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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Recipes

Halloween at Food & Wine’s Office

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© Alessandra Bulow
From left: Rory Tischler, Jon (Smooth) Varriano & Seton Rossini man the bar at The Old F&W Art Saloon

Halloween is two days away but the art department staff of Food & Wine’s marketing team is kicking off the festivities today by transforming their office space into The Old F&W Art Saloon. In addition to dressing up in awesome 19th-century Western costumes, they’re serving beef chili with beans, buttery corn bread and fantastic homemade black pepper beef jerky.

(Last year they dressed as the Simmons Family including Top Chef judge and F&W’s own Gail Simmons, Gene Simmons and Richard Simmons—no relation.)

Scrounging for a last-minute Halloween costume or party idea? Get inspiration from F&W's Dress Like a Chef and Halloween Party slideshows.

Cookbooks

News for Salt Fiends

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At The Meadow, in Portland, Oregon, Mark Bitterman has spent the past five years selling a mind-boggling array of salts, from Japanese deep-sea salts to rose pink Himalayan salt blocks. Former F&W Best New Chefs like Naomi Pomeroy and Gabriel Rucker pop in not just for the salts but also for Mark's expertise, since he's spent years experimenting with all of his inventory. Now there are two ways for people who don't live in Portland to get a bit of Mark's advice, too. The first is his new cookbook, Salted, which is a field guide to artisan salts complete with recipes. The second is a class at The Meadow's new branch in Manhattan. The West Village shop is unofficially open this week; tonight Mark offers his first salt-tasting class, which will focus on finishing salts. Tickets are $30, and the event also includes wine tasting.

Restaurants

Pay For Dinner by Text Message

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Most restaurants encourage diners to keep their phones out of the dining room (the Home Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, actually collects them in a basket upon entering the restaurant). But Pod restaurant in Philadelphia is giving diners a reason to take out their phones. It has partnered with Xipwire, a mobile payment service, and is the first restaurant in the country that allows people to pay for dinner by text message. Other STARR restaurants plan to implement the service later this year.

Restaurants

Laurent Gras Proves Why He’s Food & Wine’s Fittest Chef

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© Jen Leuzzi
Ken Vendrinski, Laurent Gras & George Hincapie Ride for Hope

Laurent Gras, chef at L2O in Chicago, isn’t just one of the best cooks in the country. He’s also one of the world’s fittest guys, according to Men’s Fitness (seriously). No surprise, he made the cut to be one of F&W’s fittest chefs, too.

My friend, food blogger Jen Leuzzi (aka Mrs. Laurent Gras), tells how all that led to LG’s participation in the 100-kilometer charity Ride for Hope in Charleston, South Carolina, this past weekend.

At a dinner prepared with Laurent, chef Ken Vedrinski of Charleston's Trattoria Lucca stood with pro cycling champion George Hincapie and recounted this story:

Food & Wine magazine did a story on the 10 fittest chefs in America—and I was one of them and so was Laurent Gras; we’re both cyclists. I thought I’d really like to cook with him, but how do we get him down here? George is how. I cold-called Laurent and invited him down to do the Ride for Hope with George and cook a dinner afterwards, and here we are.

At the after-party down the street at Enoteca, Gras and Vedrinksi offered their services to George’s BMC team for the 2011 Tour de France (teams travel with their own chefs). Ken said he’d cook for one week. Laurent agreed for the week in the Alps. Haute cuisine, indeed.

Baking

Skull Cake

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© Kristin Donnelly
Skull cake.

I would never have called Wilton, the bakeware maker, edgy. The company has entire categories of cake decorations devoted to Dora the Explorer and Spider-Man and makes 15 different kinds of heart-shaped pans. So I was shocked when they sent me an incredible cake mold that forms a three-dimensional skull. It’s part of their Halloween line “for grown-ups” that also includes a skull-shaped ice mold. I made the skull cake last weekend and brought it to a party, where we set it in the middle of the table. As a centerpiece, it straddled the line between hip and gruesome until we sliced it; then, it was nothing more than pumpkin-spice cake.

In honor of Halloween and my new cake pan, here is a slideshow about the history of skulls and another about making skull cake.

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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.