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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Wines Under $20

A Grape That Could Use Some Love: Dolcetto

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Mario Batali's Spicy Stewed Sausages with Three Peppers
Dolcetto has a tough time getting the attention it deserves. Mainly its problem is that it’s grown in Piedmont, in Italy. The other red grapes that are grown in Piedmont? Well, first there’s Nebbiolo, the grape in Barolo, which means Dolcetto is competing against a beverage that’s been known since as the mid-1800s as “the wine of kings and the king of wines.” Not a fair fight. Then there’s Barbera, which is kind of the Avis to Nebbiolo’s Hertz. It’s number two. It tries harder. Which leaves Dolcetto as, what, the Rent-a-Wreck of grapes?

When I am the emperor of reality, after the bazillion dollars and the private island and the sudden ascent to George Clooney-like savoir faire, I am going to give Dolcetto a little boost. It’s a nifty grape. It makes juicy, lively, affordable and delicious reds, with a flavor that suggests black cherries and a faint, intriguing touch of bitterness. Dolcetto isn’t meant for deep thought but simply for happy drinking. You can chill it lightly. You can serve it with burgers. Hey, you could put it in a CamelBak and take it up a mountain. Dolcetto is fine with that. It would make me think of my Italian grandmother back in Alba and her great homemade agnolotti, except that I’m mostly Irish plus some random Welsh-German craziness and the only thing I remember my grandmother cooking was toast.

So, Dolcetto. Go buy a bottle. Invite some friends over. Get a pizza. Drink the stuff. Don’t think about it—there are plenty of other things think about. Besides, how can you not love a grape whose name translates as “little sweet one?”

5 Dolcettos to Hunt Down

1.     2009 Elio Grasso ($17) The rich fruit here recalls pomegranate rather than cherry.

2.     2008 Renato Ratti Colombè ($15) Mild tannins make this a good candidate for a light chill; an ideal picnic red, in other words.

3.     2009 Cavallotto Vigna Scot ($16) Dark fruit and soft tannins make this a good introduction to the Dolcetto variety.

4.     2009 Borgogno ($20) An old-school producer making old-school wine: earthy and herbal, rather than fruity and ripe.

5.     2009 Massolino ($20) Clear, precise flavors define this streamlined red. 

Related Links:

Wine 101: Dolcetto

15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing

Bargain Wines

Beyond the Mimosa: Sparking Wine Cocktails You’ve Never Heard Of

Cooking with Red Wine

Bottles from the Best Blogging Winemakers

(Pictured above: Try pairing Mario Batali's Spicy Stewed Sausages with Three Peppers with a great Dolcetto)

Entertaining

Personalized NYC Picnic Service

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Luxe picnic basket service at Andaz 5th Avenue.

© Prue Hyman
Luxe picnic basket service at Andaz 5th Avenue.

Snacking with friends on a picnic blanket is my ultimate summer pleasure. A recent episode of Good Food on KCRW, a favorite podcast of mine, described delicious takeout picnic-food options in Los Angeles, and it had me wishing for some of the same in New York. My wish was granted: The Andaz 5th Avenue hotel launches picnic basket service this week. Baskets start at $60 for hotel guests ($75 for non-guests) for a basic spread (sandwich with prosciutto, schnitzel or tuna, fruit, iced tea), or hotel guests can splurge on the midrange Champagne Basket (with caviar and blini) or an ultra-luxe $2,000 basket (with assorted cheeses, breads, fruit and amazing Pomerol wine). For an extra $150, an Andaz Picnic Host will even scout out a perfect picnic spot and set up the blanket ahead of time—an awesome way to take in a film after work at Bryant Park’s Summer Film Festival, which kicks off next week.

Restaurants

The New Rules for Celebrity Restaurants

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The Breslin's Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup

© Lucy Schaeffer
The Breslin's Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup

Celebrities have been frequenting restaurants for a while now—the Algonquin Round Table was in full effect in the 1920s. So we won’t pretend it's news to see a famous person sitting in a dining room. But it’s quite amazing to see how far some restaurants go these days to protect their more recognizable guests. Here’s Ken Friedman, co-owner of such NYC celeb hang-outs as the Spotted Pig and the Breslin, sounding like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. “The first rule at my restaurants is don’t talk about who’s eating at my restaurants.”
 
Here are some other rules we've seen NYC restaurants employ.
 
*Close the blinds to the street when the paparazzi line up outside. (A rule followed by the staff at Marea the second someone like Michael Douglas walks in.)
 
*Seat the best-known people in the corner. At Craft, table #158, deep in the restaurant, is set aside so anyone supremely famous (like LeBron James who rented out Craft's LA outpost for a party) can be escorted right there.  
 
*Seat the best-known people in the kitchen. At his newest restaurant The John Dory, Friedman created a chef’s table in the kitchen. What about the rumor that Jay-Z wanted a chef’s table, with real chairs, as an alternative to the stools that make up the seating in the rest of the restaurant? “We didn't create the table for anyone in particular," says Friedman. "The chef’s table is fun, it’s in the kitchen,” says Friedman. “Plus who wants to sit on stools all the time? I don’t; neither does Charlie Rose.”
 
