|FORK PLAY August 11, 2009 |What Did You Say? Chef's Night Out. Piggy Tattoo. Hotel Griffou Check-in. Circo for Sirio. Favorite Tweets. Dear Friends and Family,
I was sorry to see Govind Armstrong take such a tough hit from Frank Bruni for the torturous clamor of his
new Table 8 in the Cooper Square Hotel. I loved Armstrong's food on my one evening at his Los Angeles spot and in our early dinner here there were dishes that had unusually appealing California ways. But Table 8 is just another assault station on our nightly rounds. Locanda Verde is a challenge too. And DBGB needs to tone down. I shudder sitting next to large tables of millennium babies screaming to hear each other. Thirty years from now, they'll be lining up for the latest in hearing aids. Where is the architect that cares about noise? Even a few decibels lower would be kind.
Lower East Side friends seemed ecstatic about the outdoor café at Tonda. They loved the baccala fritters.
Most importantly, no one minded their bringing along Coco, the dog. But Monday when we joined them was a disaster. Pizzas arrived just minutes after our starters, a tasting of Neopolitan street food. Our friends waved the pizzas away. Fifteen minutes later they returned, chewy as espadrilles -- right Coco? And we were so hungry we actually ate them. "I told him not to cook the pizzas till you were ready," the forlorn waiter offers. A freshly cooked four cheese pie replacing the four seasons pizza we hadn't ordered was actually quite
edible. But not worth even a long walk, much less a $26 taxi round trip for us. I guess Monday is chef's night out.
At Steve Hanson's Wildwood Barbeque the spicy wings seemed a little tamer than remembered but the lamb ribs were fine and fatty as always. In no time the table was paved with ribs and fixins'. "What is that on your arm?" I asked our smart and sassy server Laura. She flexed her pigs. "What a porky tribute to this place," I said. "Steve should give you a bonus for the advertising."
Given that the partners all prepped at bastions of hip and belonging like Waverly Bar, Balthazar, Cafeteria, Freeman's and La Esquina, we brace for a little attitude, if not cutting humiliation, on a rainy summer Friday when we arrive at Hotel Griffou without a reservation. Surprise.
Hotel Griffou Does Room Service
"That won't be a problem," the keeper of the book says promptly, leading us to a tiny two-top in the dark wood-paneled "Library" with splashes of Ivy League green walls and a wooden duck in flight overhead. It's tight in here. Maybe this is purgatory for nobodies and walk-ins. If so, our server is oblivious to this social profiling and leaps in with enthusiasm. And we found a chef cooking to please himself. What should you order? Click here for more on Hotel Griffou. Also click here to read memories of Julia and why you'll want to see the most fattening movie of the year.
A Pizza for Sirio We decided to pay homage to the master ringmaster of Le Cirque, sidelined in the hospital after open heart surgery, by having dinner at Circo with friends who love him too. There was Sirio's wife Egi by herself having a pizza at a table on the terrace. Signs of recuperation: He directed her to make him a pizza for lunch the next day.
Inside the usual mix of tourists and Maccioni fans filled two-thirds of the tables. What a surprise to see Bruno Dussin, a familiar face from the golden days at Le Cirque, a little greyer. (But those things happen except to those of us who just get blonder.) After an interlude in Venice, Bruno returned to New York in 2001 and agreed to work at Circo. "Two or three years we need you," Sirio said. Now it's eight years later and he's still there, lunch and dinner. I had pea soup, vitello tonnato and sorbetto on the $35 dinner, extended through Labor Day and who knows...maybe longer. I urged my friends to try lo sgroppino as dessert - lemon sorbetto drowned with vodka or limoncello, the inevitable finale I discovered nights out in Venice.
Twitterings I do Not Regret I have friends who flatly refuse to bow to Twitter for fear of jangling their nerves, not to mention a serious addiction. For them I have gathered a few of my favorite twitterings on InsatiableCritic. Click here.
Raw Tomato Sauce for Pasta
My former husband and I loved a pasta with an uncooked tomato sauce that we ate at a shack on the beach in Ischia during our belated honeymoon. I gave the idea to Craig Claiborne once. He said it was awful, but I noticed he ran a very similar recipe some months later with the usual Craig enthusiasm. Only the best summer tomatoes will do for this trick.
4 large beefsteak tomatoes
4 very large cloves of garlic
6 large basil leaves
1 tsp. salt
6 grindings of black pepper
2/3 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. bucatini or perciatelli
Core and chop tomatoes coarsely, between 1/4 and 1/2 inch. (I never bother to peel them, but you can.) Put the tomato and all its juices into a large bowl. Peel garlic and smash with a chef's knife if you want to remove it before serving, or mince two of the cloves if you want to leave it in for a more intense garlic taste. Add garlic to tomatoes.
Cut 3 of the basil leaves into fine ribbons and add to tomatoes. Add salt and pepper. Stir in olive oil. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 10 hours, stirring occasionally.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain in a colander, reserving a third of a cup of pasta cooking water in the pot. Return pasta to pot and toss with reserved liquid. Ladle into soup bowls. Remove smashed garlic from tomatoes and ladle over pasta. Sliver remaining basil and scatter on top. Some will want a flurry of fresh grated Parmesan; purists will not.
Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course.
Photos of the lamb at Table 8, Wildwood ribs, The Piggy Tattoo, Hotel Griffou's Tasmanian Trout and Bruno at Circo may not be used without permission from Steven Richter.
Fork Play copyright Gael Greene 2009.