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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Restaurants

Posh Poutine

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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.

Test Kitchen

Journey of 1,000 Cookies

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My coworker Melissa Rubel and I are four-fifths of the way toward my goal of baking 1,000 cookies by the end of Tuesday. These cookies will be among dozens of offerings from top chefs at Philadelphia's Great Chefs Event on Wednesday night. The Great Chefs Event supports Alex's Lemonade Stand an organization that raises money and awareness for childhood cancer research and treatment. It's already sold out! That's more than 700 people clamoring for cookies. Time to get baking.

Menus

Bring on the Voodoo Doughnut Burger

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© The Original
The Original's Voodoo Doughnut Burger

Even sweets freak Christina Tosi of NYC's Momofuku Milk Bar might go into a sugar coma after eating at the Original, a mod diner that recently opened in Portland, Oregon. Chef B.J. Smith’s menu includes wacky creations like Froot Loop pancakes topped with crème fraîche and homemade syrup, house made Pop-Tarts and sweet-and-spicy root beer cake with root beer frosting. My favorite, though, is the Voodoo Doughnut Burger (a nod to Portland's cult Voodoo Doughnut shop), which swaps the bun for a glazed doughnut.

 

Cookbooks

Virtual Life of a Sim Chef

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My Sim self making mac and cheese.

© Courtesy of The Sims 3, EA Games
My Sim self making mac and cheese.

I've always wondered what it's like to be an ambitious, charismatic and kleptomaniac chef. Last night I lived out my fantasy by playing The Sims 3, the newly released version of the popular life-simulation computer game The Sims, now with special features for the virtual foodie.

Using the Create-A-Sim tool, I came up with an avatar that has the above-mentioned personality traits. My Sim self reads cookbooks (such as Cooking Vol. 2: Why You Need Baking Soda), takes cooking classes at the local grocery store and practices making everything from mac and cheese to sushi, all in an effort to move up from Kitchen Scullion to Celebrated Five-Star Chef at Little Corsican Bistro.

So far, things are going pretty well in my virtual life: I’ve eaten pancakes and waffles for breakfast every day, gotten promoted twice and "acquired" new furniture for my home (OK, so I stole lamps and chairs from the bistro, but kleptomania is an acceptable mental disorder in The Sims 3). I just hope my stealing habit won't derail my culinary aspirations.

Chefs

Authentic Louisiana Meat Pies

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If you pick up the new July issue of Food & Wine, you will find some pretty fantastic recipes from our Best New Chefs. One that's unmissable is Kelly English’s riff on Natchitoches meat pies. They’re so good they even inspired me to find out how to correctly pronounce Natchitoches (it’s NA-ki-toosh), the town in north-central Louisiana that claims to have invented the dish. Natchitoches takes its meat pies seriously—so seriously that the city has a Meat Pie Festival every fall (check out natchitoches.net for details). Any local would agree that the best pies in town are served at Lasyone’s, a decades-old family-run restaurant that can turn out 1,000 handmade pies a day. Though I might not make it to this year’s festival, I can certainly eat like a true Louisianan with English’s recipe—and a glass of ice-cold sweet tea. 

Menus

Belfast's Best Dining Value

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Chefs all over the world are creating empires comprised of both white-tablecloth flagships and casual restaurants. On my recent trip to Belfast, I discovered Northern Ireland's chef-emperor, Michael Deane. I had an exceptional lunch at his Michelin-starred Deanes, featuring pan-fried wild halibut filets held together with edible glue (a trick Deane's executive chef, Derek Creagh, picked up during a stint at England's pioneering Fat Duck). Later, I stopped by the casual wine bar for the first of its new Friday night happy hours. The space—half wine shop, half restaurant—has live music from 5 to 7 p.m. every Friday, as well as a fantastic (and free!) spread of tapas—Irish cheeses, cured meats, olives, homemade breads and spreads. It's a Northern Irish take on Italy's aperitivo, and the best dining value in Belfast.

