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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Farms

Day 1: Dinner at McCrady's

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Outside McCrady's in Charleston, SC

© Courtesy of Tom Colicchio
Outside McCrady's in Charleston, SC

Editor's note: Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef (and a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1991), will be blogging every day this week about his road trip from Atlanta.

When I asked Glenn what chefs in the area were doing southern food the old-fashioned way, he named Sean Brock at McCrady's in Charleston.

Since Charleston was our next stop, we took Glenn up on his suggestion and invited Matt and Ted Lee to join us. The Lee Brothers have written extensively for this magazine, know just about everything there is to know about Charleston, and were kind enough to offer to show us around their stomping grounds.

We were treated that night to locally caught stone crab and triggerfish, as well as a house-made charcuterie selection starring Sean Brock's own Yorkshire pigs. Anson Mills grains appeared in two courses during our dinner: Farro and Sea Island Red Peas were served with a rich block of pork belly, and Carolina Gold Rice accompanied swiss chard and lamb with vadouvan. I found Sean Brock's cooking to be a mixture of the traditional and the modern, applying progressive, contemporary techniques and presentations to time-honored southern ingredients and flavors.

Sean prides himself on buying as much as possible from small farmers and fisherman in the Charleston area, and even grows some of his own food at his farm in McClellanville. After our meal at McCrady's we were all eager to meet Sean's growers, so he offered to take us to a friend's farm the next day.

Farms

Day 1: Our Afternoon at Anson Mills

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With Emile DeFelice and his country ham

© Courtesy of Tom Colicchio
With Emile DeFelice (and his
country ham)

Editor's note: Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef (and a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1991), will be blogging every day this week about his road trip from Atlanta.

In true eco-friendly fashion, Anson Mills' headquarters is located in a reclaimed warehouse behind a carwash, and our only real indication that we had found the right place was the small pile of discarded grain composting near the building. Once inside we found waiting for us not only Glenn Roberts, but his business partner Catherine Horton-Schopfer, southern food historian Dr. David Shields, and farmers Ben Dubard and Emile DeFelice.

What we learned that afternoon about traditional Southern foodways, native grains, and the short history of Anson Mills could easily fill its own feature article, but I'll do my best to hit the high points here.

Glenn opened Anson Mills about a decade ago to solve a problem: many of the grains that were staples of the southern pantry before the Civil War were no longer being grown, and would go extinct (and part of the regional cuisine along with them) unless someone resuscitated them. So, Glenn took it upon himself to grow, harvest and mill rare varieties of heirloom corn, rice, and wheat organically.

Take, for example, Carolina Gold Rice. David Shields, a man who has forgotten more about Southern food history than most other people know, gave us an impromptu seminar on the "Carolina rice kitchen," an antebellum cuisine in the Charleston region that was based entirely around a breed of rice called Carolina Gold. It was the most valuable (and possibly tastiest) rice in the world in the first half of the 19th Century, but had all but disappeared by the time of the Depression.

It's one of the grains that Glenn now grows and sells. He works with thirty organic farmers in six states, and grows a wide variety of native heirloom grains plus French oats, Italian farro, and Japanese buckwheat.

In fact, as we discovered later that day, they were all sitting in big white chest freezers in the next room waiting to be milled-to-order. Glenn walked us through a dozen different grains, telling their stories and encouraging us to run our fingers through them, taste them, and smell them.

Glenn's newest project is another near extinct breed of corn called Perla Bianca, an ear of which Ben Dubbard managed to wrangle from an old farmer during a trip to Italy last fall. Now, using that ear for seed stock, Glenn is working tirelessly to cultivate it in South Carolina. Some of the first locally grown Perla Bianca kernels made it back to the Anson Mills office just a few days before our visit, and Glenn milled some into polenta — one whiff of the freshly milled corn and it's obvious why Glenn's fighting for it. Its floral, milky scent and sweet taste are unlike anything I've known.

As for Emile — I knew I was going to like Emile when he burst into the Anson Mills sales office with a case of PBR under one arm and a country ham under the other. Emile owns Caw Caw Creek Farm, where he raises heirloom pastured pigs using traditional agricultural methods, free from hormones and antibiotics and fed on a nutritious mix of organic Anson Mills grain byproducts and wild grasses, peas, and peanuts. When it comes time for the pigs to be harvested, they are slaughtered humanely. As with Glenn, what Emile is doing is a remarkable contrast to how most of our food is being produced across America. The hard work and hard thought that they put into their farming is all in the name of doing the right thing, ethically and environmentally.

