This Week’s NY Happenings: Taste Of The LES, Maison Premiere, Greenpoint Brunchtacular

THURSDAY: Taste Of The Lower East Side
As benefits with bites go, it’s hard to beat the Taste of the Lower East Side for both breadth and depth. Fifty top neighborhood joints will come together at 82MERCER for an all-you-can-eat extravaganza. Newer hands like Pig and Khao, Jeepney, and The Leadbelly rub shoulders with established pros like Alias and wd-50. There’s craft beer and wine to wash it down, and a danceable soundtrack from DJ AndrewAndrew. A silent auction will tempt you too, with everything from SoulCycle classes to a Rao’s reservation, all to benefit the Grand St. Settlement.

Taste of the Lower East Side starts at 7pm on Thursday, April 25th, at 82MERCER (82 Mercer St., Soho). General admission tickets are $195 ($125 is tax-deductible). To learn more about the event space, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

NOW: One More Trafalgar Julep
Spring has sprung at Williamsburg’s Maison Premiere. A new chef (Lisa Giffen, late of Daniel and Blue Hill) plies the kitchen, and the spring cocktail menu has been unveiled. Enjoy a full lineup of refreshing juleps like the Trafalgar (gin, sherry, crème de menthe, and lemon).

Spring cocktail menu now available at Maison Premiere (298 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg). To learn more about the bar, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

SATURDAY: Honeyed Brunch
To raise money for Sandy recovery, Greenpoint’s t.b.d. is hosting an epic brunch in the yard this Saturday. Neighbors as diverse as Anella, Action Burger, and Selamat Pagi will lay out a spread, accompanied by that most indispensible of brunch items—bottomless mimosas.

Rally Downtown’s Greenpoint Brunchtacular starts at noon on Saturday, April 27th, at t.b.d. (224 Franklin St., Greenpoint). Tickets are $30, or $50 for two. To learn more about the bar, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

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Where Celebs Go Out: Mario Batali, Mayor Bloomberg, Danielle Staub

Mario Batali at the opening of Eataly: My favorite places to eat are generally downtown in the Village: Pearl Oyster Bar, Spotted Pig, Grand Sichuan. My favorite thing to eat is anything anyone else makes! Da Silvano has an octopus salad and octopus grill that’s really beautiful. ● Mayor Mike Bloomberg at the opening of Eataly: There are 20,000 restaurants in New York City, and I try to eat at every single one of them. ● Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen at GLAAD Summer Rooftop Party: wd-50, and in Brooklyn, Pacifico, the Mexican restaurant on Pacific St.

Drew Nieporent at Travel + Leisure‘s World’s Best Awards party: Restaurants that are owned my friends—Jean Georges, Daniel, Mario Batali, the usual suspects. And El Bulli in Barcelona. My favorite dish is anything that Mark Ladner makes at Del Posto. ● Bethenny Frankel at GLAAD Summer Rooftop Party: Trump Soho, Abe & Arthur’s, STK. ● Johnny Weir at GLAAD Summer Rooftop Party: Cipriani Downtown has the most amazing vanilla meringue cake. ● Tinsley Mortimer at her handbag launch party at Samantha Thavasa: Avenue and the Biergarten at the StandardBryan Greenberg at G-Shock’s Shock the World launch party: The corn, the tacos, and the margaritas at La Esquina. ● Danielle Staub at G-Shock’s Shock the World launch party: Cafeteria for the little sliders, the mac and cheese. For dessert, their Everything But the Kitchen Sink. ● Lamar Odom at G-Shock’s Shock the World launch party: Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. ● Mick Rock at the Marc Ecko Cut & Sew fall collection launch party: Kenmare. ● Richie Rich at the Marc Ecko Cut & Sew fall collection launch party: At the The Lion, the champagne’s my favorite. I like the atmosphere and the food’s amazing. The energy’s amazing at the Boom Room Room.

Industry Insiders: Vinegar Hill House’s Jean Adamson, Sam Buffa, & Brian Leth

Jean Adamson and Sam Buffa met while both were working at Freemans. Their relationship gave way to sharing a love of the food and aesthetic that formed Vinegar Hill House. Sam is also partners with Taavo Somer in the FSC Barbershop. Six months into their Brooklyn venture, the Vinegar Hill House team found Brian Leth, the chef de cuisine since April, formerly of Prune and Allen & Delancey. Leth excites patron with his locally sourced menu with ethnic flairs.

