For 100 Percent Local Eats and Drinks, Hit Up This Week’s Festival

No matter where you go, everyone has local and seasonal food on the brain. Whether that means it’s a crappy sports bar you walk into where they claim they use these ingredients (but really they are trying to capitalize on a trend), or places that are actually committed to the cause. This week, don’t bother trying to weed out the fakers; for a truly local food experience, hit up one of the establishments featured at Edible’s Eat Drink Local festival, which runs until June 30.

Not only can diners try truly local foods, but also beer, wine, and booze, all made in or near New York state. Some restaurants, like Northern Spy Food Co., Good Restaurant, and The Green Table, have always focused on local and seasonal fare and will be dishing out goods not far from their normal menu. The real treat is to try spots that aren’t known for concentrating on local goods and seeing what they are doing. For example, The Bowery Diner has a special dish each night, like tonight’s clams with spinach, Chinese sausage, and corn. You can get Swiss food made with local ingredients at Trestle on Tenth, locally sourced Peking duck at Bobo, and feel-good pizza from Nick and Toni’s Café on the Upper West Side. 

Naturally, Brooklyn is in on the game, too, with restaurants like the Saul Bolton’s popular eatery Saul, fresh Italian food from Osteria il Paiolo in Williamsburg, and both of George Weld’s joints,Egg and Parish Hall.  But wait, what about the drinks I mentioned before? Stop by Jimmy’s No. 43 for regional brews paired local meats and cheese, Almond for a glorious selection of New York craft beers, and for you wine lovers, on Thursday City Grit hosts a dinner that features rose from New York wineries. If that’s not enough, on Wednesday the Fifth Annual Taste of Greenmarket commences in the event space at 82 Mercer and includes chefs and bartenders from all over the city (Dan Barber, Julie Reiner, Michael Anthony, and more!) cooking up bites and making cocktails with food from, obviously, the Greenmarket. Also, as if eating locally didn’t make you feel good enough about yourself, all the proceeds from this tasting event go to support the Greenmarket Youth Education Project. 

4 Out of 5: Alex Leo on New York

Alex Leo is director of news product at Reuters Digital. This is her take on four places she likes, and one place she doesn’t.

RECOMMENDED

DeSantos – "This place has gone through more design iterations in three years than most restaurants do in a lifetime, but they’ve finally got it down (despite the cotton-used-as-art issue). DeSantos hits the perfect balance between intimacy and energy, just make sure they don’t seat you in the bar area, unless of course your date is really boring and you don’t care what he has to say. There’s nothing to avoid on the menu — they do everything well — but you’ll regret not ordering the truffle fries."

Moss – "While I will never be able to afford anything in this high-end design store, it is incredibly fun to poke around in. Rolling tables made out of found objects, brightly-colored crystal chandeliers and unidentifiable acrylic objects make this place more like a gallery than a store. The range of products and enormous price tags also make for fun people watching."

Bobo – "I am a sucker for any place that serves me brussels sprouts in pork fat, but Bobo offers more than just delicious sides. It has a wonderfully inventive seasonal menu, a great wine list and décor that makes you feel like you’re in a modern-day Henry James novel."

Fishs Eddy – "This Flatiron shop offers adorable housewares with a New York bent—how could I possibly resist a NYT Crossword Puzzle platter? It’s a perfect place to find gifts of all sizes and prices."

NOT SO MUCH

PDT – "Yes, yes, the speakeasy came back and walking through a phone booth in a hotdog shop to get to a secret bar is intriguing, but the place itself is depressing, snobby and not worth the price."

New York’s Orbed Food Trend Comes Full Circle

Could it be that we, as sophisticated New York foodies, are really just a just a bunch of babies stuck in Freud’s infamous oral phase? Mr. Psychology himself proposed that if a nursing child’s appetite was thwarted during any psychosexual stage, that anxiety could manifest in adulthood as a neurosis. Thus, an infantile oral fixation would spiral into an adult obsession with oral stimulation. While I often apply this theory to smokers and nail biters, perhaps everyone really just wants balls in their mouth. Why? It seems that spherical sustenance has been popping up all over town.

