This is a week where we are all supposedly gathering around the Yule log with friends and family. Say a prayer for all the people in the world who won’t get to do that this year.
I spent a day in NYC (more on that later) with my new friend Quinlin, who I met through Make a Wish. We ate in Chinatown and strolled around with his dad and my crew. It was the best Christmas gift I could have ever imagined. This young man fought and beat Burkitt’s, a really nasty leukemia. And he also taught me to wear the world a little more lightly. Thanks kid.
I also heard that my oldest friend is dying. Eleanor Mailloux is in her late nineties or early hundreds. No one knows for sure. She runs the Hutte House in Helvetia, West Virginia. She sends me pfefferneusse every few months because she knows that I love them—she got me hooked on them when we made my Appalachia episode. Up until a year ago, she still hiked the mountain behind the house every day and ran things in her little town: population 15.
I called her last week and she said she was in bed, feeling “lazy.” She cant even address her illness, except at one point she told me how much she loved me and was sad that my son had never seen West Virginia hill country. I love this woman.
If you want to do something great, send her a holiday or New Year card and tell her to get well soon. My dream is to fill her house with cards the way she fills my heart with her amazing spirit.
Send them to:
Helvetia, WV 26224
No box, no address . . . the town only has a few buildings. She will love it.
Eating Well Magazine calls these five stories the top food driven newsmakers of 2010. What say you when it comes to the national news . . . and what about in local news . . .? Is it the Mckee/Thoma brou ha ha? Block E falling apart? Tinucci’s Moss-gate? Heidi’s and Blackbird re-opening? Heartland’s ambition? Alex Robert’s Beard Award? Ringo’s hubris? The Summer of the Food Truck? And what’s with all the restaurant fires? Hang in there Nook-sters.
Help all of us at the Scripps Networks make a difference by clicking here. Please.
It’s been written that Yo! Sushi will be opening in the Twin Cities. It’s not done yet and no real estate has been locked. So what are you interested in: 40 sushi restaurants, each with indistinguishable menus like we basically have now, or 45 . . . except the newest five will all have conveyor belts and be in malls and downtown high traffic flow areas. I gotta tell you I am not a gimmick guy, but I like the conveyor belt convenience and have several favorites around the world, including London-based Yo!. They have a pretty slick concept.
I finally ate three massive pizzas at Black Sheep Pizza; my previous visits have been to-go only. Jordan Smith is doing a nice job, especially with the no cheese pizza with anchovies. Love it. Close circuit shout out to Jim over at Heavy Table. I am not feeling your pizza vibe. Punch, to my way of thinking, is the best pizza in the five-state region. Not even close. You and I need to go eat some of this stuff together.
Shooting a Bizarre Foods episode last week in NYC was awesome, and I got to do some fun things in between work commitments. Dinner with the Welcome Books team at Fu-leen was insane; I got to hang with Marissa Guggiano, who wrote Primal Cuts and whose newest book (not finished yet) is Staff Meals—this woman is amazingly talented and has a very keen sense of what people want to know about next. I ate many meals at the Breslin and John Dory—both are pretty easy choices since they are in the Ace Hotel where I was staying. I pigged out on April Bloomfield’s charcuterie, and the raw bar selections were like drugs: I couldn’t say no. Brunch at Breslin with my friend Matt Gross was stellar as well.
And I must say, kicking back at the Ace was easy; it’s a great hotel. Superb service, rooms come with oversized fridges stuffed with artisanal sodas, turntables, and classic vinyl (in original sleeves on my dresser). There was a great guitar leaning against the wall . . . and the best bed I have slept on in a hotel in years. You have to check it out. Oh, and the lobby scene is second to none at any hour of the day or night.
Di Palo dairy in Little Italy at Christmastime is a sight to behold: Eataly was jammed, but fun to stroll through. Korean BBQ at Wonjo on 32nd with my agent was superb—great quality beef and superior banchan. I also skated with my wife at 30 Rock, which was the best part of the trip . . . but the rink was pitted and I fell. Ouch.
My dinner at Craft with her was stellar as always; the risotto there was some of the best I have ever eaten, perfectly cooked, and the squash agnolotti was also insane. That is one heck of a great restaurant, and we make sure to go every time we are in NYC. Grammercy Tavern was also the perfect choice for a late night meal; it serves till 11 p.m. on Mondays! I had killer fennel seafood chowder, awesome duck salad, and butterscotch bread pudding with pear ice cream.
We also went to Osteria Morini, Michael White's new restaurant that opened two weeks ago. Its Italian farmhouse vibe is perfect! It offers the best gelati in NYC, the pastas (of course) are perfect—beyond perfect actually—the salumi is first rate, but it’s the croquettas and other little treats that make this one of the cities BEST restaurants. We had a pot of braised chicken and veal (cocks combs and trotters) that had been cooked down with stock and teeny diced vegetables and crowned with a pile of little croutons. The effect was intense. Slipping the spoon into the crock and eating that bread soaked in the fat with the filling playing the role of the stuff you find at the bottom of the soup pot . . . in the best sense imaginable. Wow.
Anyway, Ai Fiori, White’s newest restaurant, opened that week in the Setai Hotel; it’s an elegant restaurant with a killer menu and one of the best luxury burgers you will find anywhere. Pat La Frieda has done it again—first with his customized blend for Minetta Tavern (Black Label) and now the White Label for Fiori.
We had dinner another night at Minetta Tavern; the best steak I have eaten in years was the cotes de boeuf with the pommes aligote—it’s hard to imagine a prettier tavern or a better meal. I also had dinner with Gail Simmons at Morandi, Keith McNally’s farmhouse Italian concept on Charles Street in the West Village—great food, better company. Don’t miss the shaved Brussels sprout salad. And I had brunch with Adam Richman at McNally’s Balthazar—also great food, better company. I gotta tell ya, for a crowded, oversized restaurant it does wonders with poached eggs. We demolished a steak tartare and a few other choice morsels first. Say what you want, but Balthazar is a great experience, in my opinion.
I ate lunch at Michael White’s Marea, and I even got to cook on the line for a shift . . . that was harrowing, but I still got the goods. Stagier or not—doesn’t matter—putting out 30 plates in an hour at that place will make you tremble. I have no illusions that our town could support a restaurant like that, no way. But the idea that someone hasn’t physically lifted every aspect of a restaurant such as Morandi or Morini, Minetta or Breslin . . . even the Dory . . . these are concepts that would kill here.
Don’t say I didn’t tell you.