Category Archives: Food


Dear Wine Spectator: We’ll Always Have (Two Different Versions of) Paris

winespectator_june30_2010.jpgWhat seems like a lifetime ago, I spent a week in Paris (France, just in case some of you Texans were wondering). And in that week, my fellow art-minded, financially strapped compatriots and I drank in all the culture that a 19-year-old’s budget could manage.

Hours at the Louvre, a trip to Versailles, an evening cruise along the Seine, a morning at the Notre Dame Cathedral, admiring the Eiffel Tower. For the wide-eyed girls putting their passports to use for the first time, the obligatory tourist sites were more than enough to convince us that we were, in fact, experiencing all the City of Light could offer.

But after reading Wine Spectator magazine‘s June 30, 2010, article titled “Savoring the Past: Classic Dining on Paris’ Left Bank,” I suddenly realized that we had missed out on one of the city’s greatest assets–its food.

Sure, we ate when we were hungry, but, we reasoned, why waste precious time or funds on fine dining when we could spend it appreciating the Venus de Milo at the Louvre? Or taking in an opera?

A “pricey” dinner at a vivacious little Greek place, complete with singing, dancing and broken plates, in the Latin Quarter–about $50 a person sans wine and with free dessert–was as close to the world of haute cuisine that we could afford.

Though had Wine Spectator’s article been published before our travels, I’m not sure it would have mattered. The author set out to unearth traditional French cuisine from among the many tourist traps that apparently cater to the teenage-American-English-major-studying-abroad set.

We might have been able to afford breakfast at the Café de la Mairie, a corner café getting more attention thanks to its position near the church of St-Sulpice, which was made famous by the best-seller The Da Vinci Code. Or splurged instead on a meal at Allard, a turn-of-the-20th-century bistro whose menu is derived from the cuisine of commoners rather than kings.

I suppose we could have cashed in our return plane tickets to treat ourselves to La Tour d’Argent’s centuries-plus old staple, Duck Tour d’Argent, a medium-rare breast served in a reduction of its juices and blood in wine and seasonings that are finished at the table. That, along with scallops, truffles and a $100 bottle of wine, Wine Spectator says, would set a party of three back about $1,200. Can you say, “Mom, please send money!?”

Even now I wouldn’t trade my first Parisian experience, though frugal, for anything. But the extravagant glimpse by comparison afforded by fine dining-meets-travel articles like these in Wine Spectator will help me take a new perspective and a healthy appetite when I return.


The Inside Scoop: How to Re-Create Perfect Cupcakes You See in Food Magazines

krabbypatties.jpgThose pristine pictures in your favorite cooking and food magazines look good enough to eat. So good, in fact, that your mouth starts watering in anticipation of re-creating the recipe yourself. That is, until the timer signals it’s ready and you dejectedly realize your crumbled, uneven mess looks nothing like that perfect photo that first taunted your taste buds.

But I stumbled across an especially useful tip for prepping cupcakes that may help allay some of your fears and even help you re-create a flawless looking treat of your own.

Nearly every cupcake recipe includes in its directions, “divide evenly among baking cups.” The best gadget I’ve found to do this a cookie scoop that’s spring-loaded for easy release. But the trick to achieving level cupcakes is filling each baking cup with equal amounts of batter–usually two scoops for regular-sized liners, one immediately after the other.

Charged with making four dozen Krabby Patties (burgers, for you non-SpongeBob SquarePants fans, using this Bakerella recipe) for my niece’s birthday party, I had to have cupcakes with smooth, even tops for authenticity’s sake.

Ever the perfectionist, I attempted to evenly divide my batter by meticulously adding one scoop of batter to each baking cup, then going back and adding a second one. That yielded two dozen lumpy cupcakes.

Usually, uneven or lumpy cupcake tops can be camouflaged, depending on how forgiving your frosting or topping is. For example, the swirled frostings on Southern Living magazine‘s Cappuccino Cupcakes and Mocha Latte Cupcakes (February 2010 issue) can easily help mask such imperfections.

But others, like Southern Living’s Fresh Citrus Cupcakes with Ruby Red Grapefruit Glaze from the same issue or Cook’s Illustrated magazine‘s May/June Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes, will require a more even surface for decorating to mimic the look in the magazines.

