Conde Nast Traveler

Mario Batali Talks about Life on the Road in Spain

In case you missed the series, here's an amuse bouche to whet your appetite.

by Katherine Kims

In Condé Nast Traveler's September 2008 issue, we announced the PBS premier of Spain . . . on the Road Again. The show followed superstar chef Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, New York Times writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman, and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols, and had us salivating through Madrid, Basque Country, Cataluña, Galicia, Mallorca, and Andalucía.

Last week, at the SoHo Apple store in New York, Batali sat down with Food & Wine Restaurant Editor Kate Krader to talk about the show and take some questions from the audience. Highlights? Batali is currently working on another food travel show on Italy and Croatia; he despises durian, which he describes as smelling like a gas station bathroom; and he can attest to Gwyneth's eating stamina. 

Further reading:
* Now, hispanophiles and foodies everywhere can relive their journey by downloading episodes on iTunes.
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


Flex Mussels Serves Oysters with Integrity

The perfect oyster.
Photo: Alison Brod PR

by Katherine Kims   

After reading Kevin Doyle's piece about sustainable fishing, I wondered how oysters end up on my plate. And how do I determine if they're genuine?

Oyster fisherman and three-time oyster-shucking champion John Bil advised me to inspect an oyster's quality by its smell (like the sea), color (not cloudy) and meatiness (not too thin, not too plump, with no liquid). In restaurants, he suggests working from what you know--"I like Fanny bays, what can you recommend?"--to seek the freshest product.

These most prized of mollusks are very much subject to nature: the water's temperature, tide, frost, nutrients, and bottom all influence taste, size, and shape. Because it can be difficult to get exactly what they want, restaurants often claim to sell Kumamotos, for example, when they are actually some other small West Coast breed or worse--they serve oysters a bit past their peaks. Fortunately, as of November, New York City has an outpost for oysters served with integrity: shellfish expert Bil now works at Flex Mussels. Started in Prince Edward Island in 2005, Flex was launched as an 18-seat shack and became so popular that it is now a full-sized restaurant on the Upper East Side.

Further reading:
* San Francisco's Swan Oyster Depot: Our west coast favorite for fresh oyster slurping
* Dirt Candy chef Amada Cohen likes Oyster Boy in Toronto
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


Chef Dominique Crenn Gets Down on the Farm

Chef Dominique Crenn of Luce
in San Francisco's InterContinental.

by Julia Bainbridge

Yesterday, the folks at the new InterContinental San Francisco stopped in New York to talk about the property, the plans, and, of course, the food. The 32-story InterContinental--expected to be the last major hotel to debut in the hilly city for the next seven years or so--was built with the future in mind: It is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council to pursue LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

You can read our U.K. sister magazine Condé Nast Traveller's Hot List entry on the hotel, which opened last February, here. I want to talk about Monday's real star, Luce chef Dominique Crenn.

Continue reading "Chef Dominique Crenn Gets Down on the Farm" »


Los Angeles, Twitterific!

LA Farmers
Oodles of asparagus
at the Hollywood Farmers' Market

Food-crazy Daily Traveler Mollie Chen is just back from a long weekend in Los Angeles, where she checked out some of the hottest names in the west coast culinary world. Stuck in our New York winter doldrums, we vicariously lived a hang ten existence, too, following Mollie's every sandal-clad step--and every sumptuous bite--on Twitter. In case you have the Monday--err, Tuesday--blues, you should follow Mollie, too:

* ok virgin america, wow me. 7:16 AM Feb 13th
* plus one for nice attendants, minus ten for group of 35 teenagers sitting behind me 7:17 AM Feb 13th
* Jet blue beats virgin on snacks basis alone. Hello la la land! 2:40 PM Feb 13th
* Akasha, culver city. Cool lights, organic gin 3:28 PM Feb 13th
* Infiltrating BA offices 1:12 AM Feb 14th
* Stolen cupcakes 1:49 PM Feb 14th
* Have a crush on abbot kinney's 3 square bakery 3:46 PM Feb 14th
* Nothing says vday like margaritas and griddled cheese 1:19 AM Feb 15th
* west coast bartenders wear vests too! great drinks at comme ca last night 10:46 AM Feb 15th

Continue reading "Los Angeles, Twitterific!" »


DC Gets Cool

The scallop and caviar duo
at Inox restaurant.

by Mollie Chen

The inauguration may be over but Washington, D.C., is still on a high--and change is not limited to politics. Last week, I had dinner with many of the city's tourism officials, all of whom were giddy about their new White House residents as well as their own plans for the next few years. "I can't tell you how excited we are to be cool," one of the heads of Cultural Tourism DC said.

