© Amy Rosen
Fried red snapper.
Needing to escape the cold, I recently sought out warmer weather in Grenada, where I had the chance to visit BB’s Crabback Caribbean Restaurant
. The chef, Brian Benjamin (hence BB’s), leads hands-on cooking classes. For $100, you’ll get schooled in all of the island’s local ingredients while cooking in the restaurant’s tiny kitchen. “It’s an opportunity for people to cook with foods they’ve never seen,” explains the jovial chef. To wit, we cooked with callaloo (a dark leafy green, like spinach), breadfruit (the texture is akin to a chestnut), shadow benny (a wild herb that tastes like cilantro) and dasheen (a starchy tuber). We made saltfish souse and bakes, fresh fried red snapper and creamy crabback. Then we ate it all and drank the afternoon away as a tropical rain shower swept through the open-air dining room.
© Amy Rosen
Sugarcane being carted to the distillery.
On a recent trip to the West Indies, I stopped in at Grenada’s River Antoine Rum Distillery
. From the outside, it looks like a bombed out building, but it’s actually a working distillery, the oldest on the island—dating back to 1785. River water drives the original water wheel, which presses the local organic sugarcane, which is then distilled into rum that's at least 152 proof. In other words, over 75% alcohol. Obviously I had to try it, and while it’s smoother than you’d think, it’s also the definition of firewater. In fact, its alcohol content is so high that they say it’s considered combustible, so they won’t sell it to you if you plan on flying it home—not even in your packed luggage. Best to sip this stuff while relaxing under a palm tree on the white sandy beach.
© Jen Murphy
Perfect Pairing: kale & parmesan crisps and Italian beer on tap.
Today, Tasting Table tapped into San Francisco beer geeks’ current love affair with Italian craft beers. The obsession has spread beyond the West Coast and beyond beer geeks. I just got back from a trip to Chicago, where Spiaggia’s star sommelier, Steven Alexander, told me about his new obsession for Italian craft beers. He’s created a remarkable Italian artisan beer list, with more than 15 brews from super-small breweries. I was lucky enough to have a mini tasting, paired with some of chef Sarah Grueneberg’s crispy kale and parmesan crisps and cheese from Spiaggia’s famous cheese cave. Cafe Spiaggia keeps Birra del Borgo’s Re Ale Extra Pilsner and Birrificio Italiano Tipopils on draft. My favorite of our tasting was Demon Hunter Dark Ale. Yes, it has a pretty bad-ass name (and a label that I’m sure some beer lover will mimic as a tattoo), but this dark brew made by Birrificio Montegioco in Lombardy is my perfect winter beer, with notes of chestnuts, caramel, plums and lots of spice. Italy has already tackled wine. It seems like it has now pretty much mastered beer. I hope more US sommeliers follow Alexander’s lead and start showcasing some great bottles.
© Billy Farrell Agency
Preview dinner for Sam Talbot's new sustainable seafood restaurant.
Chef Sam Talbot (the Top Chef heartthrob and chef of Montauk, New York’s Surf Lodge) gave a select group of super-fashionable guests a peek at some of the sustainably minded seafood dishes he’ll be serving at Imperial No. 9, his forthcoming restaurant that will open at the Mondrian SoHo in NYC early next year. The dinner, hosted by photographer Poppy de Villeneuve, was held at Miami’s Mondrian Hotel during Art Basel, and the long communal table was appropriately decorated with de Villeneuve’s photos and Talbot’s own paintings (when he's not cooking, he paints). The menu included fried oysters with chowchow and crispy ham; lemon king crab a la plancha with sweet-and-sour butter and crispy garlic chips; four-hour octopus with chiles, soy and lime; and spicy cucumber kimchi with napa cabbage.
© Stephen Scoble
White porcelain bowls at Jennifer Rubell's Art Basel installation.
While down in Miami for Art Basel
, F&W's creative director Stephen Scoble had a chance to experience artist Jennifer Rubell's
brilliant installation (pictured). To get to the project, visitors had to step through a hole that was punched through a wall of the building that houses the Rubell family's art collection. Once inside, they walked across a yard to a yellow house that was gutted. Each room in the house had a different installation: a stack of porcelain bowls; a pile of stainless steel spoons; crock pots of Rubell's secret oatmeal recipe; brown sugar packets; and an enormous pile of mini boxes of raisins. The final room that visitors entered—the home's former kitchen—had refrigerators stocked with milk. As visitors moved through the home, they created their own bowl of oatmeal.
© Stephen Scoble
Designer Alber Elbaz's wild Art Basel installation.
Food & Wine's creative director, Stephen Scoble, spent the weekend party-hopping in Miami at Art Basel. One of the highlights: The wild food-and-fashion installation Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz created at the Rubell Family Collection.
© Ariel Fernández of Southern-Press
Ambassador of USA in Uruguay, David Nelson, Gabriel Bialystocki, chef Ben Ford, and chef Toshio Tomita.
I’ve always associated Punta Del Este, on the eastern coast of Uruguay, with glamorous beaches rather than excellent food. But Gabriel Bialystocki, founder and director of Punta del Este’s first ever Food & Wine Festival
, is changing that. Bialystocki has collected an impressive lineup of chefs from the US, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to participate in the month-long event. Each Saturday, selected chefs will host special dinners for up to 180 people. The dinners will highlight Uruguay’s local ingredients, and each dish will be paired with Uruguayan wines. Bialystocki e-mailed me an update from this past Saturday’s six-course dinner, prepared by Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station
in Culver City, CA; Gastón Yelicich of Isla de Flores
in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay; and Toshio Tomita of Nobu in New York City
. Highlights: Ford’s candied fennel, preserved lemon and mascarpone risotto; Tomita’s tuna sashimi in yuzu-soy sauce with jalapeños, with a garlic puree; and Yelicich’s dulce de leche mille-feuilles with chocolate mousse and sabayon cream.
