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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Two Stellar Brunches in Los Angeles

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I just returned from a quick trip to L.A. where I had two fantastic brunches.

Gjelina in Venice makes killer scones (moist and covered in a layer of crisp sugar), pizzas (try the one with grilled radicchio, fontina, bacon and tomato confit), BLTs (on thick slices of grilled bread with a fried egg on top) and butterscotch pot de crème (with salted caramel and crème fraîche).

Tavern in Brentwood is not just a fantastic brunch spot but it's also good for lunch, dinner, cocktails and takeout, too. Try the sticky bun Suzanne-style (topped with two slices of crisp Neiman Ranch bacon!), chorizo and eggs, wild mushroom frittata, lemon-ricotta pancakes and the turkey burger. Be sure to pick up some pastries to go from the larder on your way out.

Some inspiring F&W brunch recipes:

White Bean Huevos Rancheros

French Toast Stuffed with Ricotta and Strawberry Jam

Scrambled Eggs with Herbed Croutons

Smoked Trout Spread with Capers

BLT Fried Egg-and-Cheese Sandwich

Spicy Honey-Glazed Bacon

Sherried Mushrooms with Fried Eggs on Toast

Lemony Cornmeal-Cherry Scones

 

 

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Perfect Pairings Menu Campaign

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© Perfect Pairings
Look for the Perfect Pairings logo on menus throughout October.

 

I recently went to a kick-off party at NYC's Bar Boulud celebrating the launch of the Perfect Pairings Menu Campaign, a great and delicious new initiative to help fight hunger. Throughout October, nearly 100 restaurants in New York City, San Francisco and South Florida will feature special food-and-drink pairings on their menus, designated by the Perfect Pairings fork-and-bottle logo. Every restaurant will donate one dollar from each order to Meals-on-Wheels. I can’t think of a better reason to start experimenting with new food and wine, cocktail or beer matches.

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The Standard Hotel’s Beer Garden

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Kurt Gutenbrunner ringing the bell at the Standard Beer Garden.

© Jennifer Salerno
Kurt Gutenbrunner ringing the bell at the Standard Beer Garden.

It's not every day that a famous Austrian chef hand-feeds you a weisswurst, but that's what happened to me last night at New York City's Standard Hotel's Beer Garden.

Wearing lederhosen in honor of Oktoberfest and a jean jacket personally given to him by the fashion designer Helmut Lang, Kurt Gutenbrunner (The Upholstery Store, Café Sabarsky, Blaue Gans and Michelin-starred Wallsé) handed out huge rock-salt-encrusted pretzels baked by Amy's Bread to trendy New Yorkers and taught me the proper way to eat a weisswurst (peel off the skin, dip in sweet mustard and devour with or without utensils).

Gutenbrunner rang a bell behind the beer garden's sausage bar throughout the night ("In Germany we ring the bell to call people to eat," he said). But he was upstaged by a German street-cart favorite called curry wurst: a juicy grilled bratwurst topped with ketchup and curry powder and served in a bun on a bed of sauerkraut.

Hotelier André Balazs gave Gutenbrunner carte blanche to select the garden's Schaller & Weber sausages and German beers (the chef's favorite is the Bitburger Pils, which he describes as "a golden beer that tastes like Champagne, a slight bit of lemon and a touch of banana"). Balazs even named a sausage on the menu after the chef: the Cheddar "Kurt"wurst–a bratwurst oozing with the creamy cheese.

"I've never met anyone with a bigger vision than André, or anyone who cares so much about making the beer garden experience here as authentic as possible," said Gutenbrunner before leading patrons in a chant of a Bavarian drinking song that loosely translates to "One More Beer."

Here are 7 more amazing sausage recipes from the F&W archives, perfect for any Oktoberfest celebration.

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Genius Pierre Gagnaire Lunch

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Gagnaire's amazing "Zezette" broth.

© Alessandra Bulow
Gagnaire's amazing "Zezette" mushroom broth.

Sure, my colleagues ate breakfast with chef-god Pierre Gagnaire the other day. I did them one better—I ate a meal that he himself cooked. As a preview of the menu he'll be serving at Twist at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas, opening in December, he hosted a lunch in the 36th floor ballroom of the hotel’s New York City location, overlooking Central Park.

The meal started with an amazing dish that I'd never seen anything like before—lightly fried strips of Dover sole with spinach, accompanied by bowls of white vegetable velouté and bocconcini ice cream. Gagnaire topped the fish with a large, very thin disk of "Kientzheim" butter—a funny name for a butter he flavors with reduced fish stock, shallots and Champagne—that melts into the fish when warm sauce is poured on top.

Another dish, named "Zezette" after a good friend of his, was an earthy-sweet and rich mushroom broth (pictured) served with roasted duck, braised turnips (which turn deep pink after soaking in beet juice and Campari) and "Yoyo," basmati rice–Parmesan gratin named after his friend Yolanda, who also makes this dish.

Now I'm back in my cubicle, dreaming about my incredible experience and thinking that I know exactly what I'd call a dish named after Pierre Gagnaire: “Genius!”

