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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


Tom Colicchio and the Children of Bellevue


© 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.


A Debate Over School Lunches


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.


Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions


© Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Outer Bay exhibit.

With the seemingly unstoppable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there has never been a better time to talk about sustainable seafood than right this moment. Luckily, this happens to be the weekend that the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosts their sensational annual event, Cooking for Solutions. Earlier this week, I met with Ken Peterson, the aquarium’s PR director, who told me what CFS events he’s especially looking forward to, plus general thoughts about the state of sustainable seafood right now.

* On whether the oil spill will dominate the conversation this weekend: “Probably, but in passing. It’s big. It’s a tragedy. But it’s a regionalized disaster. Fishing practices and ecological change are the long-term problems that we’re focusing on. But I’ll say this: It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Everything is spawning: bluefin tuna, blue crab, shrimp; sea turtles are trying to swim through oil right now to lay eggs.”

* On the CFS gala dinner: “We have 120 chefs and wineries serving sustainable and organic food and wines. Suzanne Goin is our chef of the year; Rick Bayless is being honored, too. Top Chef’s Kevin Gillespie will be barbecuing seafood. Everyone gets so fired up. John Cleese might be there; he’s a big fan of the aquarium.”  

* On the CFS panels he’s most excited about: “Well, they’re all great. But I always love Stories of Sustainability [moderated by F&W’s excellent contributor Jane Black]. We’ve got great presenters like Ingrid Bengis [Thomas Keller’s fishmonger] and Michel Nischan. He's a thought leader. There are always some stories of hope from that panel.”



Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation


© Alessandra Bulow
Scandinavian-style crispbread with truffle butter and house-smoked venison on a bed of grains from Aquavit’s Marcus Jernmark

Committing to a restaurant for my birthday dinner is a challenge. Good thing that I didn’t have to choose just one this week when I attended Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation in New York City, a culinary benefit that helps to raise the critical funds needed to end child hunger.

Chefs from more than 50 restaurants in New York created tastings for the event, including Aquavit’s new chef Marcus Jernmark, who served Scandinavian-style crisp bread with truffle butter and house-smoked venison on a bed of grains (pictured), and Maialino’s Nick Anderer, who stewed supertender tripe in a spicy tomato sauce and topped it with mint grown on the Gramercy Park Hotel’s yet-to-be-opened rooftop garden.

Also in attendance were some of the city’s top mixologists from bars like PDT (Jim Meehan, deputy editor of the F&W Cocktails guide represented), Clover Club, Death & Co., Dutch Kills and newcomers Cienfuegos and Painkiller.

Chefs and mixologists throughout the United States are donating their time, talent and passion at nearly 40 Taste of the Nation culinary events this spring and summer. Click here for more information about how to help end child hunger in America by attending an incredible tasting event in your community.


Telepan Helps Open Ooh La La


Ooh La La Restaurant—chef Bill Telepan's recent, um, extremely high-pressure consulting gig—opened for breakfast today at 9 a.m. and closed at 10:30. Tomorrow it will be open again for the same hours. Then it will shut its doors forever.

 That's kind of an odd approach for a restaurant, but when your staff is comprised of kindergartners, you do have to make some adjustments. Ooh La La Restaurant is located in NYC's PS 87 on the Upper West Side and is the culmination of several months of culinary research by a gang of pretty impressive seven-year-olds. Prices here are in quarters: three quarters gets you either French toast, French bread with butter or a blueberry muffin. The profits benefit City Harvest, a great hunger-fighting charity. And each item comes with a heaping side order of cute.

Ooh La La Restaurant

Unfortunately, Ooh La La is only open to parents and fellow students. So my suggestion is that people just walk 10 blocks down to Bill Telepan's own terrific restaurant, Telepan, instead. There may not be any blueberry muffins on his Spring menu, but there is his spring paella, one of the best things I've eaten so far this year. Telepan cooks rice, peas, asparagus and lobster with braised fresh bacon and a mix of clam and chicken stocks; adds scallops and additional fresh bacon; steams clams over clam stock and adds those; then finishes the dish with an herb oil incorporating parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives and dill. Not quite paella and not quite risotto, its flavors are as bright as May sunlight; it's ideally springtimey and utterly delicious. (It also, like most of Telepan's food, focuses on locally sourced and Greenmarket produce.) But while waiting for that paella to arrive, try to cajole the server into bringing out some of Telepan's not-on-the-menu foie gras sliders, each a slab of foie and a schmear of zingy-sweet rhubarb jam sandwiched between two pieces of toasted brioche.

Finally, make sure to let wine director Aaron von Rock to weigh in on what to drink with your meal. His wine list is full of unusual, moderately priced, intriguing choices, enough to excite even a jaded wine writer. For me, springtime always feels like white-wine time: Try the citrusy 2008 P. Escudero Fuente Milano Rueda from Spain by the glass; by the bottle, go for Clelia Romano's peach-plus-anise 2008 Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino. Or just ask von Rock to suggest something. He has an unerring sense of what wine will bring out the best in each of the chef's dishes—an expertise which, admittedly, is something you wouldn't be able to get at Ooh La La, however charming it may be.


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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.