FOOD SECTIONAL: Michel Richard Air-Kisses L.A., the real Sneaky Chef and Maybe a 100-Point Bargain

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You mean there's a world beyond the WGA strike? In this week's Food Sectional: Los Angeles Times hails the (sorta) return of Michel Richard, New York Times profiles the Dana Giacchetto of chefs and San Francisco Chronicle tells us about getting restaurant-lounges right, slowing down Slow Food Nation and a case of 1990 Chateau Latour up for the bidding. All after the jump.

(Photo credits, from left: Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times, Liz Hafalia for the San Francisco Chronicle)

LatimeslogoRestaurant Journal clarifies the terms of Michel Richard's return to L.A. at Social Hollywood: He's going to "design the menu and train the chefs for Citrus at Social, which will be part of Jeffrey Chodorow's entertainment complex in the old Hollywood Athletic Club on Sunset Boulevard near Cahuenga Boulevard." And after that, "either he or one of his chefs will stop in once a month" to oversee the "casual postmodern" menu. And he's not leaving Washington, D.C.

Sigh.

Are chefs calling L.A. Los Vegas? This scenario is identical to the ones that Sin City enjoys with its cadre of celebrity chefs. And given my rant a few weeks ago, some (though not all) apologies to Michael Bauer: If this is what you meant by not-good for L.A., I think you're right.

Beyond that, LAT is light on the restaurant news: There's 2 1/2 stars for Three Forks Chop House in Claremont, which is just east of, uh, Pomona.

Claremont_map
Distance from Variety's offices to Three F0rks: 40 miles on the 10

Betty Hallock has a piece on plateau de fruits de mer with a bizarre subhed ("On the town, it's quite the event. Made to order at home, it can dazzle even more"), since it suggests details about how to make this showstopper work in your kitchen. However, the article is composed of restauratuers from Fraiche, Water Grill and Comme Ca agreeing that, yep, plateaus are great — and the at-home information is a laundry list of seafood resources and (online) a poorly formatted recipe. AWOL are details such as resources for cracked ice or seaweed (should you be so inclined) and any discussion as to whether it's worth the trouble to make it, given the wildly varying quality of fresh seafood available to home cooks, not to mention the price. Seafood suppliers have their privileges.

Nytimes_logoLos Angeles-based freelancer David Hochman has a great article on Michael Hebberoy, the original underground chef who started the trend in Portland, Ore., now in Seattle, and left an ocean of angry people in his wake, including his ex-wife and most of Portland. Says one of Hebberoy's former sous-chefs: “This shows what can happen when hype turns a restaurateur into a rock star.”

Frank Bruni introduces Pamplona from chef Alex Urena and the next wave in Spanish new-wave cooking in NYC: "He loses the foams, dims the lights, lowers the prices. He includes oysters, cured meats, a mammoth rib-eye and a hamburger on a more straightforward, more populist menu" (hooray!), but concludes: "Pamplona is neither the best he can do nor a perfect fit for him. But it’s a way for him to stay in the game while staying sufficiently true to himself." Two stars.

In Critic's Notebook, Bruni also notes a new conversational tic among waiters: "Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Egads. It’s a semantic pox, either getting worse by the moment or simply less bearable upon the thousandth exposure to it."

Also noted: Apparently, even NYT food-section veteran Florence Fabricant can fall prey to the siren's call of a crafty publicist: "Now, instead of reaching for the aluminum foil, pizza-lovers with extra slices can slip them into sealable plastic bags. Mama Fresco's Pizza Saver is triangular, so a slice fits into it nicely for storage in the refrigerator or freezer. The bags come in packages of 12 for $2.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond, Gracious Home, Zabar's and Chef Central stores." And the tongue never gets anywhere near her cheek.

Newslogo_san_francisco_chronicleThe restaurant-lounge trend hits San Francisco, only in a good way: The highest-end restaurants are going high-low, opening adjacent, more-casual lounges that allow diners to skip the hassle of making reservations a month in advance.

Hardly anyone is opening without considering – and making room for – lounge dining. Even Michael Mina, chef-owner of the acclaimed eponymous restaurant in San Francisco, has plans to open a restaurant-wine bar with wine director Rajat Parr in spring 2009.

"It's not that I don't like going to fine-dining restaurants, but I feel like people more and more like to have a more casual environment," says Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake and the soon-to-open Orson. "With the economy and the way it is in San Francisco these days, people want to have multiple courses, but not in that price range."

Also noted: Looking for a case of 1990 Chateau Latour? It's available via online auction Nov. 13 as part of the selling off of the 67-year-old Fisherman's Wharf restaurant, A. Sabella's, which closed Sunday.

And Slow Food Nation just got a little slower: Amidst concerns that the organizers would have to cut back on the scope of their plans, the inaugural event has been pushed from May 2008 to Labor Day weekend. More info to come at Slowfoodnation.org.

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