The November 27 finale will be hosted by Argentinean chef Francis Mallmann, who will cook using his trademark seven fires
, and Bialystocki promises to report on all of the delicious details.
© Arsenal Football Club
Arsenal's new WM Club restaurant.
I am a huge sports fanatic, particularly when it comes to soccer—or, as the rest of the world refers to it, football. Usually, I find myself watching a match in a pub in London or a bodega in Barcelona, screaming at a TV screen with the locals. But this year I managed to score tickets to see Arsenal
take on Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium
in London (and, against all odds, lose!). The Brits have taken a few notes from the new haute food offerings at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium and opened three new restaurants and Legends, a cool sports bar with 40 TV screens, at the Club Level. Raymond Blanc protégé Oleg Ibragimov is in charge of the excellent menu at the WM Club restaurant (named for Herbert Chapman’s
revolutionary 3-2-2-3 WM formation that looked like a “W” and “M” on the field). I dined pre-game and had my own personal “table concierge,” who delivered foie gras–and–pear compote with crème brûlée spoons; ham hock terrine with crispy quail’s eggs and homemade piccalilli; and Suffolk pork cheek and belly with red cabbage and crispy pork crackling. Before leaving for the start of the match, I was asked to fill out my halftime menu order. Would I like a cheese plate, wine, perhaps a beer? I checked off my menu card, and my snacks were all waiting at my table at the half. Guests can also come back post-game for Angus beef burgers, drinks and a chance to see Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger and former players mingling with the fans.
© Jen Murphy
Cocktail time at the Barn at Coworth Park.
Every fall, I make an annual trip to London, and I have made a habit of indulging myself with a day or two in the British countryside before heading into the hectic city for work. In the past, I’ve stayed at Brit designer Ilse Crawford’s cozy coaching inns in Hurley and Amersham. This year, I decided to be a bit more posh and checked into Coworth Park.
Located on 240 acres in Ascot, just 45 minutes from London, this new hotel fulfills every fantasy I’ve ever had of a Posh-and-Becks-style country escape, complete with Georgian manor house, stables, deer running in the fields and a lake full of swans. My sporty side loved the tennis, croquet, horseback riding, running paths and polo (it’s the only hotel in the UK that has its own polo fields), and the fab eco-spa, which has an amethyst-lit lap pool that plays music underwater and offers exclusive organic treatments from Dr. Alaitis (some made from lavender grown on the spa’s green roof). And my gluttonous side took total advantage of the awesome food from Michelin-starred chef John Campbell. The Barn, appropriately housed in an old converted barn, has a casual gastropub feel and comfort foods like cottage pie with braised root vegetables and beer-battered fish-and-chips (both pair excellently with Coworth Park’s own beers). Warm homemade bread gets served in cute feed bags. The bar on the second level has horse tacks on the walls, cooking-pot chandeliers and one of the best gin selections I’ve ever seen, plus intuitive bartenders who know exactly how you like your drink. At night, I swapped my muddy Wellies for heels and ate at chef Campbell’s signature fine dining restaurant within the mansion house. A shire menu features ingredients sourced from no more than 70 miles away, while the tasting menu is more brainy and theatrical and might include a liquid nitrogen sorbet of sage and Bramley apple prepared tableside, or a frosted vase of flowers that releases an infusion of garlic smoke over the table. The vegetarian tasting menu was perhaps the most intriguing, mixing flavors like carrot, galangal, ginger and pine nuts in one dish and butternut squash, artichoke and quinoa in another. The restaurant offers the perfect bit of city cooking in the country.
© Photo Courtesy Blue Frog
Guest blogger Monica Bhide, author of Modern Spice,
gave us some of her best picks for where to go late-night in Mumbai.
As Barack Obama heads to one of my favorite cities in the world, I thought I would offer him some guidance on how to relax, Mumbai-style, after a long day of work. From roadside restaurants to salsa clubs, it all begins around midnight in Mumbai.
1. Blue Frog Located in an old warehouse, the club has circular stadium-style rows with seating pods that glow in psychedelic colors during live performances. On offer are cocktails like the Indian Summer, made with vodka, fresh mango, mint and ginger.
2. Zenzi Mills Right across from Blue Frog is this new restaurant inside an old cotton mill. A two-story lounge with exposed-brick walls, it has salsa and a sleek bar that turns out cocktails at lightning speed. Pair their caipiroska (a caipirinha with vodka) with inventive dishes, like paneer satay.
3. Shiro This 10,000-square-foot lounge has Indian-inspired lotus ponds, three larger-than-life Balinese statues hovering over the patrons and red-glass baubles hanging from the ceiling. The best dish is a searing Mahtani chicken with onions and chiles, named for the owner.
4. Lotus Café at the J.W. Marriott This elegant coffee shop with soaring ceilings is a late-night favorite of Bollywood stars. Try Madras steak served in a coconut gravy with onion and chile tempura, plus one of their famous iced teas in flavors like mint, watermelon and green apple.
5. Haji Ali Juice Center Hard-core party-goers end their nights here. Since 1937, the Haji Ali Juice bar has served the city’s best juices. There are no seats, so you park your car by the sea and the waiters come running to take your order for their ruby-red pomegranate juice or their signature “Ganga Jamuna,” a blend of orange juices.