At Lit Lounge: The Hottest Person to Ever Say Hi to Me & The Melvins

It started innocently enough; a Sunday night stroll through the hood and a look-what-we-found by the trash and the decision to give this sassy little painting to our friend Adam at his new tattoo shop Magic Cobra Tattoo Society (775 Driggs Ave., off South 3rd). The next thing you know I’m getting yet another pin-up tattoo. No worries, I’ll only have it for the rest of my life… and besides, I love it more than the dinner I was craving at Pies-n-Thighs. Adam Korothy did the honors on me while his partner-in-crime Kati Vaughn did my partner-in-crime Amanda’s tattoo. While I was there and half naked, we added a little to the "boxing babe" on the back of my arm who preaches my downfall with "I LIKE ‘EM SASSY.” Adam retraced the large damsel in distress on my bicep who proclaims…lest I forget … "DON’T BET ON DAMES.” We were looking forward to the Inked Magazine “Sex D.R.U.G.S. & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL” issue party Monday at Lit Lounge, my favorite hole-in-the-wall, and figured the new ink would set the right tone.

Monday night we gathered our regulars and BINGO’ed at Bowery Poetry Club as usual and, of course, the usual and unusual Linda Simpson and the returning Murray Hill kept us laughing and praying and begging for ultra-important things like  N31 or O67. B Bar barkeep and his lovely Katie won big, representing our tables large. After the last chance at Bingo glory was over, we kissed our friends goodbye and popped into the jammed Lit. We headed to the attached FUSE Gallery space which was the VIP holding pen.

There, it was decided that LIT/Fuse honcho Erik Foss, and A.R.E Weapons drummer Eric Rabin and I were going to get bro tattoos from Jes of Smoking Tattoos (18 St Marks Place). We three musketeers got cobwebs from the fabulous Jes. Mine says Lit. The cobwebs represent the many great years that the old club has given us and carries the hopes of many more.

Back at the Inked event, the Jagermeister and slamming DJs kept the usually incoherent rockers positively stoopified. Former Inked cover girl and quite possibly the hottest person who ever said "hello" to me, Alesandra Nicole, who I was told was a model / Internet celebrity kept me mesmerized and fearful of my life. 

Steve Lewis tattoo Amanda and I had our usual "that’s the kind of girl you should be dating" chat and I swore allegiance and pointed to our still-healing matching tattoos. I spied or was told these fab folk were there, Joshua Wildman (artist/photographer), Gen of Genatorturers, tattoo model Raquel Reed, chef Chris Santos, Steven Tyler’s daughter Mia, and artist Nikki Sneakers. We got to chat up the wonderful Zosia Mamet who we just love, love love in Girls.

Lit is banging all week with Natacha Sanchez and Just C presenting Worlds Collide 4 tonight with performances from Gswagga, AHGEDA, and Streight Angular and DJs El Rojo, OG Chino, and Sonido Confirmacion.

On Friday night Brent Barber and his Bicycle Film Festival has their 12-year opening anniversary party at Lit starting at 9pm. It figures to go real late.

The whole thing will culminate with a huge bang Saturday night when Melvins and Hammerhead play LIT in a very small intimate engagement Erik Foss told me is his "dream come true! Only next to Elliot Smith playing his last NY show here, nothing this monumental has happened at Lit before.” Save maybe the night I walked in with Ron Jeremy and a bunch of gals left with my number one.

Lit remains a reason to be cheerful. It is an old-school saloon-type joint that hits hard when it hits. The Melvins will be an incredible show and I will be there. 

 

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My First Time: Last Night At Beauty & Essex

Beauty & Essex is one of those places that fell into my social cracks. Believe me; there are many of those and other categories of cracks and, yes, I’m starting to see wrinkles around my eyes. My birthday (Feb. 2nd) is coming up and, well, it’s just starting out to be one of those days. Probably because it was just one of those nights. Anyway, before last night, I had never been to Beauty & Essex. I’ll let the "what kind of nightlife writer do you pretend to be?” lines get out of the way and just say… "it happens.”

