Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

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ANDREW & KAREN'S WEB LOG - NOVEMBER 2005

"If you asked me what I came into this world to do,
I will tell you: I came to live out loud."

Critic and novelist Emile Zola
(1840-1902)


Andrew shelters us under an umbrella during a snowstorm


Le Mur des "Je t'aime" (The Wall of "I love you") / Montmartre

Monday, November 28, 2005 Happy to be back in New York City after a deliciously fun time celebrating Thanksgiving -- and our 20-year anniversary of meeting each other -- in Paris!


Lis Wiehl, Karen Page, Leslie Crocker Snyder & Amy Scherber
at Citymeals' 19th Annual Power Lunch for Women


Karen w/ Gael Greene, Snyder, Rikki Klieman, Donna Hanover


Kathleen Turner, Karen Page; Karen with Florence Fabricant


Karen w/ Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg & Diane von Furstenberg


Karen w/ Bobbi Brown and husband; Kathy Doyle and sister

Time Warner Book Group President & COO
Maureen Egen

Saturday, November 19, 2005 New York City is home to one million senior citizens. As of 2000, 17.7% of them reported income levels at or below poverty -- nearly double the national elderly poverty rate of 9.9%.

So there are few organizations we are as happy to support as Citymeals-on-Wheels, founded by legendary restaurant critic Gael Greene, which seeks to provide an ongoing lifeline of nutritious food and human company to homebound elderly New Yorkers in need, thereby helping them to live with dignity in their own familiar homes and communities.

Citymeals-on-Wheels' 19th Annual Power Lunch for Women, held yesterday at The Rainbow Room, is also one of the most enjoyable ways to support this important organization. It gathers 300+ of New York's most powerful women, and a very special group of men who pay $10,000 each for the privilege of dining in their company, for an event that celebrates the organization's achievements while helping it gear up financially for the year to come.

After a half-hour reception where it's great fun to catch up with old (and meet new) friends, attendees draw a table number from a bowl which determines where they will sit. Therefore, one never knows if one will end up sitting with a talented artist (e.g. Ann Froman), a political lobbyist (Trudy Mason), the SVP for Public Relations at Tiffany & Co. (Fernanda Kellogg), U.S. Trust's Chief Credit Officer (Natica von Althann), or even the President and COO of the parent company of one's publisher (Maureen Egen, of Time Warner Book Group) -- as Karen was very pleased to do yesterday!

After poignant remarks from the likes of Bobbi Brown, Gael Greene, Diane von Furstenberg and Paula Zahn, entertainment was provided by actress Kathleen Turner and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

Hats off to Citymeals Executive Director Marcia Stein and founder Gael Greene for pulling off the most enjoyable lunch of the year for a very important cause. If you'd like to help feed the homebound elderly this holiday season, your contributions are most welcome -- and well used -- at Citymeals: Fully 100 percent of contributions from the general public is used exclusively for the preparation and delivery of nutritious meals.

Citymeals-on-Wheels is at www.citymeals.org.

Friday, November 18, 2005 How cool is Kimpton Chairman and CEO Tom La Tour to take the time to personally respond to our open letter to him (see Nov. 8th, below)? We think very, after we received the following email this morning:

"Dear Andrew and Karen,

Thank you for your letter regarding your recent experience at Silverleaf Tavern. Thanks also for the kind words about your  previous visits to other Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. I am embarrassed that the food was so poor. Without an Executive Chef we put ourselves up to a much higher standard than you experienced. I have authorized additional resources to retrain and reinforce our promise of great food and service in a great space. The new Executive Chef is en route and I will invite you back to Silverleaf Tavern as soon as he gets in place. Thanks again and best wishes. if I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to call.

Tom

Tom LaTour
Chairman & CEO
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
San Francisco, CA"

Thanks, Mr. LaTour -- er, Tom. We look forward to seeing Silverleaf Tavern fulfill its promise, and to sharing the word when its new chef is in place.


