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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


Breakfast with Pierre Gagnaire


Gagnaire and F&W Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin at Asiate

Of course I was nervous before breakfast with Pierre Gagnaire. After all, he's one of the very best chefs in the world, who's known for deconstructing a dish so thoughtfully that it stretches out over five or eight courses. Gagnaire is in New York City for the StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress (which is the reason why you'll see some of the world's other great chefs wandering around the city for the next three days, from Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck in England to Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea). Gagnaire has built a small restaurant empire, with outposts from Paris to London and Seoul. Good news for me: His next restaurant, Twist, will be his first in the U.S., at the soon-to-open Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas. Over eggs benedict at Asiate, on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan, chef Gagnaire talked about his myriad influences, from the spontaneity of Jackson Pollock to an old man in Seoul practicing calligraphy to the French national soccer team. In fact, he talked about everything but food. He's the most zen chef I've ever met (and one of the best dressed; he knows exactly what Paul Smith blue shirt matches his eyes). I know I'll get to hear him talk about food at the StarChefs.com conference—including a Generational Discussion of Modern Cuisine—but for right now, I just want to think about him spending an afternoon at the Hopper collection at the Whitney Museum.


Perfecting Pizza


One sure sign the artisanal pizza movement is as strong as ever: F&W Best New Chef 2009 Nate Appleman has just signed on to launch a pizza joint with über-restaurateur Keith McNally in New York City. Here, 15 outstanding pizzas like a Fontina, prosciutto and caramelized onion pizza; a summer squash pizza with goat cheese and walnuts; and a salty-sweet roasted squid pizza with creamy aioli and crushed red pepper.

More Great Pizza Tips:
- Pizza primer from F&W's editor Grace Parisi, including how to preheat a pizza stone and how to work the dough
- Fantastic tips from 24 of the best sommeliers around the country, like an extravagant pairing for pizza


Eating in Queens After the US Open


This past weekend, I was only in Flushing long enough to see Nadal lose, Federer win and to eat flaming ouzo shrimp. But I got some tips on where to eat in the area from Tony Mantuano, chef-owner of Chicago’s prestigious Spiaggia (President Obama’s favorite restaurant), who was at the US Open presiding over the Wine Bar, where I had that killer shrimp. He stayed in downtown Flushing to be near the tennis center and discovered a couple great places. First and foremost, a very no-frills dumpling spot called White Bear (135-02 Roosevelt Ave. #5; 718-961-2322) that’s basically a few small tables, a few folding chairs, a woman making the dumplings and wontons and a man cooking them up. Mantuano recommends the #6: pork-filled wontons with pickled vegetables and chiles. “Every single person gets the #6,” Mantuano says. He also discovered a great food cart on the corner of Main Street and 41st, where a guy grills lamb skewers flavored with cumin and spicy chiles over live charcoal. “This guys knows how to grill,” says Mantuano. “They don’t all know how to grill.”


Ommegang's Brew News


Last night, supertalented chef Bobby Hellen of NYC's Resto teamed up with Phil Leinhart, the brewmaster at Cooperstown, New York’s Ommegang brewery, for a gluttonous, nose-to-tail feast. It was the first of a series of Zagat-sponsored, craft-beer dinners taking place throughout the city this week as part of the second annual New York Craft Beer Week.

Chef Hellen broke down an entire pig and a lamb from Violet Hill Farm and turned them into delicious dishes like crispy pig’s-ear popcorn, porchetta and lamb-topped tomato salad with lamb-heart vinaigrette; to match these dishes, Leinhart poured some never-before-served brews, including a test batch of Adoration, Ommegang’s first-ever winter holiday ale. The dark, Belgian-style brew is made with five spices: coriander, sweet orange peel, grains of paradise, cardamom and mace. I was expecting bold, in-your-face spiciness, but the finish is much more subtle, and despite 10-percent alcohol levels, there was very little alcohol burn—a deceptively potent brew. The beer should be available mid-October.

To go with a plate of excellent house-made charcuterie, Leinhart poured the Ommegang Rouge, a Flemish sour-red ale he made in partnership with Belgium's Brouwerij Bockor brewery. This supertart brew, oak-aged for 18 months at Bockor’s brewery, is one of my favorites. Leinhart broke the news that it’s no longer being produced (Brouwerij Bockor no longer wants to share its yeasts strains). But Ommegang plans to replace it with a brown Flemish-style beer they’re working on with Liefmans brewery in Oudenaarde, Belgium. Leinhart hinted we can also expect many more seasonal beers from Ommegang next year.


© Evan Miller
Ommegang's best and newest brews on tap at Resto.



Celebrating Craft and Canned Beers


This Friday kicks off the second annual New York City Craft Beer Week, a 10-day event that includes incredible beer-pairing dinners hosted by top New York state brewers and star New York City chefs, as well as tastings, seminars  and bar crawls. Next month, a new type of beer-appreciation event will take place in Reno, Nevada. On October 23, the city will host the first-ever international canned beer festival. But don’t expect to find PBR or Miller. The event, dubbed Canfest, brings together a growing number of craft breweries, like Reno’s Buckbean Brewing Company, Maui Brewing Company and Oskar Blues, that eschew bottles for eco-friendly (and, some argue, more beer-friendly) aluminum cans. Celebrities from the beer world will serve as judges. The daylong festival will also include beer-and-food pairings and seminars with brewers.







