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.
New York Times
(1 and 2) "When Words Fail," Critics Notebook column and "It's Been Awhile, Hasn't It?" Restaurant review by Pete Wells. Perhaps it's unintentional, but I see a subtext with the juxtaposition of these two stories: Daniel Humm, you have been warned. His Eleven Madison Park, one of only six restaurants in New York currently honored with four stars from the New York Times, recently unveiled a new concept, which is the subject of Well's Critic's Notebook column, a preview akin to what the Washington Post's Tom Sietsema does with his First Bite column. So it's a not a formal review per se (oh the bad puns of New York dining), but a preview. While Wells likes the food, for sure, he is troubled by the lengthy explanation that accompanies each dish, which he sees as sometimes detracting from what is being served. As an example, he describes a speech that puts you in the mood for steak tare tare, but you're instead fed a carrot dish inspired by steak. Regardless of how good the food is, sounds like the presentation needs work.
But is it enough to jeopardize its four-star rating? Well, I can't help but think the placement of a review of Le Cirque is a reminder to Eleven Madison Park that such things do happen. The French restaurant used to be one of Manhattan's four-star dining destinations until former Times critic Ruth Reichl busted them down to three stars after receiving horrible service, a rating maintained by her replacement (and Wells' predecessor) Frank Bruni. As if to score home the point even more, Wells busts them down to not two but a measly single star. Ouch! Sounds like the service has improved but the food has really suffered: "If you asked these ingredients to speak for themselves, they would shrug and stare at the floor." A great image that reminds me of how teenagers react when they've been busted.
(3 and 4) "Bubbling From the Ferment" article by Jeff Gordinier, and "For Gastronomists, a Go-To Microbiologist," article by Peter Andrey Smith. These paired articles delve into the science of cooking, with Gordinier's article looking at the work of food writer Sandor Katz and Momofuku's exploration of fermentation, while Smith's article profiles Harvard microbiologist Rachel Dutton, whose research into food quality--rather than food safety--has turned her into a useful resource for creative chefs. The latter article in particular suggests some good reads for those interested in molecular gastronomy.
(5) "Great Food Without a Chef's Edge," How to Cook Everything column by Mark Bittman. Bittman's usually entertaining column is particularly great today, as he explores how to adapt a dish by Jean-Georges Vongerichten for a home cook: Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Fried Sushi Cakes with Scallops, Honey Soy Sauce and Chipotle Mayonnaise. I've been thinking about trying to make mayonnaise and now I really want to do it. Have to wonder how much ribbing Bittman is getting today for writing a recipe that calls for egg "yoke" instead of "yolk."
(1) "The sweet life," Smoke Signals column by Jim Shahin. Shahin's cover story is a delightful read about Chef Andrew Evans, who used to helm the kitchen at the Inn at Easton but now makes his home at a barbecue joint aptly named BBQ Joint. The accompanying recipe for Low- and Smoked- Meatloaf sounds amazing. I would LOVE to eat a smoked meatloaf. That Hillbilly Blueberry Pie sounds good too.
(2) "Kimchi fest puts a pretty face on S. Korea's dish," article by Tim Carman. Dovetailing with the Times' fermentation coverage is this fun story by "Timchi" (as he was dubbed in today's chat) Carman about the classic Korean dish. I'll admit to enjoying the side of Kimchi offered at Mandu, as well as the kimchi on TaKorean's tacos, although I think both of those are pretty mild version of the dish (i.e. not fermented, at least not for long).
(3) "Rice-Cooker mac and Cheese," Dinner in Minutes column by Bonnie S. Benwick. Wouldn't Benwick's dish make the perfect accompaniment to Evans' smoked meatloaf? I've never used a rice cooker, but I'm such a fan of mac & cheese that if I ever got one, I'd be sure to make this.
(4) "Hospitality delivered in heaping helpings," First Bite by Tom Sietsema. Sietsema profiles Southern Hospitality, the new southern restaurant in Adams-Morgan. Although he found the food hit-and-miss, I'm intrigued. I bet the fried chicken with mac & cheese would go down great.
(5) "Make your cooking a class act," by Jane Touzalin. I've been thinking about taking a cooking class. I never had, and I'd probably learn a thing or five. The paper gives a flavor of this year's offerings, which the full list available online.
The Washington Post. It's a tough call this week. As someone who follows the goings on of both Daniel Humm and David Chang, I found the Times' coverage quite interesting, but the Post's stories were more focused on cooking practical food, which I'm in the mood for these days. And I particularly liked the barbecue story, since it put me in the mood to grill next week, which I'll get to do while on vacation on the Oregon coast (which, by the way, means that there probably won't be a Food Section Fight next week, but I'll try to feature stories if I can).
The New York Times: 19
The Washington Post: 17