The Ghosts of Bowery Past: CBGB, Greenhouse, & W.i.P.

Yesterday I took one of my first days off since ’03 and it was grand. Me and mine went to the Bronx Zoo which was a zoo. Apparently, Wednesdays are donation day with no fixed admission fee, which means approximately 1 billion people descend upon the zoo to enjoy the nice day with the pretty animals at no cost. We had a blast, completely captivated by the captivated lions and tigers and bears. ..oh my! Amongst the zillions of people, we somehow found Hotel Chantelle go-go dancer Nicky Delmonico and assured her tonight’s hot “Generation Wild” Rock Party at Chantelle would be cool. The joint fixed its air conditioning.

We got home, washed the day away, and headed to DBGB Kitchen & Bar for dinner with Marky Ramone and his Marion. We were joined by chef Daniel Boulud who bombarded us with funny tales and scrumptious deserts. Marky and I told and retold tales of yore. We talked of Dee Dee, Joey, CBGB, and Max’s Kansas City. I don’t desire to dwell too long in the past, preferring to keep looking forward, but sitting with an old war horse like Marky leads to inevitable digression. Eventually I’ll tell you all about it. 

As he posed for photographs with giddy patrons – suburban people who now live in nearby condos and chic apartments where there once stood burnt-out buildings that punks, bums, dealers, and scum squatted in – we talked about the ghosts of Bowery past. It was inconceivable to us that such folk are now frolicking and enjoying such fine fare where we youthfully played amongst the ruins. Back then, a container topped with aluminum foil filled with chicken vindaloo and eaten with a plastic fork was fine dining.

Marky is still touring, still banging his drums not so slowly, and doing lots of other things I will, as I said, eventually talk about. At DBGB, his gravy… er sauce, is for sale and prominently on display up front. Marky Ramone’s Brooklyn’s Own Marinara Sauce is featured in delicious pasta dishes that we all shared prior to our entrees. We headed to Bantam, side-stepping homeless folks who haven’t quite heard the good news about how fabulous the neighborhood has become.

I saw a petition on Petitionbuzz that was under the banner "ALLOW WIP & GREENHOUSE to reopen.” When I clicked through, I read this:

"As many of you already know W.I.P & Greenhouse are still closed pending a scheduled hearing on Friday. I know that I can speak for many people when I say that this is a big blow to the people employed by the club, the nightlife community, as well as to the party goers themselves. We all loved hanging out and partying at W.I.P and are sad to see that the actions of 2 world renown hip hop artist acting like thugs shut down a place we all love and leave 300 people (including Greenhouse) out of jobs in this depressed economic state.  I Emailed @NYNightlife asking him whether or not he thought this petition would even be worth while / effective. He replied saying that he would contact someone at WIP/Greenhouse and see what they think. 10 minutes later he Emailed me back saying that he was told "it would go a long way", which means that every "signature" counts. The hearing is scheduled for Friday, so until then lets all make it a point to get as many people  to sign this petition as possible and to share it with everyone we know, thank you."

I have been pretty harsh on the players-to-be-named-later over there at W.i.P./Greenhouse, but anytime a club is closed because of the illegal actions of its patrons, I get confused. It’s like closing Kennedy Airport because the TSA caught some joker smuggling some blow or because a couple of schmoes duked it out on a long line. There were a lot of people making a living over there at those joints. I’m hoping that "were" gets changed to “are.”


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EMM Group Opens The General, A Sure-Fire Hit

I’ve was invited to the friends and family opening of The Generalthe new restaurant from EMM Group at Bowery and Spring. EMM is Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, and Michael Hirtenstein. They are the force behind Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, CATCH Roof, CATCH Miami, Lexington Brass, SL, SL East, Tenjune, Chandelier Room, Revel Nightlife, FINALE, and Bow, and lots of other stuff. Bow and Finale are the other parts of the Spring and Bowery space that once housed Boulevard and Crash Mansion. Executive chef Hung Huynh of Top Chef fame offers up modern Asian cuisine in a red-chaired gilded wallpapered paradise. All the inside-info is here.

