Next Week’s NY Happenings: Luau At The Dutch, Charlie Bird, Month Of Clicquot

MONDAY: Dutch Treat
Andrew Carmellini’s Soho smash The Dutch will make sure you have a transporting Memorial Day, even if you never make it off the island. Go whole hog on summer’s start with a tropical luau on Monday. Ribs, wings, and tuna poke get things started, followed by suckling pig cooked in a Caja China. There will be tiki cocktails and halo-halo for dessert, too.
Memorial Day luau at The Dutch (131 Sullivan St., Soho) runs from noon to 9pm on Monday, May 27th. The lunch prix fixe is $40, family-style dinner is $65. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides. Photo by Evan Sung.

WEDNESDAY: Bird Lives 
Soho newcomer Charlie Bird takes its inspiration from Charlie Parker while getting creative on an Italian-accented menu. Chef Ryan Hardy of Aspen’s The Little Nell turns out a Greenmarket array. Robert Bohr (Colicchio & Sons) handles the stellar wine program.
Charlie Bird (5 King St., Soho) opens Wednesday, May 29th. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

SATURDAY: Sport of Kings
The Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic returns to Liberty State Park, and while you may not score tickets to the match, you can partake in the citywide “Month of Clicquot.” The Four Seasons Hotel is running “Bubbles and Bites” happy hours at the bar on Fridays in May, Willow Road has a Yellow Label lunch special, and the revamped Bar d’Eau at Trump SoHo is hosting a water ballet pre-party this Saturday at 6pm.
Month of Clicquot runs through May, leading up to the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic on Saturday, June 1st. Water ballet at Bar d’Eau (246 Spring St. Soho) is this Saturday, May 25th. To learn more about the bar, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

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Industry Insiders: Justin Sievers, Service Manager of The Dutch

First he dined there, now he works there. Once a regular patron at restaurant hotspot The Dutch, Sievers now manages the front of house staff, scheduling, and The Dutch’s famed and boisterous dining scene. “If the staff is having a good time, so will the guests,” Sievers says. They sure are. Lauded for chef Andrew Carmellini’s American cuisine with a Southern tinge, The Dutch is one of New York’s most talked-about restaurants.

Siever’s menu favorites include the little oyster sandwiches, rabbit pot pie, and any of the dessert pies. As someone who’s worked in restaurants – from high-end French to casual Mexican – since the age of 16, he knows good food and good service. Here, Sievers shares how he became a part of the New York culinary scene, what his managing style is like, and the number one quality you need to succeed.

How did you first become involved with The Dutch?
I began working for Andrew Carmellini and his partners Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom in May of 2009 when Locanda Verde opened.  My focus there was beverage under Josh Nadel, the beverage director, and now at The Dutch I’m a service manager.

How did you get your start in the culinary world?
I’ve been working in restaurants in Atlanta, GA since I turned 16. I studied hospitality management at Georgia State University and worked in Atlanta and Vail, CO bartending and serving.  When I came to New York City, I landed the job at Locanda Verde.

As the manager of The Dutch’s front of house, what’s your style like?
I try to present myself as an even-keeled, approachable figure that staff can rely on. Getting to know each person working with you is an important part of making them feel comfortable and part of the team. In the end, it’s all about making sure that the guests are having an amazing time, so creating an environment in which your staff is having an amazing time is key.

When you’re not managing the house, what do you do to relax?
I’m really into snowboarding and rock climbing when the weather allows.  I try to play music as often as possible.  I come from a family of musicians so I grew up playing drums with my dad and still like to jam with friends when possible.  I don’t have anything that is super organized right now though. Other than that, I’m still very much a beverage guy, so learning about and drinking wines and spirits is always a fun way to be productive. 

Since you’ve been at The Dutch, what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
Flexibility is key. Not only being flexible in the position you can fill but also within that position.  Once you can become dynamic enough to successfully complete all the different aspects of the job, you are infinitely more valuable. One of the most important aspects is managing people, which takes an immense amount of flexibility.

Guest Chefs: Getting Chefs Out of the Restaurants

When Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen finalist Paula DaSilva showed her Miami heat to the James Beard House yesterday, the 1500 Degrees executive chef brought with her not only the whole kitchen staff, but a little bit of sunshine to the five-course menu. As the beaming DaSilva thanked everyone for coming, I felt the praise went to her for letting me try her Brazilian-inspired, farm-to-table food without ever having to step on a plane.