Miami's Excellent Eos


© Jen Murphy
The Fresh Pepper cocktail at Eos in Miami

Before flying back to NYC after my quick trip to Miami last week, I made sure to check out Eos, the new restaurant from star chef Michael Psilakis (of NYC's Kefi, Mia Dona, Anthos and Gus & Gabriel Gastropub. Eos is on the 15th floor of the new Viceroy Hotel, which combines the whimsical design of both Kelly Wearstler and Philippe Starck. The food was exceptionally tasty and beautifully plated—from the orange marlin sashimi with speck, apricot and pistachio butter to the ultratender smoked octopus to the decadent lobster-and-sea-urchin risotto with caviar, fried herbs and egg yolk. Another surprise: an ambitious cocktail list. I politely declined the server’s top pick, the Pepper Fresh, but she sent me one anyway and it was one of the most unusual drinks I’ve ever tasted—a mix of vodka and freshly squeezed lime and yellow bell pepper juices muddled with spearmint. Bell pepper juice in a cocktail? Somehow it worked geniously. 



Miami's Awesome Scarpetta


Last week I jetted to Miami and, in less than 48 hours, had two stellar meals in hotel restaurants launched by star NYC chefs: Scott Conant and Michael Psilakis, both F&W Best New Chefs. I always get nervous when a chef I adore opens an outpost far away: It’s so easy for the quality or service to slide. But these two new Miami restaurants rival their spots in Manhattan.

Conant, who owns Scarpetta in NYC, opened his second Scarpetta in Miami Beach's legendary Fountainbleu hotel, which was fabulously renovated earlier this year. A true glutton, I tried nearly every dish on the menu. Conant’s signature dishes, like his supersimple spaghetti with tomato and basil and his roasted capretto (baby goat), were perfect. The Miami Scarpetta has more seafood options than the NYC one, including a crisp-skinned branzino served on top of saffron-ricotta gnocchi, cauliflower and lobster fricassee. After sampling six pasta dishes (I’m training for the NYC Marathon, which gives me an excuse to eat more pasta), I told myself I’d only taste the branzino, but somehow it vanished completely from my plate.

Check out this blog later today for details about my incredible meal at Psilakis’s Eos.


Fall's Best Foodie Internships


Summer is usually internship season. But summer is nearly over and  fewer than a fifth of recent college graduates have job offers. Now TravelOregon (the state's tourism organization) has launched an internship contest; the seven winners will work alongside a top Oregon rancher, distiller or chef for a week. Applicants have until September 18 to submit a short video and make a case (in 140 words or less) for why they are worthy of the all-expenses-paid internship. A few of the opportunities:
 *Work alongside Food & Wine Best New Chef 2007 Gabriel Rucker, at Portland’s awesome Le Pigeon restaurant.
 * Explore the art of vineyard-designate winemaking from Lynn Penner- Ash, winemaker at Willamette Valley’s Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.

 * Make artisanal cheese with David Gremmels of the excellent Rogue Creamery.
 * Turn hops and grains into craft beer with brewmaster Jamie Emmerson of Hood River’s Full Sail Brewery.
 * Learn about craft spirits and get a degree in mixology with distiller Jim Bendis of Bendistillery.


Momofuku Fried Chicken Addiction


In my world, fried chicken has officially kicked pizza to the curb. I trace my fixation back to Pete Wells's review of the Redhead in the New York Times a year ago and his description of the buttermilk-fried bird as "picnic-ready." (Today, Frank Bruni said it was "never greasy... and unfailingly accessorized by something perfect.")  I'm impatiently waiting for Andrew Carmellini to start serving fried chicken at Locanda Verde, with Karen DeMasco pies no less, but meanwhile, I've got the insane fried chicken at Momofuku Noodle Bar. It's already been endlessly documented, but for anyone who doesn't know, here's what you and four-plus friends get for $100: a platter of pieces allegedly from two birds (though, as a friend noted, they must be genetically mutant birds with extra wings, drumsticks and breasts). The white meat has a super-crispy Old Bay–seasoned crust; the dark meat is triple-fried with a Korean-spiced coating. It's all accompanied by a giant bowl of lettuce leaves and assorted vegetables and herbs (I monopolized the shiso leaves); four dipping sauces (I monopolized the jalapeño-garlic); and moo shu pancakes. Alan Richman describes the whole thing beautifully on his GQ blog, including chef-owner David Chang's ideal chicken-sauce-accoutrement combo and a virtually side-by-side comparison with KFC.


Drinking Through a Recession


Yesterday on WNYC, radio host Leonard Lopate discussed the subject of running a restaurant during this recession with chefs Daniel Boulud of Manhattan’s DBGB Kitchen & Bar and Sosie Hublitz of Brooklyn’s Watty & Meg, as well as Nation’s Restaurant News editor Pamela Parseghian. Parseghian said the biggest trend has been alcohol—and lots of it. Boulud and Hublitz agreed. It’s no secret that tough times lead people to drink; this time, however, they’re drinking excellent cocktails. That’s good news for restaurants, Boulud said, since the profit margins on drinks are greater than they are for food. Of course, he added, you can’t charge $20 for a martini. That would be pushing it. 

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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.

Run with chefs and wine experts in the Celebrity Chef 5K and dance all night at Gail Simmons’ Last Bite Dessert Party during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.