These days, staying in can feel a lot more like going out, and vice versa.
Persian New Year Nilou Motamed
Credit: © Con Poulos

This winter at Food & Wine we’ve been thinking a lot about home—what it means, what it tastes like, how it should feel. And it struck us that our very definition of the word is a moving target.

There was a time when “staying home” and “going out” meant two very different things. “Home cooking” conjured up the sort of elemental foods that might have emerged from your grandmother’s oven on a chilly winter night: slow-cooked brisket, gooey mac and cheese or maybe a deeply decadent potpie like the one on our March cover. Home meant simple, familiar and, above all, comforting.

Meanwhile, “dining out” meant something more rarefied. We dressed, behaved and ate differently in restaurants. We sat up straight and never put our elbows on the table. We looked to restaurants for exotic flavors and showstopping creations that only a professional kitchen could pull off. You wouldn’t try to re-create those for Tuesday-night supper any more than you’d go to a four-star restaurant and order a chicken potpie.

Well, that was then. Chalk it up to a new generation of restaurant-goers, to the trend toward casualization or to the fact that Americans are eating out more than ever before (we now dine out an average of five times a week, per a recent survey): High-end restaurants are stripping away the patina of formality and taking on the familiar trappings of home. Take, for example, Michael and Bryan Voltaggio’s new steakhouse outside Washington, DC, which the brothers conceived as an ode to their childhood home. You’ll find our story and their mouthwatering recipes in our latest issue, on newsstands now.

At the same time, amateur cooks are bringing the tools of the restaurant trade into their own kitchens. Whether it’s a teenager in suburban Chicago experimenting with a sous vide machine or a New York couple designing their kitchen with tiles they discovered at their favorite restaurant, these days staying home can feel a lot more like going out, and vice versa.

In that spirit, for this special issue of F&W, we’re here to help raise your home game across the board. One of the country’s best chefs, Hugh Acheson, schools us in “Home Ec 2.0,” a culinary boot camp you’ll be referring to again and again. Justin Chapple, our resident Mad Genius, divulges the secret hacks of top restaurant chefs for you to try at home, while wine editor Ray Isle recommends bottles to serve on Tuesday and Saturday nights alike. If having a “house pour” doesn’t make you feel like a pro, I don’t know what will. And because home isn’t home without a meatloaf in the oven, we tapped Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer to rhapsodize over everyone’s go-to comfort food (and share Frank’s favorite recipe).

Of course, home isn’t always just about four walls and a kitchen; it’s also about the places we think of most longingly, whether real or imagined or, in some cases, lost. For the émigrés and refugees profiled in Joshua David Stein’s poignant story in this issue, it’s food that transports them back to a homeland that’s no longer as they left it.

This month also marks the beginning of spring, which, for my family and me, means the Persian New Year, or Norooz. For us, it’s the biggest holiday on the calendar, a time full of promise when we gather to reconnect and remember where we’ve been, and look ahead to the coming year, over a delicious and extravagant home-cooked feast. I’m grateful to my mother, Mahin Gilanpour Motamed, for instilling in me a lifelong love of food and for sharing her amazing recipes in our story in this issue.

From our home to yours, wishing you a happy spring and a happy new year!

Follow Nilou Motamed, Editor in Chief @niloumotamed