Side Dish

Juicy food gossip

The House of Rémy Martin might want to stick this little skeleton in a closet: The Cognac King and the James Beard Foundation recently introduced the Louis XIII Ultimate Dinners, a program designed to benefit aspiring chefs. Twenty-eight of the nation's "most acclaimed restaurants" were chosen to participate. Each restaurant designed a special tasting menu so luxe it can only be topped by a glass of the famed spirit Louis XIII de Rémy Martin for dessert -- all for a measly 150 bucks per person. For each dinner purchased, Rémy Martin will contribute part of the proceeds to the James Beard Foundation.

The program was launched September 1 and is expected to run through November 31. But not at South Beach Brasserie, one of the two participating eateries tapped in Miami. The Brasserie never reopened after Labor Day, and a banner posted above the doors claims the restaurant is closed for "summer vacation"; a recorded message says extensive renovations have delayed the reopening until October 15. Don't count on it. According to Lauren E. Kapp of Kratz & Jensen, the public relations firm handling the event, Brasserie manager Cindy Hill didn't know she had a break in her near future. "We came to work and the doors were closed," she says.

Women's tennis hottie Anna Kournikova doesn't seem too concerned about substances, or her diet, for that matter. I spotted two bottles of Moët & Chandon champagne along with a decorated cake in her cart at the Publix on the Bay. Among her other foodstuffs: Genoa salami, challah, a jar of Vlasic pickles, and a box of detergent over which she and pal Sergei Federov of the Detroit Red Wings had an argument. Seems that neither knew what exactly to do with it. Guess laundry isn't something the pair does.

Robbin Haas is busy developing Baleen in Beverly Hills, California, and Naples, Florida. His company, Robbin Haas Restaurant Concepts, also will be responsible for eateries in Redondo Beach, California, and Seattle, Washington. According to his staff, however, his hard work hasn't made him cranky, and the chefs at Baleen wear "Team Haas" emblems on their whites. "My staff loves me," Haas says. "It's the women who can't live with me."

Kvetch: At the Miami Beach Ocean Resort, where my sister and her three-year-old recently stayed, the guy in charge of collecting towels has a tip cup for sunbathers who don't want to carry soggy terry cloth indoors. When my niece asked him why he had money in a cup, he replied that the bills were his tips, and that a tip "ensures good service." Wrong. A gratuity is a reward, not a bribe.

But don't ask the barkeeps at The National Hotel for their definition. They don't bother to quibble over nuances; they just add the tip right in, to happy-hour drink bills, no less. Last time I visited I couldn't figure out why my total for one martini and one club soda came to just over eighteen bucks, till I examined the check the next day: The bartender had already rung up his fifteen percent. What drunk in her befuddled mind is going to realize the employee has paid himself for his mixology? Not this sucker -- I laid an extra two bucks on the bar for him. Somebody owes me a drink.

Send all your food gossip to Jen Karetnick at 2800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Or e-mail kavetchnik@aol.com.

 
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