More Oysters For Your Eating Pleasure

From the guys behind the Almond restaurants comes L&W Oyster Co., a laid-back and fine-dining eatery all in one, with, you guessed it, plenty of bivalves. "Oysters are timeless, delicious, nostalgic and sexy,” said co-owner Jason Weiner. “These are also the characteristics that we strive to achieve with our restaurants, so in a sense, opening an oyster parlor was inevitable for us."

Owners Eric Lemonides, Antonio Rappazzo, and Jason Weiner call it a “bi-concept seafood restaurant,” meaning they start the day with a clam shack type of meal and follow it up with the more high class oyster and martini bar. Behind the dishes is Per Se and Ritz Carlton alum David Belknap, who whips up afternoon plates of lobster BLTs and bowls of classic New England clam chowder in 30-minutes-or less. Talk about a power lunch.  

On the dinner menu, you can order plenty of sustainable seafood dishes including shrimp “scampi” cavatelli, smoked bluefish fondue, and baked clams. Then, there are the oysters. The raw bar at L&W Oyster Co. boasts eight rotating types of east and west coast bivalves like the Mike Osinski’s Widow’s Hole, plus, littleneck clams, chilled lobster, and fluke crudo.

Opened in what used to be the Bar Breton space in the Flatiron district, the new L&W Oyster Co. is an open and airy space with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, wood and white luncheonette booths, banquets, and comfortable community tables in the center. During the day, they have paper napkin dispensers and placemats, and, come evening, linen and china. Luckily, no matter how you choose your oysters, they are still delicious and fashionable.

Industry Insiders: Mark Zeitouni, High Standard

It’s November, which means executive chef Mark Zeitouni is back at the Standard Spa, Miami Beach, cooking light yet flavorful foods with an eastern Mediterranean edge for his health-conscious guests. He recently wrapped another successful summer at Sunset Beach on Shelter Island, where the similarly light menu nods to Saint-Tropez, but his focus on seasonal produce and local ingredients ensures plenty of variety for sun-seekers fleeing the big city for some zen-like calm by the ocean. BlackBook caught up with Zeitouni while he was still in New York–on a fishing boat, no less–and got the lowdown on how he grew to love fresh, simple, “un-muddied” flavors.

Where were you born and where were you brought up? 

I was born in Staten Island, New York. We moved down to South Florida when I was in elementary school. I took to everything from horseback riding to fishing to tennis to soccer. For me, it was like moving to heaven. I finished up school there and went to the University of Florida. I started out in the engineering school and finished up in design and art school. In college I worked in a Japanese restaurant and at that point, after cooking for a few years, I decided I really didn’t want to be a starving artist and there really wasn’t much else you could do with an art degree, so I went to cooking school. They were building a new cooking school in South Florida, so the stars seemed to be in alignment.

How did you wind up at The Standard?

After graduating from cooking school and cooking around Miami, I met a chef who took me to San Francisco and I worked there for a while. The produce and everything that they were doing in San Francisco was just mind-boggling at the time. A few people I knew told me that this job was open at The Standard, and they actually came to me and said, “Mark, that job is perfect for you, it’s a health spa. You’re known for light cooking. You cook a lot of vegetables.” I went down there, and everything just kind of clicked. My style and what they were looking for and what the hotel was about was a great match.

Your background in cooking involves a lot of vegetables and lighter takes on dishes. Does that have to do with you being into fitness and wanting something more healthy but also flavorful?

Some of that. I’ve never been a gym rat, but I love cycling and playing around outside. But I think it’s more about listening to your body. I’ve always been into very bright foods that are what I would call un-muddied. I really wasn’t into the French styles of cooking where they would cook stuff down and cook it and cook it and add twenty different things to it and it just would get these muddy flavors. I’m like, let’s keep it as pure as possible. Let’s not cook it if we don’t have to, let’s use very bright flavors, things like lemon juice and vegetables. I would always opt to make a sauce out of a puree of a vegetable rather than a veal sauce or a heavy chicken sauce. When you’re cycling, for example, the last thing you want to do is eat a heavy meal laden with cream and butter and then jump on your bike. After I was hired at The Standard, I was looking back and wondering, “How did I end up as the chef of a health spa?” It really just seemed like a very natural thing to me. So I don’t think it was anything forced, it was just the way I was heading anyway. It just happened to be a great match.

