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The New York Times Likes us. It really likes us!

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After getting two stars in the New York Times and realizing that Dirt Candy is the first vegetarian restaurant in 17 years to get two stars from the Gray Lady, I feel like this:

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We got a very, very, very short review from the New York Times when Dirt Candy first opened, sandwiched in with their review of Jollibee, the Filipino fast food chain with the world’s most awesome mascot:

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I wasn’t thrilled with that first quick $25 and Under review because I wanted a critic to seriously engage with Dirt Candy’s food and give me feedback, and it didn’t do that. It didn’t help that the restaurant still didn’t have gas when I got that review, either. But looking back, I’m glad it went this way. I’m such a different chef now, and my food is so different, and Dirt Candy is so changed that I’m glad the Times waited this long.

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I couldn’t have asked for a critic to engage more seriously with my restaurant and I couldn’t have found a writer who got what I’m doing more. I want this place to be fun. I think of Dirt Candy as my house (mostly because I’m here more than I’m at my actual house) and I want people who visit to have a good time. I know that the size of Dirt Candy is a drawback and keeps me from doing some of the things I want to do (more tables, a bigger wine list) but I try to compensate by making the food and the experience as party-riffic as possible.

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Also, while everyone’s congratulating me and being super-nice, I want to say that no one does this alone, and I definitely didn’t. That review is a review of Dirt Candy which means it’s a review of my entire Dirt Candy family: Danielle, my prep queen, Nin & Kyle who are the prep army, numerous interns, Raoul (who’s moving on from the line), Mike (who’s taking over), Justyna (my server), and Maurillo who is the best dishwasher I’ve ever met.

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My one question about Pete Wells’s review is: how did he get in here? Three times?

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In a way, it’s kind of eerie. I have 18 seats. It’s an open kitchen. I know what he looks like. I’m here virtually every night. I had no idea he came here. Three times!!! The man is like some kind of Dinner Ninja, and if he can get in here without me noticing, where else can’t he go? New Yorkers! Be alert! Is Pete Wells in YOUR restaurant? In YOUR living room? Did you wonder whose jacket that was in your closet? It’s Pete Wells’s jacket and right now he’s eating your porridge, sleeping in your bed, and you DON’T EVEN KNOW!!!!

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So thank you, New York Times, and thanks, Pete Wells. I’d invite you back to Dirt Candy but you’ve probably already been here twice today.

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Bonus restaurant shots: here’s a slideshow the Times ran with the review. It’s got some of the best pictures of the Dirt Candy dining room I’ve ever seen.

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Reviews Reviewed: the New York Times

First off, I just want to deliver an important message to Oliver Schwaner-Albright, the fellow who wrote the mini-review of Dirt Candy in the New York Times this past Wednesday: you’re not ugly, but you may want to get new friends. Here you are, presumably paying for dinner, and you write in your review that your friend gets a little tipsy on Pete’s Organic beer and turns to you and says, “You don’t look so hot.” You can blame the lighting, but Dirt Candy blasts the dining room with amber light so that a) you can see your food and b) you look your best. Hitting someone hard with amber or pink light is known as the “drag queen’s face lift” because the amber gives you a golden glow and the pink gives you a rosy blush both of which remove wrinkles and make you look ten years younger. Plus, I’d say on a scale of 1 to 10 I’d definitely give you at least an 8 and probably a 9, and so I think your dining companion really crossed the line with their comment. It’s things like this that cause low self-esteem!

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thegraylady

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The New York Times is the Godzilla of restaurant reviewers. Although they don’t wield as much power as they once did, they can drive crowds to a restaurant by giving it stars and  they can drive a chef to despair by taking stars away. In the past, their Dining Briefs were the first, rough assessment of a restaurant before it got its full-length review, an early warning shot fired over the bow that told a place what they were doing right, and what needed to be fixed, before the reviewer weighed in and passed official New York Times Judgment. These days there’s no longer that close connection between the Dining Briefs and the official reviews, but it’s still nice to be noticed.

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Reviewing the New York Times

It’s been a crazy week, but check back on Friday to read the post reviewing the short review Dirt Candy got in the New York Times this Wednesday.

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You can read the review-lette here.

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By the way, out of curiosity, what do you think of it? Is it good? Is it bad? Is there a slight patronizing tone wafting through it, or is that just my imagination? I mean, it’s nice to be reviewed by the New York Times and all, but still… Maybe I’m just exhausted from working all the time? Please, gentle readers, set me straight by sending your thoughts on the mini-review to info at dirtcandynyc dot com.

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UPDATE: It wasn’t until I saw the print edition of the paper that I learned how to get a rave from the New York Times: I either need to be a chain restaurant or I need a giant bee mascot. Yes, I was paired in “Dining Briefs” with a review of Filipino chain restaurant Jollibee (627 outlets and counting).


Reviews Reviewed: New York Press

I knew someone from the New York Press had come to the restaurant, and it’s always a dead giveaway that you’re about to get a review when they call make an appointment for their photographer to come by, but I didn’t have a clue this review would be such a rave. From start to finish, they loved everything they had, they loved the room, they liked the atmosphere, they even went nuts for the carrot risotto that was panned by the New Yorker last week.

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A few things I wanted to mention, in no particular order:

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Reviewer’s Rainbow

Online reviews are the devil: there are so many of them, the opinions they express are so wildly divergent and they pop up so fast that you can go insane reading them all. What I’ve found most amazing is how people can have such wildly divergent experiences. Case in point: these two reviews, one from the Epoch Times and one from a blog called Soft Rice.

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Both people were here on the same night and, in fact, the Soft Rice folks didn’t have a reservation and I initially had to turn them away. But the woman from the Epoch Times leapt up and said, “You have to eat here. I’ll give you my table.” A few minutes later the Soft Rice folks were seated at the table still warm from the Epoch Times folks. So: same night, same table, same everything. Here are the excerpts:

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Reviews Reviewed: The New Yorker

Back when newspapers and magazines were more relevant, your restaurant lived and died based on its reviews. A review in the New York Times can still make or break your restaurant, and you always want to get a good review no matter what the publication, but with message boards, blogs, email and basically the whole entire internets, reviews in mainstream publications are no longer one-way, top-down proclamations and are instead parts of a two-way conversation. Don’t worry, this isn’t some misguided attempt to criticize restaurant reviewers (I like most of the food writers I’ve met), but I thought people who read this blog might be interested in how a review winds up on their plate.

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We just got our first mainstream print review in the New Yorker’sTables for Two” section in the front of the magazine. My husband got written up in the New Yorker a few years ago in which they wrote, “Grady Hendrix…doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would enjoy watching a man bite through his arm while masturbating inside a burlap sack, but he is.” After having my husband called out as a demented pervert (which he is, but still…) in the New Yorker I knew the stakes were high and I prepared myself accordingly, instantly purging Dirt Candy of all burlap sacks and banning my employees from any masturbating – either inside a sack or otherwise – while on the premises.

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Reviewers will not find ANY burlap sacks at Dirt Candy.

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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