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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Sommeliers

Washington, DC: The New Sommelier Capital?

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For such a small city, my hometown of DC is packed with a lot of good wine experts, from Andy Meyers at CityZen to Inox' John Wabeck and Proof's Sebastian Zutant. This is old news to regular readers of DonRockwell.com, DC's pioneering chatboard on food and wine. But I owe Don a debt of thanks. For our January Judges Issue, he helped me recruit three of DC's fastest-rising talents to judge supermarket brands of foods sommeliers often cite when describing wine: grapefruit juice, raspberry jam and red wine vinegar. Kathryn Morgan (Citronelle), Jill Zimorski (Café Atlantico and Minibar) and Kat Bangs (Komi) were amazing, blind-tasting the oak aging in Colavita's tasty red wine vinegar and discerning the corn syrup in Smuckers. The results surprised us all; check them out here.

Entertaining

Heirloom LA

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Over the holidays, I went to a festive holiday dinner party in Los Angeles that was catered by Heirloom LA, a modern, trendy (and cute) catering couple who made a fantastic family-style dinner. Matthew Poley is in charge of the savory and Tara Maxey the sweet. Other than the bite-size, twice-baked potato hors d'oeuvres, I'd say the biggest treat of the night was digging into their signature lasagna cupcakes-crisp on top, soft and melty inside. Another favorite dish was a side of garlicky sautéed kale laced with lots of red wine vinegar, which paired perfectly with a platter of crusty grilled steak slices. I was super-impressed by the food, which was simple and perfectly cooked. And I loved that the meal was served family-style; it lent a homey, casual vibe to the night and set the perfect tone for a bustling holiday party. I can't wait to see the caterers again when I'm back in L.A. in May.

Bars

Gin & Tonics for Jimmy Fallon

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Thanks to my excellent colleague Alessandra Bulow, we all now know that the big food news on Thursday nights is on MTV's Jersey Shore and whether Sammi "Sweetheart" will be excluded from Mike "The Situation"'s future ravioli and chicken cutlet nights. But this Thursday, January 7, we also have a cocktail situation to impatiently look forward to. Following the BCS National ChampionshipTexas vs AlabamaJim Meehan, the head mixologist of Manhattan's PDT and the outstanding deputy editor of F&W's Cocktails 2009, will appear on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. After lots of homework—i.e., researching key people's favorite drinks—he's decided he'll mix Tea-quila Highballs for the house band the Roots (they love Patrón tequila) and Plymouth gin & tonics for Fallon. He'll pour a g&t for himself, too, to toast what he hopes will be a big Crimson Tide win.

Cocktails

A Real Speakeasy

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The fantastic Ann Lien, F&W's senior copy editor, went to a party so secret for New Year's Eve that she won't even tell me where it was held. Here, she reports:

Nowadays, you can throw an olive and hit yet another new speakeasy-style bar. But on New Year's Eve, I was invited to a true speakeasy in New York City: Both the party and location (behind a half-lowered metal gate) were so secret that guests were forbidden to Tweet or post on Facebook about it by name. Once inside the red-draped den, I was surrounded by people dressed in costumes evoking 1920s Paris/Berlin or 1930s Shanghai and treated to burlesque dancers, fire-breathers, live bands, chorus girls dressed like Marlene Dietrich and aerialists swinging on suspended hoops.

On the bar menu were such Prohibition-era cocktails as the Sidecar, the Old-Fashioned and absinthe (minus the hallucinogenic wormwood). However, there was one drink called Madame Shanghai's Secret Potion that you could only get by hunting down the cigarette girl and slipping her a few bills. Sure enough, after I found her, from beneath her tray she produced a tiny, opaque medicine bottle—small enough to fit in my purse—filled with a rum cocktail. It was delicious.

Though this party’s name can't be revealed, you can throw your own speakeasy gathering by making the same classic cocktails. Try F&W's inspired versions of the Old-Fashioned and even absinthe drinks. The Sidecar can be found in the 2009 F&W Cocktails book, which is still available on foodandwine.com or Amazon. I know I won't be waiting a whole year before I taste these drinks again!

Menus

2010 Vegetable Obsession

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meringues

© Aldea
George Mendes turns beets into a delicious meringue.

 

I’ve already heard declarations that “the Great Pork Decade has ended”, and as carnivorous foodies prepare to crown the next It beast for the coming decade, my hope is for vegetables to rival—if not surpass—meat as chefs’ newest obsession. Already, one of my most remarkable dishes of the new year was a vegetable-centric dish: George Mendes’s brilliant beet meringue at Aldea in NYC. Mendes cleverly juices fresh red beets, adds egg white powder and aerates it; he then dehydrates the mixture overnight at 145 degrees before topping the bite-size meringues with crème fraîche and American Hackleback caviar. Though just an amuse-bouche, Mendes twisted my perception of what a beet can be in terms of flavor and texture. And in today’s New York Times Dining section, Melissa Clark praised the unglamorous rutabaga and provides a delicious-sounding recipe that I plan to make this weekend. Maybe 2010 will be the year that some ordinary vegetables reach pork bun or fried chicken status.

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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.