Posts Tagged ‘new york’

New York Public Library Transcribes Menus

June 21, 2011

This is really interesting: The New York Public library has been working on getting their collection of restaurant menus (all 10,000 of them) transcribed so that they can be searched online or through a database at the library. The plan involves crowd sourcing: using the public to look at scanned versions of the menus and to transcribe them one at a time so that the entire database becomes searchable.

Why the New York Public library would even want to do this is a little difficult to understand however. The library keeps records of almost everything published, from the best sellers by Stephanie Meyers to seemingly useless junk, like records of old telephone books. Those old telephone books bring to mind, however, an unusual situation that arose which showed exactly why such an esoteric collection can prove useful. A few years back, when new immigration laws were passed allowing immigrants who had come to this country illegally to stay if they could prove they had been here a certain amount of time, people found the telephone books which the library had lovingly preserved to be invaluable evidence of their longevity in the country.

In the case of these vintage menus, however, the value may be more in offering a glimpse into everyday life as it evolved over the past century or so in the city rather than in something more concrete, like proving that a particular dish was served in a particular restaurant. The project, called What’s On the Menu is available online and has already spawned a devoted audience who has worked tirelessly to transcribe the menus. Some volunteers have even said that they hope to bring the same concept to their own communities. Who knows? Perhaps your menu will one day be considered a priceless relic of history showing what life was once like in your neck of the woods.


An Unusual Kitchen in New York – Open 24/7 with No Front End

January 11, 2011

They say that necessity is the mother of all invention and that certainly seems to be the case with a new kitchen in New York City. No, this isn’t some kind of an unusual restaurant – in fact nothing is served where the kitchen is located. Nor is it some kind of experimental lab for a food company.

Long Island Restaurant Work as a Cooperative for Unemployed Chefs

Instead, this kitchen, located in Long Island City, Queens, is in use 24/7 by a rotation of chefs who rent the space out and use it to create various foods and pastries, which they then sell at farmers’ markets and on the street in a very unique New York experiment.

The kitchen is funded by a variety of grants that help New Yorkers who are out of work to find a new way to spend their time – making food and hopefully making a living as well. The kitchen turns out a startling array of foods representing the diversity of New York cuisine, from Indian candies to whoopee pies to falafel.

There are several chefs who share the space, pool their orders together and use the kitchen not only to create food for sale, but also as a way to deal with having been laid off.

Unemployed Professionals Try Their Hand at Culinary Delights

What is particularly interesting about this kitchen is that none of the current residents was ever a professional chef.

Marissa Angebranndt, who makes the whoopee pies in the kitchen used to be a hedge fund manager but lost her job when Wall Street went south.

 Shefalee Patel, the Indian candymaker used to work in Dubai, helping to build the artificial islands off the coast of that tiny Middle Eastern nation.

Finally, Miguel Urrego, who creates the falafel at the kitchen has worked as a bartender’s assistant and waiter in New York (to be fair, he did work at one point as a cook as well, though we imagine not the on the scale he works at now).

All in all, it’s an experiment which seems to be paying dividends for the city, supporting a number of small businesses and making for a more interesting gastronomical experience in New York.

Interfaith Ceremony Blesses New Restaurant Opening

December 15, 2010

If you sometimes wonder whether your restaurant is cursed with bad luck, you may want to place a call to the new owners of the New York Burger Company and ask them for advice. Or maybe you shouldn’t, considering they are going up against history, though they do seem to have God on their side.

The restaurant in question was recently opened in New York City at 470 West 23rd street. Now, “Why should you care,” you ask, “about a single burger joint in Chelsea?” Simple – the building seems to have been cursed as a home for restaurants.

So far, a dozen years and four eateries have come and gone since Robert Arbor opened Le Solex in the spot back in 1998. It seems that no restaurateur has been able to last in the spot, in spite of all the signs, at least on paper pointing to the place being a prime location for a restaurant.

