Eleven Madison Park restaurant: the jewel on Danny Meyer's crown

By special contributor Alexandra Forbes

It had been years, literally, since I wanted to eat at Eleven Madison Park, and after the restaurant got a glowing, 4-star review in The New York Times I knew it couldn't wait any longer: I had to see it for myself!

The space is stunning: high ceilings, giant flower arrangements, historical and bathed in natural light.

Almost as soon as we sat down they brought us beautiful little canapés of radishes and cucumber with salmon.

Choosing from the prix fixe menu (the only menu available at lunch) was tough. Nice problem to have, considering the price is a mere US$ 28.

And it's not just the menu that costs US$28. The wine list has a "Page $28" where everything costs - yes, you guessed it! - US$ 28, from a bottle of Saumur-Champigny from the Loire, to an ounce of that famous liquid gold, Château d’Yquem 95. Very cool idea.

My appetizer left me deflated, I confess. The reason? I had ordered the corn chowder with lobster, and guess what the chef sent out as an amusbe bouche? Corn chowder sans lobster!
So it was corn chowder twice in a row for me. Sigh...

That's why I kept eyeing my friend's delicious slow-poached egg with corn (yes, more corn) and chanterelles. A thing of beauty, don't you agree?

It was so pretty and so tasty that it deserves a zoomed-in shot:

My main was beef tenderloin with a bone marrow crust. You can't really go wrong with that pairing, so needless to say, it was absolutely delicious. Lovely contrast of textures, with the golden marrow crust crumbling in the mouth with each bite of the rare and tender meat. The sauce was intense and the vegetables brought a welcome crispness to the whole.

I'm not sure it was necessary to add to all that some faux olives à la Ferran Adrià. I've had Ferran's "olives" – ultra-delicate orbs that go plóc in the mouth, releasing the most intense extra-virgin oil taste. But these encapsulated "olives" were different, harsher, briny. Dispensable.

Then came the much-awaited sweet part of our lunch, the desserts rolled to our table in a trolley, the old-fashioned way (which I love).

We tried'em all, but all agreed the chocolate and caramel tarte was the clear winner. The crumbling, barely sweet crust, the velvety filling, the powdered cocoa on top.... ou la la!

Even after that we happily began yet another tasting fest once the multi-flavoured macarrons were served. Simply perfect.

In the end, we left Eleven Madison walking on clouds. Great room, great food. But oh, if we could only trade the forgettable little canapés for just one more slice of that choco-caramel tarte....

Eleven Madison Park: Av. Madison, 11, tel. (212) 889-0905

And here's a funky video of the restaurant:

Eleven Madison Park from Nick Cannell on Vimeo.

Boom Boom Room lounge opens at The Standard hotel

The much-awaited opening of Andrew Balazs' Boom Boom Room, at The Standard hotel, was covered with relish by all the media, including, of course, Grub Street, which compared it to

Here's what Peter Davis of Paper had to say about it.

Some places become a legend even before they exist. The Boom Boom Room is one of them. The much anticipated club on the 18th floor of The Standard Hotel has been getting all the buzz, hosting major parties during NY Fashion Week. Guests from Madonna & Jesus, Nacho Figueras, Jon Bon Jovi, Glenda Bailey to Jude Law and Courtney Love were spotted (and photographed by Patrick McMullan’s team) at the big opening bash in mid August hosted by the visionary and creator of The Standard and all that comes with, around and in it: Andre Balazs.

We, “ordinary” New Yorkers are now allowed to take in what the stars have already enjoyed: the lush couches, the ultimate shagadelic décor, and the striking 360 degrees city views through the double height glass windows. If vertigo is not an issue, step outside onto the glass-floor balcony.

We have checked it out before it opened (view above photo of the vista), and can’t wait to see it in action (later this week!). Comparisons to Studio 54 don’t hurt the hype around the hottest place to be right now. Much like all other Balazs’ initiatives, - the man just really has the Midas touch -, this one’s here to last.