Not surprisingly, I was most interested in hearing about all the latest food news. For the past few years D.C. has quietly but steadily been turning into a major food city, bringing in superstar chefs like Alain Ducasse and Laurent Tourondel, as well as cultivating smaller independent restaurants. Read after the jump for what's on the city's horizon.

Continue reading "DC Gets Cool" »


London's Modern Pantry

English Breakfast?
Too close for comfort? Eggs
and beans.

Photo: Wikipedia

Introducing the Global Gourmet, musings from a sapient sybarite as he gobbles around the world. This week: an unerring English breakfast.

by Clive Irving

The term "English Breakfast" can mask many crimes. The usual characteristic is a plate loaded with an emetic mismatch of every ingredient at hand: The GG has seen the cohabitation of eggs, baked beans, sausages, assorted mushrooms, blood sausage, kidneys, even sweetbreads, onions, tomatoes, hash browns and fried bread dressed with ketchup or brown sauce. The many British hotels and restaurants proffering what is imagined to be a hearty, traditional Dickensian cascade of cholesterol understand one essential thing: It doesn't take a lot of skill to cook it up. Within the slurp, errors of provenance, cooking time and microwave revival can easily be hidden. (Look out, in particular, for the congealed skin on the baked beans). Begin the day the British way, it is said, loaded with fat to endure any change of climate. (As Sinatra said, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.)

It is therefore with great relief that the GG has found a lady from New Zealand who has produced what should be a model for this repast. Anna Hansen runs a place with the rather clunky name of the Modern Pantry in the heart of the Clerkenwell neighborhood, an area populated by architects, journalists, designers, and techies. The brunch she serves up every day between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. includes a dish of two eggs, any style, bacon, mushrooms, and tomato with a dusting of arugula.

Continue reading "London's Modern Pantry" »


Chef Pino Luongo's Italy Picks

The man and his dirty dishes.

New York City chef Pino Luongo kicked off "the era of the emperor chef" (New York Post), as you can read in his new book Dirty Dishes. When traveling around his native Italy, though, Luongo doesn't go for the chichi spots. He prefers an unobstructed view, a nice walk, and some local flavors. Below, his picks that might inspire you, too, to take it down a notch:

* The Hotel Augustus in Forte dei Marmi near Lucca in Tuscany is my favorite place for a truly Italian style summer family vacation--beach bicycling and lunch under the pine trees plus great shopping after dinner (the stores are open late into the night).
* Monte Amiata and the little town of Arcidosso: For snow lovers, it's a simple, rustic spot with great food. And Montalcino, the capital of the Brunello wines, is only an hour away.
* Parco dell'Uccellina, located in the national park of Maremma, goes from the sea to the hills of south Tuscany. It's the land of the butteri (Tuscan cowboys), famous among the locals for their summer rodeos.
* Isola di Lampedusa is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, south of Sicily. The most primitive rock in the middle of the sea.
* Palau, Sardinia, is a fantastic fishermen's village in the north part of Sardinia, facing the Stretto di Bonifacio. This humble village 40 kilometers north of Costa Smeralda is inexpensive compared to Porto Cervo--this is where the "real people" live. Restaurants serve mostly seafood dishes indigenous to the area, and the local wine is a real treat. From this village you can rent small day boats and go around the archipelago--tiny, beautiful islands dispersed all around the sea between Sardinia and Corsica.

Further reading:
* Not Your Grandfather's Sicily: Away from the island's familiar sweet spots, a new generation of Sicilians is reshaping its wine, food, and hotels
* Mark Schatzker kayaks around the Amalfi coast
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


"Dirt Candy" Chef on Picnics and Toronto

Dirt Candy
Coming soon: Kimchi doughnuts
with green chutney dipping sauce.

Photo: Dirt Candy

by Julia Bainbridge

Chef Amanda Cohen loves vegetables, which she affectionately calls "dirt candy," and has worked at numerous vegetarian restaurants in New York. Her nickname for all things rooted in the earth or growing on trees has become the name of her first solo venture, which she opened in New York's East Village in October 2008.