As the concept of celebrity chef becomes increasingly popular, a lot of other restaurants are sending their cooks to the city to showcase their food in a series of one-up dinners. Sine 1986 the not-for-profit James Beard House has been one of the biggest providers of this type of dining. Some upcoming meals to look forward to include the pork-centric feast by Daniel Doyle of Poogan’s Porch in Charleston on June 14. Then they host more Hell’s Kitchen alumni as Connecticut based chefs Kevin Cottle and Van Hurd do a soft shell crab extravaganza on July 11, and, on July 19, chef Adam Keough from the San Francisco will bring a taste of Absinthe Brasserie and Bar to the table.

City Grit is another way to experience chefs from around the country. Run by Food & Wine’s Home Cook Superstar Sarah Simmons, the pop-up establishment is meant to showcase chefs that don’t always get to be the stars of their own restaurants or ones visiting the city. Today and tomorrow, they feature award winning chef John Currence from City Grocery in Mississippi as part of their new series “Secrets Behind the Chef.” Past chefs have included Top Chef contestant Ty-Lor Boring previewing his upcoming restaurant and “the angry chef” from Atlanta, Ron Eyester. The schedule goes up monthly, so check it out for upcoming events.

For those wanting to try star chef’s food in a more intimate setting, and give something to charity, on July 24 Just Food and the Sylvia Centerhave put together A City Farmer, A Chef, and A Host a series of 14 dinners that take place at private homes around the city. Though this event is geared toward local chefs, it’s a good way to try some food from some of the hottest restaurants around and features chefs like Dan Kluger from ABC Kitchen, Robert Gurvich of Alison Eighteen, and Andrew Carmellini of The Dutch. It’s expensive, sure, but lets you experience these chefs in a whole new light.

No matter which way you go, the time of having to go to one restaurant (or many, if it’s Danny Meyer) to sample a chef’s cuisine is slowly changing, which is great for many diners. 

Industry Insiders: Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, the Gurus Behind Bar Lab

When it’s time to get your drink on, Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi are the men to know in Miami. The mixology gurus behind Bar Lab, a consulting service respondible for the cocktail menus at such nightlife mainstays as Gansevoort South hotel and W South Beach, embody an encyclopedia knowledge of spirits, mixers, garnishes, and glassware. This knowledge has won them devoted fans across the Magic City. So what’s the secret to their booming success? The two alchemists fill us in.

How has mixology changed over the years?
Elad Zvi: It has changed a lot and is always evolving. A while back, bartenders were using sugar-based juices and not-so-good ingredients. Now it’s all about freshness and the quality of your product.
 
What are some mixology rules that you’ve broken? 
Zvi: One of my favorites is the belief that classic cocktails should only be made certain ways; today there are many ways to make a classic, like frozen or tiki-style.
 
Your thoughts on wine.
Gabriel Orta: Wine is great! So many different wines in the market right now are actually great for cocktails. Some of my favorite wine regions are Portland, New Zealand and Argentina.
 
Pairing cocktails with your meal…yay or “wine-only” territory?
Orta: Yes!!!! More and more chefs are doing this now. Cocktails permit for more ingredients that actually support the meal. We do a monthly pairing dinner with different chefs in Miami, with great success.
 
Where do you go to hang out and drink?
Orta: In Miami we like to hang out at The Dutch, Sra. Martinez, Tropical Chinese; but really, our favorite place to hang is the ocean. It’s the best place to get inspired.
 
What makes the cocktails you design so out-of-the-ordinary?
Zvi: We always use ingredients that are unique and exotic. We like ingredients from the Middle East, India, Asia, and South America.
 
What do all master mixologists have in common?
Orta: We all come from the hospitality industry, so no matter how much we have accomplished or know about the art of cocktailing, we are all here to give our guests a great experience.
 
Is there a spirit or an ingredient you won’t use?
Zvi: Spirit-wise, I like them all. But the one fruit I wouldn’t touch is durian. The smell and taste is just too strong. It overpowers everything.
 
What is the next frontier in mixology?
Orta: Now is all about the ice; from shaved ice to block of ice to different shapes, ice is one of the most important ingredients in a cocktail. Also, cocktails on tab…instead of draft beer, you can have a Manhattan or a margarita on tab made from fresh ingredients.

