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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


Dogfish Head's Peruvian Chicha Brew


I’m always game to try a funky new beer, but when Maggie Fuller of Beer Ethos called to say she’d scored a bottle of chicha from Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewery, I nearly wimped out. Chicha is a traditional South American brew made from corn. I like to refer to it as “spit beer” because before the brewing process begins, the corn must be chewed and moistened in the brewer’s mouth. The enzymes in the saliva activate the starches, which then break down into fermentable sugars. The beer is ultimately boiled, which leaves it sterile and germ-free. Dogfish Head’s renegade founder, Sam Calagione, created a super-limited amount based on a Peruvian recipe that called for purple maize, yellow maize and pink peppercorns. He also mixed in strawberries, a traditional chicha ingredient that Calgione felt was best to source locally in the U.S.

Maggie had tried real deal chicha on a trip to Peru and didn’t find our tasting at all daunting. I, on the other hand, sipped with caution. The strawberries gave the brew a lovely purplish-pink hue making it look deceptively pretty and innocent for a beer with someone’s spit in it. The nose was pure strawberries and the taste was surprisingly refreshing, dry and a bit spicy. And the flavors became more complex as the beer came to room temperature. The verict: a tasty beer, if you can get past the mental hurdle of how it's made.


'Wichcraft's Dinner Menu: A Must-Try


A pile of pulled pork with wonderfully crusty edges topped with dill pickle slivers: $8. A heaping plate of blistered two-bite-size shishito peppers and sherry vinegar aioli: $6. Why had I only just checked out the cozy Flatiron location of ‘wichcraft, part of Tom Colicchio’s chain of sandwich shops, for dinner last night? Since last May, chef Sisha Ortuzar has been serving simple, delicious smallish plates with Greenmarket ingredients for insanely inexpensive prices. Last night, it was quiet, with only a few tables taken. How could that be, I wondered, when they were serving the last of the summer menu, including a fantastic tarragon-scented brothy dish of cockles and shrimp with late-season cherry tomatoes, corn and a hit of tarragon? Next week, Sisha will introduce a fall menu, and if all goes well, another ‘wichcraft that serves dinner will open in the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center in November. I can’t wait for both.

If you’re not getting to New York any time soon, try these 'wichcraft-inspired cocktail party recipes from Tom and Sisha.



Simple Japanese Recipes


Everyday Harumi
Last weekend I tried a few recipes from the new cookbook Everyday Harumi. The author, Harumi Kurihara, is a homemaker-turned-cooking-star in Japan, where she has a TV show, magazine, tableware line and restaurants. The photographs in her book are beautiful and the recipes are very doable. I tackled the Tofu Steak, a homestyle version of agedashi tofu, a popular appetizer in Japanese restaurants. I rubbed slices of tofu with grated garlic, dipped them in potato starch and pan-fried them. I then topped each piece with scallions, ginger, bonito flakes and a soy-mirin sauce. I've never grated garlic for a recipe before, but it was worth the effort—the flavor is more delicate and I don't think minced garlic would stick as well to the tofu.

If you can't get a copy of Harumi's book, try these delicious Japanese recipes from Food & Wine:



Tournament of Cookbooks


Food52, a website and online community launched about a month ago by Amanda Hesser (ex–New York Times food editor) and Merrill Stubbs, celebrates the "unsung heroes" of the food world: home cooks. There's a growing database of user recipes as well as weekly contests where readers submit recipes; Hesser and Stubbs choose the ones they like best, which they prepare and post on the site as a video or slideshow. Over the course of 52 weeks, the community will vote on its favorites, which will eventually be published in the Food52 cookbook.

Food52 celebrates cookbooks too. Next week Hesser and Stubbs and their writer-friend Charlotte Druckman will launch a new project called the Tournament of Cookbooks, a sort of NCAA championship for 16 of the best cookbooks of 2009. Contenders include everything from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller to I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci. Judges are food writers, bloggers, chefs and other pros—including F&W’s own Gail Simmons and Grace Parisi—as well as noted foodies Gwyneth Paltrow and Nora Ephron. “We thought a sports-like tournament would be fun, with two books competing in each round,” says Hesser. “Rather than have the judges tell readers why they do or don't like a cookbook, we want them to articulate what makes one book better than another.”

The 17-day contest begins next Wednesday; the Food52 community can vote on whether they agree with the pronouncements. A party and panel discussion will follow in early November at NYC's Astor Center, where readers can hobnob with authors and judges, and maybe catch a glimpse of the winner's Piglet Trophy.


The Eater Goes National Party


Co-founder Lockhart Steele takes Eater national.

You don’t need me to tell you that Eater, the obsessive restaurant website that knows more about most places than their owners and chefs do, has recently gone national. All my friends read it at least a dozen times daily (“I’ve already checked Eater 17 times today,” said a manager at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne yesterday at lunchtime). Their new website has comprehensive coverage coast to coast, with more, more, more nightlife. How did the Eater crew celebrate? With a secret Eater party at, where else, the third floor of The Spotted Pig. There were Eater founders Ben Leventhal and Lockhart Steele working the room (well, Steele worked the room; Leventhal set up shop on a banquette). There was venture capitalist Fred Wilson and his wife (Gotham Gal) Joanne Wilson. There was chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who’d jumped from the Michelin Guide’s party to Spice Market to the Pig with his new friend Momofuku’s David Chang. There was Boulud, about to tell his friend JGV what alias Times critic Sam Sifton is currently using. For further recap of the evening, I’ll look to Eater’s new nightlife editor Scott Solish, who was also, of course, in attendance.

The Dish
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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.

Run with chefs and wine experts in the Celebrity Chef 5K and dance all night at Gail Simmons’ Last Bite Dessert Party during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.