"I don't care about your health. And I don't care about your politics either. But I do care about cooking vegetables," Cohen says on the Dirt Candy restaurant Web site. Case in point: Jalapeno hush puppies with maple butter and the kimchi doughnuts pictured at left. In non-fried options, Cohen and her sous-chef (they are the only two cooks in the kitchen) serve up spinach soup with smoked tofu dumplings, lemon confit, and water chestnuts; crispy tofu with green ragout and Kaffir lime beurre blanc; and mixed greens--although they get topped with grilled cheese croutons and candied grapefruit pops.

The DT spoke to Cohen last week about healthy snacks she brings to the airport when heading to her hometown of Toronto. Her answer was simple: A picnic. "The last couple times I traveled were soon after 9/11, so the airport was basically shut down," she said. "There was a new terrorist alert--I had to get to the airport early, and I knew I was going to be stuck there forever, so my husband and I had a little picnic. We brought grapes, bread, cheese--although we made sure we didn't buy any smelly cheeses--and cookies." When asked if she went with the theme and brought a blanket to spread on the terminal floor, she said it wasn't necessary. "This was when airlines were still giving away blankets."

As for spots to hit upon arrival in Toronto, find some of Cohen's favorites after the jump.

Continue reading ""Dirt Candy" Chef on Picnics and Toronto" »


A Foodie in the White House: Edible D.C.

A foodie in the White House!  Above, Barack Obama, then a state senator, appears in a 2001 episode of Chicago's version of Check, Please! 

Our nation's capital is abuzz with Obama fans today, but our nation's best publications have been abuzz with Washington, D.C., food news for weeks. Here are some of the more appetizing headlines:

* The White House Chef Wars (Gourmet)
* Despite the flailing economy, Washington, D.C. restaurateurs see rays of hope emanating from Barack Obama (New York Times)
* Bon Appétit has an Inauguration Day dinner planned out, you just have to cook it
* The recipe for Andrew Jackson's Inaugural Orange Punch, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal
* Ex White House chefs dish about presidential palates (Chicago Sun-Times)
* The first suppers: A tradition of inaugural meals (Los Angeles Times)
* Metrocurean, a healthy serving of epicurean news from a D.C. blogger

Further reading:
* Catch of the Day: International noshables on the DT every Tuesday


Asian Dining Rules

Jennifer 8. Lee talks about her book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles,
and how Chinese food really is all-American

by Julia Bainbridge

Sunday night at a panel discussion titled "Asian Dining Rules" at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, food critic Steven Shaw, chef David Chang, and New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee spent a good amount of time dispelling myths about Asian, mostly Chinese, food (broccoli is not a Chinese vegetable, fortune cookies are not Chinese treats) and discussing the liquidity of food's story; it's changing all the time (case in point: Jamaican-Chinese restaurants in America).

As far as what happens at the tables of those Chinese restaurants, the panelists talked a lot about how difficult it can be to find "authentic" Chinese food--whether that means Sichuan-, Shanghai-, or Fuzhou-style Chinese--in America. Some of their New York favorites (because that is, after all, where they live)? Tang Tang, Empire Szechuan, the Flushing Mall food court, the Grand Sichuan chain, Fried Dumpling, and New Green Bo.

These places are their favorite places, mind you; not all of them are "authentic." Italian-American cuisines are just that: They are the true cuisines of those immigrants who have come to America. That's what they eat. Conversely, American Chinese cuisine was invented for American palates.

So how do you get the real thing? Find out, after the jump. 

Continue reading "Asian Dining Rules" »


Cochon's New Butchery and Other NOLA Hits

Cochon Salumi
Some of the offerings at NOLA's
upcoming Cochon Butcher.

by Mollie Chen

Having read and reread Calvin Trillin's tales of eating in New Orleans, and drooled over the descriptions of oyster loaves and muffulettas, it was only a matter of time before I made my own gluttonous pilgrimage to the Big Easy. Last week, I went down for a whirlwind trip with a friend who (thankfully) is just as food-obsessed as I am. Over the course of three days, we ate and drank our way through the city, sampling both haute Southern cuisine and down-and-dirty Creole favorites.

One of our most memorable meals was at chef Donald Link's rightly praised Cochon. Link doesn't pander to picky eaters--his menu starts with alligator and fried rabbit livers and proceeds through nearly every part of the pig, including cheeks, ears, and hock. And it's good. It's really, freaking good. (I know because we tried nearly everything on the menu.) Our favorites: a tidy oyster and meat pie; crisp balls of spicy boudin; and luscious eggplant and shrimp dressing. At the end of our epic lunch, the chef came by (and this being New Orleans, he had bourbon with us instead of coffee), and gave us the rundown on his newest project.

