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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Farms

Good Eats in the Berkshires

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red lion inn

© Red Lion Inn
The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA.



My crazy wedding season (six this summer) officially kicked off this past weekend. Lucky for me, my friends have all chosen pretty awesome locations in which to get married. Wedding number one took me to the Berkshires in Massachusetts. The wedding was at an adorable place called Santarella in Tyringham that looked like it should have been the hamlet where the hobbits live in Lord of the Rings. I managed to sneak in a marathon eating tour of the area between wedding festivities, and—contrary to a recent Huffington Post story—had some amazing meals. Here, a rundown:

I stayed at the historic, 18th-century Red Lion Inn on a corner of Main Street in Stockbridge. The inn feels like a tribute to Americana with its amazing art collection, Otis Birdcage elevator (which you can really ride on) and even a desk once used by Abraham Lincoln. The restaurant menu in the dining room is a tribute to the area’s local artisans and farmers, including Farm Girl Farm and Berkshire Brewing Company in Great Barrington; Hill Top Orchards in Richmond; and Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. in Old Chatham, NY. Chef Brian Alberg recently introduced separate sustainable menus featuring dishes like an irresistible broken-yolk breakfast sandwich with smoked bacon on thick, toasted Berkshire Mountain Bakery bread. His dinner menu offers some surprises like a roasted eggplant Bolognese that uses quinoa spaghetti and basil oil; and for dessert, a house-made version of my favorite Aussie sweet, Tim Tams.

In nearby Lenox, brunch at the laid-back, two-year-old Haven Cafe & Bakery is phenomenal. I took home the house-made granola and ginger-cardamom scones and stayed for the Eggs “Sardo”—poached eggs topped with sautéed artichoke hearts, spinach and dill hollandaise.

Around the block on Church Street, the Wit Gallery showcases an eclectic mix of art including photography, sculpture and mixed media and recently also started selling artisanal wines from small, family-owned producers like Eric Kent.

Just a few doors away is the barely year-old, 28-seat restaurant Nudel, where chef-owner Bjorn Somlo cooks remarkable seasonally driven food with local ingredients. My braised-Berkshire-pork sandwich with pickled vegetables and spicy sambal aioli had me plotting ways to skip the wedding dinner so I could come back to try his bone-marrow Bolognese or garganelli with ramps and almond pesto.

More tomorrow on my Great Barrington, Massachusetts, finds.

Aspen

LaFrieda and Springsteen at Mario Batali’s Aspen Party

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© Melanie Dunea

I have a countdown going to Mario Batali’s T-Bones & Tequila party on June 17 at the upcoming F&W Classic in Aspen 2010 (as I write this, it’s T-minus 10 days and 2 hours, counting the MT time change). I’m especially excited because Mario just told me more details about the party, which benefits the Mario Batali Foundation to keep kids well fed, well read and well cared for. Among the crazy highlights: Mario’s business partner Joe Bastianich performing Springsteen songs with Tom Colicchio. Hurry up June 17, hurry up.

Mario says: “We will be eating killer T-bones donated by my pal Pat LaFrieda, and we will have the traditional white beans al fiasco, killer bruschetta and nontraditional Milagro tequila shots. Joe will be playing with Tom Collicchio; they’ll play some of my fave jam-band songs à la “Sugaree” by the Dead and “Rosalita” by Springsteen. Cool, right?”

Cookbooks

NYC’s Frankies Spuntino at LA’s Animal Restaurant

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© Kate Krader
The two Franks.

“The Green Team will be in full effect when Frankies comes to Los Angeles,” says Vinny Dotolo, one half of the chef team at LA’s Animal restaurant. On the one hand, he was talking about June 30th, when Frankies Spuntino's Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo travel from Brooklyn to do an amazing one-night-only, pop-up restaurant at Animal with recipes from their outstanding new Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. (Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Jonathan Gold has labeled the upcoming LA dinner the "dude-food summit.") Anyone who saw Kim Severson’s recent New York Times story, "Marijuana Fuels a New Kitchen Culture"—which happened to feature Dotolo, Falcinelli and Castronovo—will have a good idea of what else he might have been talking about.

Seats at the dinner, which seem to be selling out quickly, are $60 (which gets you a cookbook, too) at animalrestaurant.com. Wine pairings are $30 plus.

