Looking at Jesse Schenker, you’d never guess that this Iron Chef winner and James Beard nominee was once severely addicted to heroin and crack. Tonight the owner of Flatiron’s The Gander and Greenwich Village’s cozy Racette launches his new memoir, All or Nothing: One Chef’s Appetite for the Extreme. In it, he shares the story of his turbulent adolescence in suburban Florida — from dropping out of high school and being shot at, beaten, arrested, and overdosing to finally getting clean to pursue a culinary career. The up-and-coming chef, already named a Forbes 30-under-30, relates to food critic Adam Sachs how addiction can be overcome and channeled into a healthy obsession, if you can call whipping up hearty PB&J-stuffed French toast healthy (we totally do). Hear him read and discuss tonight.

Mon., Sept. 29, 7 p.m., 2014


This Week’s Five Best Food Events – 8/11/2015

What’s the best way to spend your free time this week? How about taking a class on urban gardening, sampling Italian-Jewish cuisine, or twisting and twirling some sausage? Here are the five best food events happening in NYC.

Enlightened Eaters, James Beard House, 167 West 12th Street, Wednesday, noon

Authors Ernie Zahn and Ron Williams will be in attendance at the James Beard House to discuss their book Fair Tomatoes, which showcases the struggle of tomato workers in Florida. Topics covered include an in-depth look into working conditions of select farms as well as a lesson on how to become a more sustainable consumer. Refreshments including chocolate, coffee, and tea will be served, and a suggested donation of $20 is recommended for non-students.

Sausage Making Class, Fleisher’s at #323 on Pier 41, 260 Conover Street,
Brooklyn, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Get a jump on Labor Day barbecue duty and join Fleisher’s in Red Hook for an evening of sausage making — and drink a few Belgian ales, too. The class also includes a whole hog butchering demonstration and a beer pairing from Brooklyn Brew Shop. Tickets are $75.

Jewish Italy: Food, Culture, and Travel, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Italy is home to the world’s oldest Jewish settlement, a tradition translated today through cuisine. In this class, guests will sample a few classic dishes while learning about the history of foods with stories centered on fried artichokes and goose salami. The talk will also include a virtual tour of historic Jewish sites like the Tuscan village known as Little Jerusalem. Tickets are $45.

Urban Gardening Class, New York Vintners, 21 Warren Street, Friday, 1 p.m.

Join experienced horticulturist Renee Giroux of David Bouley’s Bouley Botanical for an afternoon discussion of urban farming. This class, geared toward home and professional chefs, will cover how to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Tickets are $30.

Indian Independence Day, Savoury, 489 Columbus Avenue, Friday

To honor Indian Independence Day, chef Lala Sharma is offering a five course meal for $50 which also includes a complimentary glass of wine or Indian beer. Guests receive two entrees, two appetizers, and a dessert, with accompaniments like naan and basmati. The restaurant also plans to extend the celebration through the weekend by offering its 1947 (the year India gained independence) beer for $3.


The James Beard Scene at Carbone

Over the weekend, all-star chefs from all over the country descended on our fair city for the restaurant portion of the James Beard Awards (the journalism awards were handed out on Friday, and our very own Tejal Rao took one home for criticism). And they’re not just here for the awards, but to hit the newest and best restaurants in town. With so many options and so little time, what makes the list as a must-visit spot?

One popular answer: Carbone.

At 8 p.m. last night, the remixed red-sauce Italian joint from Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick — the guys who are also behind Torrisi and Parm — was a Who’s Who of restaurant-industry heavy hitters: Nate Appleman, a past recipient of the JBF’s Rising Star Chef award who made his name at A-16 and SPQR in San Francisco and now does culinary development for Chipotle, chatted up “Top Chef Masters” alum Naomi Pomeroy, who owns Portland’s Beast (she turned and recommended the cheesecake to the table next to her). Food & Wine’s Kate Krader shared a table with 2010 Food & Wine best new chef Jonathon Sawyer of Cleveland’s Greenhouse Tavern, who was celebrating his birthday with his wife. Food Network host Anne Burrell made an entrance with a crew a bit later to join the festivities.

And while industry peeps held most of the tables in the main dining room, Jake Gyllenhaal also wandered out from the back room a couple of times — in case there was any remaining doubt that Carbone is the current place to see and be seen.

By the way, best place for a nightcap? by the looks of Twitter, a lot of the restaurant crew had a final drink at Joaquín Simó’s East Village cocktail haven Pouring Ribbons.


Tejal Rao Wins James Beard Foundation Award for Restaurant Criticism!