Lately, I’ve noticed an odd food phenomenon in the Big Apple. What started as a meatball craze, with folks flocking to the Lower East Side’s The Meatball Shop, has turned into a full-on gastronomical drift towards all things orbicular. My hypothesis began to take its circular shape whilst dining at bi-level West Village haunt, bobo recently, where my meal consisted of devilled eggs, crab cakes and gnocchi. Circinate coincidence? Last season’s Top Chef finalist and executive chef at Plein Sud located in the Smyth hotel, Ed Cotton said, “I can tell you that a sphere has a very pleasant and very nice visual look to it in general. So when you apply that shape and incorporate some food with it, it gives you a very clean sleek look to it.” Cotton clearly thinks it’s a visual phenomenon, but a trend nonetheless. He continues, “Other shapes are cool but squares can be boring. If someone walks over offering you a risotto square its just not the same as a risotto ball where people are more excited about it.”

Being that summer is abounding, it was only apt that I take my theory out East (okay fine, I used my latest journalistic assignment to go to the beach!) to investigate the orbed food trend with executive chef Joseph Rago of popular Fire Island restaurant, Island Mermaid. “I think circular foods are best when they are very natural looking (for example, look at the shape of eggs).”

“Diners are looking to have a fun experience, something that can surprise and excite them,” Rago continues. “While it is a trend, I think that it is best not deconstructed but rather used in its natural state like cheesecake pops or crab balls. Also, the convenience of making something into small balls and be able to market the way you can eat it as a quick and easy hors d’oeuvres at parties is vital.”

Rago recently added meatballs to his summer menu and claims, “people love them. It’s the familiarity of the meatballs that you can’t often find in a casual dining restaurant that make them special.” Though Rago admits, “I’m not a big fan of orbing food just for the sake of it. It doesn’t look natural. If you’re going to make a ball out of anything, the original structure should be there. Watermelon balls: good, meatloaf balls: blah.”

The creators of Dippin’ Dots may beg to differ. Tiny balls of ice cream have made their way to mass markets according to a recent article in the New York Times, which states, “While high-end chefs have lately been using liquid nitrogen to turn all kinds of food into dots, Dippin’ Dots was a pioneer, introducing its first product 23 years ago and creating a category that is now known as cryogenic ice cream… ice cream dots have traditionally been a novelty item, available primarily at entertainment venues and franchise stores… but these days, dot-style products are more widely available, thanks in part to new technology that can keep the products stable in supermarket and home freezers.”

Managing Chef and Partner Ralph Scamardella from Midtown’s Lavo is fully aboard the balled bites trend. For him, it’s all about the oral (nod to Freud). He says, “there’s a tremendous amount of mouth feel, when you eat little balls like round ravioli or coquettes. It’s also spoon-friendly—lot’s of sauce with small balls of food is a pure delight.

“Most chefs like to play around,” Scarmedella continues. “There are two schools of thought when it comes to this. One school is the chef who deconstructs everything and uses chemical food additives like Lecithin (a generic term to designate any group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues, and in egg yolk, composed of phosphoric acid, choline, fatty acids, glycerol, glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipids). The other school (myself included) goes for the all natural—a lot of flavor derived from nature. Round food is fun, but I like to do it organically.”

Ben Sargent, star of the hit Food Network television show Hook, Line, and Dinner put it best for me. He’s says, “I’ve always had a round food fetish. I like it. From the dumpling to the wonton—anything with a pouch is good. I think it’s a pop in the mouth experience. Whenever you have something round, like a pork bun, a dumpling, a meatball or even a Cadbury Egg, you get an explosion. That’s half the experience.”

These days, when it comes to cuisine, the circle of life will wind up on your plate. So, if you are stuck in Freud’s oral phase, skip the smoking and go right for the latest trend in culinary geometrics.

