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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Cookbooks

A Lesson in Wine-and-Chocolate Pairing

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Wine-and-chocolate pairing

© Chelsea Morse

I’m fairly certain I have the most fun job in the world. Yesterday I attended a chocolate-and-wine pairing event hosted by Green & Black’s, the UK brand of organic, fair-trade chocolate. Micah Carr-Hill, the company’s Global Head of Taste (how’s that for a title? His job might be even more fun than mine) guided a group of journalists and bloggers through a pairing of six different chocolates, with wines ranging from a lychee-scented Gewürztraminer for the Peanut & Sea Salt Chocolate (my favorite) to a spicy Amarone-style red with the 85% Dark Chocolate. This was experiential learning at its best: We discovered through tasting that floral whites often complement milk chocolate’s sweetness, and more astringent reds can bring out vanilla notes in bitter dark chocolate. I’ve always assumed that big, tannic reds are chocolate’s best match, but my new favorite chocolate-friendly wine was actually a raisiny sherry, which played on the chocolate’s earthy, nutty flavors. Green & Black’s has also published a new book of chocolate-dessert recipes, just released in the US last week, available here. I’ll be showing off my new pairing inspirations when I try out the recipes at our holiday party this year.

Restaurants

F&W Exclusive: Why Three-Star Laurent Gras Is Leaving L20

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© Shimon and Tammar
Laurent Gras Is Coming to NYC.

First of all, let’s have a big round of applause for Laurent Gras, one of F&W’s beloved Best New Chefs, who is now also a Michelin three-star chef (remember, there are only nine such chefs in the entire United States). Here's what he has to say about his surprise move to leave his epic Chicago restaurant L20, right as the Michelin buzz is in full blast:

“I love L2O and am very proud of everything we achieved there. But [owner] Rich Melman and I have always had different points of view on L2O. In July, we talked about changes he wanted to make, and for me, these changes would alter the character of L2O and ultimately make it a different experience. I let him know then that I would be leaving. It seems sudden, but we worked together these past months to make the transition. For me, the most important thing was to make sure the restaurant stayed open and all my staff remained employed.”

And here’s more applause-worthy news for those of us in NYC: Gras is moving back to Manhattan, and he’s got a very interesting project (or two) up his sleeve. Look for news about it on his new blog, coming soon.

News

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.

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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.