Chris Santos, the owner/operator, has invited me a zillion times, and I adore him and respect the brand a lot but…it happens. So last night, I finally went to Beauty & Essex, and it was for bon vivant and scallywag Dave Delzio’s birthday bash. He was there – a hundred familiar people told me – but, alas, I couldn’t find him for an hour. As I was leaving, I finally spotted the rock and roll-club promoter. Dave showed me his new neck tattoos and I asked him a few questions about growing up.

How old are you and what do you have to be most proud of on this day?
I’m 38 and I’m dating the most beautiful girl in the world and I couldn’t be happier?

Why do this party at Beauty & Essex?
Chris Santos is my best friend and it always feels like home here

What do you want to be when you grow up?
You !!

One of the attendees at Dave’s birthday bash was the charming and disarming El (Lindsay) Grace, a beautiful, fresh, up-and-coming model/photographer. Her band, El Grace, will be performing its new age, ambient, psych folk offerings at The Delancey this coming Monday at 10pm. She will be celebrating her birthday at the gig. I would be there but I’m DJing at the new Passenger Bar for Sailor Jerry’s Birthday. Unfortunately, Sailor Jerry will be a for sure no-show.

Speaking of, Charlie Sheen was a no-show at the New York screening after-party for A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III at Hotel Chantelle. Still, there were plenty of celebrities to gawk at from Chantelle’s roof. I arrived as it was winding down; the staff was abuzz about the likes of Swan III director Roman Coppola’s clan which included Francis Ford Coppola, Sophia Coppola, Eleanor Copolla, Jason Scwartzman, Sean Lennon, Anna Sui, Fred Armisen, Alan Cumming, Tennessee Thomas, Alexa Chung, and someone said Bill Murray attended as well. 

Note: today is Pat Benatar’s birthday…she’s 60! And I’ll be honoring her in my set tonight at Hotel Chantelle.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Chef Chris Santos Creates Jägermeister-Infused Menu

Most U.S.-based Jägermeister drinkers know it only as a chilled shot, a sweet, potent party-starter that’s easy to drink and is often associated with rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, this isn’t an ad, so let’s not mince words: Jäger’s about getting drunk, fast. Why else do you think so many bars have special Jäger-shot machines? Do your own research and ask the next person you see what their experiences with Jäger have been like. Chances are they involve a pretty wild party.

For its part, of course, Jäger doesn’t condone binge drinking, stating unequivocally that it "encourages responsible decision-making regarding the consumption of alcohol and discourages abusive consumption." That said, Jäger didn’t become the seventh largest selling premium spirit in the world from tweed-jacketed men sipping it out of brandy snifters in the study of some manor house. So it pretty much owns the woo-hoo! market, presenting it with a conundrum about how to grow further in an increasingly crowded field (Patrón shot, anyone?). Here’s what they came up with: using Jäger as a cooking ingredient to highlight its versatility. I recently tried a few Jäger-infused dishes at Stanton Social, courtesy of chef Chris Santos, and they tasted, well, woo-hoo!

Here’s why these recipes work: Regardless of the fact that Jägermeister is a favorite of fist-bumping bros and tanning-salon Traceys from LA to London, it’s actually quite a sophisticated spirit, with a history going back to 1934 Germany, when hunting enthusiast Kurt Mast first blended 56 different herbs, blossoms, roots and fruits into a bittersweet liqueur perfect for staying warm while tracking a herd of elk in the Alps. The next time you’re handed a Jäger shot, take your time and savor its complexity. There’s a lot going on in the glass. 

That means there’s a lot going on in the recipes that feature Jäger as a component. I tried three different Santos-Jäger creations at Stanton Social (Santos also has the popular Beauty & Essex), each playing off a different component of the spirit.

The first, Jägermeister-kissed Chicken Skewers, really bring out the citrus notes, with a perfect mix of juiciness and crispness and a zingy flavor that penetrates the meat, thanks to its two-hour brining process and 24-hour marinade. It’s a perfect app for one-handed eating, saving the other for your shot glass. (Scroll down.)

