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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Travel

Pop-Up Safaris in South Africa

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tent

© Uncharted Africa
Luxe-safari digs for World Cup viewing.

 

Yesterday, the New York Times named its 31 must-get-to destinations for 2010. It’s no surprise that South Africa was high on the list with the 2010 FIFA World Cup taking place there this June. Uncharted Africa Safari Co. is taking advantage of the soccer madness and the growing trend of pop-up everything by launching a pop-up safari camp in the Cradle of Humankind from June 10–July 12. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is equidistant from the Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenburg soccer stadiums and Uncharted Africa is setting up über-luxe tents outfitted with gorgeous rugs and furniture, Wi-Fi and 46-inch plasma-screen TVs. African barbecue will be served at 24-seat dining tables and the bars will be stocked with some of South Africa’s top wines. Those lucky enough to have tickets to the matches can choose to get to the stadiums via helicopter or limo, while the ticketless can watch the games broadcast on a video wall in a party tent.

Menus

Food, Wine & Football

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bubbly

© Max's Wine Dive
Fried Chicken and Champagne at Max's Wine Dive.

 

It’s frigid here in New York City, and with the long holiday weekend ahead, I plan on holing up and cooking my favorite comfort foods, drinking some great wines and watching a lot of college football. I recently heard about a new wine bar in Texas that combines all three things. Max’s Wine Dive opened in May in downtown Austin with the philosophy of "Fried chicken and champagne? Why the hell not?!"

With its local team, the University of Texas Longhorns, playing for the national championship on January 7, the bar should be packed with fans eating not just fried chicken with Champagne but kobe burgers with Cabernet and oyster nachos with premier cru Burgundy.

Until I find my own NYC version of Max’s, I’ll be replicating their comfort-food-and-wine pairings with ideas from Food & Wine.

Chefs

2010 Prediction: Star-Chef Food at the Superdome

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john besh

© Restaurant August
New Orleans star chef, John Besh.

My only complaint after an epic three days of eating in New Orleans earlier this month was the letdown when I arrived hungry at the Louisiana Superdome to watch the Saints' Monday Night Football game. In a city known for great food, I was disappointed by less-than-stellar Creole gumbo and the stadium’s signature red beans and rice with sausage. So I was excited to read a recent Wall Street Journal interview with Saints executive vice president Rita Benson LeBlanc, in which she mused about possible food improvements for the stadium, like dishes from her favorite NOLA chefs John Besh and Emeril Lagasse.

When I asked John Besh what he’d prepare if he had an outlet at the Superdome, he told me he’d cook andouille and chicken gumbo and barbecued Gulf shrimp. Said Besh, “We are on top of our game this year, thanks to the New Orleans Saints. Visitors come to New Orleans not only to support their team, but to enjoy the cuisine and culture of this historic city. In every possible venue, from the Superdome to the New Orleans Convention Center, it is important that we welcome guests in our city with what we are so well-known for—food.” 
 

Menus

Kerry Simon's TV Dinners

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Chicken

© Palm Place Hotel
Kerry Simon takes the fried chicken trend retro with TV dinners.

 

While other star chefs are opening flashy, over-the-top restaurants in Las Vegas, chef Kerry Simon is going the opposite direction and offering TV dinner–inspired comfort foods for room service at Las Vegas's Palms Place hotel. Meals like meatloaf with mac and cheese, peas and carrots, and chocolate cake, and Southern fried chicken and mashed potatoes, are delivered in cafeteria-style compartmentalized trays.

Travel

A Treadmill for the Food Obsessed

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Most treadmills tell you your heart rate and the number of calories you've burned, but apparently in food-obsessed Japan, treadmills flash images of ice cream cones and decanters of sake to show how hard you're working out. In today's New York Times Op-Ed section, Roger Cohen notes his amusement at seeing "an egg-topped sandwich suggestive of a Croque Madame" on a treadmill's screen when he hit the 450-calorie mark in his workout. The question: Were these suggestions of foods to avoid, or ideas for what he could eat later—"a visual projection of a no-pain-no-gain philosophy?"

Menus

36 Hours in New Orleans, Part 2

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nola

© 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.

Travel

Food Art at Art Basel

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© Jen Murphy
Mark Ryden's "incarnation" painting at Art Basel Miami Beach.

 

I just returned from Art Basel Miami Beach. Here, a food lover’s highlights:

* Jennifer Rubell, daughter of the legendary Miami art collectors Mera and Don Rubell, created an edible installation titled “Old-Fashioned” for the “Beg Borrow and Steal” show. It featured 1,521 Dunkin’ Donuts nailed to a white wall.

