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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Restaurants

Top Chefs Cook for Tibet

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© Sonam Zoksan
Host chef Eric Ripert, right, with Richard Gere and Laurent Manrique.

Where were so many of New York City’s top chefs last Thursday night? April Bloomfield, Dave Chang, Tom Colicchio, Mark Ladner and Anita Lo, among others, weren’t in their kitchens; were they en route to London to surprise Prince William and Kate Middleton? No, they had joined their friend Eric Ripert, the host chef, to cook at the Tibet Fund’s gala dinner at the Pierre Hotel to celebrate 30 years of great work for the people of Tibet. And those chefs were cooking fantastic food right at the long dinner tables. I got to sit at Bloomfield’s table—close enough that she could hand me my sublime three-bean soup with spring vegetables (you’ll soon see it on the menu at The Breslin). If I’d sat at Ladner’s table, he would have handed me hen-and-egg braciole (and asked, “Which came first...?”); and if I’d sat at Chang’s table I would have had Momofuku’s shiitake buns.

© kate krader
Here's How Close I was to April Bloomfield (with her plaque from Tibet Fund).

I already felt lucky to be eating Bloomfield's just-served soup. Then one of the night’s honorees, Richard Gere, told a story about a Tibetan meal he once had that started with a two-hour prayer (he said he stopped being hungry after the first 20 minutes). I asked Ripert, who is a Buddhist, if it would be hard for him to have two-hour prayers before meals. “Maybe,” he said, laughing.

Restaurants

Highlights of Animal’s James Beard Pop-Up

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© Nigel Parry

Kudos to the James Beard Foundation. They’re doing such a great job of using the about-to-be-played-out concept of pop-up restaurants to promote their big gala awards on May 9. Last week, they featured F&W Best New Chef 2002 Laurent Gras; next week comes Paris rock-star chef Inaki Aizpitarte of Le Chateaubriand. And last night I got to see Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the heroes of L.A.'s Animal restaurant, serve dinner at long communal tables in a pretty room in Chelsea Market (home to all the Beard pop-ups).

© kate krader
Animal's crazy foie gras biscuit at their Beard pop-up dinner.

Chef Tom Colicchio was in the kitchen and comedian Aziz Ansari was in the house for the night. Shook and Dotolo's menu ranged from yellowtail sashimi with garlic mojo and sunchoke chips (on the menu at their new fish spot, Son of a Gun) and an outrageous foie gras biscuit with maple sausage gravy, plus a new Animal dish, Thai BBQ quail with cashews and yogurt. (On Friday night, when they team up with another amazing chef team, Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronova of Frankies Spuntino, the menu will be totally different.)

Speaking of pop-ups, if you’re lucky you can see Ansari doing impromptu sketches at comedy clubs around the city. And get an early look at his upcoming summer movie 30 Minutes or Less; trailers will start running in theatres this weekend.

Menus

Eleven Madison Park Geeks Out on Beer

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I always feel a bit sheepish when I tell the sommelier at a high-end restaurant that I’d prefer beer to wine. Luckily, the brilliant team at NYC’s Eleven Madison Park is determined to elevate beer’s status in the fine dining scene. My beer expert friend, writer Christian DeBenedetti, recently directed me to some news he’d read on Brooklyn Brewery’s blog about its beer collaboration with Eleven Madison Park.

The news prompted me to call Eleven Madison Park general manager Will Guidara to get the scoop. “The role of beer in fine dining needs to change,” says Guidara. “Restaurants of our caliber always focus on wine but we’re also intensely focused on cocktails, coffee, tea and right now we’re amidst a full-on beer onslaught.” Kirk Kelewae, Eleven Madison Park’s resident beer expert, along with chef Daniel Humm and Brooklyn Brewery's Garret Oliver, are creating two barrel-aged, bottle-conditioned large-format beers. Nine Pin Brown Ale is named after the game played in the story “Rip Van Winkle” (both beers will be aged in Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon barrels). Local 11 will be a barrel-aged version of Brooklyn Brewery’s popular Local 2. The designer Milton Glaser will create the labels. Guidara says the beer will be exclusive to Eleven Madison Park, with maybe a few cases going to other friends in the industry.

Both beers will make their debut at a special Eleven Madison Park beer dinner June 26, which will also feature other unique beers that Oliver has been experimenting with, like a beer aged on lees from Riesling. “We sold half the tickets within an hour of announcing the event,” says Guidara. Only about 20 tickets are left. Email beer@elevenmadisonpark.com for a seat.

Events

Fresh From the Oven: Food as Performance Art

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Amara Tabor-Smith in "Our Daily Bread."

© Ana Teresa Fernandez
Amara Tabor-Smith in "Our Daily Bread."

