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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


Frank Bruni Farewell Party


Frank Bruni’s tenure as restaurant critic for the New York Times has spoiled me rotten. I’ve eaten with him at great restaurants and, even better sometimes, at terrible ones (more on that later). So as a small thank you, I threw a little party for him at the best party spot in the city, the third floor of the Spotted Pig.

You’re not supposed to talk about Pig’s third-floor parties. Here’s what little can be said.

* All kinds of people came to fête Frank, from one of my favorite Times political reporters, Katharine Seelye, to super-elite chefs like Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin.

* A debate over Frank's absolute-worst restaurant experience came down to a meal at the now-defunct Ago (which included a wine spill on Frank’s dinner companion, a 50-plus-minute table wait and very bad food) versus any dinner at the Japanese high-concept Ninja. The Ninja dinner “won.” (Frank confirmed that Ninja was his worst meal as a critic.)

* Some of the chefs who came to see Frank off (a.k.a. the ones who actually stayed in the city and worked before the long weekend) included Craft and Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, Marea's Michael White and Sueños's Sue Torres, who represented the early shift. On the late shift: the Pig’s April Bloomfield, Locanda Verde’s Andrew Carmellini and Minetta Tavern’s Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson. There for the duration: Spotted Pig co-owner and party host nonpareil Ken Friedman and LaFrieda Meats' Mark Pastore.

* Sample conversation: Colicchio grilling Frank about the Times adopting a half-star system. While Colicchio argued that not all three-star restaurants are the same (David Chang’s name might have come up), Bruni countered that half stars mean you can’t make up your mind. Also up for discussion: how quickly Frank was recognized in some dining rooms (Locanda Verde might be the winner: From their open kitchen vista, Carmellini and sous chef Luke Ostrom spotted him even before the hostesses did).

* The party was a toast to his tenure as critic and not to his new book, Born Round. Not only did Frank politely decline to sign copies (for a few brown-nosing chefs and restaurateurs), but he also didn’t tell me that the book had just made the Times nonfiction best-seller list.


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.


Biggest Loser Breakfast Workout


I'm a huge fan of the show The Biggest Loser, so when I was offered the opportunity to go to a morning workout with one of its fitness trainers, Bob Harper, I jumped at the chance. Bob, along with a few familiar faces from past seasons (Tara included!), came to NYC to demo the new Nintendo Wii Biggest Loser video game. We got in a fun and somewhat difficult 30-minute workout, following Bob's exercise moves on screen as he cheered us on in person. The game looked so lifelike and included everything from squats to yoga, just like on the show. Then we had breakfast, featuring recipes from The Biggest Loser series of cookbooks. I must say that the turkey patties were delicious-full of flavor and juicy. I recently tested The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook and had success with the New Favorite Meatballs recipe. White breadcrumbs, milk and eggs were replaced with quick cooking oats, skim milk and egg whites.

Some other recipes Bob would approve of are:

Lemon-Stuffed Grilled Branzino

Summer Farro Salad

Rice-Noodle Salad with Chicken and Herbs

Mango-Glazed Turkey Breast

Tomato, Cucumber and Sweet Onion Salad with Cumin Salt

Crab, Avocado and Asparagus Salad


London Pop-Up Cake Shop


For F&W’s September issue, I wrote about an incredible dinner party that London-based ceramicist Peter Ting hosted at the country house he shares with his partner, Brian Kennedy, and his friend Rachel Lamb. Ting gave F&W an exclusive look at his new Hachi tabletop collection for Royal Crown Derby and also shared some of his best recipes. Though he is an excellent cook, Ting's true passion is baking. He recently launched a London-based group called the Cake Committee that meets every other month (Oct. 18 and Dec. 13 will be the next dates) in Pullens Yards. A minimum of 10 amateur and professional bakers bring at least one cake, pie, tart or brioche to sell by the slice to raise money for charity. I sent Peter my favorite F&W recipe for red velvet cake, which he made for the committee’s inaugural meeting.




Shootin' & Drinkin'


When I heard about a trip called Shootin' & Drinkin', I knew I had to check it out. What a wacky combination. The trip to the Hudson Valley is offered by a cool new Manhattan-based outdoor adventure company called Urban Escapes, and combines clay shooting and whiskey tasting—though not at the same time, I was assured by Bram Levy, the director and also one of the guides. The day starts with a two-hour lesson on clay shooting (basically firing a shotgun at clay targets). After riding through the forest in golf carts stopping at various stations to shoot clay discs, the group calms their adrenaline rush with a tasting of artisanal vodkas and whiskeys at Tuthilltown Distillery in nearby Gardiner, New York. Not all of Urban Escapes' trips are so Wild West. River tubing and wine tasting down the Delaware River sounds a lot more low key.



