My F&W
quick save (...)

Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

RSS
Farms

Day 1: Our Afternoon at Anson Mills

default-image

With Emile DeFelice and his country ham

© Courtesy of Tom Colicchio
With Emile DeFelice (and his
country ham)

Editor's note: Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef (and a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1991), will be blogging every day this week about his road trip from Atlanta.

In true eco-friendly fashion, Anson Mills' headquarters is located in a reclaimed warehouse behind a carwash, and our only real indication that we had found the right place was the small pile of discarded grain composting near the building. Once inside we found waiting for us not only Glenn Roberts, but his business partner Catherine Horton-Schopfer, southern food historian Dr. David Shields, and farmers Ben Dubard and Emile DeFelice.

What we learned that afternoon about traditional Southern foodways, native grains, and the short history of Anson Mills could easily fill its own feature article, but I'll do my best to hit the high points here.

Glenn opened Anson Mills about a decade ago to solve a problem: many of the grains that were staples of the southern pantry before the Civil War were no longer being grown, and would go extinct (and part of the regional cuisine along with them) unless someone resuscitated them. So, Glenn took it upon himself to grow, harvest and mill rare varieties of heirloom corn, rice, and wheat organically.

Take, for example, Carolina Gold Rice. David Shields, a man who has forgotten more about Southern food history than most other people know, gave us an impromptu seminar on the "Carolina rice kitchen," an antebellum cuisine in the Charleston region that was based entirely around a breed of rice called Carolina Gold. It was the most valuable (and possibly tastiest) rice in the world in the first half of the 19th Century, but had all but disappeared by the time of the Depression.

It's one of the grains that Glenn now grows and sells. He works with thirty organic farmers in six states, and grows a wide variety of native heirloom grains plus French oats, Italian farro, and Japanese buckwheat.

In fact, as we discovered later that day, they were all sitting in big white chest freezers in the next room waiting to be milled-to-order. Glenn walked us through a dozen different grains, telling their stories and encouraging us to run our fingers through them, taste them, and smell them.

Glenn's newest project is another near extinct breed of corn called Perla Bianca, an ear of which Ben Dubbard managed to wrangle from an old farmer during a trip to Italy last fall. Now, using that ear for seed stock, Glenn is working tirelessly to cultivate it in South Carolina. Some of the first locally grown Perla Bianca kernels made it back to the Anson Mills office just a few days before our visit, and Glenn milled some into polenta — one whiff of the freshly milled corn and it's obvious why Glenn's fighting for it. Its floral, milky scent and sweet taste are unlike anything I've known.

As for Emile — I knew I was going to like Emile when he burst into the Anson Mills sales office with a case of PBR under one arm and a country ham under the other. Emile owns Caw Caw Creek Farm, where he raises heirloom pastured pigs using traditional agricultural methods, free from hormones and antibiotics and fed on a nutritious mix of organic Anson Mills grain byproducts and wild grasses, peas, and peanuts. When it comes time for the pigs to be harvested, they are slaughtered humanely. As with Glenn, what Emile is doing is a remarkable contrast to how most of our food is being produced across America. The hard work and hard thought that they put into their farming is all in the name of doing the right thing, ethically and environmentally.

Leaving Anson Mills with a country ham from Emile and a bag of Perla Bianca polenta from Glenn, the wheels were already spinning about how I could use them in a Tom: Tuesday Dinner menu...

Travel

London's Most Fashionable Tea

default-image

pret

© The Berkeley
Haute-cookies at the Berkeley hotel in London.


I’ll be blogging this week about discoveries from my recent eight-day trip to London. The city was buzzing with pop-up restaurant/design projects, ambitious new hotels and hip new British comfort food joints. One of my favorite finds was at the Berkeley hotel, which just introduced the fall/winter collection of its super-popular Prêt-à-Portea (the menu changes every six months to reflect the new fashion season). This haute-couture-inspired tea service features edible designs inspired by Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. Adorable confections include a Roger Vivier chocolate boot cookie, a Mulberry "Bayswater" white-chocolate-and-coconut-truffle "it" bag and a cinnamon Burberry Prorsum trench-coat cookie with a caramel belt and buttons. All are served on Paul Smith china alongside a proper cup of English tea.

Farms

Day 1: Pit Stop at Big T Bar-B-Q

default-image

© Courtesy of Tom Colicchio
Pit Stop at Big T Bar-B-Que

Editor's note: Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef (and a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1991), will be blogging every day this week about his road trip from Atlanta.

The first destination on our trip was a no-brainer: Anson Mills, a three-hour drive from Atlanta in Columbia, South Carolina. Damon and I have been buying their products for years and we were both eager to meet the company's founder, Glenn Roberts, and to see his operation at work.