As far as The Standard is concerned, what would you say is one of the signature dishes that you’ve made there that’s really proven popular, and what about it do you think makes people like it so much?

We do a mussel dish there that’s basically mussels cooked on a very hot skillet, and the only thing we really do to them is add a little bit of sea salt and cracked pepper. And we also do a lot of what we call simply grilled food, which is the same thing, with just fish. And I think that’s what we’re really known for. What we do special is what we don’t do to the food. We’re known for very fresh ingredients and for really highlighting the innate flavors. With this mussel dish, for example, it’s probably one of the only mussel preparations you’ll ever see where it’s not being cooked in a liquid. It’s not being cooked in wine or some type of stock or something like that. We also do a ton of vegan items. We are the type of retreat hotel where people come to stay with us for three or four days at a time and usually don’t like to leave the premises much. They’re coming from places like New York or LA, and they really want to come there, take some classes, get some massages, sit by the pool and hang out on the water. We try to have a menu where you can always find something that’s going to fit within your diet or food taste. We also do a raw vegan lasagna, which has become a signature dish at the hotel. It uses a cashew cheese and dehydrated vegetables and nuts. It’s very light food. The flavors are very bright, and there’s nothing confusing about it. Even though it’s a couple of different flavors layered in a lasagna, you can taste each one of them separately.

Yet as light as they are, there’s still some energy there, some protein so people can still work out, go to the beach and stuff?

Yeah, actually, most of those people have much higher caloric intakes. Somebody who’s practicing yoga for an hour and a half a day has a much higher caloric intake. You just have to make sure they’re not empty calories.

How did you wind up at Sunset Beach?

Even though the food at The Standard is healthy, it’s definitely not the type of experience like at Canyon Ranch where you really feel like you’re on this health diet. It’s healthy, but it’s also flavorful. So what really works for it at Sunset Beach is that our restaurant is on the water as well. I think that when you’re eating outside in an environment like that it’s not the same as when you’re sitting in an indoor dining room. At The Standard Miami, a lot of my guests are in robes and bathing suits and flip flops. So over the years, we would hire chefs for Sunset Beach, and André [Balazs] would say, “Hey Mark, can you go up there and help them cook like you know I like it when you’re sitting on the water?” Over time, I became more and more active in the menu and what was going on at Sunset Beach. Andre and I would talk about what we wanted to achieve at Sunset Beach. In Miami, when people get on the plane and fly down there, the last thing they want to be reminded of is the hustle and bustle of New York. So with Sunset Beach, we wanted people to be able to leave the city by car, by bus, by train, and now by our little sea plane, and be able in a very short amount of time to feel like they’ve been transported somewhere much farther away. It’s another outdoor restaurant. You’re going to be doing activities, whether you’re going to a party in the Hamptons later on in the night, or you’re eating lunch there and you’re going to go lay on the beach, and it’s all about how you are going to feel after you eat that food.

What are the differences between the two menus? Are there overlaps between The Standard and Sunset Beach?

Definitely. The menus are about 50% similar. The thing that is different though is that in Miami, where the spa is modeled after a Turkish style bathing spa, we do a lot more eastern Mediterranean foods. We have all sorts of hummus and baba ghanoush, and the cheeses are more towards the side of feta and cheeses like that. At Sunset Beach we want people to be able to close their eyes, assuming there’s not a New Yorker talking loudly next to them, and feel like they’re in Saint-Tropez. So at Sunset Beach, we’re not a health spa, but we definitely want light food. Food that you can sit at a table outside and snack on, that’s wonderful for seaside eating. We’re definitely modeling it after a Southern French coastal restaurant. So we do things like bouillabaisse, or a crudité modeled after Club 55 in Saint-Tropez and rotisserie chicken and things like that. We also serve a whole fish. We have sea bass, fluke on the menu, local scallops, lobster, all from the Long Island area. In Miami we serve snapper, grouper, Florida lobster. I wouldn’t serve a Maine lobster in Miami, but then again I wouldn’t serve a Florida lobster in New York. At both places we always have what we call market fish, which leaves it open for myself and my assistants to order whatever’s fresh and also pair it with whatever produce is available. So in Florida we have corn and tomatoes and local greens. Those are actually all available in the winter and then you have similar items here. We’re getting a ton of zucchini and fiddlehead ferns and all different types of kales and squash up here. And those dishes just give us the ability to basically say, ok here’s a very simply grilled local fish and here’s what the farmers have. Generally, with those we don’t even put a sauce with it, we just put a little olive oil with it and some lemon. But most of the guests I have, and most diners who are used to eating in coastal areas, generally just want a really fresh piece of fish grilled and a little sea salt and lemon. And those are things I think that really define what we do, because even though it is simple there is a lot of ways you can screw it up.

