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Big Bad Burgers

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Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun

© John Kernick
Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun

There’s something about a big burger blow out in the fall, when you feel the need to grill as many burger patties as possible before it's freezing outside. Maybe, though, you’ve already hung up your grilling spatula for the season—maybe you feel like eating dressed up burgers without doing any work. These places are for you.

Le Burger Brasserie, Las Vegas. The marquee dish here is the 777 burger; that name alludes to its $777 price tag. It's a burger made with beef (kobe) that's topped with lobster (from Maine), balsamic vinegar (100–year aged) and brie (imported). But the thing that really rachets up the price tag is the bottle of Rosé Dom Perignon that’s served alongside; apparently the burger is just $60 without the Dom. We hear it’s very popular with people who literally just hit the jackpot.  

Flip Burger Boutique, Atlanta. Among the less conventional toppings that Top Chef winner Richard Blais puts on the burgers at his Flip chain in Atlanta and Birmingham: Swiss cheese foam; seared foie gras; Coca-Cola ketchup. (Not all on the same patty.) Then there’s the steak tartare burger, a mix of hand-chopped filet mignon with garlic, chilis, pickled shallot, smoked mayonnaise and a 6-minute egg.  If and when we turn our attention to dressed-up hot dogs, we’ll surely be looking at Blais’s upcoming Atlanta HD-1 Haute Doggery.

Hubcap Burgers, Houston. Recently I heard rumors of a waffle burger here, specifically a burger patty on a waffle with syrup. Turned out, that was just a special. Not to worry, Hubcap has any number of nifty full-time options, like the sticky burger, with bacon, cheese and peanut butter. The sticky monkey burger, adds grilled bananas to the mix.

M. Wells, Long Island City, NY. This hip diner garnered a fair amount of attention during its year-plus life. M.Wells shut its doors at the end of August but that doesn’t mean we can’t memorialize their 24-ounce, $42 burger. The burger was a blend of beef and lamb, generously dressed with cheese, caramelized onions and aioli, served on a correspondingly giant toasted roll. The final touch is genius: onion rings stacked on the large steak knife that stabs the middle of the burger.

Related: Best Burger Recipes Ever
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Best Pizza Places in the U.S.
(Pictured: Tyler Florence's Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun)

Restaurants

Crazy Fried Chicken

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Super Crispy Fried Chicken

© Tina Rupp
Super-Crispy Fried Chicken

These days, it seems like it’s illegal to open up a restaurant and not put fried chicken on the menu. (Perhaps it’s a new stipulation in leases for dining establishments.) Some chefs take that mandate and serve straight-ahead, crispy fried chicken. But it’s the other cooks—the ones that decide they want to get a little bit wacky with their chicken—that we’ll focus on now.
 
Pine State Biscuits; Portland, OR. For some people, a piece of fried chicken is indulgent enough. Those people should not go to Pine State Biscuits and order the Wedgie: a biscuit filled with buttermilk fried chicken, a fried green tomato, iceberg lettuce and blue cheese dressing. And they definitely shouldn’t order the Reggie Deluxe, because that’s a biscuit topped with fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, gravy and an over-easy fried egg.
 
Hot Sauce and Panko; San Francisco. Is it a fried chicken spot? A Belgian waffle place? A hot sauce shop? Actually, it’s all three. At Hot Sauce and Panko, you can get 10-plus kinds of chicken wings, 92 types of hot sauces and five options for your waffles. The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is its best seller; you can try it with Big Papi en Fuego Grand Slam XXXtra Hot Sauce. If you want waffles on the side, you can have them naked or with “veggi” bacon.
 
Supper; Philadelphia.
Personally, I think pickles should be a required side for fried chicken. Chef Mitch Prensky of Supper agrees with me. His new Jewish Fried Chicken has a spear or two of garlic pickle alongside the chicken, which is cured with a pastrami-spiced brine, then coated with a mixture that includes more pastrami seasoning, then fried. (Guess what else Prensky serves on the side? Fried matzo balls.)
 
Blue Ribbon at Brooklyn Bowl; New York City. Don’t get me started on all the amazing places to eat fried chicken in New York City. But there is just one place where you can bowl, see Biz Markie perform (or Kanye West, if you have super-good connections), drink hyper-local beer and eat amazing Blue Ribbon fried chicken. Chefs Eric and Bruce Bromberg give you the option of fried chicken dinners with white meat, dark meat or a mix of both.
 
American Cupcake; San Francisco. Take two of the biggest food trends in recent years—fried chicken and the unstoppable cupcake wave—and you come up at the same place as the Bay Area’s American Cupcake. They soak chicken in red velvet cake batter and then, for good measure, coat it in red velvet cupcake bits before frying. It’s served with cream cheese-infused mashed potatoes that just might conjure up a vision of frosting.  
 
