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By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Chefs

It's Official: Lemon Meringue Pie Equals Spring

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© kate krader
Gramercy Tavern's Springtime Lemon Meringue Pie.

Spring officially started on Sunday, March 20. But for me it begins today, when Nancy Olson and her awesome pastry team at Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern introduce their lemon meringue pie to the menu. Of course it’s amazing—a towering piece of pie that’s roughly 50 percent sweet-tart-velvety lemon curd and 50 percent toasted, pillowy meringue with some extra percent flaky-crisp pastry.

The pie is the brainchild of GT pastry sous chef Alex Ray, whose grandmother made it for every holiday. Ray obsessed about everything from the meringue (she went classic, not Italian, which is made with boiling-hot sugar syrup) to the pastry (she went with sweet pastry, as opposed to more savory pâte brisée) to the burning question of whether to serve the pie with ice cream. And if so, what flavor. At press time, the answer was salted-cashew ice cream. “But that’s negotiable,” says Olson. “If someone wants vanilla, we can do that. This is Gramercy Tavern, it’s like Garanimals here. Mixing and matching is our game.”

Cocktails

Early Look: Ferran and Albert Adria’s 41°

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Terry Zarikian with Albert Adria, left, is living my dream at 41°.

I’m in the middle of interviewing F&W's Best New Chefs 2011 (announcements coming April 5th!), and one question I'm asking is: What’s your dream meal? Right now, my dream meal is in Barcelona and begins with drinks and appetizers at 41°, followed by tapas at Tickets, two amazing, new adjacent spots from chefs Ferran and Albert Adria. Terry Zarikian, creative director of Manhattan’s very cool new Spanish restaurant Bar Basque and a long-time friend of the Adria brothers, is living my dream. Here’s Part I of his report:

I had strict orders: Arrive promptly at 41° at 7 p.m.

I did. I was met by a doorman (in a ringmaster costume, just like the circus) with a short list of names. Once inside, I checked out the mostly classic drinks, from Manhattans to margaritas  and, believe it or not, Cosmos. All were meticulously mixed. Even the gin-and-tonics section was detail-oriented: There were more than two dozen gins, and a separate section of tonics, all served over little icebergs carved from a block of ice.

The food at 41° includes their version of traditional bar snacks: oysters with topping like soy tapioca “caviar” or “Schrencki” osetra, a special caviar from the Amour river on the Siberian border.


Pistachios wrapped in sour yogurt "skin" at 41°.

But Albert served us a selection of elBulli–inspired snacks: The renowned, gel-filled spherical olives (here, called Las Olivas Rellenas del 41), flavored with rosemary and garlic; pistachios wrapped in a dry “skin” of sour yogurt; and puffed grains of wild rice seasoned with curry that's poured from a black tin box into a black coal–like ceramic bowl. Mini hollowed-out baguette-like crackers came wrapped with warm, translucent slices of Iberian pancetta seasoned with pimentón and pearls of liquid mozzarella with a basil leaf. More than fantastic were the mini seaweed cones, filled with a spicy tuna tartar and a mysterious puffed grain—it was so delicious, no one cared what it really was.


41° Iberian pancetta wrapped around baguette-like crackers.

And that was just our appetizers at 41°. In my next report, I’ll tell you what I had at Tickets.

Restaurants

Yes, Food Is the New Rock

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© Alexandra Penfold
For Zach Brooks, Food is the New Rock.

I should have known it was just a matter of time before Midtown Lunch hero Zach Brooks (who you might have seen as a Tastemaker in F&W November issue), got into the rock scene in Los Angeles. Having solved the problem of finding less-than-$10 lunches in Manhattan, and then L.A., he has now launched a one-month-old blog, FoodIsTheNewRock. The theme is self-explanatory: “So many people in the music industry have this new obsession with food,” says Brooks. “Bands are tweeting about what they eat, A&R guys are starting food blogs, and think about all the food writers, like Jonathan Gold, who started off doing music.”

© Gabriele Stabile
Chang Also Has Dylan on His Desert Island ipod.

What could make this awesome site even better? A podcast component, which will start next month. And a profile of Momofuku’s David Chang—who reveals that he has Pavement and the Pixies on his Desert Island iPod list.

Chefs

Frank Bruni on the Live-to-Be-125 Diet

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In his 2009 memoir, Bruni isn't concerned with the life-to-be 125 diet.