Congratulations to our own Tejal Rao, who was awarded the Craig Claiborne Award by the James Beard Foundation at Gotham Hall this evening! The Craig Claiborne Award is given in honor of the former New York Times restaurant critic and recognizes some of the best restaurant criticism in the country. JBF honored Rao’s stylish reviews of Pok Pok NY, Per Se, and 606 R&D.


From her write-up on Per Se, Pastry Chef Elwyn Boyles Conjures Desserts in the Sky:

Know this: Every time you wave away the dessert menu without even looking at it, a cook’s heart shatters like a pane of burnt sugar. Every pastry chef dreams of hitting us with their bill of fare while we’ve got an edge of hunger and dignity, and the light in our eyes hasn’t died, but instead he has to deal with us at the end of the evening. If he’s to woo us, he must do it when we’re full, perhaps a little drunk, willing (maybe) to split a slice of cake among ourselves but often preferring to skip it altogether for just a coffee and the check, please.

Elwyn Boyles, the soft-spoken Welshman in charge of Per Se’s desserts, is one of a handful of pastry chefs living the dream.

From Pok Pok Ny: Bangkok Pop, No Fetishes:

It has become a habit of mine to stroll by Pok Pok just to see how many sweaty people are outside in primary-colored shorts or backless dresses, waiting for Andy Ricker’s exuberant, unpretentious Thai food, recently imported by way of Portland, Oregon. I hoped to find a pattern, to share tips with you to avoid the waits, but there’s always a wait at Pok Pok. Twenty minutes if you’re lucky, two hours if not.

Before you know it, you’ll level up to a table of your own, sip pandanus-flavored water from steel tumblers, and order food from serene waiters in matching T-shirts. The yam makheua yao is a neatly built flavor bomb of grilled eggplant ($10), topped with shallots, crispy garlic, and hard-boiled egg. Forget about Ricker’s more trendy, candy-encased chicken wings ($12.50); this spicy, smoky eggplant salad in a lime-and-fish-sauce dressing is the best way to start your night. On the tightest of budgets, you could even make a light meal of it with a side of sticky rice ($1.50), but why not throw in the kaeng hung leh ($14), a wildly complex curry of soft pork belly and shoulder meat under a thick layer of deeply flavored fat. Or wispy slices of muu kham waan ($16), charcoal-grilled Mangalitsa pork neck with a sharp chile dressing. The heat of it will swell your lips, but the meat arrives, conveniently, with a plate of raw mustard greens under crushed ice.

From Tejal’s review of Prospect Heights eatery 606 R&D:

The food here comforts. Often, it’s what you’d consider making for an impromptu dinner party: half a golden rotisserie chicken ($20) served with a bowl of yogurt, some spicy watercress, and toast. There is no wrong way to go taking this apart, but the best might be with a friend and a cold old-fashioned, sitting outside on the last warm evening of the year. A spiral of spicy pork sausage from Faicco’s is a real winner, served with a hefty, miscellaneous bread salad ($16), soaked in a well-seasoned dressing and tomato juice, scattered with basil. It is lovely.

An ideal way to end a meal at 606 is with a pot of lemon-myrtle tea and a slice of hot plum pie with its crisp, latticed crust and gently sweet filling. Out on the patio, there’s the sound of water running. A book club pretends to meet about a novel, but ends up drinking wine and talking about having babies. A man kisses his partner on the wrist when he arrives to the table and nudges forward a tiny ramekin of radish wedges and soft, salty butter (that’s amuse-bouche for I love you).



Good Reads Before Tonight’s James Beard Awards

Voice critic Tejal Rao was nominated for the James Beard Foundation‘s Craig Claiborne award for distinguished restaurant reviews and the award ceremony is tonight! Meanwhile, you can catch up on reading the critic’s three nominated reviews below:


Bangkok Pop, No Fetishes

The Sweet Taste of Success

Enter the Comfort Zone


James Beard Foundation Announces 2013 Chef and Restaurant Award Semifinalists

Hollywood has the Oscars. The food world has the James Beard Awards.

The annual ceremony that recognizes both outstanding and upcoming talent in the restaurant industry has just announced its 2013 crop of semifinalists. The current (incredibly long) list will be narrowed down to finalists on Monday, March 18. The chef and restaurant winners will then be awarded on Monday, May 6, during a celebration at Avery Fisher Hall.

Empellon Cocina and Thirty Acres will compete for Best New Restaurant, while The Bar at The NoMad seeks the award for Best Bar Program. Unsurprisingly, Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese) made the list for Rising Star Chef of the Year.

Also worth noting, New York City has its own category dedicated to outstanding chefs. And while Manhattan clearly dominates that section of the list, the borough bows to Brooklyn for nominations in other categories (Best New Restaurant; Outstanding Wine Program). See who made the first cut below.

