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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Aspen

Mario's Amazing Aspen Charity Party

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Mario Batali, right, ready to party with Jose Andres.

There are two things that top my wish list for F&W’s upcoming Classic in Aspen 2010. The first is to party with Mario Batali. The second is to try and do something charitable in the middle of all the ridiculous chefs’ demos and wine tastings and general craziness. Well, Mario’s making this very easy for me this year by hosting his second annual T-Bones & Tequila party on Thursday, June 17, to benefit the Mario Batali Foundation for kids. (“I’m excited to be kicking off the Aspen Food & Wine Classic with my kick-ass party,” he says.) Basically, it’s going to be the ultimate house party, and here’s why:

1. It features some of Mario’s best Italian grilling recipes. (Maybe, just maybe, he’ll preview some dishes from his upcoming Eataly market in NYC.)
2. It’s got all kinds of tequila drinks and a tequila-tasting bar.
3. It boasts a musical performance by the inimitable Joe Bastianich, Mario’s business partner and resident wine genius.
4. It takes place at the impossible-to-get-into Two Twelve house.
5. It benefits MBF, Mario’s excellent foundation, which works to ensure that kids are well read, well fed and well cared for.

Tax-deductible tickets for Mario's excellent party are $175. They’re available at mariobatalifoundation.org or by calling 630-618-4756.

Restaurants

Pulino's Has Sold How Many Pizzas?

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© kate krader
Nate Appleman Takes a Break from Pizzas to Focus on Strip Steaks.

I’m not sure if we’ll ever see an old school McDonald’s-style sign—"1 Billion Served"—erected on the Bowery. But the number of crisp-crusted pizzas that Nate Appleman and his team have sold at the eight-week-old Pulino’s in downtown NYC are pretty staggering: specifically, 27,000. And that’s just the number they’ve sold. The number they’ve made, Appleman says, is much higher. Margheritas are the top sellers—on Saturday, when they sold 671 pizzas (a record to date), 176 of them were Margheritas. (Me, I had two pies as part the record-breaking night: the Salsiccia with sausage, tomato and broccoli rabe; and one topped with vibrant pesto, which is my favorite.) In spite of the pizza onslaught, Appleman remains meat-obsessed—because he buys whole cows for butchering, there’s always a steak on his daily specials, and it’s usually bone-in. And the burgers he serves after midnight won’t ever outsell the pizzas—after all, he only offers 30 of them a night.

Ingredients

Fefferoni—My New Favorite Pickled Chile

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Fefferoni--a pickled chile from Macedonia.

© Kristin Donnelly

I stop into Kalustyans every few months to pick up a bottle of cocktail bitters or a bag of the sexy black beluga lentils, and I always find something there I’ve never seen. Most recently, I left with a jar of Va-Va’s Grilled (and pickled) Fefferoni. The skinny finger-size yellow chile pepper is native to the Balkan region and can range from mild to hot. The ones in the jar I snagged are quite fiery and have a lightly smoky flavor from being grilled. I’ve chopped them to add to everything from steamed mussels to grilled cheese sandwiches. The brine is so deliciously garlicky that I want to spike everything with it—including a salad made with those lentils.

Here are more recipes I’d add them to:
Deviled Egg Spread

Chickpea and Spinach Stew

Three-Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Farro Salad with Squid and Chorizo

Cheddar-Polenta Biscuits with Ham Salad

Restaurants

Tom Colicchio and the Children of Bellevue

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© Alessandra Bulow
Craft’s morel-stuffed lamb with spring vegetables and ramp vinaigrette

Earlier this week, proud papa Tom Colicchio, chef-owner of Craft Restaurants, showed off pictures of his adorable 9-month-old baby boy Luka while hosting the Children of Bellevue’s Toast to the Children Fundraising Benefit in New York City.

“Seventeen years ago, my first son Dante was born eight weeks early and weighed only 2 pounds, 5 ounces,” he said. “He spent two months in Bellevue Hospital’s neonatal ICU.”

When Colicchio was preparing to take Dante home, he was approached by a social worker who asked him if he had a crib, diapers and air conditioner at home. “I was kind of annoyed at first, but then I asked, 'What if I said no?’ ” After learning that the hospital’s Children of Bellevue program provides assistance to families of in-patient and out-patient children, Colicchio knew he wanted to get involved. Over the past 13 years, he's helped turn the organization’s cocktail party fund-raiser into a gala benefit that includes the participation of 20 fantastic NYC restaurants. “For all the success I’ve been lucky enough to have, this is the work I’m most proud of,” Colicchio said.

Chefs from two of Colicchio’s own restaurants were there: Craft chef de cuisine James Tracey cooked morel-stuffed lamb with spring vegetables and a ramp vinaigrette (pictured) and Colicchio & Sons pastry chef Stephen Collucci served vanilla-rose panna cotta with poached rhubarb and a pistachio puree.

Also in attendance was actress Uma Thurman, who volunteers at the hospital’s teen psychiatric unit, and F&W’s own amazing editor in chief Dana Cowin, who was presented with an award for her outstanding support of the food industry and for her charitable work, including her advocacy for cancer survivors.

Click here for more information about Children of Bellevue.

News

A Debate Over School Lunches

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I’ve had a busy morning. I got to be on the panel A Conversation With... at the American Museum of Natural History as part of the New Taste of the Upper West Side. The topic: Food challenges in the home and the public-school system. The moderator: NY1’s excellent anchor Elizabeth Kaledin (who is also an UWS mom). The panel: Food Network’s Ellie Krieger,  UWS chefs Bill Telepan and John Fraser, the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo, nutritional expert Joel Fuhrman and Eric Goldstein, who manages food services for over a million New York City public school kids.

There were some heated battles (Are bagels poisonous even if they’re whole wheat?? Is there a role for healthy processed foods in school lunch rooms?? Is there any escape from pork in NYC restaurants these days?? Do kids ever text that they’re psyched to go eat some organic cauliflower??). But the real star of the show showed up late, during the audience-question period. Her name was Samantha Richards. She’s a 20-year-old student at C-Cap culinary-arts program, and she talked about how she's been cooking for her family since she was little (her Mom managed to work and also be her prep cook). And she liked Chicago's school lunches better than those in NYC because they offered whole wheat pizzas. And how she’d changed her eating habits after her four little cousins started following her around. Next year, I hope they put her on the panel. She has a lot to say.

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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.

Run with chefs and wine experts in the Celebrity Chef 5K and dance all night at Gail Simmons’ Last Bite Dessert Party during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.