At the risk of exposing a deep, dark secret of my marriage, I’m coming clean: I don’t care much about baseball. My husband would never know this by the enthusiasm with which I greet baseball season, but in reality, it’s the food that draws me to the ballpark. Many of F&W's past Best New Chefs are bona fide baseball fans, though, and they’re raising the bar for awesome stadium food around the country. In Houston, Bryan Caswell is serving his famous fresh-ground burgers at the Astros’ Minute Maid Park, and Seattle chef Ethan Stowell’s beer-marinated hot dogs are a huge hit at the Mariners’ Safeco Field. In San Francisco, Traci Des Jardins’ new Public House, next door to AT&T Park, serves Anchor Steam-battered fish and chips alongside local cask ales and Humphry Slocombe ice cream. Baseball food’s getting a serious makeover—and as far as my husband’s concerned, I’m even more of a die-hard fan.
© Courtesy Hawkins International PR
© Jen Murphy
Food and hoops in Houston.
When I visited Houston last weekend to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships, I knew I’d be running into some hoops stars. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be hanging with so many rock stars and chefs. Here, some highlights:
*The city of Houston organized an unbelievable line-up of free concerts in Discovery Park to coincide with the Final Four. The Kings of Leon put on a rockin' show Saturday night. Afterward, we shared a bottle of 2007 Dominus Estate Napanook with the band and reminisced about the first time we heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Nathan Followill, an F&W subscriber, also told me about his special infused-butter recipe.
*F&W Best New Chef Bryan Caswell took us to what may be the greatest Texas dive bar, the Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club, for some live music and Texas-two-step lessons. Late-night, we feasted on enchiladas and margaritas at El Real Tex-Mex Café, which Caswell just opened with Robb Walsh.
* Houston chefs Chris Shepherd of Catalan Food and Wine, Monica Pope of T’afia and Randy Evans of Haven took us on a five-hour ethnic-food crawl. Highlights included charcoal-roasted cabrito (goat) at El Hidalguense, a no-frills Mexican spot; soup dumplings at Fu Fu Café in Chinatown; and goat biryani and stir-fried okra from the great British-Indian restaurant London Sizzler.
*Fort Worth, Texas–based chef Tim Love of the Lonesome Dove and Love Shack was in town to judge the Coach’s Cook-off. He invited us to hang backstage with his friend, country musician Pat Green. Post-show, we had a nose-to-tail dinner at Feast that ended with a stellar dish of crispy roasted pork belly with red cabbage and potato cakes.
Inside H&F Bottle Shop in Atlanta.
© Kate Telfeyan
Zak Pelaccio testing out a burger for Fatty Johnson's.
I was super bummed when I heard that Cabrito, the awesome little West Village Mexican restaurant from chef Zak Pelaccio, was closing. But tomorrow, Pelaccio opens Fatty Johnson’s in the old space. This supercool, pop-up restaurant will have a regularly changing menu that revolves around all things ham. The idea stemmed from a dive bar Pelaccio had dreamed up called Hammy Johnson’s that would only serve whiskey cocktails and ham and butter sandwiches. “Fatty Johnson’s is a slightly more evolved concept … slightly,” says Pelaccio. During its short, six-week life, the space will host different guest bartenders. Cocktail wiz Dave Wondrich will be behind the bar tomorrow for opening night. “We’re not taking it, or ourselves, too seriously—this is just about having fun until the new permanent concept lands at 50 Carmine,” says Pelaccio.
© Melanie Dunea
Front row from L to R: The Bromberg brothers, David Myers. Back row from L to R: Scott Conant, Costas Spiliadis, José Andrés.
I asked some of the star chefs behind those restaurants what they love most about Vegas, and how they splurge when they’re in town. Here, their answers:
Scott Conant, D.O.C.G. and Scarpetta
“I really admire how this city attracts such great talent, whether it’s chefs or performers. There’s also real appreciation for hospitality, food & beverage and entertainment, and the professional approach they take to this here really resonates with me. Every time I’m here working, I pick a night to go on a restaurant crawl and hit up four of five great places in one night.”
Anthony Meidenbauer, Holsteins
“My splurge in Las Vegas is my recently found new ramen-noodle spot, Monta. It's a little hole in the wall that has amazing food, made in a tiny kitchen.”
David Myers, Comme Ça
“What I love about Las Vegas is the diversity of restaurants and culture, beautiful weather and the incredible realization that this is all in the middle of the desert. My splurge will be the weekend at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas taking in all the great restaurants, with some time at the pool and at the tables. Also, dinner at either Twist or Joël Robuchon at The Mansion.”
Eric and Bruce Bromberg, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
“Las Vegas has so many different faces. High-end casino experiences, travelers from around the world, funky Chinatown eateries, great weather, great routes to bike and a 24-hour mentality that makes New Yorkers like us feel right at home. Our favorite Vegas splurge: A great ride in Red Rock canyon by day, some afternoon shopping around town and then hitting all the great restaurants in The Cosmopolitan in the evening. And ending up at Marquee for a late-night blowout.”
