Having been battered by Eatocracy commenters who found my previous listicle the Seven Sins of Steak Houses “too negative,” I thought I might correct that with a sequel: things to look for in a great steak house. I agree that you can’t just complain and walk away, unless, like me, your dream is to live on an Icelandic sheep pasture. We all love steak houses, and we all want to have great experiences there, and we are even willing to pay for them. But how do you know where to go? Here are some pointers. (I’m assuming your primary desire in a steak house is to get great steak. If you are after romantic atmosphere or Dover sole, you are reading the wrong man.) Read more >>
If you’ve never heard of mooncakes, the baked pastry that is typically given as a gift during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, now is the perfect time to seek them out. The festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month, which, according to our handy Chinese lunar calendar, is today! So laugh it up like chef Yip Wing Wah (left). Chef Yip is The Peninsula Hotels' dim sum ambassador and he recently showed us how to make the sugary calorie bombs on his first US mooncake tour. Here, bizarre mooncake trivia to prepare for celebrations this week.
1. A 4-inch mooncake has roughly 1,000 calories; a Big Mac contains 550.
2. You can buy mooncakes for puppies in Hong Kong.
3. Häagen-Dazs makes an ice cream mooncake.
4. Luxury mooncakes encrusted in gold and stuffed with shark fin have been used to bribe corrupt officials
5. Chef Yip makes 400,000 mooncakes each festival and sells out in one day.
To borrow from Stephen Colbert, there is a "truthiness" about Riesling that unfortunately overshadows the truth. The truthiness is that Riesling is inherently sweet. The truth is that most Rieslings are so dry that the Garden of Eden would lose all its foliage if watered with a magnum. So let's start another conversation about Riesling, focusing on four things: balance, delicacy, complexity and sense of place.
We sometimes think of balance as one-dimensional. In fact, balance in wine requires a multiplicity of things—acids, sugars, pH levels, alcohol, magic dust—all in perfect alignment. And the cool thing about Riesling is that when one of these factors moves across the spectrum, the others shift to maintain equilibrium. There is no precise formula to measure balance; we just know it when we feel it. And what we feel with a glass of Riesling in our hand is what tightrope walker Philippe Petit feels every day at work.
Delicacy does not mean fragility or excessive sensitivity. Ultimately, the delicacy we yearn for in wine is a physiological rallying cry leading from one sip to a second. The palate should be so intrigued by what the wine has done to the taste buds that it cannot resist the opportunity to experience it again. With Riesling, one taste begs for another.
Complexity Put on your seat belt, because the journey through the various aromas and flavors of Riesling is a thrill ride that even Six Flags could not map out. Around every bend are citrus fruits, stone fruits, fruits that haven't even been named yet, coupled with floral overtones and buttressed by minerality that's like a quarry of boulders.
A grape's ability to express the land in which it's grown is one of the world's great mysteries (slightly below our fascination with Kim Kardashian). We recognize the existence of terroir when we line up five glasses of Riesling, from different places, and recognize the differences between them. That is Mother Earth screaming at us in liquid form!
Ultimately, the measure of truthfulness in Riesling is the happiness it creates. Your brain reels after every sip; your toes tingle so much you cannot put your socks on. As Ben Franklin famously said, wine is constant proof that God loves us. And with Riesling, we know God loves us absolutely.
Paul Grieco is co-owner of Hearth restaurant and Terroir wine bars in NYC.
Here, F&W's executive wine editor suggests five top picks for $12 or less.
2012 Vega Sindoa Tempranillo ($9)
A tiny cooperative of eight Navarran families grows the grapes for this bright, crisp Spanish red.
2010 Vale do Bomfim Douro Red ($11)
This blend of native Portuguese grapes from the Douro Valley is surprisingly complex.
2012 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc ($12)
A perennial value, Dry Creek's Chenin Blanc offers layers of citrus-melon flavor.
2010 Il Molino di Grace Il Volano ($12)
A fresh, herby Tuscan red, it's a blend of Sangiovese with 2percent Merlot.
2011 Novellum Chardonnay ($12)
This fragrant Chardonnay is made with hand-harvested grapes from France's Côtes Catalanes region.
Last year when barman extraordinaire Jim Meehan did his list of the Top 10 New Bars around the country, I said it was one of the best times in recent memory to be drinking great cocktails.
