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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


Nora Ephron on Julie & Julia


© 2008 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.
Meryl Streep as "Julia Child" in Columbia Pictures' Julie & Julia. Photo by Jonathan Wenk.

Who better to adapt two heartfelt, moving memoirs on food and its enormous powers to delight, inspire and transform—Julie Powell's Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme—than Academy Award-nominated writer-director-producer Nora Ephron? While in her twenties in New York, she, like Powell, cooked through Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, though Ephron estimates in her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, that she got through over half of the recipes—not quite accomplishing Powell's feat of cooking all 524. (Ephron wrote that preparing entire meals for four to eat alone in front of the TV made her feel “very brave and plucky.”) Here, her insights on the film:

On what kind of food statement Julie & Julia makes I don’t think it makes a revolutionary statement. It’s not making a statement about corn, or keeping a compost heap, or growing your own food supply. It’s just a celebration of food and how it can change people’s lives. I hope people will cook more after seeing this movie—but it’s okay if it doesn’t change that either.

On intertwining the lives of Julie Powell and Julia Child When I first read about Julie Powell in the New York Times, I thought, ‘no, this isn't a movie.’ I couldn’t see how the story could be two hours long. It was producer Amy Robinson’s idea to combine the two books—like in my favorite movie, The Godfather: Part II.

On Meryl Streep playing Julia Child She had very clear ideas of the Julia she wanted to do—Julia before she had her show and before she became more and more ‘Julia Child-like.’ Meryl read everything, knew everything. But you never had any sense of all that while she was working. There was no sense that anything she did was hard for her.

On Amy Adams playing Julie Powell Amy Adams is so able to become all sorts of things. [I wanted an actress] who could play someone smart. Amy’s also the perfect example of someone living in New York City but is not of New York City [like Julie]. Julie has so much Texas in her.

On food and film I said to the actors that everyone had to eat in the movie—that was a given. I wanted to shoot something that I’d want to eat. The bruschetta should look like it deserves its own web page. We didn’t want it to look styled. We didn’t want it to look as if a home cook couldn’t do it. (The one downside Chris Messina [who plays Julie’s husband, Eric Powell] really threw himself into it. The first day we shot, he swallowed 32 Tums.)


Delicious Dishes To Help You Live Longer


© Stephanie Foley

The New York Times has just reported that a 20-year study of rhesus monkeys suggests a restricted-calorie diet may ward off the usual diseases of old age—primarily diabetes, cancer, heart disease and brain disease. Here's some great advice from the pros on how to limit calories without sacrificing any taste:

Tim Cushman: “Really spicy salsas give me a ‘chile buzz,’ almost an endorphin rush, so I tend to eat less,” says Cushman, an F&W Best New Chef 2008 at O Ya in Boston. His tangy tomatillo-cumin salsa can be either mild or fiery—leave the jalapeño seeds in if you prefer extra heat.

Marisa Churchill: The Top Chef Season Two contestant offers innovative tricks to cut fat and sugar out of her recipes—for instance, she uses thick and creamy fat-free Greek-style yogurt in her honey-topped panna cottas (pictured).

Pam Anderson: “Diets are like Band-Aids—just a quick fix,” says the cookbook author. Instead, Anderson relies on smart techniques like using low-fat evaporated milk to gives sauces and desserts creaminess, as in her brown-sugar custard with orange zest.



Veggie Burgers—Almost



© F&W Test Kitchen
Joy Manning's Ratatouille Burger.

In F&W's August Well-Being column, restaurant critic and blogger Joy Manning (WhatIWeighToday.com) shares a few of the healthy recipes she makes when she’s eating at home. Her terrific ratatouille burger, sadly, did not make it into the issue, but it's definitely worth making: The burger is a clever way to use prolific summer vegetables, like zucchini and eggplant. I often find veggie burgers a bit mushy, but in her typical Almost Meatless approach, Joy uses a little bit of ground turkey to give the patty a nice texture .


NYC’s Aldea


Chef George Mendes, a Bouley alum, has been getting much deserved praise for his new NYC restaurant, the Portuguese-Spanish Aldea. A few highlights from a recent visit:

1. The best seats in the Stephanie Goto–designed space are at the chef’s bar in front of the open kitchen. My friend and I snagged two and immediately recognized the female chef on Mendes's team who has been compared to a Vermeer portrait. Every 15 minutes a new group of Portuguese diners lined up to thank Mendes for making avant-garde food that still somehow reminded them of their grandparents’ cooking.
2. Mendes serves Pennsylvania baby goat three ways—braised, grilled and confit—alongside toasted buckwheat, chanterelles and pickled cherries. The meat was so tender and delicious it made me wonder if goat may soon trump pig on menus.     
3. Critic Alan Richman says the sonhos at Aldea are in the running for Manhattan’s best mini doughnut; I second that. The tiny fried balls of dough—filled with spiced chocolate, smoked-paprika apricot jam or hazelnut praline—are made according to Mendes’s mom’s recipe. She’s been known to make an appearance in the kitchen to make sure he’s not taking too many liberties.
4. The staff pointed out a hysterical error on a bottle of Viñendo de los Vientos’ Alcyone Tannat dessert wine from Uruguay.  Alcyone, the label reads, is “the goddess of ‘clam’ and tranquility.”

