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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Cookbooks

Jonathan Waxman's Way

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Swordfish Carpaccio

© Chris Quinlan
Swordfish Carpaccio

In our July issue, Frank Bruni wrote a great piece about cooking from chef Jonathan Waxman’s new book, Italian, My Way. I was fortunate enough to experience the book with much less effort than Bruni put in—Waxman cooked from it Monday night at the fantastic Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, as part of their Monday Night Wine Dinner series. Italian winemaker Giampaolo Venica poured some of his hyper-aromatic, unoaked whites, like the Venica & Venica 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Ronco delle Mele, with Waxman’s dishes.

© Chris Quinlan
Waxman and the Frasca team


 

It was the chef's fish courses that really blew me away. (Maybe it was the perfect preparation—Waxman was assisted by Frasca chef Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson (an F&W Best New Chef 2005) and his team—or perhaps it was coming off a meat-centric weekend at the F&W Classic in Aspen). Smoked-trout-and-mascarpone crostini was sweet and smoky, swordfish carpaccio with English pea and herb vinaigrette melted in my mouth and a superlight, tempura-style fritto misto was fantastic. Mackinnon Patterson said it best when he called Waxman “the most soulful chef” he’s cooked with.

Restaurants

The New Rules for Celebrity Restaurants

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The Breslin's Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup

© Lucy Schaeffer
The Breslin's Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup

Celebrities have been frequenting restaurants for a while now—the Algonquin Round Table was in full effect in the 1920s. So we won’t pretend it's news to see a famous person sitting in a dining room. But it’s quite amazing to see how far some restaurants go these days to protect their more recognizable guests. Here’s Ken Friedman, co-owner of such NYC celeb hang-outs as the Spotted Pig and the Breslin, sounding like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. “The first rule at my restaurants is don’t talk about who’s eating at my restaurants.”
 
Here are some other rules we've seen NYC restaurants employ.
 
*Close the blinds to the street when the paparazzi line up outside. (A rule followed by the staff at Marea the second someone like Michael Douglas walks in.)
 
*Seat the best-known people in the corner. At Craft, table #158, deep in the restaurant, is set aside so anyone supremely famous (like LeBron James who rented out Craft's LA outpost for a party) can be escorted right there.  
 
*Seat the best-known people in the kitchen. At his newest restaurant The John Dory, Friedman created a chef’s table in the kitchen. What about the rumor that Jay-Z wanted a chef’s table, with real chairs, as an alternative to the stools that make up the seating in the rest of the restaurant? “We didn't create the table for anyone in particular," says Friedman. "The chef’s table is fun, it’s in the kitchen,” says Friedman. “Plus who wants to sit on stools all the time? I don’t; neither does Charlie Rose.”
 
Related Links:
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Favorite Restaurants
100+ Tastes to Try
Tom Colicchio’s Road Trip
Best Chefs with Hotel Restaurants

(Pictured above: The Breslin's Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup)

Restaurants

Frankies Spuntino at the Belmont Stakes

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© Morgan Taylor
Frank Falcinelli & Frank Castronovo are ready to bet at the Belmont Stakes.

What a busy weekend! The Omnivore Food Festival! Midtown Lunch’s 5th birthday party! The Big Apple BBQ!  I just couldn’t make it to see the Frankies Spuntino team in action at the Belmont Stakes. Luckily F&W’s excellent intern Morgan Taylor was there and reports back.
 
As a Kentucky native and horse-racing enthusiast I've visited many racetracks around the country—but never for the food. That changed at this year's Belmont Stakes thanks to Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo of Frankies Spuntino, who brought their Frankies Spuntino menu to Belmont Park for the second time.
 
The Franks, who grew up in Queens and worked in a deli around the corner from Belmont Park when they were kids, began frequenting the track when their boss would send them on gambling runs on their dirt bikes. When the chance to bring the Frankies' menu to Belmont arose, they saw it as an opportunity to contribute to their old neighborhood and to amp up the racetrack’s culinary credibility.
 
Their menu featured dishes from the Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual: buttermilk fried chicken, grilled calamari & shrimp salad. Everything was delicious and their fried chicken passed the test of several Kentuckians—not to mention that I saw my dad wolf down three pieces of their olive oil cake. Unfortunately, neither of the Franks picked the big race's winner, longshot Ruler on Ice, who paid $51.50 on a $2 to win wager. Maybe next year.

Restaurants

Inside Scoop on Tiffani Faison’s New BBQ Project

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Chef Tiffani Faison.

© Michael Diskin
Chef Tiffani Faison.

