Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Food (Section) Fight!: Week 45

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.

Washington Post

1) “Follow the leaders,” by Manuel Roig-Franzia. Every year I look forward to the Washington Post’s pre-Thanksgiving Food section. It’s always really good. Today it was exceptional. One of the year’s best. I can usually judge how interested I am in the Food section by how long it takes to read. If I have time to read a couple other sections during breakfast, it’s probably a week it won’t win Food (Section) Fight. This morning, I wasn’t even halfway through by the time I had to pack up and head to work. It was that good.

This lead story about the recent history of Thanksgiving at the White House was truly great, peppered with amusing anecdotes (Mrs. Clinton threatened to fire her chef if he didn’t make white bread stuffing), interesting culinary history (the FDR-era chestnut stuffing calls for “fat” without specifying what kind—would a 1940s home cook have understood?) and some incredible-sounding recipes. I really want to make White House Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Glover Cleveland Parsnip Fritters, and Mamie Eisenhower’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, oh, and even Laura Bush’s Green Beans with Anchovy Butter (go Mrs. Bush for embracing anchovies, even if she wasn’t interested in the 60-year aged balsamic vinegar).

2) “For recipe handicappers, there’s Fakesgiving,” by Becky Krystal. How nice to see fellow food bloggers get a beautiful full-page spread in the Food section. Coincidentally, I discovered their blog, The Bitten Word, just yesterday (I was Googling for a kale chips recipe). And I couldn’t help but notice how much I have in common with them: They are a D.C.-based (check) gay couple (check) married in 2010 (check) that work for a publication and a nonprofit (not check now, but that was us 10 years ago). And I too invited a group of friends for a Thanksgiving dinner weeks before the actual event so that I’d have dishes to write about on my blog (actually, it was circumstantial, since my apartment is under renovation the next few weeks, but it worked to my advantage). With a lot of hard work and a little luck, maybe someday Cook In / Dine Out will achieve The Bitten Word's level of success (I can dream). Some great recipes accompany the story, such as their Fried Brussels Sprouts with Paprika-Spiked Dipping Sauce.

3) “For a White House menu, red or rosé works, too,” Wine by Dave McIntyre. I’ve been reading a lot of Thanksgiving wine stories lately, and will even have my own tomorrow. McIntyre offers up about the best advice I’ve read as to why certain wines work best for pairing with the meal. I love what he says about bold wines: “Cabernet and steak could win the food-wine equivalent of ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ but Thanksgiving is more like a communal square dance.” That’s perfect.

4) “The science behind 5 holiday food flubs,” by Robert L. Wolke. Wolke is the author of What Einstein Told His Cook, which I read and enjoyed earlier this year. When I saw another science-minded cook, America’s Test  Kitchen’s Christopher Kimball at a National Museum of American History event recently, I thought about asking him what the biggest issues are that a little food science could help home cooks address at Thanksgiving. Wolke covers some very topical issues, including how to master gravy, why just the right about of sugar is important to making cranberry sauce and why it’s okay to roast a turkey that’s still frozen. Useful stuff.

5) “Pork Paillards in Parmesan Crust,” Dinner in Minutes by Bonnie S. Benwick. Leave it to Bonnie to oversee an amazing Thanksgiving section and still have time to whip up an appetizing Dinner in Minutes recipe. This sounds really good. Definitely something I can see myself making on a weeknight.

New York Times

1) “Try a steam-powered turkey,” by Jeff Gordinier. While the Post dived into tradition with presidential Thanksgivings, the Times went experimental with this lead story on Jacques Pépin’s technique for steaming, yes steaming his turkey before roasting it. The story addresses the likely skepticism of its readers, and count me among them. Will the turkey’s skin still get nice and brown if it’s been steamed? Apparently so, but my eyebrows remain raised. If you’ve roasted, brined, grilled and deep-fried your turkey, maybe this new method is for you (or, as I suggested in today’s Washington Post Free Range chat, why not sous vide it?).

2) “Side dishes with a sense of daring,” by Julia Moskin and Melissa Clark. While I may be skeptical about steamed turkey, I have not qualms about the delicious dishes explored by two of my favorite Dining section writers. Beehive Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Vinaigrette, Cauliflower with Oyster Mushrooms and Sherry and the beautifully composed Heirloom Squash Salad with Pepita Purée and Pickled Shallots, all sound like amazing original dishes for Thanksgiving.

3) “Take a Pumpkin Pie, Add One Englishman,” by Florence Fabricant. Le Bernardin’s Deconstructed Pumpkin Pie isn’t necessarily something I’d make, but I enjoyed reading about it. The dish converts the pumpkin from the traditional custard into a cake and mousse, along with a pumpkin and cranberry confit.

4) “Roasted, Smashed, Dolloped, Devoured,” How to Make Everything by Mark Bittman. Bittman turned to his friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten (now that’s name-dropping) for advice on making ABC Kitchen’s Squash on Toast. The roasted squash served with mint and ricotta atop toast sounds like a perfect Thanksgiving appetizer. I might have to try this.

5) "As Not Seen on TV,” Restaurants by Pete Wells. Ever wonder what a restaurant review with a “poor” rating would read like? Here’s your chance to find out, as Wells eviscerates Guy Fieri’s Times Square Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar. It does sound really awful (“…is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French Fries already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold?”). I don’t quite understand why the whole thing is written as questions; perhaps that’s a nod to how Fieri speaks? (I don’t watch his show).


The Washington Post. On this ever-important week for home cooks, the Post knocks it out of the ballpark, giving us coverage that’s insightful, expansive and just downright delicious. Despite having hosted my own “Fakesgiving” last weekend, I’m sort of itching to do it again now.


The Washington Post: 24
The New York Times: 20


  1. One big difference between those other bloggers and us is both of those guys cook, while I only do dishes. (Having said that, if you want to stage another "Fakesgiving," I'll gladly tidy up afterward.)

    Good review! I'm glad to see the Post is on a roll. Keep it up, WaPo!

  2. Yes, I did notice that. I think that's how they can host like 24 people at their Fakesgiving while 6 is pretty much our max.