This Week’s NY Happenings: Free Tastings at Boqueria, Filipino Fiesta At Bowery, Rub-A-Grub

TONIGHT (Monday): High On The Hog
The world’s greatest ham comes from the Pata Negra pigs that gorge on acorns in Spanish forests. If you’ve never tried Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, stop by Boqueria Flatiron tonight, where the tastings are free. (A sherry pairing is not a bad idea.) 

Complimentary tastings of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota start tonight, May 20th, and run through Wednesday, May 22nd, at Boqueria (53 W. 19th St., Flatiron). To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.
 
TUESDAY: Flip Out 
The rooftop of The Bowery Hotel goes tropical with a night of Filipino delights. Favorites like Jeepney and Zengo are on the bites, paired up with PKNY mixologist Enzo Lim’s cocktails.
 
Filipino Fiesta: A Culinary Tour of the Philippines starts at 6:30pm on Tuesday, May 21st, at The Bowery Hotel (335 Bowery, East Village). Tickets are $75. To learn more about the hotel, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.
 
SUNDAY: Aye, There’s The Rub-A-Grub
Bed-Stuy’s Do or Dine teams up with Sound Liberation Front for a reprise of last year’s Rub-A-Grub backyard bash. Rebel With a Culinary Cause chef Justin Warner will be laying out three rounds of food and drink, beginning with bottomless Bloody Marys, and finishing with barbecue. Ali Shaheed Muhammad of the band A Tribe Called Quest highlights the DJ array. Around 10pm, the scene shifts to One Last Shag for the after-party, but no worries—you can sleep in Monday. 
 
Rub-A-Grub starts at 2pm on Sunday, May 26th, at Do or Dine (1108 Bedford Ave., Bed-Stuy). Advance tickets are $15, or $25 for VIP entry. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.
 
Know every inch of this city by checking out inside-info on shops, bars, and restaurants at BlackBook’s NY City Guides

4 Out of 5: Soraya Darabi on New York

Soraya Darabi is a digital strategest and cofounder of Foodspotting. This is her take on four places she likes, and one place she doesn’t.

RECOMMENDED

Boqueria –  "A longtime fan of Boqueria in the Flatiron District, I was so pleased to see Tertulia open in the West Village this season. The Ibérico pork ribs are not to be missed!"

Dear Fieldbinder – "A best bet for vintage-inspired frocks with a German twist.  All of my coolest Brooklyn girlfriends shop here.  A signature key necklace I’ve worn every day for almost 6 years was purchased at Dear the first week I moved to the city from college."

Gramercy Park Hotel – "When it’s not a bustling ‘it’ spot, Rose Bar at The Gramercy Park Hotel makes for a mighty fine reading room.  You can find me there every Sunday afternoon, pretending it’s my own.  The art, expertly curated, changes seasonally and the fire is always roaring. Pro tip: If you’re nice to the waiters, they’ll let you order the salumi platter from Maialino and nibble it on a tray at Rose.

Trump Soho – The Trump Soho opened a killer spa last year, and I recommend their Turkish Haman baths constantly.   It’s an authentic wash and scrub down – perhaps not as pleasant as it is refreshing.  The cold jolts of water at the end are exhilarating.

NOT SO MUCH

The East River Promenade at night – The view of the boroughs bridges is gorgeous, but it can get a bit sketchy after 8. Stick to the West Side Promenade instead, starting with a tour of the High Line.

[Photo: Elk Studios]

Industry Insiders: Katie Grieco, Crafty VP

As vice president of operations and new business development of Craft Restaurant Group, Katie Grieco works shoulder-to-shoulder with famed chef and Bravo’s most recognizable Top Chef personality, Tom Colicchio. Overseeing the Craft, Craftbar, Craftsteak and ‘wichcraft locations nationwide (New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas) Grieco often has her hands full. She gets the job done one restaurant at a time.

Describe a typical day on the job. After the last five years being in this growth mode at Craft, opening on average a restaurant a year, a regular day for me would be normal office daytime hours. My job is dealing with developing new projects. If we’re opening a restaurant in Atlanta, then I’m working with the architect on the design, choosing materials, figuring out table layout, working on hiring managers for particular locations or working with the graphic designer. On any given day, I’m confronted with human resource issues. Someone needs to be hired or fired or counseled. I get involved with that when it takes place at the management level. I’m in constant communication with Tom. When he’s in town, it’s about sitting in his office and keeping him up to speed on everything that’s going on and asking his advice on certain decisions.

