FORK PLAY October 5, 2010

Winds of Revival. Oops. Morini. FoodParc. Atlantic Grill Goes West. The How Not To Cookbook. American Folk Art.


Dear Friends and Family,


        It could be the sudden gust of fall weather - what a glorious gift, I thought, standing on our front step at midnight in the gentle cool. The city seems to be shaking out of its sleepwalk. Don't say nobody is hiring. Ruth Reichl just got a plum job as editor-
at-large at Random House. And sold them two books in the deal. All those good-looking guys in white dinner jackets at The Hurricane Club Friday night? Somebody's hiring. There's an anvil chorus of cooks flanking Jonathan Benno in the glass cage kitchen at Lincoln. Steve Hanson has recruited every adorable young babe who didn't make it on - or off - Broadway this season, to tend tables at the 290 seat Bill's Bar and Burger in Rockefeller Center. So many ambitious new restaurants already launched in just the past two weeks, so many crews training.

        Coaches were drilling dining room hopefuls last week for Bar Basque, where Ferran Adria - straight from a lecture at Harvard - is due to stop by next week to screen a new film. If the big frugality epidemic, hiring freeze and mortgage debacle are not totally over yet at least we're seeing some spectacular bravado. After a listless summer at the multiplex, even the movies are getting better.


        Our colors this week are pumpkin and acorn squash.


Oops! Excuse me

        I don't like to use my name to get a table. Not that I never do it. But certainly not when I'm reviewing a restaurant. I was eager to taste Michael White's food downtown at Osteria Morini, his homage to his mentor Gianluigi Morini, creator of San Domenico in Imola, Italy, (Of course Tony May did his own earlier homage twenty years ago on Central Park South with the ramrod straight, very dapper, Morini on and for the opening.)

        "They're not taking reservations right now," my assistant said. I decided to take a chance just walking in and hope the wait wouldn't be too long. Our friends were perched at the bar when we arrived.

        "Tonight's just for friends and family," the hostess said in greeting, "but of course we have a table for you." Boy, that was a stab and a kiss. I hadn't been invited to friends and family. But on the other hand they weren't tossing us out. Chris Connors, White's partner here, as at Marea, Alto and Convivio, has said that restaurants rise from their terroir. (Not terror, folks, terroir, where they're planted.)

        And the rustic just-happened look of Morini does fit the rough triangle of Petrosino Square, east of Soho, north of Little Italy. Does it sound like I'm avoiding what we ate? Well I am. First of all, I really wasn't invited. And it's not all clear so soon. The one thing I will say -- what I wanted to whisper into White's ear was: too much salt. Especially rosemary salt on roasted potatoes.

        Chefs love salt. White is supremely confident. I'm sure he won't care what I think. I'll go back to taste again before I write.


A Food Court that Surprises

        For months, I've been hearing about FoodParc, the opening gambit of Jeffrey Chodorow's feeding plans for the new Eventi Hotel on Sixth Avenue. Hired to come up with concepts and menus, my close friend Eddie Schoenfeld couldn't help dropping some clues over the gestation period, most of which I read a day later in FloFab's column or Eater, though I was sworn to silence. I've known Eddie from the days when he was the only Caucasian captain in a Chinese restaurant, a welcoming guide to the menu at Uncle Tai's Hunan Yuan, a glorious defiance of Chinese restaurant cliché where the food, some of it never before tasted in New York, was transcendent.       

        For the Chowd's FoodParc, Schoenfeld dreamed up RedFarm Stand with the dim sum sorcerer Joe Ng and a gourmand's dream at 3Bs - Bacon, Burger and Beer. And he put together the slightly outrageous specifics of Chodorow's flatbread concept at Fornetti's, where everything you can think of and more comes on whole wheat or white dough. Click here to read the rest of the tale. Want to learn about the golden era of Chinese Restaurants in New York?


Atlantic Grill Goes West

         Steve Hanson has been a friend to both Steven and me for years. He collects Steven's photographs. His Ruby Foo uptown (now defunct) and in midtown were and are rich with huge color prints of Steven's work. He lives on our block. He's an advertiser. How many more disclosures do I need? The point is, I worried that I might be too kind or too tough in an attempt not to be too kind to his new Atlantic Grill across from Lincoln Center.

        Well, maybe I was a bit soft. I neglected to say that the kitchen was still slow on our fourth visit. But the truth is that the handsome new Atlantic Grill is already a fueling station before and after Lincoln Center for those who line up to eat on these few blocks before the opera or ballet. It has just what you want to eat before or after the curtain. Let me suggest what to order. Click here.


The How Not to Cookbook

        Obviously The Martha doesn't need this book: "The How Not to Cookbook: Lessons Learned the Hard Way," collected by Aleksandra Mir from 1000 cooks (Rizzoli $25). And maybe I don't either since I scarcely cook these days. Still reading it is fun and it could save a neophyte from self immolation and other inconveniences. It made me laugh. And even think.

        "Do not use a plastic spoon to stir a cheese sauce. It can melt and sometimes people do not notice until after they have eaten." "A cucumber is a poor substitute for zucchini bread no matter how similar they appear." "Never cook with a towel over your arm." "Do not barbecue in a nylon negligee." Rather than this grand format, Mir's collection of sage and arch advice could ideally be packaged into a cute little $10.99 book - a perfect bridal shower gift. It's a little sexist too. "Do not ask a blonde to do a soft boiled egg." Really? But there you are

. Some people think nothing of paying $25 for a lipstick.


Folk Art for Sale

        Are you a collector? An architect designing an American pub? A decorator accessorizing a country house? You will appreciate my organically rusted rooster weathervane and wonderful rusted tin watermelon slice, each handsomely mounted. $950 for both. I also have a magnificent 19th Century ship's figurehead of an Indian woman for $1400. Email me if you are interested and I'll send a photograph.

Photograph of Bill's Burger, Osteria Morini Chef Michael White, FoodParc's Reuben and double bacon Cobb salad, the Rooster and the Watermelon may not be used without permission from Steven Richter.

Fork Play copyright Gael Greene 2010.