Beppe amuse with shaved white truffles, naturally colored
red due to the high iron content of the surrounding soil


Cotechino sausage served with lentils and spicy mustard


Beppe Baccala: Salt cod served over soft polenta


Roasted Breast and Braised Leg of Guinea Hen stuffed with
Porcini and Truffles, with Brussels Sprouts and Parsley Root


Beppe executive chef Marc Taxiera stops by to say hello


Beppe Panna Cotta with Creme Anglaise and Candied Ginger


Ricotta Cheesecake served with Blueberry Sauce


Thin pumpkin seed brittle served as a petit four at Beppe


Dancer-choreographer Jody Oberfelder & Andrew Dornenburg;
Karen Page with 1100 Architect founder Juergen Riehm

Thursday, November 17, 2005 Two magic words turned our Tuesday night dinner out with friends at Beppe into an unforgettable feast.

"Cesare Casella?"

Well, yes, of course Cesare Casella, as if there were no Cesare Casella, there would be no Beppe.

But the two words that greeted us on the menu posted outside the restaurant were "White Truffles."

We'd been so busy on deadline with our next book on food and beverage pairing that time had crept up on us, and we were caught unaware that this magical season had arrived. After Beppe's gracious maitre d' Tom told us what a hit Beppe's November 1-30, 2005, White Truffle Tasting Menu has been, we could see why: A four-course White Truffle Tasting menu for a mere $125 or paired with four glasses of wine -- including two different Brunello di Montalcinos -- for only $160 is a gastronomic bargain, given that we've seen a mere side dish covered with a flurry of truffles for about the same price at other top restaurants.

As all the dishes on the white truffle tasting menu are also available a la carte, we decided to go that route, ordering the heavenly soft "Pate-au-choux gnocchi with pecorino-tartuffo sauce" as a first course and the savory "Roasted breast and braised leg of guinea hen stuffed with porcini and truffles" as an entree. With the accompanying glass of Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 1995, we were in heaven -- a +2 food and wine pairing if there ever was one!

After that peak experience, who needs dessert? But Beppe's desserts are not to be missed -- right down to the crispy pumpkin seed brittle served as a petit four afterward!

We had such fun hearing about our astoundingly talented architect friend Juergen Riehm's latest projects at 1100 Architect (which counts as clients Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, and Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer), and look forward to seeing them again at his wife (our astoundingly talented dancer-choreographer friend) Jody Oberfelder's dance performance opening night on December 7th. Two more words: be there!

Beppe is at 45 E. 22nd Street (bet. Park and Broadway), New York City. (212) 982-8422. Web: www.beppenyc.com

On Wednesday, December 7th, the Gala Opening Night Performance and Champagne Reception for Jody Oberfelder 's "LineAge" takes place at Dixon Place at The Clark Studio/Lincoln Center (65th Street & Broadway), Rose Building, 7th Floor. Reservations: 212.219.0736 x111 www.theatermania.com


Chandelier made of Ramlosa water bottles at SmorgasChef


Half-sandwich of Fjord Smoked Salmon Norvegienne ($7)


Herring Sampler, with two Lefse rolls and potato salad ($8)


Half-sandwich of Coldwater Shrimp with Smorgas sauce ($7)


Swedish meatballs, lingonberries, mashed potatoes ($6)


Scandia Vanilla Waffle with Queen's Blend sauce ($6)


Of more than a dozen choices, Karen's blueberry tea

Thursday, November 10, 2005 SmorgasChef needs your help.

According to a "table tent" (or, vertical brochure placed on our table), as the restaurant is planning to soon open a third location downtown, guests are needed to drink Ramlosa water so they'll have plenty of empty blue bottles to recycle into the cool lamps that light their restaurants' ceilings. The restaurant will even do its part to coax you to do so by serving you the Ramlosa at half-price.

And if you do visit SmorgasChef, as we happened to for our very first time yesterday over lunch at its seven-month-old Second Avenue location, well...the pleasure is bound to be yours. We haven't been this excited about discovering a new mini-chain of restaurants since Petite Abeille (see our September 4th Blog) -- and indeed, SmorgasChef is kind of a Swedish-style Petite Abeille.

We loved everything about SmorgasChef: the warm, friendly greeting at the door, the funky-cozy atmosphere, the pride exhibited on the menu itself in describing the restaurant's blue bottle lamps, and its offerings of 10 wines by the glass as well as Coldwater shrimp that are "cooked in giant kettles aboard the ships that harvest them...in the same seawater that surrounds the ships near Greenland."

But most of all, we loved the food: everything from the Swedish meatballs served with mashed potatoes and lingonberries, to the half-pancake, half-waffle served for dessert with fresh whipped cream and a blueberry-raspberry sauce. The latter found an ethereal (+2) pairing in the fragrant tea Karen ordered that both smelled and tasted of blueberries.

