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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

Rant for Your Life

Why Most Restaurants Fail the Toast Test

Toast fail.

I woke up on a recent morning, like every morning, thinking about toast. I knew that if I kept thinking about toast—not French toast, or toast points, but traditional white toast like you eat at breakfast—I would work myself up into a towering wrath. And there was nothing to be wrathful about! I had fallen asleep at the St. Cecilia hotel in Austin listening to Neil Young records, and woke up knowing that I was about to have breakfast outdoors with a grackle, one the city’s ubiquitous, crow-like carrion birds, at Jo's up the street. (I was in Texas to do the press conference for Meatopia Texas in San Antonio, and also to eat at Qui, which, by the way, is AWESOME.) Once at Jo's, I ended up with a world-class breakfast taco, which I shared with the friendly corvid. In Texas, excellent tortillas seem to take the place of toast much of the time, but I had wanted toast. And I couldn't get it. Because, in Austin as in so many great American cities, our restaurants all fail the Toast Test.


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Travel Tips

Reader's Picks: Top 5 Burger Chains

Umami Burger

Photo courtesy of Umami Burger

F&W polled readers across this burger-loving nation to find the restaurants with the most passionate devotees. Here, the top-ranking chains.

Five Guys Started in Virginia (President Obama is a fan), its griddle burgers and hand-cut fries are now available in 47 states and Canada.

Shake Shack Launched by hospitality genius Danny Meyer, Shake Shack has grown from a hot dog cart in NYC’s Madison Square Park into a global chain with locations in London, Istanbul, Dubai and beyond. The 100 percent Angus beef patties come with special ShackSauce on a supersoft bun.

In-n-Out This California cult-status chain has been serving all-natural beef on toasted buns since 1948. Insiders order burgers Animal Style, cooked with mustard and served with pickles, “extra spread” (house sauce) and grilled onions.

Umami Burger This West Coast chain is expanding east (Miami Beach and New York City) with its house-ground patties infused with Umami Master Sauce and lots of topping options.

Bobby’s Burger Palace Star chef and grill master Bobby Flay shares his famous burgers, like the Bobby Blue with blue cheese and bacon, at locations in eight states and DC.

Related: Readers' Picks: Best Burgers
Incredible Burger Recipes
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Best Bacon Burgers in the U.S.
Best Sliders in the U.S.

F&W Postcard

A Chef's Postcard from Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Photo © Rob Whitworth - Getty Images

Star chef David Myers experiences incredible traffic and beef-blood soup with raw egg yolk on a trip to Ho Chi Minh City.

At home in L.A., I operate at Mach 6 speed, but in Ho Chi Minh City, I learned how to slow down. Imagine millions of motorbikes and no rules. The only way to cross the street on foot is one inch at a time. It’s counterintuitive: You might think you’d have to be aggressive to navigate that chaos, but going slowly is the only way.

Of course, I had to keep up once 
I joined the throng on wheels. My former sous-chef Shawn Pham (currently living in Ho Chi Minh City) loaned me a bike, and together we whizzed around, hitting 12 places a day—six at lunch and six at dinner, not to mention pho for breakfast. I particularly loved Pho Dau (288 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Q3), which serves the noodle soup Northern-style. Most Vietnamese restaurants in the US garnish the soup with bean sprouts, basil, lime and chile, Southern-style. Northern-style pho has fewer garnishes, the idea being that the rich beef broth is perfect as is. You can also order a raw egg yolk, which you drop into a small side of beef-blood soup. It’s a hell of a way to start the day.

One of my favorite places to end the night was the speakeasy-style Bar’s Bar ( Japanese bartenders pour perfect cocktails and rare whiskies; we drank 12-year single-malt Yamazaki. More often, we spent the evening at a quan nhau, or a pub, playing drinking games that involved dice or rock-paper-scissors. You don’t want to get into a drinking game with the Vietnamese. They will drink until they drop, then a good friend will pull his friend off the ground and order him another.

The pace of my trip was frenetic—all that eating, boozing and biking around the city—but we were never in a rush. Ho Chi Minh City was a lesson in patience. Patience and pho.

Chef David Myers’s newest restaurant is Hinoki & the Bird in Los Angeles.

Related: 9 Must-Try Dishes in Vietnam
Amazing Vietnamese Recipes
100 Best Recipes Ever: Southeast Asian Dishes

Ray Isle's Tasting Room

Wineries Not to Miss: Piedmont Picks

Wineries Not to Miss: Piedmont Picks

Photo © Martin Morrell

Piedmont, in northern Italy, is known for two things: wine and truffles. Traditionally, when people make pilgrimages to Piedmont, that’s why they come. They visit the vineyards and the wineries, they drink Barolo and Barbaresco, they eat pasta buried under snowdrifts of white truffle shavings and they laugh as they listen to that eerie whistling sound a bank account makes as it deflates, which is what happens when they pay for all those truffles. Here, wineries not to miss.

