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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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A $460K Whisky

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macallan

© The Macallan Scotch Whisky/Lalique
Charity: water founder Scott Harrison with the oldest and rarest Macallan.

A few days ago, someone asked me what my necessary luxuries were in life and on my short list was Macallan single malt whisky. Apparently, a few other people share my passion. The other night, Sotheby’s auctioned off a bottle of the oldest and rarest Macallan ever, bottled in a bespoke Lalique crystal decanter. There were hyper-competitive bidders on the floor, as well as on the phone banks from Asia to Italy. The final winning bid came from an American collector: $460,000 for the Macallan 64 Years Old in Lalique. The auction was part of a 12-city charity tour starting in Paris and ending in New York that ultimately raised more than $600,00 for the non-profit organization, charity: water

Cocktails

A Great New British-Countryside Retreat

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cocktail

© Jen Murphy
Cocktail time at the Barn at Coworth Park.

Every fall, I make an annual trip to London, and I have made a habit of indulging myself with a day or two in the British countryside before heading into the hectic city for work. In the past, I’ve stayed at Brit designer Ilse Crawford’s cozy coaching inns in Hurley and Amersham. This year, I decided to be a bit more posh and checked into Coworth Park.

Located on 240 acres in Ascot, just 45 minutes from London, this new hotel fulfills every fantasy I’ve ever had of a Posh-and-Becks-style country escape, complete with Georgian manor house, stables, deer running in the fields and a lake full of swans. My sporty side loved the tennis, croquet, horseback riding, running paths and polo (it’s the only hotel in the UK that has its own polo fields), and the fab eco-spa, which has an amethyst-lit lap pool that plays music underwater and offers exclusive organic treatments from Dr. Alaitis (some made from lavender grown on the spa’s green roof). And my gluttonous side took total advantage of the awesome food from Michelin-starred chef John Campbell. The Barn, appropriately housed in an old converted barn, has a casual gastropub feel and comfort foods like cottage pie with braised root vegetables and beer-battered fish-and-chips (both pair excellently with Coworth Park’s own beers). Warm homemade bread gets served in cute feed bags. The bar on the second level has horse tacks on the walls, cooking-pot chandeliers and one of the best gin selections I’ve ever seen, plus intuitive bartenders who know exactly how you like your drink. At night, I swapped my muddy Wellies for heels and ate at chef Campbell’s signature fine dining restaurant within the mansion house. A shire menu features ingredients sourced from no more than 70 miles away, while the tasting menu is more brainy and theatrical and might include a liquid nitrogen sorbet of sage and Bramley apple prepared tableside, or a frosted vase of flowers that releases an infusion of garlic smoke over the table. The vegetarian tasting menu was perhaps the most intriguing, mixing flavors like carrot, galangal, ginger and pine nuts in one dish and butternut squash, artichoke and quinoa in another. The restaurant offers the perfect bit of city cooking in the country.
 

Chefs

Alchemy of Taste and Smell—The Scented Dinner

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© John Sconzo
Alchemy of Taste and Smell Chefs Included David Chang and Wylie Dufresne.

I don’t know what you all did for dinner on Saturday night. Me, I sat in a small dining room in New York City’s Astor Center and got showered with vanilla-scented bubbles from a machine that looked like it was borrowed from a Bensonhurst disco while Roberta’s chef Carlo Mirarchi served luscious sea urchin with carrot granita and vanilla. It was just one of the courses in the Scented Dinner that closed the Alchemy of Taste and Smell conference, and I was just one of the guests (Ruth Reichl, Jeffrey Steingarten and Harold McGee were there too). And Mirachi was just one of the chefs creating extra-sensory dishes with help from perfumer Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. Coi’s Daniel Patterson, the festival’s organizer, cooked beets in hay and then scented them with more hay, and flowers too. Wylie Dufresne, of WD-50, infused his outstanding aerated foie gras with just the right amount of pine and then served it on pine paper with a burning edge – long story short, it evoked a big burning fireplace, which was just about the only thing missing from that dinner.

Cookbooks

Favorite 2010 Cookbook #2: The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders

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Rachel Saunders of Oakland, California’s Blue Chair Fruit is a jam obsessive. In fact, she reminds me of one of my other favorite obsessives, Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. Both are perfectionists and tinkered for years until they felt they had something perfect. Yet they never tire of creating new flavors or combinations, so what they sell is always fresh and inventive. (I should also mention that both artisans are featured in F&W in December, with a mini essay from Jeni and a recipe from Rachel).

I love Rachel's new book because it’s super comprehensive: She not only explains how the bubbles on a high sugar jam look small and shiny when the jam is done or very close, she shows you what that stage looks like in photographs, too. And while she includes 120 or so of her own jam recipes, she gives you enough information in the first few chapters to improvise and create jams of your own.

To tell the truth, I’m not much of a jam maker but Sara Remington’s photographs throughout the book make me wish I were. This is a great book for real homesteaders or those who just like to pretend.

Chefs

Behind the Barneys Foodie Holiday Windows with Simon Doonan

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© kate krader
Simon Doonan: In Charge of Food Splattering for Barneys Foodie Holiday Windows.

It’s official: The Foodie Holidays are here. Well, almost. The windows at Barneys New York are, as we write this, just a few hours from completion. Which means that right now, the Bad Boys window — an amazing tableau that includes likenesses of Tony Bourdain at one end of the table, Bobby Flay on top of it and Guy Fieri underneath it — isn’t quite finished. By the end of the day, says Barneys creative director, Simon Doonan, the food fight will be complete and “food” will be strewn on the inside of Barney’s Madison Avenue window. Plates of fake scrambled eggs queued up at the bottom of the window, waiting to be splattered.

And here’s what else the newly fledged food lover Doonan had to say about his holiday windows. “For our customers, celebrity chefs are the celebrities. They’re not interested in Lindsay Lohan’s latest tribulations. They’re foodies and the culture is now foodie. I’ve started going to chef events and they’re so much more hedonistic and wild than the average fashion event.” (I want to know what chef events he’s going to.) Doonan, who credits South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s founder Lee Brian Schrager with bringing on his love for food, and Illy Coffee for helping make the windows happen and keeping his staff caffeinated enough to keep working, continues. “I love the irreverence of my new foodie friends. Now come back later when the food is adhered to the glass; I promise it will be chaotic.”

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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.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.