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Comes Clean by John Mariani
By JOHN MARIANI
noon the parking lot started filling up with old trucks and just-washed
SUVs. The smell of the smoke from Kreuz Market barbecue in Lockhart,
Texas, was drawing people fast.
619 N. Colorado Street
Photos for this article are by Wyatt McSpadden
from his book Texas BBQ (2009), with a preface by Jim Harrison.
Vive Les Bistros et Brasseries!
muffled by the jubilation to be taken in the evidence that the
good French bistro has never been better represented, whether it's Bistro
Niko in Atlanta, Petite
Maison in Phoenix, or L'Albatros
in Cleveland. New York has never been without a slew of admirable
ones, each quite similar, each quite different from one another.
The menus tend to stay true to the beloved form, the décors
or another Paris originals, and the joie de vivre is free of the
that helped drive expensive French dining salons out of business. Here
are three that show the genre at its best.
Malcolm X Boulevard (Lenox Avenue at
A long, long time ago when I was a grad student at Columbia, I once got off the train at 125th Street and, since it was a lovely spring day, decided to walk all the way up to the University on Morningside Heights. Before I could get two steps, a NYC cop stopped me and said, "You'll never make it alive." I took a taxi.
Since those days Harlem has come back to vibrant life, especially along 125th Street where, on a recent spring evening, the crossroads at Lenox Avenue were teeming with people going into the brightly lighted boutiques and big department stores. Parking spaces were tough to find, and as I passed by the newly refurbished townhouses, then past the ever-expanding Sylvia's Soul Food, where Reverend Al Sharpton was having a politico party that night, I saw the little storefront of Chez Lucienne, as happily situated as if it had been on Montparnasse. Once inside, I found the place bustling with an array of locals, a few barhangers, and a crew of waiters rushing about trying to get drink orders, menus, and food with efficient aplomb.
Bright white tablecloths were a joy to see at a time when so many restaurants have removed them, and the cheery red bar and awning and the bentwood chairs provide nostalgic comfort to anyone who has spent many happy times in French bistros. It's a casual place and it can get a little loud if they turn the music up, so ask them to turn it down. There's belly dancing on Wednesdays, a night Bill Clinton, who has an office in Harlem, sometimes comes by to eat.
Owners Jerome Bougherdani and chef Matthew Tivy, formerly at restaurant Daniel, have other eateries in the neighborhood and I think they've bet right that Harlem and the expanding Columbia University area to the west are prime for restaurant development. Exec Chef Thomas Obaton hails from Lyon and worked for Guy Savoy in Paris, so he knows well what the classics of the provinces should taste like. Add to all this a complete $25 dinner, and you just better hop the subway or catch a cab and get up here and back cheap. There are also specials each night regulars look forward to.
On a Tuesday evening Chez Lucienne was buzzing and we were hungry. The winelist is as well priced as everything else here. We began with a tomato-mozzarella French pizza with a tarte fine pastry crust shell and a deliciously creamy quiche Lorraine that will make you forget all those dreary examples on most brunch menus. Best of all was the pâté of chicken livers. served with French pickles and a green salad.
There aren't many French places left in New York doing seafood quenelles, so it was good to see them on the menu here, made with sole rather than the usual pike, poached with egg whites to make them light and served with a rich crayfish emulsion and fragrant basmati rice. Grilled salmon with a broccoli puree and balsamic sauce didn't seem to belong here, so lackluster was the fish and puree, so unexpected the balsamic. Braised coq au vin came with pearl onions, bacon, mushrooms and unconventional angel's hair pasta (a wider noodle would have been better), but there was everything to enjoy in a grilled skirt steak--nicely chewy and streaked with fat--with good French fries and an wonderfully old-fashioned green peppercorn sauce.
The dessert chef here is Tarik Slamani and he treats the old favorites with respect, like a vanilla-rich île flottante with crème anglaise and caramel, and crisp apple Tarte Tatin. Tarte à la crème et banane was called "classic" but that must mean an American classic, since I've never run across this in France. And of course there were vanilla ice cream profiteroles lavished with chocolate sauce.
Chez Lucienne has caught on for the reasons that bistros survive and thrive among people whose interests are food and drink first and in atmosphere that it doesn't veer from from the beloved norm of its Parisian antecedents.
Chez Lucienne will be open for lunch in April; dinner nightly, for brunch on Sun. Dinner appetizers run $6.95-$12.95 and main courses $17.95-$24.95.
