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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Laurent Gras Proves Why He’s Food & Wine’s Fittest Chef

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© Jen Leuzzi
Ken Vendrinski, Laurent Gras & George Hincapie Ride for Hope

Laurent Gras, chef at L2O in Chicago, isn’t just one of the best cooks in the country. He’s also one of the world’s fittest guys, according to Men’s Fitness (seriously). No surprise, he made the cut to be one of F&W’s fittest chefs, too.

My friend, food blogger Jen Leuzzi (aka Mrs. Laurent Gras), tells how all that led to LG’s participation in the 100-kilometer charity Ride for Hope in Charleston, South Carolina, this past weekend.

At a dinner prepared with Laurent, chef Ken Vedrinski of Charleston's Trattoria Lucca stood with pro cycling champion George Hincapie and recounted this story:

Food & Wine magazine did a story on the 10 fittest chefs in America—and I was one of them and so was Laurent Gras; we’re both cyclists. I thought I’d really like to cook with him, but how do we get him down here? George is how. I cold-called Laurent and invited him down to do the Ride for Hope with George and cook a dinner afterwards, and here we are.

At the after-party down the street at Enoteca, Gras and Vedrinksi offered their services to George’s BMC team for the 2011 Tour de France (teams travel with their own chefs). Ken said he’d cook for one week. Laurent agreed for the week in the Alps. Haute cuisine, indeed.

Chefs

A Night with Ferran for A Day at El Bulli Screening

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© kate krader
Ferran Adrià with F&W star contributor Anya von Bremzen.

Ferran Adrià was only in New York briefly—I estimate 48 hours—but he still screened the amazing documentary A Day at El Bulli. The profile of the world’s most famous restaurant is directed by Ferran’s brother, Albert Adrià (more on Albert in a second). Here, a few more cool details.

The Film: As the name suggests, A Day at El Bulli includes morning coffee with Adrià, a surprisingly laid-back staff meal, the arrival of the first customers at 7:30 pm (remember, this is Spain), the departure of the last customer at who-knows-what time, and plenty of mind-blowing food all the way through.

The Screening Location
: The just-opening Bar Basque in the Eventi hotel in midtown NYC, which will feature a rotating list of visiting chefs from the Basque region. Another smart feature of the restaurant: a giant projector with the capacity to show films on the wall of an adjacent building.

What Ferran Said At the Reception (in Spanish, via a translator): “This is the first time I’ve seen the film since I announced the closing of El Bulli. Now I know, the spirit must continue. But it’s necessary to have a transformation.” Ferran will announce his exact plans for the new El Bulli at the next Madrid Fusión conference on January 26, 2011. Meanwhile, he’s heavily involved with Albert in a new version of their terrific tapas Barcelona tapas bar, Inopia.

Cookbooks

More Notes from the NYC Wine & Food Festival

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© Lou Manna
Rocco DiSpirito

My colleague Kate Krader recently blogged about her three highlights from last weekend's New York City Wine & Food Festival.  I'm going to add two more to the list.

* My friend Cricket Azima taught a kids' cooking class on Saturday, part of the Kids Get Cooking! segment of the festival.  She deftly led 50 kids (some even clad in chef jackets) in making panzanella.  Nothing beats seeing a bunch of kids happily dicing veggies, all yelling "Mangia, mangia, mangia!" ("Eat, eat, eat!" in Italian) in unison. 

* On Sunday, Rocco DiSpirito cracked jokes during his culinary demo, as he shared secrets for making over comfort foods from his latest book, Now Eat This!  Rocco related how he wanted to find a way to have real fried chicken, while cutting out a lot of the fat: "Who needs another baked chicken recipe?" he said.  He consulted Harold McGee, father of all things scientific in the kitchen, and discovered that less time in oil = less fat absorbed. So, he came up with the idea to poach chicken in broth until almost cooked through, dunk it in the requisite buttermilk bath and flour coating, then flash-fry it very quickly in hot oil.  Chicken that's crispy and lower in fat: genius!