In attendance, at the opening: Madonna, Jesus Luz, Ingrid Casares, Guy Oseary, Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, Lindsay Lohan, Kirsten Dunst, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, Tory Burch, Donna Karan, Alejandro Santo Domingo and Amanda Hearst, Andres and Lauren Santo Domingo, Waris and Chiara Clemente, Olivia Palermo, Lorenzo Martone, Ali Wise, Kelly Bensimon, David Kuhn, Mike Heller, Nicky Hilton, Brandon Davis, Stephanie LaCava, Alek Keshishian, Vivi Nevo, Bonnie Morrison, Douglas Friedman and Bradley Garlock, Jacob Bernstein, Tinsley Mortimer, Jon Bon Jovi, Sarah Howard, Andrew Saffir and Daniel Benedict, Jessica Stam, Alex von Furstenberg and Ali Kay, Bronson van Wyck and Andrew Fry, Hope Atherton, Aerin Lauder, Todd Eberle, Fern Mallis, Calvin Klein, Fabien Baron, Rebecca Guiness, Happy Massee, Zoe Cassavetes, Luigi Tadini, Kate Schelter, Hannah Bronfman, Patrick McMullan, Jackie Astier, Daniel Urzedo and Devon Aoki.

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Danny Meyer of Union Square Café fame soon to open Maialino trattoria at the Gramercy Park hotel

This November, famed restaurateur Danny Meyer (pictured above) - co-owner of perennial successes like Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern and Union Square Café - is opening a new Italian restaurant at the landmark Gramercy Park Hotel called Maialino.
“I’ve dreamed of opening a trattoria ever since I lived in Rome, and have been waiting for just the right time and place”, said Danny Meyer.

According to the press release, the name recalls Danny’s time in Rome and working as a tour guide for his father’s travel company. His Italian boss, Giorgio, immediately took to calling him “Meyerino” (little Meyer). Danny’s favorite part of the job was to bring his tour groups to a different trattoria every night, where he’d unfailingly order “Maialino” (roast suckling pig) for dinner. In homage to Danny’s love for pork – and in jest – Giorgio transformed Meyerino into “Maialino.” His ear unaccustomed to Giorgio’s dialect, it was weeks before Danny became aware that his nickname had now become “Little Pig.”

Now, more than 30 years later, Danny Meyer and Ian Schrager are teaming up for the November opening of this new neighborhood Roman trattoria overlooking Gramercy Park. Designed by the Rockwell Group, Maialino will be located on the first floor of the hotel - where the defunct Chinese Wakiya once stood - and will capture the warmth and comfort of a traditional Roman trattoria, re-imagined for its contemporary setting. The front bar area will serve as a local coffee bar in the morning and will later transform itself into a wine bar serving small plates of food throughout the day and into late evening. Beyond the bar, the trattoria will feature wood planked floors, wainscoting, and windows overlooking Gramercy Park. Maialino will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The executive chef will be Nick Anderer, former Executive Sous Chef at Gramercy Tavern, where he initially cooked under Chef Tom Colicchio, and for the past three years under Chef Mike Anthony. Prior to joining Gramercy Tavern, Nick worked at Babbo under Mario Batali, as well as San Giorgio et il Drago in Milan. Food lovers may recognize Nick’s name from Bill Buford’s bestseller, Heat, in which Nick was a key player in the Babbo kitchen during Buford’s apprenticeship at the Italian eatery.

Gramercy Park Hotel: Av. Lexington, 2, tel. (1-212) 920-3300,

The Carlyle hotel: a classic in the Upper East Side of New York

Ah, the old classics of New York! The Carlyle has never lost its class.

Here is Bobby Short, who performed regularly at the Café Carlyle until his death.

Not all rooms were re-done in a contemporary style, thankfully...

Marble bath, toiletries by Kiehl's...

Huge minibar, suitable for hosting impromptu cocktail parties...

The Carlyle: 76th St. and Madison, tel. (212) 744-1600

Index of all posts about New York hotels

(Upper West, Upper East, Midtown)

Downtown (Gramercy, Lower East Side, Village, Nolita, Soho, Tribeca, etc.)

More photos of new hotel Ace, in New York's Koreatown

The delicious “The Ace Old-Fashioned”, served at the lobby bar: Partida Reposado, Agave nectar, Regan Bitters, Brandies cheeries ($14).