We visited the restaurant's Web site to learn that SmorgasChef is the creation of chef Morten Sahlberg and his wife Min Ye. Our kudos to both of them.

Smorgas Chef is at 924 Second Avenue (at 49th St.), New York. (212) 486-1411. There is another location in the Wall Street area at 53 Stone St. (bet. Broad & Hanover), New York. (212) 422-3500. A third location is due to open downtown in the coming weeks. Web: www.smorgaschef.com

Wednesday, November 9, 2005 What a world of difference between Dana Bowen's piece in today's New York Times "Did the Guide Need a Guide? Puzzling over the new Michelin for New York" and Steve Cuozzo's sharp-eyed analysis in Monday's New York Post.

In the latter, Cuozzo performs a valuable public service by setting the record straight about the confounding number of factual errors in the new 2006 Michelin Guide. In the former, not a single one of the Guide's many errors are referenced -- nor does it even bother to raise an eyebrow when reporting the fact that fully one-third (468) of the 1,500 restaurants visited by Michelin's inspectors made it into the guidebook.

If that's true, then it's several times harder for a toddler to gain admission to one of New York City's top private schools than it is for a visited restaurant to make it into the Michelin Guide.

P.S. to our open letter to Kimpton Chairman and CEO Tom La Tour (see below): After having been disappointed with the food at Silverleaf Tavern last night, we opened The New York Times this morning to read in Florence Fabricant's column that its chef Kevin Reilly had recently departed. That certainly seems to explain a lot. It also presents you with a golden opportunity to tap a really talented chef to take over the kitchen at Silverleaf Tavern! Where is chef Franklin Becker (ex-Trinity and Local) cooking these days? Or how about the gifted young chef Lawrence DiJoseph (ex-Bistro du Vent and Picholine)? There is a lot of talent out there, and Silverleaf Tavern could benefit greatly from it.


Lounge at Silverleaf Tavern, from lower left: Roadside Slider
($4.50), Mini Lobster Roll ($5.50), and Tuna Tartar ($5)


"Roadside Slider" at Silverleaf Tavern


Westfield Chevre French Toast, Market Mushrooms, Black
Truffle Fondue ($15)


Cookie Plate (not worth the calories) at Silverleaf Tavern

Tuesday, November 8, 2005 An open letter to Mr. Tom LaTour, Kimpton Chairman and CEO:

Dear Mr. LaTour,

We are long-time fans of the Kimpton Hotel chain, having stayed at your hotels from coast to coast (from our first unforgettable Kimpton stay at the Hotel Monaco years ago, to a more recent stay at San Francisco's hip Hotel Triton, about which we wrote in one of our e-Newsletters). We love the fact that you're a big company of small hotels, each with its own unique personality.

When we learned that Kimpton was coming to our neighborhood -- Manhattan's Murray Hill -- we were delighted. After all, we've often put up family members at area hotels, including the one that used to be located in the very space of your new 70 Park Avenue Hotel.

Tonight, we paid our second-ever visit to that hotel's restaurant, the Silverleaf Tavern. It's a lovely space, in what appears to be a lovely hotel.

But compared to the food we've eaten at other restaurants in your other hotels, the food at Silverleaf Tavern is...well...sub-par. Granted, we've only eaten in the lounge area. Still, it's enough to get a sense of the kitchen as one that needs to be, as Emeril might put it, "kicked up a notch." The tuna tartar was sadly spoiled by too much sesame oil. The roadslide slider was not a slider at all, but a thick, well-done (as in overcooked to the point of burned) miniature hamburger topped with cheese but otherwise unadorned. The lobster roll was not served on the advertised brioche, but on a heavy leaden bun with a spicy sauce that completely obliterated any flavor of lobster whatsoever. While the restaurant's signature dish of chevre French toast was delicious, the beautiful mushrooms featured on the dish were sadly overcooked.

As we said, the lounge area is lovely, and it was certainly doing a brisk business on a Tuesday night. However, there weren't many people eating -- although they were certainly drinking.