Menus

Omnivore’s Friendly Dinners

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George Mendes

© Jerry Errico
George Mendes will team up with Nuno Mendes for Omnivore NYC.



For two days the world’s most sensational chefs will be exchanging ideas, teaching master classes, and collaborating on spectacular dinners as part of the second annual New York Omnivore Food Festival. The event, run by the French culinary organization Omnivore, will be taking over the Invisible Dog, a factory-turned-art space in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. “Friendly Dinners”  are being hosted throughout the city, by dream team chef matchups like Paul Liebrandt of Corton and René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen. I’m most excited about tomorrow night’s dinner hosted by Aldea’s George Mendes and British phenom Nuno Mendes of London’s recently opened Viajante. Not only do they share a last name, but both chefs are of Portuguese heritage. Their four-course dinner will include Nuno Mendes's much-talked-about skate wing crusted with roasted yeast, mustard gnocchi and brioche. I hear a few tickets are left. Click here for details.

Cocktails

How to Support Gulf Coast Fishermen

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train

© Patrón Tequila
Patrón Tequila Epicurean Express


    
The St. Bernard Project, a Louisiana-based nonprofit that helped rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina, is now helping the fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen affected by the Gulf Coast oil spill. Their goal is to raise $75,000 to rebuild houses and provide mental health services for fishermen and their families. To raise funds, they’ve partnered with The Patrón Tequila Epicurean Express, a restored 1926 railway car that will be traveling to Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, New Orleans and Los Angeles this month. Top chefs and mixologists from each city will host Patrón-spiked cocktail parties and dinners aboard the train.

Currently in Chicago, the train's next stop is Track 31 in Washington D.C.’s Union Station June 8th and 9th. Louisiana chefs like Brian Landry of Galatoire’s in New Orleans will be teaming up with DC-area stars like Jeff Tunks, Todd Thrasher, David Guas and Robert Wiedmaier to create Southern-inflected menus that will feature seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.

Click here for tickets and future dates.
 
 

Cocktails

Drinking Vodka Cocktails with the Dallas Cowboys

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© Kate Krader
Dallas Cowboys Kyle Kosier and Jason Witten dwarf chef Tim Love

I’ve seen a lot of cocktails recently. After all, F&W's outstanding and just-out Cocktails 2010 required a lot of tasting and testing. Still, my most recent highlight was co-hosting a party at the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, Texas, to launch Belvedere's brand-newest vodka, Pink Grapefruit. How's this for a party, which featured cocktail pairings all the way through dinner?

The Food Texas rock star chef Tim Love making crazy-inspired dishes ranging from pillowy ricotta gnocchi with rattlesnake sausage to Kobe beef cap with crispy fried salsify.
The Cocktails Belvedere’s head mixologist Claire Smith paired all the food with genius, not-too-sweet drinks. That gnocchi, for instance, was served with Cerveza Preparada, a mix of orange vodka, blood orange juice and local micro-brewed wheat beer.
The Guests Local editors, chefs, mixologists. And the Dallas Cowboys! Well, two of them, namely adorable Pro Bowler Jason Witten (the best tight end in the NFC) and guard Kyle Kosier.
The After Party At the funky White Elephant Saloon, complete with shots of Tuaca from their very own Tuaca machine.

Chefs

First Summer BLT

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Black Pig Meat Co.

About a month ago I went to a Sonoma County event and came away with a rare treat: some Black Pig Meat Co. bacon. The company, founded by Sonoma chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu and Bovolo, makes a mean bacon.  They dry-cure heritage-breed, hormone-free pigs for up to three weeks, then finish them off with applewood smoke. The country has long been nuts for swine, using it in everything from cocktails to chocolate, but for me, the only way I was going to eat this bacon was in a BLT. I froze my stash in anticipation of summer tomatoes at the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market in Brooklyn, and this weekend I was rewarded: I only needed two of the thick-cut slices and the thinnest sliver of tomato to make the perfect sandwich. It'll be hard to get me to stray from this classic combo, but these F&W variations on the BLT have definitely caught my eye.

Aspen

Mario's Amazing Aspen Charity Party

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Mario Batali, right, ready to party with Jose Andres.

