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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Restaurants

Texas Barbecue Primer

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Texas Monthly BBQ Festival

© Charlie Llewellin
Texas Monthly BBQ Festival

In Texas, quality barbecue is practically its own religion, somewhere between high school football and actual religion. At the annual Texas Monthly BBQ Festival in Austin last month, a veritable pantheon of pit masters—22 in all—gathered to feed meat to more than 3,000 enthusiasts. Thanks to careful pacing and a strict limit on potato salad, we managed to try most of the offerings. Here, we present a guide to five of the state’s best ’cue artists.

 

The Salt Lick, Driftwood, TX
This famous Hill Country spot still cooks meat over a pit, instead of in an industrial smoker. Salt Lick also sears brisket on an open flame before it’s smoked. “I don’t know of anybody else who does it,” says owner Scott Roberts. “Searing caramelizes the flavor, adheres the dry rub better, and holds in more moisture.” As for the signature tangy sauce, Roberts says a legend that the secret flavor was influenced by his mother’s Japanese heritage is “a myth.” “Our sauce came from South Carolina on the wagon train,” he adds. “The only thing that’s happened over time is it’s been Texified.”

Louie Mueller, Taylor, TX
This venerable institution, founded in 1949, took home two awards at the festival—one for beef ribs and one for sausage—but the sausage is the show-stealer: a juicy, jalapeño-infused recipe devised by late BBQ legend Bobby Mueller, whose sonWayne is the current pit master. “It’s a strict ratio of what we call bull meat”—the tough, lean pieces near the shoulder—“and beef tallow,” Wayne says. As for the spices? Nice try. “We’re pretty guarded about that,” Wayne says with a smile.

Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ, Tyler, TX
In beef-mad Texas, barbecued pork is about as sought after a commodity as secondhand snowshoes. (Governor Rick Perry got into trouble in North Carolina recently when he unfavorably compared pulled pork to roadkill.) But the award-winning pork ribs from Stanley’s BBQ in Tyler—a town in East Texas that’s closer to Memphis than to Midland—makes a case for switching sides. Smoked over pecan wood instead of the more traditional post oak, the ribs get coated in an 11-spice rub that balances Tex-Mex-ish spices like paprika and chili powder with the sweetness of a Deep South blend. It’s a combination that, as owner Nick Pencis puts it, “comes right up and punches you in the face.”

Franklin BBQ, Austin, TX
If it’s true, as purists hold, that you can judge a pit master by his brisket, 33-year-old Aaron Franklin deserves his reputation as the best new barbecue whiz in town. Franklin smokes antibiotic- and hormone-free Meyer Ranch beef for up to 18 hours, resulting in a rich, buttery flavor that draws fans who line up for hours outside the restaurant. “We just cook it as long as it needs to be cooked. It’s done when it’s done,” reasons Aaron's wife and co-owner Stacy Franklin, in the Zen language common to many great barbecuers.

Snow’s BBQ, Lexington, TX
At the opposite end of the big Tex experience is tiny Snow’s, whose pit master, Miss Tootsie Tomanetz, is a septuagenarian middle-school custodian who’s been smoking meat for more than 45 years. According to partner Kerry Bexley, there’s no great secret to Tootsie's impossibly tender brisket: “All you need is a good cut of meat—we get ours from Sam Kane in Corpus Christi—and a little bit of salt and pepper. The real key to great barbecuing is attention and tenderness. If you mess it up, more than likely it’s human error.”

Related: Texas-Style Barbecue Recipes
Barbecued Ribs Recipes
Andrew Zimmern's Favorite Food Festivals

Restaurants

Early Look: DC's Little Serow from Chef Johnny Monis

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© Nigel Parry
Johnny Monis has a new restaurant: Little Serow.

There are some days I really wish I lived in Washington, DC; for instance, while I impatiently wait for Georgetown Cupcakes to open in Manhattan. Or when I hear about a new restaurant from F&W Best New Chef 2007 Johnny Monis, from F&W's superb DC correspondent, Amanda McClements of Metrocurean.com. Here's McClements' first look:

Fans of Johnny Monis's cooking, myself included, have wondered if the intensely focused chef would ever branch out from his kitchen at the tiny Komi near Dupont Circle. About eight years to the day since he opened Komi, Monis quietly unveiled his latest project, Little Serow.

Distance-wise, he didn't go far—the new restaurant occupies the basement of the brick rowhouse right next to Komi—but cooking-wise, the two restaurants are worlds apart.

Komi strongly reflects Monis's Greek heritage, but the casual new spot is devoted to the spicy, sour flavors of northeastern Thailand's Isaan cuisine. His set menu of communal dishes is $45 for walk-ins only. At a recent meal, I had delicious pork skin, still crackling from the fryer, with nam prik num (green chile) sauce, plus spicy cucumber salad with dried shrimp and lemongrass-flavored pork sausage.