While we're on that subject, we love the concept of your " Sip. Taste. Drink. Discover." menu, offering the opportunity to sample 3 oz. sips of wine for $4-$8 each. We enjoyed a number of them, from the organic 2003 Bonterra Vineyards Chardonnay (Mendocino) to the 2003 Palladio Chianti (Italy). We were much less enamored -- disappointed, actually -- with a number of other offerings, such as the flabby 2003 Loimer Lois Gruner Veltliner from Austria and an equally lackluster Riesling.

Kimpton has an excellent employee in our waitress Kamina. She was not only professional, but poised, knowledgeable about the menu and wine list, and absolutely unflappable. She is a reason to return in and of herself.

In fact, Kamina's enthusiasm for the chocolate bread pudding not only persuaded us to order dessert, but prompted our decision to splurge for a glass of 10-year-old Taylor-Fladgate port to accompany it. What a shame that we were served the port before learning that the pastry chef had run out of chocolate bread pudding. We opted for the cookie plate upon learning that it featured chocolate cookies (to pair with our port), but it, too, was a disappointing letdown not worth the calories.

We're still happy you've come to town. The neighborhood needs a hotel like 70 Park Avenue -- and a restaurant and lounge like Silverleaf Tavern has the potential to become. (And any New York City establishment could use a great waitress like Kamina!) But could you kindly try to bump the food quality and wine selections up a bit to the level you'd want if this property were located in your home base of San Francisco? Many thanks in advance for anything you can do.

Sincerely,
Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

Silverleaf Tavern is at 43 E. 38th Street in the 70 Park Avenue Hotel, New York. (212) 973-2550.


Antipasto del Buttero: Selection from Maremma's bean bar


Muscoli: Local mussels in a tomato wine broth with sausage


Tuscan flapjacks with a basil walnut pesto at Maremma ($11)


Cowboy Steak: Rib-eye steak with Brussels sprouts ($28)


Mascarpone Cheesecake topped with bananas and almonds ($8)


Chef Renee Schuler and Andrew Dornenburg

Monday, November 7, 2005 Required reading: Steve Cuozzo's piece in today's New York Post on "The Idiots' Guide: Michelin diner book bites." It's a howler!

Cuozzo helpfully suggests that someone at the company should have proofread the error-filled guide. A couple of the many goofs he points out include the fact that Shea Gallante, the chef of Cru, is not a woman -- and the book's misstatement that Le Bernardin's "a la carte menu...spotlights the bounty of the sea" when Le Bernardin is prix fixe only and has no a la carte menu.

We're just getting started....Click here to read the entire piece.

"Maremma is the name of the rugged, beautiful region of southwest Tuscany known as Italy's Wild West. Enjoy chef Casella's tribute to Maremma, the simple country cooking of Tuscany and cowboys everywhere...."

If reading that statement at the top of Maremma's menu doesn't put you in the mood for Cesare Casella's Tuscan cowboy cuisine, we don't know what will.

We were delighted to return to Maremma last night with a young chef visiting from out of town, who was delighted to get to experience the restaurant she'd been reading all about over the past few months.

While we all loved Maremma's greatest hits, from its Sloppy Giuseppe (Italian Sloppy Joes over fettunta) to Wild Bill Cody (pappardelle with chocolate wild boar sauce) to Mascarpone Cheesecake, it was also great fun to get to sample some new favorites, like the Tuscan flapjacks with a basil walnut pesto (which Karen loved) and the local mussels in a tomato-wine broth with sausage (which Andrew adored).

Maremma is a definite must to keep in mind on Sundays: Not only did we love our Sunday night dinner there, but we were reminded that Maremma is also open for Sunday brunch -- which we look forward to trying next.

Maremma is at 228 W. 10th St. (bet. Bleecker and Hudson), New York. (212) 645-0200.


Antipasto Dalma: Croatian cured meats and cheeses ($14)


Grilled Croatian sausages with pita bread appetizer ($12)


Strukli: Ravioli filled with ricotta, pine nuts, raisins ($18)


Mama's Apple Streudel with vanilla ice cream at Trio ($7)

Sunday, November 6, 2005 We go into every new restaurant experience with the optimistic hope of finding our new favorite restaurant. Of course, that optimism is tempered by realism, and the knowledge of just how hard it is to get things right every time. When an experience is disappointing, we try to find at least one thing to like about it -- a single dish, a unique atmosphere, a special employee -- that would give us a reason to return. It was hard to find one last night at Murray Hill's Trio.

