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I read last week’s food sections from the comfort of a poolside chaise in Miami, but even that tranquil setting couldn’t buffer me from the annoyance I felt at the big food-editor-of-the-Washington-Post’s “coming out” piece–as a vegetarian, that is, though Joe Yonan did compare it to his earlier coming out. (I wonder if he was plugging his new book that time.) But the bad taste didn’t end there. Using Anthony Bourdain as his villain, Yonan countered the argument that the worst dining table crime is to tell someone’s grandma you’re not eating the meal she cooked because you’re a veg with this: “I think the absolute rudest thing you can do is to show a lack of respect for someone else’s decision about what they are going to consume.” So this is just another rant from the infamously thin-skinned Post food editor, and I’d say who cares except that a guy who doesn’t eat like 96% of us shouldn’t be the editor of a mainstream food publication/section. Alan Richman at GQ just ranked Johnny Monis’ Dupont Circle Thai Little Serow the most outstanding restaurant of 2013. Shouldn’t the Post’s food editor be able to eat there (not to mention love it)? (And is it just me or was Mark Bittman trying to distance himself from Yonan when he called himself a “true omnivore” in the Times Magazine this weekend?)
I will take Jane Black’s do-gooder public service pieces over Mark Bittman’s smug moralizing any day. In the Washington Post, Black writes about healthy shopping classes taught at grocery stores across the country. In the New York Times, Bittman weighs …
A few months ago the White House released the recipe for the President’s home-brewed beer. It’s a honey ale made with honey from the White House’s own hives. Instantly, you could buy kits to make Obama’s beer yourself. While I left the beer making to someone else, I do like to cook with beer, so I headed for my kitchen. (In 2011, Greg Kitsock at the Washington Post had a great piece on the history of presidential beer making. Read it.)
Best read of the week in the food sections goes to Bart Barnes in the Washington Post. If you’re familiar with that byline, you must be a regular reader of the Post’s obit page. His charming piece in the food section chronicles his desire to have a sandwich named after him, so for his 75th birthday party, guests were asked to bring their nominations. In the end, the Bart is cut up hot dogs, onion, peppers, cheddar cheese, and hot sauce on cheesy jalapeño bread. Sounds intense.
Thank you, Pete Wells at the New York Times, for turning me on to a new pizza topping combination. Fennel shines as the star of this bold-flavored pie. Cook it into your sauce along with onion, garlic, and tomatoes. Nice and simple. A little red wine, a little chicken stock, and a healthy dose of sugar to bring out the fennel’s sweet notes. (I based this on a braised fennel fiasco I had years ago at the French Culinary Institute.) Spread the chunky sauce over your dough and cover with crumbled and cooked hot Italian sausage and aged cheddar cheese. The sweet fennel really sings when paired with that heat and that bite. In two weeks, this pizza pie has already had several encores.
The pizza coverstory at the Washington Post food section this week is an example of style over substance. The behind-the-scenes narrative of the Tim Carman/Joe Yonan pizza cook-off, which Carman playfully suggests is rigged because Yonan is the boss, is light reading, but the ongoing joke leaves the reader thinking more about what Yonan’s year away from the Post did for his sense of humor than about pizza slinging. However, it did remind me of Pete Wells’ puzzling review of a Brooklyn pizzeria last week–strange in that it warranted a review and that Wells used an ill-concieved metaphor throughout (as in “the pizza version of the sparkly oven” and “the dessert is another of [the] tiled ovens”–editor please!) Anyway, this is the long process which brings me to this suggestion: On your next at-home pizza, try fennel, sausage, cheese, and red pepper flakes.
When it comes to buying olive oil, like wine, I might as well close my eyes before making my selection. It seems that every store carries whatever random brands they choose and I never see the same bottle twice. However, I do enjoy olive oil and used to work somewhere high quality varieties were sold. Jim Shahin’s Smoke Signals column in the Washington Post caught my attention because he promises that the smoked olive oil from the Smoked Olive will wow your dinner guests served simply with bread for dipping. Add that to your shopping list.
The new year brings with it new and exciting flavors and techniques. No, I’m not referring to Mark Bittman’s two most recent columns on Potatoes and Sandwiches. Instead check out Sophie Brickman’s piece in the New York Times about cooking in your microwave. I’ve been trying some of the less frequented buttons, so this was inspiring. Reviewing Nathan Myhrvold’s follow-up to his six-volume bible for the modernist chef, a slimmer edition for the modernist home cook, Brickman suggests we try frying parsley, steaming fish, and dehydrating fruit, all in the microwave. We most definitely will!
I read with some interest the top new restaurant lists from Pete Wells in New York City and Tom Sietsema in the D.C. area. I tend to stay local, so I need to try Rasika Westend, Seasonal Pantry, and Izakaya Seki. I don’t think I’m going to risk another meal at Mintwood Place. As a friend used to say, it would be really great…if you’ve never been to a restaurant before. I’ve been warned away from Rogue 24 by a local food writer, so mostly I’ll just keep going to Little Serow as much as humanly possible. It’s going to be a great year! Also, if you missed it, the Times had a great piece by Eugenia Bone about French truffles–where to buy them, why they taste smell so good, and especially whether all those truffle products are the real deal. Read It.
It was with no small amount of glee that I read Tom Sietsema’s pan of the “new” minibar. My first experience two years ago at Jose Andres’ exclusive table for modernist cuisine was definitely three-plus star. But my second visit, earlier this year, was a big disappointment (turns out it was also a bargain). Judging from Sietsema’s review, many of the menu items have remained the same–every dish he mentioned, in fact, I’ve had–so what exactly makes Andres’ minibar new?