Amy Blogs Chow takes over @ZAGATBUZZ

Picture 1Picture 19Z1Z2z3z4z5z6z7z8z9z10z11z12z13z14I ATTENDED THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION of the French Culinary Institute on behalf of ZAGAT this Monday. Initially, I was just attending a panel discussion and after-party, but when I asked my editor if I could tweet about the evening among French folk and amuse-bouche, he suggested that I beam the event to the foodie masses from the company twitter account. It was cool beans.

By the end of the evening, I made a new friend, Chichi, who writes for the fun, recipe-centric site Serious Eats. (Read her take on the evening.)

The event coordinators gave out baguettes and chocolate as departing gifts, so I wandered up Broadway with a major breadstick protruding from my bag. In the end, I re-gifted the baguette to a doo-wop duo singing for change on the 6 train.

I’m quite lucky to do what I do and it only makes sense to pay it forward, even if it’s something as simple as sharing a baguette, an invitation, banana shake instructions. Time. After all, sharing is caring! At left, see the twitter feed from the event. As always, thanks for following.

November 11, 2009. Tags: , , , , . event, French, SoHo, ZAGAT SURVEY. Leave a comment.

FOODIE is an F Word

popsicleI JUST FOUND OUT I’m a foodie.

I didn’t always exemplify the word, but today I’m as foodie-like as it gets. After all, if photos and text are all it takes, then let me tell you: I rarely dine without my camera and Moleskine.

Once upon a time two years ago, I recall “food lovers” were so-called for their eating enthusiasm and years of feasting expertise. Even then, only journalists with culinary backgrounds were considered food professionals. (Frank Bruni fell short of this arbitrary qualification. So as a junior editor in the tallest of ivory towers, I actually learned to look down on the man.) Nowadays, a Yelp profile is all one needs to brand himself the next ZAGAT. Or a twitter account.

After multiple attempts to digest the term, “foodie” still leaves a dry taste in my mouth. I love to dine – not so I can dissect the experience – but because I get two uninterrupted hours to catch up with friends over Cryovacked cod and mini macaroons. I panic when I’m left alone in the kitchen with new ingredients; I balk when Jason asks me to bake tilapia fillet; I just learned who Julia Child was a year ago; and I feel bad for not feeling bad about the shuttering of Gourmet.

But, yesterday, a good friend checked in to make sure I was OK: Picture 2

I didn’t realize I was obliged to an opinion. From someone who eats and writes about the F word, only one emotion is expected anyway. For me, the news of Gourmet was equivalent to hearing about the passing of a great-aunt of a friend’s mother’s classmate from Choate. I never met the woman but am sorry for the loss.

The New York Times said, “Killing Gourmet…may have made business sense for Condé Nast. But to the food elite – especially of an older generation – it felt like a gut punch. (Full article here.)

15821830My gut’s doing great, but it has nothing to do with or without Gourmet. Yet the comment begs the question: are the “food elite” the real foodies? Are real foodies old? (I hear “foodies” are food snobs…)

The answer is yes to all of the above – but only a fraction of foodies are truly elite, old, or pompous. Food evokes feelings and some people merely emote louder than others. My take on “foodies” swing between “Down with these Foodiots!” to feeling a thrill for those who enjoy, raise, source, and cook food, all the way to the blogger who’s happy he found a forum to share what went down at dinner.

In the end, foodies (in all its incarnations) come, food fads go, and ice pops go gourmet. Remember when kids made their own with Tropicana, toothpicks, and ice cube trays? These days we wouldn’t come within two feet of a refrigerator at Morton Williams unless the ice pop’s organic, made from 110% juice, and proven to fight cancer. I don’t feel like a food snob though. In fact, I feel great for supporting the girl who’s been scraping and packing ice under the Brooklyn sun. What’s more, her slushies come in Dora the Explorer Dixie cups, which is more than Popsicle can claim.

(Image at left courtesy of @multisync. Main photo by me. The blackberry pear ice pop can be found at Brooklyn Flea.)

October 8, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , . Blogs, Brooklyn, Fort Greene, ZAGAT SURVEY. 1 comment.

Aureole Offers a Taste of the Future | ZAGAT SURVEY

20090609_nyc_aureole1_courtesyAUREOLE | 135 West 42nd St, New York, 212 319 1660

[IN JUNE] WE JOINED chef-owner Charlie Palmer for a sneak peek at Aureole in its sleek new digs at One Bryant Park. Designed by longtime collaborator Adam D. Tihany, the airy interior boasts ample elbow room across three spaces: a front bar area where a small-plates menu will be offered, a more subdued room in the back for prix fixe meals and a high-ceilinged private-dining room. There’s also seasonal terrace seating on the pedestrian walkway that runs through the building.