How did you start in the business? Jean Adamson: I started cooking in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had a fascination with cooking and went to the French Culinary Institute. Then I worked for Keith McNally for nine years at Balthazar and Pastis, but it was too easy there for me. I was just expediting the process, so I said, “I have to get out.” I started consulting for Frank Prisinzano of Frank, Supper and Lil’ Frankie’s. I helped him standardize things. I was getting their recipes in order so that in each restaurant everyone was doing the same thing. A friend then called me to say this guy Taavo Somer was looking for a chef at Freeman’s. Their consistency was really poor, and I’m good at producing large amounts of food at once. They were transferring into the first expansion so they needed a day-to-day chef to run everything. So I worked there for three years, and that’s where I met Sam. Sam Buffa: I was helping Taavo with the basic construction of their expansion. At the same time, the space at the front of the alley became available and I proposed the barbershop idea to Taavo. It’s still sort of my day job. Jean and I, from day one, have had similar interests. I always wanted to open a restaurant but had never worked in the field. I always liked the idea of building a restaurant.

How did you come across the space for Vinegar Hill House? JA: When Sam and I met, we were showing off the cool neighborhoods we knew in Brooklyn. I was living in Park Slope at the time, and the next day my landlord came to me and said the carriage house was becoming available in Vinegar Hill. It’s the house behind where the restaurant is now. I told him that I wanted it and I waited a year for it. SB: I told her to ask him about commercial spaces. Once we got the space it was like, “Oh shit now we have to open a restaurant.”

So you did. JA: When we told people about the location they were like, “No way.” When you’re milling around on a bicycle you just end up here. We opened last November after Sam designed the restaurant. We call the downstairs space “the den” and people rent it out for private events. I was the chef but was looking for a way to segue out. Then this gem, Brian, walked in the door. He’s changed the landscape of the restaurant. I always intended on being a local farms and local produce restaurant and he made that happen. He also wanted Brian wanted a Vita-Prep. It’s amazing watching the stuff he makes with it. Brian Leth: I’m a puree guy.

Where have you worked before? BL: I started cooking in New Mexico. A friend of a friend helped steer me towards a job at Prune and I learned a lot there. Then, I worked at Blue Hill and Café des Artistes. I was at Allen & Delancey for about a year. JA: Brian has a broad spectrum of food knowledge from having worked at so many places.

Are you already thinking about the next project? SB: I think its always on our mind. JA: We want to be solid here before the next place.

Something people don’t know about you? JA: That I’m nice. SB: I used to race motorcycles BL: I’m a serious Scrabble player

What are your favorite places? JA, SB, BL: Hotel Delmonico and Rusty Knot.

How about restaurants? BL: Ippudo, Prime Meats, and wd-50. JA, SB: Sripraphai for Hawaiian pizzas, Roberta’s, The Smile, Joe’s Shanghai for soup dumplings.

What’s on your favorite playlist right now? JA, SB: Lady Gaga and talk radio. BL: The Replacements and Steely Dan.

Le Fooding Takes Over NYC

The French are better than we simple Americans at many things (staying thin, being fashionable, appearing cultured), but most importantly, the French know their food. Alexandre Cammas took his inherent French penchant for dining to new heights when he founded the gastronomic movement, Le Fooding, in Paris almost a decade ago. On September 25th and 26th, Le Fooding invades New York for their first stateside appearance. Le Fooding d’Amour Paris-New York is centered upon 6 renowned chefs from New York and 6 from Paris cooking for charity (Action Against Hunger) at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. Tickets are inexpensive, the idea behind the event is monumental and with the talent in the cooking arena — Yves Camdeborde (Le Comptoir de la Relais), Inaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand), William Ledeuil (Ze Kitchen Galerie), Alberto Herraiz (Fogón), Stephane Jego (L’Ami Jean) and Christophe Pelé (La Bigarrade), plus David Chang (Momofuku), Julie Farias (General Greene), Daniel Boulud with Olivier Muller (db Bistro), Wylie Dufresne (wd-50), Sean Rembold (Marlow & Sons) Riad Nasr (Minetta Tavern) — it’s physically impossible for the food to be anything less than superb. Alex and his event coordinator, Zoé Reyners, give BlackBook a sneak peek.

What is Le Fooding, the movement? Zoé Reyners: It started 9 years ago in Paris while Alex was a food writer. He used the term fooding in an article to rhyme with fueling. It was unintentionally expressing what he felt about gastronomy at the time in France. Back then, it was a very regulated, very serious matter. Alex was fed up with this and wanted to inject some feeling into it. That’s why he ran with fooding. The idea was well-liked by the press and people started talking about that word. With a bunch of his food writer friends — who had the same feelings about food at the time — Alex decided to use this word “fooding” as a banner for what they were thinking. They held the first event with friends. It was a casual thing to do with new chefs, but the media attention surrounding the first event showed that this was something necessary, and something that people agreed with. Events were organized more often. The website was founded, a phone line, and an office were set up. Step by step it became a real company. There is now a team of 50 writers working for the annually distributed Le Fooding guide. The first completely independent issue was put out last year. Before that, it was as a supplement for larger magazines.

