Day: November 14th, 2006

Best things and Bann

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006 | All Things, Books, Eats, Friends

The owners of Flatiron’s Bottlerocket Wines take the mystery out of picking a wine by organizing the stock around theme-based displays (a la Best Cellars). Several of the 18 islands suggest pairings not just by types of food, but by types of take-out: Chinese, Thai, and BBQ, for example.Yes, they know how New Yorkers live. Category subsets offer suggestions for “Third Date” and “Someone you barely know.” At the back of the store, is a seating area with a library of wine and cookbooks for sale and reference, where the shop hosts occasional events. Tonight, as part of the Bottlerocket’s Eclectic Salon series, a wine tasting, discussion and book signing for The Best Things to Do in New York City: 1001 Ideas by New Yorkers Caitlin Leffel and Jacob Lehman.

Leffel, a native New Yorker, teamed up with Lehman, a recent transplant to the city and former Rizzoli employee, to put together this compendium of city bests. I gave the book a quick flip-through and found several of the items already covered on this site these past five months. No doubt there will be more to come.

Bottlerocket Wines

There followed a brief Q&A with the shop owner, during which Leffel revealed that her idea for a section on “Worst things to do in New York City” was vetoed by the editors. On that list would have been: Take a cab crosstown at 4:00PM on a weekday and Wait on line for Magnolia cupcakes. No arguments from me on either point. I would also add: Go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve and Attend the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center.

Leffel’s favorite New York thing to do? Take the subway to the beach. I appreciate the quirkiness of the idea, more than the actual practice.

Leffel and Lehman

Afterwards another group dinner at Bann. Despite a shifting cast of characters, and much discussion over the venue, we managed to pull to gather a group of seven for Korean food in Hells Kitchen. HN swore by the smokeless barbecue and black cod, so there we were.

The evolution of black cod is something of an interesting story. The fish’s true name is skilfish, and in gastronomy, it goes by different names, depending on the preparation: sable when smoked; black cod or butterfish (for its high fat content) when filleted. For decades, sable was known primarily as the stuff of Jewish delis; in the mid-1990s the silken, pristine white fish picked up a fashionable new name, and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa introduced New York foodies to his namesake restaurant‘s signature dish: black cod with miso. Soon the fish, in its various iterations, started appearing on haute tables at Daniel and (since closed) Lut├Ęce.

CS and I arrived at Worldwide Plaza at the same time, and started off with glasses of wine at the bar as we waited for the rest of our party. Soon enough, they trickled in: HN and his visiting friend S, followed later by SC, and eventually JG and LR.

The New York Times’ 2005 review of the restaurant focused on the decor, rather than the food, noting the “paucity of people in a dining room airy and pretty enough to attract a decent crowd.”

Bann

Bann

I had some reservations going into the dinner, half-expecting one of those trendy faux-Asian experiences. (I noted with some incredulity that Bann charges $3-$5 for the plates of lettuce and miso paste, kimchi and pickles that almost all Koreatown restaurants include complimentary with every meal.) But perhaps due to the somewhat removed location in the Worldwide Plaza, the restaurant was much less sceney than I would have expected from an offshoot of SoHo’s Woo Lae Oak. The food was tasty… and less expensive than I had anticipated. Our group stuck solidly to the standbys: Pa Jun (traditional Korean pancake with scallion), Kimchi Chi Ge (kimchi and tofu stew), Jap Chae, Bul Go Gi, Kal Bi and of course, that black cod and daikon radish (Un Dae Gu Jo Rim). As advertised, the smokeless grills were just that. For once, I didn’t leave a Korean barbecue reeking of marinated meats.

Afterwards, CS, HN, S and I continued the evening over caipirinhas at Azucar, catching the tail end of a live music set. For authenticity, we really should have been ordering mojitos at this traditional Cuban restaurant, but I wasn’t about to quibble. Later still, S was swapped out by HN’s friends, S and R, who joined us after their own night out on the town.

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