In size, Orsay is more a brasserie, which are traditionally larger than
bistros and have a grander Alsatian bourgeois bonhomie. Also, the art
nouveau fonts and flourishes, the mahogany accents, 24-foot pewter bar,
and frosted glass easily put you in mind of places like La Rotonde and
Le Dôme in Paris. The restaurant, here since 2000, is
named after a fashionable
boulevardier and dilettante in the
arts, Count Alfred Guillaume Gabriel d'Orsay.
Orsay is open daily. Dinner appetizers run
$8-$25, main courses, $22-$45.
There is no
better location for a bistro than this--right across from
the fluttering flags surrounding the Rockefeller Center skating rink
beneath the towers of art déco skyscrapers that make Brasserie
Ruhlmann a perfect melange of Paris chic and New York sophistication.
Now, with glorious spring upon us, the outdoor tables under brown
umbrellas make this one of the city's loveliest settings.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
all of their obvious differences in grape varieties planted, winemaking
styles, terroirs, climates, and the rest, the great wine regions of the
world have a number of important things in common. The best are home to
wines that embody a predictable, consistent expression--a sense of
place--year after year. They have a track record of producing wines
that, even in lesser vintages, are generally still quite good. And
their internal divisions, based on years of vinicultural and
viticultural experience, accurately embody the notion that even
seemingly minute differences in the natural environment can leave a
significant mark on the wines that are produced there.
Brian Freedman is a food and wine writer, wine educator, and food and wine consultant. He is Director of Wine Education for the Wine School of Philadelphia, contributing editor for Philadelphia Style Magazine, wine columnist for Affluent Magazine, and writes the blog www.UncorkLife.com for www.WineChateau.com. His web site is www.BrianFreedmanPhiladelphia.com.
A group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis insists that the smoked salmon called lox should no longer be considered kosher, because the fish often contain parasitic worms. But other rabbis disagree: "This issue has been resolved in Jewish law for hundreds of years already," said Rabbi Moshe Elefant of the Orthodox Union.
"Not every entrée shines. Sautéed steelhead, finished in Meyer lemon brown butter and plated with Brussels sprouts and chorizo, works as hard for its payoff as a spawning salmon does."—Josh Sens, "Frances," San Francisco Magazine.
✉ Guidelines for submissions: QUICK BYTES publishes only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant openings or personnel changes. When submitting please send the most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below. Thanks. John Mariani* During April & May, the Wine Road will be partnering with Art at the Source for its annual art and wine program. The special “Art at the Wineries” event will feature local Sonoma area painters, sculptors, photographers, potters, jewelers, fiber artists, and glass artists on display at over 30 Wine Road members’ tasting rooms, leading up to the 16th annual “Art at the Source Open Studios” held the first two weekends in June. Visit www.wineroad.com; Call 800-723-6336.
* On Apr 4 in NYC, Travertine restaurant and owner Danae Cappelletto will host an Alice in Wonderland-themed costume party with music by Tyger Lilly, featuring candy coated brunch at 12pm that will float into an evening of music and fine food! In-house Mixoligist, Courtney Bae has created a speciality cocktail using Vieux Carré absinthe. The 'White Rabbit.' Call 212.966.1810 and for table inquiries and bookings email email@example.com.
* On Apr. 8 in Washington D.C., Poste Moderne Brasserie has joined forces with Bokisch Vineyard from Lodi, CAor a 5-course wine dinner by Chef Robert Weland. TMarkus and Liz Bokisch will be on hand to discuss the intricacies of Spanish-style varietals and organic and sustainable wines. $85. Call Stacy Isabella at 202-449-7062.
NYC’s At Vermillion will present the
"Secret Ingredient Dinner," a multi-dimensional event
featuring the 5-course menu Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan prepared
during her Stadium Kitchen showdown with Iron Chef Morimoto, will incl.
an interactive cooking demo and the airing of the
Chauhan/Morimoto bout On Iron Chef America with live commentary by Chef
Chauhan about the experience. $65 pp. Call 212-871-6600.
* On April 8 in Oakland,
CA, Ozumo will host a Cherry
celebration with food and drink specials, DJ entertainment and models
showcasing traditional Japanese attire. No cover charge, no
reservations are required. 510-286-9866 www.Ozumo.com.
a Quarantine Dinner based on ingredients that require isolation
for their existence and / or to maximize their flavor and texture
potential will be held at Storefront
for Art & Architecture, as a culinary element to the
gallery’s current Landscapes of Quarantine exhibit, which explore the
concepts of quarantine beyond disease containment. $152 per
person. Call 212-431-5795.