Restaurant Requires the Blessing of 5 Faiths for Opening

The area seemed to be so cursed that the owners of the new eatery decided to bring in five different faiths to bless the place. A Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi and Buddhist minister were all called in to offer their blessings in an interfaith ceremony that owners hoped might finally cajole whatever evil spirits had invaded their restaurant space into giving up and moving on.

According to them, an Episcopalian minister was supposed to officiate later in the day, followed by a Native American ceremony.

If nothing else, the fact that they asked so many groups to offer their blessings was a brilliant way of attracting the media and getting them to cover what would otherwise have been just another anonymous restaurant opening in Manhattan. Whether it will finally work to expel the demons from the location, well that remains to be seen.

C-ing is Believing (if You Can See the Health Department Grade That Is)

November 25, 2010

So the New York Post is reporting what many of us might already expect – that restaurateurs who just barely passed their health inspections are embarrassed about having a grade of C on their establishments. However, what they found really disturbing, (though not really shocking) is that a number of restaurants decided that they didn’t have to follow the law. They actually went and hid their reviews somewhere away from the public eye!

How it Works

For those wondering what we’re talking about, New York City recently imposed a letter grade system similar to those used in a number of other cities to grade restaurants in town. The idea is that a restaurant gets granted a grade of A, B or C (anything lower and they get shut down) by the health department.

They are legally required to post their grade prominently where people can see it so that they can decide if they want to eat there. It’s the same idea as the system we recently reported on that Los Angeles is insisting street vendors will now be required to follow. However, some New York restaurateurs decided the law didn’t quite apply to them.

“Grade Pending”

One restaurateur, at a place called the Bread and Pastry Shop in New York’s Greenwich Village went so far as to tell the Post that it was his choice to decide whether or not to post the grade. He had posted instead a note saying “Grade pending,” claiming that he expected to have a new inspection soon and that he was expecting to get a higher grade this time.

After a city health inspector dropped by, the cowed restaurateur decided to confuse his customers even more by posting his C grade next to a note saying “grade pending.”

$1,000 Fines For Failure to Comply

Restaurateurs who fail to comply with the new rule face fines of $1,000 for failure to post the sign, so we are expecting to see more establishments comply with the rules. However, we’d also like to offer this advice to our readers: It’s not worth ending up with a bad reputation for having a bad grade.

If your city requires letter grades (and more and more cities do), don’t worry about hiding the grade after the fact. Just go ahead and make sure your place is spotless to begin with so you can proudly display your “A.”

Chock Full O’Nuts–A Classic Returns to New York

October 2, 2010

There was a time, a few decades ago, when it seemed liket every other street corner in New York featured the Chock Full O’ Nuts cup. The brand began dying out in the 1970s and was all but gone by the 1980s. And while several variations of the chain were introduced over the years, it eventually disappeared from the scene. Until now that is.

The Return of Chock Full O’Nuts

Recently, Chock Full O’ Nuts, which was passed around like a hot potato through a number of different owners and has most recently landed in the hands of Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, decided that it was time to re-introduce a New York classic.

The very first Chock Full O’ Nuts lunch counter, serving the signature sandwich which cabbies and the working class alike had grown to love has been opened on New York’s 23rd street, between 5th and 6th Avenue.

(For non-native New Yorkers, that’s between 5th avenue and the Avenue of the Americas. Ask a New York for Avenue of the Americas and you’ll get blank stares—we still call it 6th avenue, just in case you happen to have a hankering for a cream cheese and nut sandwich while visiting).

What on the New Chock Full O’Nuts Menu?

The new restaurant will be serving two variations of the original signature sandwich. It will serve the original, with Neufchatel cheese (a variation on cream cheese which is a bit creamier) mixed with nuts and served on whole wheat raisin bread.

There will also be a newer version of the sandwich: cream cheese on date nut bread. This version was introduced a few years before the chain started to die out.

A second restaurant is already well into the construction phase and should open shortly in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge. The new owners of the franchise, hope to open as many as 50 Chock Full O’ Nuts restaurants across the city over the next 15 years.