Monthly Archives: September 2014

Tuesday’s List, Mostly Restaurants Edition

DAILY BLOGGING
Harder than it looks. Fell off the wagon hard last week in the depths of Eater bug-crushing. Still trying to find a rhythm to this practice. Typing this while on a conference call (suboptimal).

URBANSPACE
They’re the main competitors to the Smorgasburg team, and far lesser known from a brand perspective despite having been at it for a whole lot longer. (This NYTimes story comparing the two is a nice balanced read.) UrbanSpace opened a two-block stretch called UrbanSpace Garment District a block from the Vox NY office in mid-September, and it’s been nothing short of a miracle for midtown lunching. If you work nearby, because you read this blog, I share with you a top-secret research document created by the 10th Floor of Vox Media that may well change your life as it has changed ours.

ALDO SOHM WINE BAR
AKA, How to Up Your Midtown Game for Fall. Across the courtyard from Le Bernardin, its longtime sommelier (and great guy) Aldo Sohm gets his own wine bar. The space is midtown to the core — high ceilings, cool metallic finishes, everyone in suits. But the seating options are nicely varied: there’s a large central sofa that wraps around the middle of the room; high boys on the sides, and a wine table/bar at the back of the room. Night we were there, Eric Ripert was roaming the room, greeting the crowd. That’s because there’s a small menu, too; the $6/per chicken drumsticks, coq au vin style, highly recommended.

BIRDS & BUBBLES
Is Sarah Simmons’ new eatery, tucked into the subterranean space that used to be Grotto on Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side. We’ve known Sarah since before she started CityGrit, so can’t possibly be even-handed about this, but our group dinner at Birds & Bubbles a few weeks back blew our group away. Nothing remained in the two fried chicken baskets. The challenge here will be overcoming the space, which breaks Ben Leventhal’s rule of subterranean dining (namely, that people don’t want to do it, for some unnatural spidey-sense reason). Perhaps, like Lure, Birds & Bubbles can break the mold.

ATERA
Ryan Sutton gave it four stars today on Eater; I’ve never eaten here and can’t imagine wanting to, despite the convenient Tribeca location. (Okay, maybe the Lounge Burger for $20. Maybe.)

MICHELIN STARS
It’s reckoning day in the world of NYC restaurants, as establishments find out their Michelin stars, or lack thereof. Amazing to me how huge a deal this remains in the industry (and, sure, the media). That said, surveying this year’s list, I’m on board with Blanca’s elevation to two, very happy to see a group of places I love get one (La Vara, Betony, Pok Pok, The River Cafe), and on board with the Sushi Nakazawa shutout (am I the only Eater staffer ever not to love my meal there?).

IPHONE 6
Don’t own it yet. Calm down, people who keep seeing me and asking me if I’ve upgraded yet since my public proclamation to do so. It’s standard operating procedure to wait a month to ensure against (a) critical early hardware problems; (b) critical early software problems. I’m targeting a trip to the West Coast in mid-October as ideal upgrade time. Stand by. Meantime, full credit to Fred Wilson for this. Intrigued to see the outcome.

Eater’s Critics, Now in HD

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I’ll stop writing about Eater after this, promise. For a few days. But there’s one more thing I want to highlight. (Well, okay, two.)

One of the biggest changes to Eater in 2014 came last spring, long before yesterday’s relaunch. That was the hiring of Eater’s first-ever restaurant critics, the power trio of Robert Sietsema (late of the Village Voice), Ryan Sutton (who joined us from Bloomberg), and Bill Addison. They’ve each been filing stories for months now, but it’s in the redesigned reviews templates that debuted yesterday that their work truly shines. I’d go so far as to say that Eater’s review pages are the single most beautiful pages of their type on the whole damn internet. For proof, check out Sutton today on Keith McNally’s Cherche Midi, and Sietsema at a new Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown, Pho Vietnam 87. (For more: the Eater reviews homepage.)

