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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Wine

Burgers and Wine Pairings

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Bacon Cheeseburger

© John Kernick
Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun

There’s a useful wine-pairing bit of advice which runs, “It’s not the meat, it’s the sauce.” What that means is when you've got a chunk of protein in front of you—unless you prefer your meat à la Cro Magnon, i.e. rare and dripping with blood—you're most likely pairing wine to the sauce or condiments on it as much as the meat itself. In other words, smother a chicken with mushroom-cream sauce, and you’ve got a whole different wine situation than if you take the bird, dip it in Sriracha, and roast it on a bed of limes (admittedly, I’ve never done that and it would probably taste godawful, but you get the idea). Same goes for burgers.
 
Basic Ol’ Hamburger (ketchup, mustard,lettuce, onion, pickle). Tanginess from the mustard, a little sweetness from the ketchup, a little sourness from the pickle, a whole lotta nothing from the lettuce. Plus meat. Star of picnics around the nation. I’d go with a not-too-tannic red. The plush, berry-rich 2008 Columbia Crest H3 Merlot ($12) would do the trick.
 
Bacon Cheeseburger. When I think of Heaven, I think of St. Peter at the pearly gates saying hello, and then some guy with wings next to him handing me a really good bacon cheeseburger (admittedly, I’m taking a different bus to the afterlife than the vegetarians of the world). What I’d drink with that, wine-wise, would be something with some pretty substantial tannins, which will help cut through all that bacon-cheese-beef fat. Côtes du Rhône from France: not a bad choice at all. Go for the 2007 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône rouge ($13).
 
Avocado, Jalapeno, Pepper Jack Burger with Salsa. Spicy. The thing to know about spicy when it comes to wine is that tannic wines accentuate heat. Alcohol doesn’t help either. Barring a cold beer, I’d actually go with a juicy Pinot Noir with this burger, say from California’s Central Coast. The 2009 Redtree Pinot Noir ($10) is surprisingly good despite the modest price.
 
Barbecue Sauce Burger. Sweet, sticky, smoky barbecue sauce needs a red built like Santa Claus—massive, but in an embracing way, not in a now-Hulk-smash! kind of way. That, to me, is Zinfandel: big dark fruit, soft tannins, a kind of voluminous feel to it. The 2009 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel ($12) has robust blackberry flavors and a dark, spicy finish.
 
Dry Turkey Burger with Nothing on It. Somewhere out there someone is trying to stay healthy by eating one of these. Madness knows no bounds. Drink water with it, then watch Papillon, the great Steve McQueen movie about being in prison on Devil’s Island in French Guiana—because that is what you are doing to your soul, my friend.
 
Related:Best Burger Recipes Ever
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Best Pizza Places in the U.S.
Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.

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

Bees and Honey Are All the Buzz

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With national bee frenzy growing for some time, new products like honey beer are starting to hit the market. The Obamas were right at the forefront of the movement when they served White House Honey Ale, home-brewed by their chefs with honey from the White House beehive, at a Super Bowl party this year. (Celebrity guest Marc Anthony liked the beer so much, he is reportedly hanging on to the bottle given to him by the First Lady.)
 
Now, Denver’s luxe Brown Palace Hotel & Spa is partnering with Wynkoop Brewing Company to produce a Belgian-style saison beer with the honey from a rooftop bee colony. The hotel will debut the bee-brew during this year’s Great American Beer Festival.
 
A new one-stop bee-inspired shop in Cambridge, MA, doesn't sell beer, but it does have all sorts of treats and trinkets for the modern bee lover. Opened on National Honey Bee Day, August 20, Follow the Honey sources honeys from all 50 states and abroad, and sells beeswax candles and soaps, beekeeping books, bee-inspired artwork and even jewelry.

Related: Fantastic Honey Recipes

Restaurants

Grilled Cheese and A Cheesy Summer Meltdown

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© Con Poulos

When it gets so hot outside, everyone starts obsessing over ice cream sandwiches. Not me. Instead, I want to talk about savory, greasy fried grilled cheese sandwiches. Luckily for me, a lot of people are on my wavelength and they’re making terrific—or at least thought-provoking—versions.
 
The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, San Francisco. AGCK takes their grilled cheese seriously enough to have a breakfast menu: The Breakfast Piglet is filled with sharp Cheddar, ham, egg and apple mustard. At lunch, they serve a no-egg version of it, as well as the Mousetrap, made with cheddar, creamy Havarti, Monterey jack, on artisan sourdough. The place, nearby Candlestick Park, usually closes at 4, but they extend their hours to the first pitch for most Giants home night baseball games.
 