April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig
Marco Canora, Hearth
Wylie Dufresne, wd~50
Sara Jenkins, Porsena
Dan Kluger, ABC Kitchen
Mark Ladner, Del Posto
Paul Liebrandt, Corton
Anita Lo, Annisa
George Mendes, Aldea
Carlo Mirarchi, Roberta’s
Seamus Mullen, Tertulia
Joe Ng, RedFarm
Alex Raij and Eder Montero, Txiito
Cesar Ramirez, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
Sean Rembold, Diner
Masato Shimizu, 15 East
Alex Stupak, Empellón Cocina
Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, Torrisi Italian Specialties
Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto
Michael White, Maea



New York Pitmasters to Compete for Title of ‘Brisket King’

Wednesday, February 20
Brisket King of NYC
There’s been a lot of talk about brisket as New York experiences a great boost in barbecue talent. Taste the work of the city’s pitmasters at Santos Party House during the second annual brisket contest. John Stage of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Daniel Delaney of BrisketTown, Matt Fisher of Fletcher’s, Hugh Mangum of Mighty Quinn’s, and others will compete for the title of “Brisket King.” Tickets are $55 and guests will have two hours of unlimited brisket samples. 96 Lafayette St.


Mac and Booze at The Sackett
The Elbow Room will give away free samples of mac and cheese at Park Slope bar The Sackett (while supplies last). Flavors like “Chicken Tinga” and “Poutine Mac” will be available, and a special drink menu will include $5 Old Fashioneds and $3 bottles of Bud. 661 Sackett St.

Master the Art of Southern Cooking
As part of the Beard on Books series, Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart will celebrate southern cooking and discuss their new cookbook Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking at the James Beard House. Tickets are free for students but $20 is suggested as a donation. Make reservations online. 167 W. 12th St.

Thursday, February 21
The Power of Miso
The Japan Society will host Dr. Lawrence Kushi, who has studied the affects of nutrition on cancer, to discuss the health benefits of miso. Chef Edwin Bellanco of Midtown’s Vitae will demonstrate innovative ways to use the traditional fermented pastes. Everyone will leave the event with free samples and recipes. Tickets are $12, $8 for Japan Society members, seniors, and students. 333 E. 47th St.

Saturday, February 23
Who’s Next at LIC Bar
After Hurricane Sandy LIC Bar in Long Island City was flooded and much of its sound equipment was destroyed. In a heartwarming tale, British rock stars The Who donated amps and microphones to the bar after a customer contacted their management team. To repay the favor, Who’s Next, The Who tribute band, will play a concert at the bar on Saturday. Tickets are $20 and all the proceeds will be donated to Teen Cancer America. 45-58 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City


James Beard Foundation Reminds Cookbook Authors to Nominate Their Work

The James Beard Foundation tweeted yesterday that there are three weeks left to submit cookbook entries for the 2013 James Book Awards.

JBF says it has gathered nearly 150 submissions already, but is awaiting a few more before the December 17 deadline. Last year’s grand winner, Cookbook of the Year, went to Nathan Myhrvold’s epically in-depth (not to mention pricey) Modernist Cuisine. Those interested in putting their best book forward should gather the six copies needed for the application and send them here.


Rosemary’s Has a Roof Party

Forty years ago, an Italian-born chef named Alfredo Viazzi turned his back on the vast vat of tomato sauce that the city’s Italian restaurants had long depended on, and the fad for so-called Tuscan cooking was born. At Trattoria da Alfredo, a small place just off Abingdon Square, he charmed the likes of James Beard, who excitedly dug into beef carpaccio, chicken-liver crostini, acorn squash tortelloni, green beans with pesto, and steaming plates of pasta that were gloriously un-red, flying in the face of a century of Italian-American cooking.

Leap ahead to today and find Viazzi’s culinary sensibilities now de rigueur in the city’s Italian establishments, a formula that includes scintillatingly fresh produce, pungent herbs, more roasting and less stewing, and a simplicity of presentation that puts the taste of the main ingredients front and center. In fact, his style of cooking—along with the work of Alice Waters and others—inexorably led to the local and seasonal sensibilities of modern foodies. And now one of the city’s best evocations of Viazzi’s persuasive ideals has debuted not far from his original West Village stomping ground.

Rosemary’s is situated at the corner of 10th Street and Greenwich Avenue in a barnlike space that was formerly Village Paper, a party-goods store destroyed by fire two years ago. Now, the high-ceilinged dining room resembles a rustic osteria, with exposed beams and bricks, lazily rotating ceiling fans, and tables that spill out onto the sunny pavement. At one side of the room, a towering stairway leads to the roof, where the city’s latest restaurant fetish is to be found: a garden.