Now, Bill Addison. Addison, who lives in Atlanta and previously worked as food critic for Atlanta Magazine, the Dallas Morning News, and the San Francisco Chronicle, is the man we hired for the craziest job we’ve ever advertised for: a roving restaurant editor tasked with spending 40 weeks on the road this year eating everywhere and everything, then spending the last month of the year synthesizing it along with Eater’s editors into Eater’s first-ever National 38 list of the Best Restaurants in America. Eater calls his dispatches The Road to the 38.

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As great as the Road to the 38 has been, as part of Eater’s redesign the team upgraded all of Bill’s dispatches to the new templates, so now they’re available in all their glory. Among my favorites: his visit to Al Forno, my favorite restaurant from college in Providence, RI; a recent return to Alinea in Chicago; several make-you-want-to-go-now San Francisco reviews like Bar Tartine; and, last week, a journey to Portland, ME and the Maine coast. Check out all of Addison’s Road to the 38, and this interview the Chicago Tribune did with Bill to understand how in the world he’s pulling this job off. (Actual question: “How are you not dead?!”)

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When Eater’s National 38 debuts in December, it’ll be grouped into another new technology debuted with Eater’s relaunch: the Eater Mapstack. Readers of Vox.com might recognize the concept from Vox’s cardstacks, which were developed by the team for persistent storytelling on major stories such as this cardstack on Isis. At Eater, mapstacks offer an easy way to scroll through lists like Eater’s Manhattan heatmap. Give ‘em a whirl.

Eater’s New Look

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Eater’s new site launched this morning (at approximately 2:15am, should you happen to have been up). It’s a complete rethinking of Eater from the ground up — a fascinating process to go through given that I’ve been living with the brand for nine years and have a considerable amount of fondness for it, as well as a lot of intractable ideas about it too. Happily, this time around the editorial side was guided by Eater editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt, while the Vox Product team brought its extraordinary experience building web brands to the table.

The process took seven months. The starting point: rethinking the brand’s visual identity. Eater has had two logos in its history. The original one is the one we launched with in 2005, conceived by BL and executed by yours truly in Photoshop to mimic restaurants too cool to print their full name on the awning:

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(This logo is also where Eater’s house style of putting ~E~ around an E to signify Eater spawned from.)

In 2009, Curbed’s head of tech Eliot Shepard and Gawker graphics head extraordinaire Jim Cooke collaborated to create a real logo for Eater based on the typology in the R&L Restaurant sign that still hung above legendary Meatpacking District restaurant Florent. This time around, Ted Irvine, who oversees design for Vox Product, reached out to a handful of designers for new logo takes; we were open to a completely different approach if the right one presented itself.

I’m glad, though, that we opted to go with a refresh of the Eater logo — an approach pitched by Cory Schmitz, who did the logowork on Polygon for Vox as well. Cory took Jim and Eliot’s typeface and simplified it, preserving the essential lines, notably the unexpected drop in the A and the curves in the Es and A. (I’m sure there are fancy font geek names for these things, but I’m only an amateur font geek.)

Here’s the result:

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I love it.

As the above makes clear, the design team also played around with illustrated food icons as part of the new design. Initially, I was very resistant to this idea, fearing the sort of cutesy/lazy fork-and-plate motifs that inform the look and feel of a bunch of Eater’s competitors. “If we’re going to do illustrations, we’re going to need them to be something more like a burning arm,” I joked. So Georgia Cowley, Kelsey Scherer and Dylan Lathrop (who did the illustrations) gave us a burning arm. It now adorns Eater’s homepage:

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Less noticeable but equally brilliant is the work put in by that team crafting illustrated identities for each of Eater’s 26 city sites. Check out Dylan’s bats-with-breakfast-tacos look for Eater Austin, or the dog drinking a cold-pressed juice on Eater LA. I thought pulling off illustrations in a way that would fit Eater’s brand would never work — until Vox Product showed us that they did.

