© Taj Hotels.
Nadesar Palace, Varanasi.
I became fascinated with Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on the planet and one of the world’s top pilgrimage sites, after reading Geoff Dwyer’s slightly mad book Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. The city, off the River Ganges, is a chaos of cars, rickshaws, motorbikes, cattle and people bathing on the ghats, while just up the river, a burning body is being sent to rest in the same waters. It was the third stop on the Maharajas Express Celestial India itinerary and after a sunrise boat ride along the ghats, a rickshaw ride through the markets and a shopping binge on the city’s famed Banarasi silk saris, I was desperately ready for an escape from the city’s bedlam.
I found it at the new Nadesar Palace, set on 40 acres of mango orchards and jasmine fields. Originally built by the East India Company to house its officers, then turned into the Maharaja’s palace, it is now a 10-room Taj Hotel with marble bathrooms, four-poster beds draped with Schiaparelli pink netting and original art from the Maharaja’s collections. I spent the afternoon with chef Sanjeev Chopra, who took me on a horse-drawn carriage ride past his organic garden before taking me into the kitchen. Chopra has created a fascinating menu totally focused on local cuisine: He spent months visiting the villages, lanes, elite houses and royal kitchen of Varanasi to learn the ancient royal cooking techniques and find lost recipes. He then asked housewives, royal cooks and maharajs from Dharamshals to visit the Nadesar kitchen to cook and train his team. I ate my way across castes, sampling matar ki puri (green peas stuffed in a deep-fried wheat pancake) from the royal kitchen and the ubiquitous street sweet gulab jamun, cottage cheese dumplings soaked in sugary syrup. It was one of the most satisfying, and definitely the most enlightening, meal of my trip.
© Chris Quinlan
NYC Winner Chef Adam Kaye
Cochon 555, the 10-city tour that celebrates farmers and heritage pig breeds, was back in NYC on March 21 for its second annual cooking competition. New York star chefs Marco Canora, Gavin Kaysen, Adam Kaye, Mark Ladner and Corwin Kave competed for the Prince of Pork title, and a chance to cook at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. I was lucky enough to be in the judges’ room, where the Brooklyn Brewery Local 2 and K Vintners Syrah were flowing—including a special magnum from K Vintners, one of only 200 that winemaker Charles Smith (F&W’s Winemaker of 2009) bottles by hand each year and usually keeps for himself. Adam Kaye of Blue Hill at Stone Barns was the winner—I could eat his famous face bacon (a crunchy, lacy disk made from pig cheeks) at every meal! But I had a lot of other favorites as well, like Marco Canora’s arancini stuffed with heart and kidney and confited leg with fennel salad, and Mark Ladner’s gigantic lasagna—20 layers of pasta, shoulder, sausage, testa, belly, liver and kidney topped with spicy tomatoes and cracklings.
© Chris Quinlan
Chef Marco Canora's Dishes
Chef Bobby Hellen, one of my favorites from last year’s competition and a fellow judge this year, hosted a fantastic after-party at Resto. Not to be outdone by the swine crews, Hellen made Belgian waffles topped with pork whip (whipped cream infused with brining liquid) and cooked three whole lambs for the crowd. Next stop for the tour: Boston on March 28. Next stop for me: Weight Watchers.
This week isn’t just another thrilling week in NCAA March Madness: It’s also World Water Week and marks the return of the fourth annual UNICEF Tap Project
, an initiative that invites customers at thousands of U.S. restaurants to donate $1 or more for the tap water they get for free.
“Participation in the UNICEF Tap Project is an easy way for restaurants to help save the lives of children around the world,” says Tom Colicchio, chef-owner of Craft restaurants
—all of which are participating in the Tap Project. (As my colleague Kate Krader reported
, he’s also a superhero activist in the effort to end childhood hunger.)
According to UNICEF, 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water, and waterborne illnesses are the second-highest cause of preventable childhood deaths. For every $1 donation, UNICEF can provide one child access to safe, clean water for 40 days.