Giacomo Borgogno e Figli
At Borgogno, one of Piedmont’s oldest wineries (founded in 1761), a shop sells current bottles of its elegant Barolos, plus vintages going back to the 1960s. Cellar tours are just five euros. Via Gioberti 1, Barolo;

After tasting Boroli’s impressive Barolos and Barberas (make sure to try the single-vineyard Fagiani Barbera), travelers can eat at owner Achille Boroli’s nearby Michelin-starred restaurant, Locanda del Pilone. Fraz. Madonna di Como 34, Alba;

Michele Chiarlo
In 2011, this top producer opened the gorgeous Palas Cerequio resort adjacent to the renowned Cerequio vineyard. Guests can try excellent wines from the region, as well as Chiarlo’s own bottlings, in the on-site tasting room. Palas Cerequio, Borgata Cerequio, La Morra;

Elvio Cogno
Stop by this hilltop winery (tastings by appointment) for superb single-cru Barolos and a remarkable Barbera made from vines planted in the 1800s. Località Ravera 2, Novello;

Every wine made by this producer outside the town of Alba is impressive. So is the estate itself, which has a translucent, hemispherical tasting room that extends out over the vines, and a colorful chapel designed by artists Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett. Località San Cassiano 34, Alba;

Unusual for top European wineries, the tasting room and shop here are open daily with no appointment necessary. Visitors can also take nature walks on the estate, originally a hunting retreat for King Vittoro Emanuele II. Via Alba 15, Serralunga d’Alba;

Related: Bold Beers in the Land of Barolo

Editor Picks

Top 10 Hotels of 2012

The NoMad

Courtesy of The NoMad Hotel

After a year of keeping up with the hottest, newest and best hotels and food pilgrimages around the world, F&W travel editor Gina Hamadey reveals her must-visit picks. 

1. The NoMad Hotel, New York City

The restaurant, run by Eleven Madison Park chef Daniel Humm, exceeded our high expectations with its delicious food, and it’s now a staff favorite for a celebratory lunch or cocktail. The hotel looks stunning, too, thanks to designer Jacques Garcia, of Paris’s Hotel Costes. Doubles from $515;

2. Endemico, Guadalupe Valley, Mexico
The owners of Endemico—and other trendsetting Mexico properties such as Hotel Habita and La Purificadora—have built a knockout of a hotel: a cluster of 20 minimalist-chic cabins perched on a secluded rocky slope in Baja California, overlooking some of the area’s 60-plus wineries. The hotel itself sits on a little vineyard, and is getting ready to bottle its own label, with help from the region’s star winemaker Hugo D’Acosta. 
Doubles from $175;

3. Palacio Nazarenas, Cuzco, Peru
This 16th-century building, a former convent, has been made over into a posh Orient Express hotel in the middle of bustling Cuzco. The hotel has aspects both old and new: Restored Spanish-colonial friezes decorate the spa, but the restaurant is super-modern, led by Virgilio Martinez, who headed the kitchen at renowned restaurateur Gastón Acurio’s Astrid & Gastón in Lima, Peru. 
Doubles from $595;

4. Amanzo’e, Porto Heli, Greece
Celebrity architect Ed Tuttle designed the marble-and-stone suites (each with a private pool!) at Amanzo’e, in an olive-grove-filled stretch of the Peloponnese peninsula. During harvest season, the staff can arrange an olive-picking excursion followed by an olive oil-making lesson in the kitchen. 
Doubles from $1,095; Resort reopens for the season in March.

5. St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, Florida
This is one of the splashiest hotels to open in America in 2012, thanks to the stunningly glamorous Art Deco interiors by Toronto-based firm Yabu Pushelberg. Guests can also look forward to plush cabanas on a private beach, and easy access to the high-end stores (Alexander McQueen, Versace) that make up Bal Harbour Shops. Doubles from $559;

6. Ett Hem, Stockholm
The name of this boutique hotel means “a home,” and indeed guests make themselves at home here: The kitchen is fully stocked with food, wine and Champagne, and the car is available for anyone to use. Doubles from $550;

7. Selman, Marrakesh, Morocco
A number of amazing hotels opened in Marrakesh in 2012, but this one in particular stands out. Five riads located in a 15-acre park are glamorously decorated by French design star Jacques Garcia. The owners’ Arabian horses trot around the grounds. Doubles from $720; (in French)

