© image courtesy of Etsy
© image courtesy of Etsy
© Jen Silker
Porcelain lanterns from Alyssa Ettinger.
© Dove Chocolate Discoveries
Dove Chocolate Discoveries Party
If retweeting is re-posting a twitter feed, what's the word for re-blogging a Facebook status update? Retatting? This is a retat. Last night I got so excited I mentioned this on my Facebook page. A vegan friend is coming for Passover, and while concocting vegan main courses and a dessert is fairly brainless (see these excellent vegan main courses from F&W and desserts from Babycakes vegan bakery), I got kind of addled at the idea that anyone might feel left out during the requisite courses of gefilte fish and matzo ball soup. The soup was easy: I made my vegetable broth look like chicken stock by browning the onions in a little olive oil before simmering them in water. Then I added big florets of cauliflower, which look a lot like matzo balls, and simmered them until soft.
Vegan gefilte fish was the stumper. Gefilte fish, for me, is mostly just an excuse to clear my sinuses: The bland quenelles of whitefish taste best swirled in peppery beet horseradish. (They're also a fun way to paint your plate purple.) So what's bland, holds together in quenelle form without eggs, and goes well with a peppery beet-colored condiment? It only came to me at about 11 pm: chickpea cakes! My recipe: Sauté a finely minced quarter of a white onion (or 2 large shallots) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil with a pinch of dried thyme and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Add the rinsed chickpeas from one 15-oz can, cover and simmer until just heated through. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. Add 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Mash the heck out of the peas with a potato masher and form into 1/4-cup mini-footballs. Cover and refrigerate before serving. We'll see how they go over at this evening's seder. But three of them made for a lovely midnight snack last night.
At Food & Wine, we think our Best New Chef awards are some of the most prestigious in the culinary world. They are of course – and we have a whole new class to announce next week. (Stay tuned!). But there are some even greater honors and one of them would surely be to cook at the White House to mark your country’s Independence Day. Michael Psilakis, who was an outstanding F&W Best New Chef last year, received just such an honor earlier this week when he cooked a meal to mark Greek Independence Day. There are some things Psilakis can’t talk about—like whether he managed to get President Barack Obama to eat beets (which he doesn’t like), or even what the President ate in general. And there are some things that are already well detailed in Psilakis’s interview with The Feedbag. But the chef did have some other insights which makes me want to go to the White House right now, even if Psilakis isn’t still cooking there.
On Being One of the (or perhaps the Inaugural) First Outside Chefs to Cook in the White House “The White House chef said that though other chefs have participated in events, like picnics on the lawn, this was one of the first times an outside chef was physically in the kitchen, feeding the president. Everything was trippy because there was no protocol. The Food & Beverage Manager said, ‘tell me what you want and we’ll get it for you.’ That never happens. That’s on top of the fact that I think I'm the first Greek chef there, to celebrate Greek Independence day.”
On the Menu Raw meze of tuna with feta dust and pickled raw and dehydrated watermelon; open goat moussaka; braised snails with rabbit confit; trahana (pebble size pasta) in a rabbit jus with dehydrated halloumi cheese; roast octopus with pickled morel mushrooms, baby fennel and leeks.
Highlight of the White House Tour The China Room. "The china from almost every president is on display in that room. The thought of the First Lady choosing to have Lincoln china for lunch that she’ll have with a head of state: She can call up the kitchen and say, ‘I’m having lunch with the Queen, I’d like to use the Washington china.’ You’re a chef and you can actually plate on that presidential china. My favorite was the Washington china. The first First Lady ever picked those things."
On Meeting the President “It’s incredible. He’s captivated those people at the White House, even in this short period of time. They really believe in him, even the cooks. He walked into the kitchen and said 'hi.' I said, ‘hi.’ He said, ‘What is this,’ and then asked if he could have some, I said ‘I think we can work something out.’ He laughed. Vice President Joe Biden was behind him, they both spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen. He was interested in the food, we had conversations about what I was cooking. He’s much larger in life than he is on television. It was unbelievable that he just came into the kitchen.”
