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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


World’s Priciest Cocktail


mai tai

When I told F&W spirits correspondent Jim Meehan that I was going to Belfast, he told me the city is home to one of the world’s best cocktail bars, at the Merchant Hotel. Sean Muldoon is the bar manager and brains behind “The Bar,” and his ambitious cocktail list reads like a guide to the art of mixology, with definitions, a glassware chart, historic illustrations and even some recipes. But the item on the list that immediately drew my attention was the Platinum Level Mai Tai, surely one of the world's most expensive drinks at 750 pounds (about $1,200). Muldoon makes it with 17-year-old Wray and Nephew rum—one of the key ingredients in the original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. The bottle is one of just 12 and dates back to the 1940s; only one measure of rum is left in it. I decided to leave it for a true cocktail connoisseur (and someone with deeper pockets), and settled for the 10 pound ($16) Silver Level Mai Tai, mixed with Inner Circle Green Dot rum. It was great—and a welcome break from all the Guinness I’d been drinking.


Missoni Hotel News


Hotel Missoni Edinburgh opens next week, the latest venture from the amazing Missoni family (check out their Wikipedia page — don't you wish you were a fashion-designing descendent of an Italian sea captain and a Friulian magistrate from then-Austrian-ruled Dalmatia? I do). The Italian designers have partnered with Rezidor Hotels to open properties across the globe (next stop: Kuwait) featuring the bold designs of the Missoni Home line, as well as rustic Italian cooking inspired by the family recipes of founder Rosita Missoni. Just to gild that lily, in Edinburgh Rosita has partnered with Giorgio Locatelli of the ridiculously good Locando Locatelli in London (the two are from the same region in Italy).

I want to go. Not just to try the scamorza, pomodoro e rucola (pan-fried scamorza cheese with tomato and arugula) at the hotel restaurant (pictured above) but for the pleasure of ordering the hamburger di manzo scozzese al formaggio—the Scottish beef hamburger with cheese—off the room service menu.


The Next Cult Cow


I've spent the last few days in and around Belfast, and I am excited to report that Northern Ireland is experiencing a farm-to-table food revolution. One of its leaders is Noel McMeel, the charismatic chef at Lough Erne Golf Resort in Enniskillen. The Chez Panisse–trained McMeel is working closely with Good Food Ireland, an organization that supports local farmers and artisans, to source outstanding ingredients. His latest obsession is Dexter, a breed of rare, indigenous, miniature cows. When the resort's golf course opens this July, McMeel will debut a clubhouse restaurant with a Dexter-focused menu utilizing all cuts of the super-beefy meat. I got a taste when McMeel made me a brilliant Dexter-beef stew served in a shot glass and topped with liquefied mashed potatoes (the combination of brown on the bottom and tan on the top cheekily resembled a pint of Guinness). The man standing next to me tasted it and warned, "That dish will change your life." It certainly changed the way I think about Irish food.


LAX for Foodies


As a native Angeleno, I've long suspected (hoped!) that the reason so many people hate my hometown is because of their terrible entrance into it, via the impenetrable LAX. This mammoth airport has long had the least concession space of any major US hub, making delays a foodie nightmare. But no more! LAX is following a nationwide trend and revamping its terminals, seeking out new food outlets it hopes will be edgier and more representative of LA’s local food scene. Bidders aren’t even confirmed yet, but if LA wants to put its best foot forward and gain some fans, I suggest In-N-Out Burger, Ruen Pair and King Taco. Who’d want to hate on that?


A Hotel for Beer Lovers


Beer geeks will love discerning hotelier Sir Rocco Forte’s newest addition to his distinctive hotel collection. The Augustine, which opened last week in Prague, is built on land leased from the 13th-century Augustinian St. Thomas’s Monastery, where the monks brewed beer from 1352 until 1952. Several monks still live in a separate part of the monastery, adjacent to the hotel grounds. Sir Rocco, playing to the recent obsession with artisanal beer, bought the ancient beer recipe from the monks and is having them brew it again so that he can serve it on tap at the hotel's Brewery Bar (which is very fittingly located in the cellar of the former St. Thomas’s brewery). The dark, almost ebony-colored brew is made from five kinds of barley and Czech Saaz hops and has a nice roasted, caramel malt flavor. There’s already talk of trying to bottle the beer so guests can take it home as a souvenir.

The Brewery Bar

© Rocco Forte Hotels
The Brewery Bar at the Augustine in Prague.



