The restaurant critic Jonathan Gold may have won a Pulitzer for criticism (the first food writer to do so), but I prefer to think of him as LA’s poet laureate. Check out the profile of Gold in this week’s New Yorker (subscription only) and you’ll understand why. Or better yet click on over to the LA Weekly for an all-you-can-read buffet of Gold’s writing. He’s the best.
What do you cook when Rachael Ray’s coming to dinner? That’s what I asked my pal Brent Ridge when I heard Rachael Ray visited his farm to film a Food Network special, Rachael’s Vacations: Farm to Table, which airs tomorrow at 11 pm EST/10 C. I’d lean on comfort, just to make myself comfortable: Something seasonal, mac-n-cheese or chili, probably. But whose? Would making my own offend? Would making hers be odd? Brent had a different approach, one I appreciate. Menus must be more clear from the outset when you spend days growing your own food and minding your own herd of goats, which beget luscious creamy goat cheese.
A few years ago Brent, a physician, blogger and all-around interesting guy, and his partner, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, parlayed their New York City love of terrace-grown tomatoes into an ex-pats’ paradise Upstate called Beekman Farm. Their “experiment in seasonal living,” as they call it, has become a full-on way of life, with 60 acres of land to tend, dozens of animals and 110 different kinds of heirloom veggies to sow, grow, harvest, can, freeze, pickle and share.
Brent’s always cooking up something fun, but I’m sure he had a few moments of panic at the idea of entertaining Food Network. “Sharon Springs is a very, very small town,” Brent says, “and of course the news that Rachael was coming couldn’t be kept a secret…”
Most secretaries don’t count testing video games as part of their job responsibilities. But Food Network has high standards and everything gets tested plenty–even our new Wii game, which hits stores tomorrow, Cook or Be Cooked! We Food Networkers all wear many hats, so when I was asked to try out the new game, I got my nunchucks waxed and ready to go. I loved having a sneak peek and I corralled a few colleagues to play with me in one of our television-filled lounges (sorry, those pictures are top secret!).
In seconds, VP of Marketing and The Next Food Network Star judge Susie Fogelson and Food Network Kitchens chef Mory Thomas came to life before us, explaining how to play the game and how we’d be judged. Funny how something that looks so simple and seamless on screen took hours and days and weeks and months of planning! They’d be watching how we cooked, of course, including timing, seasoning, multitasking and temperature of several different dishes. Then, they’d give them a taste. The pressure was on! The idea is to start with simple dishes and cook your way through dozens of culinary treats until you’re master of a Food Network-worthy virtual kitchen. Read more
The FN Dish’s own Secretary Confidential led the sugar charge with these ghastly goodies (above). She claims she’s no cooking pro, but these chocolate-y brownies, drizzled with icing in the shape of ghosts, tasted frightfully good. (Try making similar treats with Ina’s Outrageous Brownies.)
Our resident baking goddess, Alexis, built this clever graveyard cake from her mom’s chocolate cake recipe and homemade chocolate frosting. Then she used assorted candies, marshmallows and shortbread cookies to make spiders, ghosts and tombstones. (By the way, we were mesmerized by the new Blood Orange Dots candies she found at the market.)
A trip home to my parents’ farm, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Nebraska, was all about family, friends and great food. I spent most of my weekend mingling, catching up with my pumpkin patch family (including 500+ part-time, seasonal employees) and trying to eat everything in sight.
Farms aren’t usually known for smelling good, but when you walk into Vala’s you’re greeted by the aroma of coffee and freshly baked cinnamon rolls. (When the craving hits, try Cinnamon Rolls from Food Network Magazine for a similar homemade version.) CONTINUE READING
And this: “Black pepper, cumin, soil and leather. Elegant. A hint of fruit, but not a lot…Cherries. They’re playing ‘Paranoid Android’, which is also nice.” I wrote that about the Meerea Park Terracotta 1998, which an iPod at the wine bar decided to pair with Radiohead’s best album. Welcome to the New World.
Then there was a Thomas Wines Kiss 2007 that was aggressively oaked and very fruity, and finally the Brokenwood Graveyard 2005. The Graveyard Shiraz is probably the Hunter’s most celebrated red. That wine, which was equal parts red fruit and savory earth, tasted like it would age wonderfully, but it was admittedly strange at first. Sort of like OK Computer.
Which is all completely fine, and understandable on the face of it, but in the context of my recently having seen this in McSweeney’s, I have to wonder.
So I am sure there are all kinds of merits to goat-powered crop control, and I am sure it’s environmentally friendly, and they’re completelyadorable, and all of that — but even if the entire industry didn’t exist, someone would have to invent it, if only to be able to have a company named “Rent-a-ruminant.”[via]
Food Network HQ looked like it does every morning when I arrived at the office, but by the end of the day it had transformed into party central for the Chelsea Market After Dark event. Talk about a tour de force of FN talent. I spotted Alton, Guy, Sandra Lee, Aida, Alex, Anne and several contestants from The Next Iron Chef. Guy’s party den was out of control, complete with screaming fans, dancing bartenders, Guy tattoos and Jagermeister shots.
FN staffers were looking and feeling worse for wear after the previous night’s festivities. While others headed to the Burger Bash, I chose a calmer evening of lectures and cooking demos. CONTINUE READING
Growing up in an Italian family comes with a built-in set of guarantees: screaming = normal conversation, you get to drink wine before you’re out of diapers and every second Sunday it’s meatballs (‘polpette’) for dinner. So, when I saw that our very own Giada De Laurentiis was hosting the first annual “Meatball Madness” at the NYC Wine and Food Festival this past Sunday, I ran faster than you can say “buon appetito.” After all, Giada is Italian, I’m Italian… you get it.
The meat was on. At stake, title of “best meatball,” a $5,000 prize and, of course, one’s pride. More than 25 chefs and restaurants were competing. The judging panel, tough… Food critic extraordinaire and The Next Iron Chef judge Jeffrey Steingarten, restaurant critic Frank Bruni of NY Times fame, and Gail Simmons, best known for her regular role as judge on that food-reality competition show that’s NOT on our network. And then there was me. The toughest of them all, with the lingering memory on my palate of my mother’s mouth-watering Sicilian meatballs… firm yet delicate combo of beef and pork with killer ingredients of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, pignoli nuts and raisins, bathed in the most delectable tomato sauce. Lucky them, my vote wouldn’t count.
Table to table we meandered, meatballs at every turn. Anne Burrell said she had the winning meatball. The secret from this restaurant chef was in the sauce — a little pancetta. Claire Robinson was on hand to help serve. Mamma mia, it was good. But Mamma — Mamma (Rocco) DiSpirito that is, would beg to differ. Famous for her classic Neapolitan meatball, mother and son rocked it with a side of rigatoni. Try as I may, even in my best Italian, she wouldn’t give up her recipe. Across the way, The Next Iron Chef’s Amanda Freitag was convinced that the meatball she serves at her NY restaurant, The Harrison, was the one. No day off for Alex Guarnaschelli either. She turned up with her mini meatball pizzas — three perfectly sauced morsels of meatball perched atop fried dough, along with homemade ricotta cheese and grilled radicchio.
Thirteen meatballs later, I sought relief in a cannoli and a tiramisu lollipop. Thankfully, someone was smart enough to provide dessert.
In the end, the judges awarded Locanda Verde’s Andrew Carmellini the bestest, for his lamb meatball slider. Meatball Madness gets my vote as a must-bring-back-next-year event to the NYC Wine & Food Festival. In the meanwhile, I’ll always have my mamma’s.