Continue reading "Cochon's New Butchery and Other NOLA Hits" »


Chef's Choice: José Andrés

Cocktail party
Daily Traveler Julia Bainbridge
opts for a hand-feeding of Andrés'
jamon and caviar roll-ups.

Who but a chef would cross the globe for his favorite snack? Condé Nast Traveler asked José Andrés, who just opened The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills--and published a new cookbook--for his tips.

Favorite Hometown Restaurants: "At Indique, in D.C., chef K.N. Vinod serves delicious Indian food--order anything from the tandoor oven. I love the Korean barbecue, japchae noodles, and seafood pancakes at Yechon, in Annandale, Virginia."

Favorite Restaurants Worldwide: "In Juneau, I had wonderful king and spider crab at Tracy's King Crab Stick (364 S. Franklin St., 907-723-1811). I'm a big fan of Soto, in Manhattan. The chef is a master with sea urchin--I especially like this version with cold tofu skin."

Favorite Getaway: "My family and I vacation in Zahara de los Atunes, a beach town in southern Spain known for its tuna. I cook it with local ingredients like anchovies and extra-virgin olive oil, tomatoes, onions, herbs, and paprika. We always go to Restaurante La Castilleria there (11158 Vejer de la Frontera, 34-956-451-497). Everything is cooked over a wood fire."

Perfect In-flight Meal: "Slices of jamon Ibérico and a little bit of caviar."

Further reading:
*  For more from the January issue of Condé Nast Traveler, go here
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


Baltimore: Woodberry Kitchen

Woodberry Kitchen's farmhouse chic facade
Photo: Woodberry Kitchen

by Julia Bainbridge

Woodberry Kitchen looks like an English countryside stable and tastes like farm-to-table-inspired Seattle, but it sits happily in Baltimore's suburbs. This eco-friendly restaurant, Spike Gjerde's joint venture with wife Amy and Grand Cru wine bar's Nelson Carey, opened a little over a year ago to much fanfare.

Leading up to that highly anticipated opening date, Gjerde and Co. were busy fleshing out the bones of the nineteenth-century foundry in the Clipper Mill complex with stone floors, a woodburning oven (with an open kitchen and mile-high stacked logs to prove it), exposed brick, and a lofty ceiling. Its main dining room is handsome and comfortable, like that high school boyfriend who never knew how much the other girls stared (cue clips of handsome-but-bumbling Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral).

The food, too, is genuine and unpretentious: sea-salted popcorn is a must for pre-dinner nibbles, a cast-iron ribeye with cheddar potato gratin needs no explanation, and egg-and-bacon fried rice, although a departure from the mostly New American pub-style menu, does the trick. Bread is baked on the premises and locally sourced oysters come both on ice and oven-roasted in various fashions (Rockefeller; bacon and herb butter; spinach and smoked tomato). Desserts are sublime: The chefs make all the ice creams in-house, and the flourless chocolate cake is positively molten. 

Drink-wise, my Sazerac was a little anise heavy; perhaps better to go with a signature cocktail like the Headless Horseman (Maker's Mark bourbon, spiced pumpkin syrup, and citrus) or the Gov't Mule (organic vodka, house-made ginger beer, and lime-ginger syrup), both served in copper mugs. There's also an affordable wine list that hops happily from old world to new, along with a list of Chesapeake region wines and beers. It's good-looking, satisfying, and friendly--and everyone is looking.

Further reading:
* Woodberry Kitchen's Web site
* Maryland pride: Crabs, crabs, and crabs
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


Barwoman Misty Kalkofen's NOLA

Misty Kalkofen
Our lady Misty, at a LUPEC
garden party last summer.

