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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

Dr. Vino's Verdict

Why You Should Ask for Boxed Wine

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think we should try to shrink wine's carbon footprint? Drinking local wines helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by transportation (worldwide consumption is estimated at the equivalent of 32 billion bottles yearly by one trade organization). Not everyone is fortunate enough to live next to a wine producing region of either quality or quantity, though: In the US, while 90 percent of the wine is produced in California, two-thirds of the population lives east of the Mississippi. It takes a lot of trucking to connect the two. Not to mention that most wine obsessives want variety. But an increasing number of good wines are being sold in lightweight packaging, which is a step in the right direction because it saves energy during shipping. The more consumers signal their willingness to buy quality wines in boxes, cartons and plastic bottles, the more good producers will be willing to package their wines in eco-friendlier ways.

An F&W-approved boxed wine to try: The spicy, berry-rich 2011 Domaine La Garrigon Côtes du Rhône.

Related: More from Dr. Vino
Affordable Dry Rosés
Chillable Reds

America's Most Wanted

Tyler Florence’s California-Fried Chicken

Tyler Florence's Fried Chicken

Tyler Florence insists that his signature fried chicken at Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco isn’t Southern-fried. “It’s California-fried,” he says. The intensive cooking process infuses the meat with incredible flavor. Florence starts with Mary’s organic chicken from Petaluma (a town once known as the chicken capital of the world because of its many poultry farms). He sous vides the breasts, legs and wings separately with olive oil, sage, rosemary and thyme then plunges the bags in ice water to stop cooking. After the pieces rest overnight, Florence drops the chicken into a buttermilk wash seasoned with hot sauce and salt. “Then we dip the chicken in my grandmother’s mixture of flour heavily seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder and salt and pepper,” he says. Finally, he fries the chicken in oil seasoned with fresh sage, rosemary and thyme. “The chicken comes out super crispy on the outside and incredibly soft on the inside,” he says. “It’s turned out the be the defining dish in the restaurant, and I’m very proud of it.”

Related: Tips from Chef Superstars
Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.
Delicious Fried Chicken Recipes

Chicken Nation

America's Favorite Roast Chicken

Judy Rogers's Roast Chicken with Bread Salad

"Everybody likes to joke about chicken—the rubber-chicken prize, or 'This alligator tastes like chicken.' It's calling something boring," says Judy Rodgers, chef-owner of San Francisco's beloved Zuni Café. But chicken done expertly, Rodgers says, "is like a perfect piece of toast with just the right amount of butter. It can be astonishing." She should know: Zuni's roast chicken is considered the best in the country—in a recent poll by foodandwine.com, Rodgers's recipe won by a landslide.

Rodgers joined Zuni in 1987 and, within months, proposed what the menu still calls "Chicken for two roasted in the brick oven; warm bread salad with scallions, garlic, dandelion greens, dried currants and pine nuts. (Approximately one hour.)" The dish depends famously on three key elements: small birds, high heat (450 to 500 degrees) and thorough presalting of the chicken several days before cooking. The essence of the Zuni chicken experience, in Rodgers's view, is that "it's like, 'Here. Is. Chicken.' " Pure and bold and underlined. "Then of course there's the family-style thing," she says of the way the dish is presented on a platter. "Eating with your hands, shopping around for the pieces you want. 'Oh, I want a gooey piece! Now I want a crispy piece! Get your hands off the pine nuts!' Plus, it smells good."

Related: Chicken Recipes and Cooking Tips
Perfect Roast Chicken Recipes
100 Best Recipes Ever: Chicken

Drink This Now

Best Rums for Rum Punches

Rum Punch

I found myself on the horns of a vicious dilemma recently, when I tried to figure out whether I preferred rum punch to a rum and tonic, or vice versa. Some people might say, “Well! You, sir, are one to be bothered by trivial problems,” and in fact they might be right, but given that National Rum Day recently passed, I feel that if ever there were a time to be puzzled by matters concerning rum, this is it. But though I might offend my in-laws by saying so—they’re the rum-and-tonic crowd, where I live—I’m going to have to go for rum punch. It’s an excellent drink in that, aside from the fact that it tastes good, it gives you the feeling that you are sitting in a hammock on an island in the Caribbean, rather than, for instance, sweltering in a shoebox-size apartment in New York.

Classically, rum punch follows the traditional proportions for punch making: one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak. A common set of ingredients might be (in order) lime juice, pineapple juice and/or grenadine, rum and water, for instance, but the variations—both on ingredients and proportions—are relatively endless. Personally, I’d suggest trying a combo of pineapple juice, orange juice and grenadine for the sweet proportion, and using a good white rum for the strong, then floating a layer of dark rum on top (if you’re making a single drink, that is; it’s hard to float a layer of dark rum over an entire punchbowl). A couple of other nifty recipes: Rum Punch and Puerto Rican Rum Punch.