A Real Bloodbath in the Hamptons

“What time does this bloodbath actually start?” asked a young woman hovering by a grill in the Hamptons’ East End. Flesh was burning and blood cooked as people waited anxiously for the fourth annual en vogue cook-off, The Hamptons Burger Bloodbath, to officially begin. But there were no fisticuffs or knife fights at this year’s culinary mayhem (nor any fellatio mishaps, or accidental snorting of Ajax in the kitchen). Everyone in attendance appeared to be in jubilant-spirits as the event, which has gained serious momentum since it started, began heating up in the August afternoon. “It gets bigger and better every year. We have five great burgers this year,” said Ben Leventhal, managing editor of NBC’s lifestyle content and the host of the afternoon. “It should be interesting to see who wins.” What’s the competition? A simple concept born of simple food: hundreds of free gourmet burgers, four judges, five contestants both local and professional, and nearly two hundred animated guests primed to indulge in some of the finest burger eating on Long Island. All of the contestants were instructed to cook with the same beef, sponsored by Pat LaFrieda, and all were encouraged to customize flavors and add fixings as they saw fit, so long as they hewed to this year’s theme: Beach Burger.

This invite-only feast lasted for several hours and was set on traditional red and white-checked picnic tables that were spread across the spacious lawns of an exclusive summer beach home. Photos snapped, smiles were exchanged, and bottled drinks of every blend were handed out—including the very appropriate sponsor item BluePrint cleansing drink for an after burger colon wash. Everyone here knew everyone’s name (there was only one stranger). A few guests had even gone to grade school together.

By the time the grills were raging, word whipped around the party that the press was floating about, and the crowd became instantly quotable. “I ate so many fucking burgers last summer,” mentioned Joanne Wilson, a blogger who’s been “involved with the internet for years. I write about everything. I’ll write about this event too.” Perhaps she’ll allude to the lack of recycling bins at this year’s party?

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One man asked if there was sufficient material to write about. “Are you getting what you need?” he asked. He then filled in the silence with, “I’m sure you’ll get what you need. How many beers deep are you?”

From across the yard, Josh Capon shouted, “I’m starving. Let’s eat already!” Mr. Capon, 2009’s Bloodbath Burger champion and head chef at Lure Fishbar in Soho, believes that a good burger represents”a lot of love and a quality product.” Mr. Leventhal echoed this sentiment, adding his thoughts on what distinguishes one burger from another. “It’s not just the condiments. It’s the intangibles, too. Today should be fun.” The four panel judges sat at a table with a tightly woven crowd eagerly awaiting their response. The lineup included Pat LaFrieda, the supplier of the meat, Kate Krader editor at Food and Wine, Lee Schrager of the Food and Wine Festivals, and the aforementioned Josh Capon. “It’s going to be a difficult choice this year,” added Lee Schrager. But in the end it was house resident Mo Koyfman and his classic American burger that won the competition. The crowd rallied in applause, and he absorbed every bit of their adulation.

His winning treat was responsibly dressed in local tomato, pickle, lettuce, American cheese, ketchup, and Dijon mustard (subtle subversion), all stuffed between a lightly-grilled bun. His intent was to stir up judges and guests’ nostalgia, and ultimately to remind everyone that Americana wins again. But the other burgers had their own unique flavors, too: house resident Cobi Levy (of Charles and the hotly-anticipated tapas spot in the old Beatrice space) concocted a spicy Asian burger; Joe Tremblay of Sag Harbor’s Bay Burger brought out their Bleu cheese Bacon favorite; New York City’s new American restaurant, Whitmans, represented by Larry Kramer and Dan Hartwick, put together a ‘’juicy Lucy” stuffed with pimento cheese; and Westside NYC’s restaurant, bobo, featuring chef Patrick Connolly, unloaded a unique corn-squash spread for their bun.