Jager Burger

The second dish was the Ultimate Charred Jägermeister Burger, a take on the classic burger. It uses Jägermeister in the burger blend, along with Worcestershire. It was tender, smooth, and very tasty. Santos served some onion rings on the side that featured no Jägermeister whatsoever, and were still good. 

Santos must have been going from mild to wild in his presentation, because the third dish was the most decadent and delicious of them all: Black Cherry and Jägermeister Baby Back Ribs. With the ribs, Jägermeister makes an appearance in a sauce that also contains barbecue, mint, orange, and black cherry cola. I loved it, though I do have a penchant for barbecue.

The thing that makes Jägermeister fit so well in all these recipes is the same thing that makes it work in cocktails: its complexity and harmonious balance of flavors. Rather than just some dumb marinade that you slather on meat with a paintbrush, the Jägermeister brings out the best qualities of the base ingredients it’s used with, giving them a liveliness that adds depth to the food and makes it more fun to eat. 

This is partly because Santos is a great chef, whose success in New York is now leading him to open a new restaurant in Las Vegas. Perhaps you’re a great chef too. If so, you may wish to enter a recipe into the Charred: Earn Your Place at the Pit barbecue contest that Santos is judging. Take a look at the recipes he created, try them out yourself, and then put your own spin on the cooking-with-Jägermeister idea. 

Santos is also a cool guy to hang out and chat with, and we discussed everything from his heavy metal DJ sessions at a Brooklyn dive bar to the graceful aging of a rock ‘n’ roller, which involves ditching the cheap ripped jeans and ragged sneakers for, well, pricier, more stylish John Varvatos versions of the same things. Growing up doesn’t mean abandoning who you are. 

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for Stanton Social, Beauty & Essex; Jägermeister official site and recipes; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

Chris Cosentino Doesn’t Give a Damn About His Offal Reputation

Chris Cosentino doesn’t think there is anything funny about offal, and he wishes you didn’t either. I caught up with the executive chef of San Francisco’s Incanto during his whirlwind book tour promoting Beginnings: My Way to Start a Meal, his first book that ironically doesn’t deal with offal, but instead consists of recipes for starters and small plates. Of course, the meal at DBGB Kitchen & Bar couldn’t go by without a little offal, and though Cosentino ordered the Frenchie burger, it wasn’t long before the kitchen sent out an iron-rich boudin basque, also known as blood and pigs head sausage, and pied de cochon pane, or crispy pigs feet. We ate it all as Cosentino chatted about his past as a hardcore skier, getting saved by chef Chris Santos during a bar brawl in Rhode Island, and his upcoming stint on the fourth season of Top Chef Masters.

Know any good jokes about offal?
No. I don’t joke about offal. It has a hard enough track record and I don’t need to put it in a category where it’s made fun of. It’s already looked down upon and I think when people start joking bout it, it doesn’t demystify it and instead puts it in a category where it’s something to point at and make fun of. I really try to focus on bringing it to light in positive way as much as I can.

It’s hard to do I am sure, though I feel like it’s becoming bigger and bigger.
Yeah, offal has really taken off. You are seeing more chefs knowing where their whole animals are coming from, and the consumers and guests are more interested. 

Why now?
It skipped a generation. You have the children of World War II, right. They had to have it. It wasn’t a choice. So now, my mom’s generation won’t eat it because it was something their parents would try to get them to eat because it was a necessity. Then it skipped over and now this generation, my generation, is more interested in learning how to cook it. It’s interesting how it skipped and jumped. Sometimes if feels like food trends are like clothing trends and stuff regurgitates itself. For instance, 70s clothing, the high-wasted pant is coming back. Personally, I don’t think it should, but just like clothing styles you see disappear and then it comes back, with food it’s same thing.