Photo: Matt Demers

by Julia Bainbridge

My partner in devoration, Mollie Chen, recently pulled up a barstool at Boston wonder-chef Barbara Lynch's new cocktail spot, Drink. Behind that bar was another wonder woman, cocktailian Misty Kalkofen, who a couple of years ago shook up some sumptuous flips and fizzes for me at Cambridge's Green Street Grill. (Note: Kalkofen is also friends with guest DTer Lauren Clark. Together, with the help of some spirits-minded women folk, they formed the Boston chapter of LUPEC, or Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. After years of attending New Orleans' ultimate drink event, Tales of the Cocktail, Kalkofen knows the NOLA hot spots. She shared them with Mollie (along with the Fort Point, a "fantastic twist on a Manhattan"), and now we're sharing Kalkofen's top picks with you. She's thrown in a couple of activities to work off the whiskey:

* Favorite place for a cocktail: French 75 at Arnaud's on Bienville (between Bourbon and Dauphine). The person you are looking for here is Chris Hannah; enjoy one of his delicious drinks in a truly historic NOLA locale
* You must go to the Napoleon House for a Pimm's Cup...or three
* Tujague's on Decatur.  SRO bar.  Have a Sazerac.
* Brandy Milk Punch at Brennan's
* Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide
* Go to the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone and have a Vieux Carré, created at the Carousel Bar in 1937
* Bars to sit and drink a beer: Erin Rose (open 24 hours), the Alibi
* Music? The Maple Leaf uptown (take the trolley for a cheap ride), Vaughan's in the Bywater.  If you have a chance to see Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers or Rebirth Brass Band you definitely should!
* Bowling at the Rock-N-Bowl uptown
* Fried chicken: Coop's Place on Decatur or Mother's in the Bywater
* Burger and potato at the Port of Call is the way to go for lunch one day. Cheap and delish!

Further reading:
* Gourmet's first taste of Drink
* Lauren Clark's boozy tour of Boston
* The DT geared up for Tales of the Cocktail this year--we were there in spirit
* The LUPEC ladies blogged live from 2008's Tales of the Cocktail
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


Not Your Godfather's Sicily

Chef Ciccio Sultano has made
Duomo one of the finest
restaurants in Sicily.

Photo: Rick Lew for
Condé Nast Traveler

Away from the island's familiar sweet spots, a new generation of Sicilians is reshaping its wine, food, and hotels. Here are five of Daily Traveler Ondine Cohane's top dining picks:

* Trapani's Cantina Siciliana, in the former Jewish quarter, this humble spot serves delicious pasta with swordfish and eggplant, and bruschetta with bottarga (36 Via Giudecca; 0923-28673; entrées, $11-$36)

* Ragusa Ibla's Duomo should be on any itinerary that takes you near Syracuse. In addition to Ciccio Sultano's innovative cooking, the wine list is impressive and a good introduction to the vintages of the region (31 Boccheri; 0932-651-265; entrées, $46-$55)

* Travelers with a sweet tooth shouldn't miss Caffé Sicilia, in Noto, known for its granita (125 Corso Vittorio Emanuele; 0931-835-013)

* La Conchiglietta, a simple trattoria on the waterfront in Marzamemi, has delicious spaghetti alle vongole and whole grilled fish (9 Via Regina Elena; 0931-841-191; entr&eaute;es, $31-$37)

* At Mount Etna, stop into Santa Venerina's Pasticceria Russo, a pastry shop that's been in the family since 1880, and try the fish-shaped marzipan candy (105 Via Vittorio Emanuele; 095-953-202)

To read more about the Sicilians who are lifting the art of fine living to new heights--and for more of the island's hot spots--pick up Condé Nast Traveler's January issue, on stands today.

Continue reading "Not Your Godfather's Sicily" »


Try Absinthe at Home


by Julia Bainbridge

Well, it's about a year since absinthe became legal in the States again, and a number of cocktail geeks who had been fooling around with the green fairy on the down-low are now out and proud with their relationships. Within months of the ban being lifted, Marteau, Pacifique, Trillium, and Taboo all came onto the spirits scene.

The Hemingways of the world loved the stuff in the early twentieth century, when it was the poetic (and somewhat painful) drip of water over sugar. (Note from Oregon-based bartender and spirits writer Jeffrey Morgenthaler: "The ritual of lighting a sugar cube on fire and dropping it into absinthe is inauthentic, a recent invention, and a potentially dangerous ceremony centered around the consumption of illegitimate absinthes of inferior quality.") Now the green hour of the day is back, and instead of drip, drip, drip, it's shake, stir, strain, as bartenders nationwide are mixing absinthe into cocktails. New York's own cocktail guru Kevin Patricio shared with us a recipe he created for this year's Moth Ball, using Le Tourment Vert.