While still working hard to put the finishing touches on our next book, we wanted to take a break for dinner last night in our neighborhood. The new 2006 Zagat Survey featured this enthusiastic write-up of Trio: "Unsung, perhaps due to its side-street address, this seriously delicious Murray Hill Med exudes great flair with hearty, unique offerings including some authentic Croatian dishes; nightly live piano ices the cake."

Its 23 food rating convinced us to make a last-minute reservation. But with our 23 expectations and the restaurant delivering only 18-19 food at best, it was mostly a disappointment.

We were happy to have a chance to sample Croatian food and wines by the glass. However, the staff took no visible pride in these offerings, and looked bored if not pained to have to describe them to customers unfamiliar with them. One waiter described the Croatian white as "fruity" and "like Sauvignon Blanc." It was a flabby, dry wine without much going on, although it did perk up a bit when sampled with the Croatian antipasto (which was plopped in the center of our table wordlessly, requiring us to call the waiter back to let us know what the cheeses and meats were). The Croatian red (which was described to us as "like Chianti") never came around, even when paired with the Croatian sausages (which weren't bad).

We were enamored by the description the traditional Croatian pasta strukli: "handmade raviolis filled with ricotta, salt cod, pine nuts and raisins, roasted garlic sauce." However, the pasta was undercooked to our taste and rather leaden, not to mention lacking in any flavor of salt cod or garlic.

Side dishes ($5 each; not pictured) were a bust. "Crispy onion rings" were fried in oil that was not hot enough, resulting in leaden, oily rings instead of light, crispy ones. "Sauteed green beans" were overcooked, and, shall we say, definitely not purchased at the Greenmarket that morning.

Mama makes a decent apple streudel, but there's no excuse for the awful freezer-burned vanilla ice cream that was served alongside it.

Isn't there a single thing we can say to recommend Trio? Well, if you're ever craving Croatian food and wine, we certainly can't think of another restaurant in New York to recommend....

Trio is at 167 E. 33rd Street (bet. Lexington & Third Aves.), New York. (212) 685-1001.


Sushi Samba sommelier Paul Tanguay pours sake for us


A frothy sea urchin bisque kicked off our dinner


The unforgettable "Escape from Alcatraz" at Sushi Samba


Crispy frogs legs with spicy sauce at Sushi Samba


Kobe beef with foie gras and tempura-fried asparagus


Assorted sushi with everything from caviar to mozzarella


Sushi Samba chef Timon Balloo, sommelier Paul Tanguay,
our ace server Suzanne, and Andrew Dornenburg

Friday, November 4, 2005 We sat down to a sake and food pairing dinner last night at Sushi Samba...and didn't stand up again for nearly four hours.

Who knew that Sushi Samba's charming sommelier Paul Tanguay would be able to hold our attention for so long with his passionate and knowledgable descriptions of each of the several sakes he shared with us to taste, alongside dishes prepared by Sushi Samba's talented chef Timon Balloo?

We'd already interviewed a number of people with whom Paul shared a cup of sake several weeks ago as a fellow judge at the 2005 U.S. National Sake Appraisal in Hawaii. (And we mean literally: Uber-sommelier Larry Stone told us just the other day on the phone how in traditional Japanese style, the panel of judges tasted from the exact same cup of sake in making their determinations.)

Paul took us through a fabulous array of sakes, from an elegant aperitif-style junmai daiginjo to a workhorse ginjo (his go-to sake for food pairing) to an aged sake (that managed the impossible task of accompanying a wonderful dish of Kobe beef ) to a sweet sparkling sake with our dessert of fried lychees that was a +2 pairing experience.

Chef Timon Balloo's dishes were truly impressive. His "Escape from Alcatraz" -- featuring both fresh crab with black truffles, and tiny flash-fried Japanese river crabs crawling over an edible spiced fence -- was one of the most delightful and memorable dishes we've tasted all year.

We also appreciated our warm welcome from Etai Cinader and the warmly professional service we received from Suzanne, whom we learned after dinner is finishing at the Institute of Culinary Education and about to start an externship at Gramercy Tavern. (Note to Danny Meyer: Keep an eye on Suzanne -- she's really good.)

"Sex and the City" might have helped to make Sushi Samba sexy, but based on last night's packed dining room, its ace front and back of the house staff is keeping this place hot.

