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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Cookbooks

Jonathan Waxman's Way

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Swordfish Carpaccio

© Chris Quinlan
Swordfish Carpaccio

In our July issue, Frank Bruni wrote a great piece about cooking from chef Jonathan Waxman’s new book, Italian, My Way. I was fortunate enough to experience the book with much less effort than Bruni put in—Waxman cooked from it Monday night at the fantastic Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, as part of their Monday Night Wine Dinner series. Italian winemaker Giampaolo Venica poured some of his hyper-aromatic, unoaked whites, like the Venica & Venica 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Ronco delle Mele, with Waxman’s dishes.

© Chris Quinlan
Waxman and the Frasca team


 

It was the chef's fish courses that really blew me away. (Maybe it was the perfect preparation—Waxman was assisted by Frasca chef Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson (an F&W Best New Chef 2005) and his team—or perhaps it was coming off a meat-centric weekend at the F&W Classic in Aspen). Smoked-trout-and-mascarpone crostini was sweet and smoky, swordfish carpaccio with English pea and herb vinaigrette melted in my mouth and a superlight, tempura-style fritto misto was fantastic. Mackinnon Patterson said it best when he called Waxman “the most soulful chef” he’s cooked with.

Restaurants

The New Rules for Celebrity Restaurants

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The Breslin's Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup

© Lucy Schaeffer
The Breslin's Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup

Celebrities have been frequenting restaurants for a while now—the Algonquin Round Table was in full effect in the 1920s. So we won’t pretend it's news to see a famous person sitting in a dining room. But it’s quite amazing to see how far some restaurants go these days to protect their more recognizable guests. Here’s Ken Friedman, co-owner of such NYC celeb hang-outs as the Spotted Pig and the Breslin, sounding like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. “The first rule at my restaurants is don’t talk about who’s eating at my restaurants.”
 
Here are some other rules we've seen NYC restaurants employ.
 
*Close the blinds to the street when the paparazzi line up outside. (A rule followed by the staff at Marea the second someone like Michael Douglas walks in.)
 
*Seat the best-known people in the corner. At Craft, table #158, deep in the restaurant, is set aside so anyone supremely famous (like LeBron James who rented out Craft's LA outpost for a party) can be escorted right there.  
 
*Seat the best-known people in the kitchen. At his newest restaurant The John Dory, Friedman created a chef’s table in the kitchen. What about the rumor that Jay-Z wanted a chef’s table, with real chairs, as an alternative to the stools that make up the seating in the rest of the restaurant? “We didn't create the table for anyone in particular," says Friedman. "The chef’s table is fun, it’s in the kitchen,” says Friedman. “Plus who wants to sit on stools all the time? I don’t; neither does Charlie Rose.”
 
Related Links:
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Favorite Restaurants
100+ Tastes to Try
Tom Colicchio’s Road Trip
Best Chefs with Hotel Restaurants

(Pictured above: The Breslin's Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup)

Restaurants

You Might be a Foodie If…

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Loving food can turn ugly.

© The Delicious Life
Loving food can turn ugly.

The Office's Mindy Kaling ignited a minor Tweetstorm last week when she posted that she's "over foodies," and suggested a name change. "Fooders are foodies but keep a lid on it a little bit," she proposed. "They let you order in under 10 minutes."


 

While "foodies" have been teased in the past, the backlash is intensifying. Chef-author Gabrielle Hamilton, of NYC's Prune, recently called them "a bummer." The Atlantic ran a long piece arguing that food-obsessing crosses into nebulous moral territory. And of course, we recently decried the overuse of farm-to-everything.