José Andrés, China Poblano and Jaleo
“I love Vegas for its energy. Every place has a unique rhythm, and this truly is a city that never sleeps, a place that draws people from all over world for the unique environment it offers. To have so many great chefs in one city, like Robuchon, Boulud, Keller, is amazing. I love the Strip, the casinos, but people need to take the effort to know the real Las Vegas. I go to the arts district, which is genuine and full of great people, as is the local restaurant scene.”
© NY Craft Beer Weej
NY Craft Beer Week
The third annual New York Craft Beer Week officially kicks off today and runs through Sunday, October 3. I asked event director Josh Schaffner to help me navigate my tasting schedule. Here, his cheat sheet:
1) The first annual Brewer’s Bash at Eleven Madison Park is being billed as the beer version of the restaurant’s insanely fun Kentucky Derby party. “The goal is to recreate the Derby party for beer,” says Schaffner. “Eleven Madison Park came to us to collaborate, and they are really serious about the beer at their restaurant.” The draw: Six brewers and their craft beers, two live bands, a cask tasting with Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver and six beer cocktails paired with chef Daniel Humm’s beer pretzels and beer cheese, foie gras terrine, pickled vegetables and other beer-friendly foods.
2) As awesome as the Brewer’s Bash sounds, Schaffner’s pick for the must-hit event of the week is the beer-pairing dinner at Mas Farmhouse on September 29. Roving chef-brewer Sean Z. Paxton is teaming up with Mas chef Galen Zamarra for a six-course meal that will pair beers from six different breweries with dishes such as orange-glazed escargot.
3) Must-try beer: Pretty Things will be debuting a brew from Edwardian times at Swift Hibernian Lounge.
4) New brewery to seek out: Schaffner is excited about the beers being made by Barrier, a tiny new brewery in Oceanside, New York. Try them all week at Dive Bar.
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is now in full swing: The dramas! The comedies! The thrillers! And that’s just half of what happens at the parties participating in the TIFF extended bar hours. (Instead of 1 a.m., many bars and restaurants associated with TIFF are allowed to stay open until 4 a.m. during the 10 days of the festival.)
Here are the best spots in Toronto to eat, drink and sleep:
Victor at Le Germain Hotel Try the Social 52 menu, which emphasizes the diversity of neighborhoods—and cuisines—in the city. Dishes could include Korean-inspired ribs and kimchi or Portuguese grilled sardines.
Scarpetta at the Thompson Hotel Star chef Scott Conant's Toronto outpost offers seemingly simple but utterly spectacular spaghetti with tomato sauce, and creamy polenta with truffled mushroom stew.
One at the Hazelton Hotel Where else can you find Clive Owen, Juliette Lewis, a trio of Raptors players and a renowned environmentalist, all under one roof? An absolutely divine starter: the butter-braised lobster spoons.
Avenue in the Four Seasons Toronto Ground central for TIFF for most of its 35 years, the hotel is closing up and moving around the corner in the near future. But for now, it’s still your best shot at hobnobbing with Hollywood—and for a terrific burger with Parmesan frites.
The Roof Lounge at the Park Hyatt Best bar in the city, bar none. It offers amazing panoramic views of the skyline—as well as an elegant Old World room with a fireplace. Have one of the veteran bartenders prepare a classic Canadian cocktail, like the Caesar.
© Philadelphia Tourism
Summer Love Ale
Philadelphia is quietly establishing itself as one of the top craft-beer cities in the country. To help get the word out, the tourism board teamed up with Victoria Brewing Company to create the city’s own limited-edition craft beer called Summer Love Ale. It was so popular that Victory brewed a second batch, which they were nice enough to ship up this week to share with New York City. I had a chance to taste it last night at the Victoria Tap Takeover at NYC craft-beer mecca the Blind Tiger. The delicious golden ale—made with pale malts, German hops and Brandywine Creek water—is also on tap for a limited time at other great NYC beer bars like the Pony Bar , Bierkraft and Swift, as well as at Whole Foods on the Bowery.
© Jamie Tiampo
Gabe Thompson and Joe Campanale.
I'm a regular at NYC’s Dell'anima and L'Artusi, the two awesome wine-centric West Village Italian restaurants run by chef Gabe Thompson and sommelier Joe Campanale. Their newest project, Anfora, officially opens tonight. I got a sneak preview of the wine bar at friends-and-family on Friday. Here, the highlights:
1) Campanale has organized his wine list by producer, with an emphasis on sustainable, biodynamic and organic wine. And instead of simply listing wine names and vintages, he has included a photograph of every producer, along with information about the producers and the wines.
2) The stellar by-the-glass selection includes two anfora-aged wines, including Cantino Giardino's Coda di Volpe, an ancient grape grown in Campania since Roman times. (An anfora is a traditional earthen wine vessel used to store and transport wines).
3) Food highlights include lamb ragù sliders with Pecorino Romano and an intense Italian hero with mortadella, soppressata, speck, aged provolone, aioli, mustard and pepper relish. Plus, pastry genius Katherine Thompson has developed amazing sweets, like a rhubarb zuppa inglese.
4) There are also great cocktails, like the Farmer's Friend (rum, rhubarb, mint) and local craft beers on tap.
5) Just two doors down from always-crowded Dell’anima, this 50-seat spot may be the cushiest waiting area in the city with its super-comfy Cabernet-colored banquette seating. And the über-wine-geek will love the quilted topographic maps of wine regions like the Mosel hanging on the walls.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.