Sounds like you cook the kind of food you like yourself. Is that right?

Yeah. Last night I was at a dinner party in the Hamptons and it was basically a platter of grilled scallops, grilled shrimp, clams, and some cold orzo salad and tomato salad. I was with the general manager of Sunset Beach and some people who eat there quite a bit, and it was funny because after years of working in fine dining in San Francisco, it’s coming back and cooking with my wife’s mother and filling a table like we did last night that has really become the inspiration. It’s taking that type of experience, sitting there with friends eating super fresh seafood, simply grilled, but bringing that to a restaurant setting. That is something that I still look to as motivation and what we try to achieve at those two hotels.

What do you have planned for this fall? Heading back down to The Standard, any new innovations you have planned for the menu?

Yeah, I’m heading back down there. In fall we have stone crabs and Florida lobster. There are a few things that I think fit up here that will work down there as well, like the bouillabaisse. As the temperature in Miami drops slightly, especially by the water, putting a bouillabaisse on the menu is a good idea. And the fall is actually one of my favorite times of the year because I love pumpkin and some of the heartier squash, and then you start getting into some of the fruits that start coming later in the year.

All this healthy food, healthy living, environment, outdoorsy stuff. Don’t you ever eat junk food?

Every once in a while, I’ll eat a bag of Cheetos. But it’s like once a year.

I’m glad you didn’t say Pirates Booty because Cheetos at least give you the satisfaction.

Somebody brought home some Pirates Booty. I don’t even know what that is. Whether it’s Cheetos or something else, it’s still processed, it still has preservatives, it still has sodium in it, it still has all of these things in it, so just because they put it in a different wrapper I don’t really know how much better it is for you. I find that the biggest problem with most Americans’ diets is they don’t eat just vegetables, uncooked vegetables, whether it’s a cut up tomato or a sliced cucumber. And listen, I fight that as well, it’s very easy to go through the whole day just grabbing a piece of bread and eating that, not eating something that’s healthy. It’s a slippery slope.

People are in a hurry and the easiest food is the processed stuff. It is a little more work and sometimes more expensive to eat healthily.

Someone once told me that the hardest thing about being a vegetarian is having to plan. If you’re going to try to be a raw vegan or something like that you’re really going to have to carry around dried fruit with you because you get to the point where you’re so hungry and you didn’t plan and you just end up saying screw it and grabbing a chunk of bread or something like that. I’m not perfect in any way but there are a few easy things you can do. For example, I wish most Americans would stop drinking soda. Corn syrup is horrible. But I try not to tell people what to do.

Hopefully people will start to realize the effects of junk food on their health and how they feel when they eat it.

If you focus on how you feel after you eat something, generally you’ll start eating better. If you go to McDonald’s and you get a Big Mac and fries and a giant soda, and then you question how you feel two hours later, I guarantee you’ll start to change your diet.

You’re probably busy all the time, but when you do have some spare time, what do you do? Do you hang out at the beach?

Actually I’m on a boat right now. I just got done fishing. We’re heading back into the coast. I love fishing and cycling. Those are my two main activities. Occasionally, I’ll go out and play golf but I’m not very good at it so it’s frustrating.

What did you catch today?

Striped bass and bluefish.

The world record great white shark was caught out there off Montauk.

Thank God we didn’t see one of those.

Other than your own restaurants, name a couple of restaurants where you like what the chefs are doing and that you honestly enjoy going to.