*Timothy Thompson’s aluminum cupcakes were on display inside of a 1960s camper van at the Camper Contemporary exhibition’s mobile art gallery.

* Artist Marky Ryden showed his new painting, "Incarnation," (above) at the Paul Kasmin Gallery booth. Ryder has the ability to make raw meat look mesmerizing and, in this case, turns it into a carnivore’s haute couture. The painting sold for nearly $900,000.

Cocktails

36 Hours in New Orleans: Part 1

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Domenica

© Domenica
The dining room at Domenica, John Besh's new restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel.

 

I just made my first trip to New Orleans and after canvassing friends, chefs and cocktail experts plotted an epic eating and drinking itinerary. This is one city where classic spots rival—maybe even one-up—new places. Some highlights:

Saturday afternoon: Shrimp and oyster po’boys (dressed, of course) at Mahony’s, a new favorite of F&W Best New Chef 1999 John Besh.
 
Late afternoon: Historical cocktail crawl through the French Quarter with stops at Muriels, Old  Absinthe House, the bar at Antoine’s and Pat O’Briens (for the essential Hurricane).

Evening: Dinner at Domenica, John Besh’s stylish new Italian restaurant in the recently renovated Roosevelt Hotel. Besh protégé Alon Shaya oversees the kitchen and is a talent to watch. On the menu: crispy-thin, bubbly-crusted pizzas; a salad of thinly shaved tentacles of octopus carpaccio mixed with citrus and fennel; torn sheets of pasta (stracci) in a thick oxtail gravy with fried chicken livers; slow-roasted goat with chanterelles.
 
Post-dinner: Pre-night-out Sazerac at the Roosevelt’s legendary Sazerac Bar.

Late-night: The Cure is a much-buzzed-about cocktail spot uptown in a renovated 1905 firehouse. Co-owner and head mixologist Neal Bodenheimer opened the place in February and makes everything from the bitters to the cocktail cherries in-house. Bar Tonique lies on the outer edges of the French Quarter on Rampart Street. Bodenheimer also developed the cocktail list for this serious drink spot run by the crew of the Delachaise. It has a quieter vibe than The Cure, but equally excellent artisanal cocktails like the Champagne Cocktail, made with grapefruit bitters.

Super, super late-night: Mimi’s for live music, a night-ending pint of Abita Purple Haze and some tapas-style bar snacks including the "Trust Me”—that night, local braised lamb in gravy.

Chefs

Great Chefs in Kentucky

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I feel lucky living in NYC: Some of the country's best chefs work here, and those that don't often pass through the city. But come next fall, many of those same chefs will be heading elsewhere: Lexington, Kentucky, for the World Equestrian Games. The James Beard Foundation has partnered with the Games and the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation to host 16 nights of dinners, where two guest chefs, like F&W Best New Chefs Christopher Lee, Marc Vetri and Nancy Oakes, will cook meals with local Kentucky talent. The dinners will take place in late September and early October, and tickets go on sale in January.

Restaurants

New Orleans Food and Football Weekend

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After a long weekend in New Orleans I'm declaring it the most food- and sports-obsessed city in the country. It felt like half the town was lined up to get po'boys at Mahony's (Prolific NOLA chef and F&W Best New Chef 1999 John Besh's new favorite po'boy spot) in preparation for the Bayou Classic, the legendary college football game that took place Saturday. But the big game was last night's NFL face-off between the undefeated New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots. I was shocked when my waiter at the legendary Galatoire's covertly undid a few buttons of his dress shirt to reveal a bright red Patriots T-shirt to me while I was there on Sunday eating the famous shrimp remoulade and fried eggplant with hollandaise and powdered sugar (somehow addictively delicious).  Yesterday, a NOLA-based friend informed me that Aaron Burgau, the chef of Patois, had gotten "Who Dat?" (the Saints chant) tattooed on his upper lip in a show of team pride. And chef John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford, Mississippi, is a Saints fan and made a special trip into town for the game. "I have been waiting for this night since I went to the game in the 1960s," says Currence. After the Saints’ crushing victory, Currence found himself in the owners' suites for a post-game Laurent Perrier Champagne toast, then retired to Lüke for boudin noir and 25-year-old Pappy Van Winkle. Late night, Currence joined the reverly in the French Quarter and hit up Cooter Brown’s for meat pies and cold beer. "It was late enough that even in New Orleans, the bartenders hated to see us walk through the door," he says. I'm hoping the food-and-football obsession will converge next year and result in the Superdome following the lead of Yankees Stadium and convincing Besh, Burgau and other local talents to create some worthy stadium food.

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