As you can see from the photo, the Krabby Patties I made using the two-immediate-scoops technique turned out well. They were a sweet success and quite the conversation piece at the birthday party. Better yet, being armed with tips like these makes me feel equipped to take on just about any recipe in my favorite cooking and food magazines.


Food Trucks: The Edible App for the Social Media Aware

food&wine_july2010.jpgOnce upon a time, purveyors of food from trucks, stands and carts earned little regard from food critics or cooking publications. And either you knew where to find them because they staked out the same general location or, in the case of ice cream trucks, you could hear them coming.

But with an increasingly mobile (and hungry) society and the rise of social media, food trucks seem to be gaining a foothold and even some culinary legitimacy, thanks to endorsements like Food & Wine magazine’s.

Every year, Food & Wine seeks out the best new chefs based on nationwide recommendations and months of research to unearth culinary gems with five years or less of experience running their own kitchens.

For the first time, the magazine tapped a food truck chef to hold one of its coveted–if not sometimes controversial–spots as one of its ten “Best New Chefs for 2010,” who were introduced in the July 2010 issue. Roy Choi, proprietor of the Kogi BBQ truck in Los Angeles, is but one of the faces of a new trend that’s taking food to the streets in major cities.

Using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter or other websites, customers addicted to the edible app or even those adventurous enough to sample the new craze can find where and when to find food trucks like his.

Make no mistake, Kogi BBQ doesn’t serve your typical hot dog stand fare. For instance, two recipes recently featured in Food & Wine magazine include Roy Choi’s L.A. Gas Station Taco recipe–among its ingredients are popular gas station items like beef jerky and pork rinds–and a Midnight Torta (sandwich) marketed to L.A.’s late-night party scene. Like the cooking approach that garnered him the “Best New Chef” title, this sandwich combines Asian and Mexican flavors–fried eggs, spinach, pork and jalapenos. But neither his culinary combinations nor his kudos end there.

Sports network ESPN teamed up with Kogi BBQ and the food truck concept to offer fans hungry for sustenance and hungry for World Cup action the opportunity to get both in one place. Through June 29, L.A. and New York City each had its own ESPN Match Truck serving up a range of international flavors created by Roy Choi that were inspired by the countries participating in the World Cup.

But not everyone is welcoming the food truck trend with open arms… or stomachs. At least one Los Angeles city councilman is crusading to ban trucks like Kogi BBQ’s in hopes of sustaining the city’s stationary establishments.

This seems more of a knee-jerk “solution” instead of seeking how to adapt to the changing food service and delivery landscape. Granted, fighting the bigger battles of convenience and technology may be a futile attempt, making that the very reasons food trucks are here to stay. At least until something better comes along.


Chef Lucy Buffett’s Gulf Coast Actions Go Way Beyond Being Green

southern_living.jpgBeing “eco-friendly” and “going green” can be accomplished in seemingly easy enough steps. For chef Lucy Buffett and her ever-crowded restaurant, LuLu’s at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, Ala., that means using recyclable cups, supplementing electricity with wind turbines and using homegrown local produce in the kitchen.

Southern Living magazine‘s May 2010 issue dutifully detailed these, but the article failed to capture one now-more-important thing: her passion for place. If anyone has publicly embodied this spirit in the last few months, it’s Lucy Buffett and her famous “Margaritaville”-strumming brother, Jimmy, who have taken up the Gulf Coast’s cause in the wake of the BP oil spill.

Once upon a time, LuLu’s was a tucked-away spot along Weeks Bay, more a watering hole for locals than for tourists. But now that she’s front and center on the gulf scene, Lucy has become an unofficial spokesperson and advocate as the subject of a national ad campaign and numerous media interviews.

The announcement of a free concert to help fill empty beaches gave her brother’s laid-back musical voice a more impassioned tone. Originally planned as a July Fourth weekend kickoff, the show was postponed by–wouldn’t you know it–a tropical storm. But it’s been rescheduled for July 11.

While it’s duly noted that LuLu’s has gone green, let’s also realize it’s another fight for your little corner of paradise. It’s noble and responsible to recycle and reduce energy consumption, but any restaurant could do so if it really wanted to.

So when Lucy Buffett tells national media that the Gulf Coast needs people’s business, or Jimmy Buffett tells CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the “people on this coast can survive anything,” their sincerity for not just the planet, but for a place–a home place–resonates with a passion so deep that it’s much more than just “eco-friendly.”


