While visiting my parents outside Philadelphia over the holidays, I met up with restaurant critic Joy Manning for a Philly restaurant crawl. At Fish—chef Mike Stollenwerk’s second restaurant (the first is the diminutive Little Fish)— I loved the perfectly cooked skate (nicely crusted outside and moist within) served with golden brown spaetzle and a lush parmesan-truffle sauce. But our fishless starter—an otherwise ordinary beet salad—really struck me because of its garnish: crisp bits of chicken skin scattered like croutons.
Since winning Top Chef Season 2, Ilan Hall has talked about the deliciousness of chicken skin. Now, he’s getting all kinds of press for the gribenes sandwich—essentially a BLT with chicken skin standing in for the bacon—that he serves at his new LA spot, The Gorbals.
And what trend would be complete without a David Chang restaurant to legitimize it? Crispy chicken skin garnishes hand-torn pasta with escargot sausage at NYC's still-impossible-to-get-into Momofuku Ko. (Plus David recently created Turkey Cracklings to accompany Turkey Breast with Ginger-Scallion Sauce in F&W's Thanksgiving Leftovers Challenge.)
Another fabulous recipe: chicken tacos from F&W's Marcia Kiesel with a crispy skin garnish.
© Philip Greenberg
The Guggenheim's futuristic new restaurant, the Wright.
As F&W's travel editor and someone with a serious case of wanderlust, it’s rare that I’m home for more than a few days at a time. But I promised myself I’d start off the new year in NYC and kicked off 2010 with a megadose of culture paired with some great meals. Here, a mini winter arts cheat sheet for Manhattan:
*MoMa has put together a brilliant, mind-bending retrospective of Tim Burton’s work that includes slightly disturbing teenage doodles, 3-D monsters and a showing of Burton's films. After, go to the bar room at the Modern and eat chef Gabriel Kreuther’s Alsatian thin-crust tarte flambé with crème fraiche, onion and applewood-smoked bacon and his decadent slow-poached farm egg served in a mason jar with Maine lobster, sunchokes and sear urchin froth.
*I dare anyone not to get dizzy as they wind their way around the Guggenheim viewing Wassily Kandinsky’s wild, geometric paintings. The museum’s new restaurant, the Wright, offers more sensory overload with a sleek space designed by British artist Liam Gillick that makes you feel like you’re riding Disney’s Space Mountain roller coaster. The food, from David Bouley-alum Rodolfo Contreras, is appropriately gorgeous with delicate dishes like roasted red and golden beets topped with sheep’s-milk cheese, citrus and pistachio and a fantastic spiced pumpkin and chocolate cake with pumpkin-seed-oil ice cream.
*I may never look at paper the same way again after viewing Slash: Paper Under the Knife at the Museum of Arts and Design. Drop by late and then have dinner at the just-opened restaurant Robert. The comforting Italian dishes like chicken cooked under a brick and papparadelle with wild boar ragu are delicious. Also amazing: the Central Park views and the room’s funky art and Jetson-esque design pieces (there’s a video-art piece by Jennifer Steinkamp and Barbie-pink acrylic lighting designed by Johanna Grawunder).
© Restaurant August
New Orleans star chef, John Besh.
My only complaint after an epic three days of eating in New Orleans earlier this month was the letdown when I arrived hungry at the Louisiana Superdome to watch the Saints' Monday Night Football game. In a city known for great food, I was disappointed by less-than-stellar Creole gumbo and the stadium’s signature red beans and rice with sausage. So I was excited to read a recent Wall Street Journal interview with Saints executive vice president Rita Benson LeBlanc, in which she mused about possible food improvements for the stadium, like dishes from her favorite NOLA chefs John Besh and Emeril Lagasse.
When I asked John Besh what he’d prepare if he had an outlet at the Superdome, he told me he’d cook andouille and chicken gumbo and barbecued Gulf shrimp. Said Besh, “We are on top of our game this year, thanks to the New Orleans Saints. Visitors come to New Orleans not only to support their team, but to enjoy the cuisine and culture of this historic city. In every possible venue, from the Superdome to the New Orleans Convention Center, it is important that we welcome guests in our city with what we are so well-known for—food.”
© Palm Place Hotel
Kerry Simon takes the fried chicken trend retro with TV dinners.
While other star chefs are opening flashy, over-the-top restaurants in Las Vegas, chef Kerry Simon is going the opposite direction and offering TV dinner–inspired comfort foods for room service at Las Vegas's Palms Place hotel. Meals like meatloaf with mac and cheese, peas and carrots, and chocolate cake, and Southern fried chicken and mashed potatoes, are delivered in cafeteria-style compartmentalized trays.