Vermont Cheese Field Trip


Yesterday my colleague Emily McKenna gave an enticing preview of the first ever Vermont Cheesemakers Festival on August 23. Murray’s Cheese has organized a 24-hour field trip to get transportation-challenged, cheese-loving New Yorkers to Vermont. A red-eye bus departs Manhattan at midnight, stops for breakfast at Vermont's excellent Farmers Diner and drops passengers at the festival when the doors open at 10 a.m. The field trip tickets include round-trip transportation, breakfast, festival entry, and special access to some of Vermont’s top producers.


© Murray's Cheese
Murray's will be leading a field trip from NYC to the festival.



Vermont Cheesemakers Festival


It’s almost time for the first Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, on August 23. The state is a known stomping ground for cheesemakers and now has the highest number of producers per capita. If you’re a cheesemaker or just a cheese fanatic, this one-day fest at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms is your Woodstock. F&W Best New Chef 2008 Eric Warnstedt from nearby Hen of the Wood will demo his favorite recipes incorporating cheese. Authors Laura Werlin and Liz Thorpe of Murray's Cheese in New York City will share pairing secrets alongside beer-and-cheddar tastings and Cheesemaking 101 classes. Ticket holders can sample cheese from 40 local artisans before closing the day with a harvest dinner at the Inn at Shelburne Farms featuring—you guessed it—more fantastic Vermont cheese and produce. There were 1,000 tickets; nearly half are already gone. Go to http://www.vtcheesefest.com/ for details.


Pop-Up Wine and Design



The coolest new place to take in great design, food and wine is MADCrush . This new pop-up bar appears for the first time tonight at NYC's great new Museum of Arts and Design. Restaurant design genius Stephanie Goto created the space largely from recycled wine boxes and crates and it will appear on the museum’s seventh floor every Thursday from 5 to 10:30 p.m., until the end of August. The menu: wines by the taste, glass and bottle from Crush Wine & Spirits. Del Posto’s Mark Ladner is cooking for opening night. Future guest chefs will include George Mendes of Aldea and Scott Conant of Scarpetta.


Brooklyn Beer Bash


Earlier this summer, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg declared the month of July Good Beer Month. With July nearly over, I plan on celebrating with a good brew (or two or three) tomorrow night at Good Beer at BAM. A dozen restaurants and food artisans will be providing beer-friendly food for this event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; experts like Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver will find the perfect matches from among a dozen breweries, including Allagash and Ommegang. (Confirmed pairings include Gramercy Tavern’s home brew with house-made sausages and Widow's Hole oysters with Left Hand Brewing's Milk Stout.) There will even be beer desserts from the Bent Spoon, including "Dark Philosophy," 61 percent chocolate ice cream flavored with Ommegang's Three Philosophers and cherries.

Tickets are still available. Buy them here.


Good Beer


Burger Summit


BGR's 19-pound burger

The parking lot of the Summit Grand Hotel in Summit, New Jersey, is maybe the world’s most unlikely place to find a high concentration of exceptional hamburgers. But the Burger Summit, the closing event of this weekend’s Summit Wine & Food Festival, made this far-fetched scenario a reality. Among the heroic NYC chefs who came to NJ to sear up burgers: Michael Psilakis (an F&W Best New Chef 2008), who topped thick Kefi burgers with an alluring feta-pepper spread; my hero Joey Campanaro of the Little Owl, who offered both sliced and speared Guss’s pickles with his awesome bacon–American cheese burgers; Alex Raij of Txikito, whose indulgent El Doble burger was layered with smoked sheep’s-milk cheese and creamy sauce; and the outstanding Black Label Burger from Minetta Tavern’s Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr. But none of them won awards from the judging panel, which included the famed LaFrieda meat boys and all the members of the Burger of the Month club. Who were the winners? Some non-household names, including NYC's Stand for best classic and Belmar, NJ's Boom for best slider. The Feedbag’s Josh Ozersky, the event’s emcee, has all the details, as well as coverage of the straight-from-the-Weather-Channel hailstorm that hit, but didn’t stop, the Burger Summit.

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