There are two things that top my wish list for F&W’s upcoming Classic in Aspen 2010. The first is to party with Mario Batali. The second is to try and do something charitable in the middle of all the ridiculous chefs’ demos and wine tastings and general craziness. Well, Mario’s making this very easy for me this year by hosting his second annual T-Bones & Tequila party on Thursday, June 17, to benefit the Mario Batali Foundation for kids. (“I’m excited to be kicking off the Aspen Food & Wine Classic with my kick-ass party,” he says.) Basically, it’s going to be the ultimate house party, and here’s why:

1. It features some of Mario’s best Italian grilling recipes. (Maybe, just maybe, he’ll preview some dishes from his upcoming Eataly market in NYC.)
2. It’s got all kinds of tequila drinks and a tequila-tasting bar.
3. It boasts a musical performance by the inimitable Joe Bastianich, Mario’s business partner and resident wine genius.
4. It takes place at the impossible-to-get-into Two Twelve house.
5. It benefits MBF, Mario’s excellent foundation, which works to ensure that kids are well read, well fed and well cared for.

Tax-deductible tickets for Mario's excellent party are $175. They’re available at mariobatalifoundation.org or by calling 630-618-4756.

Restaurants

Tom Colicchio and the Children of Bellevue

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© Alessandra Bulow
Craft’s morel-stuffed lamb with spring vegetables and ramp vinaigrette

Earlier this week, proud papa Tom Colicchio, chef-owner of Craft Restaurants, showed off pictures of his adorable 9-month-old baby boy Luka while hosting the Children of Bellevue’s Toast to the Children Fundraising Benefit in New York City.

“Seventeen years ago, my first son Dante was born eight weeks early and weighed only 2 pounds, 5 ounces,” he said. “He spent two months in Bellevue Hospital’s neonatal ICU.”

When Colicchio was preparing to take Dante home, he was approached by a social worker who asked him if he had a crib, diapers and air conditioner at home. “I was kind of annoyed at first, but then I asked, 'What if I said no?’ ” After learning that the hospital’s Children of Bellevue program provides assistance to families of in-patient and out-patient children, Colicchio knew he wanted to get involved. Over the past 13 years, he's helped turn the organization’s cocktail party fund-raiser into a gala benefit that includes the participation of 20 fantastic NYC restaurants. “For all the success I’ve been lucky enough to have, this is the work I’m most proud of,” Colicchio said.

Chefs from two of Colicchio’s own restaurants were there: Craft chef de cuisine James Tracey cooked morel-stuffed lamb with spring vegetables and a ramp vinaigrette (pictured) and Colicchio & Sons pastry chef Stephen Collucci served vanilla-rose panna cotta with poached rhubarb and a pistachio puree.

Also in attendance was actress Uma Thurman, who volunteers at the hospital’s teen psychiatric unit, and F&W’s own amazing editor in chief Dana Cowin, who was presented with an award for her outstanding support of the food industry and for her charitable work, including her advocacy for cancer survivors.

Click here for more information about Children of Bellevue.

Chefs

Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions

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© Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Outer Bay exhibit.

With the seemingly unstoppable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there has never been a better time to talk about sustainable seafood than right this moment. Luckily, this happens to be the weekend that the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosts their sensational annual event, Cooking for Solutions. Earlier this week, I met with Ken Peterson, the aquarium’s PR director, who told me what CFS events he’s especially looking forward to, plus general thoughts about the state of sustainable seafood right now.

* On whether the oil spill will dominate the conversation this weekend: “Probably, but in passing. It’s big. It’s a tragedy. But it’s a regionalized disaster. Fishing practices and ecological change are the long-term problems that we’re focusing on. But I’ll say this: It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Everything is spawning: bluefin tuna, blue crab, shrimp; sea turtles are trying to swim through oil right now to lay eggs.”

* On the CFS gala dinner: “We have 120 chefs and wineries serving sustainable and organic food and wines. Suzanne Goin is our chef of the year; Rick Bayless is being honored, too. Top Chef’s Kevin Gillespie will be barbecuing seafood. Everyone gets so fired up. John Cleese might be there; he’s a big fan of the aquarium.”  

* On the CFS panels he’s most excited about: “Well, they’re all great. But I always love Stories of Sustainability [moderated by F&W’s excellent contributor Jane Black]. We’ve got great presenters like Ingrid Bengis [Thomas Keller’s fishmonger] and Michel Nischan. He's a thought leader. There are always some stories of hope from that panel.”

[More]

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