For Sake Goodness: Webster Hall Pours Rice Libations

For every one glass of sake poured in America, we knock back 160 glasses of wine. That proportion is changing, though. Sake imports have doubled over the past decade, with vodka the only drink that’s growing faster. Those looking for a crash course in the rice libation can find a huge one at the Joy of Sake tasting this Thursday, September 24th. Webster Hall will do the hosting, with your ticket purchase opening up three floors of partying. Some 270 premium sakes will be poured, almost half of them otherwise unavailable outside of Japan.

Your ticket also gets you appetizers from fifteen New York restaurants, of the caliber of 15 East, Bond St., Geisha, and Hung Huynh’s new Ajna Bar. There’s even a Korean ringer, Woo Lae Oak, thrown in.

Sakes are broken down into three categories, junmai, ginjo, and daiginjo. The polishing of the rice kernel is the difference: junmai loses about a third of the outer kernel, ginjo about 40%, and daiginjo up to 70%. Flavor shifts accordingly, with junmai the more robust and earthy, while highly polished daiginjo tends to be more delicate and floral. Two old-school sake methods, yamahai and kimoto, will also be on display. At Webster Hall, the varieties will be at separate tables, so newbie attendees can more easily figure out what they like best. The Joy of Sake is the largest sake-tasting event outside of Japan and a great opportunity to fill in gaps in your knowledge, or start a new obsession. Maybe the next party you throw will beat the odds and look to rice instead of grape.

New York: Top 10 Places to Get Devoured by a Cougar

Growing up, my friends had very traditional pets: dogs, cats, Tamagotchis. My family, being the eccentrics that they are (re: immigrants) made sure that my brother and I had something a little more fierce to play with. Our pet cougar loved us for ten passionate years before his unfortunate death at the hands of a demented hunter. My mother, saint that she is, told her distraught sons that our dead cougar was going to “cougar heaven,” a place where “cougars roamed free and never went hungry.” Little did I know she was talking about New York City.

Stone Rose Lounge (Midtown West) – NY’s reigning cougar sanctuary, where newbie Time Warner suits come to get served. Owner’s wife is Cougar Ultima Cindy Crawford. And the fact that I just referred to Cindy Crawford as a cougar makes me feel pruney. ● Nikki Beach A cougar oasis, if you will. No small coincidence that the first cougar I tamed was also named Nikki Beach (she was an amateur porn star). This is where you go to get your tiki torched. ● Geisha (Upper East Side) – Gogougar describes a geisha as a “subservient breed of cougar, and, as a result, a species that doesn’t totally subscribe to the whole Cougar ethic. She’s more interested in pleasing you, than she is in pleasing herself.” We describe it as a posh Japanese restaurant on the Upper East Side in which to get picked up by cougars. ● Bemelmans (Upper East Side) – The great thing about this Carlyle hideaway is that only the rich drink here. The great thing about cougars is that money is irrelevant to them. The great thing about divorces is that they breed cougars. You do the math. ● Cabanas at the Maritime (Meatpacking District) – Cougars love meat and they travel in packs, so the fact that you’ll find them in the Meatpacking District is self-explanatory. And the fact that this island-themed bar resides in a hotel is just lucky. ● 123 Burger Shot Beer (Midtown West) – The opposite of fancy, and that includes the women. Anyone who’s been here knows this place should be renamed 1234 Burger Shot Beer Cougar. ● STK (Meatpacking District) – From Yelp: “The bartenders were nice, and as I was facing them while stuffing my face, we were able to exchange knowing looks when the cougar beside me would lift her breasts and heave them onto the bar while the light reflected on her almost-plastic brown skin as she ordered a dirty, dirty martini.” So yeah. ● Plunge (Meatpacking District) – In the penthouse of the Hotel Gansevoort, Plunge has been code-named “Cougar Central” by, well, me. It’s not very creative, I know, but in terms of accuracy, it can’t be beat. Helpful hint: The pool is off-limits unless you or your cougar are guests. ● Rodeo Bar (Kips Bay) – Question: What is the only thing more cougar than Texas? Answer: A vaguely Texas-themed bar in New York. ● Schiller’s (Lower East Side) – A cougar’s weakness is your strength — it’s called cheap red wine, and this place bleeds it.

See also: Miami cougar dens.
Washington State Cougars Tickets Maples Pavilion Tickets Stanford Tickets

Industry Insiders: Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato

Dynamic Duo: Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato, the force behind the ever-expanding Geisha, Brasserie Cognac and Serafina empire, on their bold plans for Miami, aborting projects because of the dire economy, and why you must strive to be exhausted at the end of the day.