 

I spent the weekend stuffing myself with some of America’s best barbecue at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in NYC. The takeaway: People take their ’cue very seriously. That’s why Tiffani Faison, the season one Top Chef contestant and chef of the recently closed Rocca, is doing her homework before she opens her barbecue spot named Sweet Cheeks near Boston’s Fenway Park later this summer. “Barbecue is one of those democratic American foods that everyone gets. It’s a food my family gathered around to eat, and I wanted a place like that in Boston to take family and friends on a Sunday afternoon. It’s missing from the restaurant scene.” Faison, a self-described Army brat, grew up bouncing from Oklahoma to South Carolina to Texas. In a few weeks, she will travel to Texas’s barbecue capital, Lockhart, to do some due-diligence eating. But she won’t be adopting one particular style. “I want it to be organic. I think there’s this barbecue-fusion world that people are afraid of. Each style of barbecue has its hardcore fans, but I think I can make it uniquely New England—though I’m not sure what exactly that is going to be yet.” One thing is certain: It won’t be down-and-dirty barbecue. “I want this to be chef-driven, without being annoyingly cheffy,” explains Faison. She says she’s been brainstorming menu items like house-made hush puppies and “white trash fruit salad,” which she says is inspired by ambrosia: “It’s a little kitschy, but reminiscent of what I ate as a kid.” There will also be a beer garden, communal picnic tables and a porch swing outside. As for the name, “It’s just what we used to tease the line cooks with when they were lagging at Rocca,” she says. “We’d yell, ‘Let’s pick it up, sweet cheeks.’”

Aspen

Why is Michel Nischan a One-Pan Cook?

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Michel Nischan

© Bill Milne
Chef Michel Nischan.


One of my favorite parts of my job is chatting with chefs like Michel Nischan, founder of Wholesome Wave and chef at Dressing Room in Westport, Connecticut. Nischan will be discussing his commitment to sustainability in the kitchen at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen next week, and he recently shared shared his smart and simple approach to eco-friendly cooking at home:

 

“I like to cook everything out of one vessel. That way, you’re minimizing dish soap, water and fuel energy—things that have a hidden impact on our environment. A good cast-iron pan is very eco-friendly because it lasts forever and uses heat very efficiently. I start by frying very thinly shaved garlic chips, then sautéing onions and kale. I scoot the kale aside and move the pan half off the heat, and then sear chicken or rabbit on the hot side of the skillet. You can do the same thing with a roasting pan: Roast something and keep adding vegetables and starches at different times throughout the process. That’s how really great cooks cooked a century ago because they only had one cooking vessel. We need to move forward by looking back. It takes longer, but my belief is if you take a little bit longer to get from start to finish, and you’re standing over one pot, smelling the food and watching it develop, it makes you hungrier and you’re more in touch with the dish when it’s finished. That’s what brings true joy to cooking.”

Wine

Early Look: Fatty Crab St. John

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Fatty Crab, St. John.

I haven't made it down to Battery Park to check out the brand-new Fatty in the Battery. Needless to say, I also haven't visited Fatty Crab St. John in the US Virgin Islands. But Charles Bieler, one of F&W’s excellent 40 Big Thinkers Under 40 and one of the Three Thieves wine founders, has recently been to Fatty's Caribbean outpost. And shares this report.

St. John already had some eating and drinking classics: Who doesn’t love a Painkiller from the Beach Bar or a burger from Skinny Legs? But three months ago, Fatty Crab began cranking out heady dishes that raise the bar on the island's food considerably. This is the same Fatty Crab that I know and love from New York City, and yes, they brought a lot of their chile-fueled dishes with them. That includes the fiery “salt & pepper” squid, a Thai take on fried calamari with Sriracha sauce. The squid tentacles with fresh house-made cheese and tomato confit is much milder; so is the blackfin tuna tartare with yuzu and sorrel.

Like all Fatty Crabs, pork is the specialty here and the kitchen butchers its own pigs. I went crazy on pulled-pork sliders—a pile of sweet-savory shredded pork with sweet rolls and pickled daikon—as well as the crispy pork with pickled watermelon.

Since I'm a wine guy, I have to shout out importer Michael Skurnik, who is a partner in the restaurant and designed the list (I don’t think he's directed a wine list since his days with Kevin Zraly at Windows on the World). I found out it’s possible to buy bottles at Fatty Crab and take them back to your hotel or house rental, so I’d recommend you load up after your meal. And don’t turn down the assorted rum and mezcal cocktails, designed by NYC mixologist Adam Schuman.

Restaurants

Ryan Skeen’s Summer Pop-Up Restaurant

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© Zandy Mangol
Ryan Skeen Will Be Back in NYC with a Summertime Pop Up.

Guess who’s back in town for the summer: chef Ryan Skeen, who has thrilled people like me at—before walking away from—such NYC restaurants as Resto, Irving Mill, General Greene and Allen & Delancey, all in the span of 36 months.

Skeen’s new project, with The Restaurant Group, will be a pop-up restaurant at 10 Waverly Place. Starting July 13, Skeen will serve a $50 three-course prix fixe menu four nights a week (Wednesdays through Saturdays). There’s also the option of a chef’s tasting menu for $85 with as many courses as Skeen wants to serve—currently, he’s thinking about Jonah Crab and White Asparagus Soup, Quail with Figs and Smoked Potatoes, and Beignets with Foie Cardamom Custard.

Now, guess what's the name of Skeen’s restaurant: TBD ("because you never know what will happen" according to the press release). Also TBD: the dates for visiting guest chefs (and F&W Best New Chefs) Nate Appleman, Katy Sparks and Michael Psilakis.

For reservations: reservations@tbdatbrads.com.

