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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Restaurants

Help Save the World with Mario Batali

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© Melanie Dunea

At Food & Wine, we have big plans to save the world—you’ll hear more about that on January 10, 2012, and in our February issue. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that superstar chef Mario Batali is a huge part of our strategy. But Batali has his own world-saving plans in effect. The Mario Batali Foundation—which he established to make sure kids are well fed, well read and well cared for—has instituted a terrific Molto Dollars matching program. Batali will match every donation up to $100,000 through February 1. And the generosity keeps going: Aperol, the nicely bitter, vibrantly red Italian aperitif, is also matching those donations. With this kind of math, a $20 donation immediately equals $60.
 
So far this year, Batali has used the Foundation’s money to, among other things, create a Books for Kids library on NYC’s Lower East Side and help fund First Star, a summer immersion academy for foster kids at UCLA. Yay Mario!! Now, c’mon: He’s given you so many great recipes. This is a great time to give him a few bucks for the mariobatalifoundation.org.

 

Restaurants

F&W Exclusive Preview: Roy Choi’s Sunny Spot

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© Eric Shin
Sunny Spot's Sweet & Salty Plantain Addictions

What can possibly beat a sweet trip to the Caribbean? Well, this: chef Roy Choi’s version of the Caribbean. The creator of L.A.’s life-changing Kogi Korean BBQ taco trucks (and F&W Best New Chef 2010) is opening Sunny Spot on November 18 in Venice, California. “At Sunny Spot, you’re going to feel like you just washed up on your beach," says Choi. “If I was on my beach in Jamaica, this is what I’d be making.” Five more reasons to get psyched, direct from Choi:
 
1.     Sweet and salty plantain addictions. “As soon as this dish hits the table, I want everyone to grab it and eat it and then it's gone. And then say, 'Get me two more plates, these are freaking delicious.' I'm tossing overripe plantain spears with cane and pulverized palm sugars, then fry them until they’re almost black. Before you eat them, I’m going to toss them again, with sugar, salt and lime.”
2.     Fish bone stew. “The fishmonger is giving us everything that everyone else is throwing away. We use halibut bones, collars, different heads, from salmon to mackerels and snappers, rock cods. Fish bone stew—it's like a white cioppino.”
3.     Sugarcane fried pig’s feet. “I’m cooking with a lot of pig’s feet, also with a lot of jowls. It's not just head to tail, I’m using whole animals. I’ve got whole goats going on here.”
4.     Gold plates and goblets. “It’s not trying to be Pirates of the Caribbean, but everything is gold. And all the cups are goblets.”
5.     Great music going on. “If I was going to a house party right now in Kingston, what would I hear? That’s what we’re listening to at this restaurant.”

Restaurants

Pete Wells’s Top 10 Reasons That New York is the Place to Eat

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Illustration from a Pete Wells column.

© Einat Peled
Illustration from a Pete Wells column.

Congratulations to food writer Pete Wells, who will become Dining Critic for the New York Times effective in January. Wells became the Times Dining Editor in 2006, but before that he was a regular columnist for Food & Wine. Wells covered topics ranging from restaurant previews to “Raising a Baby with a Four-Star Palate,” but if you're trying to get to know his tastes, the most insightful piece might just be one of the oldest.

In 1999, Wells wrote a top 10 list about how New York had become the place to eat. At the time, reasons included a renovated Grand Central Terminal: “Before its eye-opening restoration, Grand Central was a bit like your grandmother: you knew she was a lovely lady, but she didn't exactly leave you weak in the knees,” he wrote. Wells’s first point also illustrates some serious foresight: “Remember when New York had hatcheck girls and double-decker buses? Neither do I. But dust off your grandfather's fedora, because those days are back.” After more than a decade, references to old New York still abound. Find more choice quotes from Wells's F&W articles below, including a comparison of Tom Colicchio to Lucille Ball.

The World’s Best Chocolate (2006): “Amedei sits just outside Pontedera, where they build those stylish Vespa scooters that make even old Italians look young.”

Four-Star Baby Food (2005): “When I tell people my wife and I make all the food we give to our eight-month-old son, they look at me like I've just said we personally tan the leather for our shoes.”

Pork Futures (2004): “Pork kept America well fed when we were still a country of farmers, and suffered as we became a nation of supermarket shoppers. But all signs point toward a major renaissance.”

Restaurant Preview (2000): “Tom Colicchio, a 1991 F&W Best New Chef, has long wanted his own restaurant, but his partner, Danny Meyer, didn't want to let him go. So they struck a compromise: Colicchio will keep cooking at Gramercy Tavern, but he'll also oversee the kitchen at his new place, Craft. It's conveniently located back to back with Gramercy, so that he can run out the kitchen door of one place, across an alley and in through the door of the other. Insiders are betting Colicchio is serious enough about his food to keep this routine from turning into an I Love Lucy episode."