I went to one the other day where it’s a guy from San Francisco that I used to work with and it really brought me back to Northern California cuisine. It’s called Almond, and it’s in Bridgehampton. I really enjoyed that. In Miami, I pretty regularly go to Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. He does a whole roasted fish in his wood oven that’s just to die for.

Still more healthy food. When you want to go out and get a steak is there a steakhouse you like?

I haven’t been to one in ages. Usually I’ll just cook it at home. I can’t actually think of a steakhouse. It’s been a long time.

Celebrate the First Day of Spring with Free Macarons!

Can this day get any better? Just when we thought it was enough that spring has finally started and 70 degree days are becoming the norm, a bunch of French bakeries have decided that today is also “Macaron Day,” and they’ll be handing out FREE samples of the colorful, circular morsels!

Organized by macaron master François Payard, today marks the third annual Macaron Day in NYC, which essentially means that the spring version of trick-or-treating can commence: stop by any –or all- of the 16 participating bakeries and mention “Macaron NYC Day” for a free almond and egg white cookie fille with decadent buttercream.
 
 
Of the bakeries that are participating, here are our neighborhood favorites:
 
Battery Park and SoHo: François Payard Bakery
West Village: Bosie Tea Parlor
Financial District, Upper East Side, Midtown West: Le Maison du Chocolat
Upper West Side: Bouchon Bakery
 
Each participating shop has Macaron Cards you can add stickers to; the more bakeries you stop at, the more you’ll fill up your card. When your card is complete, you can redeem it at Francois Payard Bakery West Houston for a FREE 12-piece box of macarons.
 
See? Hard work does pay off, so keep hustlin’.

Beach Blast: The Hamptons Flip Out This Memorial Day Weekend

After a few sleepy summers, shit is once again getting real in the Hamptons. What’s that mean? It means throw some wedges and a DSO-worthy outfit in the Birkin bag you’ve been using for the gym, because you are not going to have time to work out with all the new openings out east, though you’ll definitely have an opportunity to work it.

Under the best of circumstances, Hamptons properties see more flips than the schedule board at Penn Station, but this season has been off the charts. To wit:

Out: Madam Tong’s/ Madam Tong’s Redux In: Southampton Social Club Ian Duke (of NYC’s Prohibition) and David Hilty took over Jen Luc’s ill-fated Madam Tong’s last year, but not in time to change the concept (they just amended “Redux” to the offensive name), but this year they’ve taken the place speakeasy chic.

Out: Jean Luc East/Prime 103 In: The Beachhouse Micheael Gluckman, proprietor of the Boathouse, has added one of the marquee spaces to his “house” line. The huge space, with indoor and outdoor seating, has not had a restaurant worthy of it in quite some time. Will this one be different? Signs point to yes.

Out: Bamboo In: Shiki Gluckman unloaded his sushi place in East Hampton, perhaps to concentrate on Beachouse. There’s another sushi place there now. Raw fish and cold sake will set you right.

Out: Le Maison In: The Pomme Café The last vestiges of Jean Luc were exorcised from the Hamptons when the Trata guys took on JLX to make a go at their own French Bistro. It didn’t last. This season the folks behind The Pomme, a successful bistro in Astoria, toss their chapeaus in the ring.

Out: Almond In: Agave Almond vacated the building it’s been in for years for greener pastures. A yet-to-open restaurant called Agave will take its place. Do you really need to be told that it will serve Mexican food and tequila?

Out: Ocean Grill In: Almond Almond’s new digs are right on Main St. in Bridgehampton, and its loyal following is sure to follow to the larger space (with the added benefit of sidewalk cafe tables).

Out: Capri In: Capri Languishing after its Pink Elephant heyday, the Capri Hotel’s new owners (Steven Kamali of the Surf Lodge among them) have classed up the joint with a Nobu, a Cynthia Rowley boutique and a daytime/nighttime hang space called The Bathing Club.

Out: RdV In: South Pointe One of the largest dance halls in the Hamptons goes through yet another change of hands, and this time it gets spruced up with tiki bars and “extravagant” crystal chandeliers. Why is there an “e” on the end? Probably so they don’t get sued by the Vegas club “South Point.” You see, it’s totally different.

