Archive for July 8th, 2009

Ed Levine: Tribeca’s Newest Mod-Italian, A Restaurant For The Times

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

Caption: Photograph by Robyn Lee

In New York there are numerous schools (or should I say spheres of influence) of Italian cooking. There’s the Lidia Bastianich northern Italian school, with both Istrian and Italian-American influences. Mario Batali teamed up with Lidia’s son Joe to open Babbo, and that’s when Batali’s bold, ballsy, resolutely-Italian-meets-contemporary-New York cooking style flowered and spawned numerous imitators and acolytes both in New York and across the country.

More recently, Michael White came from Chicago’s Spiaggia and teamed up first with Steve Hansen (Fiamma and Vento), then with restaurateur Chris Cannon, to open Marea, Convivio, and rejigger Alto. White’s cooking is built around his unmatched ability to make fresh pastas of every size and shape imaginable, and fill or sauce them with classic Italian ingredients and flavors with a personal touch. I can’t leave out hardworking Marco Canora’s tradition and technique-derived cooking at Hearth, Insieme, and Terroir. Then there’s Jody Williams’ ultra-traditional, super-simple Italian cooking style at Gottino and Scott Conant’s rich, complex, buttery take on modern Italian cooking at Scarpetta. And even with this extensive list I’m sure I’ve overlooked someone important.

So, within this context, where does Locanda Verde’s Andrew Carmellini fit in? Yes, he has an Italian surname, Carmellini, but he made his rep as the New York chef’s chef working for French uber-chef Daniel Boulud, first at the original Daniel and then at Cafe Boulud. Then, as his first foray into Italian cooking at an Italian restaurant, he opened A Voce. Here is where he showed us he could cook hearty but heady, lusty, deep-flavored food that seemed more interpretive than traditionally Italian–but was still often quite complex, labor intensive, and dependent on French technique. But A Voce wasn’t his restaurant, and when he left there it was widely reported that he was going to open his own.

Instead, he joined forces with pastry chef Karen DeMasco, Robert DeNiro, restaurateurs Josh Pickering and John McDonald (Chinatown Brasserie and Lure Fish Bar), and the Spotted Pig’s Ken Friedman to open Locanda Verde in the former Ago space in the ultra-trendy Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca.

Would Carmellini succumb to trendiness, or would substance triumph over style at Locanda Verde? Well, based on numerous breakfasts, lunches, and dinners eaten by me and by Nick Solares (who will also be sharing his take on Locanda Verde), the forces of serious deliciousness won out, big time. Yes, Locanda Verde is in a trendy Tribeca hotel, but the food is resolutely down to earth, reasonably priced, primarily delicious, and best of all the service (this is the area I really wondered about) is for the most part friendly, solicitous, and attitude-free.

Caption: Photograph by Robyn Lee

Light, airy, but moist focaccia kissed by tomatoes and olive oil are the first hint of the pleasures to come here.

Cicchetti, small plates and snacks I first saw in Venice, are a fine place to begin on Locanda Verde’s menu. A creamy blue crab crostino ($9) was full of sweet crab and enlivened by a bit of jalapeno, though if creamy is what you want, the slightly tangy sheep’s milk ricotta with sea salt and herbs ($10) is the ciccheti for you.

Caption: photograph by Ed Levine

Duck meatballs with mostarda were Carmellini’s signature antipasto at A Voce, but they are nowhere to be found at Locanda Verde (at least not yet). The antipasto buzz here is forming around the lamb meatball sliders with caprino and cucumber ($11). I liked them fine (how bad could they be?), but there are better antipasto opportunities at the restaurant, like the perfectly fried crispy artichokes with yogurt and mint ($13) and the tender grilled octopus ingeniously paired with spicy almond romesco and served with a hillock of local fagiolini ($16).

I first had Carmellini’s Grandmother’s Ravioli ($17) as a special at Cafe Boulud, and believe me when I tell you that I wish I had had a grandmother that cooked ravioli like his (though I bet my grandmother’s blintzes were better). The impossibly thin and delicate ravioli skins are filled with an intensely earthy combination of beef, pork, veal, and a little Parmigiano-Reggiano. You won’t find a better traditionally filled ravioli in this town.

Maltagliati with pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano ($14) is satisfying and straightforward, ground lamb supplies an interesting twist on an Amatriciana preparation made with spaghetti ($15), and green fettuccine is topped with a white Bolognese ($16), made with veal and pork.

Caption: Photograph by Nick Solares

If I could eat only one main course, I would be torn between the seriously delicious roasted diver scallops with snap peas, spring garlic, and pancetta ($24) and the fire-roasted garlic chicken for two ($19 per person). The chicken has salty, crackling, crunchy skin that sheathes extremely tender flesh. The breast was slightly dry, but only slightly.