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Love and thanks to the Vox design team. Burning Arm and Bats with Breakfast Tacos 4eva.

190 Bowery

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[Photo by Nathan Kensinger for Curbed]

It was only a matter of time after the property hit the market in August, but yesterday came the news: photographer Jay Maisel has sold 190 Bowery, the iconic former bank building at the corner of Spring Street which he famously purchased in 1966 for $102,000. The buyer, fittingly, is crazed developer Aby Rosen, who if you don’t know, taste this quotage from the Times on the 190 Bowery deal:

“The building is in terrible shape. There’s no heat, Jay lives in just a small area of the building, another winter is coming, and it was time,” said Mr. Rosen, who spent six months cajoling Mr. Maisel into selling the home. “When you own a property for that long, and you are not a real estate professional, it takes a lot of convincing.”

190 Bowery is known by many as the famous street art building, as seen in the above photo and again in the photo essay that Nathan Kensigner shot for Curbed last month chronicling the death throes of The Bouwerie. For some of us who love the internet and its creators, though, the building’s iconic status was marred by Maisel’s severely misguided 2011 lawsuit against Waxy.org’s Andy Baio for remixing the cover art to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which Maisel shot. (Eternal credit to the unnamed street artist who later plastered Baio’s remixed album art all over 190 Bowery.)

Personally, 190 Bowery never fascinated me as much as its neighbor to the west, 11 Spring Street, another former street art shrine better known back in the day for the eerie white candles that lit up each window at night (to say nothing of its past as an Ice House). 11 Spring fascinated me so in the early days of Curbed that a neighbor to the building, an art gallerist who’d just moved in across the street, struck up an email correspondence with me, offering to be Curbed’s daily eyes and ears on the 11 Spring beat. Which is how I became friends with Ms. Jen Bekman, who now runs 20×200.

The candle mystery long since solved, 11 Spring went under the knife in the latter part of last decade, having passed into and then out of the hands of Lachlan Murdoch before emerging as — but of course — luxury condos. The same fate appears to be in store for 190 Bowery. And with it goes a bit more of the magic of this once-magical corner of Nolita. Quoth the Rosen, Winter is coming.

No surprise, this, but always nice to hear. Check Pierce on the iPhone 6 and Patel on the iPhone 6-Plus (“It is not often that a new iPhone threatens to alter the course of human evolution, is what I’m saying. But here we are. I have really big hands.”) Also best of class: The Verge’s twin iPhone video reviews: iPhone 6 video review, iPhone 6-Plus video review.

Quinciple

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In the scheme of services I love in New York City, Quinciple is the one I love the most.

I owe Eater’s Amanda Kludt for the recommendation, about a year ago. At the time, Linds and I had tried out Blue Apron and initially enjoyed it. All the ingredients you need to cook three meals a week, delivered to your apartment in a box, with recipes! But over a few months, the sheer paint-by-numbers approach of each recipe — to the point Blue Apron includes a small pat of butter when the recipe calls for butter — started to bore us. And we experienced this problem.

Which is when Amanda recommended Quinciple. Glorious Quinciple.

Quinciple is roughly the same concept as Blue Apron, with a few upgrades. It’s a box of food, mostly the kind of things you’d find at a farmers’ market if you really knew how to shop a farmers’ market. There’s lots of seasonal fruit and vegetables (this week: pears, tomatoes, honey nut squash, mustard greens, multicolor string beans, among others). There’s always a fresh loaf of some kind of interesting bread, and a hunk of farmhouse cheese. There’s one protein a week — squid a few weeks back, grass-fed pork chops, and this week, sweet Italian ground pork. And often a pint of farm-fresh milk or eggs. It’s not everything you need to cook a bunch of great meals, but it’s most things you need. That’s a photo of most of the contents from our box this week at the top of this post.

