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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Recipes

Test Kitchen Essential Tool #5

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I'm very lucky to be married to a builder for so many reasons: From major renovations to minor repairs, he's always ready to help.  He even customizes kitchen tools for me. My most recent request was for him to cut me an eight-inch length of three-quarter-inch PVC pipe from his scrap pile, so I could roll out dough for Asian dumplings. 
Standard rolling pins are too long and heavy. I've made dumplings using wooden dowels, but we don't seem to have many lying around. Broom handles are great, but then you have to cannibalize your broom. PVC (polyvinyl chloride pipe-a combination of plastic and vinyl) is perfect: smooth, lightweight and easy to customize.

Restaurants

New Goa Cooking School

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alila

© Alila
Spice Studios at the new Alila Diwa, Goa.

 

It’s been nearly five years since Goa, India’s dreamy, beachy west-coast state, has seen a new boutique hotel. Then, last December, Alila Diwa, a superluxe 114-room property in South Goa, opened its doors. When I’m in beach paradise, I’m hesitant to stay anywhere more than a few steps from the sand, but Alila Diwa’s location, overlooking a working rice paddy, was equally relaxing (Majorda Beach is just a quick bike or shuttle ride away). An infinity pool stretches out over the paddies, and I watched workers harvesting rice that I’d later eat at the hotel’s restaurant. For years, Martin’s Corner was the only option for an excellent authentic Goan meal in the area (its famous Goan sausage bread and sorpotel, a vinegary meat stew, draws India’s Bollywood celebs and cricket stars). But Alila Diwa, just down the road, is serving equally delicious Goan specialties in a gorgeous open kitchen. It also has a fantastic new cooking school called Spice Studios. Guests can accompany the chef on a 6:30 a.m. run to the fish market, then spend the morning in the kitchen learning to use a tandoor and preparing Goa’s signature fish curry.

News

The Cortado Coffee Craze Continues

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© kate krader
MY cortado and ginger molasses cookie at Bluebird.

Going to Bluebird Coffee Shop with Oliver Strand, an F&W contributor and the New York Times’s coffee expert nonpareil, is a little like sitting at the judging table with Simon Cowell on a good day (say, the day Susan Boyle auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent). Strand has called out Bluebird, the microscopic and adorable East Village coffee shop in New York City, for its ginger-molasses cookie. And more importantly for its cortado, a drink that’s very roughly half espresso and half steamed milk. Strand put the beverage on the map in recent Times stories and blogs (my favorite is entitled "A Cortado Is Not a Minivan"). Entertainment Weekly apparently recently proclaimed, "In: Cortados. 5 Min Ago: Cappuccinos." Says Strand, “Some places have told me they noticed people who have never been to an independent coffee place before asking for a cortado—for the full independent-coffee experience." Indeed, coffee places are pulling more cortados than ever. Strand estimates that Bluebird went up from about 70 a day to nearly 500 right after his big Times piece came out. So of course, when I was at Bluebird with Strand, I had a cortado. He had a shot of espresso.

Menus

Dinner at New Delhi's Varq

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jalebi

© Taj Hotels
Varq's haute take on jalebis.

 

For our May travel issue, we polled chefs, sommeliers and food writers around the globe to come up with the 100 best new food and drink experiences on the planet. Varq restaurant in New Delhi made the cut, and it ended up being my most revelatory meal in India.  

Chef Hemant Oberoi, the Taj hotel group's corporate chef and the visionary behind Varq, and his right-hand man at Varq, executive chef Ankit Sharma, have taken India's street foods and traditional regional dishes and modernized them by applying new techniques and introducing new ingredients, like scallops and foie gras--then serving those dishes on Thomas Keller–designed Limoges china in a very glamorous dining room.

Ganderi kebab, minced chicken marinated with spices, gets deep-fried on a sugarcane stick so that it looks like a corn dog and served in a shot glass with amchur chutney in the bottom. Atta raan, perhaps the most theatrical dish on the menu, is a supertender leg of lamb that has been marinated in mace, cardamom and red chile and baked in a saffron-dough shell. I adored his refined take on the street snacks that I'd been dubiously eating the past week. I'd become addicted to jalebi, a sticky, sugar-high-inducing sweet that looks like a mini funnel cake and has the electric orange color of Cheetos. On the street they are fried in enormous cast-iron pans, fished out of sizzling pools of oil and eaten piping hot. At Varq, they are perfectly shaped spirals of warm, crunchy dough, more yellow than orange (the result of less-sugary syrup), decorated with silver leaf and lined up side by side with a pistachio yogurt for dipping.

When I later met up with Oberoi, I asked him why I can't find that kind of Indian restaurant in New York City. He let me in on a little secret: He's planning a stand-alone Varq in NYC for the near future.

Bars

PDT’s New Choptank Hot Dog

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The new Choptank dog at PDT.

It’s not like I need another reason to go to PDT, the fantastic bar-behind-a-phone-booth in New York City’s East Village. But I got one anyway. Jim Meehan, PDT’s bar manager and also the deputy editor of F&W’s about-to-be-released Cocktails 2010, has just announced a new hot dog on the menu. It’s the Choptank Dog, and it’s an ode to the fun new Chesapeake Bay–themed restaurant Choptank in the West Village, where waiters bring bowls of crab dip and Old Bay–seasoned chips to the table as soon as customers sit down. “Basically, it’s chips and dip meet the hot dog,” says Meehan. Exactly: The deep-fried hot dog is topped with crab dip, crushed Old Bay chips and pickled jalapeños, with a slice of cheddar cheese tucked underneath. Meehan recommends it with a whiskey smash (ask for it with Maryland's own Monongahela rye whiskey).

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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.

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