On a Tear: How Pull-Out Features in Cooking Magazines Can Help You Get Organized

everydayrachaelray_june2010.jpgHave you ever wished you could tear out that great new recipe you just tried in your favorite food magazine? Or have you longed for the ease of an already compiled grocery list that summed up what you needed for that week of delicious dishes touted as “fast and healthy”?

Unfortunately, there is no one food and cooking magazine that allows for easily clipping out every recipe or one that does all of the shopping organization for you. Such features aren’t lost on some food and cooking magazine editors, though.

Here’s a survey of the best portable elements in popular cooking magazines if you’re in need of a little boost in convenience and organization.

Better Homes and Gardens: In every issue, there is at least one page containing four recipes–photo on front, ingredients and directions on back–that can be easily clipped and filed away. The downside is that they are printed on lightweight paper and may need a little laminating to prevent rips and tears.

Simple & Delicious:  Though there are several more pages of easy-to-clip recipes than Better Homes and Gardens, they are likewise not printed on heavier paper that would be able stand up to frequent handling.

everydayfood_july-august2010.jpgFood Network Magazine: In nearly every issue, Food Network Magazine includes a pull-out section offering 50 recipes for one dish or dessert, like pizza, burgers, pancakes or cookies. In reality it’s not so much about recipes as it is mostly variations on a few, yet the section is generally appreciated by readers who can easily remove the tiny booklet and add it to their collection for future reference.

Martha Stewart Living: Delivering nothing less than what we’d expect, each issue of Martha Stewart Living contains one heavier-stock, already perforated page with four recipes that are easy to fold, tear and file. Thanks, Martha!

Everyday Food: Perhaps a little easier to store because of its smaller digest size, Everyday Food takes a swipe at another aspect of organization: Its monthly feature “Grocery Bag” offers a tear-out shopping list (printed on a heavier, perforated page like its sister publication Martha Stewart Living) for everything you need to create five meals. Even better, the list is arranged by produce, meat, dairy, staples, etc.

Every Day With Rachael Ray: Not to be outdone by Martha Stewart, Every Day With Rachael Ray takes the shopping list feature a step further. Each issue features a “Menu Planner” tear-out section with enough recipes for a week, along with a list and an estimated total cost, so you’ll have an idea of what to expect at checkout. This list is a little larger and maybe a little more cumbersome than Everyday Food’s smaller page, but it’s still very helpful.


To Be or Not to Be (an Ad): Does Food & Wine Magazine’s July Cover Cross the Line?

food&wine_july2010.jpgThe talented men and woman who made Food & Wine magazine‘s cut for its “10 Best New Chefs” were announced months ago, but I was nevertheless excited to learn more about them when the July issue arrived.

Their smiling faces and the promise of their “simplest recipes” inside made me want to dive right in, but I just couldn’t get past the cover. Specifically the right edge, where three thin yet visible staggered pages made up only the tiniest fraction of the cover. Still it was distracting, and upon further investigation, confusing.

Initially, I thought the three tabs, titled “Masters of Innovation,” “Masters of Design” and “Masters of Sustainability,” were relevant to the best new chefs. Instead, the six-page advertising spread covered chefs from Bravo network’s TV show “Top Chef” and touted luxury automaker Lexus. Just the juxtaposition of so many elements–and the questions it raised–were enough to drive me to the table of contents for some expected solace.

Still, I wanted to make some sense of the magazine’s entropic introduction. Turns out, Bravo’s “Top Chef” is judged by former Food & Wine “Best New Chef” Tom Colicchio and the magazine’s special projects guru, Gail Simmons. With the seventh season premiere of the show taking place June 16, the cross promotion was understandable, if a little muddled with Lexus added to the mix.

According to the ad spread, the same innovation, design and sustainability qualities found in some of Bravo’s top chefs presumably can also be discovered by driving one of Lexus’ luxury vehicles. Ultimately, I think too many distractions took away from what could have been a cleverly made point.

But distractions aside, I question the placement of the three “Masters of” staggered ads visible on the cover. None explicitly state “Bravo” or “Top Chef” or “Lexus,” but each of those “Masters of” titles referred to the ad spread accompanying each cascaded page.

Even after reviewing some of the American Society of Magazine Editors’ recent decisions on whether other cover ads have crossed the line, I didn’t quite know how the professional organization would judge Food & Wine’s July cover. But I tend to think if it looks like an ad and refers to an ad, then that’s what it would be.