Fried Chicken & Cereal-Topped Donuts: New Brunches Launch Tomorrow

It’s a pretty good day when 1. it’s Friday and 2. the following day marks the beginning of a new wave in the competitive NY sport that is brunching.  Two very new and very delicious spots – The General & Sweet Chick – are launching their brunches, meaning that the following items will transform our weekend afternoons/hangovers/indigestion for the unforeseeable future.

The General: Top Chef winner Hung Huynh & pastry chef Thiago Silva cooks up…

  • Peking duck hash and eggs
  • Blueberry buttermilk pancakes
  • King crab in a kabayaki hollandaise
  • Signature pretzel bombs: pretzels filled with egg and cheese, and bacon or pastrami
  • Signature cereal-topped donuts

Sweet Chick: Southern-American dishes include…

  • Cheddar-laced shrimp and grits
  • Signature golden chicken & waffles
  • Bacon Bloody Marys
  • Sticky buns lathered in cream cheese frosting
  • Smoked pork hash and poached egg

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Photo: delish.com

EMM Group’s The General Launches New Bakery Today

The General, EMM Group’s latest Asian restaurant on Bowery, gets even newer with today’s opening of its bakery. And while this is a charming update on the sweets front, the announcement becomes positively electrifying with the introduction of two menu items: World, meet The Cereal-Inspired Donut & The Breakfast Pretzel Bomb.

Crafted by pastry chef Thiago Silva – the chef behind every EMM restaurants’ desserts – the cereal-inspired donuts ($3) come in six combos, three of which include: Fruity Pebbles with Cereal Milk, Coffee with Espresso Cream, and Coco Puffs with Coco Cream. The breakfast pretzel bomb ($4-$5) – a good dose of protein, dairy, and salt – is filled with egg & cheese, with a choice of ham or bacon.

Stumptown Hair Bender coffee is also being served, as is fresh orange & grapefruit juice.

It’s also open seven days a week, from 6am-2pm.

Free Wi-Fi is available.

I know; it just keeps getting better. Life is sweet.

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[Photo: NYT]

IT’S HUMP DAY: This Week’s Sexiest Events

It’s Wednesday and you know what that means: we get our hump on. This weekly column is devoted to finding the hottest events across NYC that’ll arouse and titillate even the most jaded New Yorker. Partake in these shows and soirees – from Naked Girls Reading to the shocking "F*ck Art" exhibit – and make the rest of your nights this week very sexy.

See hot naked girls tell stories about circus tricks:
The hit, nude literary event Naked Girls Reading begins its 2013 season tonight with its most eccentric event yet: “Naked Girls Reading Joins The Circus.” At Under St. Marks in the East Village, the naked girls troupe will read tales about their days at the carnival, on the tightrope, and the sideshow, while you attempt to get a gander at the chest behind their books. Whoops! Extra-special guests include Miss Coney Island 2010 GiGi La Femme, and international cirque and burlesque star The Lady Josephine. Wednesday, Jan. 16th. 9pm. All the details here.

Listen to writers’ most sensual and seductive work:
Open mic hits Le Poisson Rouge Friday night when 20 authors, poets, and spoken-word artists bravely take to the mic and share their most erotic sexual fantasies in a monthly night known as “Titillating Tongues – NYC Erotica in Poetry & Prose.” The host – fiery redheaded poet Aimee Herman – has been known to surprise audiences, most notably with a male stripper simulating masturbation onstage. And wahoo, while that doesn’t sound like poetry to me, for some, it’s just perfect.7pm. $10. Friday, Jan. 18th.  All the details here.

See shocking, sexual NYC street art at “F*ck Art” exhibit:
In NYC, there’s little separation between nightclub and lounge, hipster and homeless. And at the Museum of Sex, 20 select street artists showcase art that pushes the boundary between sexuality and our public space in an exhibit called “F*ck Art.” This exhibit gets shocking, asking all those big questions about human cultural identity and sexuality etc., so it’s not for the timid or the meek. But then again, if you’re considering walking into the Museum of Sex at all, you’re none of those things. Bravo. 10am. Runs every day until March 1st. All the details here.

Eat the sexiest Chinese food you’ll ever have:
When nightlife crew EMM Group opens anything new, the spot becomes a huge, sexy hit – and so begins the trajectory of their latest opening:  LES Chinese restaurant The General. I know, Chinese food and sexy? But with its plank-wood ceiling, retro red chairs, and gilded Asian wallpaper, EMM Group makes The General swank – and your new date spot. Open now. 199 Bowery. All inside-info here.

