Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How much are local ingredients worth to you?

August 17

For my latest poll, I’d like to ask you how much more you’d be willing to spend for local products in restaurants. Polls being polls, they’re imprecise, so please comment below if you have something to say about what local ingredients are worth paying for (seasonal grapes or corn, say) and which ones aren’t (I don’t know, ketchup maybe).

Thank you.

Regarding my last poll, about what you thought Seamus Mullen would do next now that he has left Boqueria, most readers had no interest in such speculation, but here are the results from the seven voters:

Open a cute snout-to-tail restaurant in New York 3 (42%)

Open a cute snout-to-tail restaurant in another city 1 (14%)

Launch a new burger concept with hopes of turning it into a chain 1 (14%)

Get a job at a country club to make money and live a less hectic life 0 (0%)

Leave foodservice to become a full-time celebrity chef, possibly with a gig on Dancing with the Stars. 0 (0%)

Become a chef at someone else’s restaurant, possibly with Danny Meyer or Steve Hanson 0 (0%)

Something else. 2 (28%)

Friday, August 06, 2010

What will Seamus Mullen do next?

August 6

People who follow the New York restaurant scene closely were likely surprised and possibly saddened when it was announced several weeks ago that Seamus Mullen had left his job as executive chef and owner of Boqueria.

Naturally, I asked Seamus what he was up to next, and he didn’t respond. That’s fair. It’s my job as a journalist to ask, it’s not his job to answer if he doesn’t feel like it.

However he was good enough to send me a recent picture of himself so I could illustrate a blog entry about him. He sent it with the message: “headshots coming to you from Havana...”

So he was either in Cuba or engaging in a complicated plot of subterfuge, and I don't think he takes me seriously enough to bother with subterfuge.

But it means we get to speculate, and that’s always fun.

What do you think Seamus Mullen will do next? Is he in Cuba doing research for some Latin-American-themed place, or is he just on vacation?

Will he open a new restaurant in New York, or will he try his hand in a new market, like former Buddakan chef Lon Symensma recently said he’d be doing?

Or has he had enough of the day-to-day restaurant rat race and possibly heading to lower-stress and probably higher paying jobs, like former Daniel executive chef Alex Lee, who's currently in charge of the food at Glen Oaks Country Club in Old Westbury New York (NRN’s classified ads saleswoman Leslie Wolowitz says the food is phenomenal), or like former Oceana executive chef Cornelius Gallagher, who's currently corporate chef for the Long Island-based Bohlsen Restaurant Group (and, I hear, considering joining the growing number of restaurateurs who are serving wine out of kegs)?

I’ll leave the speculation up to you with the poll on the right. If you have different guesses about what he’s doing, please write a comment below.

And Seamus, if you’re out there, obviously we’d love to hear from you. Just say “hi” if you like.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Strawberry’s star-studded Sports Grill

“Excuse me, why do you think you were invited to this?”

That looks worse in writing than it sounded. Nadia, the woman in back of me on the bus, wasn’t asking me what made me think I was supposed to be on the bus. She wasn't assuming that I wasn’t invited and had somehow sneaked on.

Or, gosh, maybe she was. She did point out the guy on the bus I was supposed to check in with. Is it possible that I’ve finally evolved to a point where it doesn’t even cross my mind that I might be spotted as a fraud who doesn’t belong on the same bus as fabulous people?

At any rate, I thought Nadia was, like me, just trying to figure out who all these people were.

I did notice that it was a handsome crowd, and the guy sitting next to Nadia looked familiar, like he was part of that good-looking set of food and lifestyle writers (mostly lifestyle writers, except for Andrew Knowlton) whom I notice from time to time.

Is there a group word, like herd or gaggle, for impossibly tall, thin and leggy blond models? Bevy, I guess.

Well a bevy of them came onto the bus shortly before it pulled away. They all sat together, possibly in the same seat. And then I knew I was going to one of those parties.

I told Nadia I was a food writer, and so I tended to get invited to restaurant openings, like the opening of Strawberry's Sports Grill that we were all going to, braving the traffic to head to the Queens-Nassau County border.