Opening up this time of year is interesting. Most operators look to open in the early or late stages of spring or fall, and with 300 seats, there will be a lot of kinks to be worked out. Groups like EMM have fewer kinks than most.  Opening now allows the place to hit its stride as the nice weather and affluent snowbirds return. They can do no wrong in my book. The General stretches the Bowery strip from its previous above-Houston Street border where joints like Daniel Boulud’s DBGB, Gemma, Peels and many others serve neighborhood residents and well-heeled visitors. This is not the Bowery of my youth. Little Steve Lewis trivia: my great uncle was one of the famed Bowery Boys.

Most clubs reported near-normal attendees for the week after New Year’s but much lower revenues. People went out but seemed to be tapped or burnt out.  For all except for the very top operators, New Year’s Eve is a loss when you account for the naturally slower nights preceding it and the after-effects. I’m still beat up from all the rushing around, and Christmas bills are still being paid. Getting me out requires special coaxing.

Many people obviously get terribly drunk on New Year’s Eve and try hard to slow it down for a couple of weeks. Then there are those resolutions which often include a step back from the boozing. My resolutions always end in a vow to break all my resolutions ASAP. We are still enjoying tourist dollars, but those will fade away as vacation bucks tend to fly to warmer climates this time of year. The cold keeps people in and, well, you get the idea.

EMM group is way ahead of this game. They have a built-in clientele that’s enamored with all their other joints. CATCH is still more than killing it, and the word "NEW" is always a sure draw. The General, a NEW offering from an established hospitality group enters as a sure thing. I’ll keep you posted.

Daniel Boulud Launches Exclusive Dalmore Scotch

If a Franco – Scottish accord seems at first a bit odd, it’s perhaps important to remember that friendships are often the product of common foes. Scotland and France, of course, were regularly united (the Auld Alliance, they called it) in opposition to English territorial pissings. And Mary Queen of Scots was the daughter of Marie de Guise, after all–both legendary antagonists of The Crown. But the news that Gallic superstar chef Daniel Boulud has just launched a partnership with Alness-based distillery The Dalmore, we must admit, is really more of an…epicurean thing. And just in time for summer imbibing, The Dalmore Selected by Daniel Boulud will be a feature at all six of his NYC dining establishments: Daniel, Café Boulud, Boulud Sud, db Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud, and DBGB Kitchen & Bar

In painstaking collaboration with Dalmore master distiller Richard Paterson, the exclusive single malt was conceived to the discriminating tastes of the many-Michelin-starred Boulud, who enlightens that, "the creation of a single malt is an artisanal craft, which takes expertise and time." Matured in American white oak, it is uniquely finished in Muscatel, Madeira, and Port wine casks. The final product is as smooth as velvet; and notes of pears, plums, and mocha are specifically tailored to coaxing the palate to optimum appreciation of the the master chef’s culinary proclivities.

But mind, it’s not all such seriousness. The exquisite new spirit has also been honored with the introduction of a corresponding and imponderably decadent DB dessert temptation: the Chocolate-Coffee-Whisky Sundae, made with whisky gelee, brownies, and a cream brulee tuile.

Alba gu bràth! Vive la République! And all that.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for Daniel, Cafe Boulud, Boulud Sud, db Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud, DBGB Kitchen & Bar; More by Ken Scrudato; Follow Ken on Twitter]

Eat Some Pork Buns, Help Your Neighbors With Momofuku

As much of New York City still waits for the lights to come back on and the subway to be fully functional, more and more people are finding new ways to help their fellow city-dwellers and plenty of opportunities to join them going into the weekend. A group of running enthusiasts who were planning on running the NYC Marathon this weekend have decided to opt out of the race and go volunteer on Staten Island (where the starting line is, along with heavy devastation and fewer resources than some of the other boroughs), and more groups are encouraging runners to boycott the marathon and get their workout in by helping people instead.

If running is not your thing though, and say, drinking cocktails and eating delicious pork bao are your things, then there’s a way for you to help, too. Momofuku and Café Boulud are teaming up for a number of eat-in and dine-out events to raise money for the Red Cross, beginning right about… now. Momofuku’s downtown locations are still not quite up and running yet with the hurricane, but all proceeds from lunch and dinner at Ma Pêche in Midtown tonight will go to the Red Cross, and starting at 5 p.m., Booker and Dax’s Dave Arnold and Tristan Willey will be serving up some cocktails. And starting at noon, Milk Bar Williamsburg (with help from Noodle Bar) will feature a pop-up bar of Momofuku’s tasty, tasty buns at 2 for $10, also for the Red Cross. Maybe you can save them and eat them while watching the All-Star Celebrity Telethon happening tonight. 