Chefs

2009 Auction Napa Valley

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I had the opportunity to attend the 29th annual Auction Napa Valley this past weekend, which is definitely one of the more hifalutin' wine events I've ever run into. Held at Meadowood in St. Helena, it featured the requisite huge tent, some mighty nifty chandeliers made out of grape vines (designed by Erin Martin), a multi-course dinner prepared by big name chefs such as Joachim Splichal, Dean Fearing & Meadowood home talent Christopher Kostow (an F&W Best New Chef 2009, and an incredibly nice guy, too), and a whole bunch of bidding on extravagant auction lots.

Was the money down from last year? Sure. But, as someone mentioned to me in passing, $5,700,000 is still a lot of cash, especially when it goes to folks who really need it (the auction earning go to local youth and health charities, primarily).

On Friday, before the big shindig, the annual barrel auction took place. Top lot honors there went to Shafer Vineyards; but for my money, the real payoff was getting to taste barrel samples of a huge array of 2007 Cabernet Sauvignons. Anyone interested in Napa Valley Cabs should start saving up now, because '07 is clearly a fantastic vintage: impeccably balanced, gracefully structured wines with great aromatics and flavor. Favorites for me included the Realm Cellars Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard, Cliff Lede's Poetry bottling, and Shafer's Hillside Select. These won't be on the market for quite some time, but they're worth noting down now. —Ray Isle

Restaurants

Name That Sandwich Shop!

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© Lorenzo Agius

What's the biggest new trend among ambitious chefs? Opening modest sandwich shops. Look for one this fall from Chicago's Graham Elliot Bowles (an F&W Best New Chef 2004) (pictured), who'll be serving paninis with reimagined soda-fountain drinks: milk shakes in flavors like malted milkball and strawberry-rhubarb, and sodas like lemongrass ginger ale. Bowles needs your help in naming the spot, now tentatively called grahamwich. He's collecting names via Twitter at twitter.com/grahamelliot. To tide you over until the fall, try a sandwich from F&W here.

Menus

Restaurant Funny Business

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© Quentin Bacon

How three new restaurants in New York City made me laugh recently:

1.    Conjugal advice from Minetta Tavern
The outgoing message: "For reservations, please press 0...For directions and hours, please press 3...For problems with your marriage, please call me at home."

2.    Goodfellas-style salumi slang at Locanda Verde
First menu I've seen with "gabagoul," phonetic slang for capocollo—a seasoned Italian meat found between the hog’s head (capo) and shoulder (collo). This is the same cold cut that triggered one of Tony Soprano's panic attacks in an episode of The Sopranos.

3.    The Ménage à Trois at DBGB Kitchen and Bar
From Daniel Boulud, the chef who introduced the $50 hamburger at DB Bistro Moderne, here $45 gets you a trifecta of beef patties with the works: The Yankee (Vermont cheddar and crispy bacon), The Piggie (Daisy May's BBQ pulled pork with jalapeño mayonnaise) and The Frenchie (crispy pork belly and caramelized onions). Check out more Boulud recipes like his skate with mushrooms and hazelnuts (pictured).

Chefs

Disney's New Chef Princess

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Red Velvet Cake

© Petrina Tinslay

It’s not due in theaters until December, but Disney's animated film The Princess and the Frog already has its share of critics. Here, three excellent reasons for loving it already:

 

1. It'll be the first Disney animated movie with a black princess, Tiana, complete with puffy gown and diamond tiara.
2. The voice behind Tiana's mom: none other than Oprah.
3. Tiana is an aspiring chef who dreams of owning a restaurant—in New Orleans, no less.

In Tiana's honor, here are 10 great New Orleans recipes, like Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing’s Red Velvet cake (above).

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Join celebrity chefs, renowned winemakers and epicurean insiders at the culinary world’s most spectacular weekend, the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.