So what are some things that you have been doing or seen done, to help make people more educated an interested in offal?
A lot of people think about Fear Factor and all those things, but it has nothing to do with that. For me it’s about tasty parts and doing justice to the animal. And doing it the right way by cooking it properly and making it delicious. One of the tricks we use, though it’s not really a trick it’s a fact, is that we use the familiar with the unfamiliar. You can put bacon with a cut someone isn’t familiar with and they would be willing to try it. What you are dealing with is that the majority of the public has never had offal cooked properly, or they are advised to the texture.  There is a culture of texture all over the world, and in the United States we are a culture of crispy. Our potato chips, our French fries, our fried, our fried, our fried. If you say crispy on a menu it sells.

So unctuous, gelatinous, jiggley is not really sexy and people don’t really want to gravitate to that style. That being like chicken feet, beef tendon, or liver, people don’t like granulated when it’s over cooked but they don’t like it undercooked either because they can’t deal with the quiver. So like with tripe, we will fry so it gives you that well-known, crispy texture. Also, everybody wants everything to be tender.  They don’t want to chew the meat they just want it to melt. But sometimes toothsome meat is good. I am not saying it should not be like chewing a rock, but like octopus, that’s also toothsome.

What are some of the other things are you doing to highlight offal?
I just do what I do. I don’t try to reinvent the wheel, I just try to make it taste good and make people feel comfortable with it.

Is there an ingredient you find harder to work with?
Not really, there is always something to learn with every product. I learn from my mistakes. There is always a way to get better. Every year we do our head to tail and I have never had a repeat dish in nine years.

Is there a piece of the animal you really like?
You know, I don’t pick favorites. I feel that all the cuts are good. It’s like me coming to a parent with six kids and saying, “Pick your favorite.” For me, I love different cuts for different reasons. I love pigs feet, I love trotters—always have, always will. They have magical-ness to them and can be used in so many ways.  But there is no perfect cut for anything. Each one gives me a different result and the guest a different experience.

In your new, and first cookbook, what made you decide to break the mold and not write about offal?
The book Beginnings is very different because 80 percent is all vegetable. It’s all about first course food and setting the tone for the meal. I think that’s a really important thing.  You can either set a bad tone or a good tone. Like when you go to a show when that curtain opens, you really want it to catch your eye and keep your attention. You hear a lot of people say, “The best part of the meal is the first course,” or, “I liked the starters.” I really wanted to focus on that and give people options.

It’s a deviation from what you are known for.
Yeah, it was kind of my gentle “fuck you” to everybody who was expecting me to have an all-intestine book.  I am not a one-trick pony and unfortunately, the populace thinks I am, so I wanted to do something different. 

Out of the Cellar and Onto Your Plate: A Hot Sauce With Hard Rock Cred

Chris Santos might not have hair, but his hair metal cred is authentic enough that hot sauce maker and heavy metal cookbook author Steve Seabury thought it was time Santos create a rocking hot sauce. It just so happened Stephen Pearcy from the ‘80s band Ratt also wanted to craft a hot sauce, so Seabury introduced the pair via email in which he wrote to Pearcy that, “Chris is a brother of the metal.” Subsequently, also a chef.

One year later the trio released their first of three hot sauces called Top Fuel, named after Pearcy’s car racing team. I met up with Santos at his restaurant Beauty and Essex where the tattooed chef slathered a healthy dose of the sauce on to a thick, juicy steak. The savory umamai of the meat harmonized beautifully with the tangy, bright heat of the fresh tasting salsa verda, making it a pairing almost as fun as the drum-playing Santos and hot sauce-loving Pearcy.

This collaboration isn’t something Santos ever imagined. He, of course, knew about Pearcy and, given that Ratt was the first concert he ever saw when he was 14 years old and living in Rhode Island, he held the band dear to his heart. When Seabury approached him about doing a bottle for his company High River Sauces, the timing was perfect. Not only did he have a burning love for the condiment, but he also had been thinking about making his own brand.

“There is nothing in my fridge at home but hot sauce,” says Santos. “I remember always putting it on things since the time I could pick up a fork.”

Top Fuel will soon be available in the pawnshop at the front of Beauty and Essex. In the meantime, Santos is working on the next type of hot sauce: a spicy red this time called Detonator. 