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The attendees continued to discuss their favorite burgers well after the panel doled out its decision. One young woman sparked up a heady conversation about the famous cultural critic Jean Baudrillard. (Perhaps the beef excited her imagination?) She said she found it fascinating how Baudrillard depicted modern American life as merely a series of illusions that will slowly disappear.

As the August light began to fade, the crowd dispersed to various after and after-after parties. Smoke rose up from the smothered coals.

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New York: Top 10 Restaurants as Nightclubs

So, are restaurants really the new nightclubs? Check out these multitasking contenders.

Minetta Tavern (Greenwich Village) – A night at Minetta, complete with Barry Diller, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Harvey Keitel sightings, spawned this thesis. Your visit will confirm all the copious booze, packed interiors, and loud soundtracks of a nightclub, but you’ll also be served top brasserie eats. ● Hotel Griffou (Greenwich Village) – Stealth-posh scene-stealer serves up vintage dishes, but the elaborate array of intimate rooms is just as big a draw. Big enough to draw Leo, Chloe, and Kanye, among a glut of bold-faced names. ● Monkey Bar (Midtown East) – Graydon Carter’s latest monkeyshines lays down a hierarchical supper club scene, with banquettes for the literary elite and tables in the pit for you. Oysters named for Rockefeller, meatloaf named for Ephron. But it’s all about the scene.

The Waverly Inn (West Village) – High-wattage crowd in low-wattage light, with cozy, clubby feel that preserves the charm of the original. Still unlisted digits; go bathe yourself in the self-congratulatory vibe of the inn crowd inside. ● Charles (West Village) – Exclusive enough to start its run behind papered-over windows. But that’s how the peoples wanted it, and the unlisted number and email-only ressies just make this loungey supper spot all the more desirable. ● Delicatessen (Soho) – Corner attraction rocking enough lumber to show up a Lowe’s. Steers focus away from the food and onto the scene, which is tight, attractive, and ready to put away a few fancy-pants cocktails. And maybe eating. ● The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – Lofty, tri-level space is sleek and energetic; draws in the Yorkville types looking to experiment with “ethnic” food. On the nightclub side, the music’s loud enough to make a Pacha DJ wince. ● Buddakan (Chelsea) – Stephen Starr’s sixth-borough export still catering to overflowing MePa mobs scarfing down fusiony fare. Stunning, mansion-esque space delves deep. Able to accommodate every single person heading over to Kiss & Fly and Tenjune later, all at once. ● Double Crown (Greenwich Village) – AvroKO design masters follow up Public success with vintage vibe, sprawling space. Come colonize another stretch of the Bowery and let the pretty people distract you from the just so-so food. ● bobo (West Village) Ring the downstairs doorbell for Boho-Bourgie dinner party scene. Kitchen still not fully sorted, but that’s alright with the frisky crowd lounging about the elegant townhouse digs.

New York’s West Village Invaded by Killer Blood Oranges

For our upcoming December/January issue, we fed Chicago rapper Kid Sister a few gulps of Solerno, a new blood orange liqueur from William Grant. Her reaction: “It’s tastes like oranges on meth!” So last night, whilst huddled under blankets with various lovelies of the press and PR variety, petty cabs whisked me around to various West Village eateries to get elegantly wasted on various Solerno-infused cocktails. After the jump, cocktail recipes from some of the West Village’s hottest spots who are squeezing life (and blood) into their cocktails.

Breakfast Margarita (bobo) ½ oz Solerno 2 oz tequila ¾ oz lime juice ¾ oz grapefruit juice 1 heaping tsp. marmalade. Shake hard and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with grapefruit salt on rim of glass and a grapefruit slice. Italian Sidecar (Morandi) 1oz Solerno 2oz Villa Zarri Brandy .25 fresh lemon .25 fresh orange Served in a martini glass with a raw cane sugar rim.

Marco Polo (Gusto) 1 oz Solerno 2 oz Canton 1 oz fresh lime juice Shake with ice and strain over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a blood orange wedge.