F&W staffers have learned to watch out for the moment when simply loving food becomes an ugly obsession, and we helpfully came up with the following list of danger signs. You might be a foodie if…

 

1. It takes more time to decide where to dine than to have dinner.

2. You know the names of meat distributors other than Pat LaFrieda.

3. You ask the waitress to be specific about the kind of kale in the salad.

4. You've paid to eat dinner at a stranger's apartment.

5. You've joined a line with more than five people in it, for a sandwich, from a truck.

6. Your entrée choice hinges more on where it was raised than on what it is.

7. You tweet your meals before dessert.

8. Your coffee has a proper name.

9. You've tasted single udder butter.

10. You've made your own sausage. After meeting the pig.

11. Your closets are being used as cheese caves or beer cellars.

12. Queens is a culinary destination.

13. Your pick-up line asks "What's your favorite restaurant."

14. You've spent more than $10 on a cocktail outside of a club.

15. You roll your eyes at molten chocolate cake.

Restaurants

Frankies Spuntino at the Belmont Stakes

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© Morgan Taylor
Frank Falcinelli & Frank Castronovo are ready to bet at the Belmont Stakes.

What a busy weekend! The Omnivore Food Festival! Midtown Lunch’s 5th birthday party! The Big Apple BBQ!  I just couldn’t make it to see the Frankies Spuntino team in action at the Belmont Stakes. Luckily F&W’s excellent intern Morgan Taylor was there and reports back.
 
As a Kentucky native and horse-racing enthusiast I've visited many racetracks around the country—but never for the food. That changed at this year's Belmont Stakes thanks to Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo of Frankies Spuntino, who brought their Frankies Spuntino menu to Belmont Park for the second time.
 
The Franks, who grew up in Queens and worked in a deli around the corner from Belmont Park when they were kids, began frequenting the track when their boss would send them on gambling runs on their dirt bikes. When the chance to bring the Frankies' menu to Belmont arose, they saw it as an opportunity to contribute to their old neighborhood and to amp up the racetrack’s culinary credibility.
 
Their menu featured dishes from the Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual: buttermilk fried chicken, grilled calamari & shrimp salad. Everything was delicious and their fried chicken passed the test of several Kentuckians—not to mention that I saw my dad wolf down three pieces of their olive oil cake. Unfortunately, neither of the Franks picked the big race's winner, longshot Ruler on Ice, who paid $51.50 on a $2 to win wager. Maybe next year.

Restaurants

Inside Scoop on Tiffani Faison’s New BBQ Project

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Chef Tiffani Faison.

© Michael Diskin
Chef Tiffani Faison.

 

I spent the weekend stuffing myself with some of America’s best barbecue at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in NYC. The takeaway: People take their ’cue very seriously. That’s why Tiffani Faison, the season one Top Chef contestant and chef of the recently closed Rocca, is doing her homework before she opens her barbecue spot named Sweet Cheeks near Boston’s Fenway Park later this summer. “Barbecue is one of those democratic American foods that everyone gets. It’s a food my family gathered around to eat, and I wanted a place like that in Boston to take family and friends on a Sunday afternoon. It’s missing from the restaurant scene.” Faison, a self-described Army brat, grew up bouncing from Oklahoma to South Carolina to Texas. In a few weeks, she will travel to Texas’s barbecue capital, Lockhart, to do some due-diligence eating. But she won’t be adopting one particular style. “I want it to be organic. I think there’s this barbecue-fusion world that people are afraid of. Each style of barbecue has its hardcore fans, but I think I can make it uniquely New England—though I’m not sure what exactly that is going to be yet.” One thing is certain: It won’t be down-and-dirty barbecue. “I want this to be chef-driven, without being annoyingly cheffy,” explains Faison. She says she’s been brainstorming menu items like house-made hush puppies and “white trash fruit salad,” which she says is inspired by ambrosia: “It’s a little kitschy, but reminiscent of what I ate as a kid.” There will also be a beer garden, communal picnic tables and a porch swing outside. As for the name, “It’s just what we used to tease the line cooks with when they were lagging at Rocca,” she says. “We’d yell, ‘Let’s pick it up, sweet cheeks.’”

Wine

Early Look: Fatty Crab St. John

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Fatty Crab, St. John.

