Someone at Google must have had a serious chocolate craving while brainstorming the name of the latest Android mobile operating system. It's Android KitKat, after the chocolate-covered wafers that demand you give them a break. This isn't the first time the company's engineers have let sweets' obsessions inform products. A 2009 codename was Android Cupcake 1.5. To honor the K campaign, Hershey’s has already erected an enormous KitKat statue shaped like the Android mascot outside of its Pennsylvania headquarters. Also, starting today, specially-marked KitKat bars will be released (and given away at points of Android sale) featuring chances to win 1,000 Nexus 7 tablets, 150,000 Google Play $5 credits and 20,000 coupons for free bags of KitKat Minis. Your move, Apple.
Of course a British ex-sailor is making gin. With his American wife, head distiller Ashby, Timo Marshall recently opened Spirit Works distillery in the sleepy hippy town of Sebastopol, California. The couple met working as deckhands on icebreaker ships (Timo even sports an anchor tattoo) but together dreamt of making sloe gin stateside.
“As far as we know, we are currently the only ones making sloe with real sloe berries in the US,” Timo says. “If anyone else is, they are keeping it a secret.” A liqueur made with gin, tart sloe berries (members of the plum family) and sugar, sloe gin is primarily reserved for sloe gin fizzes in America. But in Timo's native England, it’s sipped like a digestif. “I’ve been making it at home since I was 14,” says Timo. Spirit Works’ version will straddle the line between cocktail ingredient and digestif—it will be tart enough to sip alone, but sweet enough to flavor a fizz or gin and tonic.
Timo’s family still makes sloe gin the super old-fashioned way: “Take a bottle, half fill it with sloes that have been hand-pricked with a thorn from the bush. (There was something very calming about that process.) Fill it up to the neck with sugar and then add gin.” After three months, the liqueur is ready—though traditionally it’s not tasted until the following winter when the sloe berries come back into season.
At their California distillery, Ashby and Timo take a slightly more modern approach by macerating berries imported from Bulgaria (they are hard to find in the US where the invasive plant is avoided) in their housemade gin and adding sugar. “My family really helped us hone in on the recipe,” Timo says. “We tried 42 different combinations.” In about two months, the sloe-curious will be able to taste the finished product—along with the couple's dry gin (flavored with zested orange and lemon rinds, cardamom and other spices) and creamy wheat vodka—at the Spirit Works distillery. Whole bottle retailers will be listed on the website. “A lot of people out there are waiting for our gin,” Timo says.
Olivia Wilde, star of the new comedy Drinking Buddies, loves good IPAs and deep-fried PB&Js.
You recently Tweeted about eating a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich: "Never in my life has my stomach orgasmed so mightily." Where did you encounter such a thing?
Yeah, I didn't know that existed, and now I'm ruined. I'm gonna turn into Marlon Brando. I had it at the Malibu Inn, which is a great music venue and bar right on the Pacific Coast Highway. My fiancé ordered the deep-fried PB&J—they use waffle batter, so it's not too bready. The way the peanut butter and jelly melt together is far better than I could have imagined. It's pretty much the ultimate stoner food.
Your character in Drinking Buddies works at a brewery and constantly drinks beer—usually stout. What did you actually drink during production?
It was always real beer. I drank gallons of beer for this movie! We were getting a lot of it from Revolution Brewing, where our characters work in the movie, which is a real brewery in Chicago. Even though I'm Irish and I love Guinness, dark, dark, dark beers aren't usually my thing. I like a good, aromatic IPA.
Did you have a decent knowledge of beer before doing the movie?
It was all acquired in the process. On the first day, we were doing research at Three Floyds Brewing Company, and the wort—this boiling, thick, serum-y liquid—splashed into my eyeball. It did not feel good, but I wanted to play it cool and be tough, you know, because I didn't want to be a sissy. So I kept it together. Now I have become a total beer snob. I'm the annoying person who takes forever in the beer aisle at Whole Foods, because I'm standing there going, "Hmm. I'm not sure. I'm not sure if that's a good selection. Do you have anything in the back? Is this local? I've never heard of this one. How hoppy is this?" And other people are just like, "Please, move on."