Sushi Samba is at 245 Park Avenue South (at 19th Street), New York. (212) 691-7885. Web: www.sushisamba.com


Appetizers (of radishes and sausages) and beers at Jimmy's


Pasta of the day under a cloud of grated cheese at Jimmy's


Pork ribs with chickpeas at Jimmy's


Selling Brussels sprouts with slab bacon at Jimmy's


The cheese plate with fruit and nuts at Jimmy's


The sorbet in pepper gelee at ChikaLicious


The signature chocolate tart at ChikaLicious


The heavenly fromage blanc "cheesecake" at ChikaLicious


The roasted pear with caramel ice cream at ChikaLicious


The delightful petits fours at ChikaLicious


Andrew and Kevin at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park

Thursday, November 3, 2005 The occasion of Karen's pumpkin-carving brother Kevin (see our 10/31 Blog) happening to be in town from Illinois on business last night led to a Lower East Side crawl for dinner and dessert.

This was not a night to check out new places, but to return to old favorites -- and first up on our list was Jimmy's, for fabulous beers and as close to home-cooked food as can be found in a restaurant.

Thereafter, we had dessert at ChikaLicious, which is a sure-fire delight for our-of-towners, and always a pleasure to get to say hello to the multi-talented owners Chika and Don Tillman -- not to mention to the food world colleagues we inevitably run into there. This time it was former Restaurant Daniel executive chef Alex Lee, whose cooking we've missed.

And for breakfast this morning? What better excuse than an out-of-town guest to return to Shake Shack for a breakfast in the Park of its greatest hits: a Breakfast Shack, apple fritter, and amazingly rich hot chocolate?

Jimmy's is at 43 E. 7th St. (bet. Second and Third Aves.), New York. (212) 982-3006.

ChikaLicious is at 203 E. 10th St. (bet. First and Second
Aves.), New York. (212) 995-9511. Web: chikalicious.com

Shake Shack is located in the southeast corner of Madison Square Park (near 23rd St. and Madison Ave.), New York. (212) 889-6600. Web: shakeshacknyc.com

Wednesday, November 2, 2005 Today's e-mailbag brought this inquiry:

"Dear Mr. Dornenburg and Ms. Page, Last summer I was fortunate enough to dine at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris. Throughout dinner, I spoke to the maitre d'...and we discussed how my mother had been a chef and caterer and how I considered the profession. He then asked how many languages I spoke, and if I would like to work in their kitchen. I was shocked, honored and amazed, but also stumped when he told me that I would have to find kitchen insurance. A student, in Paris, I was not equipped to know where to find this or what it even was.... Have you ever heard about this sort of insurance? And if so, where [could I] acquire it? Thank you for your time and I enjoyed BECOMING A CHEF,
Michelle Levin"

Thanks for writing, Michelle. While we aren't familiar with the specifics of obtaining kitchen insurance, we bet one of our readers will be -- and invite anyone with information on this to email us at Dornenburg@aol.com. We'll let you know what we learn.

Tuesday, November1, 2005 Michelin gets it wrong.

Or so it appears, based on what we've seen of its first-ever stars awarded to New York restaurants, first reported by today's Manhattan User's Guide, which shared an advance look at the debut 2006 New York City Michelin Guide due out this week.

If chef Daniel Boulud's New York Times four-star Restaurant Daniel -- where we have enjoyed more extraordinary meals than any other restaurant on earth -- is not awarded three stars, then we can confidently throw this Michelin Guide into the trash without examining it any further.

However, we'd also like to know where The New York Times three-star restaurant Chanterelle is, as it earned the 11th highest food rating (27) in the 2006 Zagat Survey but is conspicuously absent from Michelin's starred listings.

Among the other New York Times three-star restaurants left off the Michelin Guide's list of starred restaurants: Aquavit (25), Atelier (27), Biltmore Room (24), Four Seasons (26), L'Impero (26), La Grenouille (27), Perry Street, Tabla (26), and New York's beloved Union Square Cafe (27).

On the other hand, for some reason, the mediocre Madison Avenue stand-by La Goulue was singled out and put on a one-star par with the elegant new MoMA fine dining spot The Modern -- just as the casual hot spot The Spotted Pig is put on a one-star par with informal but phenomenal Babbo.