I haven't made it down to Battery Park to check out the brand-new Fatty in the Battery. Needless to say, I also haven't visited Fatty Crab St. John in the US Virgin Islands. But Charles Bieler, one of F&W’s excellent 40 Big Thinkers Under 40 and one of the Three Thieves wine founders, has recently been to Fatty's Caribbean outpost. And shares this report.

St. John already had some eating and drinking classics: Who doesn’t love a Painkiller from the Beach Bar or a burger from Skinny Legs? But three months ago, Fatty Crab began cranking out heady dishes that raise the bar on the island's food considerably. This is the same Fatty Crab that I know and love from New York City, and yes, they brought a lot of their chile-fueled dishes with them. That includes the fiery “salt & pepper” squid, a Thai take on fried calamari with Sriracha sauce. The squid tentacles with fresh house-made cheese and tomato confit is much milder; so is the blackfin tuna tartare with yuzu and sorrel.

Like all Fatty Crabs, pork is the specialty here and the kitchen butchers its own pigs. I went crazy on pulled-pork sliders—a pile of sweet-savory shredded pork with sweet rolls and pickled daikon—as well as the crispy pork with pickled watermelon.

Since I'm a wine guy, I have to shout out importer Michael Skurnik, who is a partner in the restaurant and designed the list (I don’t think he's directed a wine list since his days with Kevin Zraly at Windows on the World). I found out it’s possible to buy bottles at Fatty Crab and take them back to your hotel or house rental, so I’d recommend you load up after your meal. And don’t turn down the assorted rum and mezcal cocktails, designed by NYC mixologist Adam Schuman.

Restaurants

Ryan Skeen’s Summer Pop-Up Restaurant

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© Zandy Mangol
Ryan Skeen Will Be Back in NYC with a Summertime Pop Up.

Guess who’s back in town for the summer: chef Ryan Skeen, who has thrilled people like me at—before walking away from—such NYC restaurants as Resto, Irving Mill, General Greene and Allen & Delancey, all in the span of 36 months.

Skeen’s new project, with The Restaurant Group, will be a pop-up restaurant at 10 Waverly Place. Starting July 13, Skeen will serve a $50 three-course prix fixe menu four nights a week (Wednesdays through Saturdays). There’s also the option of a chef’s tasting menu for $85 with as many courses as Skeen wants to serve—currently, he’s thinking about Jonah Crab and White Asparagus Soup, Quail with Figs and Smoked Potatoes, and Beignets with Foie Cardamom Custard.

Now, guess what's the name of Skeen’s restaurant: TBD ("because you never know what will happen" according to the press release). Also TBD: the dates for visiting guest chefs (and F&W Best New Chefs) Nate Appleman, Katy Sparks and Michael Psilakis.

For reservations: reservations@tbdatbrads.com.

Restaurants

Inside Omnivore World Tour with Giovanni Passerini

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In case you missed it, last year’s Omnivore food festival featured René Redzepi (yes, the "best chef in the world"). This year’s festival theme is Young Cuisine, featuring break-out stars like of Rino in Paris, whose restaurant combines Italian peasant cooking (cucina povera is the in-vogue term) with techniques he learned at Paris’s Le Chateaubriand. Passerini is preparing dinner on June 10th with Carlo Mirarchi of Roberta’s in Brooklyn (an F&W Best New Chef 2011). Tickets are available here.

What’s Passerini making for dinner? What will he eat when he’s here? Let’s find out the answers.

Q: What are you making for dinner?

A: Frankly, I still have to decide. I'm sure I'll prepare some ravioli; it's our speciality at Rino. But I still have to decide the kind, the shape.

Q: Let’s talk about cooking with Carlo Mirachi.
A: I'm really curious to meet him. I like everything I’ve seen made by him. I think the spirit of Roberta’s is similar to Rino, though it's just a feeling, because I've never been. But that's enough to make me really excited to cook with Carlo.