Leaving Anson Mills with a country ham from Emile and a bag of Perla Bianca polenta from Glenn, the wheels were already spinning about how I could use them in a Tom: Tuesday Dinner menu...

Farms

Day 1: Pit Stop at Big T Bar-B-Q

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© Courtesy of Tom Colicchio
Pit Stop at Big T Bar-B-Que

Editor's note: Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef (and a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1991), will be blogging every day this week about his road trip from Atlanta.

The first destination on our trip was a no-brainer: Anson Mills, a three-hour drive from Atlanta in Columbia, South Carolina. Damon and I have been buying their products for years and we were both eager to meet the company's founder, Glenn Roberts, and to see his operation at work.

Heading towards Columbia we got hungry, and called Glenn for lunch suggestions. He recommended a local favorite called Big T Bar-B-Que. In my experience you usually find the real barbeque gems where you least expect them, and Big T was no exception, operating out of a modest storefront in the middle of a strip mall. The brisket and pulled pork sandwich we ordered were prime examples of the mustard-based barbecue that is typical in South Carolina (and Big T also serves a mean fried chicken).

Chefs

Day 1: Departure

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With Chef Damon Wise outside the Mansion on Peachtree in Atlanta

© Courtesy of Tom Colicchio
With Chef Damon Wise
outside the Mansion on
Peachtree in Atlanta

Editor's note: Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef (and a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1991), will be blogging every day this week about his road trip from Atlanta.

A few weeks ago, I did something that I've had on my mind for a long time: I took a road trip.

"Road trip" has multiple meanings. It can describe a way to travel from Point A to Point B, or it can mean getting away from it all Kerouac-style on the open road. But this trip wasn't about escaping things, it was about finding them. It was about paying visits to some of the food producers who make my restaurants what they are, and discovering new ones the old-fashioned way. On this trip, the stops were the destination.

My starting point was Atlanta. Craft Atlanta had been tapped to produce the dinner for Porsche's "Ultimate Reveal," an event celebrating the launch of their new 4-door Panamera (Atlanta is not only home to the newest Craft restaurant, but also to Porsche's North American Headquarters), and I flew down to handle the event personally.

When Porsche offered to lend me a spanking new Panamera 4S for an extended "test drive," and it was an opportunity I couldn't refuse (when someone hands you the keys to a Porsche, you do not ask questions). I cleared my schedule for a week, kidnapped our executive chef Damon and my assistant Liz, and set out in the general direction of New York.

Over the coming days I'll be using this blog to relay the highlights of the six-day, 1,200 mile journey that took me from Atlanta to Columbia, on to Charleston, then Chapel Hill, the Chesapeake, Washington DC, rural Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and finally back to New York. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Cookbooks

Food52's Cookbook Champion

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Last night at the Astor Center in NYC, Food52’s Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs along with Charlotte Druckman announced the winner of their cookbook contest, The Piglet. Nora Ephron (writer and director of Julie & Julia) made the final call, picking Seven Fires by Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminsky over Canal House Cooking by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. But the most interesting part of the evening was a panel discussion that included finalists Kaminsky, Hirsheimer and Hamilton, as well as Hamilton’s sister Gabrielle, the chef/owner of Prune (whose collection of essays is due out next fall) and Peter Meehan, who co-wrote Momofuku with David Chang. That's when things heated up. The panelists debated food photography (“Styled food shots make me furious,” Gabrielle Hamilton said) and the importance of “cookability” (bringing attention to the infamously complicated Momofuku recipes). They also discussed the motivation for writing a book. Meehan suggested that he and Chang were not focused on the commerce end of the equation, to which Gabrielle Hamilton smirked, “Oh, that’s just the ‘David Chang shtick.’” But his comment begged the question: Is writing a cookbook a labor of love (Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton claim they wrote their cookbook for themselves—"We both laughed when our copy editor mentioned the reviews that would come in.") or a way to expand a brand and hopefully make some money? Kaminsky closed the night by saying, “The best food writing should make me want to taste the food.” It’s a fair bet that each of these cookbooks accomplishes this, and more.

Chefs

Calling All Foodies: In-Person Castings for Top Chef Season 7

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Top Chef Season 1 Winner Harold Dieterle
Want to be the next Hosea, Stephanie, Hung, Ilan or Harold? You could fill out an online application to be on Top Chef Season 7 or, better yet, show off your sparkling personality and glistening chef knives in person at one of the open casting calls, which run until the end of this week.

Find more recipes from Top Chef winners here.