And, tonight, if you’ve got $495 laying around and are quick to make a reservation, the efforts will culminate at Café Boulud at the Surrey Hotel with a special Boulud + Momofuku dinner, featuring beverages and cocktails from John Debarry and six courses, featuring dishes from Café Boulud’s Gavin Kaysen, Momofuku Ssäm Bar’s Matt Rudofker and Momofuku Ko’s Sean Gray. More information can be found on the Momofuku Tumblr

Bring on the Meat: New Places to Pig Out

In the last month, it’s been a sausage fest in New York, and the latest joint to make the scene is San Francisco transplant Rosamunde in Williamsburg. This rustic shop just opened a week ago on the bustling Bedford Avenue, and already it’s become a hot spot. Maybe this is due to Rosamunde’s laidback staff and lack of hipster bartenders. Maybe they are stoned (they’re from California!). Or maybe the meat is so good that everyone is just high off of sausage. I like this option the best, but if you want to check it out for yourself, go to their official opening party on Saturday from 6 to 9 PM. There you can get sausages like the spicy pork Italian, wild boar with apple, or chicken habanero, which is smoked with tequila.

You can also fill up on sausage at the newly opened Die Koelner Bierhalle in Park Slope. This biergarten serves up some mean German fare, including a traditional bratwurst with sauerkraut, bauenwurst, currywurst, kielbasa, and the wurst of them all, wiesswurst, which comes pressed into a soft pretzel with sweet mustard. Also in the German sausage category, Radegast Hall & Biergarten has a whole griddle full of meat links, and, if you don’t know what they are, just point to what looks good. For a more high-class sausage, Daniel Boulud’s DBGB in the East Village offers excellent homemade ones.  Is there a missing link? Feel free to chime in on more great sausage spots?

Mission Accomplished: Danny Bowien’s Chinese Food Wins in New York

As I chow on last night’s leftovers, my mouth tingles in memory of chef Danny Bowien’s Sichuan pepper-heavy dishes that he serves at the new Mission Chinese Food on the Lower East Side. Now, here is a man who not only knows how to play with traditional Asian spices, but has also figured out a way to make take-out Chinese hip. But don’t tell him that. “A lot of people have labeled us that way, but we are working away from that,” the long-haired chef says. “We are tying to make something at appeals to us, and is something we want to go to our day off.”

Bowien first made the scene with his original Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, which he opened in 2010 inside a dingy Chinese restaurant. Since then, the quaint joint has caused quite a commotion in the foodie scene as Bowien has won not only an Eater Award, but also a page in GQ and an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show. And how do New Yorkers take this young upstart’s move to the East Coast?

“Tonight is the slowest it’s been since we opened last week,” the hostess told us after explaining that on Tuesday night there was a 45-minute wait for three people. “There have been lines waiting for us when we open at five.” Luckily, they kindly offer a complementary Narragansett, which hungry patrons eagerly tapped from the keg sitting under the neon menu board.

“This is crazy, the overall reception, this just doesn’t happen and I feel very blessed,” says Bowien. “Overall, chefs and cooks have been so overly supportive, which is a big deal since I had never opened my own restaurant, let alone one in New York City.”

The menu remains nearly the same as the west coast one, with easily recognizable Chinese items like the dish that started Bowien on the path of Chinese food, tongue numbing mapo tofu. Funny enough, before his San Francisco restaurant, Bowien, who is a Korean from Oklahoma, had never cooked Chinese food before. “It’s not like rocket science, it’s like cooking.,” he says. “If you can make a slow cooked meat sauce, that’s petty much what mapo tofu is. You kind of just plug these ingredients in and make it.”

