Food & Wine
January 01, 2009

At F&W, we pride ourselves on our prognosticating power. In no issue is it more important than January, which focuses on trends. For 2009, one trend stands out above the rest: the desire to cook at home, preparing either inspired, affordable recipes for entertaining or dishes that can transport us to another country or state of mind. In “$100 Dinner Party,” Gerald Hirigoyen’s Basque menu includes the most delectable chicken thighs and crisp fries, with room in the budget for great $8 Spanish wines. In “Easy, Exotic Recipes,” the authors of this year’s most exciting cookbooks provide the global tastes we crave, from Andrea Nguyen’s spinach-and-pork dumplings to Francis Mallman’s Argentine T-bone steak.

Two ’09 restaurant trends translate particularly well for the home cook. The first is chefs’ ongoing obsession with comfort food. I’ve actually lost count of the number of menus listing carrot cake or fried chicken, but I’m grateful to have versions to make from new places like Manhattan’s Redhead and Portland, Oregon’s Urban Farmer. Another unstoppable trend is the Fabulous Italian Restaurant Movement—FIRM for short. There are no fewer than a dozen significant new American places to try this year. To get a taste of the biggest hits, try the amazing Fusilli alla Crazy Bastard with goat cheese, beet greens and oven-roasted tomatoes.

As we begin the new year, one trend that I hope will stick is taking it easy on ourselves and relaxing a bit more. The superstar chef (and our very own contributing editor) Jean-Georges Vongerichten does this for two weeks every winter while vacationing in St. Bart’s. Of course, for Jean-Georges, relaxing means cooking fabulous meals, as you’ll see in our story. If that’s what relaxing means to you, too, this issue will be the perfect start to your year.

Where I’m Coming From

My Recent NYC Expeditions:

West Branch
Tom Valenti’s big, new, comfortable Upper West Side place serves a spectacular roast chicken (not an oxymoron, I promise), as well as incredible white beans and sausage.

A daring restaurant where Paul Liebrandt’s beautiful dishes, including foie gras wrapped in a borscht gelée, stand out in a seriously serene, sophisticated room.

Irving Mill
I had to have Ryan Skeen’s signature crispy pig’s-ear salad, but I left room for the delicious burrata-cheese agnolotti with slow-cooked tomatoes.

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