Is there anything that could possibly be better than hanging out with Tom Colicchio
during the Top Chef
finale? Yes: spending the finale with Tom and John Legend
, the unbelievably soulful singer at a super-intimate dinner at Craftsteak
for an American Express Pairings
dinner. (It's part of Amex's Enthusiast
program for card members that pairs Food & Wine & Music. This is where I say that F&W
is owned by Amex.) That means Tom and John talked about how they met (Tom says a Hamptons food event; John thinks it was at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival
in Miami). And how John’s food background inspired Tom’s dinner: John’s grandmother played organ at church on Sundays and then came home and made cornbread and greens. Tom translated that into a fabulously creamy polenta with spigarello
(a Tuscan-kale-like green) with succulent roasted porchetta. He also served guinea hen, because, hey, John loves poultry.
John and Tom created a playlist for the meal, including Stevie Wonder’s “Summer Soft” and Sufjan Stevens’s “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” What tops that? John Legend playing the most unbelievably awesome 40-minute set, including “Good Morning” (it doubled as “Happy Birthday” to his girlfriend), a cover of Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing” and, for an encore, “Ordinary People.” The only thing that didn’t happen at that dinner: Tom revealing who'd win Top Chef.
© Jed Haas
New Orelan's Green Goddess serves a phenomenal brunch.
After a marathon night of cocktail tasting, I started my second morning in New Orleans with a hangover-curing brunch at the fantastic new restaurant Green Goddess. This supertiny spot has a bit of a hippie vibe, but the food is seriously delicious, and surprising for New Orleans: cactus chilaquiles topped with a poached egg, smoky pulled pork, blistered nopales and Creole queso fresco; tea-smoked mushrooms covered in gravy and served with sweet-potato biscuits and orange-honey butter; and a killer roasted-yellow-tomato Bloody Mary with pickled okra and green beans.
Revived, I checked out the farmer’s market until I had worked up an appetite for the legendary Galatoire’s. Here, I was introduced to fried eggplant dipped in béarnaise sauce and powdered sugar (unexpectedly addictive and delicious), tried the signature shrimp remoulade and stuffed myself with oysters en brochette (when I told my waiter I was full, his response was, “Nonsense, you just need a glass of wine to help you finish that off”).
My dilemma of the night was where to take a group of five rowdy guy friends for dinner. The answer: John Besh’s casual brasserie Lüke, where we snacked on house-made charcuterie (and my poor friend Jay learned that head cheese is not really a cheese) before diving into the monster-size burgers topped with Allen Benton’s bacon, caramelized onions and Emmentaler cheese.
Okay, today's wine bag
might be a little over the top, but while some people simply bring a bottle of wine to a party, this bag makes it so that you can bring the party
to the party. Holding a whopping nine bottles (how appropriate for my 9th installment of the 12 Days of Wine Bags
's Bottlebag is a pretty, eco-friendly way to load up on wine, seltzer and mixers for your next dinner party without having to deal with a bunch of lame, wimpy plastic sacks.
© Kristin Donnelly
Greens and Yellow Rice Torta
I had an extra bunch of greens in my fridge leftover from a party. They were mildly mustardy and more tender than kale. I wanted a dish that would be meatless, but not too light, and I remembered the Swiss chard torta from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. In the recipe, she combines cooked chard with eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, raisins and pine nuts and bakes them in a springform pan to make a sort of crustless quiche. I looked through my fridge and found two-day-old yellow rice from Malecon, the rotisserie chicken joint around the corner, and there was also a hunk of seriously intense aged gouda cheese that I thought would be delicious with the mustard-green flavor. After sautéing the greens, I tossed them with the rice, cheese and an egg and spread the mixture in a small springform pan. I baked my version of Marcella’s torta until the egg was set and the edges were crusty. It was a perfect satisfying, (mostly) healthy dinner for two.
This super-hip tote from Hero Bags, one of my favorite finds of the year, has a home in our December issue's gift guide. Nevertheless, I'm excited to present it to you again (just in case you missed it the first time around) as the 8th bag in my string of 12 Days of Wine Bags. Hero Bags, started by San Francisco designer Susanne Maddux, prides itself on being an all-American company, making its products by hand in California with sustainable, organic cotton grown in the States. Hero also makes a bunch of other cool totes and lunch bags, as well as a single-bottle wine carrier.
Combine this bag with a bottle of crisp, peachy 2008 Kung Fu Girl Riesling ($12, find this wine) from American Wine Awards-winner Charles Smith and you have a slam dunk gift for under $30.