Although a quick calculation demonstrates that its squashes, tomatoes, and peppers are not numerous enough to have much impact on the menu, the rows of fresh herbs do. All the more potent for being just-harvested, these herbs dominate pastas like cavatelli with crushed peas and mint ($14)—and you’ve never eaten anything greener. It comes from a roster of five pastas that contains no disappointments. Spaghetti al pomodoro ($12) is simplicity itself, the tomatoes barely cooked, with a tip of the hat to Scott Conant, who reinvented the dish at L’Impero. My favorite pasta is chitarra alla carbonara, a traditional Roman spaghetti richly sauced with cheese, hog jowl, and egg yolk.

In fact, the forte of Rosemary’s lies not in pioneering new recipes, but in making a choice selection from the catalog established by Viazzi and his successors. Mario Batali must be thanked for inspiring the house-cured meats in the Salumi section ($9 each), including testa, a loose and fragrant headcheese, and—richly veined with fat and crushed red chiles—the neck-meat ham called capacolla. Both are beyond wonderful. Skip down to the seafood apps, and there’s an octopus salami that’s startlingly reminiscent of the testa, only gluier, recalling a similar dish at Batali’s Otto, here improved with a vinegary relish of finely minced giardiniera.

The menu offers 10 sections, each with only a handful of possibilities. Putting a meal together is a breeze. In Verdure ($5 each), find a generous bowl of warm, citrusy olives that marries well with a glass of wine on a sweltering day; in Formaggi, discover an all-Italian cavalcade of cheeses, with the exception of Moses Sleeper, a cheese awakened from Vermont. From the Insalate section, the restaurant’s own perfect mozzarella arrives with its shiny dome streaming green olive oil and herbs ($10). For one of the best deals on the menu, raid the side dishes called Contorni for the $5 plate of rosemary-roasted potatoes, and eat it as an app. The only section you should skip is Focacce: The thick, chewy crust proves this place is no pizzeria.

While one is often well-advised not to stray into secondi in Tuscan-style restaurants because the pastas are much better and cheaper, that would be a mistake at Rosemary’s. Especially dope is the lamb leg ($23): four stout cubes of rare meat scented with smoke. Served with fruity mostarda, the porchettina (pork tenderloin) is also fab, but to take full advantage of what’s happening on the roof, pick minestra di stagione ($18), a seasonal multi-vegetable casserole that demonstrates, once and for all, that a stew doesn’t have to include flesh to be great.

The mainly Italian wine list encompasses a novel idea you’re likely to be seeing more of in the future. All bottles are $40, most available in generous pours for $10. While this might keep you from parsing prices (though I wish the bottles were $30 instead), the 40-bottle list is uneven and of wildly diverse wholesale value. The solution: Grab your smartphone, smarty-pants, and let Google help you order your vino.


This Week’s Specials: Soba, Hot Dogs, and James Beard

What we’ve been up to at Fork in the Road this week:

Robert Sietsema gives us the verdict on the best soba in NYC. He talks up Lower East Side Corcoron and throws in a mention for the East Village-based SobaKoh: “Soba are often eaten cold with a soy-based dipping sauce. The noodles feel cool on the tongue, and wasabi mixed into the sauce (or dabbed on the noodle, which is the more authentic way) adds tang. After you’ve consumed the cold noodles, a pot of hot water turns the dipping sauce into a warm soup. Eating soba is a ritual, while eating ramen is just sucking down starch.”

We chat with North End Grill’s Floyd Cardoz on Battery Park City and the challenges of the new space. “I’d say the biggest challenge was in the first month. It was trying to understand how the grills work. Obviously, I hadn’t done that before. These are two grills I hadn’t worked on so we tried to figure out how to make it best work. That was the biggest challenge we had,” Cardoz says.

For those reservation procrastinators out there, we have for you a list of solid Mother’s Day brunch and dinner deals.

Sietsema reviews the new wiener window at Vandaag. “At $3, the Van Dog is a solid choice, an artisanal wiener with a forcemeat that’s pickled instead of the usual smoked (or smoke-flavored). Served on a dark bun, it’s pink and it pops and sports some rather strange toppings: in addition to creamy coarse mustard, it has shredded mustard greens and pickled red cabbage. A very nice alternative to Sabrett’s,” he says.

Lauren Bloomberg hits up the James Beard awards and grabs a couple of sound bites with the lucky winners. Interviewed: Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar), Ted Allen (Food Network’s Chopped), and Jim Meehan (PDT).

Tejal Rao talks to the barflies at Burp Castle, who explain to her the super moon: “It’s like you always get a 14-inch pizza but all of a sudden it’s 16 inches.”

We give you a insider look at Cinco de Mayo festivities — West Village style.

Plus, a photo album of the food at the LuckyRice Grand Feast last Friday.