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Ten Years Ago in NYC Dining


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#1 taion

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 02:26 PM

Times ran a piece claiming that 2004 marked a meaningful inflection point in the NYC dining scene:

http://www.nytimes.c...ref=dining&_r=0

Haven't read it yet, but looks interesting.
I didn't tip at Per Se either.

#2 Orik

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 03:28 PM

I think they're right, although it's 2003-4.

 

p.s. Tia Pol was also significant in a way. 


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#3 taion

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 04:04 PM

I guess the obvious follow-up question is: in retrospect, were these positive or negative developments?
I didn't tip at Per Se either.

#4 Suzanne F

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 05:00 PM

I guess the obvious follow-up question is: in retrospect, were these positive or negative developments?

And the obvious answer is: Yes.


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#5 oakapple

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 09:24 PM

I'll be the contrarian. I thought the story was bullshit. Sure, 2004 was a great vintage, like certain wine vintages. But a wine vintage doesn't "change the way we drink," and 2004 didn't "change the way we dine."
 
Obviously, you have to give Momofuku Noodle Bar its due. It really was influential. But for most of the article Gordiner is straining to come up with a narrative that links unrelated restaurants together. Mostly, they have no similarities, aside from the coincidental fact that they opened that year.
 
Perhaps the funniest entry on the list is Per Se. I love Per Se, more than most people who post on Mouthfuls, but it was basically a clone of another restaurant that already existed. It was new to New York, but not new. And if you look at what has happened since then, Per Se is less of a trend then a last gasp. No one has opened up a restaurant like that in New York again.
 
He also cites Masa, another restaurant I like, but what percentage of the dining public has ever been there? And Masa, like Per Se, was basically a clone, the only difference being that the original didn't stay open; the chef just moved his whole operation from L.A. to New York.
 
Or what about Freemans? Sure, it spiked a new interest in taxidermy, but it is hard to name a culinarily less relevant restaurant. The only time Taavo Somer had a restaurant serving remotely interesting food (Isa), he fired the chef. He belongs on this list only if mediocrity is the theme, and I don't think that's what Gordiner intended.
 
It's also interesting that Gordiner's take on what is influential is out of sync with the NYT critics. April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig) has never gotten a good review from The Times, except for the John Dory. Taavo Somer has simply never gotten a good review, ever, except maybe in the fashion pages.
 
Beyond that is the pretentiousness of the idea that the comparatively few people in the food writing, blogging, and message board echo chamber, are a homogenous "we" of dining. As Steve Cuozzo put it on twitter today: "For those few of us who don't regularly eat at Per Se Masa & Spotted Pig, 2004 though full of turning points did not change the way we dine."

Marc Shepherd
Editor, New York Journal

#6 Adrian

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 09:32 PM

Freemans change a lot in terms of design and culinary style, despite being mediocre. Plenty of restaurants mimed Freemans in NYC and elsewhere, even if the food was poor. It's hard to think of a more influential restaurant, except maybe the Spotted Pig. Ken Freidman is as much of a tastemaker as Somer.*

 

*slight exagerration, but not by much.


I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#7 oakapple

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 09:47 PM

Freemans change a lot in terms of design and culinary style, despite being mediocre. Plenty of restaurants mimed Freemans in NYC and elsewhere, even if the food was poor. It's hard to think of a more influential restaurant, except maybe the Spotted Pig. Ken Freidman is as much of a tastemaker as Somer.*

 

*slight exagerration, but not by much.

 

For some reason, you just love Taavo Somer, and I just don't see it. He's influential the way Guy Fieri is influential. A poseur if ever there was one.

 

I've long said that David Chang is way over-rated, but at least you can go out there and see what he did. Not Taavo Somer.


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#8 Adrian

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 09:56 PM

 

Freemans change a lot in terms of design and culinary style, despite being mediocre. Plenty of restaurants mimed Freemans in NYC and elsewhere, even if the food was poor. It's hard to think of a more influential restaurant, except maybe the Spotted Pig. Ken Freidman is as much of a tastemaker as Somer.*

 

*slight exagerration, but not by much.

 

For some reason, you just love Taavo Somer, and I just don't see it. He's influential the way Guy Fieri is influential. A poseur if ever there was one.

 

I've long said that David Chang is way over-rated, but at least you can go out there and see what he did. Not Taavo Somer.

 

Take your eyes off the plate for a second. Or keep them on the plate and forget if the food is good -  influential does not mean that his restaurants produce great food.