The dining room at Domenica, John Besh's new restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel.
I just made my first trip to New Orleans and after canvassing friends, chefs and cocktail experts plotted an epic eating and drinking itinerary. This is one city where classic spots rival—maybe even one-up—new places. Some highlights:
Saturday afternoon: Shrimp and oyster po’boys (dressed, of course) at Mahony’s, a new favorite of F&W Best New Chef 1999 John Besh.
Late afternoon: Historical cocktail crawl through the French Quarter with stops at Muriels, Old Absinthe House, the bar at Antoine’s and Pat O’Briens (for the essential Hurricane).
Evening: Dinner at Domenica, John Besh’s stylish new Italian restaurant in the recently renovated Roosevelt Hotel. Besh protégé Alon Shaya oversees the kitchen and is a talent to watch. On the menu: crispy-thin, bubbly-crusted pizzas; a salad of thinly shaved tentacles of octopus carpaccio mixed with citrus and fennel; torn sheets of pasta (stracci) in a thick oxtail gravy with fried chicken livers; slow-roasted goat with chanterelles.
Post-dinner: Pre-night-out Sazerac at the Roosevelt’s legendary Sazerac Bar.
Late-night: The Cure is a much-buzzed-about cocktail spot uptown in a renovated 1905 firehouse. Co-owner and head mixologist Neal Bodenheimer opened the place in February and makes everything from the bitters to the cocktail cherries in-house. Bar Tonique lies on the outer edges of the French Quarter on Rampart Street. Bodenheimer also developed the cocktail list for this serious drink spot run by the crew of the Delachaise. It has a quieter vibe than The Cure, but equally excellent artisanal cocktails like the Champagne Cocktail, made with grapefruit bitters.
Super, super late-night: Mimi’s for live music, a night-ending pint of Abita Purple Haze and some tapas-style bar snacks including the "Trust Me”—that night, local braised lamb in gravy.
After a long weekend in New Orleans I'm declaring it the most food- and sports-obsessed city in the country. It felt like half the town was lined up to get po'boys at Mahony's (Prolific NOLA chef and F&W Best New Chef 1999 John Besh's new favorite po'boy spot) in preparation for the Bayou Classic, the legendary college football game that took place Saturday. But the big game was last night's NFL face-off between the undefeated New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots. I was shocked when my waiter at the legendary Galatoire's covertly undid a few buttons of his dress shirt to reveal a bright red Patriots T-shirt to me while I was there on Sunday eating the famous shrimp remoulade and fried eggplant with hollandaise and powdered sugar (somehow addictively delicious). Yesterday, a NOLA-based friend informed me that Aaron Burgau, the chef of Patois, had gotten "Who Dat?" (the Saints chant) tattooed on his upper lip in a show of team pride. And chef John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford, Mississippi, is a Saints fan and made a special trip into town for the game. "I have been waiting for this night since I went to the game in the 1960s," says Currence. After the Saints’ crushing victory, Currence found himself in the owners' suites for a post-game Laurent Perrier Champagne toast, then retired to Lüke for boudin noir and 25-year-old Pappy Van Winkle. Late night, Currence joined the reverly in the French Quarter and hit up Cooter Brown’s for meat pies and cold beer. "It was late enough that even in New Orleans, the bartenders hated to see us walk through the door," he says. I'm hoping the food-and-football obsession will converge next year and result in the Superdome following the lead of Yankees Stadium and convincing Besh, Burgau and other local talents to create some worthy stadium food.
Late that night after dinner at Vetri, we hit the road towards New York City. I hated to skip over my native New Jersey without even a single stop, but six days was a long time to be away from my wife and newborn son, and I missed them both. It was time to go home.
By way of summing up the experience, it's hard to pick favorites. I learned more than I thought I would on this trip, and was glad I had members of my team with me to share in the experience. We all found fresh inspiration in the people we met along the way, all of them committed in one way or another to good food: whether growing it, catching it, distributing it, or cooking it. I enjoyed the chance to form deeper relationships with Anson Mills and Rappahannock River Oysters, and feel that in Cane Creek Farm, Culton Organics, and Samuels & Son I've discovered new suppliers whose products I'm excited to use in my restaurants.
And so, at the end of this six day journey, there's only one question that remains in the back of my mind. Where should I go next?