Related Links:
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Favorite Restaurants
100+ Tastes to Try
Tom Colicchio’s Road Trip
Best Chefs with Hotel Restaurants

(Pictured above: The Breslin's Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup)

News

Bonnaroo Food Redux

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© Nathaniel Schoen


Those lucky enough to have been at Manchester, Tennessee’s epic four-day Bonnaroo festival last weekend are now recovering from their food and music hangovers. Here, festival highlights, stats and insider observations:
 
• The Black Keys hit the Fried Chicken, Champagne and Fireworks party post-show to hang out with Dave Kornell of NYC’s Blue Ribbon. Kornell fried 2,800 pieces of chicken—every piece was eaten—while Buffalo Springfield played right behind him.
• At the party, 36 magnums of Joe Bastianich's Flor prosecco were consumed in about 30 minutes.
• Praters BBQ from Tennessee served 2,000 pounds of pork.
• The Food Truck Oasis had roughly 12,000 visitors a day.
• The Taco Bus from Tampa, Florida, went through 8,000 tacos.
• Eat Box from Asheville, North Carolina, went through 18,000 meatballs—the fan favorite was the Dirty South (meatloaf balls with pepper-crusted bacon, hash browns and bacon-scallion sauce).
• Good You from Kansas City, Missouri, went through 800 pounds of meat for their burgers made with "unicorn meat and Smurf dust."

News

World Leaders' Favorite Foods

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French president Nicolas Sarkozy loves chocolate.

© Kate Mathis
Chocolate Coupe with Cocoa Nib Mousse

Barack Obama: Hamburgers. One of the many DC burger joints he frequents is Good Stuff Eatery, where Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn created the Prez Obama burger and the Michelle Melt for the president’s wife.
 
Nicolas Sarkozy: Chocolate. At least, according to the renowned French chef Alain Ducasse. Ducasse says that the French president likes yogurt, too.
 
David Cameron:  Spicy sausage pasta. That’s the recipe he’s contributing to an upcoming charity book, the Scrummy World Cookbook. In his introduction to the recipe, the UK prime minister thanked the River Café Cook Book, calling his dish a shortened and simplified version.
 
Vladimir Putin: Ice cream. Food & Wine contributor Anya von Bremzen, in Moscow working on her forthcoming book, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, reports that the Russian prime minister is a pistachio ice-cream fanatic. Is it odd to eat ice cream in a place that’s so cold so much of the year? “People of that Soviet generation love ice cream,” says von Bremzen. “We all ate it in winter, even though our parents forbade it because of the cold.”
 
Related Links:
More Presidential Indulgences
Guilt-Free Burgers
10 Delicious Chocolate Cakes
Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.
Meaty Pasta Dishes

(Pictured above: Chocolate Coupe with Cocoa Nib Mousse)

Restaurants

Inside Scoop on Tiffani Faison’s New BBQ Project

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Chef Tiffani Faison.

© Michael Diskin
Chef Tiffani Faison.

 

I spent the weekend stuffing myself with some of America’s best barbecue at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in NYC. The takeaway: People take their ’cue very seriously. That’s why Tiffani Faison, the season one Top Chef contestant and chef of the recently closed Rocca, is doing her homework before she opens her barbecue spot named Sweet Cheeks near Boston’s Fenway Park later this summer. “Barbecue is one of those democratic American foods that everyone gets. It’s a food my family gathered around to eat, and I wanted a place like that in Boston to take family and friends on a Sunday afternoon. It’s missing from the restaurant scene.” Faison, a self-described Army brat, grew up bouncing from Oklahoma to South Carolina to Texas. In a few weeks, she will travel to Texas’s barbecue capital, Lockhart, to do some due-diligence eating. But she won’t be adopting one particular style. “I want it to be organic. I think there’s this barbecue-fusion world that people are afraid of. Each style of barbecue has its hardcore fans, but I think I can make it uniquely New England—though I’m not sure what exactly that is going to be yet.” One thing is certain: It won’t be down-and-dirty barbecue. “I want this to be chef-driven, without being annoyingly cheffy,” explains Faison. She says she’s been brainstorming menu items like house-made hush puppies and “white trash fruit salad,” which she says is inspired by ambrosia: “It’s a little kitschy, but reminiscent of what I ate as a kid.” There will also be a beer garden, communal picnic tables and a porch swing outside. As for the name, “It’s just what we used to tease the line cooks with when they were lagging at Rocca,” she says. “We’d yell, ‘Let’s pick it up, sweet cheeks.’”

Winemakers

“Fueled by Fine Wine” Half Marathon

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Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon

I wouldn’t really consider myself a “serious athlete.” Sure, I’ve done a few triathlons, and a half marathon always seemed like a great accomplishment. But when I found out about the Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon, happening on Sunday, July 10, I didn’t think twice–this is the one for me!

