Category Archives: Taste Tidbits

Musings on taste.

Dining + Design: Watch Andrew Carmellini Chat with Roman & Williams

The second installment of the James Beard Foundation‘s Dining+Design series of talks with The New School took place on Monday, May 22, 2013. The conversation, between JBF Award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini of The Dutch and Lafayette and celebrated architects Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, the husband-and-wife team behind Roman and Williams Architects. The conversation was moderated by professor Fabio Parascoli, director of The New School’s food studies program.

On the scenography of restaurant design: “Just like in film, there’s a script, and everyone knows the intentions. And you have to set that scene.”

On messing with convention: “There’s a lot of common thinking…but sometimes you have to erase some of the common knowledge from your head to make a great restaurant.”

On a chef’s dream restaurant vs. reality: “The dream chef restaurant is 40 seats in the middle of a garden only open for dinner time. In  NYC the fiscal reality of that is often different. It’s all about real estate in New York. You have to design and cater to the space that you get. ”

Watch the complete conversation.

The third and final conversation in this series, between me, David Chang and Drew Salmon of Momofuku and Anwar Mekhyeckh of the The Design Agency will be held Monday, June 10. See details. 

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More Talk with Great Chefs, Designers and Others: Join Me at these Upcoming Events

Spring has sprung and so has the season for conversations with great chefs and other experts engaged in making cuisine a culturally resonant  art form. Join me for these upcoming talks with great chefs, designers, architects, ethicists, and others working to improve and elevate our experience of eating. Mark your calendars!

calendar_icon2May 31, noon
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
Trust: In Our Restaurants and in Our Food System

A conversation about the importance and role of trust drawn from the theme of the 2012 JBF Food Conference. With JBF Award Winners Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia and Star Provisions and Linton Hopkins of Eugene, plus Karen Karp of Karp Resources and ethicist Paul Root Wolpe of Emory University.

June 6, 6:30 pm
American Museum of Natural History
Adventures in the Global Kitchen: Exotic Flavors in Fine Dining
A conversation and tasting about the many immigrant influences on NY cuisine with JBF Award Winners Daniel Humm and Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park and NoMad.

June 10, 6 pm
The New School
Dining + Design: Conversations with Chefs & their Designers
An exploration of the relationship of food and design with JBF Award Winner David Chang and business partner Drew Salmon of Momofuku and designer Anwar Mekhayech of The Design Agency.

June 19, 6:30 pm
The Tenement Museum
Cooking Italian in Today’s NYC
Conversation with JBF Award Nominees Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone of Carbone, Torrisi Italian Specialties, and Parm

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Taste Matters: Urvashi Rangan of Consumers’ Union

Urvashi Rangan on Taste Matters

Buying natural, sustainable, and healthy food has become increasingly confusing in our hyper-marketed world. On Wednesday’s powerful episode of Taste Matters, I got some straight facts from Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center operated by Consumer Reports. Learn all about the truth behind “natural” labels, the dangers of food marketing, and the growing problem of “green noise” by clicking here.

You can catch Taste Matters with Mitchell Davis live every Wednesday at 11:00 A.M. on Heritage Radio Network, or listen to the show afterwards right here on our blog. To check out past episodes, click here. Stay tuned for more!

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Taste Matters: Andrea Petrini

 Andrea Petrini

How do perceptions of the culinary world differ between the United States and Europe—and how are the two notions connected? On yesterday’s forward-thinking episode of Taste Matters, I was joined by international gastronomist Andrea Petrini, who equates food to performance and credits chefs with being cultural artists. He describes his latest project,GELINAZ, a collective culinary entity with a wild bunch of cutting-edge chefs and an intriguing manifesto. To learn more, listen here.

Taste Matters is a radio program dedicated to taste: as a sense, cultural construct, and culinary phenomenon. However much we talk about where our food comes from, how it’s produced, who prepares it, or what sorts of socio-cultural-political implications our food choices and eating behaviors have, taste is fundamental. I host the show live weekly on Wednesday at 11 am on the member-supported Heritage Radio Network.

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Pride & Gastro-Chauvinism in the Global Kitchen

This piece was written for the program at Terroir 7, a symposium on food and hospitality in Toronto. It was the topic of a panel I organized with Montreal Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman, Guardian critic and World’s 50 Best co-founder Joe Warwick from England, Toronto chef Tobey Nemeth of Edulis, and husband-and-wife restaurateurs Rae Bernamoff and Noah Bernamoff of Mile End in NYC. The panel and the subject were reported on by Ann Hui in the Globe & Mail.

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The panel at Terroir Symposium 7. From left, Rae Bernamoff, Noah Bernamoff, Tobey Nemeth, Joe Warwick and Lesley Chesterman. Photo by Kate Krader (@kkrader) of Food & Wine.

In the increasingly global world of gastronomy, chefs criss-cross continents like rock stars on tour. As manufactured destinations, Las Vegas and Dubai welcome outposts of famous chefs to help them establish food cultures they can call their “own.” But even cities with dynamic restaurant scenes have become landing pads for gourmet globetrotters building empires of fine-dineries that stretch around the world.

