Friday, September 12, 2008

And New York’s fall restaurant opening season begins

September 10 (yes 10, I'm catching up)

“I’ve never had a chicken nugget.”
That’s what a high-maintenance travel and food writer told me at the first restaurant opening party of what looks to be a very busy fall season here in New York City.
The party, on Tuesday, was for Bloomingdale Road, the latest in a bunch of neighborhood restaurants on the Upper West Side by the same people who own Nonna, Firehouse, Campo etc. Bloomingdale Road’s kind of different from those other restaurants, though. It’s larger, and it has a fairly big-name chef, Ed Witt, whom you might remember from Varietal, a restaurant that failed to thrive and closed in June of 2007.
He was serving chicken nugget “pops,” which is to say they were on sticks. He also served smoked deviled eggs (once the eggs were stuffed, he stuck them in a cold smoker) and other gussied-up bar food. He set up a mac ’n’ cheese bar, too. At the actual bar, the one with drinks, there were, among other things, pisco sour brûlées. They were topped with a sweetened meringue, and then high-proof rum flavored with bitters was lit on fire as it was sprayed out of a canister to brown them.
“Have you ever had a chicken nugget?” I asked the person who came with the high-maintenance travel and food writer.
“I have a nine-year-old,” she said. So, yes.
I think this was the first party I attended that was thrown by KB/Hall, the new PR company formed by the merger of KB Network News (a PR firm despite the name) and The Hall Company.
Those two companies used to handle openings quite differently. Hall would throw great big parties with interesting crowds and plenty of booze. They were a lot of fun, but they didn’t tend to serve much food. KB didn’t generally throw parties but instead invited all of the media, each with one guest, into the restaurant for dinner over the course of two or three nights.
This party was kind of a combination of those two approaches. It was a party with booze, but also with food, but not really the eclectic and interesting crowd that often would be found at Hall openings.
So after about an hour I was done with that and hopped on the #1 train to the West Village, where Benvenuti PR was handling the opening of De Santos, an Italian restaurant owned in part by Alex González, drummer of the Mexican rock band Maná.
It apparently is a very important rock band; Benvenuti said it was “comparable to the U2 of Latin America.” Obviously, publicists do occasionally engage in puffery, but Latino media, including paparazzi, were there in force.
Maria Benvenuti introduced me to Alex González (“Hey man, thanks so much for coming”) and then ushered me downstairs to the kitchen where she grabbed a plate, filled it with canapés (Italian cold cuts, something with melted cheese, seared tuna with a ginger sauce) and handed it to me. So I snacked, drank red wine and wandered back upstairs to check out the crowd.
They seemed to be cool-looking Latin scenesters, although Jim Farber, a Daily News music critic, was there, too, and a couple of the nice people from Grub Street.
I also met the chef, Aldo Alo, who’s Italian, although he was born in Luxembourg. So I guess he’s also Luxembourgish (that’s what you call then; I asked the Luxembourg consulate).
My sense is that De Santos is intended more as a venue for music than for food, but we’ll see.

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