When you got started, what was the reaction of your target audience? Alexandre Cammas: The young French people responded very well and quickly to what we were doing, but it was more difficult to get attention from the old-school chefs and old-school food writers because Le Fooding was different and new. We weren’t just food writers … we started to be involved in concrete things. Normally food writers don’t take risks and straight criticize what’s good and not good. For the first time, we took some risks, and we organized events.

How do you decide on restaurants to review for the publication? Alex: The criteria to select a restaurant in our guide, or for our events, is after we have dinner, we ask ourselves if we want to come back to a restaurant. If so, that’s a good restaurant. You can explore this question, not only with three-star Michelin-guide restaurants, but you can ask the same question for pizza parlors, for bistros, for cafés.

Who are the people who explore this question? Alex: Naturally, it’s the people who are curious, who are open-minded to the taste of the time and to tastes of the time. If you’re straight-minded, if you just like one sort of cuisine, Le Fooding doesn’t much care for your type. We make the guides and the website for people who are curious, like we are.

Why did you choose to introduce this concept to New York? Zoé: The question people usually ask us is, “What’s new for New Yorkers because this spirit already exists here?” I think the event is actually very different from the kind of events organized in New York.

Alex: A guide is a guide, but we’re pairing our guide with the charity event. It’s quite different from TimeOut or from BlackBook.

Is advertising in the guide created in-house? Zoé: We don’t create the advertising, but we have graphic designers handling much of the advertising so that it’s not completely different from our illustrations, the text, or the spirit.

Alex: There’s definitely a spirit. The guide is funny, and you can just read it for pleasure. You aren’t supposed to just want to look in it for an address of a restaurant. For the events, it’s the same. We started in Paris with events. Therefore, we decided to come to New York and start with events too.

What do we need to know about the event? Alex: The event we produce in New York City will be very different from the events that you know surrounding food. It’ll be at P.S.1. We usually do our events in art centers. The spirit is linked to the idea that food is not only food. It can be about the atmosphere and the culture that surrounds it. Also, it’s not only star chefs that you have to pay lots to eat their food. We don’t come with the most famous chefs of France, but we come with the ones who are alive in Paris.

Zoé: I think people know them, but they aren’t the mythical chefs. They’re active, innovative, creative chefs.

Tell me about the graphic design aspect. Alex: We’ll create a collector’s menu. Each chef will be represented by one graphic designer. The chefs of Paris will be represented the best graphic designers of Paris; and the New York chefs will be represented by designers from New York. Some of the designers are: Ich & Kar, Change is Good, Gianpaolo Pagni, Helène Builly, Vanessa Verillon, Nicholas Blechman, Tim Tomkinson, Jan Wilker, Paul Sahre, Jeanne Verdoux, Christoph Niemann, Andre and So Me.

Will the chefs contribute any ideas to the design of the menu, or is it completely up to the designer? Zoé: The designers meet the chefs. They’ll taste their food. They try to understand their spirit, their way of being, their humor, and then they are inspired to create a design in which they are completely free to do whatever they want.

When will people start buying tickets? Alex: The other thing that is different is the price. It’s a price accessible for all the people who like food and who like this sort of party spirit, and not necessarily for the people who have a lot of money. They’re $30, alcohol not included.

And once inside? Zoé: Guests have the choice to go to 6 different chefs each night, and taste amazing food. It’s a huge meal for $30 and it’s a distinguished chef’s meal. From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., the venue will be open only to VIPs on the guest list and for around 200 people that will have $60 VIP tickets, with Veuve Clicquot champagne included. The VIP space will be open from 6 p.m. to 11:30, whereas the rest of the venue will be closed at 10 p.m. Besides approximately 100 tickets each night, all the tickets will be available on the 15th of September on the Le Fooding website. Before that day, some tickets will be available if you have a secret code. Alex: We’ll also have DJ’s spinning in the VIP area and in the general admission area, including Paul Sevigny and Kolkhoze from Le Baron in Paris.