I was wrong. This is the best time in recent memory to be drinking great cocktails, whether it's a perfectly stirred Negroni or a Cosmo that you ordered after putting on your best shoulder-padded jacket. Drinking is more fun than it's been in a long time.
Here to tell you more is Jim Meehan, the manager of Manhattan's outstanding bar PDT and the editor of F&W's cocktail books. To see more about what he's drinking, follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @mixography.
The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog (New York City)
Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry spent years researching for the Dead Rabbit, a multilevel tavern that seems to have time traveled to the heart of Manhattan's Financial District straight from the 1850s. The downstairs Taproom is the place for beers and whiskeys. The second floor Parlor has a menu with dozens of über-classic cocktails and communal punches; when you sit down, you're served an “appetizer”: a teacup of a featured punch. The assortment of cool old-school cups even includes ones with mustache guards. @deadrabbitNYC
Pouring Ribbons (New York City)
Over on Avenue B in Manhattan's East Village, Joaquín Simó, Troy Sidle and Toby Maloney opened this second-floor bar. The menu features 15 house drinks and 15 classics; they're arranged on a grid that lets you figure out your cocktail profile, from Refreshing to Spirituous and Comforting to Adventurous. The Two Trick Pony, made with whiskey, bourbon and the Champagne of beers is one of the more Adventurous drinks here. @pouringribbons
Range (Washington, DC)
Chef Bryan Voltaggio's sprawling 300-seat restaurant has eight separate, fully functional kitchen stations that produce everything in-house for the adventurous menu. Barman Owen Thomson uses the restaurant's very cool resources to make the 25 house cocktails (he and his team choose spirits by blind tasting). Another thing I love about this place: It's one of the country's best new restaurants and best new bars. And it's in a mall. @volt_range
Barmini (Washington, DC)
For his first cocktail-centric spot, renowned chef José Andrés employs many of the avant-garde techniques that made his neighboring restaurant Minibar famous. (Don't forget he pioneered the Salt Air margarita, too.) Head bartender Juan Coronado scours the globe for antique glassware—some dates to the 1920s—for his classic and modern day concoctions. The table behind the bar, where bartenders work as chefs do, is genius. @barminibyjose
Paper Plane (Decatur, GA)
Behind Victory Sandwich Bar, a place that's known for it's Jack & Coke frozen slushies, is this sort-of hidden lounge with walnut veneer paneling and black vinyl booths. Local hero bartender Paul Calvert has a short, well-chosen cocktail list that ranges from sherry-based drinks to the Bottle of Smoke. It's a mix of mezcal, house-made raspberry syrup, lemon, Cynar and sparkling wine, and it's delicious with the wild striped bass panzanella, made with hunks of brioche seared in duck fat, from Paper Plane's food menu.
No Vacancy (Hollywood)
Jonnie and Mark Houston spent three years restoring a century-old Victorian-era Hollywood house, then transformed it into an early 20th-century club that blends Wild West saloon with a gentlemen's club. The gin- and whiskey-forward cocktail list was curated by barman Sean Hamilton. He chose a dozen bartenders to contribute recipes for the opening menu. I gave them a white rum, lemon and ginger liqueur drink with a hit of curry. The entrance is the single greatest bar experience ever, but I won't ruin it for you. I will say that if you're going to have aerialist “dancers” at a bar, you might as well have it in L.A., where they know what they're doing. novacancyla.com
Trick Dog (San Francisco)
In the Mission, San Francisco's hottest new bar shares the same space as a couple of the city's other cool spots, Sightglass Coffee and Central Kitchen. The two-story bar, the handiwork of Scott Baird and Josh Harris, features 25 house creations listed on a menu formatted like a 45 rpm record book (The Clash's “Bankrobber” is a Wild Turkey rye–based drink). Chef Chester Watson's concise bar menu—cracklins, shrimp cocktail with house Bloody Mary mix—is available late into the evening. @trickdogbar
Polite Provisions (San Diego)
Behind the bar here is San Francisco drinks expert Erick Castro. The place is a craft cocktail bar with a beverage program modeled after an early 19th-century neighborhood soda fountain. The bar shares the same trendy address as Soda & Swine, a meat-focused concept by the Michelin-starred chef Jason McLeod. I'm not big on happy hours, but I'd hit this one, which runs from Monday through Thursdays. @politeSanDiego
Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago)
Guests entering the alley of this bar can follow a thin trail of blue lights to the entrance. Barman Paul McGee and chef Doug Psaltis headline the team behind this glammed up modern tiki bar, named after an old Don the Beachcomber cocktail. The beautifully illustrated menu features classic and modern tiki cocktails (including its namesake, made with aged rhum agricole, Guyanese rum, honey and falernum), along with large-format offerings that serve three to 12. A small food menu of island fare (luau chips, beef negimaki) is available, next to tikis gathered from former Trader Vic's outposts in Chicago. @ThreeDotsCHI
Broken Shaker (Miami)
Initially opened as a pop-up, Elad Zvi and Gabe Orta's Bar Lab team has made this South Beach's most soulful bar. Not that hard, but this is an all-time great bar. Located in the Freehand hostel, the Broken Shaker serves handcrafted cocktails prepared from ingredients grown in its own garden. The space is indoors/outdoors; you can sit by the pool and drink the Rhum and Funk, made with Cocoa Puffs–infused rhum agricole.