Out: Polish people In: The Elm OK, that’s not entirely true. Long ago the space now occupied by a veritable superteam of veteran club promoters was once a Polish social hall, but in recent years has been an event space for hire. It’s another cavernous Southampton space, and this summer is sure to be an nightlife epicenter, with high-profile acts and the Koch brothers “Day and Night” champagne brunch for daytime revelers.

Out: Lily Pond In: SL East Michael Satsky reportedly had liquor sponsors in place and had even put up a billboard on Hudson St. in NYC inviting people out to Lily Pond for summer 2011. Then his landlord turned around and gave the venue over EMM Group’s Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum and Michael Hirtenstein, who will bring their SL concept to the perennial club spot on the outskirts of East Hampton.

Out: Second House Tavern In: Ruschmeyer’s Another one one bites the dust in Montauk. By which we mean, another flea-ridden family motel (OK, some might say “old-guard piece of nostalgia”) bites the dust, as part of the team from Surf Lodge takes over another hotel/restaurant and makes it over in their own hipster-beachbum-no fleas image. Expect local cops to get writer’s cramp ticketing lines of cars on both sides of Fort Pond.

Check out the Hamptons Listings on the BlackBook Guides – and download the iPhone app – for the latest and greatest hangs, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Male Model Frenzy: Sean O’Pry

Sean O’Pry is the face of high-fashion powerhouses Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, and Lacoste, among others. Last month, the 20-year-old was named Forbes’ Most Successful Male Model, something other models spend years (until they age too much for the industry) trying to achieve. His public image is that of an honest kid from Georgia discovered by former America’s Next Top Model judge Nolé Marin via his MySpace pics. And yes, if you haven’t already heard the story, we agree. It sounds a little too good to be true. So, as much as we love singling out impostors … there’s nothing to expose on clean-cut Mr. O’Pry. His story’s legit. He’s strikingly good looking, and he’s a normal twentysomething kid. He makes fun of himself when necessary, and he gets the joke. Either way, it’s always compelling to hear what successful (and really, really, really good looking) people have to say.

What’s going on with you now? I’m going into acting, so I have a few projects there. With the modeling thing, it’s busy. There’s nothing to complain about.

Have you always aspired to act? I sort of just fell into it like I did this. I got a lucky break.

Has stardom changed you at all? Luckily, I’m a male model, so stardom is a ways off. If I was a girl model, I’d probably feel it a lot more. As a guy, you don’t get recognized. It’s kind of known in the industry, and that’s about it. I like that part, but I’d aspire for more one day.

You never get recognized? In Korea I get recognized. In New York, I think they’re just way too busy with their own lives.

What are your favorite places you’ve visited for work? I loved Korea. It was snowing while I was there. I’m from Georgia, and it really doesn’t snow much. Then I was in Moscow, and I just got back from Tulum in January. My favorite place so far is Kingston, New York. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We were shooting in this house, and it just had the Catskills wrapped around it.

Have you fulfilled any male fantasies working with female models? The first check in my book was Barney’s, and I kissed Jessica Stam on that shoot. I was like, “Now, if this is what male modeling’s all about, then I’m going to be very excited.” But I haven’t kissed anybody since. I think they were just trying to tease me.

What do your Southern friends think about your profession? My best friend’s a pipe layer, so we’re really quite different. He’s a six-foot redhead named Randy, and he lays pipes for a living. He’s good at his job. He’s a very hard worker. Before this, we built retaining walls for pools together. Going from retaining walls to male modeling … He just makes fun of me most the time.

Do your friends from Georgia come up to visit? Randy’s come up a couple times, and my buddies came up for my birthday last year. My family’s only been once, so my friends must like me more than my family.

Is your family supportive of the career choice? At first, my dad made fun of me a lot, but now he’s proud of me for accomplishing something in my life. My mother’s always been behind me, but I guess any mom would want their son or daughter to be a model. My dad had higher aspirations for me, but you know, this is what happened. I got handed this, and I took the opportunity.

They must be proud of your financial independence at your age. I’m happy about the financial independence ’cause I used to have to borrow money from my friends to go to McDonald’s. I can also help my family out. That’s a blessing.

Do you enjoy the social scene in New York? I choose not to go out anymore. I have a really small group of friends, and I quite enjoy beer pong at my apartment if I do say so myself. There’s way too many people at the places that people go out too.

