Chefs all over the world are creating empires comprised of both white-tablecloth flagships and casual restaurants. On my recent trip to Belfast, I discovered Northern Ireland's chef-emperor, Michael Deane. I had an exceptional lunch at his Michelin-starred Deanes, featuring pan-fried wild halibut filets held together with edible glue (a trick Deane's executive chef, Derek Creagh, picked up during a stint at England's pioneering Fat Duck). Later, I stopped by the casual wine bar for the first of its new Friday night happy hours. The space—half wine shop, half restaurant—has live music from 5 to 7 p.m. every Friday, as well as a fantastic (and free!) spread of tapas—Irish cheeses, cured meats, olives, homemade breads and spreads. It's a Northern Irish take on Italy's aperitivo, and the best dining value in Belfast.
The Slow Food movement, with its long list of disciples, has added another group: Italian craft brewers, who are using local fruits and spices, as well as unexpected ingredients like tea or myrrh (instead of hops in some brews). Star Italian brewmasters Teo Musso of Le Baladin and Leonardo di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo poured their food-friendly beers this week at a dinner at NYC's Convivio (home to a fantastic all-Italian beer list). They also shared their exciting plans for Open Baladin, an Italy-exclusive brew pub and market that will be part of Eataly, the Italian supermarket that Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali's B&B Hospitality Group are bringing to NYC's Flatiron neighborhood. Here are a couple of my favorite beers from the dinner that are now available in the U.S.:
Birra del Borgo Te Ale: This light blend of pilsner malt and wheat malt uses fermented tea leaves, which provide acidity and bitterness.
Le Baladin Al-iksir Ale: A high alcohol content (10%) gives this effervescent beer a dry finish that's balanced by the almond, tropical fruit and malty flavors.
For just some of the restaurants and markets carrying these beers in your area, check out the state-by-state list on the importer's site.-Christine Quinlan
© Notes on Cooking
Notes on Cooking
#38: Be wary of single-use gadgets.
#84: Command the heat.
#114: Stock is its own ingredient.
#150: Chicken is the test of a cook’s versatility.
#217: Always be cooking.
Nine days left until the world's premiere food event, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 19-21. For those still looking for tickets, F&W, QVC and KitchenAid have partnered up to offer an exclusive package to Extra viewers that includes round-trip airfare for two, a three-night hotel stay, tickets to the Food & Wine Publisher's Party, front-row seats to the Classic Quickfire Challenge, a QVC gift card worth $1,000 and amazing appliances from KitchenAid. Check out Extratv.com to learn how to enter the contest, and tune in to QVC at 11 a.m. (EST) on June 21 for a live broadcast from Aspen.
My go-to tuna salad, especially in the warmer months, is inspired by a trip to the Maldives where it was an unexpected breakfast dish. To make mashuni (in Maldivian), take canned tuna packed in olive oil, drain it, then chop. Add diced red onion, green chiles, lime juice and fresh shredded coconut (look for unsweetened coconut if buying pre-shredded). Roll it in warm flatbread, like pita or roti or even a tortilla, for a sweet, tangy, spicy wrap. I got up early most mornings during the trip to watch the sun rise, but I think it was the promise of breakfast that really got me out of bed. No matter what was served—pancakes with banana-coconut butter, homemade donuts or fresh papaya and mangosteens—it was the mashuni that I craved. Search F&W for other great tuna salad recipes, like Melissa Rubel's butter bean, tuna and celery salad.
© Amanda Kludt
Bar room @ the new Aureole
* It’s night-and-day different from the original. Chef/owner Charlie Palmer called the old town house one-dimensional; the new space, 3-D.
* There are three eating options in the new location: a small-bites menu, a bar room with an American brasserie menu and a more formal room with a prix-fixe fine dining menu.
* Chef Christopher Lee (an F&W Best New Chef 2006) is on Day One of menu testing, so there are no confirmed dishes, but he’s talking about pork belly pastrami sliders on the bar menu and a surf-and-turf of lobster tail and pork belly in the dining room. (No word yet on whether he’ll do some version of the Gossip Grill, the grilled-cheese-and-truffle sandwich he made famous on the TV hit Gossip Girl.) We'll know soon—word is they're starting to take reservations for early July.
* Girls in skirts, take note: *The upstairs wine mezzanine—Palmer promises to have 15,000 bottles on the premises—will have a glass floor. Also no word yet on whether he’ll have his Vegas cat-suited wine angels catapulting up to fetch the bottles.
I had the opportunity to attend the 29th annual Auction Napa Valley this past weekend, which is definitely one of the more hifalutin' wine events I've ever run into. Held at Meadowood in St. Helena, it featured the requisite huge tent, some mighty nifty chandeliers made out of grape vines (designed by Erin Martin), a multi-course dinner prepared by big name chefs such as Joachim Splichal, Dean Fearing & Meadowood home talent Christopher Kostow (an F&W Best New Chef 2009, and an incredibly nice guy, too), and a whole bunch of bidding on extravagant auction lots.
Was the money down from last year? Sure. But, as someone mentioned to me in passing, $5,700,000 is still a lot of cash, especially when it goes to folks who really need it (the auction earning go to local youth and health charities, primarily).
On Friday, before the big shindig, the annual barrel auction took place. Top lot honors there went to Shafer Vineyards; but for my money, the real payoff was getting to taste barrel samples of a huge array of 2007 Cabernet Sauvignons. Anyone interested in Napa Valley Cabs should start saving up now, because '07 is clearly a fantastic vintage: impeccably balanced, gracefully structured wines with great aromatics and flavor. Favorites for me included the Realm Cellars Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard, Cliff Lede's Poetry bottling, and Shafer's Hillside Select. These won't be on the market for quite some time, but they're worth noting down now. —Ray Isle