Husk; Charleston, SC. Forget the focus on super-secret batter recipes. Star chef Sean Brock is hard at work trying to answer the question, “Just how many fats can chicken be fried in?” Brock’s chicken, which is available by reservation only and requires 48 hours notice, is fried in butter, chicken fat, bacon fat and country ham fat. Wow.
 
Related: Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.
Best Fried Chicken and More Chicken Recipes
More Fried Chicken Recipes
Best Burgers in the U.S.

Beer

Craft Beer in Cans

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It’s very easy to imagine some beer-drinking alien from the planet Xorx arriving on Earth and saying, “Let me get this straight. You have 1,716 independent small brewers in your ‘country’—whatever that is—and until now they never thought of putting their beer in cans? Hmmm. You really are lesser beings, aren’t you. I shall now vaporize your cities.”
 
Thankfully, the craft brewers of America are finally relenting on this bottle-only approach to beer, which (a) will save us all from early vaporization, and (b) will allow people like me to drink their beer at the beach. 

Now it’s possible, even likely, that beer purists will insist that the bottle is theonly way to go, that the complex nuances of a fine beer are made flat and anemic by aluminum. I will insist in turn that coming across Brooklyn’s Six Point Brewery’s terrific Bengal Tiger IPA in cans at my local supermarket is a mighty fine thing indeed.
 
So if you meet a Xorxian (blue, tentacles, loves pale ale), offer him/her/them/whatever a fine craft beer in a can. Unless you want to be known as the dope who got our fair nation wiped from the face of the planet. Here are a few that ought to do the trick.
 
New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale. The craft-ale-in-can movement has proved so successful for Fort Collins, Colorado’s New Belgium that it just announced the addition of a 16,000-square-foot canline to its brewery. Fat Tire is malty and on the richer side: a good burger beer.
 
Six Point Craft Ales Bengali Tiger IPA. Sixteen-ounce cans for this one, and why not—it’s a terrific beer (as noted above), balancing its piney hops notes against a fair amount of richness. It’s particularly appealing because Six Point’s ales haven’t been available in either bottles or cans, just on tap or in growlers, until now.
 
Anderson Valley Brewing Company Hop Ottin’ IPA. Classic West Coast India Pale Ale with a zingy dose of citrusy hops. I’m a little sad the Anderson Valley folks retired their Poleeko Gold Pale Ale in cans in favor of this IPA, but it’s still a darn fine brew.
 
Harpoon Summer Beer. This is a kolsch-style beer, which basically means it’s a lighter Germanic ale—an ale that drinks a bit like a lager, if you will. If you were on a boat on a scenic lake with a cold six-pack of these cans and a fishing rod/book/tuna sandwich/whatever makes you happiest, then your life would be an enviable one.
 
Porkslap Pale Ale. That is it about the name Porkslap that says so elegantly, “Buddy, are you kidding me? Of course I'm in a damn can”? Regardless, this lightly gingery ale from New York’s Butternuts brewery was way ahead of the curve—the first release was in 2005. And yes, it is sold only in cans.
 
Related Links: Best American Beer, Bourbon and More
Great Beer Pairings
Cooking with Beer Recipes

Cocktails

Adult Slushies (aka Shaketails)

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It’s a tough time for anyone with at least one eye on the wildly fluctuating stock market. So here’s something to make everyone feel better – or at least those adults who want to drink like children, and have valid id in case the bartender asks. Adult slushies (aka shaketails) have become wildly popular around the country. Here are a few great places to find them.

Tristan, Charleston. Cocktail popsicles are available in weekly changing flavors like Watermelon, White Balsamic Mojito and Firefly Southern Peach. Whether you want to down them as an aperitif or an extra chilled Happy Hour snack is your call.

Holsteins Shakes & Buns, Las Vegas. Located in the super-fun Cosmopolitan, Holsteins has a whole section of "bam-boozled" milkshakes on their dessert menu like the Cereal Bowl with vanilla vodka, Cap’n Crunch and Fruity Pebbles. The brand new "sorbet" shake is made with watermelon, bubblegum vodka and, surprise, liquid nitrogen. 

The Ritz-Carlton Downtown, Atlanta. Atlanta summers are so hot, it’s no surprise that the local Ritz came up with a super fun adult slushie. That would be their boozy, vibrantly colored snow cones,like Passionfruit with Lemon and Bourbon and the locally minded Moonshine-spiked one with Blackberry and Honey.

Village Whiskey, Philadephia. In July, chef Jose Garces premiered milkshakes at his two-year-old spot, which guests can order spiked or not. The long list of ingredients in the Irish Car Bomb includes rum-soaked devil’s food cake, whiskey-infused chocolate pastry cream and vanilla and chocolate ice creams; to make it even more appealing (to me anyway), it’s topped with a piece of cake.