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EMM Group’s FINALE Brings The Edge Back to NY Nightlife

FINALE, the long-awaited EMM Group entry at 199 Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has finally opened – and it’s a game changer. This is a place created by a well-heeled, bottle sales-based group with creativity at its core. To those who pooh-pooh bottle service and blame it (and Rudy Giuliani) for all the terrible things that have ever happened to New York nightlife, I say pooh-pooh to you. Without bottle service, burgeoning rents, insurance, and salaries would have buried nightlife. The problem is that clubs banking for big bucks have catered to the bores with black cards, a scene that’s unbearable to the artistic set. FINALE embraces the downtown scene with performance types on staff, and bartenders and waiters dressed and ready to perform at the drop of a beat.

For far too long, entertainment in major nightclubs has consisted of little more than a forced smile from a wannabe model rushing through the crowd holding a fiery stick while a DJ plays tracks the rich dudes and their lady friends love to hear over and over again. But FINALE offers the hope that, in an effort to set themselves apart from the pack, operators will once again employ creative types to define their brands.

Back in 2007, The Box thought outside the box with its Did-I-just-see-that? brand of entertainment. For some, it went too far, but The Box is still there, and Sleep No More and other nightlife fringe concepts are bringing in creatives and spenders in equal measure. Their devotion to pushing downtown artistic programming has been justly rewarded. FINALE offers an opportunity for the public to expect even more. If it continues its success, other operators will follow its lead, and maybe the suits and ties will no longer dictate club programming. From my experience, once you start traveling towards the edge, a great deal of the public becomes interested and wants more.

EMM provides balance as they balance their bottom line. The artful mixing of downtown with the swells has worked for eons and is working at FINALE now. Plus, having a management team that’s in tune with the times helps.

Some words from the founders:

“Nightlife in New York is a bit stale at the moment—nothing new or different has opened in several years,” says co-owner Mark Birnbaum. “Both the timing and the new Lower East Side location of FINALE are perfect to attract new customers who don’t go to the Meatpacking District or Chelsea to eat and party, while bringing many of our current clientele along with us.”

“Moving down to the Bowery puts us in a unique position,” adds partner Eugene Remm. “Just as Bungalow 8 emerged on West 27th Street, and Lotus took root in the Meatpacking, we hope to be the first to bring an entirely new concept to the area. With this project, we break away from our current mold and create something entirely new on all fronts, from our music format to the location itself and the ways in which we can creatively program the entire space.”

Whether the big spenders will continue to be comfortable heading that far downtown to experience an increasingly weird mix of entertainment—and whether the creative set will keep emerging from their Brooklyn lofts to lend artistic authenticity to the nightlife venue—is far from certain. But with success stories like Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, SL, and Tenjune in their portfolio, EMM’s Birnbaum, Remm, and partner Michael Hirtenstein are just the men to turn the mix into magic.

Industry Insiders: Meet Chris Hessney, EMM Group’s VIP Manager

Celebrity sightings are just a day in the life for Chris Hessney, the VIP Manager for EMM Group and their property CATCH, one of New York’s most exclusive seafood spots. “Since CATCH is a major destination, there’s a good chance you’ll spot a celebrity or ten dining at a table near you, a model, or a business executive of a company you’re a fan of.”

But more than the sightings, it’s the little moments that keep Hessney psyched about working at the Meatpacking District restaurant. “I love watching guests’ over-the-top reactions when we set the crispy whole snapper or the Cantonese lobster on their table,” he says. “Our one-year anniversary brought in over 800 groups of guests on a Monday night, which was an absolute blast.”

Top-notch New York food and hospitality has been the mainstay of Hessney’s career, where he was maitre’d at Morimoto, and manager of The Standard Grill. And it was at The Standard in 2008 where he first met EMM co-founders Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum. “EMM was the perfect next step for me,” Hessney says. “With them, the sky’s the limit.”

Find out CATCH chef Hung Huynh’s favorite app here.

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In Their Own Words: Four Entrepreneurs’ Favorite Apps

What do a dominatrix, two celebrity chefs, and a fitness founder have in common? Not much. So we brought them all together under one umbrella question: “What is your favorite app?”And like most things that can fit inside your phone and purse, these apps give great insight into who these stop-at-nothing entrepreneurs are. It’s like hacking into someone’s cellphone, but with descriptive consent. Here are these four visionaries’ favorite apps, in their own words.