If you read Frank Bruni's outstanding New York Times Magazine profile of 87-year-old billionaire David Murdock, you know that Murdock plans to live to 125 by eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible: “He crams as many as twenty of them, including pulverized banana peels….into the smoothies he drinks two to three times a day,” Bruni writes. (And if you haven't read it, you really should.)

So, did interviewing Murdock change Bruni's own eating habits? Yes, it did. Bruni now keeps sweet potatoes and bananas on his kitchen counter (he hasn’t started eating the peels yet) and stashes blueberries, blackberries and raspberries in his fridge. He also drinks pitchers of iced green tea sweetened with pomegranate juice. “I’m not a green tea fan, but now I’m constantly at home making this iced tea — it’s all antioxidants all the time,” he says.

Bruni hasn't totally changed his diet, though. In the piece, he writes, “In restaurants Murdock will push the butter dish toward the server and say, ‘Take the death off the table.’” Bruni still loves the stuff: "I'd probably ask for more death." And then there's poultry and red meat, which are both on Murdock’s "Avoid" list. Says Bruni, “I approach everything with a little bit of skepticism. How many foods have gone from being good to being outlawed to being good again? That gives me the wiggle room I need to eat what I want. Besides, a porterhouse… that’s what’s important to me.”

Chefs

The People’s Best New Chef 2011: Jamie Bissonnette!

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Jamie Bissonnette is People's Choice Best New Chef!

It’s been a thrilling two weeks of online voting, and now we have a winner for the People’s Best New Chef. Hooray for Jamie Bissonnette, chef at Coppa in Boston! Bissonnette, with co-owner Ken Oringer, has created the kind of neighborhood restaurant we all wish we had down the block, albeit one that adds uni to the house-made spaghetti-and-smoked bacon carbonara.

This is also a good time to applaud regional winners like Midwest champion Lee Richardson, chef at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. Richardson created a dedicated website—voteforcheflee.com—and got American Idol winner Kris Allen to campaign for him. (Next time he's on Idol, I'm voting for him.) And then there’s Ricardo Zarate of L.A.’s Mo-Chica restaurant, who won the Pacific region thanks in part to a huge showing of national pride from the Peruvian community. And Tim Byres at Smoke in Dallas, who threw a big get-out-the-vote party that helped make him the Southwest champion.

Here’s a list of the regional winners (another round of applause). We salute you, and we also salute all 100 chefs in the People’s Best New Chef pool—you can find them here. We admire you all.

The Regional Champions

New England – Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
Mid-Atlantic – Kyle Bailey, Birch & Barley, Washington DC
New York Area – David Felton, Ninety Acres, Peapack-Gladstone, NJ
Southeast – Bryan Emperor, Kalu Asian Kitchen, Charlotte, NC
Gulf Coast – James Lewis, Bettola, Birmingham, AL
Midwest – Lee Richardson, Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel, Little Rock, AR
Southwest – Tim Byres, Smoke, Dallas
Great Lakes – Jose Salazar, The Palace, Cincinnati
Pacific – Ricardo Zarate, Mo-Chica, Los Angeles
Northwest – Jason Franey, Canlis, Seattle

Restaurants

F&W Exclusive: Michel Richard Opening in Caesars Las Vegas

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Michel Richard is Coming to Caesars Palace in Vegas.

It’s as if Michel Richard read my mind. I’m fine eating in Las Vegas during normal dining hours, but when it gets a little late (and doesn’t it always in Vegas), the options all start closing for the night. But now Michel Richard is opening Central 24/7 in the one-and-only Caesars Palace in the late summer of 2011. And when it opens, it will be open 24 hours a day, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Richard will offer many signature items from his Central in Washington, DC, like his 72-hour short ribs, fried chicken, razor clam chowder and fresh oysters as well as that renowned burger, plus some new selections still to be announced that I'll definitely be tasting, no matter what time of day or night it is.

Restaurants

SOBE Burger Bash: The Aftermath

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© South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Marc Murphy and his winning Big Marc burgers

Judging the South Beach Wine & Food Festival Burger Bash isn’t easy. You have to taste a million burgers (or in this case, about 25), you have to choose among a lot of great options and you have to be prepared to have a serious stomachache afterwards. What almost never happens is that the winning burger is the last one you taste (you’re already way past burger overload). But at this year's Bash that’s exactly what happened to me and my fellow judges—including Art Smith and Alex Guarnaschelli—with Marc Murphy’s “Big Marc.”  His juicy, gorgeously charred burger was made with beef from Allen Brothers, topped with bread & butter pickles and spiked ketchup and served on a grilled house-made cheddar-and-black-pepper bun. Alongside, he served killer jalapeño-cheddar tater tots. “Never made the burger before,” says Murphy. “I was concerned with feeding 3,000 people and thought that by adding the cheese to the bun, I'd eliminate a step and feed everyone more quickly.”