From one perspective, the arrival of an acclaimed chef from another city can validate the local food culture. So important on the world’s dining map is this place or that, an epicurean empire can’t be complete without an opening here or there. But from another perspective, the arrival of a famous chef in town to lay down restaurant roots can smack of culinary patronization.

In the midst of a trend toward local ingredients, how are diners to view the arrival of foreign chefs on the local scene?

In an interview with Food & Wine magazine, French critic François Simon of Le Figaro famously called out the ever-expanding Alain Ducasse, describing the celebrated French chef as “a sleek atomizer—spritzing his brand over you from a plane on his way to New York or Hong Kong.” But long before Ducasse, French chefs found their way abroad, to Japan most notably, a place with an incredibly rich and discerning food culture. None of those chefs lost their luster. In fact, having a deal in Japan came to be a mark of success for certain practitioners of the Nouvelle Cuisine.

Of late, Toronto has received the attention of two famed chefs from New York City, the beloved reactionary Asian-fusion chef David Chang, whose Momofuku empire practically doubled in size with the opening of three restaurants and a cocktail lounge in the new Shangri-La downtown, and Daniel Boulud, who brought his beloved Café Boulud from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to the new Four Seasons flagship in Yorkville.

Whether you think these are the greatest restaurants the city has ever seen—as critic Chris Nuttall-Smith deemed Momofuku Shoto in his review for the Globe & Mail—or you think they have a lot of improving to do—as critic Amy Pataki concluded about Café Boulud in her review for the Toronto Star—the question of how to feel about these newcomers is complex.

Toronto’s longtime love affair with New York City complicates matters further. Writing on her blog for Montreal”s Gazette, critic Lesley Chesterman weighed in decisively, “Did it really take a chef based in New York who was handed millions to play with to put the Toronto restaurant scene ‘back on the map?’…To me, the idea…is an embarrassment.”

How do you view these events? An embarrassment or evidence of having arrived on the culinary map? Don’t decide until you hear me, Chesterman, and our other special guests discuss this topic during what is sure to be a fascinating panel conversation.

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Some of the Best Food I Ate in 2012

Every holiday season we poll James Beard Foundation staff for the best dishes they enjoyed during the year to write a post on the Foundation’s blog Delights & Prejudices. In anticipation, I keep a running list on my iPhone. I am fortunate to be able to enjoy plenty of delicious food. Too much, really. More than can fit on any list, in fact, and only one or two ever make it onto the composite JBF post. Funnily, this is the first year I realized that I could write my own list and publish it on my blog. Duh! The process is wholly unscientific. On the one hand, you can presume that if I actually remembered to pull out my phone and record something I ate, it truly stood out. But it’s possible I was simply eating alone or bored at the table and therefore had time to jot down it down. I know there are wonderful things that were set before me that are missing from this list.

radio

This beautiful fish dish from Radio in Copenhagen didn’t find it’s way onto the list. It was certainly delicious, but I didn’t write down the details.

Where’s lunch at Le Bernardin? The Cochon 555 Competition? My dinners at Torrisi and Daniel and Blanca and Northern Spy and Brushtroke and Eleven Madison Park? Anything from my memorable meals in Copenhagen? The bread from Bien Cuit? The soft pretzels from Stork’s? The food at our wedding and on our honeymoon, especially dinner at Frenchie? The delicious things Laurent Gras cooked in the studio for our ebook and in our kitchen at home? I must have enjoyed the company or the wine too much to take notes.

One note of apology for the varying quality of the photos, all of which I took. In an attempt to be as unobtrusive as possible on other guests, I don’t use a flash in the dining room. As the sun sets, so does the quality of my images.

Onto 2013…

January

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Jewish Spaghetti and Other Family Secrets

Jewish SpaghettiWhile staging in a Piedmontese restaurant in Torino years ago, I was startled by the reminiscent flavor of spaghetti al pomodoro we were eating at family meal one night. The tomato purée, canned earlier in the year when the fruit was at its peak, was as sweet as candy. Finished with a large spoon of butter, a technique Italian chefs call montecare al burro, the sauce had a pleasing richness. The combination of flavors was resonant with my childhood memories of a favorite family dish we called Jewish Spaghetti.

Jewish Spaghetti? What on earth? It was staple side dish in my mother’s repertoire, a dish that her grandmother Eva had apparently conceived, and that each of Eva’s four daughters passed on down to their families. (I suppose her four sons, though likely fans of the dish, probably didn’t know how to make it.) My grandmother made it. My mother made it. I make it. I recently learned on one of my radio shows that my cousin Madeline Poley, the celebrated chef/owner of the Soho Charcuterie and creator of other New York city food faves, hated her mother’s Jewish Spaghetti. We loved ours so much that I assumed it was a known pasta variant, like spaghetti bolgonese and fettuccine alfredo. So, imagine my surprise at the reaction of my classmates when I referred to Jewish Spaghetti in elementary school.

I wrote home from the restaurant in Turin to tell my family I had found an Italian antecedent to our family’s Jewish Spaghetti.

The recipe is simple. Continue reading

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