Champs L'Absinthe
0.75 oz. Le Tourment Vert absinthe
0.5 oz. elderflower cordial
0.25 oz. Benedictine
Dash Fee Brother's Orange Bitters
1 oz. cava or prosecco
Orange twist
In a cocktail shaker, add Le Tourment Vert, elderflower, Benedictine, and bitters. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Pour into a champagne flute. Garnish with an orange twist.
(Note: Twist should be the size of a thumb print and have as little pith as possible.)

Further reading:
* Read more here from Jeffrey Morganthaler's Q&A with Pacific Northwest absinthe distillers.
* Here, our friend Jamie Boudreau of Spirits and Cocktails shares his thoughts on absinthe's new school.
* For a little more background on the proper absinthe ritual, check out the Absinthe Museum of America, the Virtual Absinthe Museum, and the Wormwood Society.
* Clear up misconceptions with's "Everything you know about absinthe is wrong."


Catch of the Day 2008: A Look Back at Our Favorites

Lauren Clark
Guest Daily Traveler,
Drinkboston's Lauren Clark

The year is coming to a close, and the Daily Traveler is looking back at our favorite Catch of the Day posts with glee (and big tummies). Check out our top five:

* Welcome to Catch of the Day: The day the gluttony began
* Mollie Chen finds her sandwich soul mate in Boston
* While in Boston, drinks blogger Lauren Clark gave us a boozy tour
* The Business of Burgers
* Julia Bainbridge fell in love with Austin

Wait! We're still hungry...
* Chicago chef Shaw McClain has his own take on New Zealand cuisine
* We had cassoulet for Thanksgiving

And we can't wait to munch our way through 2009.


Top Recipe from A16 Food and Wine


by Mollie Chen

Temperatures dipped below 20 degrees this weekend, which immediately got me thinking about soup. It seems as though every place has its own version of a restorative winter one-pot meal. Whenever I visit my grandmother I ask her to make her lion's head stew, which has a rich soy sauce-based broth, huge ginger-laced meatballs, and slippery cellophane noodles. In Mexico, I go for a huge bowl of spicy posole, with plenty of cabbage, radishes, cilantro, and lime mixed into the hominy-and-pork stew. And last year, when my friends and I were in Hanoi during an unseasonably brisk week, the aromatic pho sold at every street corner kept us warm and happy.

Last night I tasted what might be my new favorite cold-weather remedy. Chef Nate Appleman and sommelier Shelley Lindgren, of San Francisco's SPQR and A16 restaurants, were in town to celebrate the publication of their new (and fantastic) cookbook, A16 Food + Wine. They put on a stellar dinner at the James Beard House where the highlight (at least at my table) was Appleman's minestra maritata, a thick and savory soup with bright green ribbons of dandelion greens and rapini, plus fatty shreds of pork and shavings of Parmesan. As soon as I got home I looked up the recipe and found the secret behind the light, yet ultra-rich broth: Appleman begins with two different brodos, one made with Grana Padano rinds and one made with prosciutto trimmings. Brilliant! Use up leftover cheese and meat bits and make a delicious dinner--that's the kind of recession eating that I can sign up for. See the recipe after the break.

Continue reading "Top Recipe from A16 Food and Wine" »


Chef Daniel Humm's Swiss Picks

Some of Daniel Humm's gorgeous creations.
Photo: Eleven Madison Park

by Mollie Chen

In the two years since Daniel Humm took over at Manhattan's Eleven Madison Park, the chef has invigorated the art deco dining room with his ultra-refined seasonal cuisine. He is especially known for his thoughtfully designed tasting menus, which include course after course of impossibly beautiful dishes (think seared diver scallops with acorn squash and satsuma tangerines, and suckling pig with plum chutney and five spice sauce). I'm still dreaming about a foie gras brulée with brioche I had there ages ago.

Now Humm and the restaurant have one more accolade: They were recently named Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux, a status shared by only 150 other restaurants in the world. Humm was able to take time off from the kitchen (and from training--he ran the New York Marathon this year) for a trip back to his native Switzerland. We asked him for his top hometown food picks; check out his answers after the jump.

Continue reading "Chef Daniel Humm's Swiss Picks" »


Cassoulet for Thanksgiving

Illustration: Klas Fahlen

by Julia Bainbridge

Unfortunately, my Thanksgiving will be a turkey-less one. My siblings are scattered around the country and  spending the holiday with their fiancées' families this year, so there just aren't enough people to pick apart a big bird--not to mention my grandparents can't bear the thought of basting their 90th annual turkey. So, I'm making cassoulet: Hearty, homey, earthy, I think the dish will do the Thanksgiving trick.

