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I Lied…

Originally we said that we do not serve wild boar at Dirt Candy. That is not true. We are now serving Shinn Estate Wild Boar Doe. I am a liar and, truly, my pants are now on fire.

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Our playful ‘wild’ Bordeaux blend of 40% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Spicy and aromatic, our ‘wild boar doe’ pairs perfectly with highly seasoned seafood stews, roasted meats and full flavored ripe cheeses.” (From the Shinn Estate website)


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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Blue Monday

Today, January 19, 2009, is officially known as Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. In the UK they’re doing mental health programs to make the day go down easier, in Canada people are walking to the ends of their driveways to get the paper and then suddenly sitting down in the snow and not moving for hours, and in America people are staring at their ringing cell phones in terror then refusing to answer them while manically ordering sweaters they don’t need online. All in all it’s a depressing day.

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As for me, I’m staring at my menu. Jesus and I make everything on it dozens of times every night and, to be honest, I’m getting bored. The customers keep it fun with their rare allergies (I’d never heard of a mushroom allergy before), their food phobias (someone wanted the grits but confessed to a horror of poached eggs so we scrambled his), their stories about getting to the restaurant (one person recently drove from Buffalo to eat here), their occasional pleas for our help to impress their dates, their non-sequiturs (one customer pulled out a series of marshmallows shaped like penises and seemed very proud of them) and their general variety. But I’m dying to shake up the menu some, to get experimenting in the kitchen with some dishes and to try out some new craziness. Problem is, still no gas. Until we have gas we can’t do anything differently because it’s too hard on everyone working here to make changes when we’re cooking all electric.

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So on Blue Monday I look at my menu, feel depressed that we still don’t have gas and learn the real reason why we don’t serve tacos. And to anyone reading, treat yourself well tonight. Have two desserts, an extra glass of wine, ignore your work, read magazines in bed, don’t take calls from people you don’t want to talk to and refuse to feel guilty about the state of your apartment. It’s not laziness or self-indulgence but an issue of public health because, after all, this is Blue Monday.

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Meet Our Wine Zoo: the Goldmuskateller

We just added a new wine to our list, a 2007 Goldmuskateller from the family run Thurnhof Estates in Northern Italy. We don’t have much room to store cases of wine, so rather than offering people the same old list of Syrahs, Cabernets, Chardonnays, Pinot Grigios and all the rest of the usual suspects we thought we’d make up a wine list of the strangest and most unusual wines we could find, sort of like a wine zoo for exotic animals.

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Thurnhof Estates, home of the Thurnhof Goldmuskateller

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Even by our standards, the Goldmuskateller is a weirdo, but a surprisingly friendly one. It’s got a strong musky smell that oozes out of the glass like a low-lying fog, making you think that a family of gigantic grapes just sat down next to you, but it’s cut with a sharp, crisp apple aroma that reminds you of biting into Autumn’s first apples. Then you take a sip of it and it’s something else entirely. This is a very hot wine, so when you taste it first you get a nice, mellow taste of honey and then you get slapped across the cheek with an astringent pine flavor, almost like you’re drinking nettles soaked in honey. It’s a pretty neat trick: you’re lured in by the smell of apples and musk, you get a taste of honey, and then your tongue gets lashed for being so cheeky. It sounds violent, but to be honest it’s really enjoyable. Rather than a mellow wine lulling you into an alcoholic stupor, the Goldmuskateller is a hot-blooded wine that kicks you awake.

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Goldmuskateller grapes.

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Kitchen Nightmare?

Just when I thought everything was going really great, and that Dirt Candy was starting to find its rhythm, I get this email:

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“Hi there,

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This is Sean Needles, a casting associate from Fox TV’s hit show ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ starring Gordon Ramsay. If your restaurant may need some help (no matter how big or small the problems) and you would like Gordon Ramsay’s help, definitely contact us immediately…Has the economy affected your sales? Does your restaurant need HELP? Are you trying to make some green, but still running red? Do you and your chef have different ideas about the menu? Or maybe you have a great location, but it doesn’t seem to entice many customers?

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Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.”