The restaurant is owned in part by New York Mets legend Darryl Strawberry. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was one of those parties that celebrities go to, but in retrospect it should have.

How about Nadia? What did she do?

“I’m an actor.”

“Oh, where do you act?” I asked, because of course New York has a lot of actors, tens of thousands of them I’d guess.

“TV,” she said.

I cringed as I asked the ridiculous question of whether I was supposed to know her.

It’s a stupid question, to which the only civilized answer is “no,” which she gave, and told me she was next going to be on The Big C, on Showtime with Laura Linney.

I introduced myself to the guy next to her, hoping we hadn't met before and now assuming that I recognized him because I’d seen him acting somewhere. “Mike,” he said, and shook my hand and I went on with my conversation with Nadia.

She also has a baseball show on the web and was hoping to get Darryl Strawberry to be on it.

I wished her luck, and then looked at Mike and said “Oz!”

“You were on Oz. You were that guy who was mad at whatshisname...”

Mike knew exactly who he was and I don’t think he felt like listening to me fumble around with a plot summary. He said succinctly that he was a violently homophobic rapist who was himself raped and killed.

Yeah, that was it.

I said I was sorry when he was killed. I mean, it seemed like the polite thing to say, and I was sorry when he was killed. I had enjoyed watching him.

Well, that was that. I figured Mike and Nadia had actor things to talk about or whatever, so I turned around and, with the entire borough of Queens to get through and my Blackberry before me, I looked them up.

I determined without a lot of trouble that they were Mike Doyle and Nadia Dajani.

Later I even found Nadia’s web show, Caught Off Base. It’s cute.

When we arrived at Strawberry’s, I got off behind one of the statuesque blondes and in front of Mike Doyle. I felt like a gnome.

But I was, in fact, recognized by someone. Oh yes I was.

The paparazzi didn’t care about me, but I was greeted warmly near the back of the bar by restaurateur Michael Sinensky, who had fond memories of something I’d written about his restaurant Vintage Irving.
Michael is friends with Eytan Sugarman, who is Strawberry’s business partner in this restaurant.

He’s also the owner of Southern Hospitality, which I thought was partly owned by Justin Timberlake, but if that was true, it is no longer. He just helped conceptualize the place, according to Sugarman’s publicists.

Because we all know how intrinsically good pop stars are at conceptualizing restaurants...

Parties with paparazzi tend to be tedious and lame, but I knew I was trapped at this one until the bus departed at 11pm, so I had beer and crispy buffalo shrimp and barbecued chicken and watched the crowd go by, not recognizing the sports stars, except for Strawberry himself because I was in Boston during the 1986 World Series, and only being jostled enough to splash my own beer on myself twice.

I certainly didn’t recognize the reality TV stars that were there — apparently a Bachelorette and a Dancing With the Stars winner. There were a number of young men with high-maintenance gel-laden haircuts and beautiful eyes. I wonder who they were. Possibly just locals with good eyes.

The return bus was delayed as it waited for good looking, drunk people in their 20s to pile in, so in the meantime I caught up with Tom Farley and got acquainted with Max Gross, who, quite apart from being a writer for the New York Post (and, being a native New Yorker and lifelong Mets booster, a huge fan of Strawberry’s), is also Arthur Schwartz's godson. Imagine that.

As we waited we talked about restaurants and such with Juliet Izon, who works for Life & Style. Meanwhile some of the other reporters from magazines like People had to get off the bus because Justin Timberlake had arrived and they had to, oh, I don't know, stand near him or something. It’s their job.

But I’d met Mike Doyle, so I was all set.

He shook my hand and wished me a good evening as he left, I’ll have you know.

Oh right, pictures. I didn’t bring a camera, but I got one from StarTraks Photo of Karina Smirnoff from Dancing with the Stars, and some of New York’s Finest.

I asked for pictures of Mike Doyle or Nadia Dajani, but I guess they didn’t rate.

Here's my news story about the restaurant.