• Star chef Alain Ducasse weighs in on New York's best french fries. [GS]
• Daniel Boulud is planning to open an outpost in Singapore next year. [NYDN]
• More on the city's lawsuit against Tavern on the Green. [NYT, Crain's]
• Ninth Street Espresso serves NYC's best coffee, according to GQ. [GS]
• A couple of roundups of food-related events this weekend. [SE, Zagat]
• Media mogul hangout Michael's has been tweeting who comes in for lunch each day. Let it be known that Vogue editrix Anna Wintour does not approve: "It's not something I was aware of but it is probably ill-advised." [NYT]
Sarah Palin is in New York, have you heard? She's supposedly in town to meet with HarperCollins about the book she's supposed to write (and which you're dying to read, of course). But she threw everyone through a bit of a loop by dining at Michael's yesterday, power center of the media elite and hardly a venue known for attracting people who go hunting and fishing and are married to champion snowmobile racers. Not that there was any chance she run into the likes of Barry Diller or Tina Brown. She went there for dinner. [Gawker]
• A roundup of restaurants that may close in the near future if you don't do your part and patronize them. Like soon. Thanks for your cooperation. [CS]
• One thing to look forward at Keith McNally's revamped Minetta Tavern: A $26 Black Label burger that doesn't even come with fries. For shame! [TONY]
• Frank Bruni's thoughts on tipping: Never give less than 15% unless the service is "unequivocally dismal," but 17-18% if it's "above-average." [NYT]
• Speaking of tipping, ABC News's roundup of crappy celebrity tippers includes Madonna, Mariah, Gwyneth, and sushi addict Jeremy Piven. [ABC News]
• Tahini on Third Avenue has been closed by the Department of Health. [DBTH]
• Gordon Ramsay is having some money trouble, just so you know. [Gawker]
• Despite what the Times reported three weeks ago, going out to pricey lunches at places like Michael's and the Four Seasons is chic again. Yay. [AdAge]
Paging Miss Manners! The recession is now eroding the very cornerstone of our society's system of etiquette: the willingness to pay for a business lunch. Literary agent Larry Kirshbaum says that people have turned into such tightwads, he's often reduced to conducting business over lunch at a cheap diner instead of Michael's and that one "top publisher" wanted to take him to McDonald's. "People are really afraid to spend money," he reflects. "Anything that smacks of too much fun or self-indulgence is being frowned upon." Well, it's understandable. A few slimmer expense reports, and the demolishment of Western capitalism will reverse itself in no time.
Anna Wintour and Ralph Lauren had lunch together today at Michael's, reports Mediabistro's Diane Clehane. And the two looked, like, totally bummed out: "The pair looked downright anguished. We watching in fascination as the pair leaned over the table with their foreheads practically touching as Ralph propped his head up with his hands and rubbed his eyes. Tough times for the titan? We can't imagine." Foreheads practically touching? That sounds serious! Or seriously romantic! Or something. [Mediabistro]
A few years ago, Vanity Fair columnist and author Michael Wolff announced that he would never dine at the media hotspot Michael's ever again. Did he suffer a horrible case of food poisoning? Get attacked by an elderly socialite with her Hermès handbag? Actually, his outrage stemmed from the fact that he'd been denied his customary table at the restaurant. Now we get to hear the other side of the story: Steve Millington, the general manager of the restaurant, describes the Wolff brouhaha on the Fortune website. And it turns out that quite a few Michael's regulars were pretty psyched to hear they'd no longer have to see him during their lunch hours:
♦ Sasha Petraske's Mercury Dime won't be serving alcohol (it was denied a liquor license yet again last night), although Petraske is hoping to rebound by turning Milk & Honey into a "private social club." [Eater]
♦ Cocktail king Dale DeGroff is working with Marriott to create cocktails for the hotel chain. [NYT]
♦ Philippe's new West Village offshoot, Philippe Chow Express, is now equipped with touch-screen kiosks. [NYT]
♦ Guest of Guest's map of where the cool kids hang out. [GoaG]
♦ Le Cirque has dumped its à la carte menu. [Zagat]
♦ Steve Lewis corresponds with his old pal Michael Alig. [BB]
♦ A cooking lesson courtesy of Wylie Dufresne. [GS]
♦ Laura Bush clearly has no interest in what Frank Bruni thinks. She turned up at Michael's for lunch today. [MB]
Lots of people are coming to the defense of Michael's, the media hangout that was subjected to a bruising review by Frank Bruni in the Times last week. Caroline Bankoff of the Observer chatted with David Patrick Columbia who says he found the review "ridiculous" and thought Frank Bruni was being excessively "bitchy." Elderly gossip Liz Smith (pictured here with Michael's owner, Michael McCarty) observed that no one goes there for the food, but that she's fond of the place for the "greeting" she receives and the "physical situation," whatever that means.