Restaurants

Inside Omnivore World Tour with Giovanni Passerini

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In case you missed it, last year’s Omnivore food festival featured René Redzepi (yes, the "best chef in the world"). This year’s festival theme is Young Cuisine, featuring break-out stars like of Rino in Paris, whose restaurant combines Italian peasant cooking (cucina povera is the in-vogue term) with techniques he learned at Paris’s Le Chateaubriand. Passerini is preparing dinner on June 10th with Carlo Mirarchi of Roberta’s in Brooklyn (an F&W Best New Chef 2011). Tickets are available here.

What’s Passerini making for dinner? What will he eat when he’s here? Let’s find out the answers.

Q: What are you making for dinner?

A: Frankly, I still have to decide. I'm sure I'll prepare some ravioli; it's our speciality at Rino. But I still have to decide the kind, the shape.

Q: Let’s talk about cooking with Carlo Mirachi.
A: I'm really curious to meet him. I like everything I’ve seen made by him. I think the spirit of Roberta’s is similar to Rino, though it's just a feeling, because I've never been. But that's enough to make me really excited to cook with Carlo.

Q: Are you excited to try American-Italian food (since you’re Italian)?
A: Of course, I'm so excited to taste my first spaghetti with meatballs! And a good pizza! Probably it's easier to find a good one in NYC than in Rome. And after all, one of my favorite movies is Big Night by Stanley Tucci, about two Italian brothers cooking in the US. So funny!

Q: If you could open another restaurant, what would it be?

A: I really dream about a gazebo in the middle of a crowded street selling Italian street food at a very cheap price: arancini, focaccia stuffed with mortadella, tripe and ricotta sandwiches, fried cod and artisanal Italian beer!

Restaurants

Blake Lively Wants Contraband Hot Sauce

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© Cochon Restaurant
Cochon Restaurant's house hot sauce.

At the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival a few weeks ago, I became a huge fan of Donald Link, the New Orleans chef/owner of Cochon and Cochon Butcher, and his commitment to cooking with chiles. (At his demo, I learned the very useful tip that the best cure for a too-spicy pepper is a piece of chocolate.) It turns out I’m not the only one who appreciates his way with chiles. In the current issue of Glamour magazine, cover girl Blake Lively says that she gets really excited when she finds a new sauce. And then says this: “I wanted a sauce from New Orleans, and they wouldn’t send it because the FDA didn’t approve it. I called the restaurant and I said, ‘OK, can you buy a teddy bear and cut it open and put it in and send it?’ They’re like, ‘No, we are not the drug cartel; we’re not sending you your sweet potato sauce in a teddy bear.’” (How much do we love Blake Lively and her dedication to food and contraband sauces?!) It turns out she’s talking about Cochon’s habanero–sweet potato sauce, which by all accounts is addictive. And also not for sale outside the state; although their regular hot sauce is (long story involving FDA regulations).

So next time I’m in New Orleans, I’m picking up a bottle of Cochon’s habanero sweet potato sauce for Blake Lively. And meanwhile, I can report that Cochon is working hard to ship the sauce to out-of-state fans like Lively.

Farms

The One Really Dead Food & Dining Trend

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© Courtesy of The Breakers Palm Beach.
Let's Retire the Farm-to-Fill-in-Blank Phrase

At Food & Wine, we might respectfully disagree with some of the items on Eater NY’s recent dead trends list (small menus are working quite well for NYC's Torrisi Italian Specialties and Mile End, among other spots). But there is a ubiquitous phrase that we’re very ready to say good-bye to: farm-to-everything. (Credit to Frank Bruni, the New York Times's newest Op-Ed columnist, for sounding the alarm on Twitter: “Today someone said, re cocktails, ‘from farm to tumbler.’ May be time we all retired the ‘farm to fill-in-blank’ construction.”)

Don’t misunderstand: We are not knocking the concept of fresh ingredients straight from the farm. We’re just tired of the very overused phrase. Here, then, is our list of just some of the farm-to-anything/everywhere claims, complied by F&W’s new senior digital editor, Alex Vallis.

Farm to Cubicle: A report from Crain's on corporate CSAs.

Farm to Cup
: “Delicious coffee straight from the farm” from Stanford Business School students.

Farm to Friends
: CSA cooking series at the New York Wine & Culinary Center. (They’re repeat offenders: They also offer the Farm to Plate series.)

Farm to Fuel: The Florida-based initiative to promote renewable energy from local crops.

Farm to Fork: A marketing stunt from the international seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred and the Soyfoods Council.

Farm to Bakery; Farm to Factory: Two mentions in one article from the New York–based community organizer Pratt Center about the honorable push to get New York State grains into New York City bakeries.

Farm to San Francisco: From the community-building, California-based organization Project Fresh.

Farm to Folk
: An Iowa CSA.

Farm to Consumer: A Virginia-based non profit that spotlights sustainable farming.

Farm to Glass: Cocktails featuring straight-from-the-garden ingredients.

And a dishonorable mention to our very own F&W for:
Farm to Bottle: An item about spirits infused with, you guessed it, ingredients from the garden, that you'll see in our upcoming August issue.

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