How about wine?
Oh yeah, I'm a wino. I won't say there's one grape I like best, though, because I do like blends. Do you know The Prisoner? That's a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. That's just a fabulous wine. But my favorite wine of all time is a Napa Valley Cabernet called Scarecrow. It's mailing-list only, so it's hard to find, but if you ever see a bottle of Scarecrow, get it.
You mostly live in New York City these days. Any favorite restaurants?
I have recently fallen in love with an Italian restaurant downtown called Carbone. I've always found sea urchin to be too fishy, but at Carbone, they serve a sea urchin dish that is incredible. It's just garlicky and buttery and amazing. They also make the best linguine vongole I've ever had.
You've spoken about "self-medicating" with food during tough times. What are your comfort foods of choice?
For me, my number one comfort food—the food that really feels like a hug on the inside—is pasta. Probably a fresh linguine with arrabbiata sauce would be my top pick. Maybe I'd have some bread on the side, with some cheese or olive oil, too. I guess I crave the basic, carby things that we're not supposed to eat.
When I was in Japan a little while ago, I picked up the idea of having miso soup for breakfast, which I think is genius. When you wake up at 5 a.m. and you feel cold and nauseous, it fills you up and warms you up, and it's loaded with nutrients.
F&W food editors apply their incredible cooking knowledge to explaining what to do with a variety of interesting ingredients.
Every few years we totally fall in love with a new chile, and this year’s crush is the awesome piment d’Espelette, which is produced exclusively in and around the town of Espelette in the Basque region of France and Spain. The pepper came from Mexico in the 16th century and it has been widely cultivated since then; in fact, it quickly replaced the then-more-costly black pepper in many of the traditional regional dishes. You can think of it as a milder, nuanced cousin of cayenne.
Here, it’s turning up on menus from coast to coast, in savory dishes from vegetables and fish to poultry and meats, and in cocktails, too. It’s prized for its nuanced flavor and subtle heat. Because of its AOC designation, piment d’Espelette is pricier than cayenne or any ground Mexican chiles. You can buy it on its own, but it’s also sold mixed with sea salt, in infused oil and as a sweet jelly—all forms are delicious. Watch out, chipotles, whole oil-packed piment d’Espelette peppers can’t be far behind. My current favorite way to use the chile it to mix it with mayonnaise and slather it on fish fillets or steaks before broiling.
Piment d’Espelette is available at specialty food and spice shops, and from The Ingredient Finder.
Why did the chicken cross the road? To gawk at the fried brioche doughnut glazed with maple chicken jus, stuffed with fried chicken and bacon and topped with candied pecans. That is just one of the many amazing dishes featured on F&W's Instagram over the last few days as part of Chicken Week. In fact, there's been so much happening on the platform of late that we felt it called for a song. (For more bad #chickenjokes, go to Twitter.)
To the tune of "My Favorite Things:"
♫ Brunch Bloody Marys and tiny fried fishes,
Braised lamb posole and Chicken Week dishes,
Chocolate chip cookies tied up with string... You get the idea.
Other highlights: Director of photography Fredrika Stjärne (@thirdness) showed us how to take advantage of this fantastic tomato season, while @jksterling sampled some winter-weight Tibetan momo chicken soup dumplings on a food-finding expedition to Jackson Heights, Queens.
The end of August saw the Food & Wine team split not just seasonally but intercontinentally. Restaurant editor Kate Krader was in Scandinavia for the annual food festival MAD as publisher Christina Grdovic @grdovic and others gathered for the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival with a seemingly endless list of chefs.
Back in New York, the US Open kicked off with an impromptu Canadian-doubles match between chefs Masaharu Morimoto, David Burke and Tony Mantuano. The winner? Daisy the dog, who snuggled up at home reading her August issue of Food & Wine like all good #FWPets. Better late than never Daisy!
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Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.