The lobby...

My room, resembling a student dorm...

Bottle of red sold in the room cost only US$ 25 - what's not to love?

Never seen a hip hotel charge so little for minibar items... Very friendly policy.

and a vid...

Ace Hotel: 20 West 29th St., tel. (212) 679-2222

Met Museum rooftop: drinks, views and Roxy Paine's Maelstrom installation

Alexandra Forbes, special to New York for Insiders

Here's something you shouldn't miss if you go to New York this fall: the amazing art installation on show at the and the work is described in detail on the Met's site:

"American artist Roxy Paine (b. 1966) has created a 130-foot-long by 45-foot-wide stainless-steel sculpture, especially for the Museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. Giving viewers the sense of being immersed in the midst of a cataclysmic force of nature, Maelstrom is Paine’s largest and most ambitious work to date."

On Fridays and Saturdays, they serve drinks on the rooftop until 8h15 PM - we can't think of a better way to spend an early evening in New York!

Roxy Paine on the Roof: Maelstrom
April 28, 2009–November 29, 2009 (weather permitting)
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden
Museum Hours
Monday: Closed (Except Holiday Mondays)
Tuesday–Thursday: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 9:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Sunday: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
Tel: 212-535-7710

Chef Pascal Barbot cooks with David Chang at Momofuku Ko

My fellow New Yorkers who enjoy the restaurant scene are quite aware that the most difficult reservation to get is also, ironically, the most democratic. David Chang’s 12-seat Momofuku Ko ONLY accepts reservations made via an online system. Every day, at 10am sharp, there’s a half-second time window to click your mouse just so, at the right speed, with the exact dose of love, at the perfect moment to secure a seat. So imagine my state of excitement when I tell you that I scored a chair at Momofuku Ko for the “Four Fucking Dinners” opening night, featuring no one less than the hottest French chef Pascal Barbot this past Sunday. The event was organized by the French restaurant guide Omnivore in honor of host David Chang’s favorite expletive. My higher than high expectations were not disappointed. The excitement in the air was obvious when I arrived early and started chatting with the other 11 lucky guests. “This is such an non New York moment”, said one of them. Really, in this city, where do you start chatting with fellow diners waiting on the sidewalk?

But this was almost a festive occasion with a heightened anticipation vibe in the air, Chang even gave a welcoming introductory speech. And there he was, proprietor and cook of the most impossible reservation in Paris, Pascal Barbot from L’Asperge, in an open kitchen for the first time in his career, prepping twenty inches from my bar seat. The restaurant, like all of Chang’s venues, has an open kitchen with the main seating space being the counter. Barbot was slicing mushrooms, cutting foie gras, chopping leaves, mixing sauces and finishing up all dishes right across from me. The whole evening was a delight, in every sense.

Without further ado Barbot went straight to preparing his first amuse bouche – ginger yogurt at the bottom, a tomato-red currant mixture in the middle topped by caramel foam. Hmm. “Make sure to dip your spoon all the way to get all flavors” ordered the chef.

His signature dish of super thin slices of white mushrooms layered with fois gras came next. A langoustine over vegetables in a delicious prawn stock followed. “Since I am in America, I made peanut butter! But wait, with a French touch!” said Barbot about the chili added, not sticky, perfectly creamy peanut butter.

I’m not a food writer, so I will make this 9 course dinner and wine pairing short, and let the images speak for themselves. However, I have to single out the razor clams in this tasting feast. One open shell with the clams placed on top of it (perfection in consistency) was covered with a parsley foam, the other shell placed next to a dipping kombu sauce. When the chef was preparing it, he asked Chang to taste the kombu-soy reduction from the pan, and he went back for more. “Wow… I told you, I knew you were actually Asian!!” was his response. The two leaves casually placed to the side were smuggled in from France by the chef and are called oyster leaves. That tiny leaf tastes exactly like an oyster. It was stupefying, I felt that must have been a joke. “Oyster leaves are incredibly rare in the States, you can find them in Europe, but they are very expensive no matter what”, said Chang at the sight of the incredulous look on everybody’s faces.