On Getting a Picture Taken with the President “Here’s the best way to tell you that he’s the real thing. We were taking a picture underneath a portrait, a painting of Jefferson, I believe. And there was a table of food right next to us. And the President said, ‘This isn’t the right picture, you should be by the food. And so we took another picture by the food. How many "stars"—athletes, musicians, who aren’t nearly as powerful as the President of the United States—would be that warm and welcoming?”
On Cooking at the White House for Greek Independence Day “I feel like I just won a gold medal for my country – for Greece and for the culinary world. It was monumental, once in a lifetime and surreal. I’m not usually at a loss for words, but it’s hard to put this into words. It’s been my goal as a chef to show people that Greek food can, should and will stand right next to Italian and French in the world of haute cuisine. I tried as hard as I possibly could to make Greece as a nation look good and I hope I did a good job.”
Alvaro Palacios is everywhere these days—even in the movies! Well, sort of. The undisputed star of modern Spanish winemaking appears in F&W’s April issue at a party in Manhattan’s new City Winery. Then, when I was watching the recently released DVD of Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, I saw that Allen thanked Palacios in the credits. (I almost missed it, distracted as I was by thoughts of how I might come back in another life as the stunning Penélope Cruz). This makes sense: It seemed that every character in every scene was holding, swishing or sipping a glass of wine. As it turns out, the film’s producers, who are Catalan, approached Palacios about using his wines. He obliged. Palacios’s bottlings, especially those from the Priorat region in Catalonia, are some of Spain’s finest. His Finca Dofí (a Grenache- and Cabernet-based blend) and his Les Terrasses (which combines Carignane and Grenache with a touch of Cabernet and Syrah) are both featured prominently in the film. He also supplied wines from Bierzo, in northwest Spain, as well as a couple of Riojas. In return for all of this fabulous vino, which I can only imagine the actors savored (and for which Palacios supposedly received no payment), he was invited to attend the Spanish premier. Who got the better deal?
My friends must have been inspired by F&W’s list of 20 spectacular holiday parties in the December issue because this month has turned into one nonstop party – cocktail parties, cookie swap parties, Mad Men–themed parties, Monday Night Football parties, dinner parties. I can barely keep up with finding enough cute party dresses, let alone finding the perfect hostess gifts. You can never go wrong with bubbly or booze. Here, some more personalized gift ideas that I’ve found to be a hit on the party circuit:
Roost’s Elixir bar straw set is a great addition to any home bartender’s collection. The platinum-tipped stirrers come in a wooden holder so they won’t ever get lost.
* Utilitarian Vases
Fashion designer Reem Acra told me about Hope Forever’s blossoming “plastivases”. They take form when filled up with water and fold flat for easy storage when not being used.
Vosges Haut Chocolat’s Beer and Bacon gift box pairs Oregon’s Rogue Shakespeare, a deliciously hoppy oatmeal stout, with Vosges’s salty, sweet applewood smoked bacon milk chocolate bars.
*Eco Beauty Bonus
Pangea Organics’ holiday gift sets are filled with exceptional eco-friendly bar soaps, body lotions, face scrubs and hand gels. Even more exciting, the seeds of a spruce tree are embedded in the molded fiber box. Plant it now and you’ll have a Christmas tree by next season.
*Farm Fresh Cheese
Support New England family farms by leasing a Jersey cow in a friend’s name through Rent Mother Nature. Your friend gets three supercreamy 8-ounce wheels of Brie or cheddar cheese, plus regular updates on the cow from its pasture in Vermont.
Map out your next trip to London, Tokyo, New York City or Paris over dinner with a set of easy-to-clean world map place mats.
© Courtesy of Pangea Organics
Holiday gift boxes from Pangea Organics grow into Christmas trees