Why Isaan cooking? "Isaan food has a flavor profile that I love eating on my days off, and it's what I've been cooking for staff meal and behind the scenes for years," Monis says. He has another connection to the region: He got married to his wife, Anne, on a trip there earlier this year.  (Little Serow: 1511 17th St. NW, Washington, DC)

Restaurants

Chicago’s Grooviest Market: Dose

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© Nathan Michael
Chicago's Dose Market in Action.

In New York City, we’re spoiled rotten with the growing number of great food and fashion markets (yay for Brooklyn Flea and New Amsterdam Markets!).  Now Chicago has upped its game with its own very compelling, once-a-month Dose market. Dose’s co-founder Emily Fiffer previews the November 6 market with details that make me want to get on a plane to O’Hare right now.

Since Dose Market’s June inception, the once-a-month pop-up market has served as a platform for local chefs and artisans to launch products—often in unexpected ways. In July, chef Grant Achatz created a cocktail for Dose inspired by his Thai menu at Next; in August, Mindy Segal hawked a table full of pastries to preview her new bakery concept; and in September, Urban Belly’s Bill Kim launched his line of Seoul Sauce alongside his signature dumplings.

Similarly, the November 6 market has a lot going on. Doughnut Vault (which has crowds around the walkup window), will debut six new flavors, including lemon–poppy seed and chestnut. Zingerman’s is trekking down from Ann Arbor with domestic cheeses and pantry items. NoMI Kitchen pastry chef Meg Galus will offer her inimitable brown sugar streusel muffins (NoMI Spa will even be there, too, with seasonal mini spa treatments). Artisan noodle-maker Pasta Puttana is creating a special Dose pasta (hint: Quarter Circle Seven Ranch is collaborating on the meat sauce). And Bittercube will pour complimentary Templeton Rye cocktails.

Plus, more than two dozen fashion and design vendors will be on hand.  

Dose Market: takes place one Sunday a month at the River East Art Center, 435 E. Illinois St., at McClurg Ct. Tickets are $8 in advance here and $10 at the door. Check dosemarket.com for details.

Restaurants

Cooking Class With Super Star Chefs

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Pastry chef and Top Chef: Just Desserts judge Johnny Iuzzini.

© Trump Hotel Collection
Jean Georges pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini.

With the finale of Top Chef: Just Desserts last week, pastry fans across the country will miss their weekly fix of handsome judge Johnny Iuzzini. Those considering a major holiday splurge can now get up close with the Jean Georges pastry chef and his powerhouse boss, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, in New York City. The Trump International Hotel & Tower recently launched a $9,999 Culinary Master Course package that includes a three-night stay, a private cooking demo by JGV and a personal pastry class with Iuzzini (plus breakfast at Nougatine and a three-course dinner at Jean Georges). While booking the demo, guests choose themes tied to Vongerichten's restaurants: Jean Georges (French), JoJo (Mediterranean), ABC Kitchen (organic and local), Spice Market (Asian) or Perry Street (New American). For the hands-on pastry session, Iuzzini teaches the basics of cake baking, tuiles, ice creams and sorbets.

An intimate demo with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

© Trump Hotel Collection
An intimate demo with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

 

Menus

Big Bad Burgers

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Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun

© John Kernick
Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun

There’s something about a big burger blow out in the fall, when you feel the need to grill as many burger patties as possible before it's freezing outside. Maybe, though, you’ve already hung up your grilling spatula for the season—maybe you feel like eating dressed up burgers without doing any work. These places are for you.

Le Burger Brasserie, Las Vegas. The marquee dish here is the 777 burger; that name alludes to its $777 price tag. It's a burger made with beef (kobe) that's topped with lobster (from Maine), balsamic vinegar (100–year aged) and brie (imported). But the thing that really rachets up the price tag is the bottle of Rosé Dom Perignon that’s served alongside; apparently the burger is just $60 without the Dom. We hear it’s very popular with people who literally just hit the jackpot.  

Flip Burger Boutique, Atlanta. Among the less conventional toppings that Top Chef winner Richard Blais puts on the burgers at his Flip chain in Atlanta and Birmingham: Swiss cheese foam; seared foie gras; Coca-Cola ketchup. (Not all on the same patty.) Then there’s the steak tartare burger, a mix of hand-chopped filet mignon with garlic, chilis, pickled shallot, smoked mayonnaise and a 6-minute egg.  If and when we turn our attention to dressed-up hot dogs, we’ll surely be looking at Blais’s upcoming Atlanta HD-1 Haute Doggery.

