The winners of the coveted James Beard Foundation national chef awards for 2013 include the Blue Hill Restaurant in New York City for Outstanding Restaurant. Tied for Outstanding Chef were David Chang of Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City and Paul Kahan of Blackbird in Chicago.
No trendy restaurants. No fancy equipment. No hard-to-find hipster ingredients.
The pages of this year’s top food publication don’t read like your average gourmet glossy. That’s because the only trend ChopChop magazine – named publication of the year by the James Beard Foundation – cares about is how to get America’s children eating healthier.
Our first mint julep was poured in the infield at Churchill Downs prior to the running of the Kentucky Derby. It seems so long ago now that horses might have been the primary mode of transportation then.
An overworked bartender took the year’s official 12-ounce Derby souvenir glass, tossed in a handful of ice cubes, filled it with a brown distillate we took to be whiskey, and then stuffed a mint sprig down next to the cubes. Voila! Instant ecstasy, or so we thought after the first three drinks. We even heard they ran a race that day.
Several days and many aspirins later, we found out there’s more to creating an authentic mint julep. And, of course, you’ll want to do things right if you plan on celebrating the 139th Run for the Roses on May 4.
Growing up in Milwaukee, we evaluated local brands of potato chips for their crispness, saltiness and other intrinsic characteristics. Admittedly, our judgments were guided by personal taste.
When in the mood for light crispiness, we’d go for the Geiser’s chips, which were wafer-thin and heavy on the salt. When we needed something with more heft, we chose Mrs. Howe’s, which was perhaps a millimeter thicker than Geiser’s, a tad less salty and, in the years before the thick-cut, kettle-cooked varieties, the most satisfying chips for the money. (We think it was the fat content.)
The Dane County Farmers’ Market, a Madison tradition since 1972, opens its outdoor season on April 20, 6 a.m.-2 p.m.
The Capitol Square in downtown Madison is the setting for the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the nation. All of the products are produced in Wisconsin.
The ancient Incas relied on its nutritional and restorative powers. The Spanish conquistadors forbade its cultivation by native peoples they sought to enslave. Now the entire world is turning its attention to what may be the original “super food.”
Welcome to 2013, the United Nations Year of Quinoa, an international celebration designed to recognize the social and nutritional importance of the native Andean crop. The South American plant and its seeds have increasingly become part of healthy diets worldwide, but the boon in interest has proven to be a double-edged sword for the Andes’ independent quinoa farmers. Those who grow it are getting rich, but their neighbors who have to buy the traditional dietary staple can no longer afford it. That’s causing some problems.
Thoughts of Old World wines do not always bring Spain and Portugal to mind as top producers. But they should. After France and Italy, the Iberian Peninsula is the third largest producer of wines in the world, with 3 million acres under wine grape cultivation in Spain alone.
You might think that’s an awful lot of sherry and port, for which the two countries were historically known. But acreage devoted to the famous fortified wines is just a small part of the region’s total wine output. More and more, Spain especially is combining traditional cultivars with New World winemaking techniques, resulting in some fresh, bright approaches that are quickly finding their niche in the ever-expanding wine world.
When Osteria Del Mondo closed its doors in the Knickerbocker in April 2011, patrons hoped that one of Milwaukee’s best restaurants soon would find a new home. Owner Marc Bianchini initially promised a six-month hiatus before reopening in a smaller, higher-profile location downtown.
Milwaukee foodies are still awaiting the restaurant’s return, but anyone who thinks Bianchini has been resting on his culinary laurels underestimates the restaurateur’s drive. Bianchini’s company On the Marc Restaurants includes the Milwaukee establishments COA, Cubanitas, and Indulge. Those restaurants have been keeping him and wife Marta, a native of Cuba, quite busy.
We like a mystery as much as the next person, especially when it involves food. But we were at first stumped by the murmurs we heard about Panera Bread’s low-calorie “hidden menu,” something so secret that Panera didn’t advertise it on the restaurant chain’s website or in its various franchise locations.
The protocol, we learned, was to ask counter staff for access to the “hidden menu,” almost as if it were the password to a secret club. At that point, rumor had it, a knowing look would cross the face of the server, perhaps a nod would result, and the wondrous menu would appear.
Fans of true Irish cuisine – and, yes, there are a few – often turn up their noses at people who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage. Not authentic, they sneer, in the same way chop suey is an unnecessary American nod to traditional Chinese food.
They’re right, but they’re also wrong. The corned beef we know today probably never appeared on Irish menus before gaining favor on this side of the Atlantic. But it does have its roots in the Auld Sod, which makes sneering a wee bit daft.
Restaurants go to great lengths to successfully pair food with wine and, increasingly, with the budding number of craft beers. But cocktails are meant to be sipped as aperitifs to stimulate the taste buds for the meal to come, right?
We found out otherwise during a recent dinner at Merchant, a farm-to-table restaurant and retail establishment just off Madison’s Capitol Square. There, the bartending team of J.R. Mocanu and Samuel Gauthier blended Wild Turkey bourbons with multiple ingredients into a swirl of cocktails paired with creative courses by Chef Michael Liotta.
On cold winter nights, nothing kindles the soul like a belly full of warm comfort food. At our house, that means macaroni and cheese. With the onset of Lent, the Christian season of meat deprivation, the quintessential American favorite takes on an added dimension for folks who like to connect with religious traditions, even in a small way.
As food writers, my wife Jean and I have “eaten professionally” for 25 years, but we’ve never kicked the Kraft habit learned in our mothers’ Milwaukee kitchens. Our challenge: Make America’s favorite comfort food a little more interesting.