It’s easier than ever to fake your way through a summertime cookout. You’ve heard about the test tube burger; you had to, it cost $33,000. Meanwhile, sales of alternative meat products, like faux hot dogs, continue to rise (to more than $550 million last year). The one cookout staple that doesn’t easily lend itself to veganism is ribs. So, before someone comes up with a test tube version, let’s shout out epic pork and beef ribs around the country.
Texas star chef Tim Love, whose restaurants include the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro and Love Shack, happens to be a ribs expert. He kindly provided a list of his favorite ribs spots—both pork and beef. Believe it or not, he’s got his eyes wide open enough to find a go-to place in Toronto.
Bludso’s; Compton, CA
This is a storefront with bad-ass pork ribs in a neighborhood I knew only from rap songs. (Now there’s a new branch of Bludso’s in Hollywood.) The ribs are Texas style: They’re not covered in too much sweet sauce, which is one reason I was attracted to them. It turns out that the owner, Kevin Bludso, comes from a Texas barbecue family. He uses just a little bit of a rub, enough to take it beyond salt and pepper and make the meat really good. bludsosbbq.com
JT’s Bar-B-Que; Del City, OK
JT’s is like a real old-school men’s club inside. I think they just got a women’s restroom a few years ago. The ribs are really, really good. JT’s makes them Texas style and uses spareribs; they’re a little thicker than baby backs, which is typically what you see in Oklahoma. The meat just pulls right off the bones. You’ll just see ribs on everyone’s plate. jtsbarbque.com
The Joint; New Orleans
While I love New Orleans and its amazing fusion of Creole and seafood, I just don’t think of it as a great barbecue destination. But this at this place, the pulled pork and pork ribs were off the chart. You can always find BBQ in a BBQ city but to find it in a non-BBQ city is amazing. They use baby backs with a kind of Cajun rub to it, almost like a blackening seasoning. alwayssmokin.com
Jojo’s Barbeque; Potosi, TX
I found this place when I was in San Angelo for my son’s baseball tournament. It is the middle of friggen’ nowhere, a family-run business with kids working the counter. I got the Trinity plate. The brisket is fine, the sausage is pretty good. But the ribs, they were so tender, it was almost as if they were braised. They weren’t, they were smoked with just a little salt and pepper on them. If you find yourself rolling 15 minutes outside that giant city of Abilene, you’re lucky you get to have these ribs. jojosbarbeque.com
Barque Smokehouse; Toronto
If you’re this far north and you want to have respectable ribs, I’ve got a place. Barque looks more like a restaurant than a BBQ spot, though there’s a massive smoker in the open kitchen. David Neinstein puts a little bit of sauce on his ribs, then grills them so they’re really crispy. They’re not too messy or too saucy—I just don’t like those ribs. My dad is from Canada, which is how I first found these ribs. I’m a pretty tough dude to please when it comes to meat, and I was impressed. Definitely worth the wait to get into this place. barque.ca
Woodshed Smokehouse; Fort Worth, TX
This is my spot. We use baby back ribs, which we rub with pure cane sugar, chile powder, toasted cumin, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. We’re real particular, we use pecan wood, and we smoke the ribs for 3 hours and 15 minutes, and serve with zero sauce. That’s really important to me. The herbs are crispy, the meat is nice and tender. woodshedsmokehouse.com
Lockhart Smokehouse; Dallas
You can only get beef ribs here on certain days, so you better know what those days are. Here, they smoke beef shoulder, and about once a week they have beef ribs, which they sell until they run out. They’re seasoned with just straight salt and pepper, and they offer all kinds of pickles to go with them from the pickle bar. The ribs are really meaty, the edges have an awesome crispness. lockhartsmokehouse.com
Smoke Restaurant; Dallas
The chef Tim Byres serves what is basically a giant beef short rib; he calls it The Big Rib. It’s got a thick coating of salt and pepper; the crust is most ridiculous thing you’ve ever had. Tim slow smokes that meat for a long, long time. It’s one solid rib, and it sure as hell looks good, too. smokerestaurant.com
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que; Llano, TX
Cooper’s has a couple of different locations, but I’m going to talk about the one in Hill Country. They’re famous for their Big Chop, which is a center-cut pork chop. I like their beef ribs that they sell about once a week. Cooper’s does open-pit smoking. They use direct heat, calm the coals down, then put the ribs over them. The meat is a little chewier than some other beef ribs, but it has the most intense smoky flavor. coopersbbqllano.com
Three fire-loving chefs show us their smartest tricks for grilling—all gratifyingly low-tech.
