"They're very chirpy down at Smithfield meat market, putting on brave faces, and that's a worry. They're usually rather miserable," says Fergus Henderson, the chef and owner of London's St. John restaurant. The excess of good cheer among the meat men wasn't the only troubling sign this spring as foot-and-mouth disease spread. Images of smoldering cow carcasses were beamed around the world; one airline promised to refund all tickets to London, no questions asked. Foreigners could be forgiven for thinking Britain was in quarantine.
To those up close, things don't look quite so dire. Henderson reports a slight dip in business at St. John when the outbreak began but says customers are now "tucking into their marrow bones, ox tongue and jellied pig's head with the usual zeal." During the mad-cow scare of the mid-'90s, consumers rejected beef completely and many restaurants took it off the menu. "The difference with foot-and-mouth," says Nick Woollard, head chef at Maison Novelli, "is people know it's an animal disease that humans can't catch." Woollard has seen a reduction in lamb orders, but at the Hyatt Carlton Tower Rib Room, the roast rack of lamb is as popular as ever, while the Quality Chop House has reported a surge in orders of sausages and bacon. Scottish beef with cassava cake and wasabi bread sauce is still one of the biggest sellers at the Sugar Club, although, chef Chris Rendell says, "Americans tend to choose fish."
Some chefs, perhaps anticipating such choices, have adjusted their menus. Pascal Aussignac, the chef and an owner of Club Gascon, has tactfully retired his Dip of Frogs Legs on the [Marrow] Bone, served with a pig's trotter. In its place is La Véritable Lamproie à la Bordelaise, the elusive lamprey eel, slow-cooked in its own blood. Rose Gray, a chef and owner of the River Café, cannot get pork from her favorite farmer at the moment and has replaced pork dishes with rabbit braised in Frascati, among other things. She also directed her staff to make sausage with ends of prosciutto and pancetta rather than fresh pork. "A crisis like this brings a certain resourcefulness," Gray says. "People my age lived through the war, when you had to make do."
In the early weeks of the outbreak, when even healthy animals were confined to their farms, chefs were bidding against each other for racks of lamb, offering double the normal rate. But they kept menu prices down and absorbed the difference until transportation restrictions eased. There may be further shortages in six to nine months, when the lambs in the cull would have been producing new lambs themselves. But for the moment, supply is in balance with demand. Europe's most eclectic culinary capital is still very much open for business.
Roy Yamaguchi has spent years seeking out wines that complement his cuisine, which brings together Asian flavors, Hawaiian ingredients and the French love of butter and cream. Lately, he's come to think that the best match isn't wine but sake, so he's commissioned a line crafted for its affinity with food. Y Sakés, served in the 23 Roy's restaurants around the world, are the first daiginjo sakes made in the United States. The most revered form of sake, daiginjo is also the most troublesome to brew, but Yamaguchi persuaded an Oregon firm called SakéOne (503-357-7056) to give it a try. The results are delightful: Wind is dry and restrained, Sky is rounder and more aromatic, Snow has a milky color and an off-sweet flavor, and Rain is gently spiked with ginger.
When you've spent a decade turning a faded grand hotel in South Africa into the hottest lodging on the continent, what do you do for a second act? If you're Euan McGlashan, until recently the general manager of the award-winning Cape Grace Hotel, near Cape Town, you move to Georgia and start over.
McGlashan has now turned up at the two-year-old Barnsley Gardens and, if his record at Cape Grace is any guide, this golf club and resort in the Blue Ridge foothills will be one to watch. The former Barnsley Manor and its 1,300 acres of landscaped grounds (which include a romantic ruin of a house said to have been Margaret Mitchell's model for Tara) have been outfitted for guests with 33 quaint and cozy cottages. Chef Charles Vosburgh's updated Southern cuisine, served in a formal restaurant and in a clubby grill, makes excellent use of herbs grown in the historic gardens. The main draw is the championship golf course designed by Jim Fazio, but there's also a fabulous spa, tennis courts and an Olympic-size pool, and McGlashan has introduced skeet and trapshooting, stables and miles of trails for hiking and riding (877-773-2447).
