Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Food (Section) Fight!: Week 48

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) “It’s On!” by Kim Severson and Julia Moskin. This is a really cute idea: pit a former and current Dining writer against each other to see who comes up with the best slate of three recipes for holiday food gifts. There was a lot I really liked about this article, most notably that Moskin is laugh-out-loud funny in describing her competitive urge to beat Severson (“...when my colleague Kim Severson claimed that she had an irresistible formula for hot fudge sauce and a sweet-and-spicy pecan recipe, I rubbed my hands with glee. It seemed to me that...the last thing people want at this time of year is the fixings for a hot fudge sundae, and the first thing they want is real food”). Real food?! Ouch! It’s on indeed! Sadly, and this is the hard part (since I really liked the idea and the writing), this feature is marred by some editorial issues. First, the jump for this story says it’s continued on “Page 1,” which can’t be the case, since I’m on page 1. The second and more frustrating problem is that this is an article about six recipes, but the Times only printed four of them. Where are the other two? Presumably online, but they don’t say. If they’d worked at it, I bet they could have laid out the story to include them all or if not, at least noted whether the other two recipes are on the website (something the Post does regularly).

2) “Hanukkah’s New Tastes, Still Rooted in Tradition,” A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark. It was interesting to learn that “Ashkenazi Brooklyn hipster” and “cross-cultural, vegetable-based Israel” are two current trends in Jewish cooking. Clark uses the distinction to differentiate the two latke recipes she shares, each of which is pulled from a different new cookbook: The Mile End Cookbook by Noah and Rae Bernamoff and Jerusalem by Toam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The Celery Root-Parsnip Latkes is more appealing looking than the Swiss Chard Fritters, but both sound interesting. (Ugh, this story also jumps to “Page 1.”)

3) “The Moguls Arrive, Bearing Butter,” Restaurants by Pete Wells. Upper East Side Indian restaurant Moti Mahal Delux gets two stars and a nice write-up by Wells, who seems particularly smitten with anything from its tandoor oven and how the restaurant uses butter to coax heavenly flavors from its lentils.

4) “From Kitchen to Table, Gifts to Tempt,” Dining staff. Dining writers share a list of 24 holiday gift ideas for food enthusiasts, like the Art in the Age spirit Sage, the Yes, Chef memoir by Marcus Samuelson and a garlic slicer. Consider them added to my wish list.

 Washington Post

1) “The high cost of Modernist’ living,” Book Report by Tim Carman. I was so excited when I saw Tim Carman had reviewed Modernist Cuisine at Home, the 1-volume home cook’s sister publication to the professional-minded 5-volume Modernist Cuisine, Nathan Myhrvold’s towering achievement of molecular gastronomy modernist culinary writing that set the publishing world on fire last year (and set back their wallets to the tune of $625). Carman acknowledges that the recipes in Modernist Cuisine at Home aren't for everyone, but nonetheless finds a lot to like in the volume, including recipes for Modernist Low-Temp Oven Steak and Modernist Creamed Spinach. I really want this book.

2) “Dare to add dairy when mixing up holiday cheer,” Spirits by Jason Wilson. Normally dairy doesn’t find its way into drinks unless it’s a dessert cocktail, except this time of year, when all bets are off. Recognizing that eggnog--perhaps the most popular dairy-based cocktail--is often awful, Wilson helps steer home mixologists towards something more pleasing with the Baltimore Egg Nog. Also on offer are the Victoria Milk Punch and Agave Con Leche, which call for using citrus to separate the milk’s curds and whey (discarding the curds). All these drinks sound really great.

3) “No neon nuggets,” by Jane Touzalin. Fruitcake is the joke of holiday desserts. Literally--the Post charts its demise as heavily influenced by comedian Johnny Carson making fun of it back in the ‘70s. Possibly with good reason--many fruitcakes are dry, weighty things so soaked with booze they represent a fire hazard. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and Touzalin offers a generous seven recipes for cakes she thinks rise above the cliches, such as White Fruitcake and Arkansas Fig Fruitcake. I’ll admit, I haven’t really had much fruitcake in my life (please, no off-color jokes), but I do have a recipe for a really awesome apple cake, which really is a form of fruitcake. So, I can get behind the idea that fruitcake deserves a second chance.

4) “Cumin Lamb Stir-Fry,” Dinner in Minutes by Bonnie S. Benwick. Another great quick weekday recipe from Benwick. Lamb isn’t the meat I’d usually think of for stir-fry, but I bet this is really good. It uses pearled couscous, the larger pebble-size couscous, which Benwick told me in today’s Free Range chat is better when first skillet-toasted before boiling in broth.

5) “Cook the best books of 2012,” by Jane Touzalin and Bonnie S. Benwick. The Food section editors share their picks for the top 30 cookbooks of the year just in time for holiday gift-giving. Making the cut: Modernist Cuisine at Home (see above), blogger Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, local Top Chefs Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian and Carla Hall's Cooking with Love, famed chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, and former Washington Post contributor Kim O’Donnel’s The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations. It’s a great list, although I wish they'd found room for America’s Test Kitchen’s The Science of Good Cooking.


The Washington Post. I really loved the Times’ Severson vs. Moskin holiday food gift smackdown, but even if it weren’t for the presentation problems I pointed out, I would still give it to the Post this week for their coverage of Modernist Cooking at Home, dairy-based holiday cocktails and an argument for restoring the fruitcake.


The Washington Post: 25
The New York Times: 22

1 comment:

  1. What's with all the copy editing errors these days? Don't even get me started on today Post' Style section!