New York: Top 10 Oddball Dishes That Work

imageIt all started in the Lower East Side back in 2003 — before the skinny-jeaned hipster invasion — when now-celeb chef Wylie Dufresne opened wd-50. Melding science and food, the molecular gastronomer has since inspired many to experiment. Of course, not everyone’s into mad food science, but most chefs like to get a little edgy somewhere on the menu. ● Cookies @ Momofuku Bakery Milk Bar (East Village) – David Chang could get a vegetarian hooked on pork belly, so imagine what the man’s dessert spot can do with a cookie. Among the most drool-worthy: cornflake-marshmallow-chocolate chip, corn, blueberry cream, and compost cookie (so fabulously odd that the chocolate chip, pretzel, potato chip, coffee ground, and graham-cracker crumb-concoction is trademarked). ● Onion soup dumplings @ Stanton Social (Lower East Side – You’ll just have to focus on its deliciousness and put aside the fact that there’s enough cheese in this dish to give you a cholesterol problem.

● “Ragu with Odd Things” @ Commerce (West Village) – The name says it all. The “odd things” in this hearty, tomato-based dish refer to oxtail, trotters, and tripe. ● Fried apple pie @ Smith’s (Greenwich Village) – We’ve got fried pickles, fried olives, fried asparagus … we’ve even got fried mayonnaise thanks to Wylie Dufresne. So why not apply pie? Plus, it comes with cinnamon whipped cream. ● Solids (edible cocktails) @ Tailor (Soho) – Who wouldn’t want to get a buzz from gin fizz marshmallows, white Russian breakfast cereal, and absinthe gummy bears? ● Foie gras & hibiscus beet borscht gelée with blood orange @ Corton (Tribeca) – The smooth foie gras torchon — encased in a thin layer of hibiscus and beet gelée and served, moon-shaped, with a salad of beet gelée and blood orange — is just one of the many lusciously innovative options at this prix-fixe-only spot. ● Spicy cayenne hot chocolate @ SalonTea (Upper East Side) – In addition to supposedly speeding up your metabolism and improving blood circulation, it aids in digestion; this sure beats the garlic, celery, and beet concoction from the local health store juice bar. ● Frozen desserts @ Fabio Piccolo Fiore (Midtown East) – Anyone who watches Iron Chef on a semi-regular basis knows that nothings gets the judges more excited than ice cream and sorbet experimentations. Taste for yourself what they’re ooing and ahhing about at Fabio where the rotating flavors include fig and honey, cucumber, rosemary, cactus berry, pineapple mint, tomato vanilla, and goat cheese. ● Hamburger spring rolls @ Delicatessen (Soho) – Burger + flaky dough + condiments…could there be a more ingenious combination? ● Eggs benedict @ wd-50 (Lower East Side) – Dufresne has long touted eggs benedict as one of his favorite dishes, so it’s little surprise that his innovative take on the classic stands out: two cubes of deep-fried hollandaise sauce with toasted English muffin crumbs and two columns of egg yolk, each covered with a crispy bacon chip.

The Bruni Breakdown: Our Guide to Frank Bruni’s Guide to Recession Dining

You could read all of Frank Bruni’s article (and supplemental blog post) on the sad ways restaurants and their respective owners are coping with the downturn (by offering customers various deals to help lure them in), or you can read our simple guide to the guide. The choice is yours, but we know what would save more time. Savings we pass along to you, the otherwise hapless consumer.

Chanterelle – A management consultant notes: “You can go to Chanterelle at the last minute now, in a way that you couldn’t nine months ago.” ● WD-50 – Anyone who orders the $140 tasting menu can get a bottle of wine — any bottle of wine — off of their wine list for half price. ● The Modern – Bottles under $50 are now appearing under a special section on the wine list as “wines for our times.” ● Perry Street – A $35 three-course menu that runs on off-hours (from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and 9:30-11 p.m.). ● Nougatine – Also, a $35 three-course menu that runs from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and 10-11 p.m. ● Matsugen – A $35 seven-course menu that runs all hours. ● Del Posto – The infamous 20-course meal price went down from $225 to $175; a nine-course went from $175 to $125. ● Daniel – From 5:30-6:30 p.m., three courses, with wine: $98. You need a reservation to get this one. ● Cru – Through 6:30 p.m. nightly, a $49 three-course menu. ● Compass – A lobster “sample sale”: a grilled three-pounder for $39, lobster salad for $13. ● TOM – Now open as Damon: Frugal Fridays, with $10 dishes cooked by Craft’s executive chef. ● Lever House – A $35, three-course menu going through March. ● Eleven Madison Park – Still has a two-course lunch that goes for $28.

And NYC Restaurant Week is getting extended by a bunch of the places that were original participants, including Le Cirque.