Food & Wine
December 01, 2008

Planning has never been my strong suit. Planning requires committing to an idea; instead, I like to ponder all my options—and make sure I have as many options as possible. So this issue is perfect for me. It’s a complete guide to the holiday experience, with suggestions that rely more on imagination than money. Take entertaining. Working with our Test Kitchen, associate editor Kristin Donnelly proposes ideas for 20 whimsical, fabulous parties. I’ve been dreaming about throwing a cheese-tasting party with homemade condiments like sunflower-seed brittle and mustard-miso pickles. Or a “wrap” party where friends eat big bowls of Marcia Kiesel’s spicy pepper pot soup while wrapping gifts for kids in need. Or, inspired by “A Star Chef’s Italian Christmas,” a holiday meal for my family with citrus-marinated pork rib roasts from Fabio Trabocchi of New York City’s Fiamma.

Although I don’t care for planning, I do love trying to figure out the perfect gifts for my friends. I perused the items in our gift preview as if I were doing my own holiday shopping. Because I can’t commit, I haven’t yet decided what I’ll buy, but I can say that all the items—from the finger-shaped spatula (perfect for dipping into a bowl of batter) to the extravagant assortment of lamb racks, pork chops and cowboy steaks from DeBragga and Spitler—are abundantly appealing.

As I consider my travel plans for next year, I’ll definitely try to get to places that the tough-to-impress F&W staffers rave about in “Best Restaurant Dishes of 2008.” I will continue my quest, for example, to find the finest fried chicken in America. Perhaps the duck fat–fried chicken from Takashi in Chicago will be the winner?

Eventually, I will commit to a plan—a party, gifts, trips—but not quite yet. When I do, I hope I will have made the best choice imaginable.

Where I’m Coming From

Recent Visits to NYC Classics:

Jean Georges
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s slow-poached egg with caviar on brioche toast is a serious contender for what I’d want as my last meal on earth.

Wylie Dufresne’s insanely creative dishes are smart and funny and delicious. My favorite: Knot Foie, foie gras cut into a long strand, tied into a knot and garnished with kimchi puree and puffed rice.

Master of the sea Dave Pasternack prepares some of New York City’s best fish dishes. My latest crush is on the cavatelli with mussels, clams, cherry tomatoes, chiles and guanciale (cured pork jowl), all tossed in a fresh tomato sauce.

You May Like