Wannabe Cheesemaker’s Dream Vacation



© Murray's
A cheese lover's heaven.

A few years ago, I had a brief love affair with the notion of running away and becoming a cheesemaker somewhere green and beautiful. Now, Murray’s is offering its first cheesemaker tour to give wannabe cheesemakers like me an insider's look into the art of cheesemaking, right at the source.

Murray’s Director of Education, Taylor Cocalis, is leading a group of no more than 20 around the Swiss region of Bad Ragaz June 8 to 13 with stops at traditional farmstead cheesemakers, Swiss farms and tours of 400-year-old aging caves. And of course, fabulous cheese tastings, wine-paired dinners and overnights at a luxe hotel and spa are included. Check out the full itinerary here. If this first trip is a success, Murray’s plans to lead more trips in the future.


© Murray's
Bad Ragaz Switzerland.


Devouring San Francisco


It’s debatable who among the F&W staff is the ultimate foodie. F&W’s supertalented senior designer, Mike Patti, is definitely in contention for the title. His recent trip to San Francisco revolved entirely around food. Here, he shares highlights from his aggressive eating itinerary:

Perfect picnic: Sentinel's smoked salmon and fennel sandwich and spicy pork sandwich stuffed with sweet peppers and celery root made for a great, affordable lunch in Golden Gate Park.
Artisanal snacks: Tartine's oversize black pepper-cheddar gougère was the standout of my morning. I finished the day with two scoops of brown sugar ice cream with ginger caramel swirl from Bi-Rite Creamery.

Ferry Plaza food marathon: A basket of perfect strawberries from a vendor at the Ferry Plaza market and a cup of Blue Bottle coffee (each cup is individually dripped) was the ultimate breakfast. Dinner at the Slanted Door included a superlight, unexpectedly crispy Vietnamese pancake with shrimp and extraordinarily flavorful wood-roasted clams with pork belly, chiles and Thai basil.

Incredible pizza: At A16, Nate Appleman, one of our 2009 Best New Chefs, prepared fantastic grilled fava beans with chiles and an awesome pizza topped with lemon, asparagus, ricotta and prosciutto. We loved the little honey pot filled with chile oil that came with our meal.

Cocktail revelation. I decided to try Alembic, a cocktail lounge in Haight-Ashbury featured in our new F&W Cocktails 2009 book. My friend is still thinking about the surprising shot of celery juice in her gin-based Southern Exposure.


© Mike Patti
Pastries at Tartine.



The Perfect Miami Beach Food Weekend Part Two


I may have exaggerated last week when I said that I spent my entire Miami Beach weekend lounging poolside. Full days of sunning and swimming left me surprisingly hungry and ready for two fabulous dinners in the city’s Design District.

I most enjoyed my meal at Michelle Bernstein’s five-month-old Sra. Martinez (4000 N.E. 2nd Ave., Miami, 305-573-5474), where I ate plate after plate of tapas, including patatas bravas reinvented as miniature potato skins with crispy jamón and spicy aioli, the lightest fried artichokes with lemon-coriander dip (one of Bernstein’s favorites) and corn off the cob with lime, chipotle and ricotta salata. A standout featured foie gras wrapped in phyllo-like dough topped with brown butter apples and braised pork.

The next night I landed a table at the now-iconic Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (130 N.E. 40th St., Miami, 305-573-5550) where I loved sweet and spicy pork belly with peanuts, kimchi and pea shoots and puffy, sugared donuts for dessert.

My last morning in town I treated myself to a Sunday breakfast on the porch of the just-renovated and newly sparkling Betsy Hotel (1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-531-6100), overlooking Ocean Drive and eating a popover stuffed with ham, spinach and béchamel at BLT Steak. It was a fitting way to say goodbye to South Beach, taking in the ocean view with my morning coffee.


New Fenway Frank Gets Chefs' Approval


New York’s fancy new baseball stadiums may have some stellar (and pricey) new dining options, but there is something to be said for the old-school days of watching a ball game in rickety bleacher seats, with a beer and a hot dog. That’s why I have a soft spot for Boston’s Fenway Park. The Red Sox’s 97-year-old stadium has preserved the best of the old days by making subtle rather than grand enhancements. Case in point: The big F&B shake up this year wasn't a celebrity chef outpost, but simply a new Fenway Frank. The new dog, made by the local, family-run company Kayem, has caused debate in the Boston food world.