Chefs

Chefs' Marathon Highs (and Lows)

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After running my first New York City Marathon last Sunday, I’ve been swapping marathon highs and lows with fellow food-world runners. I had a freakishly great race and crossed the finish line in three hours and 21 minutes, with my only low being post-race muscle pain  (I’ve been recovering with a marathon week of eating and drinking). Others weren’t as lucky. Daniel Humm of NYC’s Eleven Madison Park had to pull out of the race due to a stress fracture. Here, some other tales from marathon newbies and vets:

Bobby Stuckey, sommelier of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, CO
Stuckey, an insanely speedy runner,  hit up L’Artusi the Friday night before the race and was spotted eating at Marea on marathon eve.
Low: “Mile 23. My world just got really small and I knew that I needed to dig deep.”
High: “Looking up at the JumboTron and seeing an American wine almost brought me to tears.”
Finishing Time: 2:47:23

Joe Campanale, co-owner and sommelier of L’Artusi and Dell’anima, NYC
Not only did Campanale lose 15 pounds and three toenails while training, he also raised almost $14,000 for his charity, Team Hole in the Wall Gang.
Low: “I had a stomach virus that stayed with me for pretty much the whole race.”
High: “Coming off the 59th Street Bridge and running up 1st Avenue feels like walking onto the field in the middle of the World Series."  
Time: 4:49:29

Chef Olivier Muller, DB Bistro Moderne, NYC
The marathon newbie raised $12,000 for the charity Malaria No More.
Low: “At mile 22 I had a huge cramp. My left leg just stopped mid-stride.”
High: “After the race I had 15 friends waiting at my apartment to celebrate. We ate cheeses, charcuterie, beef short ribs, coq au vin and spaetzle and washed it down with red wine.”
Time: 3:38:57

Joe Bastianich, restaurateur and winemaker
After losing an astonishing amount of weight by running, Bastianich has become a marathon regular.
Low: “Running on Fifth Ave up the hill that you never knew existed, passing by the homes of every rich person in New York.”
High: “Floating over the Verrazano Bridge on pure adrenaline.”  
Time: 3:42:36

Menus

St. Francis in Phoenix

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st. francis

© Christopher Downs
St. Francis restaurant in Phoenix.


I recently came back from Phoenix, where everyone is buzzing about a new restaurant called St. Francis. Chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin (who trained with Michel Richard, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Nancy Oakes) spent nearly three years searching for the perfect spot, finally buying and renovating a midcentury Harold Ekman building on Camelback Road. With the help of his dad and brother, he’s created a hip, industrial-style space with a two-story, window-faced garage door that opens the bar to the outside. There are homey touches, too; his grandmother's old silver spoons are embedded in the stone walls and chairs from San Francisco's old Rubicon restaurant space. There's also an enormous wood-burning stove. The affordable menu balances healthy dishes, like the sweet-and-spicy Forbidden Rice Bowl, with decadent ones, like a French Onion Burger topped with an onion ring, smoked bacon, Gruyère and homemade French Dip. With Pizzeria Bianco just a few blocks away, uptown Phoenix may be Arizona’s next cool food 'hood.

aaron

© Christopher Downs
Chef Aaron Chamberlin.


Chefs

Halloween: Dress Like a Chef

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© Courtesy of Frappe Inc. and the TV series Spain...On the Road Again / Eric Rhee

Scrounging for a last-minute Halloween costume? Get inspiration from some of our favorite chefs’ ensembles in F&W's "Dress Like a Chef" slideshow, like Mario Batali's now-iconic look: red wig pulled in a low ponytail, baggy shorts and his signature orange clogs from Crocs.






Recipes

NYC's Foodie Marathoners

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joe

© Quentin Bacon
Marathoner Joe Bastianich's white bean stew with swiss chard and tomatoes

 

While my colleague Kate Krader is on a permanent sugar high this week from her pre-Halloween candy binge, I am overloading on carbs in preparation for the New York City Marathon. The race takes place this Sunday, the day after Halloween.  This year’s field of 40,000 runners, the largest in history, includes a number of food and wine world stars who’ve been juggling 20-mile training runs with kitchen duties and late-night pasta binges. Mark Bittman, the New York Times Minimalist columnist, has been swapping cooking tips for training tips with America’s fastest woman marathoner, Deena Kastor (rumor has it she’s shopping around a cookbook while in town for the race). F&W Best New Chef 2005 Daniel Humm of NYC’s Eleven Madison Park has been training with a running coach from Kenya to help him beat his insanely fast time from last year.

I’ve been following winemaker and restaurateur Joe Bastianich’s game plan, fueling myself with the complex-carb-heavy recipes he shared with F&W in our October issue and throwing back an occasional beer (for more carbs).

For more pre-marathon carbo-loading recipe ideas, click here.

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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.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.