A Delectable Experience at Art Basel Miami Beach, Courtesy of Jennifer Rubell

At Art Basel Miami Beach this year, there were many contenders for top culinary attraction. The Dutch’s new Miami outpost was a major draw, booking up well in advance by New Yorkers eager to get their hands on their favorite little oyster sandwiches. Cecconi’s at the Soho Beach House was crammed with brunch-going scenesters sipping bloody mary’s and basking on the olive tree lined terrace. Pubbelly and Yardbird earned the foodies’ attention, while classics such as Mr. Chow and Casa Tua remained packed throughout the event. But the real draw for food-loving art-goers was Jennifer Rubell’s 11th annual breakfast installation at the Rubell Family Collection.

I arrived to find a fascinating two-part installation, each side exploring the creations of life, art, and food. The first was an incubation gallery where yogurt was being made and served by sterile and expressionless women in nurse uniforms. The second was an observation gallery where both gallery-goers and local bees feasted on honey being dripped from the ceiling. Spectators were encouraged to scoop up spoonfuls of the honey to mix with yogurt for a sumptuous breakfast.

Rubell, yet again, created a successful conversation starter that infuses food, art, and social gatherings to create a consumable sensory experience. Beckoning onlookers to participate and engage, Rubell’s large-scale installations form a shared experience, where gallery goers can eat, touch, and deconstruct the piece’s edible goods, breaking the traditional boundaries of art. Rubell’s past projects have included constructing a gargantuan size piñata of Andy Warhol’s head for Icons at the Brooklyn Museum’s 2010 Brooklyn Ball, creating a performance piece called The de Pury Diptych at London’s Saatchi Gallery – which involved thousands of edible props–and producing an installation at the former Dia Center for the Arts called Creation, wherein Rubell pulled from biblical inspirations to create an enthralling installation involving honey being dripped onto a ton of ribs (she must have a thing for honey).

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As with most provocative artists, Rubell’s craft is difficult to define. Performance, installation, and food artist don’t quite suffice in describing her dexterity. In addition to working as a vegetable butcher at Mario Batali’s Eataly, producing wine in Puyloubier, Provence, and raising her daughter, Stevie, the Harvard grad is a seasoned hostess. Her book Real Life Entertaining was published by HarperCollins in 2006. As the niece of Steve Rubell, famed co-owner of Studio 54, Rubell has been surrounded by artful and creative minds from an early age. She learned her love of entertaining from her famous uncle as well as her art-collecting parents, Don and Mera, whose legendary Whitney Biennial parties were frequented by the likes of Liza Minnelli, Ryan O’Neal, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.

While restaurants in Miami’s dining scene come and go, Rubell’s bona fide expertise in hosting social gatherings has led her breakfast installations to remain a hit for 11 years and counting. Make sure to check out what artful and edible treats she conjures up for 2012.

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The New York City Late-Night Chow Guide

Visitors to the Big Apple (and residents too) depend on 3am pizza and anytime delivery like nowhere else in the world. But our idea of late-night eats extends far beyond drunk snacking. After all, in one of the great food cities of the world, why settle for anything less than the best? Here is our roundup of the best late-night eats, divided into street food, restaurants, and special late-night menu additions worth staying up for.

Food Trucks: We’ll take breakfast food any time of the day (or night), and Wafels & Dinges, the Belgian waffle truck, is indulgent enough that you might have trouble justifying it the following morning. The best way to find them is on Twitter at @waffletruck. Hungry Brooklynites and those who’ve crossed the river for a night of revelry on Bedford Ave, fortify their stomach linings for the subway ride home at the Endless Summer taco truck. Located at North 6th St and Bedford, it’s open until midnight during the week and until 2am on weekends. But we can’t end our night without something sweet, and the Dessert Truck has stepped up our post-bar sugar game significantly. Find them on Twitter (@desserttruck) and pick up their rich, sweet cakes until 11pm.

24 Hours: Visitors to Chelsea’s Cafeteria love the trendy vibe and modern take on comfort food, not to mention a chance to continue the party with a cocktail list any time of the day or night. You can’t talk about late-night eats in New York without mentioning an old-school, greasy-spoon diner, and the Moonstruck Diner in Chelsea is our favorite. Expect to be comforted with fry grease and you won’t be disappointed. An East Village institution, Veselka’s pierogies, hot meaty stews, and burgers have been stuffing late-night partyers for decades. Hot coffee and cold borscht will set you right any night of the week.