Address Book: Dusty Baker
Any sportswriter can list a dozen reasons why Dusty Baker of the San Francisco Giants has been named Manager of the Year an unprecedented three times, but one explanation is often overlooked: Baker's work as team caterer. A well-fed player is a productive player, Baker believes, and so before most games he delivers to the Giants' clubhouse 30 or 40 servings of hot food picked up from a nearby restaurant. He knows at least one spot specializing in home-style cooking in every city with a major-league team; when the Giants' plane lands, he gets in his rented car and finds his way to one of them by memory. ("If they've cut down a tree or torn down a landmark, I might get lost," he admits.) In this way, Baker gives the Giants something like a home-field advantage even when they're deep in enemy territory. A few of his favorite addresses:
Busy Bee Cafe, Atlanta Baker has been going to this palace of soul food for some 30 years to get a dish he refers to as "home-run ham hocks" (810 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.; 404-525-9212).
Montgomery Inn, Cincinnati The spicy steamed spareribs here are loved not just by Baker but by both Ken Griffeys (junior and senior), too (9440 Montgomery Rd.; 513-791-3482).
Powell's Place, San Francisco The smothered pork chops here have nourished the Giants before innumerable home games (511 Hayes St.; 415-863-1404).
Roscoe's House Of Chicken And Waffles, Los Angeles Baker says that when he brought ESPN's Chris Berman here, "he thought I was crazy for eating chicken and waffles together" (1514 N. Gower St., 323-466-7453).
Christian Etienne, the chef at the restaurant of the same name in Avignon, France, has been called the pope of truffles. Certainly his new truffle butter seems infallible. Each 8-ounce tin ($55) contains exceptional butter from the French dairy L'Isigny Ste. Mère and a healthy dose of minced black truffles. Etienne makes mushroom butter too, with cèpes, in an even bigger dose ($40). Spread on bread, melted over a roast or tossed with pasta, these creamy, flavorful butters are divine (available from Dean & DeLuca; 800-221-7714).
--Monica F. Forrestall
"Our kitchen became an unimaginable place of absolute madness at feast time, when more than a hundred might be served," Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall writes in her upcoming first cookbook, Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen (for information, call Ten Speed Press; 510-559-1600). For Hepinstall, a prizewinning Korean novelist who came of age in the sleepy town of Ch'ongju in the 1940s, banquets were memorable occasions. All the women in her family participated, hand-rolling noodles, boiling huge cauldrons of flavorful broth and preparing myriad side dishes. During these weeklong cooking frenzies, Hepinstall learned the family recipes she shares in her book, including mandu (stuffed dumplings), chapch'ae (noodles with stir-fried vegetables) and kimchi (the fiery pickled cabbage dish that is a must at every meal). Hepinstall also offers revelatory glimpses of everyday home life--the tyranny of her strong-willed grandmother, the influence of Confucian rituals and the way the hierarchy of family members was reflected by what they ate. Clear instructions, a glossary of ingredients (like ssukgat, or crown daisies), and helpful suggestions of substitutions for hard-to-find items make this introduction to the world of Korean cooking as practical as it is evocative.
If there is an archetypal temple of gastronomy, it is Taillevent in Paris. Now Jean-Claude Vrinat, its owner for 28 years, has opened an outpost that's just a little bit blasphemous. In stark contrast to Taillevent--with its swagged drapes, oil paintings in gilded frames and silver candelabras--L'Angle du Faubourg is spare: The stone floor is uncarpeted and the salmon-colored walls are covered only with rough swipes of plaster, as if they were ready for wallpaper. The waiters, it's true, present food with the precision of gendarmes, but they're young, friendly and groovy-looking. The menu--created by the impossibly boyish Stéphane Cosnier, a protégé of Taillevent's chef, Michel Del Burgo--is gently priced, simple to navigate (only six first courses and five entrées) and represents an easy mix of Mediterranean-inflected dishes: a cold "lasagna" of salmon tartare and tomato confit; braised veal accompanied by macaroni (yes, the Yankee Doodle variety) stuffed with artichoke puree. The standout dessert--Milk Shake aux Fruits de la Passion--hits the fashionable American note again. The fabulously chic woman behind me who threw back her head to get the last drops would have been an infidel at Taillevent, but at L'Angle du Faubourg she was a true believer (195 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré; 011-33-1-40-74-20-20).
How do store-bought salad dressings stack up? To find out, the F&W staff recently tasted 45 bottled vinaigrettes that are sold in supermarkets or specialty food shops. Oddly, all our favorites were named after someone; perhaps the personal touch made the difference.