Below, we list the 2006 New York City Michelin Guide star ratings, along with -- for comparison's sake -- the restaurants' 2006 Zagat Survey food rating and most recent New York Times rating:

Three Stars:
Alain Ducasse (27 Food rating in the 2006 Zagat Survey) (NYT 3*)
Jean Georges (27) (NYT 4*)
Le Bernardin (28) (NYT 4*)
Per Se (28) (NYT 4*)

Two Stars:
Bouley (28) (NYT 3*)
Daniel (28) (NYT 4*)
Danube (27) (NYT 3*)
Masa (27) (NYT 4*)

One Star:
Annisa (27) (NYT 2*)
Aureole (27) (NYT 2*)
Babbo (27) (NYT 3*)
BLT Fish (22) (NYT 3*)
Café Boulud (27) (NYT 3*)
Café Gray (25) (NYT 2*)
Craft (26) (NYT 3*)
Cru (25) (NYT 3*)
Etats-Unis (25) (NYT 2*)
Fiamma Osteria (24) (NYT 3*)
Fleur de Sel (25) (NYT 2*)
Gotham Bar and Grill (27) (NYT 3*)
Gramercy Tavern (28) (NYT 3*)
JoJo (25) (NYT 3*)
Jewel Bako (26)
La Goulue (20)
Lever House (23) (NYT 2*)
Lo Scalco (26)
March (26)
Nobu (28) (NYT 3*)
Oceana (26) (NYT 3*)
Peter Luger (28) (NYT 3*)
Picholine (27) (NYT 3*)
Saul (26)
Scalini Fedeli (26)
Spotted Pig (21)
The Modern (25) (NYT 2*)
Veritas (27) (NYT 3*)
Vong (23)
Wallsé (26) (NYT 2*)
WD-50 (24) (NYT 2*)

To view restaurants merely listed in the Guide (which reflects Michelin's recommendation of them), click here.

*One star indicates “a very good restaurant in its category,” a place offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.

**Two stars denote “excellent cuisine, worth a detour,” skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality.

***Three stars reward “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” One always eats extremely well here, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients.

The 2006 Michelin Guide goes on sale in bookstores on Friday, Nov. 4th -- but we can't imagine recommending it, other than as a collector's edition of what may well be a very short-lived venture into New York City.

P.S. Minutes after posting the above, we received the following press release. Despite our dubious take on the Guide, our congratulations are sincere to Alain Ducasse (who was responsible for the best lunch of our lives, at Alain Ducasse at the Essex House) on making history!

ALAIN DUCASSE AT THE ESSEX HOUSE HONORED WITH THREE MICHELIN STARS.

Alain Ducasse becomes the first chef ever to run three restaurants with three stars each in Monaco, Paris and New York.

(New York, NY, November 1, 2005) – Alain Ducasse at the Essex House has been honored with three stars by the Michelin Guide New York City 2006 making Alain Ducasse the only chef ever to have three restaurants (the celebrated Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée, Paris, and Louis XV-Alain Ducasse in Monaco are the other two) with three stars each from the prestigious guide. Three stars is the highest rating from the Michelin Guide. Michelin announced the results of their New York City guide for 2006 this morning.

And shortly thereafter, we found Florence Fabricant's article on www.nytimes.com, which included these quotes:

"Of his two stars for Daniel and one for Café Boulud, Daniel Boulud said: 'It's very nice, and I'm very happy, and now I'm going to the gym.'"

"Mario Batali, whose restaurant, Babbo, received one star, doesn't think the guide will get much traction with New Yorkers. He was not happy with his ranking, which put him on the same level with the Spotted Pig, a small gastro-pub in the Village. 'They're blowing it,' he said of the reviewers. 'They can't put the spotted on the same level as Babbo.'"

Interesting....Florence also wrote: "On the other hand, Scott Conant, one of the city's most respected chefs, failed to win a star for either of his Italian restaurants, L'Impero and Alto."

That line struck us as rather strange. Now, we're not contradicting her assertion -- rather, we're simply wondering whether that is her personal opinion or the opinion of The New York Times? If it is the latter, then why did Alto (rather famously) receive only two stars from The New York Times' restaurant critic Frank Bruni (when the restaurant by its own admission was hoping for three or four)?

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On the dedication leaf of their book CULINARY ARTISTRY, authors Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page write, 'For the original Creator — architect, artist, author, composer, designer, and mastermind of it all.'  Their artistry shows a deep appreciation for the Creator and for people.
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