Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake in "Sullivan's Travels" (1941)
IN THIS ISSUE
DINING OUT IN RALEIGH, NC
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
ONE BIG, ONE SMALL: TWO NEW STEAKHOUSES
FOUR CUTS and EMPIRE
By John Mariani
DINING OUT IN RALEIGH, NC
By John Mariani
La Farm Bakery
It’s to be expected that a major Southern city like Raleigh, N.C., would have a strong traditional basis for its food. The fact is, you have to do a bit of research and ask a lot of questions to find what you might think of as old-fashioned, down-home fare in the South. Barbecue smoke is not pouring out of every downtown storefront, there are more KFCs and Popeyes than there are indigenous fried chicken places, and really great biscuits are hard to find. As I noted a few weeks ago about Raleigh, the city is very much on the move and has grown a crop of first-rate contemporary and ethnic restaurants, although it is woefully lacking in good Italian places to dine. And now there are some terrific bakeries and cafés, along with the kind of down-home places you might have thought would be everywhere in town. On a recent trip to Raleigh, I found all I was looking for.
For something very traditional
indeed, your first stop in town should be for
breakfast or lunch at Big Ed’s City Market
Restaurant, founded in 1958 by Ed Watkins, whose
family once produced tobacco and other crops in Wake
part of the revitalization of the City Market in
1989, Watkins was coaxed downtown, where his wide
open dining room has all the trappings of what you’d
hope to find in a Southern city like
The Pit, in Raleigh’s
warehouse district (with a branch in Durham), is a
lot more than a barbecue joint, for it has an
extensive menu of other items and is warehouse-large
in size. But
the premises are built around whole hog pit cooking,
with all the pigs used raised in North Carolina
using free-range farming practices.
La Farm Bakery has a unique
charm, for in Southern cities you don’t usually find
such serious bread and pastry making based on French
years traveling the globe in search of bakery
secrets, including the artisans’ guild Les
Compagnons du Devoir, Lionel Vatinet (right) and his
wife, Missy, were smart enough to see a niche in the
Research Triangle and filled it handily back in
place has rarely seen an empty chair since.
Wedged into a nondescript
strip shopping center, La Farm offers 15 different
styles of daily breads and an additional 20 seasonal
breads throughout the year, all slowly leavened over
three days and baked in a European-style hearth
the smell of that bread baking that hits you when
you open the door. The
Vatinets proudly use only local flours, honey, jam
and ham, and the taste of the South is truly in
everything they produce.
NEW YORK CORNER❖❖❖
ONE BIG, ONE SMALL--TWO (MORE) NEW STEAKHOUSES
By John Mariani
A quick count of
new, high-end steakhouses to open in Manhattan
just in the past eighteen months comes to 16,
added to the dozens more dotting the island
and the other boroughs. And
in NYC, whose real old-timers like Peter Luger
and Palm were the first to serve USDA Prime
beef straight from the meat packing district,
that the competition to get the best quality
beef is at its most fierce. Such quality is
new Empire Steakhouse (the first is on West 54th
Street) has taken over the historic premises of
what was once a 1920s East Side opera house,
then a famous and lavish nightclub called
Versailles, where chanteuse Edith Piaf performed
in the late 1940s and which also played host to
the Desi Arnaz Orchestra, Bob Hope, Dean Martin,
Jerry Lewis and many other top bananas of the
1950s. Back then you could even have your
fortune read by Doris the Palmist.
Open for lunch and dinner daily
CUT STEAKHOUSE NY
opposite of Empire in size is the intimate and
ingratiating new Four Cuts NY on First Avenue,
which, ironically, also took over a Middle
Eastern restaurant. Executive
Chef Christopher Miller, previously at Bobby
Van’s and Ben Benson’s, knows every aspect of
cooking a great piece of beef, and he calls this
a “boutique steakhouse” in Sutton Place for its
size and cozy charm. I would use the rarely
cited word “smart” for its walnut designer
chairs, a garden wall, white tablecloths, excellent
lighting, wall of faux books, and its cheery
striped banquettes. This is not the typical,
raucously loud steakhouse found so easily
elsewhere, and all-around manager, captain, wine
advisor and raconteur Gregory Edgehill is as
congenial a fellow as you’ll meet in a NYC
Open for lunch and dinner Tues.-Fri, for dinner Sat.-Mon.
AND WHILE YOU'RE AT IT, LORD,
GET RID OF
“Newly opened Coda Restaurant Group spot SRV may sound like a new class of vehicle or a disease you don’t want to catch, but in reality pays homage to the Serene Republic of Venice.”—Debra Furst, “Venice Comes to Boston,” Boston Globe (1/28/16).
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❖❖❖FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linked to four excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK:
Vegas JOHN CURTAS has been covering
the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene
since 1995. He is the co-author of EATING LAS
VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants (the
fourth edition of which will be published in
early 2016), as well as the author of the Eating Las
Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas.
He can also be seen every Friday morning as
the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the
Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3 in
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; email@example.com; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John
Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani,
Robert Mariani, Misha
John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein,
Andrew Chalk, Dotty Griffith and Brian Freedman. Contributing
Photographers: Galina Dargery, Bobby
Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
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