Restaurant News (2000): “There are a lot of pretty, young restaurants out there looking to catch the eye of the fickle diner. So, like a rich man's wife who's hoping not to become a rich man's first wife, establishments of a certain age are splurging on face-lifts and new wardrobes.”

Related: More from Pete Wells's Always Hungry Column
Recipes from Pete Wells

Restaurants

Early Look: DC's Little Serow from Chef Johnny Monis

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© Nigel Parry
Johnny Monis has a new restaurant: Little Serow.

There are some days I really wish I lived in Washington, DC; for instance, while I impatiently wait for Georgetown Cupcakes to open in Manhattan. Or when I hear about a new restaurant from F&W Best New Chef 2007 Johnny Monis, from F&W's superb DC correspondent, Amanda McClements of Metrocurean.com. Here's McClements' first look:

Fans of Johnny Monis's cooking, myself included, have wondered if the intensely focused chef would ever branch out from his kitchen at the tiny Komi near Dupont Circle. About eight years to the day since he opened Komi, Monis quietly unveiled his latest project, Little Serow.

Distance-wise, he didn't go far—the new restaurant occupies the basement of the brick rowhouse right next to Komi—but cooking-wise, the two restaurants are worlds apart.

Komi strongly reflects Monis's Greek heritage, but the casual new spot is devoted to the spicy, sour flavors of northeastern Thailand's Isaan cuisine. His set menu of communal dishes is $45 for walk-ins only. At a recent meal, I had delicious pork skin, still crackling from the fryer, with nam prik num (green chile) sauce, plus spicy cucumber salad with dried shrimp and lemongrass-flavored pork sausage.

Why Isaan cooking? "Isaan food has a flavor profile that I love eating on my days off, and it's what I've been cooking for staff meal and behind the scenes for years," Monis says. He has another connection to the region: He got married to his wife, Anne, on a trip there earlier this year.  (Little Serow: 1511 17th St. NW, Washington, DC)

Restaurants

Chicago’s Grooviest Market: Dose

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© Nathan Michael
Chicago's Dose Market in Action.

In New York City, we’re spoiled rotten with the growing number of great food and fashion markets (yay for Brooklyn Flea and New Amsterdam Markets!).  Now Chicago has upped its game with its own very compelling, once-a-month Dose market. Dose’s co-founder Emily Fiffer previews the November 6 market with details that make me want to get on a plane to O’Hare right now.

Since Dose Market’s June inception, the once-a-month pop-up market has served as a platform for local chefs and artisans to launch products—often in unexpected ways. In July, chef Grant Achatz created a cocktail for Dose inspired by his Thai menu at Next; in August, Mindy Segal hawked a table full of pastries to preview her new bakery concept; and in September, Urban Belly’s Bill Kim launched his line of Seoul Sauce alongside his signature dumplings.

Similarly, the November 6 market has a lot going on. Doughnut Vault (which has crowds around the walkup window), will debut six new flavors, including lemon–poppy seed and chestnut. Zingerman’s is trekking down from Ann Arbor with domestic cheeses and pantry items. NoMI Kitchen pastry chef Meg Galus will offer her inimitable brown sugar streusel muffins (NoMI Spa will even be there, too, with seasonal mini spa treatments). Artisan noodle-maker Pasta Puttana is creating a special Dose pasta (hint: Quarter Circle Seven Ranch is collaborating on the meat sauce). And Bittercube will pour complimentary Templeton Rye cocktails.

Plus, more than two dozen fashion and design vendors will be on hand.  

Dose Market: takes place one Sunday a month at the River East Art Center, 435 E. Illinois St., at McClurg Ct. Tickets are $8 in advance here and $10 at the door. Check dosemarket.com for details.

Menus

Big Bad Burgers

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Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun

© John Kernick
Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun

There’s something about a big burger blow out in the fall, when you feel the need to grill as many burger patties as possible before it's freezing outside. Maybe, though, you’ve already hung up your grilling spatula for the season—maybe you feel like eating dressed up burgers without doing any work. These places are for you.

Le Burger Brasserie, Las Vegas. The marquee dish here is the 777 burger; that name alludes to its $777 price tag. It's a burger made with beef (kobe) that's topped with lobster (from Maine), balsamic vinegar (100–year aged) and brie (imported). But the thing that really rachets up the price tag is the bottle of Rosé Dom Perignon that’s served alongside; apparently the burger is just $60 without the Dom. We hear it’s very popular with people who literally just hit the jackpot.  