Solerno Spritz (Fiamma) 1 1/2 oz Solerno 1/4 oz Aperol Fill with soda water. Build ingredients over ice in a tall glass. Use a soda siphon if possible. Garnish with a blood orange wheel.

Industry Insiders: Remi Laba of Bagatelle & Kiss and Fly

Monsieur Meatpacking: Bagatelle and Kiss and Fly‘s Remi Laba on boring models, the grub at Pastis, and bringing down the house (music).

Point of Origin: My dad’s American, my mother’s French. I was born in the US and raised in France. I can’t seem to negate my origin for some reason. Nightlife was an accident, to be honest. I was working for a liquor company, Pernod Ricard, and people were constantly asking me for sponsorship, and at one point I said ‘You know what? I’ll comp your sponsoring if my friends can come to your events.’ It grew from there until club owners starting saying they would pay me to bring people to their club. And that’s how we [partner Aymeric Clemente, formerly of La Goulue and Le Bilboquet] started, ten years ago.

We did it for fun until we realized it could really become a business. Everything we do resembles us. We try to create something that embraces the Jet-Set lifestyle in which we were brought up. When we started at Lotus, 8 years ago, Lotus was known for its hip-hop, models, whatever, and they called us and we brought in something very different. We brought DJs from Paris that were more focused on European house, and that brought the whole European crowd in and it became some of the highest generating sales ever for Lotus. We took that concept and moved it to our next venue, Marquee. We were part of the opening team at Marquee, then we did the Deck with Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker and all those guys. We took it to Bed Roof. We always take that same concept and each time make it a little more complete. Then we opened Pink Elephant, as promotional partners with those guys.

Occupations: Aymeric and I are the main partners at Bagatelle, we’re the partners here at Kiss & Fly, and I’m in charge of all the marketing and PR aspects of the venue. What Aymeric and I do better than anybody else is bring the French ambiance and atmosphere into the venue. So it not only looks French, but it feels French. We’re taking it to the level: the St. Tropez party lifestyle. It’s for people who like to drink great wine, eat great food, and like great parties. Go to Bagatelle on a Monday night and you’ll have a peaceful environment with great food. Then the vibe builds on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then by Saturday brunch we move into a full-blown party. But we’ll never compromise the food.

Side Hustle: Aymeric and I are partners in marketing company/DJ agency called In The Buzz, that does promotions at all the top nightclubs across the world and also represents some of the top talent when it comes to DJs. We also do consulting in the hospitality industry. That’s what brought us to owning our own venue. There’s 13th Street Entertainment, which basically owns Kiss & Fly, Bagatelle, and our new lounge opening the first week of September tentatively named Bagatelle Lounge. We represent Mitch LJ, who’s the resident DJ at Nikki Beach. Jacques Dumont, who is an older DJ, probably 47 years old, and was the resident DJ at Nikki Beach St. Barths for years. Now he’s our resident DJ here at Kiss & Fly. We’ve had David Guetta play here. It’s not exclusively house music, but the crowd they’re playing for likes primarily house. I think for all of us our side projects are our personal lives. It’s hard to balance that in this industry.

Favorite Hangs: The Hamptons are a big market with high visibility. A lot of people go there, and there are very few clubs to go to. Pretty much only Pink Elephant, Cabana, and Dune. We have a very good relationship with Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss and we host the Saturday night Kiss ‘N’ Fly party at Dune Southampton. But when I go to the Hamptons, I don’t go to socialize. I enjoy the beauty of the nature there. I love the beach at Flying Point, and off Route D in Southampton. In the city, I love going to Bar Pitti. It’s very unpretentious, a great terrace, and always good food. If I’m with a group of friends and want a good, fun dinner, I like Indochine, Bond St., Le Bilboquet; Aymeric used to be the GM there for several years. Bagatelle is a big version of Le Bilboquet. If I’m going to dinner with my girlfriend, I want to go upstairs at Le Colonial. I’ll never have dinner downstairs, it’s too formal. But the lounge is unbelievable.