Talking about art may be like dancing about architecture (or so David Bowie might have said), but there's no metaphor yet for dancing about food. San Francisco might need to invent one: From a city obsessed with art and food comes a new performance piece by choreographer Amara Tabor-Smith called “Our Daily Bread.” The Oakland, California–based choreographer is the current artist-in-residence at CounterPULSE, an awesome nonprofit performance space and community center. Her piece combines dance, spoken word and video to examine food traditions and social justice issues as they’re played out on the farm and at the table, and the choreography overflows with emotion and personal experience, such as her recent decision to renounce seafood (and thus her favorite dish, her mother’s seafood gumbo) out of concern for commercial overfishing. Tabor-Smith hosted a number of potluck “eat-ins" leading up to the performance, with guests like chef Bryant Terry and writer/urban farmer Novella Carpenter. “Our Daily Bread” debuted last night and runs through April 24. Tickets are available at counterpulse.org.

Cocktails

Best New Chefs 2011 Party: The Recap

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© Sylvain Gaboury/FOOD & WINE
F&W's 2011 Best New Chefs with F&W's Dana Cowin and Chris Grdovic

We now have our official Best New Chefs, Class of 2011! Glasses up for Bowman Brown & Viet Pham (Forage, Salt Lake City); Jason Franey (Canlis, Seattle); Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine, Austin); Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat, Chicago); James Lewis (Bettola, Birmingham, AL); George Mendes (Aldea, New York City); Carlo Mirarchi (Roberta’s, New York City): Joshua Skenes (Saison, San Francisco); Kevin Willmann (Farmhaus, St. Louis); and Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Los Angeles).

We had a little party at Bohemian National Hall to celebrate those chefs last night, with superstars like former Best New Chefs Wylie Dufresne, Andrew Carmellini and Laurent Gras and non–BNC stars like Aziz Ansari, Kyle MacLachlan and Andrew Zimmern in attendance. More former Best New Chefs, like Jonathan Benno and Rocco DiSpirito, cooked for the party while opera singers rapped for entertainment and later Geoffrey Zakarian's new place the National poured Moscow Mules for the after-party.

© kate krader
F&W Best New Chefs practice for the Irish Car Bomb drinking contest.

We’ve learned a lot about our Best New Chefs in the last few days. Here are some little-known facts about several of them. We won’t name names, but you’ll find answers to most (but definitely not all) of these who-did-what stories in our July Best New Chef issue.

*Which BNC almost drowned off an Australian beach, and had only one thought in his/her head: "I can’t believe the last thing I’ll have eaten is a mediocre falafel sandwich."

*Which BNC could start a side business designing fishing rods?

*Which BNC had an eye-opening culinary moment in “France” at Florida’s Epcot Center?

*Which BNC got his/her start at Benihana?

*Which BNC also worked as a home loan officer for Washington Mutual?

*Which BNC thought it would be a good idea to take the BNC after after-party to New York Dolls (a Manhattan strip club)?

*Which BNC blew away the competition in an Irish Car Bomb (beer with a shot in it) drinking contest at the after-after-party at Fitzpatricks? (For the record, I came in 9th out of 9. And found out later that the winner had a history of winning Club Med chugging contests.)

Restaurants

Caveman Bone Marrow at the Museum of Food and Drink Lunch

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© kate krader
Wylie Dufresne's Bone Marrow—just like in caveman times.

I can’t imagine a better way to raise money for the upcoming Museum of Food and Drink than with an amazing lunch at Del Posto in New York City. And that's just what Dave Arnold (Culinary Technology Director at the French Culinary Institute) and Patrick Martins (co-founder of Heritage Foods USA) did for MOFAD this weekend. Hopefully we’ll start walking through the doors of the museum in the next four or five years. In anticipation of that great day, some of the city’s best chefs and mixologists took part in the Get-the-Ball-Rolling Fundraiser. Each was assigned a different period in history or a food trend as their theme. Highlights:

Dave Chang: American Food 1491

Dish: It’s a Shame We Know More About Dinosaurs Than About What Native Americans Ate (Oysters, Acorns and Berries). Although almost no research exists on diets of that period in America, Chang found out that the Native Americans prized oysters—the bigger the better. And served supersized oysters, aged for over a year, with black “acorn bread” and berries.

Wylie Dufresne: Caveman Food

Dish: Bone Appetit (Potato, Bone Marrow, Scallops, Beets, Enoki Mushrooms). Because cavemen had no short supply of bone marrow, as well as root vegetables and shellfish, Dufresne cleverly filled roast potatoes with bone marrow, served them on roast ground scallops that looked like dirt and topped them with roasted enoki mushrooms that looked like twigs. He basically reimagined a bone found in the woods would look like to a caveman. “It was that or roadkill,” said Dufresne.

© kate krader
Mark Ladner's Ancient Rome Ostrich. No silverware required.

Mark Ladner
: Ancient Rome

Dish: Big Bird (Boiled Ostrich). Ladner, the host chef, got his hands on three whole ostrich (one of which he decorated with yellow ostrich feathers and wheeled out as a centerpiece to the meal; he said if he’d been in Rome circa 3 AD, he probably would have ridden it around the Coliseum before turning it into dinner). He stewed the other two until the meat was super tender , mixed it with celery and barley and served it on a round of bread with no silverware.

Christina Tosi: Space Food
Dish: Neapolitan Ice Cream (Strawberry, Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream). “When you think of space food, you think of astronaut ice cream,” said Tosi, who served meringue-like chocolate and strawberry nuggets with vanilla-cream ice cream and brownie batter spread on the plate.   

