Lazy Bear: Pop-Up Stardom

I didn't know much about Lazy Bear (an anagram of Chef Barzelay) except for a few facts: it was a pop-up in SF, it was highly rated on Yelp with a near-perfect score, and it was extremely hard to get into. I was hooked immediately but was thwarted a few times the past year when trying to get a seat through their lottery system. My most recent failed attempt was for their last dinner in June before they moved operations to their brand new brick and mortar space - the endgame of all pop-ups.

Imagine my delight when Anna came through clutch again with a surprise reservation for October 5 at their two-story space with two long communal tables seating a total of 40 guests per service. She was able to pounce on two tickets on their new system that licensed the software of Alinea's system where diners prepay for tickets in full. which cuts down on cancellations. Despite the whole system crashing due to demand and technical glitches, the first two weeks of dinners were sold out within hours. 

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Eleven Madison Park: Style Over Substance

It was February 6th, 2014 and I was browsing an email newsletter from "I Know The Chef", a service that allows members to book prime time reservations at popular restaurants and receive VIP service. At the bottom of the email, a same day 7:45pm table for 4 at EMP opened up and was available.

My heart skipped a beat. I had recently picked up Danny Meyer’s book, “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business” which chronicles how he opened EMP as well as the challenges faced and lessons learned while employing the power of hospitality and service in the food industry.

Eating at Eleven Madison Park (ranked 4th in the world with 3 Michelin stars) has been a dream of mine ever since moving to New York in the summer of 2007. From my early exposure to Shake Shack, where I learned what a real quality burger tasted like, to the venerable Gramercy Tavern where I received some of the best service in recent memory, EMP would be the crown jewel that would meld both concepts at the highest level.

Without hesitation, and with 3 empty seats to fill, I had called and confirmed the reservation with IKTC’s Joshua Stern who was a pleasure to deal with. Luckily, over the next 2 hrs, I was able to find 3 of my friends willing to drop $225 for a dinner happening in a few hours.

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French Laundry: California Classic

Eating at The French Laundry was a dream come true. My inital exposure to the restaurant occurred a few years ago when I read Grant Achatz’s book, Life, on The Line where he mentions his experience at The French Laundry and the philosophy and ideals espoused by the chef behind it all, Thomas Keller. As one of the first pioneers of the farm-to-table movement that is now commonplace, Keller left his indelible mark in culinary history. My opportunity to dine there was a random occurrence - when I met Anna back in the fall of 2012, she was in the midst of organizing a group to go for private dining and extended an invitation to me.

Fast forward to Sunday, June 2, 2013. The sun was shining, the skies were clear and blue, and a group of us were dressed up like it was prom all over again.

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The Greatest Hits at Gramercy Tavern

Gramercy Tavern is one of those restaurants you have heard about but have never visited. Highly decorated along with its flagship sibling, Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Tavern is known for its New American cuisine and as one of the pioneers of farm-to-table philosophies. Famed restaurateur, Danny Meyer, opened the restaurant in 1994, but you may know him more for his flourishing Shake Shack empire.

Danny Meyer’s establishments are known for their excellent customer service, and I had the fortune of experiencing it firsthand. Greeted by the scent of fragrant, golden-yellow bouquets, I was led to the packed bar by the hostess with a smile.

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