Porchetta the way I like it ($22) is an unusual preparation that doesn’t quite work for me. The thin pieces of pig meat are extremely tender, but the kitchen leaves too much soft fat on them, and even the crispy cubes of skin they toss on top of the meat can’t overcome all that fat. Carmellini’s version of porchetta is put to much better use at lunch in a shaved porchetta sandwich with grilled onions and provolone ($12). He also puts a little olive salad in this sandwich, making this sandwich the ultimate love-child of a traditional New Orleans muffuletta and a Tony Luke’s roast pork, broccoli rabe, and provolone sandwich.

Karen DeMasco’s desserts are ridiculously good in a deceptively casual sort of way. A toasted almond semifreddo with bing cherries ($8) tastes like an artisanal version of a Good Humor Toasted Almond bar. A pucker-inducing lemon tart ($8) comes with buttermilk gelato and limoncello granita. Karen’s homemade biscotti misti ($8) is the cookie plate’s cookies plate. It features all kinds of crazy good chocolate and espresso-flavored goodies. Gelati ($7) are creamy and intensely flavored (get the malted milk chocolate and the rice custard), as are the refreshing and light sorbetti ($7) (get all three currently offered: lemon mint, rhubarb, and plum).

Carmellini’s relaxed, confident take on Italian food, DeMasco’s simple, perfect desserts, extremely gentle prices, and gracious, friendly service uninformed by attitude sounds like a recipe for long-lasting success in these recessionary times.

Nick Solares’ Take

Incredibly, despite the fact that both Ed and I had eaten at Locanda Verde on numerous occasions (I ate there three times in one week alone), we had to make an extra trip to try the chicken for two. There is a lot on the menu and most of it is very good indeed. Ed mentioned the cicchetti, and I fully concur that they make a fine start to any meal here.

Caption: Photograph by Nick Solares

I particularly liked the chicken liver crostino. They actually tasted like liver–earthy and rich–rather than being obfuscated by balsamic vinegar or truffles or some other extraneous ingredient. A beet salad was equally pleasing, the tangy beets complimented nicely by a decidedly non-Italian feta cheese.

Caption: Photograph by Nick Solares

Wild Mushrooms Agro Dolce with garlic. If you like wild mushrooms you will enjoy the purity of this dish, although it was perhaps a tad bit oily. But the delicate balance of sweetness and sourness was struck perfectly without missing the point of the dish–the mushrooms themselves.

I too found the Grandmother’s Ravioli excellent (imagine the perfect meatball inside the perfect ravioli) and I also enjoyed a gnocchi with a simple but vibrant tomato sauce brightened with a creamy ricotta, as well as the robiolo stuffed raviolini sprinkled with baby asparagus and doused in an intoxicating amount of truffle oil.

The hanger steak was perfectly cooked to rare and displayed an impressively (especially for a non-steakhouse) seared outer crust. It was perhaps a little overseasoned with red pepper; though I could handle the heat, I felt I was missing a little of the flavor of the excellent beef itself. It came aided and abetted by the delicious potatoes Pastore (named after Pat La Frieda Meat’s flamboyant Mark Pastore, who supplies the beef–and no, they are not marinated in Campari, although he certainly is)

There were some disappointments. The trout lacked the crispy skin that can provide such a nice contrast to the soft inner flesh, and I found the scallop dish, despite the scallops themselves being perfectly cooked, awash in an ocean of oil. But these are minor complaints, especially when you consider that no entree on the menu costs more than $26. If the crowds that were there on the nights that I dined at Locanda Verde are indicative of what every night is like (and I don’t imagine that they are not) then I would say that Carmellini has a hit on his hands. The restaurant’s budget friendly menu is perfectly in keeping with the value-minded zeitgeist of 2009. While you probably won’t find the cooking transcendental, you are not supposed to. The menu is not about wowing you with big flavors and over-complicated presentation; it is about providing simple, comforting food. Mission accomplished.

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Dan Agin: Book Review: Why Does E=MC^2?

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments


Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw: Why Does E=MC^2? (And Why Should We Care?) (July 2009). Da Capo Press. $24.


In the spring of 1905, a twenty-six-year-old unknown clerk (technical expert, second class) in the Swiss Patent Office named Albert Einstein produced a series of four papers in theoretical physics. The first paper was the light quantum paper. The second paper suggested a means to measure the size of atoms using diffusion and viscosity of liquids. The third paper explored Brownian motion using methods of the molecular theory of heat. The fourth paper was an analysis of the electrodynamics of moving bodies that used a modification of the theory of space and time. The whole package was astonishing, but the fourth paper, the relativity paper, challenged Isaac Newton’s view of the universe, shocked physics, rattled science, and confused the public so much that Einstein soon became famous as the genius who could be understood by only six people in the whole world.