The experience was through and though unforgettable for its superb tasting bursts, surprises on the palate, intimacy and exclusiveness. Merci chef, a bientot, I hope. He said that if I call now I can get a resie for November. Bonne chance. At least I can get one…. As for Momofuku Ko, who knows when the cybernetic stars will align again for me.

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Monet at the MoMA

Starting today, Monet admirers in New York can view a small – but intense - sample of his vast work at the MoMA. Four art works from the famed water lily paintings as well as two smaller canvases on loan from the Metropolitan Museum are on display for the first time in eight years.
My friend and blog partner Alexandra Forbes (author of Brazil for Insiders) went to the members preview night last week, and enjoyed strawberry sangrias, bread sticks and a first glance at the 40 foot wide gallery on the second floor dedicated to this intense installation of Monet’s late work. She even made a little film of the soirée:

It makes sense to have these works secluded from the rest of the impressionists. It’s a dive into an era of change. The triptych is a precursor to an abstract take on his well-known pond interpretations, a blast of blues, blended with a wide range of lavenders and green hues, dotted by yellow and white blotches. If an alien who did now know who Monet was, or had never heard the title of this exhibition was placed in front of the “Water Lilies” three-canvas mural, he might thing this is an abstract oeuvre dated post WWII. It is definitely worth a visit. If you can, make a resie at The Modern, one of my favorite restaurants in the city, and definitely top three in Midtown.

“Monet’s Water Lilies” at the Museum of Modern Art, (212) 708-9400.
September 13, 2009–April 12, 2010

US Open: when it rains, you shop

Besides the fashion devotees visiting for New York Fashion Week, another type of crowd also comes to the city during the weeks before and after Labor Day. Thousands of tennis fans flock to New York for the US Tennis Open.

During the rain break that interrupted the amazing match between Nadal and Gonzalez, there was nothing much to do but to check out the Ralph Lauren Polo store since the restaurant Aces was completely packed and pretzels at the stand were sold out.

Just because we weren’t at the Fashion Night Out yesterday doesn’t mean tennis fans don’t like to shop for clothes. Especially when there’s a great incentive: for every $100 you shop paying with an American Express you receive a $50 gift towards another purchase at any Ralph Lauren store, including online. Seriously, I did the math and realized how I enjoy the perks of recession promotions. I just couldn’t resist, even though I didn’t “really” need another two US Open t-shirts. I also have another theory: since people couldn’t get the adrenaline from the court, nothing like compensating with the rush of a quality bargain purchase.

PS: I lie when I say that it was either tennis in Queens or late night shopping around town: Michael Bloomberg managed to be in both places! I saw him in the stadium, and this morning read about his appearance at the opening ceremony of Fashion Night Out at Macy’s. Go Mikey!

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NY Fashion Week kicks off with the debut of New York Fashion Night Out

If you are not taller then 6 feet you are a shorty in NYC streets these days. At least during the biannual Fashion Week where the city bustles with models strutting the pavements. Until next Thursday be prepared to see some pretty outrageous outfits, and I’m not talking about the ones on the catwalks of Bryant Park (this will be the last time the shows will happen in the tents, btw.) I’m talking about the fashionistas in the closet who feel comfortable to come all out during this time of year. And I love it. The fauna on the streets becomes much more fun and colorful. Today I spotted many interesting characters and I think they felt particularly inspired by the first Fashion Night Out, a Fashion Week Kick-Off event invented by Vogue’s Grande-Dame Anna Wintour happening tonight! 700 stores will keep their doors open until 11 pm. The mood is party time for the mod crew and fashion fans: many stores will serve drinks and goodie bags for the ones who actually remember to make purchase. The Olson twins will be mixing cocktails at Bergdorf Goodman and Rock n' roll photographer Mick Rock will take your portrait if you spend $300 at John Varvatos. No tickets necessary for any party, from Oscar de La Renta, Valentino, Barney’s to Gap and H&M, you are invited to sip & shop. Hope you are wearing the "right" shoes to go party-hopping, I mean party-shopping.

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