While the new space sports a flashier look than its predecessor, Palmer asserts there won’t be drastic changes to the New American menu. “We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary – we’re doing what we believe in,” he says, emphasizing that, rather than aiming for a different clientele, he’s offering the existing base more options in an accessible location. “We are positioned perfectly. You can catch a quick bite at the bar before your show or have a full meal.”

As in the original location, wine will play an integral role. Over 1,000 vintages will be available, with 3,500 bottles on display in Lucite cubicles in the wine mezzanine that extends over the bar area. The balcony is made entirely of steel and glass, even its floor – “Ladies, watch your skirts,” Palmer jokes.


(Aureole Offers a Taste of the Future first appeared on 6/10/09. Photos by Amy Cao.)

September 9, 2009. Bryant Park, Manhattan, ZAGAT SURVEY. 1 comment.

Superstition in the Kitchen | ZAGAT SURVEY

20090213_nyc_friday13th_toofarnorthIN THE SPIRIT of infamously unlucky Friday the 13th, the Buzz uncovered some curious superstitions at local restaurants.

Chef Scott Bryan of Apiary admits that superstitions are a part of his daily routine. When plating food, Bryan will only add an odd number of, say, asparagus to a dish. “Always three or five of something. Never an even number.” Above all, he does not allow whistling in the kitchen. “It’s bad luck,” he asserts. But Bryan’s not the only one putting the odd-number principle into practice. Jonathan Russell, a bartender at Savoy, observes an old bar tradition by reaching for one or three garnishes when making cocktails for customers.

And then there’s the dreaded 13. Apparently, it’s not just the number missing on elevator panels. According to Corton restaurant director Arleene Oconitrillo, “Most restaurants do not have a Table 13,” including her TriBeCa home base.

For others, superstitions have more to do with timing. At Tribeca Grill, executive sous chef Michael Sobelman refuses to shave during Restaurant Week, while over at Porchetta, chef-owner Sara Jenkins tries to set the tone for the rest of the year by ensuring New Year’s Eve operations run as smoothly as possible.

But not everyone worries about bad mojo. Savoy’s sous chef Jon Katz surrenders superstition for pragmatism. “When it comes to spilt salt,” he says, “I don’t toss it over my shoulder because with a kitchen this small, I’m gonna hit a guy in the face.”

(Superstition in the Kitchen first appeared on 2/13/09. Image by TooFarNorth).

September 9, 2009. Manhattan, ZAGAT SURVEY. Leave a comment.

Eating the Pounds Away | ZAGAT SURVEY

equinox adTHE NEW YEAR USHERS IN a slew of resolutions, with the pledge to revamp eating habits a frequent list-topper. For advice on how to watch waistlines but still enjoy eating out, we asked three fitness instructors for their strategies as well as favorite restaurants where they put them into practice.

Steve Feinberg, the founder of Speedball Fitness, warns against speed when it comes to eating. “It’s better to eat slowly so that your stomach has time to register that it’s full.” He also suggests focusing on protein and vegetables while avoiding overly processed foods. “I am always aware of what I’m eating,” he says, but stresses that being conscious of what you eat shouldn’t translate into being anxious about what you eat.

Feinberg’s favorites include NoHo’s Quartino for its light Italian plates prepared with vegetables and seafood; the “extremely tasty” vegan fare at Pure Food and Wine in Gramercy Park; Back Forty in the East Village for fresh, locally sourced ingredients and organic beers; and Whole Foods for its variety of healthy grab-and-go snacks and meals.

Kristi Molinaro, who heads Equinox gym’s 30/60/90 high-intensity interval training class, knows that it’s a challenge to eat healthfully while keeping up a demanding schedule. “I don’t want to eat before teaching class, but when you’re teaching numerous classes a day, you end up not eating much and having things like coffee instead. When you get home, you’re ravenous so you eat all the wrong stuff.” Her solution? “Think like an athlete…you have to keep your blood sugar stable, and you need to eat a small meal every three hours,” she advises.

Some of her favorite stops include Bread on Spring Street (“the best tomato soup”), the Upper West Side’s Gennaro for its manageable portion sizes, and Woo Lae Oak, a SoHo Korean barbecue spot, where you can add sauces – and extra calories – at your discretion.

Finally, even if you’re watching your weight you can still enjoy foods that aren’t typically thought of as particularly diet-friendly. Patricia Moreno, founder of intenSati, likes vegetarian fare from her favorite restaurants Josie’s and Gobo, but she’s also able to maintain her dietary focus at Mexican restaurants like Rosa Mexicano by skipping the chips, cheese and sour cream while sticking to grilled meats and protein-laden fajitas. And she wouldn’t turn down a good T-bone either. Her secret? Share the steak and sides of grilled vegetables with dining companions.

(Eating the Pounds Away first appeared on 1/13/09. Photo by Equinox.)

September 9, 2009. Healthy, ZAGAT SURVEY. Leave a comment.