Aarón Sanchez
Aarón Sanchez is the co-star of two Food Network series (Chopped and Heat Seekers), and the culinary visionary behind NYC’s taqueria Tacombi, Kansas City’s Mestizo, and Crossroads restaurant at House of Blues nationwide. Sanchez was recently a guest chef at the White House and received the “National Award” at the Flavors of Passion Awards, honoring the nation’s best Latin chefs.

"Since my wife, a pro musician, and I are constantly on the road, we like to use SongKick to find which of our favorite bands are playing in the cities we travel to. It’s also a great way to track lesser-known artists who may not have the reach of bigger acts. It’s brilliant.”

Brynn Jinnett
Brynn Jinnett is a former dancer with the New York City Ballet and the founder of Refine Method, a chain of boutique circuit training studios in NYC, whose clients have included Ivanka Trump and Kelly Ripa. Rooted in the latest research in exercise science, Refine exercises your body by using its own weight – pairing squats, kicks, and pushes with its own unique pulley system and high-intensity cardio. Since opening in 2010, Jinnett’s Method has exploded, expanding to three locations across NYC.

“My favorite app is MindBody Biz Mode [FREE], which allows me to schedule clients on my iPhone. With our third location opening this month on the Upper West Side, it’s great to be able to manage multiple locations while on the go!”

Hung Huynh
As the executive chef of NYC’s Catch seafood restaurant in Meatpacking and third season-winner of Top Chef, Hung Huynh is joining with EMM Group again to open the second outpost of Catch in South Beach, inside the James Royal Palm on Collins Avenue.

“My favorite app, Seafood Watch [FREE], keeps me up-to-date with current and fresh fish from the area’s nearby restaurants and stores, inspires new ideas, and educates me on the importance of sustainable seafood.”

Nina Payne
Nina Payne is the founder and president of Domi Dollz, a company of professional dominatrixes who bring kink out of the dungeon and into the mainstream with their New York-based workshops and educational performances. This month, the Dollz are launching their first eBook titled Kinky Amour; with personal stories and kinky tips from Payne and company, as well as video tutorials and photographs, the Dollz’ teachings will be downloadable and available worldwide.

“The Domi Dollz love the Dirty Game – Truth or Dare app [FREE]: it’s a huge collection of very naughty and wild truth or dares. It’s such fun to revisit the game we played as teenagers, bring the app to parties, and spice things up.” 

The Top NYE Parties In NYC

Look, don’t stress. Who cares that your trip to Miami fell through, your sister announced she’s visiting, or your best friend you were going to eat Chinese food with bailed on you for a guy she met on the F train. It’s okay. You can still reclaim an unstoppable NYE night and New Year at one of these top New Year’s Eve parties in NYC. From rock anthems, to tarot cards, to monkeys, to lavish five-hour open bars – we’ve got you covered, and you will be okay. Tipsy and making as many poor decisions before your resolutions as possible, but okay.

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Industry Insiders: Jo Rausch, Maitre D’ at Lexington Brass

At Lexington Brass, Iowa-native Jo Rausch knows most of her guests by name—and with good reason. As the maitre d’ of one of New York’s classiest American bistros, she encounters a gaggle of regulars daily, all looking for an enjoyable time alongside their lobster mac ‘n’ cheese and buttermilk fried chicken. But her career didn’t start as maitre ‘d; she worked her way up across the EMM Group’s lauded venues, from bottle waitress to host. Here, our September 2012 Industry Insider shares her average day, where she gets her favorite cocktail in NYC, and her encounter with one of the hottest actors in Hollywood.

What inspires your work in the hospitality business?
When I went to the University of Northern Iowa, I took advantage of every travel program offered. I climbed the ancient steps of the Acropolis, ran straight off of the Swiss Alps with a parachute on, stood in awe of the Sistine Chapel, and danced and sang on tables at Oktoberfest. Travel opens your eyes and puts you on a different level of understanding people and culture. You can manage life so much better with an open-minded view of things. That is directly transferable to my everyday life working in hospitality.

What does your job as maitre d’ entail? What’s an average day like for you? 
My day starts with a giant cup of Stumptown coffee when I get to work—it’s life changing. We serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Lexington Brass so there is never a dull moment for us. I go through reservations and plot the floor for lunch. A casual diner won’t pick up on the amount of planning that goes behind your seating arrangement. I spend the afternoon reaching out to guests and keeping up with our regulars. Hospitality doesn’t have a down time and that’s one of the many reasons it keeps me interested and challenged.

