Friday, February 26, 2010

Comcast's Stroke Of Genius: Getting Don Draper To Be The Voice Of Xfinity

After all, the man is a fucking pro.

Comcast enters rebranding territory [ Boston Globe ]

Steve Wynn Wants To Build A Cute Casino With A Steakhouse, Italian Restaurant And Asian Noodle House

rendering of the foxwoods casino philadelphia
A rendering of the original Foxwoods Casino | Photo via Foxwoods

Wynn, via the Inquirer:
He said the area was "all full of my old friends - the Italians and Jews and every conceivable type of ethnic group that likes to play craps and gamble - and they're only 10 minutes away."

"I love the proximity of the Vietnamese neighborhood, and I'm going to put in a Vietnamese restaurant for them," he said.
Also, he said his plans would not include a hotel.

Wynn and Foxwoods need to submit revised plans for the site to the Gaming Control Board by the board's March 3 meeting.

Wynn says he'll build 'the cutest casino': But his plans don't include high-rise hotel
[ Philadelphia Daily News ]
Wynn outlines plan for Foxwoods Casino [ Philadelphia Inquire ]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Team Cook-Solomonov Begins To Think About How To Brand, Um, Team Cook-Solomonov

steven cook michael solomonov logo
As seen in the footer of a recent 'Xochitl returns' email... Can the formation of a restaurant group be that far behind?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Michelle Obama Visits Fresh Grocer In North Philadelphia

Michelle Obama visited the new Fresh Grocer Progress Plaza on Friday | Photo via The White House

In town to promote her "Let's Move" campaign targeting childhood obesity, Michelle Obama on Friday visited a North Philadelphia elementary school as well as the new Fresh Grocer Progress Plaza on North Broad Street, where she enjoyed a strawberry smoothie, as the Inquirer reported:
Obama brought shrieks of delight from excited shoppers at the Fresh Grocer in North Philadelphia.

Chanting, "we love you," the shoppers reached out to shake hands with Obama who arrived at 11:45 a.m. through a back door to enter the store at 1501 North Broad Street.

The first lady walked into the crowd at a receiving area near the store's butcher shop. She reached across an area of bread and cakes to shake hands with the shoppers many of whom had gathered hours before to get a good look of her.

Obama walked down the store aisles stocked with hot food, salads, cut up fruits and fresh sea food.

She greeted the workers, telling them, "You guys are great," and made her way to the fruit smoothie machine where she ordered herself a strawberry twister smoothie containing strawberries, banana and blueberries.

"I have my own money," she told the worker pulling out a $20 bill to pay for the $4.31 drink.

She sipped her drink through a straw while owner, Patrick Burns, chief executive officer of Fresh Grocer, accompanied her around the store as she spoke to employees. She spent about 15 minutes there before leaving in her motorcade for Fairhill Elementary also in North Philadelphia.
Good to see the First Lady enjoying a quick visit to Philadelphia.

Related to the reason for Michelle Obama's visit, The Food Trust was recently featured on Good Morning America for their work targeting childhood obesity at John Welsh Elementary School in North Philadelphia. Watch the segment here.

Michelle Obama wows students at Fairhill School [ Philadelphia Inquirer via Grub Street Philadelphia ]
Editorial: Chew on this [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
School Nutrition Program Takes Up Obesity Fight [ ABC News ]
Let's Move [ Official Site ]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Further Evidence Neighbors Are A Restaurant's Worst Enemy: Ansill Never Allowed To Have Outdoor Seating At Corner Of 3rd & Bainbridge

ansill philadelphia
Ansill: Totally unsuitable for outdoor seating, according to the Queen Village Neighborhood Association | Photo via Google Maps

A couple of weeks back, Grub Street Philadelphia ran an interview with David Ansill about his new gig at Ladder 15. There were also a few questions about his old restaurant Ansill, which closed last summer.

And what do you know... Ansill was never allowed to have outdoor seating because the Queen Village Neighborhood Association wouldn't ok it.
Q. Do you think the neighborhood played a factor? A lot of praised restaurants in that Queen Village/South Street neighborhood have struggled.