Recipes

Remembering Elizabeth Taylor

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© Petrina Tinslay

With recipes inspired by some of her most memorable films, Food & Wine celebrates the amazing life of legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor:

National Velvet (1944)
Twelve-year old jockey Velvet Brown’s namesake dessert: Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Ice Cream (pictured). Bonus: her horse’s name was Pie.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Spicy recipes that could have been served by Maggie the Cat at Big Daddy’s revelatory birthday party in New Orleans, including Chicken and Smoked-Sausage Gumbo and Creole Shrimp with Garlic and Lemon.

Cleopatra (1963)
Food fit for a queen: Egyptian Spiced Carrot Puree and Okra in Tomato Sauce.

Chefs

It's Official: Lemon Meringue Pie Equals Spring

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© kate krader
Gramercy Tavern's Springtime Lemon Meringue Pie.

Spring officially started on Sunday, March 20. But for me it begins today, when Nancy Olson and her awesome pastry team at Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern introduce their lemon meringue pie to the menu. Of course it’s amazing—a towering piece of pie that’s roughly 50 percent sweet-tart-velvety lemon curd and 50 percent toasted, pillowy meringue with some extra percent flaky-crisp pastry.

The pie is the brainchild of GT pastry sous chef Alex Ray, whose grandmother made it for every holiday. Ray obsessed about everything from the meringue (she went classic, not Italian, which is made with boiling-hot sugar syrup) to the pastry (she went with sweet pastry, as opposed to more savory pâte brisée) to the burning question of whether to serve the pie with ice cream. And if so, what flavor. At press time, the answer was salted-cashew ice cream. “But that’s negotiable,” says Olson. “If someone wants vanilla, we can do that. This is Gramercy Tavern, it’s like Garanimals here. Mixing and matching is our game.”

Chefs

The People’s Best New Chef 2011: Jamie Bissonnette!

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Jamie Bissonnette is People's Choice Best New Chef!

It’s been a thrilling two weeks of online voting, and now we have a winner for the People’s Best New Chef. Hooray for Jamie Bissonnette, chef at Coppa in Boston! Bissonnette, with co-owner Ken Oringer, has created the kind of neighborhood restaurant we all wish we had down the block, albeit one that adds uni to the house-made spaghetti-and-smoked bacon carbonara.

This is also a good time to applaud regional winners like Midwest champion Lee Richardson, chef at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. Richardson created a dedicated website—voteforcheflee.com—and got American Idol winner Kris Allen to campaign for him. (Next time he's on Idol, I'm voting for him.) And then there’s Ricardo Zarate of L.A.’s Mo-Chica restaurant, who won the Pacific region thanks in part to a huge showing of national pride from the Peruvian community. And Tim Byres at Smoke in Dallas, who threw a big get-out-the-vote party that helped make him the Southwest champion.

Here’s a list of the regional winners (another round of applause). We salute you, and we also salute all 100 chefs in the People’s Best New Chef pool—you can find them here. We admire you all.

The Regional Champions

New England – Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
Mid-Atlantic – Kyle Bailey, Birch & Barley, Washington DC
New York Area – David Felton, Ninety Acres, Peapack-Gladstone, NJ
Southeast – Bryan Emperor, Kalu Asian Kitchen, Charlotte, NC
Gulf Coast – James Lewis, Bettola, Birmingham, AL
Midwest – Lee Richardson, Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel, Little Rock, AR
Southwest – Tim Byres, Smoke, Dallas
Great Lakes – Jose Salazar, The Palace, Cincinnati
Pacific – Ricardo Zarate, Mo-Chica, Los Angeles
Northwest – Jason Franey, Canlis, Seattle

Restaurants

SOBE Burger Bash: The Aftermath

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© South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Marc Murphy and his winning Big Marc burgers

Judging the South Beach Wine & Food Festival Burger Bash isn’t easy. You have to taste a million burgers (or in this case, about 25), you have to choose among a lot of great options and you have to be prepared to have a serious stomachache afterwards. What almost never happens is that the winning burger is the last one you taste (you’re already way past burger overload). But at this year's Bash that’s exactly what happened to me and my fellow judges—including Art Smith and Alex Guarnaschelli—with Marc Murphy’s “Big Marc.”  His juicy, gorgeously charred burger was made with beef from Allen Brothers, topped with bread & butter pickles and spiked ketchup and served on a grilled house-made cheddar-and-black-pepper bun. Alongside, he served killer jalapeño-cheddar tater tots. “Never made the burger before,” says Murphy. “I was concerned with feeding 3,000 people and thought that by adding the cheese to the bun, I'd eliminate a step and feed everyone more quickly.”

Here’s good news for everyone who wants to taste the Big Marc. Murphy got so many requests for the burger after his win that he’s added it and the tater tots to the menu at his Landmarc and Ditch Plains restaurants. Yes, that includes the Ditch Plains that's opening on Manhattan’s Upper West Side tonight. It's a great opportunity to judge the Big Marc for yourself.

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