Our May story on Bonny Doon and the brilliant chef behind their new Tasting Room, Charlie Parker, inspired me to try pairing vegetarian dishes with big red wines at home. If only I had the professional finesse of Bonny Doon. Earlier this week Ray Isle gave me half a case of big reds from the F&W tasting room for the experiment, which I was about to take on the subway when it started to pour. Since I had to hold an umbrella with one hand, I could only grab two of the six bottles with the other: a 2007 Praxis Lagrein and a 2006 Masi Campofiorin. Then, once I was at home I discovered the Campofiorin was corked.
I made my stuffed red bell peppers anyway, filling them with cooked red quinoa and feta cheese, and simmering them in a tomato sauce spiked with a pinch of chile flakes. Finally I tried them with the Lagrein. They tasted just how you'd imagine stuffed bell peppers would, if they'd been garnished with blueberry jam. I had much better luck with the 2009 Hofer Grüner Veltliner in my refrigerator: the faint floral notes married well with the juicy bell peppers, while the white pepper and zippy acidity lightened the rich stuffing. But there is nothing big nor is there anything red about Grüner-Veltliner, though it may be one of the most vegetable-friendly white wines out there. So I'm going to take a page out of Randall Grahm's book and try again.
Meanwhile, enjoy these brilliant vegetarian pairings from Charlie Parker:
• Savoy Cabbage and Sunchoke Pizzas with a Dolcetto
• Smoky Ribollita with a Sangiovese
• Roasted Turnips and their Greens, with a Syrah
Jen Biesty of Scala's Bistro.
recently brought some of its most talented female chefs to New York City to cook at the Dress for Success gala, an amazing event that raised more than $1.1 million for the incredible charity
I had a chance to hang with two of the chefs: Keira Moritz, the driven Southerner in charge of Pacci Ristorante at Atlanta’s Hotel Palomar
, and Jen Biesty
, the Top Chef Season 4 alum now heading the kitchen at Scala’s Bistro
, at San Francisco’s Sir Francis Drake hotel
. I was impressed not only by their insane work ethic in the kitchen, but also by their endless energy outside of the restaurant. Moritz signs up for a marathon every time she moves to a new city (she had previously been at Puccini & Pinetti in San Francisco and was most recently at Panzano in Denver). While most chefs get off work and head out for late-night eats with industry friends, Moritz heads to a 24-hour gym to log miles on the treadmill. This year she'll be training for the Atlanta Marathon in November and raising money for the Atlanta Community Food Bank
Biesty opts to train on two wheels and in morning workouts for the AIDS LifeCycle ride. The seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles takes place in June, and Biesty is currently raising money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Click here to help her reach her $5,000 fund-raising goal and support a great cause.
NYC's Telepan restaurant.
I’m always game to have a chef cook for me when I’m at a restaurant. But when it comes to putting my trust in the server to help navigate my meal, I become wary. There is no greater disappointment than being let down after ordering what you've been assured beyond reason is the restaurant’s not-to-be-missed dish instead of your gut order. So I’m truly impressed when my server can not only orchestrate the perfect order, but also do so with contagious enthusiasm. The other night, I was at the great Upper West Side restaurant Telepan. The dining room caters to a sophisticated uptown crowd and isn’t the type of setting where you expect your server to describe a dish as “stupid-silly good comfort food,” but ours did just that. How could I not order the “Southern-style” croque madame after that kind of outburst? Our server, Jeffrey Greene, has known chef Bill Telepan since Telepan's days as a sous chef at Gotham Bar & Grill and he has been at Telepan nearly since it’s opening. Greene had a story to share for practically every dish we asked about ("Chef dislikes saffron, so he uses an herb oil in its place for the spring paella"). And his every suggestion was spot-on, including the dubious-sounding pea pancakes, which he described as "the essence of Spring," served with wild mushrooms, pea agnolotti and spring vegetables (it turned out to be my favorite dish of the night). So I'm giving a quick shout-out to food-obssessive servers like Jeffrey, who help make a good dining experience great by sharing their passion for their chef's food.
Cocteleria, the about-to-open rum punch bar and Cuban restaurant.
I’m with Urban Daddy on this one
. The East Village did not need another great bar. But they got one anyway: Cocteleria at Cienfuegos, the about-to-open Cuban restaurant and rum punch bar that’s upstairs from the Cuban sandwich shop Carteles. I haven’t been—it’s soft opening Thursday and officially opening next Monday—but F&W Cocktails 2010
’s excellent deputy editor Joaquin Simo
got in the door. He loved the distressed walls and the Old Havana ambiance. He also loved mixologist Charlotte Voisey
’s punches (they’re all rum-based!), particularly Movable Feast (a Voisey original with silver rum, vermouth and dry French cider). He loved that the punches are served in different sizes, from single servings to much larger amounts (“$100 buys punch for the whole family,” Robert Simonson smartly blogged
). And he loved the menu, especially the roast pork–filled tamales. “It’s a great bite when you need to take the edge off your hunger,” Simo said. "And to justify ordering another round."
More of Cocteleria's awesome-sounding menu after the jump.
© American Licorice Company
New Natural Vines
A worthy addition to the candy aisle: In May, the American Licorice Company
, better known as the maker of Red Vines, will release a new Natural Vines
line of licorice that's pretty terrific. Both the black licorice and strawberry variety, which come in one-inch twists, have great bright flavor and perfect chewy-yet-soft texture, and come in conveniently resealable bags. Best of all, they both use entirely recognizable, genuinely natural ingredients like molasses and wheat flour—there's nary a guar gum or carrageenan or even high fructose corn syrup to be found.