For a list of restaurants in your city
that are participating in the UNICEF Tap Project, visit http://www.tapproject.org/restaurants/.
© Con Poulos
Rice Pudding with Poached Rhubarb
Tomorrow is the first official day of spring and Tom Colicchio is all a-Twitter about ramps
. “It’s spring in NY bring on the ramps,” he Tweeted yesterday. He’s not the only chef excited about spring ingredients: At a recent benefit event for C-CAP
, Shaun Hergatt
from SHO Shaun Hergatt
told me that he can't wait to cook with spring peas and is planning to serve them with sous-vide lamb; Craig Koketsu
of the seasonally-driven restaurant Park Avenue Spring
is impatiently anticipating rhubarb.
Here are a few recipes for ramps, spring peas and rhubarb to help kick off the season. Plus, check out these 100+ recipes in F&W’s Guide to Fresh Spring Produce
:White Cheese Pizza with RampsSpring Peas with Mint Rice Pudding with Poached Rhubarb
© Hotel Amano
Mario Grünfelder created the cocktail list for the bar at Hotel Amano.
For the last few days (and very late nights), I found myself restaurant-and-bar-hopping around Berlin with Mario Grünfelder, the star mixologist of the city’s coolest bar, Tausend. F&W’s European correspondent, Gisela Williams, had been telling me about a number of ambitious projects the Swiss-born spirits genius been working on. He already co-owns Tausend, along with W Imbiss and the superhip Café 103 (which he says will be transforming into something even cooler very soon). Mario is good buddies with the brilliant, semi-maniacal chef Christian Lohse, so we met for lunch at Lohse’s Michelin-starred seafood-centric Fischers Fritz to talk about potential collaborations, which included talk of a 24-hour bar-hopping bus.
Later, Mario invited us to Cantina, the new restaurant in a room behind the bar at Tausend. The former chef of Berlin’s popular Shiro I Shiro is turning out casual Latin-Asian dishes like Peruvian tiradito, tuna tataki wrapped in foie and Momofuku-rivaling pork buns. Over a second round of the stellar pork buns, Mario shared his newest passion, making his own spirits, including an unbelievably smooth wheat-based vodka he’s named Greenfield and Harter 73 (Greenfield being an Americanized version of his last name; 73 referring to his date of birth; and Harter the last name of Tausend co-owner Til Harter). I’m hoping we’ll see bottles stateside soon.
When Tausend gets too crowded late at night, Mario heads to his newest bar project at the chic, affordable new Hotel Amano in the Mitte neighborhood. The low-lit lounge serves late-night snacks and Mario’s cocktails, like the Grischenko (Xoriguer gin, cordial lime juice and Limettensaft bitters) until 4 a.m. The prolific spirits obsessive is now off to Barcelona. Maybe he’ll be opening his first project outside of Germany soon.
Food & Wine’s super-plugged-in European correspondent, Gisela Williams, is based in Berlin and has been taking me to all the hottest new spots in town. Here, a quick rundown:
Wahllokal is in a somewhat awkward location between the business and tourist sections of Berlin’s Mitte neighborhood. Everything about the space is playful, from the tasting menu (divided into Beforehand, Right in the Middle and Thereafter) to the bleacher-esque, stadium-style seating and the wacky basement bathrooms (with showers instead of sinks for washing hands). The food, however, is more straightforward and very well-priced. Highlights were an ever-so-lightly breaded codfish with ox-muzzle salad and Thai asparagus and the watercress risotto with coconut and pomelo honey.
Raffaele Sorrentino, the miracle-working concierge at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski, recently opened two Italian spots side-by-side. The more casual Antica Lasagneria specializes in huge slices of lasagna from a classic meat-and-cheese to a spicy-sausage-and-broccoli. The dining room feels like a wine store with great Italian bottles literally from floor to ceiling. Il Punto is a Berlin favorite that Raffaele reopened in a new location in June serving stellar Italian classics and top Italian wines.