In the December issue of Condé Nast Traveler, G.Y. Dryansky writes: "With all that France has done to promulgate haute cuisine, it may be hard to believe that, in the annals of French soul food, the bean is deified. But there they are: beans taken to the level of the sublime in the dish called cassoulet." Dryansky goes on to explore which meat and--equally important--which beans people use in the famous cassoulet-making towns of Carcassonne, Castelnaudary, and Toulouse.

Most recipes you'll find in American cooking magazines use white kidney beans, like this one from Jacques Pépin. He skips the duck confit--something French blogger Clotilde Dusoulier calls the French paradox--and goes for sweet Italian sausage, kielbasa, and Canadian bacon.

If you want to skip the meat altogether, Gourmet's got a quick-and-easy vegetarian cassoulet. Not exactly the kind of thing Dryansky found in his research, but full of beans nonetheless.

I'm going to go with Étienne Rousselot's crusty version printed in Saveur magazine. And I better get started today--the owner of Hostellerie Étienne cooks it over two days.

Further reading:
* Check out the December issue of Condé Nast Traveler for Dryansky's article, "The Secret Life of Beans"
* Parisian Pumpkin: How to celebrate Thanksgiving in the City of Lights
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


Best Cookbooks on the Market

Alan and Brooks

by Julia Bainbridge and Mollie Chen

These days, we're more inclined to cook restaurant-quality meals at home (or attempt, them at least) than to splurge on evenings out. Happily, there are slew of fantastic cookbooks on the market right now. From a gastro-techno-textbook to the best in baking, here's what's currently weighing down our shelves:

* A16 Food & Wine: Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren of famed San Francisco restaurant A16 map out grape-growing areas in Italy's south, and then pair those robust flavors with peasant foods like chunky pastas and rabbit. This is a veritable encyclopedia of southern Italian food and wine.

* Chanterelle: There's something for everyone here: a love story (chef-owner David Waltuck credits much of his success to his partner and wife, Karen); historical trivia (since opening in 1979, the duo has witnessed huge changes in the New York's eating scene); and, of course, serious recipes.

Continue reading "Best Cookbooks on the Market" »


Alan Wong's Fish-Friendly "Farmers Series"

Alan and Brooks
Wong and Takenaka talk fish.

by Mollie Chen

At Alan Wong's eponymous Honolulu restaurant, sustainability is served in a silky brown butter sauce and topped with sautéed Hamakua mushrooms. The chef recently partnered with Brooks Takenaka of the city's United Fishing Agency for a special fish-focused "Farmers Series" dinner. Takenaka oversees Honolulu's weekly fish auction, a frenzied dawntime affair complete with high-paced bartering and butchering. There, he's usually on hand to talk about the best way to choose fish (with your eyes and nose) and how to be a responsible consumer (seek out sustainable varieties of fish and do your homework).

Instead of big-name local varieties like opakapaka and ono, the Farmers Series menu highlights lesser known--but equally delicious--types of indigenous fish. Mild yellowfin tuna is paired with tart yuzu red onions and silky bigeye tuna topped with spicy coconut milk. Shutome, a firm local swordfish, is served with yuzu brown butter and balanced on a yuba-encased lobster cake, while flaky opah, or moonfish, comes with sugar-sweet local cherry tomatoes and a roasted ulu and warabi ragout. Takenaka heads the recently formed Hawaii Seafood Council, which is working to promote sustainability through events like this, partnerships with local fishermen and consumers, and an information-full Web site, soon to be up and running.

Further reading:
* Seafood Choices Alliance
* Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
* The New York Times's Mark Bittman ponders the future of fish
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


Today's Travel Meme: Brazil

Finding Rio
Typical Rio scene:
Bare bodies and fresh fruit.

Photo: Lisa Limer, Condé Nast Traveler

by Julia Bainbridge

Brazil seems to be on everyone's mind these days. Well, maybe not everyone's, but certainly mine--and a couple of my favorite bloggers'. Perhaps the chill has left some of us longing for warmer climes, perhaps the perennial winter black uniform makes me ache for a more vibrant wardrobe; either way, I'm thinking of those girls from Ipanema.