Burger, Tap & Shake, Washington DC. Jeff Tunks, chef at this soon-to-open tavern, coined the term ‘shaketails’ and he’s taking it seriously enough to make almost everything in the drink in-house. The Dr.’s Cure mixes vanilla bean vodka with coffee liquor and vanilla ice cream. I’m not sure how the Teacher’s Pet got its name, but it combines apple brandy, ouzo, root beer with more vanilla ice cream.

La Esquina, Brooklyn. At the new outpost of the groovy Mexican restaurant in New York City, pastry chef Pichet Ong is creating a list of alcohol-soaked ices to serve to the Williamsburg locals. He’ll start with shaved ice and flavor it with tropical fruits like a pineapple margarita, flavored with fresh fruit puree, cilantro, tequila and, as is necessary for all good margaritas, salt.

Related: 20 Refreshing Drinks
Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.

Beer

Bees and Honey Are All the Buzz

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With national bee frenzy growing for some time, new products like honey beer are starting to hit the market. The Obamas were right at the forefront of the movement when they served White House Honey Ale, home-brewed by their chefs with honey from the White House beehive, at a Super Bowl party this year. (Celebrity guest Marc Anthony liked the beer so much, he is reportedly hanging on to the bottle given to him by the First Lady.)
 
Now, Denver’s luxe Brown Palace Hotel & Spa is partnering with Wynkoop Brewing Company to produce a Belgian-style saison beer with the honey from a rooftop bee colony. The hotel will debut the bee-brew during this year’s Great American Beer Festival.
 
A new one-stop bee-inspired shop in Cambridge, MA, doesn't sell beer, but it does have all sorts of treats and trinkets for the modern bee lover. Opened on National Honey Bee Day, August 20, Follow the Honey sources honeys from all 50 states and abroad, and sells beeswax candles and soaps, beekeeping books, bee-inspired artwork and even jewelry.

Related: Fantastic Honey Recipes

Wine

Rockin’ Wine and Spirits

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Justin Timberlake raises a glass of his new 901 Silver Tequila.

© Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Justin Timberlake raises a glass of his new 901 Silver Tequila.

 

I am super-excited that Lady Gaga will be performing at the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards—both for the music and to see what she’ll be wearing. Another version of the meat dress? A tiara of frozen confections to echo the ice cream truck in her newest video? She’s not the first out-there artist to venture into the food and wine world, though. Audacious rocker Marilyn Manson is now making an absinthe cheekily dubbed Mansinthe in Germany (perhaps it induces the sort of hallucinatory effects he employs in his videos). Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, who became enamored with Arizona as a “harsh yet mystical” winemaking terrain, debuted his first wine from his Arizona vineyard, Caduceus Cellars, back in 2006. Justin Timberlake has devised yet another way to get us on the dance floor with his new 901 Silver Tequila. Even Aussie rockers AC/DC are getting in on the action with their own wine label. It launches in Australia this week with hilarious varieties like Back in Black Shiraz, Highway to Hell Cabernet Sauvignon and You Shook Me All Night Long Moscato. Gaga’s currently working on a fashion collaboration with Nicola Formichetti for Barneys. If she doesn’t start making wine, at least maybe she can think about meat dresses for the masses?

Related: Surprising Celebrity Food Products

Wine

A Case for Boxed Wines

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2009 Bota Box Chardonnay.

© Courtesy of DVF Wines
2009 Bota Box Chardonnay.

People have been putting wine in boxes (or rather, in bags within boxes) for years, but it's a relatively new phenomenon that the contents be worth drinking. Last week, New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov covered 10 worthy reds and whites, and for this month's issue of Food & Wine, Ray Isle tasted a slew of boxed Chardonnays and named four winners.

Why look past the cheesy stigma this summer? Boxes are lighter (therefore greener) and easier to close than bottles. That portability makes them great if you're inclined to partake at beach picnics, and researchers in Spain recently suggested that wine could even protect against sunburn (though dehydration is still something to worry about when day-drinking). The biggest advantage is that whites will stay fresh in your fridge for weeks, making it easy to squeeze off a glass whenever a new heat wave rolls into town. Here, surprisingly good boxed wines to drink now.

Wine

A Grape That Could Use Some (Tough) Love: Chenin Blanc

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I have enormous respect for Chenin Blanc, but this is one grape that definitely needs to spend some time in a military academy. Left to its own devices, after a few years Chenin vines sprawl out, get all broad and flabby, and start overproducing like the Octomom. But with a little firm discipline (shoot- and cluster-thinning, which is vineyard-manager-speak for “drop and give me twenty, dogface!”) suddenly they're a source for crisp, complex—and underrated—white wines. Here are five that have been whipped into shape:

2011 Indaba Chenin Blanc ($10) Sales of Indaba’s wines support a fellowship for needy South African students interested in wine-related careers. Like growing more Chenin Blanc, because the place does it so darn well, for instance.