Demanding Sasha Grey’s ‘Girlfriend Experience’

imageJust as her character Chelsea draws on an arsenal of executive consultants to lend reality to her business — the girlfriend experience — I imagine Sasha Grey must have spoken with escorts herself to prepare for her first mainstream-ish feature, The Girlfriend Experience. If anyone involved with the production had to “live the story” by becoming a prostitute’s client, who better to have hire an escort than Grey herself? I would have offered.

Now that the film’s Tribeca premiere has passed, I can only give this public consultation: Porn ingénue Grey is white hot — though even with her arms around you, you would feel like you’re fucking in front of a distant mirror, catching her eyes here and there. She’s not there to make men feel like James Bond in the sack. She’s paid to get them to feel human again.

Director Stephen Soderbergh’s casting choices build toward the same strategically achieved reality that Grey’s character seeks. The young man playing her personal trainer boyfriend, Chris, is actual personal trainer Chris Santos. When Grey submits herself for review to a trollish man who operates an escort directory, we get a barely fictional tour of the real-life practice of TheEroticReview.com and its former CEO, Dave Elms, currently on the lam from charges of assault and conspiracy. Soderbergh, irresistibly, had a film critic take the Elms part — a small player attempting to call the shots in the sex business and get free play to boot. This slippage between the film and its players isn’t confined to the story: as easy as loading a clip of Grey at her most hardcore, audiences can rent The Girlfriend Experience on demand for $9.99. “The VOD actually has an additional scene at the end of film that is unavailable in theaters,” explains a rep for distributor Magnolia Pictures.

It works, too; after 70-odd minutes of looped-together vignettes, scenes that double back on one another, a string of moments we re-enter with the rhythm of sex work itself … all the long black hired cars, the impersonally taupe hotel interiors, the after-work interrogations with the left-at-home lover. For viewers who have never ended a date with an envelope stuffed with twenties, the shifting chronology and smeary digital video may imply evidence of the disconnected mind of an escort. But for working girls at this level, clients don’t blur into one; it’s the context holding them together — money, clothes, and secret correspondences — that does. You’ve bought one Blahnik, you’ve bought them all. You’ve considered crossing a lover’s line once, too, and it’s like you’re always hovering over on the edge of betrayal.

Grey is at her best when standing right on that line — a girlfriend you can buy who will still hold you through the night for her own pleasure off the clock, maybe. She carries herself not as a woman with a fractured self, but a finely controlled production of one. In the professional girlfriend business, getting a rep for being a good actress is a career killer. That Grey looks as if she’s hardly putting on a show here is just a hallmark of the role.

Industry Insiders: Chris Santos, Stanton Street Star

Chris Santos of the Stanton Social on his love of dives, Apothéke owner Heather Tierney, and why thinking too much detracts from dining.

Where do you go out? Well, I’m kind of a dive bar kinda guy both in drinking and for eating. I mean, I obviously enjoy a good Jean Georges or Per Se as much as the next guy, but I like sort of the hole in the wall-y kind of places. One I really love a lot is in Brooklyn. It’s called Franny’s. It’s on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. A really simple rustic Italian, you know, wood-coal pizza and great appetizers and a beautiful garden in the back. On the outskirts of Park Slope basically, near the Manhattan Bridge. I’m a big fan of Back Forty, which is a small little bistro on 12th Street and Avenue B that does just a really outrageous burger and great roast chicken, and you know, simple crispy nuggets and simple, simple rustic comfort food. I’m a sucker for Strip House on 12th and University. It’s like my favorite steakhouse in the city. There’s a lot of crushed red velvet, bordello-y kind of vibe. And they’ve got great wine, and their steaks are, bam! They do a great job with their steak sauce. I go there monthly.