About his move east, Bowien told the New York Times in February, “We could have opened another one here in San Francisco, but I love New York, the way it pushes you. It inspires me so I wanted to come to New York.” Now, Bowien jets between coasts and, in two short years, has gone from a fine dining cook to restaurateur making waves. Enough waves, that opening week Daniel Boulud popped in and in and whipped up an omelet, which you can watch below. This sense of support and camaraderie blew Bowien away, especially since it’s exactly what he is going for.

“We are trying to create a sense of community here,” says the young chef. “Like two of your favorite bands playing together. It’s not just about one person it’s about a lot of people.”

Things I Learned at the Relais & Chateaux Dinner: An Olsen Eats

The other night I had the pleasure of attending the Relais & Chateaux Diner des Grands Chefs at Gotham Hall. Relais & Chateaux is an organization of very nice hotels which also have great restaurants. At this dinner, grand chefs from around the world — NYC had Michael White, Daniel Boulud, James Kent and the Del Posto boys — and they cooked a special menu in teams of three for each table. The food, therefore, was not mass catered but actually prepared.  There were many tables. I sat at table 26. Apart from the food, which was obviously extremely good, there were some other takeaways. 

The French Love A Good Projection

There are many columns in Gotham Hall. It used to be a bank. Relais & Chateaux is a French organization and someone had the idea to have a projection of an acquarium projected onto the space behind the columns which eventually drained to reveal the skyline. This was accompanied by music. I was somewhat scared there would be a 9-11 Never Forget logo at the end but there wasn’t. The point being though, probably an American would say, "Man, this is over the top. We can’t do this." With the French, that isn’t so. This enables them to be both great and horrible.

Black Tie Required Means That Above 14th Street

I generally imagine Black Tie Required to mean Maybe Black Tie Would Be Nice But You Know Whatever. This is how it is for events downtown where the rule of thumb is that level of formal dress and level of belonging are inversely proportional. But Gotham Hall is in Midtown and, man, was I wrong. Black Tie means Black Tie. I rolled up wearing a slightly more formal than usual work outfit: black Uniqlo slacks, a cream cotton blazer from Shipley and Halmos and a pink sweater, also Uniqlo. My outfit was met with stern paternal disapproval by tuxuedoed and begowned guests. The only thing that makes me feel alright about it: Thomas Keller, not cooking that night, was there and he was wearing jeans, a sweater and a blazer. 

There is an Olsen Sister That Eats

Her name is Elizabeth and I saw her do it. There’s also picture evidence.  

Montreal Preview: Ritz-Carlton

Having hosted Queen Elizabeth, Sophia Loren and The Stones, as well as acting as the backdrop to the first wedding of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, the Ritz- Carlton Montrèal is certainly not wanting for history. But a $150 million renovation is bringing it dazzlingly into the 21st Century, just in time for its 100th birthday.

But not content with just a dolling up of its lobby and rooms, the Ritz is now sporting an architecturally impressive glass and steel addition. And while the Palm Court has a dazzling new elegan-tay look, it’s the anticipation of Daniel Boulud’s Maison Boulud that really has Quebec epicures all atwitter. The many-Michelin-starred chef arrives for the first time in Canada’s Francphone capital, and the competition for tables in the ethereal courtyard is sure to be fierce. Another glamorous century awaits.

Crocs Rock: Relais & Chateaux Deliver Two New Cookbooks

“A collection of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants,” Relais & Chateaux’s swanky properties let you kill two birds with one stay: sleep surrounded in finery, and chomp through an unforgettable meal from a top-notch chef like Daniel Boulud or Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Now the association is offering a doggie bag, so to speak, in the form of not one, but two new cookbooks. 85 Inspirational Chefs and Chefs at Home mark the first occasion that each and every chef within Relais & Chateaux’s North American purview has worked together.

Chefs at Home takes you into the celebrated chefs’ homes (surprised?) and features dishes they like to cook when they’re not in a white apron and Crocs. While 85 Inspirational Chefs caters mostly to beginners, the book does include a few challenging recipes. (Did you really think duplicating a Jean-Georges meal was going to be a piece of cake?) The books can be purchased at the Relais and Chateaux Mansion in New York, or on their web site. Indulge in a proper Relais & Chateaux meal without having to drop a fortune on the hotel. Let’s just hope you’re a good cook.