Heading towards Columbia we got hungry, and called Glenn for lunch suggestions. He recommended a local favorite called Big T Bar-B-Que. In my experience you usually find the real barbeque gems where you least expect them, and Big T was no exception, operating out of a modest storefront in the middle of a strip mall. The brisket and pulled pork sandwich we ordered were prime examples of the mustard-based barbecue that is typical in South Carolina (and Big T also serves a mean fried chicken).

Chefs

Day 1: Departure

default-image

With Chef Damon Wise outside the Mansion on Peachtree in Atlanta

© Courtesy of Tom Colicchio
With Chef Damon Wise
outside the Mansion on
Peachtree in Atlanta

Editor's note: Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef (and a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1991), will be blogging every day this week about his road trip from Atlanta.

A few weeks ago, I did something that I've had on my mind for a long time: I took a road trip.

"Road trip" has multiple meanings. It can describe a way to travel from Point A to Point B, or it can mean getting away from it all Kerouac-style on the open road. But this trip wasn't about escaping things, it was about finding them. It was about paying visits to some of the food producers who make my restaurants what they are, and discovering new ones the old-fashioned way. On this trip, the stops were the destination.

My starting point was Atlanta. Craft Atlanta had been tapped to produce the dinner for Porsche's "Ultimate Reveal," an event celebrating the launch of their new 4-door Panamera (Atlanta is not only home to the newest Craft restaurant, but also to Porsche's North American Headquarters), and I flew down to handle the event personally.

When Porsche offered to lend me a spanking new Panamera 4S for an extended "test drive," and it was an opportunity I couldn't refuse (when someone hands you the keys to a Porsche, you do not ask questions). I cleared my schedule for a week, kidnapped our executive chef Damon and my assistant Liz, and set out in the general direction of New York.

Over the coming days I'll be using this blog to relay the highlights of the six-day, 1,200 mile journey that took me from Atlanta to Columbia, on to Charleston, then Chapel Hill, the Chesapeake, Washington DC, rural Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and finally back to New York. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Restaurants

Ilse Crawford's New Coaching Inns

default-image

crown

© Studioilse
The restaurant at the Crown Inn.

 

Superhip Brit designer Ilse Crawford is constantly innovating. Her latest obsession is reinventing the idea of the coaching inn, which offered travelers in the mid-17th century a place to eat and sleep. Last year I stayed at her first such property, the Olde Belle, outside of London in Hurley. And I just spent the weekend at her second, the Crown Inn, about 40 minutes outside London in Amersham. Crawford has modernized the bed-and-breakfast, combining a cozy place to spend the night with an enticing, comfortable restaurant that's perfect for having a cocktail or a superfresh, farm-to-table dinner. Imagine if New York City's Spotted Pig gastropub added rooms upstairs—that's basically the Crown. It features incredible design juxtaposing the modern (flat-screen TVs and funky white-fur throws for the rocking chairs) and the historic (Room 12 has a section of hand-painted wall dating back to the 1500s), with smart touches like Aesop body soaps and Welsh wool blankets. Rosie Sykes and chef Mark Bristow are in charge of the food and make a satisfying breakfast spread for guests that includes homemade breads and sesame-hazelnut granola, chocolate muffins, eggs and hash. The chalkboard dinner menu changes daily, and some regulars convinced me to try the hearty beef-and-ale pie with a pint of local hard cider. I'm hoping Crawford brings the concept to the U.S. next.

Menus

St. Francis in Phoenix

default-image

st. francis

© Christopher Downs
St. Francis restaurant in Phoenix.


I recently came back from Phoenix, where everyone is buzzing about a new restaurant called St. Francis. Chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin (who trained with Michel Richard, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Nancy Oakes) spent nearly three years searching for the perfect spot, finally buying and renovating a midcentury Harold Ekman building on Camelback Road. With the help of his dad and brother, he’s created a hip, industrial-style space with a two-story, window-faced garage door that opens the bar to the outside. There are homey touches, too; his grandmother's old silver spoons are embedded in the stone walls and chairs from San Francisco's old Rubicon restaurant space. There's also an enormous wood-burning stove. The affordable menu balances healthy dishes, like the sweet-and-spicy Forbidden Rice Bowl, with decadent ones, like a French Onion Burger topped with an onion ring, smoked bacon, Gruyère and homemade French Dip. With Pizzeria Bianco just a few blocks away, uptown Phoenix may be Arizona’s next cool food 'hood.

aaron

© Christopher Downs
Chef Aaron Chamberlin.