Hubcap Burgers, Houston. Recently I heard rumors of a waffle burger here, specifically a burger patty on a waffle with syrup. Turned out, that was just a special. Not to worry, Hubcap has any number of nifty full-time options, like the sticky burger, with bacon, cheese and peanut butter. The sticky monkey burger, adds grilled bananas to the mix.

M. Wells, Long Island City, NY. This hip diner garnered a fair amount of attention during its year-plus life. M.Wells shut its doors at the end of August but that doesn’t mean we can’t memorialize their 24-ounce, $42 burger. The burger was a blend of beef and lamb, generously dressed with cheese, caramelized onions and aioli, served on a correspondingly giant toasted roll. The final touch is genius: onion rings stacked on the large steak knife that stabs the middle of the burger.

Related: Best Burger Recipes Ever
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Best Pizza Places in the U.S.
(Pictured: Tyler Florence's Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun)

Restaurants

Crazy Fried Chicken

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Super Crispy Fried Chicken

© Tina Rupp
Super-Crispy Fried Chicken

These days, it seems like it’s illegal to open up a restaurant and not put fried chicken on the menu. (Perhaps it’s a new stipulation in leases for dining establishments.) Some chefs take that mandate and serve straight-ahead, crispy fried chicken. But it’s the other cooks—the ones that decide they want to get a little bit wacky with their chicken—that we’ll focus on now.
 
Pine State Biscuits; Portland, OR. For some people, a piece of fried chicken is indulgent enough. Those people should not go to Pine State Biscuits and order the Wedgie: a biscuit filled with buttermilk fried chicken, a fried green tomato, iceberg lettuce and blue cheese dressing. And they definitely shouldn’t order the Reggie Deluxe, because that’s a biscuit topped with fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, gravy and an over-easy fried egg.
 
Hot Sauce and Panko; San Francisco. Is it a fried chicken spot? A Belgian waffle place? A hot sauce shop? Actually, it’s all three. At Hot Sauce and Panko, you can get 10-plus kinds of chicken wings, 92 types of hot sauces and five options for your waffles. The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is its best seller; you can try it with Big Papi en Fuego Grand Slam XXXtra Hot Sauce. If you want waffles on the side, you can have them naked or with “veggi” bacon.
 
Supper; Philadelphia.
Personally, I think pickles should be a required side for fried chicken. Chef Mitch Prensky of Supper agrees with me. His new Jewish Fried Chicken has a spear or two of garlic pickle alongside the chicken, which is cured with a pastrami-spiced brine, then coated with a mixture that includes more pastrami seasoning, then fried. (Guess what else Prensky serves on the side? Fried matzo balls.)
 
Blue Ribbon at Brooklyn Bowl; New York City. Don’t get me started on all the amazing places to eat fried chicken in New York City. But there is just one place where you can bowl, see Biz Markie perform (or Kanye West, if you have super-good connections), drink hyper-local beer and eat amazing Blue Ribbon fried chicken. Chefs Eric and Bruce Bromberg give you the option of fried chicken dinners with white meat, dark meat or a mix of both.
 
American Cupcake; San Francisco. Take two of the biggest food trends in recent years—fried chicken and the unstoppable cupcake wave—and you come up at the same place as the Bay Area’s American Cupcake. They soak chicken in red velvet cake batter and then, for good measure, coat it in red velvet cupcake bits before frying. It’s served with cream cheese-infused mashed potatoes that just might conjure up a vision of frosting.  
 
Husk; Charleston, SC. Forget the focus on super-secret batter recipes. Star chef Sean Brock is hard at work trying to answer the question, “Just how many fats can chicken be fried in?” Brock’s chicken, which is available by reservation only and requires 48 hours notice, is fried in butter, chicken fat, bacon fat and country ham fat. Wow.
 
Related: Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.
Best Fried Chicken and More Chicken Recipes
More Fried Chicken Recipes
Best Burgers in the U.S.

Beer

Rock-Star Road Food

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Eating their way across America: Bluesy rockers The Stone Foxes.

© Rochelle Mort Photography
Eating their way across America: Bluesy rockers The Stone Foxes.

San Francisco indie rockers The Stone Foxes were in New York recently for the annual CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival. Haven’t heard them yet? You probably mistook them for the Black Keys in a recent Jack Daniels commercial in which they covered Slim Harpo’s bluesy “I’m a King Bee.” I sat down with the band between shows for a rundown of their favorite eats from their last few months of touring (they’re also documenting the tastiest bites on their Facebook page).


Where's your favorite preshow meal these days?

Aaron Mort, bass: Being a vegan on the road is definitely pretty challenging. Going through the South for a week, iceberg lettuce with barbecue sauce was pretty much all I ate, but The Grit is an amazing vegetarian place in Athens, Georgia. Spence got the Mediterranean platter, and the hummus was insane.