Flip Burger Boutique, Atlanta. Among the less conventional toppings that Top Chef winner Richard Blais puts on the burgers at his Flip chain in Atlanta and Birmingham: Swiss cheese foam; seared foie gras; Coca-Cola ketchup. (Not all on the same patty.) Then there’s the steak tartare burger, a mix of hand-chopped filet mignon with garlic, chilis, pickled shallot, smoked mayonnaise and a 6-minute egg.  If and when we turn our attention to dressed-up hot dogs, we’ll surely be looking at Blais’s upcoming Atlanta HD-1 Haute Doggery.

Hubcap Burgers, Houston. Recently I heard rumors of a waffle burger here, specifically a burger patty on a waffle with syrup. Turned out, that was just a special. Not to worry, Hubcap has any number of nifty full-time options, like the sticky burger, with bacon, cheese and peanut butter. The sticky monkey burger, adds grilled bananas to the mix.

M. Wells, Long Island City, NY. This hip diner garnered a fair amount of attention during its year-plus life. M.Wells shut its doors at the end of August but that doesn’t mean we can’t memorialize their 24-ounce, $42 burger. The burger was a blend of beef and lamb, generously dressed with cheese, caramelized onions and aioli, served on a correspondingly giant toasted roll. The final touch is genius: onion rings stacked on the large steak knife that stabs the middle of the burger.

Related: Best Burger Recipes Ever
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Best Pizza Places in the U.S.
(Pictured: Tyler Florence's Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun)

Restaurants

Crazy Fried Chicken

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Super Crispy Fried Chicken

© Tina Rupp
Super-Crispy Fried Chicken

These days, it seems like it’s illegal to open up a restaurant and not put fried chicken on the menu. (Perhaps it’s a new stipulation in leases for dining establishments.) Some chefs take that mandate and serve straight-ahead, crispy fried chicken. But it’s the other cooks—the ones that decide they want to get a little bit wacky with their chicken—that we’ll focus on now.
 
Pine State Biscuits; Portland, OR. For some people, a piece of fried chicken is indulgent enough. Those people should not go to Pine State Biscuits and order the Wedgie: a biscuit filled with buttermilk fried chicken, a fried green tomato, iceberg lettuce and blue cheese dressing. And they definitely shouldn’t order the Reggie Deluxe, because that’s a biscuit topped with fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, gravy and an over-easy fried egg.
 
Hot Sauce and Panko; San Francisco. Is it a fried chicken spot? A Belgian waffle place? A hot sauce shop? Actually, it’s all three. At Hot Sauce and Panko, you can get 10-plus kinds of chicken wings, 92 types of hot sauces and five options for your waffles. The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is its best seller; you can try it with Big Papi en Fuego Grand Slam XXXtra Hot Sauce. If you want waffles on the side, you can have them naked or with “veggi” bacon.
 
Supper; Philadelphia.
Personally, I think pickles should be a required side for fried chicken. Chef Mitch Prensky of Supper agrees with me. His new Jewish Fried Chicken has a spear or two of garlic pickle alongside the chicken, which is cured with a pastrami-spiced brine, then coated with a mixture that includes more pastrami seasoning, then fried. (Guess what else Prensky serves on the side? Fried matzo balls.)
 
Blue Ribbon at Brooklyn Bowl; New York City. Don’t get me started on all the amazing places to eat fried chicken in New York City. But there is just one place where you can bowl, see Biz Markie perform (or Kanye West, if you have super-good connections), drink hyper-local beer and eat amazing Blue Ribbon fried chicken. Chefs Eric and Bruce Bromberg give you the option of fried chicken dinners with white meat, dark meat or a mix of both.
 
American Cupcake; San Francisco. Take two of the biggest food trends in recent years—fried chicken and the unstoppable cupcake wave—and you come up at the same place as the Bay Area’s American Cupcake. They soak chicken in red velvet cake batter and then, for good measure, coat it in red velvet cupcake bits before frying. It’s served with cream cheese-infused mashed potatoes that just might conjure up a vision of frosting.  
 
Husk; Charleston, SC. Forget the focus on super-secret batter recipes. Star chef Sean Brock is hard at work trying to answer the question, “Just how many fats can chicken be fried in?” Brock’s chicken, which is available by reservation only and requires 48 hours notice, is fried in butter, chicken fat, bacon fat and country ham fat. Wow.
 
Related: Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.
Best Fried Chicken and More Chicken Recipes
More Fried Chicken Recipes
Best Burgers in the U.S.

Beer

Craft Beer in Cans

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It’s very easy to imagine some beer-drinking alien from the planet Xorx arriving on Earth and saying, “Let me get this straight. You have 1,716 independent small brewers in your ‘country’—whatever that is—and until now they never thought of putting their beer in cans? Hmmm. You really are lesser beings, aren’t you. I shall now vaporize your cities.”
 
