Friday, March 30, 2007

Michael Psilakis’s food and Katherine Bryant’s company

March 30

Last night I ate at Anthos, Michael Psilakis’s latest fine-dining restaurant, with publicist Katherine Bryant. I’d last eaten with her several weeks ago at Michael’s more casual restaurant, Kefi.
Kefi was almost ghostly silent the night that we ate there, but the restaurant apparently does five turns a night now, with neighboring restaurant Nice Matin benefiting from the spillover.
Katherine and I go way back. I met her years ago, when she was a mere pup of 22 and, like me, was working for a foodservice trade magazine (where, incidentally, she worked with our friend Andrea Strong, who had just stopped being a lawyer to become a food writer).
Anthos was mostly full last night. The table closest to us was populated by a raucous crowd comprised of Cat Cora and half a dozen others whom I didn’t know.
Katherine and I spoke of many things, including how to treat food writers and other VIPs that wander into your restaurant. It’s not uncommon to let them eat for free, especially if they’re alone or with just one friend. But how many times are you supposed to do that, and how often?
My philosophy is never to expect anything unless a representative from the restaurant contacts me and says: "Please will you eat in our restaurant as our guest?” To wander around asking for freebies is both undignified and unethical. In fact, I have colleagues who question the ethics of eating free food at all, although they are business reporters; it’s not their job to scout out food trends in restaurants. I’m happy to say that that task falls to me.
I told Katherine of another dilemma that I have. Say I stop into a restaurant for a drink or something, and they recognize me and send out food or give me free drinks. That’s nice, but I can’t very well go back the next day for a drink for fear that they will think that I will think that they’re obligated to give me more free stuff. It can be awkward.
Michael came by and chatted for awhile. He noted that as his career progresses it is becoming easier to find good help, because cooks want to work with someone of his reputation. He also talked about his delight in the fact that spring is coming and he’ll get to take his cooks down to the Union Square greenmarket to help plan the menu, which he changes every day (really, the menu has today’s date printed on it).
Shortly after he left to talk to other guests or put out a fire or something, his front-of-the-house partner, Donatella Arpaia, stopped by to gossip with Katherine. Donatella lamented Gawker’s rude item on Bullfrog & Baum, the PR company Katherine works for, and Katherine shrugged it off.
I don’t read Gawker often because, although that blog is sometimes very amusing and perceptive, usually I find it just to be mean. But I have noticed that Gawker likes to expose people for failing to be completely honest about their connections with others. So, in the interest of such full disclosure, I should point out that Josh Stein, the guy who wrote the anti-Bullfrog Gawker item, apparently applied for a job at Bullfrog & Baum and didn’t get it.
I should also point out that I’ve met Josh and like him.
Anyway, at the end of the meal Katherine’s fiancé, actor David Flaherty, showed up, and we chatted a bit over yogurt and spoon fruit, which Donatella brought out to show me the trays in which they’re served.

What else we ate and drank:

cracked mixed olives and garlic confit
keftidakia with olives, leeks and fig puree
smoked haloumi cheese
taramasalata and crispy pita
Guinea hen ballotine with smoked bacon, fig purée, puréed liver, house-cured prosciutto and pickled ramps
Ode Panos sparkling wine

Taylor bay scallop with pomegranate gelée, pistachio vinaigrette and peppermint
yellowtail with fennel pollen and ouzo-macerated cherries
tuna with mastic oil, lemon confit and rosemary
smoked sable with potato, pickled peppers and mint
cobia (a farm-raised Japanese fish) with lamb shoulder terrine
a 2005 Santorini

Sardine escabeche with cucumber, Thassos olive tar and herbs
two different kinds of retsina

Seared red mullet with lentil salad, lountza bacon and xynomavro vinaigrette
Vatistas Kidonitsa

Spicy shellfish yiovetsi stew with orzo, saffron and paximathi toast
2004 Hilopita Argilos

Baby pork chops, belly and lahanadolma with grilled fennel and avgolemono
Château Courras 2001

Goat cheesecake with coat cheese caramel, khatayif and kumquats
Ommegang Henneppin saison-style ale

Sesame-halva "extravaganza"
Espresso-chocolate torte
Samos 2001 Nectar (Muscat)


David Tze said...

You mention "cobia (a farm-raised Japanese fish) with lamb shoulder terrine."

While the best cobia is farm raised and a lot is consumed in Japan, little is raised there (and by "little" I think I mean "none") - the water is too cold. Most cobia is now farmed in Taiwan, but the Caribbean, notably Puerto Rico, is poised to catch up quickly.

Bret Thorn said...

Thank you for the clarification, David. I must admit I'd never heard of cobia before and simply took the server at his word.

Chef Michael Psilakis said...

Here I want to say that Kefi distinguishes itself with vibrant, vivid flavors that wake up hibernating taste buds.