[Ansill:] Initially, when I opened up, the Queen Village Neighborhood Association shot me down when I wanted outdoor seating. Which I kind of thought was a no-brainer. It's a beautiful corner and a beautiful visual aspect to have it. They didn't seem happy I was coming in there and cleaning up the corner and making it more of a service to the neighborhood, which is how I thought about it. Even the neighbors that came to the meeting - I was surprised at how adamant they were about it.

I think people are sometimes intimidated by South Street. A lot of my clientele from Pif were from the suburbs; they're not kids anymore and they were concerned about coming down to South Street on a Saturday night with the parking and stuff.

My across-the-street neighbor was the former zoning commissioner [David Auspitz]. I had a couple of tables set out on Bainbridge Street, just for eye candy, to say "Hey, we're open here." We weren't going to seat anyone out there. He said "You can't do that and next time we'll call L&I on you." He never stepped into my place and had no idea what I was doing.
Oh shit, a David Auspitz sighting... Remember him? Kinda makes you long for the good old days...

We kid. Obviously, this Ansill instance of neighbors not allowing the restaurant to have outdoor seating is a moot issue now — the restaurant is closed. But it's still fucking ridiculous. And a perfect example of how fucking stupid neighbors are when it comes to restaurants. (Or, actually, when it comes to everything.)

Moreover, all it takes is for a handful of dumb, small-minded neighbors to show up and complain to block anything, because even though the vast majority of rational people would support a restaurant adding beautiful outdoor seating to the neighborhood, in most cases people don't go to neighborhood association meetings to support a restaurant, probably because people usually have better things to do than to go to a neighborhood association meeting about a restaurant's no-brainer request for outdoor seating.

Which brings us to the news that there's an upcoming neighborhood zoning meeting for Stephen Starr's planned Fishtown beer garden. It's safe to assume that said meeting could turn into a veritable shitshow.

Remember that Fishtown neighbors somehow killed the Jumbo Theater project two years ago over ridiculous noise concerns for a venue that is literally located under the Market-Frankford El, but was going to allegedly bring more noise than the fucking El. On a completely commercial, non-residential corner of Girard.

So if that's any indication, the Starr beer garden zoning meeting could have its fill of self-interested batshit crazies.

The meeting notice:
A proposal for a beer garden & restaurant by Stephen Starr at 1208-1214 Frankford Ave. The meeting will take place at the Fishtown Rec Center, 1202 E. Montgomery Ave. All residents of Fishtown are eligible to vote. Please bring proof of residence in the form of a driver's license or a photo id and a recent piece of mail addressed to your home.

More info from an neighbor's email:


Roland Kassis (spelling?) is the developer. He owns several properties in our immediate area, particularly along the Frankford corridor. He has a long term development plan and is requesting the assitance [sic] and support from the immediate neighbors to realize his vision.

Roland developed numerous properties in N. Liberties (where he lives) and also developed the houses on Mercer Street between F-ford and Crease.

The property under consideration for the Stephen Starr restaurant is on Frankford Ave, beginning next to the Acropolos diner (Frankford and Girard) and spans approximately 100 yards towards Frankford and Thompson.

The concept under consideration is a Bier Garten with ~250 seats. This concept would be co-development with prominent restauranteur [sic] Stephen Starr who will operate the establishment similar to his other businesses. The property has a courtyard type space and plans include using this outdoor space.

As with all other Stephen Starr restaurants, this property would have an open kitchen until 11:00 PM and remain open for drinking/socializing until 2:00 AM.

The expected timeline includes a more formal zoning hearing towards the end of February. Notices will be circulated as will a message on this e-mail list. ALL NEIGHBORS ARE URGED TO ATTEND. Finances and agreements are secure and the intent is to begin building ASAP after approval is granted.