8. Conservatorium, Amsterdam
This former music conservatorium is now a stylish hotel designed by Milan architect Piero Lissoni (who has created furniture for Kartell); the lobby and restaurant are housed in an impressive four-story, glass-enclosed atrium. Doubles from $345;

9. Song Saa, Cambodia
After being captivated by the beauty of Cambodia, an Australian couple created this incredible private-island resort where guests have the Blue Lagoon-like experience of taking over a tropical island. 
From $1,336 per night, meals included;

10. Shangri-La, Toronto
True to the Shangri-La brand, this hotel looks sleek and emphasizes service. But we were most impressed with the food: There are dim sum carts in the lobby, and star chef David Chang runs not one but three restaurants, plus a bar. Doubles from $425;

Expert Guide

Insider’s Sicily with a Seattle Star Chef

Chef Maria Hines in Sicily

Photos Courtesy of Maria Hines

Before opening her third Seattle restaurant, Agrodolce, on December 21, Food & Wine Best New Chef 2005 Maria Hines traveled to Sicily for research. Here, highlights from her eating tour. READ MORE »

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Travel Tips

Kate Krader's Guide to New Orleans Neighborhoods


F&W’s Kate Krader hit New Orleans with locals like Treme’s Wendell Pierce as her tour guides. Here, her neighborhood guide.

Kate Krader's Guide to New Orleans

© Paul Costello

French Quarter
I ate amazing pizza and house-made charcuterie at Domenica and got the scoop on the upcoming Treme cookbook from the book’s author, renowned local writer Lolis Eric Elie.

Historic District
At Bellocq bar, I drank icy rum cobblers with Treme star Wendell Pierce; he told me about his cool new chain of grocery stores.

Warehouse District
Over warm boudin and superb muffuletta sandwiches, Cochon Butcher’s chef-owner Donald Link gave me the scoop on the amazing pork he’s begun producing.

Bywater District
I got an insider tour of NOLA’s hottest area from big-deal developer Sean Cummings. A Bywater highlight: the great food-and-cocktail spot Maurepas Foods.

Related: New Orleans Travel Guide
Kate Krader's Insider Guide to New Orleans
Delicious Recipes from New Orleans Chefs

Travel Tips

Fall Foliage by Boat

New York Water Taxi: Fall Foliage Tour

Courtesy of New York Water Taxi

Driving around looking at the gorgeous amber, orange and sunset-colored leaves of deciduous trees is a familiar fall road trip, but a handful of enterprising boat companies now offer traffic-free foliage tours by water. For three upcoming Sundays (Oct. 21and 28, and Nov. 4), New York Water Taxi offers guided day trips leaving from Manhattan at 12:30 p.m., and gliding 60 miles up the Hudson River to West Point.»

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3 Nouveau Vintage Hotels

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, then and now.

Photo © St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

F&W's October issue looks at the wisdom of aging, from barrel-aged cocktails to timeworn spaces. Here, three beautifully renovated historic hotels.

St. Pancras Renaissance, London (photo)

Then: Built in 1873 as part of the city’s St. Pancras train station, the hotel offered central heating, a Moroccan-style coffee shop and an opulent restaurant—the height of Victorian-era hospitality and luxury.

Now: After a 76-year closure, St. Pancras has been carefully restored, including reproductions of the original glassware, with some modern design touches. A concession to the times: Rooms have iPads.

The Algonquin, New York City

Then: A Jazz Age-era hotel and famous watering hole for the city’s intelligentsia, it was the site of Dorothy Parker’s Round Table. Owner Frank Case was known to offer free rooms to struggling authors.

Now: All 174 rooms have been renovated, some for the first time since the hotel’s 1902 opening. The Blue Bar has been updated, and the Oak Room cabaret turned into a lounge.

Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles

Then: Opened in 1946, the hotel became a favorite of 1950s Hollywood. Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis and Tony Curtis were regulars. Marilyn Monroe sat for one of her final photo shoots here and Grace Kelly stayed the night she won her Oscar.

Now: Recently renovated, the property has a new eponymous restaurant by Wolfgang Puck, who also masterminded the bar, lounge and room-service menus. A signature dish and locavore favorite: snapper crudo with Santa Barbara uni.

Andrew Zimmern's Kitchen Adventures

The Best Simple Fall Dessert: Tarte Tatin

Seared Sea Scallops with Fresh Green Curry and Spinach

© Stephanie Meyer

I am happy to share my favorite simple dessert, a classic that every cook should learn to make. The process is simple: You essentially boil a broken caramel and it re-emulsifies, thanks to all of the juice that comes from the apples during cooking. The pectin in the fruit binds it all together, so by the time the pan is nearly dry, the apples are cooked through and the caramel has thickened.

Read more >

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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.

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