Beef Flavor Boost
Bryant Ng, chef at the Spice Table in Los Angeles, is an umami master. He often rubs steaks and burgers with Southeast Asian fermented shrimp paste before grilling. The cooked meat doesn’t smell or taste fishy at all—just incredibly rich and savory.
Ng won’t grill without an old-fashioned bamboo fan, using it like a bellows to intensify the fire’s heat. Not only are foods less likely to stick to an ultra-hot grate, but thin skewered cuts brown on the outside quickly without overcooking and drying out within.
The Pause Break
Adam Perry Lang, founder of Daisy May’s BBQ USA in NYC, takes larger cuts, like double-cut pork chops, off the grill about halfway through cooking. He lets the meat rest for several minutes—allowing it to evenly cook throughout—before finishing on the grill.
Sounds sooty but it isn’t: Lang throws steaks, lamb chops and skin-on boneless chicken breasts directly on hardwood embers—no grate necessary. The red-hot embers perfectly brown the meat, forming a delicious crust.
Bryan Voltaggio, chef at Volt in Frederick, Maryland, prevents fish from falling apart on the grate with this clever move: He soaks the raw fish for 10 minutes in brine. Use 1 tablespoon fine sea salt per 4 cups cold water; pat fish dry before grilling.
Char In A Bottle
Voltaggio grills leeks until they’re thoroughly blackened. Then he grinds them, steeps the powdered leek ash in oil overnight and strains. The charred-leek oil develops a complexity that can give any food a fantastic fire-roasted flavor.
During Ramadan, which starts today, Muslims around the world spend a month fasting from dawn to sunset, when they can finally feast. An accomplished cook and blogger, Mais Khourdaji combed the Food & Wine archives for the best recipes to make during the holy month.
Here is what she had to say about some very delicious recipes. MORE >
Relatively new to the Instagram playing field, iconic NYC chef Michael Lomonaco (@cheflomonaco) of Porter House New York is already taking advantage of the platform's new video capabilities. Lomonaco posted two charming clips this week in honor of July 4th weekend, including a demo of his perfect Dark 'n Stormy (he recommends sourcing a good ginger beer like Fever-Tree) and a steak sandwich how-to.
Meanwhile, NOLA superstar John Besh (@chefjohnbesh) is over on his handle making biscuits and F&W Best New Chef 2008 Michael Psikakis (@mpsilakis) and F&W Classic in Aspen hero Marcus Samuelsson (@marcuscooks) will also be posting Instagram videos tied to Independance Day this afternoon. See how chefs and at-home cooks celebrate the holiday F&W-style all weekend by tracking and using the hashtag #FWSummer.
Follow Food & Wine on Instagram @foodandwinemag.
Courtesy of Island Creek
The phenomenal team behind Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, Massachusetts, and Boston’s Island Creek Oyster Bar is two months into the construction of a new, rustic, seafood restaurant called Row 34. “Island Creek Oyster Bar was inspired by the majesty of Duxbury Bay,” says partner Garrett Harker. “Row 34 is a workingman’s expression of the oyster farm.” Here, a sneak peek at the new restaurant plus tips for shucking oysters at home. »