Q: Are you excited to try American-Italian food (since you’re Italian)?
A: Of course, I'm so excited to taste my first spaghetti with meatballs! And a good pizza! Probably it's easier to find a good one in NYC than in Rome. And after all, one of my favorite movies is Big Night by Stanley Tucci, about two Italian brothers cooking in the US. So funny!

Q: If you could open another restaurant, what would it be?

A: I really dream about a gazebo in the middle of a crowded street selling Italian street food at a very cheap price: arancini, focaccia stuffed with mortadella, tripe and ricotta sandwiches, fried cod and artisanal Italian beer!

Restaurants

Blake Lively Wants Contraband Hot Sauce

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© Cochon Restaurant
Cochon Restaurant's house hot sauce.

At the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival a few weeks ago, I became a huge fan of Donald Link, the New Orleans chef/owner of Cochon and Cochon Butcher, and his commitment to cooking with chiles. (At his demo, I learned the very useful tip that the best cure for a too-spicy pepper is a piece of chocolate.) It turns out I’m not the only one who appreciates his way with chiles. In the current issue of Glamour magazine, cover girl Blake Lively says that she gets really excited when she finds a new sauce. And then says this: “I wanted a sauce from New Orleans, and they wouldn’t send it because the FDA didn’t approve it. I called the restaurant and I said, ‘OK, can you buy a teddy bear and cut it open and put it in and send it?’ They’re like, ‘No, we are not the drug cartel; we’re not sending you your sweet potato sauce in a teddy bear.’” (How much do we love Blake Lively and her dedication to food and contraband sauces?!) It turns out she’s talking about Cochon’s habanero–sweet potato sauce, which by all accounts is addictive. And also not for sale outside the state; although their regular hot sauce is (long story involving FDA regulations).

So next time I’m in New Orleans, I’m picking up a bottle of Cochon’s habanero sweet potato sauce for Blake Lively. And meanwhile, I can report that Cochon is working hard to ship the sauce to out-of-state fans like Lively.

Restaurants

HBO Documentary Gets Into the Mind of a Chef

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© Photo by Allison Anastasio/Courtesy HBO
Chef Paul Liebrandt in 'A Matter of Taste.'

Consider your last decade. Now imagine it was filmed, discreetly, by a friend fascinated by your job. This is the chef documentary A Matter of Taste, premiering June 13 on HBO at 9 p.m. New York’s Paul Liebrandt met director Sally Rowe in 2000 at Atlas restaurant when, at 24, he became the youngest chef to earn three stars from the New York Times. Compelled to shoot Liebrandt’s avant-garde style of cooking with unheard-of combinations like wasabi and green apple, Rowe followed his career through a painful progression of short stints: Papillon, a West Village bistro, where post–9/11 drinkers wanted burgers and fries; cocktail consulting; the bottom-line-focused Gilt at the Palace Hotel. His current gig as chef-partner of Corton with restaurateur Drew Nieporent finally provided a happy ending. At a preview of the film, we asked Liebrandt about his biopic.

What convinced you to let someone film you for a decade? It's not like Sally came to me and said "Right, we're going to shoot for 10 years." It was as simple as: Her husband Ben, then boyfriend, was the wine director at Atlas.

How did it progress? He said, “My girlfriend is into film.” She said, “I find what you do interesting. Do you mind if I shoot?” And she did it and it went on, and on, every month, slowly but surely. Five years in, I was like "Seriously, what is happening with this?” Eight years in, “Okay, what is happening?” Finally she said, “Okay we're editing.” I lived life; she just filmed it.

What’s it like to watch yourself grow up over an hour? The Papillon stuff, I was so young. We've all been young, but most people don't have it caught on camera. My hairstyle certainly goes up and down. It's interesting to see the progression of the food as well.

Where do you think food is going in the next 10 years? It's becoming more localized. It's good because people are more aware of what's around. It used to be the case that you had to be in New York, London, Tokyo or Paris. Now there are chefs in tiny little towns getting noticed and I think that's really good. If you're a chef in the middle of France or Spain, and you’re a young guy trying to put yourself out there, it's important.

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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.