Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Food (Section) Fight: Week 4

Food (Section) Fight is my weekly look at The Washington Post's Food section and The New York Times' Dining section with my verdict on which section had the better content for the week.

On the basis of their cover stories, competition was fierce this week, although the inside content revealed a definite victor this week.

The Washington Post had a delicious photograph of Vermillion's butternut squash soup served in an oval ramekin and roasted squash sandwich to accompany David Hagedorn's delightful article about how area restaurants are making the simple soup-and-sandwich combo a real culinary treat. I've yet to visit Fiola, but their classic tomato soup and grilled cheese pairing sounds really good too. I just keep staring at that squash soup though. They even got the chef to share his recipes for the soup and the sandwich. Yum!

Among the recipes, my favorite is Stephanie Witt Sedgwick's homey meat-filled take on rice pilaf with andouille sausage, chicken and red beans. Chris loves rice, so I bet he'd really like this. Bonnie Benwick's farfalle with crab is probably not something I'd make, although I do have a can of lump crab meat to use up and this could fill that bill.

As much as I love the sandwich piece, my favorite article is Jason Wilson's column on how to invent cocktails ("To invent cocktails, start with a classic"). I've been really into experimenting with cocktails lately, trying to come up with original recipes. He makes a good argument for thinking about cocktail-making as an artistic culinary task (I'm totally on board with that) and gives good advice for thinking about how to reinterpret old classics. He also discusses how brandy is the least popular of the six most common spirits as a base for cocktails, which is interesting. I have to admit that personally, I rarely use brandy in cocktails, so perhaps I should experiment with it.

The New York Times' cover story ("My Sons, the Sous-Chefs") was a wonderful piece about a working mother who decided her 14- and 10-year-old sons were old enough to start preparing dinners some nights to give her a break. I loved this story and it really hit home for me, since that was pretty much how I got my start cooking (as I detailed in my early January introduction). Leslie Kaufman's observations about how to lend guidance while also allowing her sons to make their own mistakes really reinforced how cooking is such an educational experience--quite a constant one. Great artwork accompanying the story tell, as well as the sidebar on kid-friendly kitchen equipment.

Beyond that piece, there were some interesting stories, but nothing really exciting. The recipes on page 2 were interesting, although I don't think I'd ever make either one. The spicy lacquered chicken wings look really delicious, but I'm not really wild about chicken wings. The one-pot French onion soup with garlic-gruyère croutons sounds amazing, but the whole point seems to be how to make a one-pot soup for what is traditionally served individually, with the solution being to use a pair of kitchen shears to cut the cheese on top. Really? Seems like an odd solution.

The review of Crown is interesting, if only because Pete Wells manages to rather effectively convey what sounds like a pretty dull restaurant. The only thing that seems off is that despite his description of most of the crowd being over 40, the accompanying photo shows the dining room filled with people who look to be about 25.

Verdict: The New York Times' cover story gave me a strong sense of nostalgia, but overall, I'm handing this week's victory to The Washington Post, its first Food (Section) Fight win.


  1. Hooray for the Post. I'm glad our hometown paper win one of these competitions. And yes, you absolutely have my permission to make that rice pilaf dish.

  2. I admitted in the first challenge that I'm biased toward the Post. So I'm pleased they finally got a win!