2010 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc ($12) This peachy wine comes from Clarksburg, in California’s Sacramento River delta. No oak here, just zippy stainless-steel-tank freshness.

2010 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc ($13) More peach notes—it’s sort of a Chenin signature—and a nice hint of spice, from one of South Africa’s top wineries. Plus, how can you not love a place that also makes a wine called “Faithful Hound”?

2010 Pine Ridge Vineyards Chenin Blanc-Viognier ($14) The Pine Ridge folks add about 20% Viognier—another grape that tends towards sloth and dissolution unless you give it what-for—to this melony Chenin, giving it a nice floral note.

2009 Domaine Huet Le Haut Lieu Sec Vouvray ($30, more or less) “Sec” means dry, important to know with Vouvray, since many of the Chenins from this French region can be sweet. “Domaine Huet” means “I make the best damn Chenin Blanc on the planet,” basically. It’s a splurge, but once you’ve fallen in love with this grape, it’s one you’ll want to make.

Related Links:
Top 10 No-Fail Tips for Picking a Stellar Wine off a Wine List
15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing

Farms

Farm-to-Table Hotels Get Serious

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Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth's Blanche Neige with Chef Martin Paquet.

© Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth's Blanche Neige with Chef Martin Paquet.


When we predicted the advent of rooftop hotel farms in 2011, we had no idea we’d soon be seeing barnyard animals vying for prime real estate. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts are now taking the farm to table movement to a wild new level, welcoming feathered and four-legged guests into the family. Fairmont Newport Beach’s seven adopted goats – Suzy Q, Snickers, Frankie, Lucy, Cali, Trixie and Taffy – will entertain frequent visits from the hotel’s executive chef, who will serve organic cheese made from their milk at the hotel’s restaurant. In Montreal, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth’s two goats are both named Blanche Neige – “Snow White” – and the mother and daughter duo’s cheese will be available both on the menu at The Beaver Club as well as at the Fairmont Store. The resident honeybees at Quebec City’s Fairmont Le Château Frontenac now have to share the view with a few new tenants: five Chantecler hens, who each produce one egg a day from June through October. Even farmyard guests have to pay for a rooftop garden suite, after all.

Recipes

Outrageous Breakfast Sandwiches

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© Quentin Bacon

You’ve heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many chefs around the country have heeded the call and are now serving morning meals. Still, that doesn’t mean all their dishes get a nutritional thumbs up. Take breakfast sandwiches, the Homer Simpson of AM food service. Some chefs have created awesome versions that aren’t all available at their restaurants. And many nutritionists will say, thank goodness for that.
 
Tim Love, Lonesome Dove, Ft Worth Texas
“My breakfast sandwich:  I load a griddled hamburger patty up with jack cheese, chili, lamb bacon, sunny hen egg and fresh tomatillo salsa. Then fold a fresh flour tortilla around as much of it as I can. And serve it with a tequila sunrise, of course.”
 
John Currence, Big Bad Breakfast, Oxford, Mississippi
“At my restaurant, I’ve brought a lot of people back from the dead after a long night out with the Pylon: A split, griddle-fried hot dog with chili, slaw, cheddar, mustard, chopped pickles, onion, jalapeño peppers and oyster crackers, all on a sweet waffle.”
 
Ryan LaRoche, NoMI Kitchen at Park Hyatt, Chicago
“I like to take the grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the room service menu and deep fry it. It’s like a jelly donut. To take it really over the top, I eat it with my grandfather’s brown butter scrambled eggs. But I draw the line at putting the eggs on the fried pb&j.”
 
Shaun Hergatt, SHO Shaun Hergatt Restaurant, NYC
“I make a breakfast sandwich with Vegemite, avocado, sharp Cheddar Cheese, bacon and eggs, all on rye Vita crisp bread. So it’s kind of healthy. I fly in caseloads of Vegemite from Australia. The only thing I don’t put on the sandwich is gold leaf, even though I do poached eggs with gold leaf at the restaurant. And sea urchin—another thing I don’t put on that sandwich.”
 
And now it’s time to hand out the award for the most outrageous breakfast sandwich. We’re thrilled to give it to Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat, Chicago) and Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger, Wellesley, MA) who created a pretty remarkable dish at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen a few years ago. Faced with the challenge of using up leftovers, they took cold pizza, cooked lobster and crisp baconand… piled them on top of each other (no, the pizza didn’t get heated up). It was served with a fried egg on top. “Genius,” recalls Dana Cowin, F&W Editor in Chief, who judged the dish. “It includes almost every food group you’d want to have in the morning. Especially if you’re a college student.”

Related Links
15 Great Breakfast Recipes
20 Brunch Recipes
20 Bacon Recipes
15 Egg Recipes
Tim Love Recipes

Pictured above: Breakfast Biscuit Sandwich

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