Wine

Highlights: New York City Wine & Food Festival

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© Joshua David Stein
Andrew Zimmern and Michael White in action at Carts in the Parc

On the CBS Early Show the morning after the close of the spectacular/crazy/non-stop New York City Wine & Food Festival, Bobby Flay said he couldn’t pick a highlight. I sympathize – there was a lot to choose from. But I did manage to pick my 3 favorite brand new (and parties) events from NYCWFF.

*Sommelier Showdown
– On Saturday morning, the country's best (and it would seem most hungover) sommeliers, plus some adventurous wine fans, congregated at Del Posto for a superfun blind-tasting contest, complete with elimination rounds, performances by new wine-rapping star Justin Warner and a big win by Bar Boulud’s Michael Madrigale.

*The Cosmopolitan After Party
– Yes, I was excited for a late-night party from the opening-soon Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas (I’m partial to any party that has the prefix "after"). And this was pretty much the kind of party I dream about — superb sushi from Blue Ribbon, no line and great drinks at the bar, good DJ, sweet rooftop option and an old-school photo booth that let you choose black-and-white or color (always b&w).  
 
*Carts in the ParcAndrew Zimmern, F&W’s new favorite TV food star, played host to a genius afternoon party at the very cool, just opened FoodParc and invited 24 of his favorite food trucks to park there. In less than five minutes I managed to eat a killer tongue slider from chef Michael White, a Biryani Cart superspicy kati roll and a Treats Truck peanut-butter cupcake. Eater’s Joshua David Stein has more hilarious highlights.

Cocktails

Highlights from NYC’s Brewer’s Bash

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© Evan Miller
Brewer's Bash at Eleven Madison Park.



I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to end NYC Craft Beer Week than closing down Eleven Madison Park (which happens to have one of the best craft beer lists in the city) to throw a crazy beer-themed party. Tables were removed from the dining room; picnic tables were added outside and two bands were brought in to jam. Six awesome craft brewers were pouring their beers alongside awesome beer-friendly food from chef Daniel Humm.

Here, the highlights:
*Going back for seconds, thirds and fourths of Humm’s ridiculously delicious fried chicken and decadent foie gras.   

*Fantastic brews from Ommegang, Goose Island, Victory, Captain Lawrence, Allagash and Brooklyn Brewery.  

*Sampling beer cocktails made by Eleven Madison Park’s mixologists with A Voce chef Missy Robbins. My favorite was the Ceylon Sophie, a mix of Goose Island Sophie Farmhouse Ale, amontillado sherry, lemon juice and ceylon cinnamon.

*Hitting up the cask ale tasting led by Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver with L’Artusi’s Joe Campanale and Kevin Garry.

Farms

Fresh Ideas For Our Food System

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Truck Farm

© Wicked Delicate
Truck Farm creator Ian Cheney and IATP fellow and collaborator Curt Ellis

 

Last Thursday F&W's Features intern Chelsea Morse attended "Fresh Ideas for Our Food System," a reception hosted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Food and Society Fellows. The IATP provides fellowships to individuals ranging from chefs to farmers to filmmakers, all working toward creating a healthier and more sustainable food system. Here, she reports on some of the most interesting projects they're working on:

-Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, co-producers of the documentary film King Corn, have created Truck Farm, a functional garden in the flatbed of a pickup truck. The duo completed an East Coast school tour this spring, encouraging kids of all ages to think outside the box about urban farming.

-Just launched last week, ParentEarth.com is a new clearinghouse of information to help parents make healthy choices about their children’s food. Short videos from experts like school chef Ann Cooper and Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish, address issues from teaching preschoolers how to compost to helping kids understand food advertising.

-Aiming to debut in early 2011, public service program FoodCorps will recruit young adults through AmeriCorps to work on farm-to-school projects, building classroom gardens and implementing nutrition education.

Recipes

Dream Cooking with Melissa Clark on GMA

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© Lucy Schaeffer

I don't get to spend much time in the kitchen—one pitfall of being a restaurant editor. But every Wednesday I dream cook via Melissa Clark's excellent Good Appetite series in the New York Times's Dining Out section. (I also cook vicariously when she contributes to F&W magazine.) Now Clark has given me 150 of her recipes in one place—100 of which are brand new—in the just-out cookbook In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. Each great dish comes with a great story; Clark is as good a storyteller as she is a cook. She’s also sympathetic to lazy cooks; a duck confit from Blue Ribbon's Bromberg brothers inspires her to make a super easy version with no additional fat (it’s called, fittingly, Really Easy Duck Confit). Should you need more evidence of how simple and great Clark's recipes are, you can watch her make her chicken fingers on Good Morning America on Friday, October 1 at 8.50 a.m. They sound so good, it just might get me into the kitchen.