Industry Icons: Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker were the first guys to understand the European factor in nightlife. They kind of made us who we are today. I’ve really enjoyed working with those guys. I don’t know if I look up to anyone really. If there are two guys who have had a memorable career so far it’s Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss. We worked with them at Marquee, then at Tao in Vegas. They are very, very hard workers, and what they’ve achieved is remarkable. I would never work the way they do. The way they work is very American. The way we work is more passionate, less driven by numbers.

Known Associates: My current associates are Aymeric Clemente, Corey Lane, Lionel Ohayon, David Graziano, and Jonathan Segal. My past associates are Richie Akiva, Scott Sartiano, Mark Baker, and Jeffrey Jah, Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg. We’ve promoted for Jamie Mulholland and Jayma Cardosa at Cain. We’ve basically crossed paths with every major person in the industry. It’s a small town.

Projections: We’ve established Bagatelle and Kiss & Fly in New York. Our next project is due the first week of September, fashion week, which will be the Bagatelle Lounge downstairs of Bagatelle and Kiss & Fly, at which point our 13th Street project will be complete–one restaurant, one nightclub, and one lounge. From there, we’ll move on, not necessarily with the same partners, but we’ll open Bagatelle restaurants and Bagatelle cafes in different cities. Ultimately our dream is to open a Bagatelle boutique hotel.We’d love to open something in Tulum (we’re looking at a property down there). We’d love to open Bagatelle, the restaurant as you know it, in London, Vegas, and San Paulo. We have offers in South Beach, but I don’t think Miami Beach is what it used to be. Though we did go to the Winter Music Conference in Miami for the past two years and did ‘Fuck Me I’m Famous’ with David Guetta at Cameo; that’s very successful.

Do you cater to a different crowd in the summer in the city than the rest of the year?

There’s definitely a different club crowd in the summer, not necessarily in quality. Most of your regulars go to the Hamptons in the summer or travel to St. Tropez, Ibiza, Croatia, etc. But there’s also a lot of tourists coming to New York in the summer who have read about venues and will come out. The truth of the matter is, if you have a good product and run your door properly, you can have the right crowd in your club every single night. If you focus on only celebrities and models and there are eight clubs going after the same clientele, there will be one winner and a lot of losers. But if you say, “Ok, I want my venue to be fun, I want the crowd to be pretty, and I want to generate dollars,” the way you look at things are going to shift. Some people say “Oh, my club is so great, we only have models.” Great, models are pretty, but are they the most fun girls you’ve ever seen in nightclubs? Not necessarily. Energy’s also a very, very important factor. If 1Oak says, “Oh, in the summer we have to sell out because all the good crowds are going away,” well, I’d rather sell out my crowd a tiny bit, but still maintain the level of energy.

Considering you’ve worked with Scott Sartiano and Jeffrey Jah, etc. in the past, do you see Butter as an influence or a competitor?

Butter is known for their Monday night parties. What Butter does on Monday nights, no one else does. It’s a concentration of models and celebrities in a very small space. Those guys have done great at it, they own Monday nights, but that’s not what we do. We’re not model-driven. [The Butter guys] aren’t competitors, they’re friends. We actually go to Butter on Monday nights when we can.

A lot of reviews of Bagatelle are calling you the next Pastis. Do you see yourselves replacing Pastis ever?

No. I think Pastis as a French bistro has had a lot of recent competition in the neighborhood, but we are very different. Most of the restaurants in Meatpacking, their concepts are big. We are very different; we’re small, 90 seats. We have a very personalized welcome. Aymeric and I are here every day. You can create an intimate relationship with the owners, which no other restaurant in the meatpacking can offer. At Pastis the food is average. At Bagatelle we pride ourselves on great food. Our chef Nicolas Cantrel, (who we “stole” from bobo), is a gift from God.

What are you doing tonight? I’ll be at Bagatelle caring to my guests and then dinner with my girlfriend later on.