I was recently in town for a game and tried it myself, then I asked some of Boston’s chefs and bartenders what they think of the new Fenway Frank and what they’d serve if Fenway ever turned into the next Citifield.

Ken Oringer, chef at Clio and La Verdad Taqueria
“I’ve been to a couple of games, and the new frank is definitely quite an improvement: meatier, tastier. It has a nice snap to it and is well seasoned. It’s a darn good dog, and hot dogs are probably one of my favorite foods.”

Oringer’s awesome taqueria is right across from the ballpark (and wins my vote for best pre- or post-game place to grab a drink and a bite). What would he put on the menu at Fenway? “La Verdad’s cola-marinated carne asada tacos and the chicken milanesa torta, a messy sandwich stuffed with chicken cutlets, refried beans, molasses-chipotles and Oaxacan string cheese.”

Tony Maws, an F&W BNC 2005 and chef at Craigie on Main
“The one game I had tickets to was rained out, so I haven't tried the new dog yet. But if I was cooking at Fenway, I'd serve pork bellies! Talk about ‘batter up’--I'd say it'd be ‘belly up!’”

Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, mixologist at Craigie on Main
“I went a couple of weeks ago to the game and I ordered one and it was so good I even ordered a second. The old hot dog was smaller. This new one seemed plumper and had the slightest mustard seed taste to it. Overall, I would say improvement--moist and plumper, though I will admit the steamed dogs at the ballpark never compete with those grilled at home.”

Lydia Shire, chef at Scampo

Shire might be the most die-hard hot dog lover I’ve ever met. She got her first taste of the new Fenway Frank while watching the Sox sweep the Yankees this past weekend. The verdict: “Just so you know, I won a hot-dog-eating contest once and outate eight guys. I am the truest fan of all hot dogs. I made a beeline for the dogs when I got to the game and it was quite delicious. I think the Fenway Frank is now a winner. It tasted like an all-beef hot dog -- I happen to love the regular Kayem natural casing dog that has pork in it, because I worship pork. The best thing that happened while I watched the game in the EMC club was when I ordered the hot dog with extra butter on the roll they did it!”


The Perfect Miami Beach Food Weekend Part One


With my Miami plane tickets booked, I knew just who to ask for food and restaurant recommendations. Lourdes Castro, a Miami native, splits her time teaching in Florida and New York. In between writing her first cookbook and creating an alluring spread of Cuban classics like vaca frita (crispy shredded beef), fried, sweet plantains and rice and beans for our May issue, Castro drew up her own Miami version of F&W's Go List:

Puerto Sagua: “Have a Cuban breakfast—two fried eggs, Cuban toast, and café con leche—at Puerto Sagua.” (700 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-1115).

Joe’s Take Away: “The famous Joe’s Stone Crab has a Take-Away annex near the beach so you can make a picnic. Some of the food is priced just below the menu and you don’t have the long wait for a table.” (11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-4611).

David’s Cafe: “Stop for a Cuban coffee at David’s on Lincoln Road. Have a shot of café Cubano (black and sweet) or a cortadito (sweet, with milk). (1654 Meridian Ave., Miami Beach, 305-672-8707).

Epicure Market: “The last Jewish institution on South Beach. Epicure is a specialty food market with very high end products and a great deli counter offering staples like whitefish salad and smoked salmon. The bakery is awesome!” (1656 Alton Rd., Miami Beach, 305-672-1861).

The Frieze Ice Cream Factory: “The Frieze serves amazing house-made ice creams and sorbets. My favorite is the coconut sorbet. Everything is made in that store.” (1626 Michigan Ave., Miami Beach, 305-538-0207).

Las Culebrinas: “I took Harold McGee here for dinner when he was in town. He loved the food and ambience. It’s authentic, filled with Cuban locals. For me, it’s the best Cuban dinner outside my house.” (2890 SW 27th Ave., Coconut Grove, 305-448-4090)

List in hand, I landed in South Beach and promptly planted myself at the Raleigh Hotel’s sprawling Art Deco pool. And that’s where I stayed most of the weekend. I only managed to hit two of Lourdes’s spots—the Frieze, for a superbly tart cup of pink grapefruit sorbet, and David’s Cafe, which I visited six times over three days for many piping hot cortaditos, my new favorite coffee drink. I'm saving the rest of her places for my next trip to Miami, which cannot come soon enough.

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