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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


36 Hours in Quebec City


quebec city

© Jen Murphy
Marche du Vieux-Port, Quebec City


A travel writing conference recently took me to Quebec City, which I’ve decided may be the perfect long weekend getaway from Manhattan. Just a 90-minute flight and you feel very much like you’re in France (ok, maybe a slightly Disneyfied France). Here, my hit list of what to do:

Book a room at the castle-like Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac which overlooks the Saint Lawrence river. Windows on the sixth floor look out on the chef’s rooftop garden and its four beehives. Each hive contains about 70,000 bees that supply the hotel with a year-round supply of honey.

Start the day with cheese, strawberries and sausages from the Marché du Vieux-Port, the city’s farmers market. Then rent a bike from Cyclo Services, just across the street, and explore the nearly 250 miles of paths that go to Beauport Beach, the Montmorency waterfalls and gorgeous parks. Post-ride, stop for lunch and a beer tasting at Brasserie Artisanale la Korrigane, a new microbrew pub that opened in June in the Saint-Roch neighborhood.

When the sun goes down, check out the Image Mill, an artsy film of Quebec City’s history projected on towering grain silos (the equivalent of 25 IMAX screens) or a Cirque du Soleil performance that’s held at sunset under the Dufferin-Montmorency highway overpass. Both are free!

Call ahead and book a table for dinner at Panache, in L’Auberge Saint-Antoine and splurge on chef Francois Blais's extraordinary wine-paired tasting menu that might include Cote-Nord scallops on the half shell with candied lemon and Champagne granité and Appalachian red venison with pine sprigs.


Frank Bruni on Non-Critic Life, Bonus Installment


Here’s a special bonus installment of Frank Bruni’s most memorable meals as the country’s best-known restaurant critic at the New York Times, plus what he thinks about the place where he had his worst meal (which is still open). And for anyone who wants to hear more excellent Bruni stories, his newest book, Born Round, is just out in paperback.

On Memorable Meal #1:
Interestingly, my most memorable meals are a lot of the early ones. I remember eating at Masa in the first weeks of being a critic. Masa only opens for lunch if they have a reservation, and that afternoon, the only reservation they had was the one I made with Eric Asimov. Masa himself was making our sushi and handing it right to us. It was sad not to see the restaurant on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. If I made a million dollars a year, I’d be eating at Masa once a month.

On Memorable Meal Number #2:
One of the meals I remember best is right after I stopped being a critic and went to Le Bernardin [with me!] for an F&W story. Not only was there a wine-pairing challenge going on, but we had a personalized tasting menu from Eric Ripert, and a personalized tasting menu from Eric Ripert is a pretty splendiferous thing.

On any last words about Ninja (a restaurant to which he gave a spectacularly bad review in 2006):
I occasionally walk by Ninja at dinner time, 6:30. And I see people eagerly striding in. It’s one of the great mysteries of the world for me. I want to ask them, ‘Why?’ But I keep walking.


Frank Bruni on Non-Critic Life, Part III


In this third installment of Frank Bruni’s new life—now that he’s almost a year out from being New York Times restaurant critic and has a just-out paperback edition of Born Round—he discusses what he misses about critic life and what he thinks about his replacement, Sam Sifton.

Special added bonus: We’ll have a special Part IV of Bruni's interview soon, including his most memorable meals and what he thinks about Ninja, the meal he said was the worst of his tenure as a critic.
On what he misses about being a critic:
I miss the ability, when I find something really special, to broadcast it to the world. Similarly, when I’m having a horrible experience, I miss the opportunity to take a restaurant to task.
On what he doesn’t miss about being a critic:
As a critic, I go to restaurants where chefs know who I am, I know they know who I am, and it all feels absurd. And when it’s great, I don’t have the opportunity to shake someone’s hand. The polite person in me wants to say, “Hey, this is great, thanks so much,” but the critic in me has to be sphinx-like.

Also, being a critic means I change where I'm dining nightly. When I'm a critic, I lose being a regular. I’ve always in my life been a regular at restaurants that I love. In Italy, in Detroit. There’s such a specific pleasure in being a regular, in getting that kind of greeting, in having a chef suggest a dish. As a critic, it’s always next place, next place, next place.

On how his replacement, Sam Sifton, is doing:
I think he’s doing amazingly. I can’t believe how fast he hit the ground running. Sam, unlike me, came to this job from such a long participation with New York restaurant culture. The amount of energy he brings to the job is awe-inspiring. And he loves restaurants; that’s a real skill and gift.


An Artist's Version of a Top Chef Challenge


jane hotel

© Benoit Pailley
Chef Patric Criss with his watermelon and cantaloupe juice shots.


Last week, I had the chance to preview the New Museum’s fantastic new three-floor exhibit A Day Like Any Other from Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander. As if the “I Wish Your Wish” installation (click here for an interactive version) weren't cool enough, Neuenschwander dazzled our senses one step further by re-creating her performance art piece "Gastronomic Translations" at the Jane Hotel (this Wall Street Journal story likens it to a Top Chef challenge). For the piece's inception in 2003, Neuenschwander took a shopping list found in a supermarket in Frankfurt, Germany and mailed it to two chefs in São Paulo, Brazil; each then used the items on the list—from cashews and coffee to bananas and oranges—to create a meal, comprising varied dishes and influences. For our meal, Neuenschwander gave chefs Benedetto Bartolotta and Patric Chriss, of the catering company Indulge by Bene, the same challenge (and the same shopping list). Despite the absence of salt, the chefs created brilliantly delicious menus that were starkly different, e.g., Bartolotta created a banana-and-cashew tart with a coffee glaze, while Chriss made cashew-crusted banana skewers with an orange-reduction zabaglione.


Marcus Samuelsson’s World Cup Eats


Editor's Note: Marcus Samuelsson has been a very busy star chef. Earlier this month, he won Season 2 of Top Chef Masters; almost immediately afterward, he represented South Africa at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen (yes, he brought a vuvuzela, the World Cup's noisy stadium horn). Because of his busy schedule, he couldn't actually be at the historic World Cup in South Africa. But the Ethiopian-born, soccer-obsessed chef is still carefully following the games and reporting on them for Food & Wine. Here's his first World Cup installment.

I am a huge soccer fan and have been intensely following the 2010 FIFA World Cup on the screen. It was especially exciting to watch this past weekend. During the Germany-England game, the passion among the players was palpable, and it was crazy to see the well-known England players go home at the end. As for U.S.-Ghana, the Americans played a good game and they should be proud, but still, it was great to see the Ghana team celebrate.

To feel like I’m right there at the games, I prepare delicious South African dishes like “bunny chow,” which is like a bread pocket stuffed with delicious curry. It’s perfect game-day food because you can eat it with your hands. I also discovered boerwors (traditional South African sausages) during one of my trips. Eating it makes me feel like I’m sitting in the stadium with a painted face, blowing my vuvuzela with all my might. Check back here soon for my sausage-patty recipe. Plus, find more of my recipes from the F&W archives here.

To hear more of my thoughts on this year’s World Cup and food, follow me on Twitter: @marcuscooks.

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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.