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.
I hadn't cooked for my kids for more than two weeks, but all that changed when they returned from camp yesterday. Maybe I was out of practice, maybe I was feeling a bit defiant or maybe I was just hoping for a change, but given how much I enjoyed superspicy broccoli rabe last week, I wanted it again. There were sweet Italian sausages in the fridge, some homemade focaccia buns in the freezer and, of course, broccoli rabe—all ready to come together. I thought about sautéing the broccoli rabe, chopping it and kneading it into the sausage meat, but that would've been too cruel to my kids, not to mention self-defeating (I would surely have wound up making PB&Js). To satisfy everyone, I sautéed the broccoli rabe with garlic and so much crushed red pepper flakes all our mouths were vibrating, grilled the sausage patties (and the buns) and sandwiched it all together. A little aioli with olives, capers and herbs from my garden finished the dish. Malcolm, my 7-year-old son, passed on the aioli and broccoli rabe, but my 12-year-old daughter, Pia, ate it all.
I spotted an unusual cheese on both of Le Bernardin’s tasting menus recently: la faisselle. When I asked about it, I discovered that it's a soft, creamy cheese handmade exclusively for the restaurant by the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company.
La faisselle looks like fromage blanc, but tastes extraordinarily different because of what’s in the cultures. Also, the fromage blanc found in stores is made with skim milk, while la faisselle is made with whole milk and has a little crème fraîche added at the end. The result is a delicate texture and a fresh, milky flavor with a hint of hazelnuts and a bit of acidity.
© Michael Laiskonis
La faisselle cheese at Le Bernardin.
Part of the fun is how the cheese is served at Le Bernardin: The cheese is ladled into special ceramic pots (faisselles) that have holes to allow the whey to drain out. Michael Laiskonis, Le Bernardin’s pastry chef, pairs the cheese with honey, toasted almonds and a coulis of local strawberries.
© image courtesy of Etsy
Grub Street and Eater.com are all over New York City's of-the-minute food trend: haute poutine, dressed up versions of the beloved Quebecois junk food of french fries, gravy and cheese curds. The latest NYC poutine spotting comes via a Tweet by Freemans owner William Tigertt: “Forget the truffle mac & cheese @ Waverly Inn, the duck confit poutine @ Hotel Griffou is the new artery clogging crack for downtown set.” Outside Manhattan, Mary Dumont, a Food & Wine Best New Chef 2006, tops hand-cut fries with melted cheese curd and chicken velouté at Harvest in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Rob Evans, a BNC 2004, layers his duck-fat Belgian fries with cheese curds and homemade duck gravy at Duckfat in Portland, Maine.
Murphy-Goode Winery’s search for the ultimate social networker has received a ton of attention. So far, more than 250 videos have been submitted by prospective wine country social media whizzes hoping to become Murphy-Goode's “lifestyle correspondent.” The job description in a nutshell: Move to Sonoma for six months to promote Murphy-Goode’s wines via blogs, Twitter and Facebook, and get paid $10,000 a month plus free vineyard digs. I’m shamelessly promoting my favorite video, from former Food & Wine intern extraordinaire Nick Pandolfi. Check it out here and place your votes. The winner will be announced July 21.
© James Baigrie
First came the blog, the Julie/Julia Project, where Julie Powell documented the trials of cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Then came the book, Julie & Julia, based on the blog. And now, this August, comes the Nora Ephron movie based on the book starring Meryl Streep as Julia and Amy Adams as Julie.
Julie Powell and I have recently become friends, at least on Facebook, where I follow her hilarious daily musings. I decided to ask my new “friend” what it’s been like to see her words go from the computer to the big screen.
Powell says the most surreal part has been the paparazzi shots of Amy Adams in a Julie wig in front of her old office, at the Strand and a block away from her apartment. “The Julie of the movie bears some resemblance to the Julie Who Is Me,” Powell wrote me. “But, she’s definitely a fictional character.” For one, the movie Julie doesn’t curse as much as the real-life Julie!
Julie & Julia follows the basic plot points of Powell’s book, but is a very different creature. The voice is more Ephron than Powell. According to Julie, “The movie is very much Nora’s baby.” But, “Nora’s done an amazing job of weaving together the parallels between my and Julia’s stories, and how this is about two women finding themselves.”
The highlight for Powell: meeting Meryl Streep, who stayed completely in character—voice, wig, and dress—throughout their conversation about high heels.
Powell second book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession, is due out in December. Always busy, she’s got irons in the fire but says she’s giving up memoirs for now—“while the gettin’ is good.”
This morning I had had breakfast with writer Anna Watson. Anna used to be a peripatetic editor at the brilliant but sadly shuttered Culture + Travel magazine. These days the La Varenne–trained foodie has been spending her days in the kitchen, on a mission to try and eat extraordinarily well on a budget. She recently launched a new blog called The Recession Cookbook, where she shares her cost-saving strategies (steak dinner and a bottle of red for two for under $35), excellent recipes and genius ideas for turning leftovers into delicious meals. I know I’ll be regularly checking in for value-minded dinner party inspiration.