It's a good thing Times dining critic Frank Bruni reviews food for a living, which only relies on his sense of taste and not his eyesight. The photo that accompanied his takedown of power lunch spot Michael's yesterday included quite the collection of moguls in the background, not that Bruni—or anyone else at the Times—seemed to notice. In the audio interview that accompanied the review, Bruni says that the eatery "seems to draw in particularly large measure from the publishing, literary and journalistic worlds. You know, you might see someone like Graydon Carter there. Apparently, you do see some celebrities there. I didn't spot them, but maybe I just missed them as I was hustled to Siberia." Carter isn't much of a Michael's devotee, actually, but perhaps Bruni should have taken a closer look at the picture that accompanied his review.
The ultimate confluence of a prestige media restaurant reviewer and prestige media restaurant has finally occurred: Frank Bruni has reviewed Michael's for the Times. At this point we should skip all the background, because those who don't appreciate the import of this moment will never be invited to Michael's anyhow. Suffice it to say that the city's most famous critic visited its most famous media power lunch spot, and, in a blinding flash of meta-media honesty, declared that it sucks big time:
The Times metro section ran a story this morning about Joe Armstrong, and how he's "the Mayor" of Michael's, the media power-lunch sport, and a ubiquitous presence there and friends with all the regulars and, according to Carly Simon, "probably the most loved person in New York." It was the same sort of atmospheric, getting-to-know-your-city type column the same writer did on Nikola Tamindzic, our own nightlife photographer. Fair enough! Armstrong was publisher at New York, Rolling Stone, Saveur and was involved to a lesser extent with a bevy of other publications, like Harper's Bazaar and USA Today. He's on sabbatical from ABC News and has been doing charity work for the past two years. He's still well-connected, the Times insisted. As if to underscore this point, the Post, this same morning, ran a friendly item on Page Six about a pin Armstrong wore, tongue-in-cheek, to a book party: "the image of John McCain hugging President Bush under the words, 'Four More Years!'" I hate to say this about someone so beloved but, Joe, if you can get this much coverage just, you know, hanging out, maybe consider a career in PR. Or as an editor-at-large for Star! They pay six figures for doing basically nothing, and we could probably make an introduction. (Photo via Trinity University)
Michael's, the midtown "institution" for media types, continues to be accused of abusing waiters. Echoing a server's scathing review last year, two posts on an industry message board said the restaurant's "douchey" general manager likes to yell, cut shifts at the last minute and, best of all, put waiters in "time warp" clothes that make them look like "a complete tool." Also, media people are apparently hell to wait on (go figure). Writer Michael Wolff, who famously boycotted the restaurant after being refused a table, would surely be tickled by the slams. Some of the better dirt:
Gossip gal Liz Smith chats with Michael's owner Michael McCarty over at Radar. (What goes into a $35 burger? Uh, "Really good meat," allegedly. More accurately: "The price of real estate in Midtown Manhattan?") And then Michael gets to finally knife Vanity Fair writer Michael Wolff over his boycott of Michael's.
Cosmopolitan editor Kate White threw a book party of sorts at Michael's today? The hostesses, who—for the record—didn't look too abused, asked why I was there. "For that book thing whatever," I said. They pointed me to the bar. The first thing that caught my eye was Elizabeth Hasselbeck. She was still wearing the harlequin dress that merely hours earlier had weathered the heat of battle with Rosie O'Donnell. Her face was still unnaturally tan. And one long deep wrinkle, as if she had traded in all the little ones for this one, perfectly bisected her forehead.