Cocktails

Highlights: Day 2 Le Grand Fooding

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© kate krader
Le Fooding celebrities Jeffrey Steingarten and Daniel Patterson.

Saturday night of Le Grand Fooding, the irreverent food event featuring chefs from NYC and San Francisco at PS1, had a different cast of characters, and its very own highlights.

Most-Worth-It Line/Heros of the Night
: Pizza Moto, the Brooklyn-based mobile pizza oven, made pretty much perfect margarita pies for a crowd that stretched across the length of PS 1. And they did so all night, making pizzas way past closing to feed all the event staff.

Celebrity Sighting: Vogue’s Jeffrey Steingarten who camped out for most of the night near San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson, where he critiqued the hay Patterson used to smoke his vegetables.

After Party: At the terrific nearby bar Dutch Kills, Jim Meehan and his crew from PDT previewed a new double shake-to-high-five that you might see if anyone ever does a remake of the movie Cocktail.

Added Benefit: All net proceeds from Le Grand Fooding went to benefit Action Against Hunger.

 

Cocktails

Highlights: Le Grand Fooding

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Aziz Ansari on line for fried chicken at Le Fooding.

For anyone who didn’t score a ticket to the two-day all-out foodie extravaganza at PS1 in Long Island City, NY, it’s hard to understand the allure of Le Grand Fooding. The lines are long, even by NYC Shake Shack standards. The NY vs SF theme was played out nine months ago. (A he said/he said blog between Momofuku’s David Chang and Daniel Patterson, chef at San Francisco’s remarkable Coi restaurant, devolved into nothing; Patterson said Chang was his best friend there.) So why is it such a super fun event? My main theory is that less, not more, top-flight chefs, pizza-makers and mixologists make them all the more memorable. Here are a few other reasons I loved Day 1. My Highlights of Day 2 coming tomorrow.

Most-Worth-It Line: For fried chicken, from Seersucker in Brooklyn, NY.  Some people said they clocked an hour waiting. Still, the chicken was outstanding, crispy and hot and well spiced.

Celebrity Sightings
: Jake Gyllenhaal (in full beard camouflage); Aziz Ansari, who smartly positioned friends in every line so he got to taste everything, then left to go to the secret Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs concert.

MVP: Jim Meehan, the brains behind F&W Cocktail books. He patiently shook about a million Belvedere Parkside Fizz cocktails to fortify the line-standers.

Menus

Preview: New York Craft Beer Week

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© NY Craft Beer Weej
NY Craft Beer Week

The third annual New York Craft Beer Week officially kicks off today and runs through Sunday, October 3. I asked event director Josh Schaffner to help me navigate my tasting schedule. Here, his cheat sheet:

1) The first annual Brewer’s Bash at Eleven Madison Park is being billed as the beer version of the restaurant’s insanely fun Kentucky Derby party. “The goal is to recreate the Derby party for beer,” says Schaffner. “Eleven Madison Park came to us to collaborate, and they are really serious about the beer at their restaurant.” The draw: Six brewers and their craft beers, two live bands, a cask tasting with Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver and six beer cocktails paired with chef Daniel Humm’s beer pretzels and beer cheese, foie gras terrine, pickled vegetables and other beer-friendly foods.
2) As awesome as the Brewer’s Bash sounds, Schaffner’s pick for the must-hit event of the week is the beer-pairing dinner at Mas Farmhouse on September 29. Roving chef-brewer Sean Z. Paxton is teaming up with Mas chef Galen Zamarra for a six-course meal that will pair beers from six different breweries with dishes such as orange-glazed escargot.
3) Must-try beer: Pretty Things will be debuting a brew from Edwardian times at Swift Hibernian Lounge.
4) New brewery to seek out: Schaffner is excited about the beers being made by Barrier, a tiny new brewery in Oceanside, New York. Try them all week at Dive Bar.

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