This last idea was poppycock, since most theoretical physicists understood Einstein without difficulty. The arguments and theory were not difficult to follow. Einstein, in fact, wrote clear theoretical physics, no games, no cleverness, no fancy mathematical punches. All his scientific papers are prime examples of clarity in exposition by a man with no interest in impressing you with his remarkable intelligence. Still, the public could not read the original papers because they were written for physicists who had a common technical language and common mathematical tools. Since the relativity paper essentially produced a revolution in the way science looked at the world, everyone wanted to understand it and know what it meant. During the past century, hundreds of books explaining Einstein’s work have been published. Einstein himself tried to help by publishing a popular book with Leopold Infield that remains a classic.

One of the important problems with popularizations of science is that there is not one public, there are many publics, and each public has its own formal education and interest in science. Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, two physicists, have managed to produce an account of relativity physics accessible to a wide range of various publics. If you’re not a physicist (or not yet a physicist) and you want to understand what Einstein and relativity theory are all about, you would do well to read this book. The writing is clear, sparkling in places, and totally without vanity. Relativity theory, Einstein’s supreme gift to us, is at the heart of the way science currently looks at physical reality, and anyone with an adventurous mind should be intrigued by what two smart physicists say about it in plain language.

The last two sentences of this delightful little book reveal it all:

“We walk in the midst of wonders, and if we open our eyes and minds to them, the possibilities are boundless. Albert Einstein will be remembered for as long as there are humans in the universe both as an inspiration and an example to all those who are captivated by a natural curiosity to understand the world around them.”

Read this book. It’s your world, isn’t it?

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GM’s Beefy Camaro Ad Targets Gay Men

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

In a new ad, GM’s putting the muscle back in muscle car. (Apologies for the strained metaphor…)

USA Today has news of GM’s racy new promo spot for its Camaro, which was posted on YouTube to support Chevrolet Gay Days At The Movies in Los Angeles. The video features “go go boys” in tight bathing suits washing a Camaro. Subtle it is not.

USA Today spoke to a GM spokesperson about the promotion: “Dave Barthmuss, a General Motors spokesman, said the promotion might surprise some ‘because you don’t see it in the mainstream.’”

GM told USA Today it wasn’t specifically targeting gay men with Camaro promotions. The men pictured in the video are “bumblebee boys,” a tie-in with the yellow Bumblebee Camaro featured in Transformers 2.

No word on whether or not taxpayer funds were used to buy those skin-tight Speedos…


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T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G launch event: pre-orders now available

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

We’re here waiting for T-Mobile to kick off its myTouch 3G launch event — quite a bit subdued compared to the G1 launch, but still a T-Mobile extravaganza all the same. In the meantime, you might be happy to learn that the phone is now available for pre-order , with a guaranteed August 5th delivery date. Stand by for some live updates from the launch, along with a hands-on with the device once the time is right. Filed under: Cellphones , Handhelds T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G launch event: pre-

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Soundblock: a marginally heinous dock connector iPod speaker

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

It’s hard to guess why one would consider this device over that Lego-inspired alternative we peeked last Spring, but those obsessed with Elecom or born with an innate fear of stackable blocks can certainly opt for the Soundblock. Designed specifically for the fourth generation iPod nano, first generation iPod touch and any other iPod that ships sans an integrated speaker, this here speaker clicks into the dock connector and can be ordered in one of ten different colors. The pain? ¥4,000 ($42),

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Canon Rolls Out New Photo Printers

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

Canon has just introduced a trio of new photo printers, where the PIXMA MP560 leads the way by virtue of being an all-in-one inkjet that boasts duplex printing, photo correction and Wi-Fi connectivity. In addition, it comes with a USB port that makes direct printing a snap. Features include churning out 4? x 6? prints in grayscale at a rate of 9.2 images a minute and 6 images per minute in color. As for the PIXMA MP490, it will not come with fancy stuff like USB printing, duplexing and Wi-Fi con

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Google’s Chrome OS: what it means, why it matters

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

Well, that didn’t take long. Last night, we reported that sources inside and outside Google were suggesting that the company would announce a Chrome-centered OS within a matter of days. It turned out to be a matter of hours. Late Tuesday night, the Google Blog officially announced that the Google Chrome OS was a reality and would appear on netbooks some time later next year. The announcement contained a thesis statement that is a bit more significant than it might appear at first: “I

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Google v Microsoft: Clash of the titans

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

Google launches a direct assault on Microsoft with the promise of a new PC operating systemTHE announcement came as a humble blog post on Google’s corporate website late on Tuesday July 7th, but it delivers what is likely to be a dramatic shake-up

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N. Korea behind ‘massive’ cyber attacks?

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

South Korean intelligence officials believe North Korea or pro-Pyongyang forces committed cyber attacks that paralyzed major South Korean and U.S. government Web sites, aides to two lawmakers say.

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Jackson’s doctor denies giving dangerous drugs

July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

Michael Jackson’s dermatologist said he had sedated the pop star in the past for painful medical procedures but had never given him dangerous sedatives like Propofol to use. “I was not one of the doctors who participated in giving him overdoses of drugs

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