Point of Origin: Vittorio: My mother is Italian; my father was Jewish Lebanese — I was born in Egypt in Cairo, but my father died in the early 1960s, so I grew up in Italy all my life. I started as a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, then returned to Milan where I was an assistant to an Italian stockbroker. Then I started to work for an advertising company there in fashion, briefly, and ended that career with Gianfranco Ferré’s photo. In 1985, I came back to New York where I started Portofino Sun Center and then I had a restaurant called Café Condotti covered with paintings by Andy Warhol over the walls. I didn’t last that long. I got my money back and I left to focus on Portofino. But in 1994, I opened Sofia, which became the first Serafina on 79th and Madison Avenue. The rest is the growing process of history. Fabio: I had a dream and worked for it!

Any non-industry projects in the works? Vittorio: This goes into philanthropy. We support every charity in New York, certainly all of the food related charities. Right now we’re doing City Harvest. They asked me to sit on their board, but I really don’t have time as I’m starting to travel a lot to open Serafina’s outside of New York City. Miami will be the first in the W Hotel in Miami Beach, both in the hotel and on the beach where we’ll serve the convention rooms and room service. Then we go to Istanbul and São Paulo. But then there will be other developments in New York City when the economy gets better. It’s super scary this time. I saw the ‘87, ‘92, ‘95 recessions, and this one I have a feeling is going to be even worse. Those were limited as to the extent of the damage: this time it’s huge. When you see an insurance company like AIG and the credit swap, they insure every package of mortgages sold to Wall Street. They have a 50 or 60 trillion dollar security and only 8% is in default — so far. The economic package was nothing compared to what they lost, they’re just pumping into the system without curing the problem. Why didn’t they just freeze every mortgage sold after 2000 and keep them frozen for 30 years to save homeowners from going broke? Those guys were making salaries of $2 million a week, and they created this tragedy. If I did that in my company, we’d be bankrupt. Fabio: Travel and go around the world.

Favorite Hangs: Vittorio Assaf: My job is my favorite hangout — I work day and night seven days a week, and when I’m free I like to go to St. Barth’s in the Caribbean, perhaps eight or nine times a year. It’s a great, great level of cuisine with all of these French chefs who come to the islands to work for a year, a great mix of culture. It’s an island that has nothing to do with the Caribbean. There are no locals, as just about everybody there comes from Paris or St. Tropez. They go back and forth all the time. It’s my dream. Fabio: I spend time at all of our restaurants, Cipriani and 1Oak.

Industry Icons: Vittorio: Eric Ripert is a famous chef who is one of my best friends. I love his cuisine, it’s very light and made with quality ingredients. And of course, I like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, another one who is just amazing, outstanding, an artist. I admire, in general, the dedication of great chefs, their effort and energy that top chefs put into the industry. I wish what they produce could be more affordable, but the ingredients are costly. Fabio: Restaurateurs that I admire are the Cipiranis’, Steven Hanson and Daniel Boulud, David Burke and Jean-Georges Vongerichten are all people I admire in the industry.

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with? Vittorio: I’d like to be seen more with my wife! Being a restaurateur is the worst job possible — all you do is work seven days a week. When people are coming out for lunch or dinner, I have to start early in the morning to deal with construction, repairs, deliveries, tasting. You deal with thousands of different personalities; there are roughly 100 employees at each restaurant and it gets very personal. You get exhausted, and if you’re not — there’s something wrong. Fabio: people in general, our customers and my family,

Projections: Vittorio: We were opening two restaurants in Anguilla, but with all of this financial turmoil, I think this has stopped, but I’m opening a Mexican restaurant here! I would like to tell you my dream: the one to make this company grow, but the economic picture is not the most brilliant. Fabio: I would like to expand my brand everywhere, let people enjoy what I do in the States and Europe. Vittorio: I now have to consolidate and concentrate on the quality and customer service, not the market position we have, but on the bright outlook, a positive outlook. Perhaps we’re going to be able to renew our lease on more favorable terms than in the past when it’s been a landlord’s market.

What are you doing tonight? Vittorio: Tonight I’m working on an event — it will be quiet because of the Jewish holiday, but I have to work! New York has an amazing capacity for reinventing itself. We have an incredible, atomic energy! Fabio: I always go out with friends, party at my new apartment, socialize or go out occasion.

Chie Imai Tailors Oxymoronic Fashion

imageJapanese designer Chie Imai embodies the very substance that sets the fashion world apart from other creative modes of expression: a willingness to openly contradict herself. Take for example the line of “eco-friendly fur” she’s designed for her 2008 Royal Chie Collection. It’s difficult (though not impossible) to explicate how hides flayed off an animal can be construed as sustainable, especially in a fickle form like fashion, Imai’s had no problem stirring up support from top-dollar influencers when she unveiled her latest line of fur coats at New York’s Geisha. And though this fashion is made possible in part through recycled polyester, the question remains: Even with Tinsley Mortimer’s unwavering endorsement, will chinchilla-donning socialites be able to drape anything synthetic around their figures?

