leave there first.” ● HUGH JACKMAN – “I’m a real junkie for Jean-Georges Vongerichten. I love his cooking. I just went to his place up in The Mark, and I was lucky enough to go to his new restaurant down at ABC Carpet and Home — all organic, every ingredient’s within an 100-mile radius. The food is just unbelievable there, so … Any special dish? Chicken. He told me his secret: brine. You got to brine your chicken.” ● VERA WANG –“I like Morimoto, and I like Bar Masa, and I love the new Mark Hotel, and Sant Ambroeus, uptown and downtown, Mr. Chow’s. I go out to eat a lot — you can tell.”

● SANDRA BERNHARD – “I love Cookshop, which is downtown. I love BLT Fish, one of my favorite restaurants. Babbo. Of course, I love 2nd Avenue Deli. I’m very into trying to eat locally, sustainably grown food. I’m doing more and more cooking at home because of my daughter. And I’ve always eaten very balanced and healthy, but, to me, it’s about really preserving the environment, as well.” ● ZOE KRAVITZ –Five Leaves in Brooklyn, in Greenpoint. Delicious.” ● PARKER POSEY – “I’m trying to give a good recommendation for something. Mary’s Fish Camp.” ● DOMINIK GARCIA-LORIDO – “Oh, wow! I’m, like, so not a club person anymore. I’m pretty much a homebody. I live in L.A., so … I like more dive bars and chill spots where you can hear good music. I don’t like really sceney places. I don’t like where you have to dress up. I’m more, have a beer and chill; watch a game. I have to give a shout-out to the guy I work for, as a waitress. I still work there. It’s a lounge in Studio City, California, called Next Door Tapas. It’s attached to an Italian restaurant, La Loggia. It’s a really chill, tapas bar in the Valley. It’s got good drinks and good food.” ● STEVEN STRAIT –The Smile on Bond Street — really, really cool place; a little coffee shop that’s got great food, great coffee; really relaxed, cool place. I grew up here, but I don’t live here anymore. I love staying at the Chelsea Hotel. It’s got so much character; really, amazing history; inspiring place. It’s really kept to its roots. The city’s expanded around it. It’s really held firm. I appreciate that.” ● RESHMA SHETTY – “My favorite restaurant, at the moment, is Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar. I love that place. Bar-wise, the Russian Vodka Room does a mean apple martini. And they have a fabulous happy hour: $5, 4-6.” ● GRAHAM PHILLIPS – “One thing that’s been fun is that I’ve noticed is that all the best pizzerias are in Brooklyn, and I used to never really go to Brooklyn, but now that the show [The Good Wife] films in Brooklyn, I’ve been going to all these pizzerias. I have a list on my phone. Someone sent it to me. I’ve just been trying to check ’em all off my list. Joe’s Pizza, Bleecker and Carmine, unbelievable! Di Fara, Brooklyn, Avenue J — I tried that. That was unbelievable! I also tried Grimaldi’s. And they were all unbelievable. They’re all in the same genre of this authentic New York pizza, but they all have their little twist to it.”

NYC Openings: World Center Hotel, Café Royal, ABC Kitchen

World Center Hotel (Lower Manhattan) – Trump’s massively overpriced outpost; great for indulging delusions of grandeur. ● Café Royal (Greenpoint) – A bar tabac for G-Point. Minus the smoking. ● ABC Kitchen (Union Square) – Jean-Georges Vongericthen makes organic, sustainable dining as easy as A, B, C.