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Miami's Excellent Eos

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© Jen Murphy
The Fresh Pepper cocktail at Eos in Miami

Before flying back to NYC after my quick trip to Miami last week, I made sure to check out Eos, the new restaurant from star chef Michael Psilakis (of NYC's Kefi, Mia Dona, Anthos and Gus & Gabriel Gastropub. Eos is on the 15th floor of the new Viceroy Hotel, which combines the whimsical design of both Kelly Wearstler and Philippe Starck. The food was exceptionally tasty and beautifully plated—from the orange marlin sashimi with speck, apricot and pistachio butter to the ultratender smoked octopus to the decadent lobster-and-sea-urchin risotto with caviar, fried herbs and egg yolk. Another surprise: an ambitious cocktail list. I politely declined the server’s top pick, the Pepper Fresh, but she sent me one anyway and it was one of the most unusual drinks I’ve ever tasted—a mix of vodka and freshly squeezed lime and yellow bell pepper juices muddled with spearmint. Bell pepper juice in a cocktail? Somehow it worked geniously. 

 

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Miami's Awesome Scarpetta

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Last week I jetted to Miami and, in less than 48 hours, had two stellar meals in hotel restaurants launched by star NYC chefs: Scott Conant and Michael Psilakis, both F&W Best New Chefs. I always get nervous when a chef I adore opens an outpost far away: It’s so easy for the quality or service to slide. But these two new Miami restaurants rival their spots in Manhattan.

Conant, who owns Scarpetta in NYC, opened his second Scarpetta in Miami Beach's legendary Fountainbleu hotel, which was fabulously renovated earlier this year. A true glutton, I tried nearly every dish on the menu. Conant’s signature dishes, like his supersimple spaghetti with tomato and basil and his roasted capretto (baby goat), were perfect. The Miami Scarpetta has more seafood options than the NYC one, including a crisp-skinned branzino served on top of saffron-ricotta gnocchi, cauliflower and lobster fricassee. After sampling six pasta dishes (I’m training for the NYC Marathon, which gives me an excuse to eat more pasta), I told myself I’d only taste the branzino, but somehow it vanished completely from my plate.

Check out this blog later today for details about my incredible meal at Psilakis’s Eos.

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Yelping for Discounts

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Bad reviews posted on a website like yelp.com or urbanspoon.com can be the death of a restaurant, while glowing reviews can triple business. In an effort to generate more positive buzz, Mel’s Drive-In on Mission Street in San Francisco is doing something sneaky. Every check advertises a 20 percent discount on your next meal if you bring in a printout of your Yelp review. One blogger ponders if Yelpers will risk the integrity of their “Yelp status” for a few bucks off their next milkshake.

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Le Bernardin’s Amazing Vermont Cheese

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I spotted an unusual cheese on both of Le Bernardin’s tasting menus recently: la faisselle. When I asked about it, I discovered that it's a soft, creamy cheese handmade exclusively for the restaurant by the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company.

La faisselle looks like fromage blanc, but tastes extraordinarily different because of what’s in the cultures. Also, the fromage blanc found in stores is made with skim milk, while la faisselle is made with whole milk and has a little crème fraîche added at the end. The result is a delicate texture and a fresh, milky flavor with a hint of hazelnuts and a bit of acidity.

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© Michael Laiskonis
La faisselle cheese at Le Bernardin.

 

Part of the fun is how the cheese is served at Le Bernardin: The cheese is ladled into special ceramic pots (faisselles) that have holes to allow the whey to drain out. Michael Laiskonis, Le Bernardin’s pastry chef, pairs the cheese with honey, toasted almonds and a coulis of local strawberries.

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NYC’s Aldea

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Chef George Mendes, a Bouley alum, has been getting much deserved praise for his new NYC restaurant, the Portuguese-Spanish Aldea. A few highlights from a recent visit:

1. The best seats in the Stephanie Goto–designed space are at the chef’s bar in front of the open kitchen. My friend and I snagged two and immediately recognized the female chef on Mendes's team who has been compared to a Vermeer portrait. Every 15 minutes a new group of Portuguese diners lined up to thank Mendes for making avant-garde food that still somehow reminded them of their grandparents’ cooking.
2. Mendes serves Pennsylvania baby goat three ways—braised, grilled and confit—alongside toasted buckwheat, chanterelles and pickled cherries. The meat was so tender and delicious it made me wonder if goat may soon trump pig on menus.     
3. Critic Alan Richman says the sonhos at Aldea are in the running for Manhattan’s best mini doughnut; I second that. The tiny fried balls of dough—filled with spiced chocolate, smoked-paprika apricot jam or hazelnut praline—are made according to Mendes’s mom’s recipe. She’s been known to make an appearance in the kitchen to make sure he’s not taking too many liberties.
4. The staff pointed out a hysterical error on a bottle of Viñendo de los Vientos’ Alcyone Tannat dessert wine from Uruguay.  Alcyone, the label reads, is “the goddess of ‘clam’ and tranquility.”
 

Chef George Mendes
 

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NYC's Best New Outdoor Dining

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© Diane Bondareff

There aren't any of Southwest Airlines' famous rapping flight attendants at The Southwest Porch, the airline-sponsored pop-up dining patio in New York City's Bryant Park. Instead, there are some great new sandwiches from 'wichcraft, the popular Bryant Park kiosk that's part of the Craft family of restaurants.

“We thought it'd be fun to do interpretations of iconic foods from each city on Southwest Airlines' new flight routes from New York,” says Sisha Ortúza, 'wichcraft's chef and co-owner (with star chef Tom Colicchio). Ortúzar came up with a menu that includes an NYC meatball parm sub, a Chicago bratwurst with sweet sautéed onions and (my favorite) a Baltimore soft-shell-crab sandwich with watercress and a tartar sauce made with lemon aioli and house-made pickles.

Now if only Southwest would offer the sandwiches on their flights, I might be inspired to bust a rhyme—although a couple of the ginger margaritas at The Southwest Porch might do the trick.




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