In terms of what rum to use, there are similarly endless possibilities. One good choice for a white rum, though, is the Flor de Caña Extra Dry 4 Year Old ($15 or so), which has more personality than many white rums; the lightly tangy Ron Matusalem Platino (around $17) is also an excellent option. If you’re willing to search a little (and pay a premium price), the Banks 5 Island Rum ($28) is a blend from five rum-producing regions (Guyana, one of them, isn’t an island—no idea why the Banks folks seem to think it is). Because the blend includes several aged rums, it’s got an impressive depth of flavor and complexity, with a distinctive sugarcane-spirit aroma. Finally, for that dark rum float—though given the price, you may just want to sip it—there’s the Brugal 1888 ($50), which is aged first in ex-bourbon casks and then in ex-sherry casks. (The latter unusual for rum, but not uncommon for Scotch; no coincidence that the majority owners of Brugal also own The Macallan.) The Brugal is impressive stuff. A blend of rums aged between five and 14 years, it has distinct toffee-oak notes, a hint of espresso toastiness, and a finish that isn’t too sweet, which is sometimes a failing of expensive aged rums.

Related: Fantastic Rum Drinks
White Rum Cocktails
Perfect Party Punches
Modern Summer Cocktails
21 Summer Fruit Cocktails

Kitchen Trash

The Best Ridiculous Kitchen Tools

The Hutzler Banana Slicer

Some kitchen equipment must have been created just so it could get the most hilarious review on Amazon. (I’m thinking, of course, of the Hutzler Banana Slicer, and the 2011 review, titled “No More Winning For You, Mr. Banana!” Currently, almost 48,000 people have found this review helpful. It’s followed by the “Saved My Marriage” comment, which compares the banana slicer to the wheel, penicillin and the iPhone.)

If only I could write reviews like that. Or find kitchen equipment that enables those kinds of reviews. Luckily for me, my excellent colleague at Food & Wine, food editor Daniel Gritzer, is the Simon Cowell of the kitchen equipment world. He took on the task of finding the 10 Best Ridiculous Kitchen Tools. Take it away, Daniel.

Hutzler Banana Slicer
Let’s start with the king of ridiculous devices, the banana slicer that launched a zillion online comments. I thought this was a gag gift at first (as a gag gift, it’s pretty great!), but it turns out there are companies that actually sell this plastic, yellow, banana-shaped slicer. The best thing about it is surely the now-legendary review on Amazon that starts this way: “For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. ‘Use a knife!’ they say. Well...my parole officer won’t allow me to be around knives. ‘Shoot it with a gun!’ Background check...HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands...” amazon.com

Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker
If you feel the need to waste away in Margaritaville as literally as possible, you can spend $230 (a bargain from the $425 list price) on this frozen-drink device that claims to shave ice rather than just crushing it. Alternatively, you can buy a good blender and make all the frozen drinks you ever want, plus about a million other things. amazon.com

Norpro Lemon Lime Slicer
Let’s be clear—this is a lemon/lime wedge cutter. If you’re past the point of being able to cut a lime wedge for your Corona, you probably shouldn’t be fooling around with a sharp-bladed piece of kitchen equipment either. amazon.com

Paderno Egg Separator
Here’s a tip: The best egg separator ever is located at the end of your forearm with five fingers attached. amazon.com

MSC Joie Simply Slice Strawberry Slicer
This little, bladed device is shaped like a strawberry so you know what fruit it’s designed to slice. Because it’s also a fruit slicer, it’s drawing plenty of comparisons to the Hutzler Banana tool. One customer noted that they’ll gladly stand in line for the iSlice mini with Bluetooth. amazon.com

West Bend Automatic Egg Cooker
Covered by a clear plastic dome, this egg cooker boasts the ability to hard- or soft-boil eggs just by pushing a button. I’m fairly certain that any civilization that considers boiling an egg to be too difficult an undertaking is doomed. amazon.com

Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker
This machine makes breakfast sandwiches “in the comfort of your own home.” Something that can also be accomplished using a skillet. But more importantly, how do you divide up that one breakfast sandwich? Because it makes only one at a time. amazon.com

Rollie EggMaster Vertical Grill
According to the product description of this electric, egg-cylinder-producing machine, “Eggs might seem like an atypical kabob, but they’re delicious right off the wooden skewer.” Which tells you everything you need to know. amazon.com

Amco Serrated Salad Chopper
You know how a sharp knife never really cuts lettuce properly, making this device totally essential? Yeah, me neither. amazon.com

Amco Peach Pitter/Slicer
Of all the fruit slicers out there, I think I object to this one the most: It leaves so much fruit behind on the pit. Anyone using this should probably stick to mealy, out-of-season peaches. amazon.com

Related: Beautiful Kitchen Tools
Great Kitchen Knives
Gifts for Artisanal Types
Home Design Gifts
Favorite Style Finds

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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.