 

Chang is, of course, massively influential.

 

And Fieri is massively influential - he decides what restaurants a huge number of Americans go to.


I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#9 oakapple

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 10:10 PM

As I said, Chang belongs on the list, without a doubt. Although he's overrated, even if you cut his rating by half he is still one of the most influential figures (in dining) of the last decade.

 

If Fieri ever makes a list of people "who changed the way we dine" in New York, I'll eat a bug.

 

Never minding the insult, I do actually look around. In fact, I value decor more than most people. The subject of the article was "changed the way we dine," not "changed the way we decorate". If Taavo Somer changed the way people dine, it's not apparent anywhere I have ever been or heard about.


Marc Shepherd
Editor, New York Journal

#10 Adrian

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 10:19 PM

Never minding the insult, I do actually look around. In fact, I value decor more than most people. The subject of the article was "changed the way we dine," not "changed the way we decorate". If Taavo Somer changed the way people dine, it's not apparent anywhere I have ever been or heard about.

If Fieri ever makes a list of people "who changed the way we dine" in New York, I'll eat a bug.

Fieri is not influential as an NYC restauranteur.

 

Let's see what they think of Somer a decade later in DC:

 

 

“It’s kind of been embraced by more of the hipster bars and lounges, almost in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way,” says CORE Architecture + Design’s Allison Cooke, who helped design Black Jack. Owner Jeff Black picked up the longhorn in Brenham, Texas, as a nod to his home state.

 

“People are latching onto it because there’s this return to authenticity and patina and having everything look like it’s been there forever,” Cooke says. “It’s a cool twist on something old.”

The taxidermy comeback seems to be an extension of the rustic vibe that has become so popular in area restaurants with their “reclaimed barnwood” and “farmhouse chic” decor.

 

Chefs are reinterpreting outdated dishes like meatloaf and deviled eggs; why not return to throwbacks in the decor, too?

 

Cooke says taxidermy in restaurants has become particularly trendy over the past two to three years, starting in New York. She says one of the trendsetters was “hipster bar and restaurant” Freemans on the Lower East Side, which has taxidermied animals of all types on the walls: “I remember a lot of clients coming in and being like, ‘Have you been to Freemans? Oh my God, I love that. I want that feel.’”

 

It's one element, the taxidermy but there are more. I'm glad that you look around - but if you don't think that Freeman's has had a massive influence on diners and restauranteurs in NYC and elsewhere, especially younger diners and restauranteurs, you're simply wrong. Aesthetically, both on and off the plate, it mattered (and matters) immensely, and also socially (even Bruni sees that in the 2006 review).


I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#11 oakapple

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 10:48 PM

I agree with you about the taxidermy piece of it. But that's decorating, not dining. It's not on the plate, and it's not socially meaningful.

 

Otherwise, we'd be listing things like AvroKO's Edison bulbs, Adam Tihany's swirling carpet patterns, and David Rockwell's dark wood paneling, which were replicated as much as anything Taavo Somer did.


Marc Shepherd
Editor, New York Journal

#12 Sneakeater

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 10:59 PM

But, for better or for worse, the food is part of what's been replicated.

Happily, often better than the original (not that that's hard) (although we ought to be fair and note that Freeman's got A LOT worse over the years, and was decent enough, if no better, when it opened).

For all its being an echt Brooklyn restaurant, there wouldn't be a Vinegar Hill House -- food as well as decor -- if there weren't a Freeman's.
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#13 Sneakeater

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 11:00 PM

Also, I know you'll disagree, but to me, Rockwell and even AvroKO are styles, whereas Somer/Freeman's is an esthetic.

(Please don't ask me to try to explain that admittedly tenuous distinction.)
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#14 Adrian

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 11:00 PM

What Freeman's did to the fashion restaurant is socially meaningful - compare to say Indochine or equivalent. From a dining perspective, it effectively set the aesthetic template for the New American Bistro (even if it didn't invent every single element - reclaimed furniture, hidden entrance, all day service, semi-serious to serious cocktail program, hidden or unmarked entrance, name the trope Freemans had it and had it together with the others before most) that became the dominant mid-range restaurant for the subsequent period, especially in Brooklyn and other gentrifying neighbourhoods elsewhere.


Cross posted with Sneak.


I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#15 Sneakeater

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 11:03 PM

I never really thought of it, but New New Brooklyn -- the New Brooklyn that took over the world -- equals Savoy + Freeman's.
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