Thankfully, the craft brewers of America are finally relenting on this bottle-only approach to beer, which (a) will save us all from early vaporization, and (b) will allow people like me to drink their beer at the beach. 

Now it’s possible, even likely, that beer purists will insist that the bottle is theonly way to go, that the complex nuances of a fine beer are made flat and anemic by aluminum. I will insist in turn that coming across Brooklyn’s Six Point Brewery’s terrific Bengal Tiger IPA in cans at my local supermarket is a mighty fine thing indeed.
 
So if you meet a Xorxian (blue, tentacles, loves pale ale), offer him/her/them/whatever a fine craft beer in a can. Unless you want to be known as the dope who got our fair nation wiped from the face of the planet. Here are a few that ought to do the trick.
 
New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale. The craft-ale-in-can movement has proved so successful for Fort Collins, Colorado’s New Belgium that it just announced the addition of a 16,000-square-foot canline to its brewery. Fat Tire is malty and on the richer side: a good burger beer.
 
Six Point Craft Ales Bengali Tiger IPA. Sixteen-ounce cans for this one, and why not—it’s a terrific beer (as noted above), balancing its piney hops notes against a fair amount of richness. It’s particularly appealing because Six Point’s ales haven’t been available in either bottles or cans, just on tap or in growlers, until now.
 
Anderson Valley Brewing Company Hop Ottin’ IPA. Classic West Coast India Pale Ale with a zingy dose of citrusy hops. I’m a little sad the Anderson Valley folks retired their Poleeko Gold Pale Ale in cans in favor of this IPA, but it’s still a darn fine brew.
 
Harpoon Summer Beer. This is a kolsch-style beer, which basically means it’s a lighter Germanic ale—an ale that drinks a bit like a lager, if you will. If you were on a boat on a scenic lake with a cold six-pack of these cans and a fishing rod/book/tuna sandwich/whatever makes you happiest, then your life would be an enviable one.
 
Porkslap Pale Ale. That is it about the name Porkslap that says so elegantly, “Buddy, are you kidding me? Of course I'm in a damn can”? Regardless, this lightly gingery ale from New York’s Butternuts brewery was way ahead of the curve—the first release was in 2005. And yes, it is sold only in cans.
 
Related Links: Best American Beer, Bourbon and More
Great Beer Pairings
Cooking with Beer Recipes

News

Sullivan Street Bakery Occupies Wall Street

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Jim Lahey: an Occupy Wall Street Bread Donor.

By now you know, the Occupy Wall Street crowd isnt in any danger of starving. In Jeff Gordiniers excellent article in last weeks New York Times, a protester said hed gained five pounds in 12 days. Among the enviable food thats being served at Zuccotti Park: pastrami and corned beef sandwiches from Katzs deli, Ben & Jerrys ice cream and cookies from a former Birdbath baker (which means those are some good cookies). All the carbo-loading protesters have got some terrific bread to snack on, too. Sullivan Street Bakery owner Jim Lahey, who is gearing up to open both his University of Bread and his new Ninth Avenue bakery this winter, has been supplying the protesters with bread for three weeks now. Right now, the deliveries are overage loaves that get delivered around 3 a.m., but eventually Lahey wants to bake directly for OWS. Maybe he can create a special No-Knead No-Greed loaf.
 

Wine

Early Look: Bellus Wines at Parm

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© Cynthia Grabau
Jordan Salcito and Lucy Liu celebrate Salcito's new wine Bellus.

Two things I’m really looking forward to this fall: The release of my friend Jordan Salcito’s new wine Bellus and the opening of Torrisi Italian Specialties’ outpost, Parm. Well, earlier this week I got to have my Bellus and eat my meatball subs, too, at the wine’s launch party at the soon-to-open Parm.

Salcito’s inaugural wine, Girasole, is a 2007 Tuscan red; a mix of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It’s got flavors of cherry, pomegranate, herbs and cinnamon. And it happened to be insanely good with Parm’s fresh-from-the-deep-fryer mozzarella sticks and the accompanying marinara sauce.

I’m not the only person who was excited to celebrate the Bellus/Parm pairing. Superstar actress and author Lucy Liu was there; she’s lovely. Hip-hop executive Lyor Cohen smartly positioned himself by the open kitchen, near the sausage-and-pepper heros and pizza knots. Also there: Beyoncé, who’s got to be the world’s most beautiful pregnant woman. And I’m not just saying that because she and Jay-Z shared their meatball parm subs and zeppole with us. Beyoncé was drinking ginger-ale, not Bellus. But she smelled her husband’s wine. “It smells delicious,” she said. “I can’t wait to be able to drink it.”

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Join celebrity chefs, renowned winemakers and epicurean insiders at the culinary world’s most spectacular weekend, the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.