Parking. The plan includes the use of valet parking and Roland stated he has 70 spaces available with more on the way. Parking will be reasonably priced to be on par with what a patron would pay at a meter. Even with valet service there will undoubtedly be pressure on the immediate area for parking. Efforts are already underway for the 1200 block of Crease Street to move towards permit parking and other immediate streets (Thompson, Day, Leopard) are urged to consider this to help offset this problem. Shackamaxon already has it.

Noise. Houses on Leopard Street will likely bear the brunt of the noise from this project. Roland insisted that he has taken this into consideration and will do everything possible to mitigate noise. Leopard Street residents are strongly urged to attend the zoning hearing to have their concerns heard.

Trash: Roland stated that the dumpsters would be contained inside and the collection company would be instructed for a daily pick-up at 11:00 AM.

Traffic. The concern about valet parking traffic was raised. Parking attendants will need to move cars around rapidly and it is a concern that their route will take them through the immediate blocks.

All in all, it seemed that there is overwhelming support for this exciting project but there is also the expected amount of caution and concern. Please keep your eyes peeled for zoning notices posted at the property as well as circulars in mailboxes regarding the zoning hearing.
Should be a doozy.

But at least Philadelphia is not alone. Take comfort in the fact that idiot neighbors just put the kibosh on a Nolita Shake Shack in Manhattan.

David Ansill Resurfaces on Sansom Street [ Grub Street Philadelphia ]
Stephen Starr Bier Garden Zoning Meeting 3/2/10 7-8pm [ Philadelphia Speaks ]
Neighbors Successful in Running Shake Shack Out of Nolita [ Eater New York ]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Garces Trading Company Now Open; Targeting Early Summer For Beer & Brats At Letto Deli

garces trading company philadelphiaThe company line:
Garces Trading Company, a gourmet market and cafe, is now open. The multi-purpose space features a host of house-made and imported foods under the Garces Trading Company label, as well as Chef Garces award-winning cuisine, available for eat-in or take-out.

Other features, including a flower shop, an on-site bakery, private label olive oils and vinegars, Chef Garces' signature coffee and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's first wine boutique, further distinguish Garces Trading Company as the city’s only all-in-one culinary destination.
Also, Michael Klein is reporting that Garces is aiming for early summer for the Brats and Beer concept in the former Letto Deli at 13th and Chancellor.

Which is the same time that Starr is targeting to open his outdoor beer garden in Fishtown.

Must everything be a competition?

Garces at Garces Trading Company [ The Insider - ]

Stephen Starr To Jose Garces: I'll See Your Beer & Brats Concept And Raise You A Bona Fide German Bier Garten

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Starr Poaches Longtime Xochitl Chef Dionicio Jimenez From Team Cook-Solomonov For Forthcoming Midtown Diner Project

Stephen Starr landed himself a major talent to be the executive chef of the Mexican restaurant and bar project he's planning for the former Midtown IV Diner at 20th and Chestnut: Dionicio Jimenez, who's been the executive chef at Xochitl since it opened.

It's a coup for Starr. Jimenez is extremely highly regarded.

We remember what restaurateur Steven Cook (Xochitl, Zahav, Percy Street) had to say about Jimenez in Craig Laban's 2007 review of Xochitl:
If you have already tasted the sublime seviche of watermelon and scallops at the new Mexican restaurant called Xochitl, then you might understand Steven Cook's reaction last year to a tasting meal at Dionicio Jimenez's home: "I wanted to be in the Dionicio business."
So Starr has now got Jimenez (who was part owner of Xochitl along with Cook and Michael Solomonov) to helm the Midtown Diner project, which we feel like Starr wants to take in a La Esquina -esque direction.

Meanwhile, Xochitl will close on February 7 for a two-week renovation and re-open with a new chef and a brand new menu that's already finalized.

How do you like them apples?

Xochitl chef quits for Starr project [ The Insider - ]
Xochitl - The Aztec name means "flower," and the chef's talent has blossomed since his arrival, penniless, from Mexico nine years ago. At their best, his creations are vivid and stunningly original. [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]