What do you do at Stanton Social? My title is executive chef and owner. My day-to-day life is hectic right now … in addition to this we are trying to get another restaurant together. I am working on the Stanton Social Cookbook. I am consulting for a restaurant group that’s going national. They’re rolling out 50 restaurants nationwide, and I am rewriting all their menus for them. I was in Las Vegas all summer helping my partner open the restaurant in club Lavo. I have two partners: Peter Kane, who in addition to this he owns Happy Ending bar, and he was the guy who opened Double Happiness, which closed just recently. And my other partner is Richard Wolf, who owns Tao, Tao Las Vegas, Lavo, Rue 57.

You rave about the vibe and loyalty in your kitchen at Stanton Social. Where have you worked that had a stressful vibe? I opened Rue 57, which is a French rotisserie on 57th Street. I was the sous chef, and Sam Hazem was the chef. He was the head chef at Tao for a really long time, and now he’s working to partner with Todd English. But that was just constant stress and drama, and you know it was a really teeny tiny kitchen, putting out enormous numbers.

It seems like if you’re doing more like the low-key, under the radar places; how come your restaurant’s high profile? I’m just lucky I guess. It’s really just upscale versions of street food and comfort foods. We’re not doing anything esoteric here. We’re not really challenging diners. I mean, I like to be challenged, but mostly I don’t. I want to go somewhere and be taken care of, and I want to be able to look at the menu and just kind of understand everything.

Name two people that you particularly admire in the industry. Would it be corny to say my partners? I really admire Josh Capon, who’s the chef at Lure Fishbar. He’s kind of an under-the-radar guy. And that’s kind of an under-the-radar place. He’s a fantastic cook. He was born to be the guy coming out of the kitchen in the white coat, just charming a table. I have a lot of admiration for Heather Tierney. She used to be a food writer at Time Out. She now owns a cocktail bar — Apothéke. She owns Burger Shoppe down on Wall Street, which is like a burger restaurant. She has her own dining concierge service where you’re basically a member, and she gets you reservations in hard to get places. She’s really young — she’s in her twenties, and she’s really passionate about food — and we’ll go out to dinner and just talk about, “Have you been here, have you been there?” We’ll talk about the industry. She’s just super motivated.

Name one positive trend or aspect you see in the restaurant industry. Affordable dining. I see a lot of restaurants opening (in Brooklyn especially) a lot of neighborhood restaurants that are serving really quality food. There’s this place called Buttermilk Channel in Carroll Gardens that just opened. That’s really amazing. Frankies. When I went to Europe — which was like ten years ago — I came back with the feeling that the big restaurants, the name restaurants, the three-star restaurants, Michelin-rated restaurants … I felt they were no better than anything that you could find in New York City. In other words, the top New York City restaurants were better than the top restaurants that I could find in Europe. But I also thought that where they had it on us, all over the place, was the little, tiny neighborhood restaurants and pubs. The food there was so awesome, and you didn’t have that in New York. That is a positive trend. You go down any little street in the Village now and walk into a 40- or 50-seat little Italian trattoria where the food is solid.

What’s changed as far as the restaurant industry goes in New York in the past year? How it’s affecting me directly? You know, we’ve had very ambitious plans to run a restaurant that’s twice the size of this. And we have this space, and we have a lease, and a year ago when were ready to pull the trigger, it would have been a couple of phone calls and a couple of dinners to raise all the money that we needed because you know our track record, not just at Stanton Social, but with my other partners as well. Basically everything any of us have ever done is successful, and everyone’s gotten their money back, and everybody’s making money. You know the investors here are doing very well, and we got the space back in record time. The difference is people now are hesitant to part with the money they have in the bank, with everything that’s been going on. Even though we have a great location, and we have a great track record, and when we open the next place it’s going to do very well. There are people that are so shell-shocked about what’s happened on Wall Street that they just aren’t necessarily willing to keep investing, so that’s something I think that’s really changed. I think you’re going to see the growth of the industry and openings and whatnot coming to a halt.

Do you think people are going to stop going out to dinner? People are going to stop going out to dinner Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I think you’ll still get your Thursday, Friday, Saturday night diners. You’ll still get your Sunday bruncher. And Monday night you’ll get your after-work crowd.