It sounds like you’re never out of things to do. No, never. It’s fun that way, and I appreciate the lack of routine because I think it keeps me inspired to continue learning.

Did Tom’s involvement in Top Chef change the dynamic of the company? The only way it changed the dynamic of the company is that it brings a group of people into the restaurant who might not have otherwise come. The show has an enormous fan base, and Tom has an enormous fan base. He gets all sorts of letters of praise, and people who watch the show and know Tom think, “Oh I should go and see what it is that he really does and understand how he is as a chef and why it makes him a good judge.” That’s certainly the main reason why he wanted to do that show in the beginning. He thought, “People know me in New York, but they don’t know who I am in Dallas, and so, if I can do this show it can get the word out about Craft.” It had nothing to do with wanting fame or notoriety in the celebrity sense. His involvement in the show has really achieved the goals that he set out to meet. It’s been a welcome addition to the Craft world.

Are you a Top Chef fanatic? I watch the show religiously because of Tom but partly just because I love it. If I had no involvement in the restaurant business, it would completely turn me off from being a chef. Many years ago, I had visions of being a chef which is sort of why I got into this business.

You started off as Tom’s personal assistant? I got my masters at Cornell in hospitality management, and when I got out, I wanted a management position somewhere. I had no service experience and was not ready to be a manager but signed on to be Tom’s assistant. I thought Gramercy Tavern seemed to be the place I wanted to work. It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. It got me a career that I love, and I met my husband ant Gramercy Tavern. Tom has given me so much autonomy well before I even deserved it.

Where do you eat and drink outside of Craft? One of my favorites is Lupa. I also like Boqueria. My husband, Paul Grieco, is also in the restaurant business so we go to his restaurants, Hearth, Terroir and Insieme.

Since both of you are in the restaurant business, are you competitive? I suppose some people on any given night are thinking, “Should I go to Hearth or should I go to Craft?” But not really. I think we target different parts of the market, and we’re in different enough neighborhoods.

Has Craft’s emphasis on using local foods wavered at all recently? It hasn’t changed at all. We still have the same priorities as far as using local ingredients and the highest quality ingredients we can find. The recession has made us think of different ways to use the ingredients. For example, we use fava beans for a different use at Frugal Fridays than when we use them at Craft. We can never change the focus of seasonal, high quality ingredients. We could go out of business if we ever did because that’s really what Craft is all about.

Recent positive trends in the industry? When the downturn first happened, I was sitting in management meetings and saying, “Lets not look at this as punishment, let’s look at this as an opportunity to do something great and different and new.” The restaurant business is never easy. It used to be like, if you opened your doors you could makes some money or be trendy enough for a little while. Now things need a shake. There are just too many, and having this opportunity to let the good people rise to the occasion and do some new things has been a lot of fun.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? My guiltiest pleasure is watching America’s Next Top Model. It’s horribly embarrassing.

What’s your dream spot for a Craft location? I’d have to say London. We’ve talked a lot about it, and we’ve always thought that London would be such a perfect city for a Craft.

New York: Top 10 Tapas Restaurants

1. Alta (Greenwich Village) – Alta, as in “high,” as in “haute,” at this sexy Village tapas spot. 2. Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar (East Village) – Mannered tapas more about multiple changes of silverware than half-gallon pitchers of sangria. Put on a classy costume. 3. Flor de Sol (Tribeca) – Sexy Spanish tavern with the best sangria in the hood.

4. La Nacional (West Village) – Subterranean Spanish haunt hosts the most authentic tapas experience in NYC. 5. Casa Mono (Gramercy) – Man’s man’s tapas. Meat good. Make happy. Grunt. Grunt. 6. Oliva (Lower East Side): Basque home cooking that’s as wonderfully odd and complex as the language itself. Plus best sangria in the hood. 7. Tia Pol (Chelsea) – Basque in the glow of top tapas. Small plates = small waists. No reservations = long waits. 8. Boqueria (Union Square) – Realest Valencian paella in town courtesy of a guy named Seamus. Melting pot and all that. 9. Mercat (Greenwich Village) – Seared Catalonian tapas as solid as the brick, marble, and wood that make up this market-inspired NoHo newcomer. 10. Harbour Drive (Soho) – Spanish seafood in luxe yacht interior evolves into a rockin’ Marbella party boat.