Did you go through a party boy phase when you first moved? Oh yeah. I think everyone goes through that, if not a two-day phase where they’re finally like, “I can’t do it anymore,” then a year and a half phase like I did.

Did that affect your work in any way? No, I never drink before a job. I never have, and never will. That part of the job was always very professional. I don’t show up late; if I did it once it never happened again. If I ever drank before a job; I did it once and never again. I learned from my lessons and learned that going at it beforehand was not a good thing.

What are your extracurriculars? I do enjoy reading, and they have this great app on the iPhone that I can read books on. Also, the batting cages at Chelsea Piers. I used to play baseball in high school. And I like people-watching.

Where do you people watch? Out my window. There are some interesting people in the East Village.

Were you super nervous before your first test shoot? I never did test shoots. I did it all with my manager, who got me all my jobs off the Polaroid sheets for six months.

Were you ever skeptical that modeling wouldn’t work out? My theory was like, as long as you can suck your cheeks in, you’re gonna be good. That’s not what everyone does, but I did have my Zoolander moments at the beginning.

Did you ever get called out on that? Oh, I’ve been told to do it, too. I think I get called out more by my friends and by people who know me. I stopped sucking my cheeks in, just for reference — I don’t do it anymore.

Noted. Are male models bros with each other, or is it entirely competitive? Do I have a lot of bromances going on? You know, I’ve had a few. What you realize is that no matter what, someone is going out for your job. There are so many good-looking brunettes with blue eyes. It could be a competition in the ways of your looks, but after that, your personality is what you base your job on. After you go to the casting and give them your book, all you can do is be yourself. If they like that, they’ll book you. So, competition-wise, I don’t know if it’s a competition like we’re trying to win, or more competitive like, I’m me, and they’re not. I think that’s the only difference with me getting a job and them not.

Do you think it’s more competitive for girls? I think girl models hate each other. I’d love to just see a girl model brawl. How great would that be?

You want to go to college eventually, right? I definitely do. I’d love to be a marine biologist. I used to like digging shit up — so I wanted to be an archaeologist.

I’m sure you spend lots of time outside, being from Georgia. Yep, I’ve been bitten by a snake twice. On my birthday when I was 13 and when I was 14. A year apart, mowing the grass. And there was this really cute girl across the street watching. I think screaming that you’ve just gotten bitten by a snake isn’t the most attractive quality in a man.

What are the ups and downs of male modeling? My least favorite thing is the perception that if you’re a male model, you either take your clothes off for everything, or you’re gay. And I mean, some people are and some people do, but I don’t like that perception. When you hear these perceptions — let’s say in a blog — when people who don’t even know you decide things about you, that’s the thing I don’t like. The good thing about the job is that I have not met one bad person in this industry so far. Everyone I’ve worked with has been great. I’ve learned so many things, and the travel.

Where do you eat? The thing I love about New York is delivery. Anytime, anywhere. I quite like Almond, and I like Hop Devil Grill.

What about bars? I’m 20 so it’s not legal to ask me that question yet. Ask me when I’m in 21 or I could get people in trouble.

Do you look through magazines differently than before you started modeling? The only magazine I really ever picked up was Sports Illustrated. So I only really looked at the pictures until I got to the football articles. I’m not really going to go through a GQ unless it has a really great article about an athlete or something. Usually, I just like looking at the pictures. If the picture draws my eye, then I’m going to read it, and if not then I’m going to pass. I would definitely read an article to explain why they took the picture.

Also, do you have more of an appreciation for fashion as an art form or an industry now? Definitely. You realize that when you’re different behind the camera, you make something look completely different. You could take a pair of pants and you could put them on anyone, and it would take a whole new form. I think you can make fashion your own, and that’s a great thing. And I like a lot of free stuff.

Do you ever plan on moving back to Georgia? Yeah, it might be when I’m 85. As long as I’m still modeling, business is here. If modeling was in Georgia, I’d be the first one to go. I do miss Cracker Barrel and sweet tea though.

Have you heard any good pickup lines from girls in New York? I was dating a girl for two and a half years, so I never really got into the dating scene since I’ve been here. I spend most hours of the day in my apartment. I’m here for my job, I do my job and that’s all I really do. I’m quite boring.