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Even better, perhaps, is the media provided with each box. There’s a clear, well designed guide to each week’s products, and three recipe cards (this week’s set, above). As a fan of high quality media, I honestly have no idea how the Quinciple team pulls off this feat each week, but the recipe cards are all fantastic and worth saving, and the ingredient guides have made me a better consumer of food.

For now, Quinciple’s just a New York City thing, offering delivery in areas of Manhattan on Monday and Thursday, and in parts of Brooklyn and at selected places for pickup. Each week’s box costs $49.

But this month, Quinciple’s running a first box free promotion. Give it a go.

Monday’s List

LEFSETZ
Is the best blogger working today, inside or outside the music industry. He’s the master of a type of ruthlessly judgmental quick-hit post that takes on anything and anyone, which, in the spirit of stealing from the best, I hereby undertake in this space now.

IPHONE 6
Of course I’m upgrading (6, not 6 Plus). Upgrading every year to the new iPhone is one of the few no-brainer decisions available in this modern age. If you’re not upgrading every year because you’re waiting until you’re eligible for an upgrade from your carrier, I submit that you’re choosing one of the strangest ways possible to save a couple hundred bucks. The new phones are always better, always faster, and if you spend more than a few minutes a day on yours, you’re robbing yourself by not upgrading. Two friends over at our apartment last week forced us to dig an iPhone 4 cable out of the drawer for them. How debasing.

ANDROID
Nope. No chance. I got a free Samsung phone for participating in Guest of a Guest’s questionnaire/photoshoot You Should Know Powered by Samsung Galaxy. Nice looking phone. Feels good in the hand. But the software. It’s still terrible. Feels like everything’s on a lag. The finesse just isn’t there. Talked about this with a friend who’s a major CTO this weekend. Asked him if he’d consider swapping his iPhone for Android. Answer: “No way. No chance.” Yup.

AT&T
I’ve had it since the first iPhone, and I’m not thinking of changing carriers. Lefsetz thinks this makes me one of the stupider people in America. Maybe? Or maybe just the fact that we make so few phone calls these days means only data and data speed really matter?

ROGER GODDELL
Of course should go. Will he? I suggest that he will, because with the NFL facing a threat to its very existence over the coming decades, Goddell has shown that he is not up to the task. I suspect the owners know this and that despite their public defenses of the man, they will act accordingly. To make it interesting, harryh and I made a bet a few days ago about whether Goddell will be the person to hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Super Bowl champs in February 2015. I have $100 that says he won’t be.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Looked like absolute crap in week one. Looked totally dominant in week two. Lesson: who the hell knows? Though among Pats fans, feels like everyone’s in the mood for fatalism this year.

RUSNY CASTILLO
How to keep interest in your last-place baseball team this late in the season? If you’re the Red Sox, make a surprise $72 million signing of a Cuban outfielder who’s never played a game in the major leagues, then send him quickly up through your farm system over the past few weeks before unveiling him in the majors tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. Somehow Larry Lucchino wins again.

OAKLAND A’S
Are the team I’m rooting for in the postseason. Wouldn’t hate to see Baltimore or K.C. win, either. As always, fuck the National League.

ROOT & BONE
Is the new East Village restaurant that captured some buzz this summer because its chef came from Yardbird, the fantastically awesome fried-chicken-and-southern-cuisine restaurant in South Beach, Miami. Finally made it to brunch here a few weekends back. Maybe because I’ve been to Yardbird, maybe because I’ve spent more time dining in the South as of late, but — pass. Liked the vibe of the room but the food didn’t do it for me. When the cornbread is a miss, where you gonna go from there? And this, by the way, is patently absurd. The fried chicken tastes of dill. Dill!

TRIBECA
Is more Tribeca than ever.

MARK BITTMAN
Is responsible for three-quarters of the meals we put on our tables. (Well, Mark and Quinciple. Quinciple, about which I’ll have more to say on another day.) This time of year, we’ll do like Mark and make this recipe at least half a dozen times in the next two weeks. Enjoy.