Late-Night Specials: Gabe Stulman’s restaurants have quickly become neighborhood institutions in the West Village, and he likes to hide late-night specials on the menu for those in the know. At Joseph Leonard, the burger that’s only available at lunch (with tomato jam and ricotta cheese) reappears late-night, while at Fedora, it’s the pressed pork sandwich making an incredibly savory guest appearance. The Dutch in Soho has as lively late-night scene as any restaurant in New York, and top-notch, incredibly high quality food at all hours of the day and night. While it’s definitely worth it to try to get in for dinner, don’t fret if you happen to arrive closer to last call. That means you have a chance at the cheeseburger that’s kept off the dinner menu, as well as adorably delicious baby pancakes, and a few other surprises as well. And from the tip-top of the Boom Boom Room to the depths of the Beer Garden, locals and visitors alike quickly embraced the Standard Hotel, and the Standard Grill is a delicious part of its appeal. There’s an extensive late-night menu of delicious, stomach-friendly basics, like fish and chips, spaghetti, and their famed “end of the night” omelette.

Mystery Chef Revealed: Exquisite Corpse at Le Grand Fooding NYC 2011

You know that mystery chef we mentioned — the blind recluse opening a 52-hour popup restaurant in Chelsea next month? Well, he doesn’t exist. Or rather, he does exist, and his name is legion. That’s because he’s a culinary amalgam of 13 for-real superchefs, all contributing their talents and grub to 13 individual seatings for Le Grand Fooding NYC 2011. You would be well advised to buy from our special allotment presale tickets, available as of right now. But who exactly makes up the exquisite corpse of the mythical Nikoalan Nselurfueymardcora?

That would be Andrew Carmellini (Locanda Verde and The Dutch in New York City); Hugue Dufour (M. Wells in New York City); Kobe Desramaults (In de Wulf, of Dranouter, Belgium); Armand Arnal (La Chassagnette of Arles, France); Ana Ros (HiSa Franko of Kobarid, Slovenia); Sat Bains (Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham, UK); Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Washington State); Fulvio Pierangelini (Hotel de Russie, Rome); Brooks Headley (Del Posto in New York City); Mauro Colagreco (Le Mirazur of Menton, France); Adeline Grattard (Yam’tcha in Paris); Corey Lee (Benu in San Francisco); and Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy).

Quite a lineup, brought to you by sponsor dollars from the lines of Veuve Clicquot, Mastercard, and San Pellegrino. Now you can only buy tickets for the 9/24 and 9/25 seatings via our link, but you only miss out on Carmellini; everyone else is working round the clock on the other days. There’s only a handful of tickets available for each one, so act fast.

Hotel Griffou’s David Santos Can Taste Summer

David Santos is excited about the heat. One afternoon last week, the Executive Chef at New York’s Hotel Griffou impatiently awaited the arrival of late spring cherries, “jet black and loaded with sugar,” and later strawberries, peaches, and nectarines, which will flavor the many menus he’s planning for the restaurant’s summer season. Santos has a compulsive need to change at least a quarter of his menu every month, especially the most popular dishes, which he sees over and over again while expediting a busy dinner service. “I have menu ADD,” says the 32-year-old. “I’m always very much into a menu when I create it, but soon I start to get bored with it and can’t wait to change it.”

Less than a year ago, Santos left an executive chef position at Harlem’s The 5&Diamond to take control of the kitchen at the decadent, cleverly-designed 1920s-era Hotel Griffou. The restaurant occupies the entire basement floor of the building that was once Madame Griffou’s boarding house, with later incarnations as the infamous Penguin Club and Mary Lou’s.

Nowadays, Santos is focusing on a series of monthly tasting dinners at the restaurant, which allow him to break the bonds of the regular menu and offer his guests a less conventional dining experience. He sees these ever-changing meals as the true vessel for his creative needs. “The tasting dinners are really about me expressing myself,” he admits, “An opportunity to do what I want.”

For an upcoming dinner on June 20th, Chef Santos is planning a “signs of summer” menu with a wine-pairing theme yet to be announced. In the meantime, here he is taking a breather from a busy afternoon of butchering to answer a few questions.