Chef George Mendes


Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest


© Wendell T. Webber

In the most grotesque live competition I've ever seen, Joey Chestnut set a world record and earned his third-consecutive Mustard Belt by eating 68 franks and buns in 10 minutes at this year's Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, NY.

Chestnut steadily kept his lead over his archrival, Takeru Kobayashi, the 2001-2006 world champion, who finished with a 64 dog-count. The two men tied at 59 wieners last year until Chestnut won a dramatic five hot-dog eat-off.

If you're not eating dozens at a time, try these modern takes on the classic summer dog, from the F&W archive:

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs with Avocado (pictured)
Crosshatch Hot Dogs on Grilled Croissants
Sausages with Grilled Onion Chowchow

OR these 7 amazing sausage recipes.


DIY Pig Roast


The recent obsession with learning to butcher  and cooking an entire animal from snout to tail meant that my Fourth of July weekend was packed with pig-roast invitations, rather than the typical burger-and-beer barbecues of years past. When my friend Tiffany introduced the idea of hosting a pig roast to her husband, Santi, she assumed they would have the event catered. But, ever resourceful, Santi Googled "pig roast" and landed at a site called Three Guys From Miami, which provided instructions for a Cuban-style DIY pig roast. Santi followed the directions to construct his own roaster (now a fixture in the backyard), ordered a 55-pound hog from his local butcher and spent the night massaging the pig with his own special rub. I was skeptical, but after the pig cooked for six hours over indirect heat, we had a delicious feast for the Fourth.



Healthy Eating in Harlem with François Payard


© Baltz & Company
Francois Payard at Hans Christian Andersen Complex.


© Baltz & Company

Last night, legendary New York City pastry chef François Payard headed from his lavish Upper East Side Payard Patisserie & Bistro to the Hans Christian Andersen Complex, an elementary school in Harlem, to give a vegan cooking demo to kids and their families. The event was sponsored by the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food. Yes, the French chef seems like an unlikely proponent of animal-free food, but his marketing director (and now girlfriend), Fernanda Capobianco, is a devoted vegetarian, and since they've started working together, he's been cutting back on meat in his diet and experimenting with vegan dishes.

For the easiest pizza ever, he showed everyone how to spread tomato sauce (store-bought is fine, he said) on whole-wheat pita and topped it with ribbons of basil and crumbled tofu to mimic the cheese. Then he made a quick chocolate mousse with soy milk, whipped silken tofu and melted chocolate while batting away excited little fingers. Even I, as a dairy lover, thought the mousse was delicious and even more intensely chocolaty than a milk-based version. Through next month, François will donate $1 from every Soy Chocolate Mousse sold at New York City's Payard to the Coalition. 



Rick Bayless's Goa


© Rick Bayless
Goa chef Urbano de Rego

Chicago star chef Rick Bayless recently toured India, Tweeting constantly. Last week, I shared his best Mumbai and Kerala Tweets; now, his top Tweets from Goa:

Mapusa food market n Goa. Stellar, teeming. Chile stalls, fab masala/spice stalls, fresh/dried fish, beans (bl-eyed pea family). Almost Mexico

Chef Rego teaches us Goan shrimp curry with tamarind and kokum


Drank nice bottle of Grover La Reserve from INDIA. Cab/Shiraz blend.


Rick Bayless's Kerala


© Rick Bayless
An elephant in Kerala

Star chef Rick Bayless just came back from an eight-day food tour through India with his family, Tweeting all the way. Yesterday, I shared a few of his best Mumbai Tweets; today, highlights from Kerala:

Headed to Kerala spice plantation. First a quick stop to help Mahout [elephant trainer] wash temple elephants in river!

Cooking class meal: chicken curry, cabbage thorin, tamarind fish curry w manioc, yogurt curry w Kerala rice, paratha [Plantation Home Stay, Mundackal Estate; 011-91-485-257-0717]

Kochi airport security: chiles are contraband, could be used as a weapon. Lost all my chiles from Mumbai market.

Check this blog on Monday for Bayless's Tweets from Goa.


Virtual Life of a Sim Chef


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.

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