Daniel Achilles is the incredibly young chef everyone is talking about since he was recently awarded a Michelin star for his cooking at the new Reinstoff. Achilles has designed two tasting menus: "Quite Near" is more classic (calf's tail ravioli) while "Far Away" is much more experimental (scallop tartare with brussels sprouts and oyster emulsion). The wine list highlights Spanish and German producers.
At this point we’ve all read about NYC chef Daniel Angerer
, who's been making cheese with his wife’s breast milk.
For some people it might make any kind of cheese seem unappealing, but it’s made me excited to try Daniel Patterson’s recipe for creamy ricotta
—using cow’s milk!
Check out F&W’s awesome cheese guide
for tips on creating the perfect cheese plate
, strategies for cooking with cheese
and our favorite cheese-focused recipes
And tell us, would you eat breast-milk cheese?
Our February story on Park City, Utah
, was fun to research—but the best part was heading out there last month and experiencing it for myself. One moment I've been reliving in my head is stopping by the St. Regis Deer Crest Resort
after a long day skiing. The property, which you can enter via gondola or on skis, overlooks the slopes of pristine Deer Valley
. The views were breathtaking as I sat outside, a steaming peppermint tea in my hand, watching as kids in the heated pool below had a serious snowball fight and skiers completed their last runs of the day. The Terrace Café menu (done by Jean-Georges Vongerichten) also had tempting choices like Snake River beef chili and Valrhona chocolate pudding, but next time I go I'll step inside for his Asian burgers at the resort's J&G Grill—or I'll try making them at home with the recipe
from our February issue.
© Photo Courtesy of Talisker
Chef John Murcko
Until very recently, most visitors to Park City, Utah (me included) could only get a passing glimpse at the luxurious world of Talisker
. Created by a high-end real-estate developer, Talisker is made up of three private communities whose members enjoy exclusive access to clubhouses at many of the area's ski resorts. But that all changed earlier this year with the opening of Talisker on Main
, a new restaurant that's open to everyone. I visited the place recently and found it a sophisticated alternative to downtown's many rustic spots, with pressed-tin ceilings, crystal chandeliers and sheepskin chairs. Chef John Murcko, a 15-year Park City veteran, has some outstanding meats on his menu, like seared Utah elk served over glazed yams, but even though I'm a carnivore, my hands-down favorite dish was the salad of thinly sliced, roasted brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts and a touch of Jerez sherry vinegar. I only wish I had been there a few weeks earlier, during the Sundance
festival, when I could have spotted Adrian Grenier, Paris Hilton and Joan Rivers.
© Photo Courtesy of Restaurant Margaux
Chef Michael Hoffman
I’m in Berlin this week, and in between business meetings I’ve had some extraordinary meals. One surprise: In a city I normally associate with Wiener schnitzel and currywurst, tons of restaurants are offering really interesting vegetarian options. Chef Michael Hoffman of the Michelin-starred restaurant Restaurant Margaux
is perhaps the city’s biggest vegetable champion; he even has a cookbook dedicated entirely to cooking with herbs (an English version is in the works) and a second vegetable-centric cookbook in the pipeline. He and his lovely wife, Kathrin, who runs the front of the house at Margaux, recently planted gardens in nearby greenhouses so they can source vegetables and herbs year round. Hoffman promotes his seven-course vegetarian tasting menu with equal, if not greater, enthusiasm than his regular tasting menu. I was truly impressed with dishes like a seaweed salad with candied lemon and ginger, jus of pumpkin and lime and a savory baked “sushi” of pumpkin and couscous (pumpkin and couscous wrapped sushi-style in a superthin layer of phyllo dough). And his sommelier was up to the tricky challenge of finding perfect vegetable-friendly wines
(the remarkable 600-plus-bottle wine list is nearly 70-percent German) with choices like the 2006 Weingut Bernhard Eifel Barriques Weisser Burgunder from the Mosel.