Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bits & Morsels

Al Langer of Langer’s Deli passed away this week at the age of 94. His deli in Los Angeles is an institution. Many people who dine there claim it's better than anything you will find in New York. The art of deli is dying. All of the authentic delis are closing and will most likely be replaced by sushi bars. Save the deli is a website devoted to preserving all traces of the Jewish delicatessen. [Save The Deli]

Gramercy Tavern 360. Gramercy tavern is one of New York’s most popular restaurants. The food is comfortable and refined at the same time. Jason Perlow  from Off The Broiler interviewed Chef Michael Anthony and spent some time observing him in the kitchen. I guarantee these pictures will make you hungry. [Off The Broiler]

Steven Meltzer of Fred's.
Steven Meltzer, the maître d' at Fred’s in Barney’s, knows how to maintain a sense of calm in one of the most chaotic lunch spots in New York.

What time do you get in?

I usually get in at 9:45 and at that point we put together the floor plan for the day, what waiters are going to be working in what sections. I work usually until the dinner people start. The dinner manager comes on at 5:30. One night a week I work at dinner and I stay until we close which is about 10:00.

Is dinner busy?

Dinner is not as busy as lunch. Usually you can walk in at the spur of the moment and get a table. It is a different menu. We turn the lights down, and  put candles on the table. It’s more of a dining experience than the quick lunch atmosphere that we have. The vibe is completely different at night.

If you get a bad review does it upset you?

It does upset me. I don’t like to offend or have an incident with anyone that comes through the restaurant. I always feel that it is my position to put out the fire rather than stoke the fire. It’s much easier to try and appease them and do what they want then to make it into power play where it’s like hey it’s my ball in my court.

That’s what some reviewers want. They like the power play.

It never works out well when you try to push a person around. It’s much easier, if possible, to give them what they want and let them leave with a good feeling about the restaurant and the restaurant staff and then never come back again. This is supposed to be an enjoyable thing. We want everyone to come in, enjoy their meal and leave with a good feeling that they would want to come back again.

What restaurants do you like to go to?

For the past few years we have been living in Long Island so I am pretty out of the loop here. When we do come into the city and go to theater we like Osteria al Doge. We have been going there for years and they do a great job.

When a customer dies do you mourn them?

It depends. Sometimes when we know a customer really well we even make an appearance at the wake or the funerals. Sometimes when the customers we know well are sick, we will send over a card and some chicken soup. We really feel for them. Especially the ones that we know and that know us.

Tuna Nicoise at Fred's.
The bar at Fred's.
Who was Fred?

Fred was Fred Pressman. Fred Pressman is Barney Pressman’s son. Barney Pressman started Barneys. He was a tailor. He opened up a little store and from there it grew. Fred Pressman was the one who made the stores into the mega stores. He passed away the summer that we took over the restaurant. So we decided to name the restaurant after him. That’s how it got to be Fred’s. Fred always wore a wool tie and all the waiters wear red wool ties. The red is the Barneys red and the tie is in memory of him. He was a great man and a great innovator in the retail business. He bought Giorgio Armani to America. So we decided when we took the restaurant over that we would name it after him.

If you could treat anyone in the world to lunch at Fred’s who would it be?

One of my favorites who does come here and for a long time now is Bruce Springsteen.

We have had Bill Clinton before and I wouldn’t mind having him back again.

What is the most popular meal to have at Fred’s?

The most popular dish at lunchtime is Mark’s Madison Salad. It’s been touted through the years as one of the best salads in New York City.

I agree it goes well with French fries.

It goes well with everything.  It’s a super salad; it’s got so much in it. That’s the most popular dish on the menu. After that it's the pastas.

My favorite thing to eat is the salad with the French fries. They are definitely the best fries in New York.

The French fries are one of our signature dishes. We give it out to all of the people we know as a pre lunch appetizer.  We will send out French fries as an appreciation for coming in, and an acknowledgement that we know you are here.

Have you been to Rao’s?

I have never been there but I know Frank Pellegrino. He has been in here a few times and he always mentions for me give him a call when I want to go. It must be some scene up there.

Do you like to cook?

I love to cook. We just renovated our kitchen and put in a professional stove. I love to cook for people. I cook every night.

What is the most popular dessert at Fred’s?

Right now it is the banana split. It’s just a great thing to look at because it comes in a chocolate bowl.

Do you have a motto?

Yes, honesty is the best way to go. A warm smile and honesty. I find that it’s better to tell people the truth than to try to give them a story about something. If there was a mistake in the kitchen and their food didn’t get made yet, it’s better to tell them that than it was burnt. I find that if I am honest with the people, I get a much better reaction from them. They are a little more tolerant if what you tell them is really what’s going on. At the door to, if it’s a rainy day and people are staying longer, it’s better to say its going to be 10 minutes more for the table than to give a whole song and dance. If you are not telling the truth after this many years in the business, you are going to get caught.

Till we eat again,

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