* On April 10 in Dallas, the 19th Annual Côtes Du Coeur International Fine Wine Auction & Celebrity Chef Dinner will benefit the American Heart Association. Featuring cuisine from 18 of the region’s top chefs, led by Richard Chamberlain, with wine pairings from 8 master sommeliers representing 30 world-renowned wineriess. $750 pp. Call Nancy Wolff at 214-748-7212 or email Nancy.Wolff@heart.org; www.dallaswineauction.com.* On Apr. 12 in NYC, La Fonda del Sol restaurant launches a series of Spanish wine classes that will take place every second Mon. of the month in the private dining room. Six wines will be tasted and discussed, accompanied by an assortment of tapas prepared by Executive Chef Josh DeChellis. $45 pp. Call 212-867-6767 or visit www.patinagroup.com/east/lafondadelsol/wineclasses.
* On Apr. 13 in Charlottesville, VA, Clifton Inn will present "An Evening with Thomas Jefferson" in honor of the Founding Father’s 267th birthday, hosted by a renowned first person historical interpreter as Thomas Jefferson and feature a 4-course, Jefferson-inspired menu prepared by Executive Chef Dean Maupin and paired with Virginia wines. $267 per couple for lodging and dinner; $67 pp. for dinner only. Call 888-971-1800. www.cliftoninn.net.
* On Apr. 14 in Scottsdale, AZ, J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician presents the Chef Tribute Dinner: Harvesting Arizona as part of the 32nd annual Scottsdale Culinary Festival. Hosted by J&G’s Chef de Cuisine, Jacques Qualin, guests will dine on a farm-to-table, Arizona wine-paired menu while dining with Arizona chefs and farmers who produce some of the best State-sourced delicacies. Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco will speak at the dinner,. $150 pp. Call 480-945-7193 or visit www.scottsdaleculinaryfestival.org.
* On Apr. 15 in NYC,
wines and cuisine at t Charlie Palmer's Aureole Restaurant. $165 pp.,
seating is limited Call 707-935-0803 or firstname.lastname@example.org to
* On Apr 17, in Santa Margarita, CA the Earth Day Food & Wine Festival presents a culinary experience as over 50 farmers, ranchers, chefs and restaurants put together an array of treats ranging from a bruschetta bar to barbecue, ahi tacos to osso buco, pesto pasta to risotto Milanese. $25 - $600. www.earthdayfoodandwine.com or call 805-369-2288.NEW FEATURE: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linking up with four excellent travel sites:
* On Apr 17, in NYC, Chef Daniel Boulud presents
Burgundy, Bordeaux Blue Jeans
& Blues an Annual Dinner &Auction in support of
Citymeals-on-Wheels, with special guest Chef Heston Blumenthal of The
Fat Duck. Tix $1,000, with gourmand tables $25,000. Contact
Heather Gere 212-687-1290 email@example.com.
* From Apr. 20 – 24, in Sausaltio, CA, Poggio will hold their third annual
Allo Spiedo Festa honoring the Italian spring tradition of spit
roasting meats over live fire. The restaurant is partnering with Marin
County ranchers Devil’s Gulch Ranch and Marin Sun Farms to offer young
goat, pig, rabbit, and quail. $19 pp. Call 415-332-7771.
* From Apr. 20-23 in San
Antonio, Texas: “A Night In
Old San Antonio®” is a
4-night festival that celebrates the city’s cultural legacy
with 250 food, drink and atmosphere booths; 20 live musical acts;
children’s games; decorations; Sponsored by and benefiting the
San Antonio Conservation Society. $12 for adults and $2 for children
six to 12 years; children five years and under are free. Call
210-226-5188, visit www.niosa.org.
Berkeley, CA, Spenger's
Fish Grotto will honor National Take Our Daughters and Sons
to Work Day by offering a free lunch entrée to all children and
hosting an educational cooking demonstration by Chef Devon
Boisen. 510-845-777 www.Spengers.com.
* On Thursday, April 22, Pacci Ristorante in Atlanta will offer a special 3-course Earth Day menu filled with local ingredients from Chef Keira Moritz. $35 pp. Call 678-412-2402 or visit www.pacciatlanta.com.
* On April 23-25 in Greenough,
Montana, at The Resort
at Paws Up will hold a wine tasting and tail chasing
weekend featuring a canine fashion show, training and wellness
seminars, gourmet human and doggie treats, spa treatments, a dog parade
and much more. The all-inclusive Wine & Bitch
three-day/two-night weekend package is for two adults and one dog and
starts at $1825. Call 800-473-0601 or visit www.wineandbitch.com.
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: 12 SUNNY DAYS ON A MED CRUISE
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with
children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle
McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family
travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide
its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and
practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy,
safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children
who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of
adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.