Yee Haw: A Roundup of the Roundups
I love the year-end roundups in the food magazines and the food sections of the major daily newspapers such as New York Times. The batch from 2006 was particularly entertaining, informative, and mouthwatering.
FOOD & WINE
Food & Wine came up with an engaging format, 100 Tastes to Try in '07 (although, it must be said, this is most assuredly derivative of the Saveur 100). Among the most enticing items to me: artisanal Swiss cheeses from formaggio-kitchen.com; Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe for Hot Hunan Shrimp (not available online); the fish and chips at Eamonn's Dublin Chipper in Alexandria, Virginia; the malt-ball cake from Brooklyn's Baked; and the fruit chipsapricot, peach, and applefrom crispygreen.com. In my book, losers from the list include exotic ice creams from Vosges, which I have found remarkably lackluster and uninteresting; feta cheesecake (give me a cheesecake made from cream cheese or ricotta anytime); and buckwheat, which may be good for you but is hardly delicious.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
The New York Times roundup included a terrific piece by Marian Burros on the politics of food. My two favorite quotes in the piece both came from Marian Nestle:
"This is the year everyone discovered that food is about politics and people can do something about it. In a world in which people feel more and more distant from global forces that control their lives, they can do something by, as the British put it, 'voting with your trolley,' their word for shopping cart."
Burros's final paragraph:
"The discovery of contaminated produce is happening at a time when advice about eating more fruits and vegetables . seems to be having an impact. So concerns about safety may be contributing to the , success of local farmers' markets. Nestle: "I see this happening everywhere, and it is enormous. It's the recognition that food ties into extremely important social, economic, environmental and institutional issues. Ordinary people don't have access to these really important issues except through food."
Also in the Times, Julia Moskin wrote about the ascendancy of home cooks in the media. According to Moskin, the Food Network has shoved aside Mario Batali for home cooks and faux home cooks like Sandra Lee and Paula Deen. According to Moskin, "it was the year the people took back the food."
What Moskin fails to address is that, at the same time, rock star chefs, such as Batali and Bobby Flay, continue to extend their brands into more and more restaurants and products. What I wish is that Moskin would have tried to reconcile these two trends, though maybe, just maybe, there is no way to do so.
At Bon Appètit they took the expected top trends approach to year's end. The listhumble cuts of meat; gnudi; gastropubs; smart salads; sustainable seafood; daring pairings in dessert; and Los Angeles restaurantsis a combination of the expected (sustainable seafood, daring pairing in desserts, gastropubs), the dull (smart salads), and the puzzling (Los Angeles restaurants?). The recipes (particularly the meat recipes from Bruce Aidells and the desserts from Dorie Greenspan) sound delicious, the sidebars about where to eat these foods are worth cutting out and putting on your fridge, and the bits of real information are most welcome (Fish restaurateur Cindy Walter tells us to eat farm-raised tilapia, mahi-mahi, sturgeon, and striped bass (she claims wild striped bass is just too high in mercury and PCBs).
NEW YORK MAGAZINE
Adam Platt fills his Where to Eat in 2007 cover story with lots of lists, which encourages pundits like me to take exception to those lists. On his best new restaurants list, I would have taken off L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (too inconsistent from dish to dish and terrible value) and Country (insufferably pretentious, though I did like the burger there) and would have added Mai House (maybe the best Vietnamese restaurant in New York, though the music has to go) and Porter House NYC (terrific dry-aged prime steak with fine sides, killer dessertstry the cheesecakeand an incomparable view). Platt actually did an excellent job with the ten best dishes under $10, but I do wonder how he could have left off the Gray's Papaya recession special (two killer, admittedly smallish, natural-casing dogs and a papaya drink for $3.50) or the wonton soup at New Chow Chao. I love the fact that Platt finally acknowledges (after he and New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, among others, failed to do so in their initial reviews) that Joe Ng at Chinatown Brasserie is the best dim sum chef in New York (and maybe the country). Note to Chinatown Brasserie staff: Please lower the attitude quotient.
Platt's list of up-and-coming chefs is spot-on: Michael Psilakis of the closing-this-week Dona (his first restaurant, Onera, is still open and better than ever); David Chang of Momofuku Noodle Bar and Momofuku Ssäm Bar; Will Goldfarb of Room 4 Dessert; and Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park. But his list of the five best egg dishes in New York has some shocking omissions, namely all of George Weld's egg creations at Egg in Williamsburg, and just as egregiously, Tom Valenti's two contributions to the pantheon of egg dishes: his poached egg, house-smoked sturgeon, frisée, and lardon masterpiece, and his even more magnificent house-smoked duck breast, crispy egg, and bitter greens. All of my nitpicking aside, with their year-end wrap-ups, Platt, the New York Times, Bon Appétit, and Food & Wine all provided loads of delicious fun for serious eaters.
Eamonn's Dublin Chipper: 728 King Street, Alexandria VA 22314; eamonnsdublinchipper.com
Baked: 359 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn NY 11231; 718-222-0345
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon: Four Seasons Hotel, 57 East 57th Street, New York NY 10022; 212-350-6658
Country: 90 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10016; 212-889-7100
Mai House: 186 Franklin Street, New York NY 10013; 212-431-0606
Porter House NYC: In the Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10019; 212-823-9500
Gray's Papaya: Various locations in New York City
New Chow Chao: 111 Mott Street, New York NY 10013; 212-226-2590
Chinatown Brasserie: 380 Lafayette Street, New York NY 10003; chinatownbrasserie.com
Dona: 208 East 52nd Street, New York NY 10022; donanyc.com
Onera: 222 West 79th Street, New York NY 10023; oneranyc.com
Momofuku Noodle Bar: 163 First Avenue, New York NY 10003; momofuku.com
Momofuku Ssäm Bar: 207 Second Avenue, New York NY 10003; momofuku.com
Room 4 Dessert: 17 Cleveland Place, New York NY 10012; nyr4d.com
Eleven Madison Park: 11 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10010; elevenmadisonpark.com
Egg: 135 North 5th Street, Brooklyn NY 11211; 718-302-5151