Here’s good news for everyone who wants to taste the Big Marc. Murphy got so many requests for the burger after his win that he’s added it and the tater tots to the menu at his Landmarc and Ditch Plains restaurants. Yes, that includes the Ditch Plains that's opening on Manhattan’s Upper West Side tonight. It's a great opportunity to judge the Big Marc for yourself.

Restaurants

Voltaggio Brothers Incredible Barbecue Road Trip

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Michael and Bryan Voltaggio get schooled on Memphis's Rendezvous ribs.

I just spent a frenzied few hours in St. Louis eating as much barbecue as possible (more on that in an upcoming post). But I've got nothing on Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, who are in the midst of a five-day, multi-city barbecue free-for-all with Williams-Sonoma to educate themselves on the subject.

Here are two of their highlights. If you want to make yourselves hungry, you should follow both Michael and Bryan on Twitter.


Michael and Bryan Voltaggio with a Barbecue Hangover.

Oklahoma Joe's; Kansas City, KS

Michael says: "Kansas City is like the barbecue melting pot. In Texas, it's all about beef, and in North Carolina, there's a lot of pulled pork. But Kansas City is famous for everything. At Oklahoma Joe's, it's all about the Z-man sandwich: slow-smoked brisket piled high on a toasted kaiser bun, with a few onion rings, toasted provolone and a couple drops of sauce. This place is on Tony Bourdain's list of 13 things to eat before you die."

Smitty's Market; Lockhart, TX
Bryan says: "I'm more into traditional brisket than my brother; I go for the kind served with white bread. I had the most amazing brisket I’ve ever had at Smitty's. It’s smoked old pit-style; the walls are covered with smoke. I had it with Big Red, a soda from the area, and Blue Bell ice cream. And p.s., Lockhart Texas was named barbecue capital of Texas by the state's legislation.”

Restaurants

The People’s Best New Chef: Best Buttons

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The Vote for Tim Byres T-shirt.

The voting continues fast and furious for F&W's People’s Best New Chef. And the chefs' campaigning efforts have been outstanding. Take chef Tim Byres at Smoke in Dallas, who had T-shirts made for his giant "Vote for Tim Byres" party the other night.

I'm especially loving my new button collection: In Peoria, Illinois, chef Josh Adams of June gives out huge buttons with each check, while Stephanie Izard at Girl and the Goat in Chicago has a very succinct message on her buttons: "Goat the Vote."
 
So if you haven’t voted yet: Vote! You only have until March 1st. And then we’ll all learn the name of The People’s Best New Chef on March 2nd.

Chefs

Chefs Turned Shoe Designers

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mozo

© Donnie Miller
Chefs Chris Consentino, Marcus Samuelsson and Aarón Sánchez rock their new kicks.


I adore Mario Batali’s cooking, but still can’t bring myself to embrace Crocs. Finally, a more stylish line of shoes for the professional and home cook has launched. We gave a shout out to Mozo Chef Signature Shoes in Food & Wine’s March Trendspotting column. Last night, the chefs-turned-shoe-designers behind the new line were in NYC to give a sneak preview of their designs, which go on sale in May. The ever-so-stylish Marcus Samuelsson of NYC’s Red Rooster named his shoe the Uptown. The copper detailing around the eyelet is a nod to America's diner culture, while the image of the Brooklyn Bridge on the heel is a shout out to NYC. Aarón Sánchez of Centrico got a bit more edgy, recreating a Mexican sugar skull in red stitching on the top of his shoe. Chris Cosentino, who was slicing killer charcuterie that he flew in from his restaurant Boccalone in San Francisco, wins the award for most outrageous design. The top of his shoe (named the Fifth Quarter) resembles honeycomb tripe, and he designed a pig on the footbed that duplicates a tattoo on his arm of a 16th-century butchery diagram. Perhaps the biggest news of the night was that Mozo would donate $10,000 in the chefs’ honor to the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program.
 


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