The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.
Washington Post: “Bryan Voltaggio: From a teenager ‘amok’ to ‘Top Chef Masters’,” by Tim Carman.
On the occasion of D.C. area chef Bryan Voltaggio’s (Volt, Range) appearance on Top Chef Masters—the first Top Chef alum to appear on the Masters show for established chefs—Carman writes a deeply personal profile of the man, digging into his troubled past and even interviewing his brother Michael, also a well-known chef. There are a lot of great things about this story, but my favorite part is how Carman describes the reaction of a crowd of Top Chef viewers at Bryan’s restaurant Volt when Michael was announced the season’s winner (famously beating his own brother). Along with the story is a fun gallery of D.C.’s “celebrity” chefs, mostly Top Chef competitors.
New York Times: “A Light That Shines Through the Clouds,” Daniel restaurant review by Pete Wells.
Pete Wells reviews Daniel, the flagship in Daniel Boulud’s restaurant collective and, while giving it a very good review, knocks it from its four-star perch. Wells has many nice things to say about the restaurant, particularly its food. He writes beautifully about the pea soup: “Salty diamonds of smoked sable and a white ring of rosemary-infused cream helped the soup’s purity shine more clearly.” Smartly, Wells realized he’d been recognized and employed a coworker to help test the quality of the service. While Wells received additional amuses and top offs of his glasses of wine, his coworker sat waiting with an empty glass for someone to offer him another. Clearly, a four-star review begs excellence, but I think importantly, also consistency, as Wells has so effectively demonstrated here.
Serious Eats: “Cocktail Science: All About Foams,” by Kevin Liu.
Cocktail science expert and author of (the extraordinarily useful) Craft Cocktails at Home contributes this great piece on the various ways to enhance cocktails with foam. After first describing what a foam is, he dives into various ways of achieving frothy texture in drinks, including traditional methods like using egg white and more complicated ones involving gelatin and cream siphons. For an example of the latter, see my Beasts of the Southern Wild cocktail. (Cocktail term of the week: "dry shake"--to shake cocktail ingredients without ice).
Harvard Business Review: “The Booming Business of Craft Cocktails,” by Sarah Green, HBR Ideacast.
This is a transcript of Green's interview with Thomas Mooney, co-owner and CEO of House Spirits Distillery, the Portland, Oregon-based company that makes Aviation Gin, among other things. They talk the current state of cocktails: how to remain exclusive while growing a business, why American gin is a good alternative to the common London Dry style, the Spanish gin & tonic boom, etc. It's a great read for cocktail geeks.
Eco-Centric: “Real Food Right Now and How to Cook It: Cucumbers,” by Kim O’Donnell.
O’Donnell’s article is like “Cucumbers 101,” providing a nice overview of the vegetable and many tips for how to use it. Disturbingly, she also describes how supermarket varieties are waxed, sometimes with petroleum products (not so at the farmers market, thankfully). Her suggestion to make a cucumber drink with ginger, lime and simple syrup sounds quite refreshing.
Food Republic: “Randy Clemens Knows More About Sriracha Than, Well, Anybody.”
Like a lot of you, I have a bottle of sriracha in my condiments cupboard. But unlike probably all of us, Randy Clemens has 20 different varieties of the popular Thai hot sauce on hand. Clemens is clearly an expert; he’s even penned a cookbook of recipes built around sriracha. I’m intrigued by the idea of using it in a dessert, such as in his recipe for pineapple upside down cake.
Science and Food: “10 More Things You Should Know About Pie,” by Amy Rowat.
My inner nerd emerges whenever someone wants to talk food science, and pie is a dish for which a little science can definitely help ensure success (see my Apple Pie with Vodka Crust, for example). Rowat offers some great tips here, particularly in thinking about how to cut the fruit for the filling and why egg wash is helpful for achieving a good color on the crust.
The Guardian: “How to cook a proper full English breakfast,” by Killian Fox.
Given our current love of all things greasy for breakfast--bacon, doughnuts and (good grief) cronuts, I'm surprised the “proper” English breakfast hasn't become more popular in the U.S. It's not that dissimilar from the classic American breakfast: you have eggs, meat and toast, although you get both sausage and bacon, which means you don't have to choose, and instead of potatoes, you get grilled tomato and braised mushrooms, which, when in season, make a great addition to breakfast. Working with Chef Tom Kerridge, Fox runs through the steps for making the classic British way to start your day.
New York Times: “The Flexitarian: The Whole Story,” by Mark Bittman.
Just a few weeks after writing a great piece on grain salads (which was the inspiration for my salad posted yesterday), Bittman returns to the subject with this Flexitarian column, basically expounding on that infographic with more details about various grains and ways to make interesting salads with them, like Puffed Rice Salad with Chicken.
Esquire: “The Problem with ‘Reinvented’ Comfort Food,” by Josh Ozersky.
Ozersky rants against chefs who take classic comfort dishes, like grilled cheese with tomato soup, and "reinvent" them with upscale flourishes. I like how he dissects such reinvention into three basic camps: modernism (in his words, "something new and weird"), updating (new techniques/ingredients) and basically the same but with better ingredients. I'm not sure I agree it's a problem though when chefs experiment. I think it can be fun to reinterpret an old dish in a new way and not necessarily disrespectful to the original.