© Tina Rupp
I threw a holiday open house a few weeks ago and learned a few lessons for next year. Hot hors d'oeuvres were a big hit: I'll definitely serve fried wontons and Chorizo-Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon
(above) again—both can be cooked ahead of time and warmed in the oven during the party. I'll only set out food that can be picked up with one hand: When we passed a platter of Smoked Bluefish Pâté
already spread on crackers, it disappeared; anything left in a bowl for people to serve themselves tended to linger.
As for non-food lessons, I finally found a solution to the snowy-boots-on-wood-floors problem: a four-foot-square "Waterhog" floor mat
from L.L. Bean. The look is utilitarian, but it's a big improvement over the piece of painter's paper my husband has taped down in the past, which made the entryway look like a construction site.
© Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit Management Co.
When I was heading to Chicago for a long weekend, I asked friends what was a must-see. Everyone mentioned the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago,
designed by star architect Renzo Piano, which opened in May. An added appeal for me: The museum recruited chef Tony Mantuano
fame to open the Italian-centric Terzo Piano
there. The name refers to its third-floor location, and it's worthwhile to walk up the sleek white bridge from Millennium Park for the fantastic view instead of entering by elevator inside the museum. The handmade pastas were lovely, especially the restaurant's version of spaghetti carbonara with Nueske's bacon, sheep's-milk cheese and a runny poached egg. Do save room for the cheese cart, with many of the dozen or so options from Midwest producers (my husband's favorite was an aged goat's-milk tomme from Indiana's Capriole
). The restaurant serves lunch every day and dinner Thursdays, when the museum is open late (and museum entrance is free from 5 to 8 p.m.).
The noise this week may have been about the latest Zagat and Michelin guides, but one of my new favorite NYC dining sources is by F&W's own former travel editor Salma Abdelnour. Salma kindly downloaded her brain into a new website launched this week, salmaland.com, where she offers a carefully curated selection of 60 of her favorite spots, organized by neighborhood. A sample (about Nolita favorite Café Gitane): "Order a café crème and the baked eggs with basil ... and be reminded why you’re alive, why you’re in this crazy town and why it’s all worth it." Salma will be adding other cities (SF, LA and London all coming soon). She's also looking for other fun ways to make the sight searchable (best last-minute dinner reservation, best spots to celebrate a birthday); readers are invited to contact her with suggestions through the site.
Last weekend I tried a few recipes from the new cookbook Everyday Harumi
. The author, Harumi Kurihara, is a homemaker-turned-cooking-star in Japan, where she has a TV show, magazine, tableware line and restaurants. The photographs in her book are beautiful and the recipes are very doable. I tackled the Tofu Steak, a homestyle version of agedashi tofu, a popular appetizer in Japanese restaurants. I rubbed slices of tofu with grated garlic, dipped them in potato starch and pan-fried them. I then topped each piece with scallions, ginger, bonito flakes and a soy-mirin sauce. I've never grated garlic for a recipe before, but it was worth the effort—the flavor is more delicate and I don't think minced garlic would stick as well to the tofu.
If you can't get a copy of Harumi's book, try these delicious Japanese recipes from Food & Wine:
Food52, a website and online community launched about a month ago by Amanda Hesser (ex–New York Times food editor) and Merrill Stubbs, celebrates the "unsung heroes" of the food world: home cooks. There's a growing database of user recipes as well as weekly contests where readers submit recipes; Hesser and Stubbs choose the ones they like best, which they prepare and post on the site as a video or slideshow. Over the course of 52 weeks, the community will vote on its favorites, which will eventually be published in the Food52 cookbook.
Food52 celebrates cookbooks too. Next week Hesser and Stubbs and their writer-friend Charlotte Druckman will launch a new project called the Tournament of Cookbooks, a sort of NCAA championship for 16 of the best cookbooks of 2009. Contenders include everything from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller to I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci. Judges are food writers, bloggers, chefs and other pros—including F&W’s own Gail Simmons and Grace Parisi—as well as noted foodies Gwyneth Paltrow and Nora Ephron. “We thought a sports-like tournament would be fun, with two books competing in each round,” says Hesser. “Rather than have the judges tell readers why they do or don't like a cookbook, we want them to articulate what makes one book better than another.”
The 17-day contest begins next Wednesday; the Food52 community can vote on whether they agree with the pronouncements. A party and panel discussion will follow in early November at NYC's Astor Center, where readers can hobnob with authors and judges, and maybe catch a glimpse of the winner's Piglet Trophy.
Co-founder Lockhart Steele takes Eater national.
You don’t need me to tell you that Eater
, the obsessive restaurant website that knows more about most places than their owners and chefs do, has recently gone national
. All my friends read it at least a dozen times daily (“I’ve already checked Eater 17 times today,” said a manager at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne
yesterday at lunchtime). Their new website has comprehensive coverage coast to coast, with more, more, more nightlife. How did the Eater crew celebrate? With a secret Eater party at, where else, the third floor of The Spotted Pig
. There were Eater founders Ben Leventhal and Lockhart Steele
working the room (well, Steele worked the room; Leventhal set up shop on a banquette). There was venture capitalist Fred Wilson
and his wife (Gotham Gal) Joanne Wilson
. There was chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten
, who’d jumped from the Michelin Guide’s party
to Spice Market
to the Pig with his new friend Momofuku’s David Chang
. There was Boulud
, about to tell his friend JGV what alias Times
critic Sam Sifton
is currently using. For further recap of the evening, I’ll look to Eater’s new nightlife editor Scott Solish
, who was also, of course, in attendance.
Retained-heat cooking has been around for ages, but I just discovered the idea by accident. Last Sunday, my son had a soccer game that took us out of the house from 3:45 until 6 p.m.—prime cooking hours. I had a Parmesan rind on hand, so I decided to make this hearty minestrone from F&W's Marcia Kiesel. By 3 p.m., though, I realized it wouldn't finish cooking before I had to leave for the game. Then I thought of actor and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr., who encourages low-energy cooking and has just published the book Ed Begley, Jr.'s Guide to Sustainable Living. Why couldn't I just turn off the stove and let everything cook on retained heat? I added everything but the green beans to the minestrone and brought it to a boil, then turned off the gas and left the pot covered on the stove. I biked home at halftime to add the green beans (and brought the soup to a boil again), then returned to the game. When the whole family came home, the minestrone was ready to serve.
My family started composting in our backyard last year, and this summer, my husband scattered some of the resulting soil in the bed where we plant thyme, basil, parsley and sage. A few weeks later, out sprouted two big, leafy plants we didn't recognize. "It looks like some kind of squash," said my husband, who grew up with a quarter-acre vegetable plot in his backyard. So we let the mystery plants grow. It turns out, the seeds from a spaghetti squash we'd eaten last summer must have survived the composting process. We got tons of rain this summer, so we never even watered the plants. A few weeks ago, we had our first harvest. I cooked a squash using steps 1 & 3 from this recipe by F&W's Marcia Kiesel and tossed the strands with some whole-wheat spaghetti and pesto. The process of composting is basically benign neglect—you throw vegetable peelings, eggshells and leaves in a pile and let it sit. I never expected I would also get a vegetable garden without having to lift a finger.
Bad reviews posted on a website like yelp.com or urbanspoon.com can be the death of a restaurant, while glowing reviews can triple business. In an effort to generate more positive buzz, Mel’s Drive-In on Mission Street in San Francisco is doing something sneaky. Every check advertises a 20 percent discount on your next meal if you bring in a printout of your Yelp review. One blogger ponders if Yelpers will risk the integrity of their “Yelp status” for a few bucks off their next milkshake.