Spence Koehler, lead guitar: The Shed in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is just a shack on the edge of a swamp with a barbecue pit and picnic tables, but its baby back ribs are some of the best I’ve ever had.

Shannon Koehler, drums: I tried blood sausage for the first time at the Sweet Afton pub in Astoria, New York. It freaked me out, but I had to trust my bartender’s recommendation. It was glorious. Amen.

Elliott Peltzman, keyboards: I tried the vegan “Chik’n Parmigiana” at Foodswings in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and I swear it tasted exactly like a real chicken parm. It even flaked like real chicken when you pulled it apart.

 

What are you washing it all down with?

Spence: I was blown away by the Four Peaks Kilt Lifter Scottish style ale we tried in Phoenix. It’s superstrong but extremely flavorful.

Elliott: We took the locals’ advice and tried Terrapin Brewery in Athens, Georgia. Its IPA is excellent.

Aaron: And of course, the Bay Area has great beer. I love Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Elder.

 

What are you excited to eat when you get back to San Francisco in a few weeks?

Spence: I’m baking pumpkin pies as soon as I get home. That’s number one.

Joe Barham, band manager: I’m stoked for organic Mexican food at Gracias Madre. It’s a block from my house, so I go there I lot.

Aaron: I’m going to break my vegan streak for the boozy Secret Breakfast ice cream at Humphry Slocombe. It tastes like the bourbon pound cake my mom always makes for Christmas.

Recipes

A Fried-Chicken Upgrade for John Travolta

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Warning: Test Kitchen Tease snapshots may cause cravings, lip-smacking and an unshakeable desire to cook.

Fried Chicken from Austin's Uchiko

The UK’s Daily Mail reports that actor John Travolta’s representative tried—without success—to reserve two seats at a West Sussex KFC. A spokesperson for the fried-chicken chain expressed regret: “In hindsight, of course we would have reserved a table for him. It’s not every day you get a Hollywood star eating in your restaurant.”

Johnny-boy should have called the F&W Test Kitchen. This week, we tested some killer fried chicken (left) from Austin’s Uchiko. The eclectic Japanese-American restaurant recommends marinating the chicken in buttermilk, Thai chiles and ginger, then dusting it with a mixture that includes Madras curry. The result: super-juicy, flavorful meat and deliciously crispy skin. The recipe will be featured in F&W’s Cocktails 2012 book, but in the meantime, try these incredible Fried-Chicken Recipes, including Grace Parisi’s Beer-Battered Buttermilk Fried Chicken.

Restaurants

Biscuit-Topped Chicken Potpie to Straighten Out the English

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Chicken Dance spotlights a fantastic Food & Wine chicken recipe every day.

Chicken Potpie

© Quentin Bacon
Chicken Potpie

Though Brits and Americans speak the same language, kitchen terms can easily get lost in translation. In a piece for NPR, Alison Richards writes about a frustrating attempt to make star-shaped cookies when she first moved to Washington, DC, from England. After multiple batches of unyielding dough, she realized her mistake: Richards had been making biscuit dough. In England, biscuit means cookie; but in America biscuit means biscuit. There's no mistaking the real, flaky biscuit that tops this Chicken Potpie—a recipe that even a British cook could love.

Related: More Chicken Recipes
Bread and Biscuit Recipes
More Chicken Dance Posts

Wine

Early Look: Bellus Wines at Parm

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© Cynthia Grabau
Jordan Salcito and Lucy Liu celebrate Salcito's new wine Bellus.

Two things I’m really looking forward to this fall: The release of my friend Jordan Salcito’s new wine Bellus and the opening of Torrisi Italian Specialties’ outpost, Parm. Well, earlier this week I got to have my Bellus and eat my meatball subs, too, at the wine’s launch party at the soon-to-open Parm.

Salcito’s inaugural wine, Girasole, is a 2007 Tuscan red; a mix of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It’s got flavors of cherry, pomegranate, herbs and cinnamon. And it happened to be insanely good with Parm’s fresh-from-the-deep-fryer mozzarella sticks and the accompanying marinara sauce.

I’m not the only person who was excited to celebrate the Bellus/Parm pairing. Superstar actress and author Lucy Liu was there; she’s lovely. Hip-hop executive Lyor Cohen smartly positioned himself by the open kitchen, near the sausage-and-pepper heros and pizza knots. Also there: Beyoncé, who’s got to be the world’s most beautiful pregnant woman. And I’m not just saying that because she and Jay-Z shared their meatball parm subs and zeppole with us. Beyoncé was drinking ginger-ale, not Bellus. But she smelled her husband’s wine. “It smells delicious,” she said. “I can’t wait to be able to drink it.”

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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.