Restaurants

Chicago's Terzo Piano

default-image

Terzo Piano

© Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit Management Co.
Terzo Piano

When I was heading to Chicago for a long weekend, I asked friends what was a must-see. Everyone mentioned the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, designed by star architect Renzo Piano, which opened in May. An added appeal for me: The museum recruited chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia fame to open the Italian-centric Terzo Piano there. The name refers to its third-floor location, and it's worthwhile to walk up the sleek white bridge from Millennium Park for the fantastic view instead of entering by elevator inside the museum. The handmade pastas were lovely, especially the restaurant's version of spaghetti carbonara with Nueske's bacon, sheep's-milk cheese and a runny poached egg. Do save room for the cheese cart, with many of the dozen or so options from Midwest producers (my husband's favorite was an aged goat's-milk tomme from Indiana's Capriole). The restaurant serves lunch every day and dinner Thursdays, when the museum is open late (and museum entrance is free from 5 to 8 p.m.).

Travel

Leaf Peeping & Eating

default-image

I just returned from a long weekend in northwestern Vermont, where I spent as much—OK, more—time eating as I did leaf peeping. Here, the highlights from my trip:

Muddy Waters and Penny Cluse Cafe in Burlington are always packed with University of Vermont students and other locals. They come to Muddy Waters for superb coffee drinks made with beans from Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea Co. and Dean’s Beans in Massachusetts. Penny Cluse serves the ultimate Vermont breakfast: the Bellber, a two egg–two pancake combo with thick-cut bacon. Don’t forget their crunchy-buttery biscuits.

Pizza on Earth, a short drive south on Route 7 in Charlotte, serves delicate wood-fired pizzas that rival American Flatbread's. Owner Jay Vogler, former Roger Vergé apprentice and art installer at NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art, makes every pizza to order with local produce. His house-made English muffins are the best I’ve ever tasted.

Red Hen Baking Co. supplies the area with dark-crusted and chewy artisanal breads baked in Middlesex. Last year, they opened a retail counter where they sell their breads and other treats. I could not resist the flaky ham-and-Gruyère croissant made with local cheese and a superlight apricot coffee cake. On my way out, I hit up Nutty Steph’s Chocolate Shop next door for a bag of Magic Chunks, cinnamon-scented granola mixed with dark chocolate that Nutty Steph herself describes as “less-evil candy.”

Fat Toad Farm in Brookfield is where I stopped on the way home to buy goat’s-milk caramel—a superrich caramel made with organic sugar and goat’s milk.

Travel

Salmaland.com

default-image

The noise this week may have been about the latest Zagat and Michelin guides, but one of my new favorite NYC dining sources is by F&W's own former travel editor Salma Abdelnour. Salma kindly downloaded her brain into a new website launched this week, salmaland.com, where she offers a carefully curated selection of 60 of her favorite spots, organized by neighborhood. A sample (about Nolita favorite Café Gitane): "Order a café crème and the baked eggs with basil ... and be reminded why you’re alive, why you’re in this crazy town and why it’s all worth it." Salma will be adding other cities (SF, LA and London all coming soon). She's also looking for other fun ways to make the sight searchable (best last-minute dinner reservation, best spots to celebrate a birthday); readers are invited to contact her with suggestions through the site.

Menus

Boston’s Best Ice Cream

default-image

On a recent trip to Boston, I stayed at the adorable Beacon Hill Hotel, tucked away down Charles Street. Its 12 rooms are right above its street-level restaurant, the Bistro, which is run by Barbara Lynch alum Jason Bond. In addition to the excellent complimentary breakfast, which included vanilla pancakes and a thick French toast topped with spiced crème fraîche, chef Bond makes some of the best ice cream in town. My friend Katherine and I tasted our way through flavors like Ligurian Olive Oil and Banana Rum, but the flavor that had us coming back at midnight for a second scoop was the Chocolate Almond–Smoked Sea Salt, with a pudding-like texture and crunchy bits of cocoa nibs and toasted slivered almonds. Bond shared his secret: Valrhona Guanaha chocolate and Norwegian smoked sea salt. Thank goodness ice cream wasn't on the breakfast menu.

advertisement
The Dish
Receive delicious recipes and smart wine advice 4x per week in this e-newsletter.
The Wine List Weekly pairing plus best bottles to buy.
F&W Daily One sensational dish served fresh every day.
American Express Publishing ("AEP") may use your email address to send you account updates and offers that may interest you. To learn more about the ways we may use your email address and about your privacy choices, read the AEP Privacy Statement.
How we use your email address
advertisement
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.