You aspire, like many other New York chefs, to create a seasonal menu. Is it more than a trend? Growing up, my family was very seasonal. When my parents emigrated here from Portugal, they brought with them a part of their lives and culinary traditions. We had a garden with rabbits and pigeons, and we ate what grew there. In the summer we pickled vegetables from the garden. My Mother was a very picky produce shopper and would never buy peaches and nectarines in the winter. The mentality of farm-to-table was installed in me since. That is why the idea of a ‘signature dish’ always seems odd to me because ingredients change. I’m glad to see that restaurants are serving more seasonal things. Food is better when you buy it exactly when it tastes good, and not have it shipped from miles away. I’m also concerned with the whole issue of the carbon footprint on the environment. I drive a Prius

It is hot out today. What are you looking forward to cooking this summer? Summer is my favorite season. Spring is fun because you get tired of braising meats all winter and you finally see something green instead of all those roots, but there’s still not much available in the markets. Summer into fall is really the best time to be a chef, since it’s most versatile. You have sweet corn from Jersey, Peaches and nectarines – its like shooting fish in a barrel.

You mentioned your Portuguese heritage. What are some staples of your childhood kitchen? The one thing we always had in the house was piri piri oil. It went on everything, giving food real character. Grilling is a very prominent cooking technique in Portugal, and my dad was always grilling outside, even in the winter. My mother is one of the best cooks I know. She could make just about anything. She made meatloaf like it was nobody’s business.

The Portuguese mark is evident on the menu, but so are influences from the Middle East and Asia. Where are these flavors coming from? When I create a menu, it is as much about the places I’ve been as it is about where I want to go. I love Middle Eastern food. My favorite place to eat in New York is the Hallal cart on 53rd and 6th avenue, which I visit at least once a week. The idea for the tuna dish (with Middle Eastern kebe spice, jasmine rice, and cucumber yogurt) came from watching an episode of Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods filmed in Egypt. Every year brings with it new trends in food that seem to take over menus all over town. What’s your take on this year’s hot culinary trends? I think that food trends are brought up by a need or interest. Take a hamburger, for example. They are great, but do they need to be on everybody’s menu? I wish they didn’t have to be. But given the state of the economy, I think they are still a necessity. I accept it but try not to follow too much, and do what I think is right. But listen, there are many people out there right now making ton of money selling lobster rolls…

You worked in some of New York’s most prominent restaurants. Who are the chefs that most inspired you? Thomas Keller [with whom he worked at Per Se] taught me about everything that is beautiful about food. He taught me how meticulous and exacting food can be – the way he sourced the best ingredients, the many influences he drew on to create his food. It was always based on perfect technique. David Bouley, with whom I worked for over a year, is probably one of the most talented chefs I ever met. He taught me cooking under pressure. Working at Bouley was emotionally and physically intense. We worked 100-hour weeks and someone was always quitting. In that chaotic kitchen, I learned how to be good and how to survive. He was always there, always watching. At Bouley you had 250 people dining and you were beat, and the worst thing you can do is make a mistake. I was always a very composed person, but after I finished at Bouley it seemed that there was nothing that could be thrown at me that would rattle me. To last a year at Bouley was a feat that only about 4-5% do. I was there for a year and 2 months. So as much as I learned form Per se and the beauty there, I learned from Bouley and its craziness.

And your own kitchen – is it managed like Bouley’s or Keller’s? I like to sit right in the middle. I embrace a little bit of awkwardness and difficulty in the kitchen because it’s important for a cook to learn to deal with it. But I always want my food to be beautiful, to be sound in technique, and to taste great. I love the craziness and I live the order.

How often do you get to dine out in the city? Just about never. Accidentally, last night I dined at Brushstroke [David Bouley’s newest restaurant]. It was the first time I’ve gone out to eat in about a year. Taking up a kitchen in a new restaurant, you work so much just to make it work. There is a pressure of getting your name out there and proving yourself, so I find it necessary to be here all the time. But with summer coming up I’m hoping to find the time to dine out more. I want to check out The Dutch, eat at Daniel for the first time, and go to Le Bernardin again.

You are trying to establish yourself in a city chuck-full of celebrity chefs. Have you ever considered taking the reality TV path? I was asked to go on the Food Network’s Chopped a few times, but I rather stay away. I actually believe that my experience working at the kitchen at Bouley would have made me a good competitor, but I am so involved right now with my work that I’m not into becoming a celebrity chef. I see myself as very out going, easy to talk to, camera ready. But it is not my focus. My focus is making people happy. I think that is how you make a name for yourself. So you may not see me on Chopped any time soon, but you might catch me on Food Network’s Best thing I Ever Ate. Chef Ann Thornton nominated my venison tartar.