The Grilled Cheese Truck, Los Angeles. In most places, macaroni and cheese and house-smoked BBQ pork are side dishes. At the Grilled Cheese Truck, they’re the basis for the Cheesy Mac & Rib Sandwich. Likewise, the Pepperbelly Melt is filled with housemade chili and Fritos (served with habanero jack cheese, on cheddar jalapeno bread). You can also design your own sandwich with both the BBQ pork and chili but that’s getting a little crazy.
 
Roxy's Grilled Cheese, Boston. In keeping with the theme of grilled cheese places that respect their local baseball parks, Roxy’s offers the Green Muenster, an homage to Fenway Park’s famed leftfield wall. (It’s a mix of Muenster cheese, guacamole and bacon.) Here, too, mac & cheese is considered a sandwich filling: mixed with spicy sausage and caramelized onion it's called Mac & Chorizo. Among Roxy’s ingenious inventions: they brush the bread with mayonnaise rather than butter before slapping it on the griddle.
 
The Queens Kickshaw, Queens, NY.
This new café uses the amazing ethnic diversity of its hometown Queens to inspire the menu. Sandwiches include the Greek-influenced feta with roasted red pepper spread, and the French-style Gruyere with pickled and caramelized onions. I’m not sure what country inspires the grilled cheese with gouda, black bean hummus and guava jam, but it sounds tasty.
 
Grilled Cheese & Co., Cantonsville, MD. This mini-chain now has three locations in Maryland. So of course they have the Crabby Melt, melted jack cheese on top of their homemade ‘crabby dip.’ Among their current specials is the Hermanator, designed by NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace: provolone, turkey breast, pickles with honey-mustard sauce.
 
Related Links:
 
10 Awesome Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
America’s Wacky Fair Foods
The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipes
Great Recipes with Cheese
Weirdest Regional Foods

(Pictured: Triple-Decker Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches)

Recipes

Outrageous Breakfast Sandwiches

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© Quentin Bacon

You’ve heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many chefs around the country have heeded the call and are now serving morning meals. Still, that doesn’t mean all their dishes get a nutritional thumbs up. Take breakfast sandwiches, the Homer Simpson of AM food service. Some chefs have created awesome versions that aren’t all available at their restaurants. And many nutritionists will say, thank goodness for that.
 
Tim Love, Lonesome Dove, Ft Worth Texas
“My breakfast sandwich:  I load a griddled hamburger patty up with jack cheese, chili, lamb bacon, sunny hen egg and fresh tomatillo salsa. Then fold a fresh flour tortilla around as much of it as I can. And serve it with a tequila sunrise, of course.”
 
John Currence, Big Bad Breakfast, Oxford, Mississippi
“At my restaurant, I’ve brought a lot of people back from the dead after a long night out with the Pylon: A split, griddle-fried hot dog with chili, slaw, cheddar, mustard, chopped pickles, onion, jalapeño peppers and oyster crackers, all on a sweet waffle.”
 
Ryan LaRoche, NoMI Kitchen at Park Hyatt, Chicago
“I like to take the grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the room service menu and deep fry it. It’s like a jelly donut. To take it really over the top, I eat it with my grandfather’s brown butter scrambled eggs. But I draw the line at putting the eggs on the fried pb&j.”
 
Shaun Hergatt, SHO Shaun Hergatt Restaurant, NYC
“I make a breakfast sandwich with Vegemite, avocado, sharp Cheddar Cheese, bacon and eggs, all on rye Vita crisp bread. So it’s kind of healthy. I fly in caseloads of Vegemite from Australia. The only thing I don’t put on the sandwich is gold leaf, even though I do poached eggs with gold leaf at the restaurant. And sea urchin—another thing I don’t put on that sandwich.”
 
And now it’s time to hand out the award for the most outrageous breakfast sandwich. We’re thrilled to give it to Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat, Chicago) and Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger, Wellesley, MA) who created a pretty remarkable dish at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen a few years ago. Faced with the challenge of using up leftovers, they took cold pizza, cooked lobster and crisp baconand… piled them on top of each other (no, the pizza didn’t get heated up). It was served with a fried egg on top. “Genius,” recalls Dana Cowin, F&W Editor in Chief, who judged the dish. “It includes almost every food group you’d want to have in the morning. Especially if you’re a college student.”

Related Links
15 Great Breakfast Recipes
20 Brunch Recipes
20 Bacon Recipes
15 Egg Recipes
Tim Love Recipes

Pictured above: Breakfast Biscuit Sandwich

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