Set in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the course winds through the gorgeous vineyards in the Dundee Hills. In addition to being acclaimed for producing top Pinot Noirs, I can’t think of a more spectacular setting for a half.

The best part, though, is the after-party, which will feature wines from some of the top producers in the region, including Archery Summit, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene and Lange Estate, to name a few. Says winemaker Jesse Lange: “While there are plenty of rolling hills to tackle, your source of infinite inspiration will be the world-class wines that await you at the finish line. And this is also your chance to put highfalutin winemakers in their place by leaving them in the red dust of our volcanic soils!”

The official motto of the race is “You won’t run your best time, but you’ll have your best time!” I know that a glass of amazing Pinot will be the proverbial carrot on a string to get me to the finish line.

PS: Stay tuned for reports from the road…

Restaurants

Ryan Skeen’s Summer Pop-Up Restaurant

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© Zandy Mangol
Ryan Skeen Will Be Back in NYC with a Summertime Pop Up.

Guess who’s back in town for the summer: chef Ryan Skeen, who has thrilled people like me at—before walking away from—such NYC restaurants as Resto, Irving Mill, General Greene and Allen & Delancey, all in the span of 36 months.

Skeen’s new project, with The Restaurant Group, will be a pop-up restaurant at 10 Waverly Place. Starting July 13, Skeen will serve a $50 three-course prix fixe menu four nights a week (Wednesdays through Saturdays). There’s also the option of a chef’s tasting menu for $85 with as many courses as Skeen wants to serve—currently, he’s thinking about Jonah Crab and White Asparagus Soup, Quail with Figs and Smoked Potatoes, and Beignets with Foie Cardamom Custard.

Now, guess what's the name of Skeen’s restaurant: TBD ("because you never know what will happen" according to the press release). Also TBD: the dates for visiting guest chefs (and F&W Best New Chefs) Nate Appleman, Katy Sparks and Michael Psilakis.

For reservations: reservations@tbdatbrads.com.

Restaurants

Inside Omnivore World Tour with Giovanni Passerini

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In case you missed it, last year’s Omnivore food festival featured René Redzepi (yes, the "best chef in the world"). This year’s festival theme is Young Cuisine, featuring break-out stars like of Rino in Paris, whose restaurant combines Italian peasant cooking (cucina povera is the in-vogue term) with techniques he learned at Paris’s Le Chateaubriand. Passerini is preparing dinner on June 10th with Carlo Mirarchi of Roberta’s in Brooklyn (an F&W Best New Chef 2011). Tickets are available here.

What’s Passerini making for dinner? What will he eat when he’s here? Let’s find out the answers.

Q: What are you making for dinner?

A: Frankly, I still have to decide. I'm sure I'll prepare some ravioli; it's our speciality at Rino. But I still have to decide the kind, the shape.

Q: Let’s talk about cooking with Carlo Mirachi.
A: I'm really curious to meet him. I like everything I’ve seen made by him. I think the spirit of Roberta’s is similar to Rino, though it's just a feeling, because I've never been. But that's enough to make me really excited to cook with Carlo.

Q: Are you excited to try American-Italian food (since you’re Italian)?
A: Of course, I'm so excited to taste my first spaghetti with meatballs! And a good pizza! Probably it's easier to find a good one in NYC than in Rome. And after all, one of my favorite movies is Big Night by Stanley Tucci, about two Italian brothers cooking in the US. So funny!

Q: If you could open another restaurant, what would it be?

A: I really dream about a gazebo in the middle of a crowded street selling Italian street food at a very cheap price: arancini, focaccia stuffed with mortadella, tripe and ricotta sandwiches, fried cod and artisanal Italian beer!

Restaurants

Blake Lively Wants Contraband Hot Sauce

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© Cochon Restaurant
Cochon Restaurant's house hot sauce.

At the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival a few weeks ago, I became a huge fan of Donald Link, the New Orleans chef/owner of Cochon and Cochon Butcher, and his commitment to cooking with chiles. (At his demo, I learned the very useful tip that the best cure for a too-spicy pepper is a piece of chocolate.) It turns out I’m not the only one who appreciates his way with chiles. In the current issue of Glamour magazine, cover girl Blake Lively says that she gets really excited when she finds a new sauce. And then says this: “I wanted a sauce from New Orleans, and they wouldn’t send it because the FDA didn’t approve it. I called the restaurant and I said, ‘OK, can you buy a teddy bear and cut it open and put it in and send it?’ They’re like, ‘No, we are not the drug cartel; we’re not sending you your sweet potato sauce in a teddy bear.’” (How much do we love Blake Lively and her dedication to food and contraband sauces?!) It turns out she’s talking about Cochon’s habanero–sweet potato sauce, which by all accounts is addictive. And also not for sale outside the state; although their regular hot sauce is (long story involving FDA regulations).

So next time I’m in New Orleans, I’m picking up a bottle of Cochon’s habanero sweet potato sauce for Blake Lively. And meanwhile, I can report that Cochon is working hard to ship the sauce to out-of-state fans like Lively.

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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.