First up, the Sartorialist. Fashion guy Scott Schuman recently took his blog to Rio de Janeiro, where he's shooting some colorful clothes and even more colorful people. (Case in point: Valentino in crisp seersucker, beachside.)

Another of my favorites, as you all know, Anthony Bourdain, peruses the streets of Sao Paulo's Liberdade neighborhood on his Travel Channel show, "No Reservations." Brazil hosts the largest number of Japanese outside of Japan, and its food is all the more interesting because of it. (Okay, this episode was from last year, but I was perusing Bourdain's Web site this morning and this clip jumped out at me. Who watches TV anymore, anyway? The Internet killed the video star.)

Gourmet's "Diary of a Foodie" is also into Brazil's fusion cuisine. Watch Brazil: When Foods Collide.

Last month Zane Lamprey of the Food Network's "Have Fork Will Travel" enjoyed some feijoada, Brazil's signature dish. Here's a recipe chef Eric Ripert cooked up for Food & Wine magazine.

Continue reading "Today's Travel Meme: Brazil" »


Stockholm's Savory Side

Crayfish with buttered toast at Pelikan.

In his November-issue article for Condé Nast Traveler, "Sleepless in Stockholm," Patrick Symmes writes: "Food has opened a hundred doors for me, and the Swedes, like people everywhere, are what they eat."

The golden-haired Swedish stereotype is gone; now Chileans, Greeks, Turks, Arabs, and, most recently, Iraqis, have chopped up the city and sautéed it with new, more robust spices. Still, though, Old Scandinavia lives, and Symmes found the restaurants to prove it:

* Gondolen serves cocktails, lobster, and toast skagen from an aerie overlooking the Old Town (6 Stadsgården; 8-641-70-90; entrées, $40-$70). "The simplest dish--toast skagen, or crayfish salad on buttered bread--was at once clean and rich, and no other dish seemed necessary ever again," writes Symmes.

* Bakfickan, off a side entrance to the Opera House, is a cozy, even crowded purveyor of traditional Swedish foods (12 Jakobstorg; 8-676-58-09; entrées, $21-$49). Upstairs, via the opera's main entrance, is the formal, one-Michelin-star Operakällaren, specializing in updates on such Swedish classics as reindeer steak (Karl II's Torg; 8-676-58-01; entrées, $45-$75).

* Pelikan is a cavernous and candlelit hall of worn wood, rich beers, and fresh husmanskost, a classic Swedish sampler of salmon, dilled egg halves, shrimp, pâté, ham, beets, and, yes, meatballs (40 Blekingegatan; 8-556-090-90; entrées, $22-$33). "I received...a triptych of little herrings that went down like an arpeggio of salt, spice, sweet, and vinegar."

* The Chokladkoppen ("Chocolate Cup") is an Old Town standard for coffee, tea, sandwiches, and treats (18-20 Stortoget; 8-20-31-70; entrées, $6-$12).

Check out the article for more on the new and the old Stockholm.


Kentucky Bourbon: Favorite Tastes

Kentucky, Manhattan country.

In Condé Nast Traveler's November issue, writer Joseph Ward tells the tale of the Bourbon Trail and all the stops along the way. Ward writes, "Bourbon tends to be high proof, especially in increasingly popular cask-strength bottlings. Younger whiskeys have a pronounced vanilla flavor that fades in older examples." Below, some fine specimens:

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Dried-fruit and spice aromas with some herbs and a smooth taste with a little heat. It's clean with a touch of sweetness on the finish. $28-$32

Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
: Toffee, dried fruit, and a whiff of old cognac. Powerful, with some heat on the finish. $42-$45

Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky: One taste and you'll see why this elegant spirit caused a stir 50 years ago. Good balance on fruit and wood, without the kick on most traditional bourbons. $22-$25

Booker's Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: This cask-strength whiskey has such intense caramel and fruit aromas and flavors, you won't believe it's 124 proof (the second glass will make you a believer). $45-$50

Eagle Rare Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Tobaco on the nose along with fruit and grain and not much oak. This ten-year-old is lovely and sweet with a persistent, warm finish. High class. $29-$33

Check Condé Nast Traveler's November issue for more on this great American spirit, including cocktail recipes, a Bourbon Trail distillery tour with nearby dining and lodging, and bourbon's backstory.

Further reading:
* Bourbon Deluxe: Joseph Ward takes a long, slow sip of America's homegrown whiskey
* Catch of the Day: International noshables

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