A New York Day in the Life of ‘Gossip Girl’

imageGossip Girl, affectionately referred to as the Greatest Show of Our Time by New York, is gearing up for Season 2, debuting on September 1. Last season’s ad campaign, OMFG, has reached new heights, turning criticism towards the show on its head by using quotes like the Boston Herald’s “Every parent’s nightmare” on their billboards. Sure, we already showed you the wining and dining, but get ready for the drama and let life imitate art: Take a tour of New York, Gossip Girl style.


Stay The New York Palace. Home base for the Van der Woodsen-Bass clan, the Palace is instantly recognizable as the scene of many an awkward interaction betwixt Serena and Nate, Serena and Dan, Serena and Chuck … well really, Serena and anyone-else-in-the-GG-cast.

11 a.m. Stop at the local Dean & Deluca on 85th & Madison, grab some organic yogurt, and head over to eat your GG breakfast on “The Steps” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, home of the scenes of the many Blair vs. Serena vs. Jenny showdowns.

11:45 a.m. Walk the 10 or so blocks uptown to get a good look at the Russian Orthodox Synod of Bishops, which moonlights as the fictional exterior of the Constance Billard and St. Jude’s School for Boys. Think about Chuck smirking in his scarf.

12:15 p.m. Walk west until you hit Central Park. Head south along the Jackie O Reservoir as you remember Nate racing his cokehead father in the park, Nate and Chuck smoking doobies in the park, and sad sad Serena dialing Dan early in the a.m. while walking in this very same park.

1:15 p.m. Walk, cab, or take your personal town car the 30ish blocks to have lunch at Geisha. Reminisce about the GG pilot and see if you can spot the exact table where Blair and Nate have their first super awkward dinner.

3 p.m. A few blocks away is Blair-favorite Henri Bendel. Stop, shop, and when in doubt think, WWBWD?

5 p.m. It’s got to be happy hour somewhere. Time for drinks at The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal, owned by real life Upper East Sider Mark Grossich. Flashback to the fateful scene where S + N betray B and get it on amongst a medley of champagne bottles, barstools, and a leering Chuck Bass.

7:30 p.m. Dinner at Butter. Start an argument about whether or not Blair really would have fallen for the fake invitation to Butter when she was on the outs, and Jenny was making a run for Queen Bee.

9 p.m. Walk by the fictitious “Eleanor Waldorf” shop on 14th and Hudson, a.k.a. Rubin Chapelle. Cackle as you recall Jenny locked in, alarms wailing. Cackle again when you remember how she outsmarted Blair to get out of that particular caper.

10 p.m. Live it up at Marquee and relive the “truth or dare” scene where Jenny and Blair one-up each other, smashing couples left and right.

11:30 p.m. The Lower East Side is awash with yet more GG hotpots. Walk by Sunshine Cinema, scene of aborted date between Dan and Serena. Keep it local and catch the later show at the Box, a.k.a. “Victrola” on GG. Think of Blair shimmying around on stage in her nightie, then getting banged by Chuck Bass in the back of his car. Yehaw! If luck is on your side, maybe you’ll meet a real life Bassinator Sebastian Nicolas, part owner of the Box.

1 a.m. Roll back to The Palace late night and belly up to the bar at in-house restaurant Gilt to order the infamous grilled fontina cheese sandwich with truffle oil. That’s right — Chuck ordered this sandwich for Serena moments before trying to rape her in the kitchen, and now you can too! (Eat the sandwich that is, not get all rapey.) Gilt has turned fiction into a $50 truffle-oiled reality. Enjoy.

Extra Credit In case you haven’t had enough, feel free to hop boroughs and check out: ● The Foundry, in Long Island City, scene of “The Kiss on the Lips Party.” ● Fictional gallery de Rufus Humphrey, a.k.a. the Front Room, located in real Williamsburg, as opposed to the “Williamsburg” that the Humphreys live in — which is consistently shot with views of the Brooklyn Bridge, real-life neighborhood of DUMBO. ● Communitea, also in Long Island City, the coffee shop where Vanessa works.

See the future with these Season 2 soon-to-be-scenes-of-drama, as the GG crew has been spotted shooting at the following locations:


STKR&L RestaurantPacker Collegiate in Brooklyn Heights ● Fort Tilden BeachRoslyn Claremont HotelPlanting Fields Arboretum