Describe the food and atmosphere at Lexington Brass. What do you think is unique about it that keeps people coming back?
We have an awesome team here and when you start with that solid base the rest comes very easily. Our menu is classic American bistro with a lot of unique flavor pairings. Executive chef Chris Leahy is so creative and always trying out new things here for us. The dessert menu is where I get into trouble though: the Fried Apple Pie is incredible! 

You’ve been working with the EMM Group for years. Describe the brand and what has kept you working with it.
When I started with the company, The Chandelier Room was their second venue. I’ve watched the company quadruple in size over my three years with them. That in itself is a phenomenal testament to the drive and work ethic that keeps them going. I’ve also loved being part of a company that you can grow with; if you have the drive, they recognize it and help you actualize your potential.

Where are your favorite places to drink and dine?
My friends and I have been working our way through Adam Platt’s top 101 restaurants list and, as you might guess, Eleven Madison Park has been my favorite, but I also love classic tiny spots like the original Westville. For drinks you can find me all over the place, from The Red Lion listening to an amazing David Bowie cover band, to Catch with my favorite tequila cocktail—the Cane—in hand. (For an extended list of Jo Rausch’s all-time favorite NYC spots, click here. )

What’s the greatest lesson and advice you’ve learned across your career in nightlife?
You have to remember that everyone that walks through the door is there to have a good time and your job is to make sure that happens. If you aren’t having fun, that will manifest its way to your guests. When I go to work I don’t feel like it’s a job and I think that’s the key to happiness in your career.

Amid your work as a bottle waitress, host, and now Maitre D’, what is the craziest thing you’ve encountered someone do?
That’s a story to tell over drinks but it involves John Stamos, or maybe that was just a dream I had.  

Topless Drinking: Help CATCH Roof Serve Cocktails Under the Stars

Some people will tell you that you can’t see stars in New York City. This is false. You can indeed see stars, and not just in some metaphorical celebrity sense. The sky might never look like it did that time you slept with the bushmen in the Outback, but on a clear night in Manhattan, you’ll see more stars than you can count. The Big Dipper. Orion. Ursa Major. Maybe even a planet. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see those celestial bodies with a well-crafted cocktail in your hand and a plate of sashimi before you on the lovely outdoor patio of CATCH Roof in the Meatpacking District. But for this to happen, CATCH needs your help.

The thing is, the EMM Group, which owns the restaurant CATCH, as well as its rooftop lounge, needs the approval of Community Board 2 to serve liquor on the outdoor patio of CATCH Roof (they’re currently only approved for the indoor part of the roof). If the community board approves this request, the space will be turned into a full-time sushi lounge, with indoor and outdoor seating. The EMM Group is only asking to use the outdoor liquor license until midnight.
 
Most BlackBook readers tend to be enthusiastic fans of nightlife, and will likely be inclined to side with CATCH in its efforts to bring a new level of outdoor drinking to the neighborhood. It’s not a hard sell with this crowd. And we’re certainly fans, having only recently had an amiable chat with CATCH Roof manager Greg Bach. (And it seems like only yesterday we interviewed EMM Group partners Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, and Michael Hirtenstein – as well as CATCH chef Hung Huynh.) But it’s important to address the concerns of the Community Board.
 
This is not a group of curmudgeons looking to turn Manhattan into some kind of dry city like Lynchburg, Tennessee. They’re well aware of the value–both economic and creative–that the neighborhood’s status as an epicenter of high-end nightlife has brought. But they live here, and are tasked with creating a balance between the nightlife industry (which has all but replaced the packing of meat) and residents who have to wake up in the morning, get their kids to school on time, and hustle to their jobs. 
 
The Meatpacking District wouldn’t be the same if nobody actually lived there, if it was a nightlife-only destination. It feels good because of its human element, its walkable streets and affable shopkeepers. Mayberry it’s not, but it’s as much a community as any other in lower Manhattan, and well worth protecting. 
 
But I believe a balance can be achieved, and if you agree, click on over and sign the petition. You can even show up at the meeting to offer your support. It’s on Thursday, May 10 at 6:30 pm in the lower hall of St. Anthony of Padua Church, 151-155 Sullivan Street. CATCH Roof is one of the nicest new nightspots to open in the area in a long time, and it would be a shame not to be able to venture outside and feel the breeze on a warm summer night.
 
If the license is granted, try to be a considerate drinker. Instead of shouting and carrying on like some kind of lager lout, sip your cocktail, gaze up at the sky, and try to count the stars. It’s a beautiful universe and we’re a very small part of it, but important all the same.