[Pigging by Wilfrid: january 26, 2011]
There you are in the Times Square neighborhood. Be honest, it happens. Maybe you just dropped by the Times for a chat with Sam Sifton or caught a matinée at Show World. And now you need a burger.
Of course, there's "a unique dining experience for the Whopper connoiseur" [sic] at BK's soaring Whopper Bar. Has anyone else read Times Square Red, Times Square Blue?
[Pink Pig Time Machine by Wilfrid: January 25, 2011]
Traveling for an extended stay in London ten years ago this week. A work-related pre-text for the journey, but since I sneaked over to Paris for a few days it looks like I added some vacation time too.
[Pigging by Wilfrid: January 25, 2010]
So what the egg flip was all that about? According to Grub Street, the city is "patting itself on the back for its letter-grading system today." Everything is "a-okay" with no less than 57% of restaurants awarded grades achieving the highest ranking - A. 31% received a B, the remaining 12% a C. Well, whoopeedoo, it looks like almost 90% of inspected premises are clean - or clean enough.
Now this pretty much backs up an observation I made as far back as January '09 when this costly project was announced. Health Czar Frieden said back then: "Every day more than a thousand people get sick from eating in restaurants." I don't know where that figure came from - given the difficulty of tracing the typical symptoms to one specific cause, I am convinced it's highly speculative - but of course, even if it was accurate, it would demonstrate what a tiny proportion of the population comes to any harm when eating out. There are, after all, over 25,000 restaurants in the city, and a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation will tell you what a vanishingly small percentage of their traffic Dr Frieden's 1,000 is likely to be.
So. Based, on the Health Department's own estimate, it seemed to me we just did not have a toxic restaurant problem. Illness traceable to dining out, a very rare thing. Looks like we just spent two years - and who knows how much money? Does anyone care? - confirming that.
A-okay. Ah, but what about those joints which didn't make the grade. What about the C class? Mayor Bloomberg surely had a point two years ago when he said: "It will give a major incentive to restaurants to improve their cleanliness, because if they don't, the grade will be there for everyone to see and they will lose business."
Oh, wait, that statement is no longer operative. Why? Because, what you do if you get a C grade is appeal and await reinspection (you can do the same if you get a B and you're fussy). Do you post your existing grade in the meantime? No, you post "Grade Pending" which might alert an informed passerby to the possibility of a problem, but is hardly explicit. It's estimated that around 90% of restaurants awarded C grades first time around have appealed them. How long will it take to sort this out? Three months, five months, a while.
No wonder, walking around and looking in restaurant windows as I do, you see A grades everywhere, the occasional B and never a C.
The likely outcome, sometime toward the end of this year? The number of restaurants currently graded C will shrink as a natural outcome of the re-inspection process. This will provide further support for the thesis that there was no big problem in the first place. And about 1,000 people a day will still say they got sick eating pizza last night, and we still won't know whether they really got sick because their kitchen sink is filthy or they have the flu.
But thanks for spending our money, guys.
[Pigging by Wilfrid: January 18, 2011]
Not another tiny LES storefront restaurant-of-the-day? No, no - you couldn't be more wrong. I am sure there are gentlemen involved, who the farmer might be I don't know, but Ivo & Lulu's Karim Nounouh is quietly cooking up a French-American storm on Rivington.
Softly, softly they must have opened too - last September - and I heard not a word until someone recommended the pheasant pâté recently.
[Free stuff by Wilfrid: January 18, 2011]
I was pleased to accept a recent invitation to view clips from the second season of "Conviction Kitchen," a restaurant reality show airing on Planet Green, a Discovery Communications cable channel. In which our heroes, chef Marc Thuet and manager Biana Zorich - husband and wife - work against the clock to open a Vancouver restaurant.
[The War on Fun by Wilfrid: January 17, 2011]
Following the recent announcement that Mercadito Cantina plans to close, citing the lack of a liquor license. Instead, they've offered "Tric-quila"-based cocktails, using a tequila-style cordial which is actually a type of sake, and therefore a wine. What ludicrous hoops honest businesses have to jumpt through in this town.
Heartening, however, to see a response - albeit unofficial - to the mean-spirited good riddance comments from some of the nimby die-hards. A letter purportedly from a Mercadito employee, published today by E.V. Grieve. It tells some hard truths:
"I grew up here in the East Village. My Dad's from here too... A lot of us are from the area and the owner and mgmt were really cool about hiring us back during off time between semesters to make some extra cash. To wish us gone or to say we were some kind of bad thing for the community is just wrong.
I know for a fact that Cantina often donated food and gift certificates to many local schools and fund-raising events. I know because I got to serve at some of those events...
A bunch of us got to go to the CB3 meeting when we applied for a full license the second time. Our manager and one of the owners went up there and basically got yelled at by the ladies who ran the meeting. I really felt they were really confrontational and disrespectful at certain points. Almost looking for a fight...
We are going to close and a lot of us will probably be unemployed for a while before we get another job. But, the real losers are CB3 and the community. Whether you realize it or not is another story."
There's some testimony. Read the extended letter at E.V. Grieve.
[Pink Pig Time Machine by Wilfrid: January 17, 2011]
This exploration of old journals is a risky business. Five minutes flipping the pages, and twice I've said to myself - could that really be ten years ago? But that's time for you - can't live with it, can't live without it. Not that my diary is very clear on just why I had a burger for breakfast on January 7, 2000.
[Pigging by Wilfrid: January 10, 2011]
Casting the tea leaves or reading the auguries, one would have to say that naming a restaurant for a young woman executed for treason at the age of twenty-four was teasing fate. I mean, it's not The Titanic, but it's hardly a happy association.
[New York Peasant by Wilfrid: January 10, 2011]
Too late to recommend or counsel against this show, which is closing as I write, but perhaps some of you saw it and might be interested in my brief reflections. And firstly, what an unpromising subject, aesthetically speaking. Without diving deep into the press materials, the pretext for this typically large and wide-ranging exhibit seems to be the view that European artists, between the wars, derived comfort from the revival and use of certain tropes from classical art and architecture. The fragments served to shore them, as it were, against the ruins of the modern world.