Latina chefs are moving into the spotlight, according to the Associated Press. Miami-based Michelle Bernstein, owner ofboth Michy's and Sra. Martinez, believes that Latin cuisine is matriarchal by tradition. "We all grew up around mom in the kitchen, that's just how it was," she says. "And maybe that just better represents what Latin food is, coming from the momma." Underscoring the importance of gathering around the table, Bernstein's Mixed Grill with Chimichurri Sauces and Roasted Peppers, which features both chicken breasts and livers, is best served family style for a vibrant and hearty feast.
Looking beyond shakers and muddlers, the most advanced mixologists are now using unusual tools like sous vide water baths, vacuum pots and even paint-can shakers to expand their repertoires of delicious cocktails.
In New York City at Momofuku Ssäm Bar's new experimental bar annex, Booker and Dax, the French Culinary Institute's director of culinary technology Dave Arnold has brought in cutting-edge equipment. Though some of Arnold's techniques are captivating for patrons—the Red Hot Poker, for instance, rapidly heats winter cocktails before your eyes—he's less concerned about showmanship. "The concept of the bar is to use any means at our disposal to make delicious drinks," Arnold says. "We're not primarily focused on interesting presentation."
The Bangkok Daiquiri is one of Arnold's favorite examples. By employing technology he calls "nitro muddling," his team can avoid the unpleasant side of muddled herbs: namely, pieces of bruised, dull-colored vegetation getting caught in your straw or your teeth. In a mixing tin, he pours liquid nitrogen over fresh Thai basil, freezing it. The frozen basil is muddled with rum, topped with lime juice and simple syrup, then shaken. When the drink is strained through a tea strainer into a glass (pre-chilled with liquid nitrogen), only minute flecks of vividly green basil come through.
Relatively straightforward orders benefit from behind-the-scenes preparation. Manhattan cocktails are made in advance for consistency and pre-bottled in individual servings with liquid nitrogen to stave off oxidization. Though not as visually striking as a glowing poker or flash-frozen basil, according to Arnold, the wow effect is still there because the drink is not diluted with ice and there's enough extra left in the bottle for a second pour. "We actually serve you more liquid than can fit into your coupe," he says, "which people seem to enjoy."
Here's where to find more high-tech cocktails:
Aviary, Chicago: At Grant Achatz's buzzy state-of-the-art cocktail lounge, expert mixologists use a double-chamber vacuum pot to create the Rooibos cocktail tableside. In the bottom pot, gin is heated over a flame until it's sucked into the upper pot where it is infused with Rooibos tea, grapefruit, lemon zest, crushed almonds, herbs and spices. When the heat source is removed, the drink gets muddled back into the lower pot and served warm.
The Cocktail Bar at the Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans: The newly opened lounge borrows sous vide techniques from the kitchen for the Lion Amongst Ladies cocktail. The sealed mix of herbal Damiana liqueur, lemon, flamed orange peel and tequila is infused with kumquats in a warm, sous vide bath over the course of two hours.
Citizen R+D, Phoenix: At this bar-cum-research-lab, mixologist Richie Moe creates ice-cold rum-based Paint Can Punch with a repurposed antique paint-can shaker, which is so loud and vigorous that it shakes the room. Also in his workshop: a cold-drip coffeemaker used to make a Three-Hour Margarita, which for obvious reasons needs to be ordered well ahead of time.
Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco: The Bay Area's popular speakeasy offers classes in molecular mixology for the home bartender. The class covers everything from foams and spherification to working with liquid nitrogen. Students are encouraged to invent and test their own high-tech tipples.
In Well-Fed Vegetarian, chefs spotlight fantastic Food & Wine recipes that are worth forgoing meat.
The Next Iron Chef winner Geoffrey Zakarian created this creamy polenta-and-mushroom-ragout recipe out of his love for porridge. "I wanted to come up with something that was the same consistency," he says, "but could be eaten at other meals." For a more filling main course, Zakarian recommends adding even more mushrooms, like porcini and giant cremini, to the wild mix, which includes chanterelles and shiitake.
While Zakarian originally used chicken stock to enrich the ragout, the natural earthiness of the mushrooms and various herbs will also work well with vegetable stock. For extra umami, you can opt for organic vegetable bouillon cubes (like the ones from from Rapunzel) dissolved in water. As for the polenta, the natural cornmeal flavor comes through most when cooked with plain old H2O.
If you ever get a chance to go into space, don't forget the hot sauce. As strange as it sounds, NPR explains that astronauts crave Tabasco sauce because zero gravity causes them to lose their sense of smell, resulting in dulled taste buds. If scientists could only dehydrate it, the space shuttle could serve this Southern Baked Chicken Casserole from Jennifer Nettles. Nettles adds Tabasco to a quick, creamy white sauce that coats the chicken. Astronaut-level heat-lovers can always add a few dashes more.
Many Americans are taking to the kitchen to better understand their genealogy, according to the Wall Street Journal. Using vintage cookbooks, family testimonials and sense memories, home cooks can recreate long-lost recipes. Chefs have always looked to their family heritage for inspiration. For F&W's Jerk Cornish Game Hens, chef Bradford Thompson honored his wife's Jamaican background, basing the spicy jerk sauce on her family’s recipe. Its complex heat is equally delicious on grilled chicken.
Tune in on Wednesdays at 10PM ET for Top Chef: Boston, the 12th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.