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Oh dear god, am I in a Kitchen Nightmare and I’m too close to see it? Have I been missing the signs? Even though I’m the chef and the owner does half of me subconsciously have different ideas about the menu and I’ve developed a split personality which is at war with itself and it’s affecting the restaurant but I’m not able to detect the problems because clearly I’ve gone insane?

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Now I’m sad.

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Stay on your Oil Rigs!

I’m always getting emails from those poor African people who have their funds trapped in a bank and need an American citizen to help them transfer it out of their home country for a small finders fee. I feel terrible for them, but I can’t help because I’m not an American citizen. But then, right after Dirt Candy opened, I got a chance to do my part. A very kind man named Engineer Andy Jakes emailed me and said that he had oil workers who were just getting off a rig and they wanted to have dinner at Dirt Candy for three nights. I figured that I could charge them a set rate, have them out by 8:30 and still be able to turn the tables once.

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I didn’t stop to wonder who, exactly, these 15 vegetarian oil workers were. Indians who are vegetarian? Muslims who are tired of halal places? Chinese people who are bored of meat and want a change? Hippies now working for the oil industry and trying to change it from within? Did it matter? I emailed Engineer Andy Jakes back and told him “No problem!” and gave him a quote. Then I got his next email.

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We’re hungry!

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Apparently, he was going to give me a $3,000 deposit on his credit card, then book a car service to bring his hungry oil workers to dinner. But the car service’s credit card machine was bad, and they couldn’t take his card. And, as he reminded me, “…am on the high sea work on an OIL RIG. There are no bank or western union here.” So I was to get his credit card, charge it for $9,000, then keep $3,000 and give the remaining $6,000 to the car service. That’s when I knew something was up: the car service cost twice as much as dinner? I was a) insulted and b) suspicious. So I never responded.

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You wanna split some jalapeno hush puppies?

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I’m impressed that this scam is so tailored to restaurants and so specific. Don’t we all feel sort of bad for guys who have to live on oil rigs for months at a time? I’m kind of curious to know if anyone has ever fallen for this scam and I still might. Just two days ago I got an email from Dr. Allan Brad, director of Staff welfare Aiken Offshore United Kingdom. “I want  to book dinner for my group of workers,” he wrote. “They will all come for dinner in your place as from January 21st, 22nd and 23rd, 2009 by 6:30pm each day. They are 15 in number.” I could probably turn the tables once after they left, and the economy’s not so great. It actually doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

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Dirt Candy, here I come!


Goodbye, 2008/Hello, 2009

Although it took a year to get Dirt Candy open, we really were only around for about 8 weeks of 2008 and so I didn’t expect that we’d show up on any “Best of” lists. Personally, I’m allergic to the last week of the year because it’s when newspapers and magazines become a giant wall of “Best of” lists and it all sort of blurs together after a while. Best New Restaurant? The Dark Knight. Best New Chef? The Tale of Beedle the Bard. I can’t keep it straight. But some folks surprised me by going out of their way to say nice things about Dirt Candy in their year-end lists, which was real friendly and it’s much appreciated.

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Over on Eater, the Feedbag picked Dirt Candy as one of the “Best Newcomers of 2008″ and Gothamist singled us out for a nice mention in their round-up of “The Way We Ate 2008.”

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As for 2009 things don’t look too shabby so far. Gourmet has already weighed in with a first taste review in which they say the hush puppies are, “…so good it’ll stop your heart…” which is really nice to hear unless you have coronary disease, and they call the spinach soup, “…soothing and spiky…” The February 2009 issue of Bon Appetit does a national restaurant round up of “Hot 10 Modern Vegetarian” and not only do they put Dirt Candy in at number 6 (I’m not sure they’re ranked by number, but still…six is a nice number) but we’re the only veggie place in NYC they pick. Not a bad way to start the year, although the way things are going pretty soon it won’t matter if Dirt Candy gets good reviews or not, it’ll simply be judged on how much bottled water it contains, how much gasoline I’ve hoarded and whether or not I can defend it from marauding bands of mutant bikers who cruise the post-apocalyptic American crud-scape fighting over the last can of beans in the world.

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Future Dirt Candy customers.

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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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Spinach $13
spinach & grapefruit mille-feuille,
with smoked pistachios and ricotta

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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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