The first Meatball Madness took place last night at the New York Wine and Food Festival, and judging from the attendance and the enthusiasm of the crowd it is fair to say that the event was a runaway success. Twenty-five of New York's top chefs competed—but when the smoke cleared Andrew Carmilini of Locanda Verde won the day, Here are some snapshots:
Judges (l-r): Frank Bruni, Jeffrey Steingarten, Gail Simmons
Michael White served the meatball from the Convivio menu.
When Julie & Julia writer-director Nora Ephron invites Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten to her house to cook, we knew there was bound to be some interesting exchanges between these two scary smart, unintimidatable, and most formidable serious eaters.
Jeffrey doesn't appear as engaged as he does on Iron Chef America, but that could be the editing—or maybe not. The video itself is not as interesting as Jeffrey's article about Nora and the movie, which appears in the August issue of Vogue (unavailable online, of course). The most interesting revelation is in the first sentence of the second paragraph of the piece: "For nearly as long as I can remember, I have envied Nora Ephron." He goes on to write that he has always envied Ephron for "her writing talent and her comic voice."
Visiting Sweden? Hope to impress a Swede? Just want to appear worldly and stylish? The French Culinary Institute's Cooking Issues blog has been posting an ongoing series of photos it calls the Skål!/Skoal! Project that can school you in one small social custom.
The series includes such food-world luminaries as Jeffrey Steingarten, Harold McGee, Wylie Dufresne, and Alan Richman (above), who has perhaps the most extreme skål to date. More pix after the jump.
All right, I admit it. I watched The Chopping Block last night (actually I went back and forth between it and the Knicks game—a pathetic sight). While I still dislike the show, I was thrilled to see my friend Jeffrey Steingarten playing the role he loves: the acid-tongued food critic.
In real life there's a sweet, sentimental side to Jeffrey that's he's rarely, if ever, called upon to show on television. But even when Jeffrey's filling the hard-ass critic role on food competition reality shows, he also manages to be funny, though the joke is often lost on the poor contestants he's addressing. Last night, for example, he commented on one team's Caprese salad by saying, "This is the worst thing I've tasted in two or three years."Ouch. (It should be noted that he then excessively praised the same team's crab cakes). But maybe I can find the humor in such pronouncements because I've known Jeffrey for so long and I know he was just saying it for effect.
I've always wanted to give Jeffrey his own reality show, and after watching The Chopping Block I'm convinced more than ever that it would be a huge hit. I think Jeffrey has the potential to be a bigger reality show television star than, say, Marco Pierre White or Gordon Ramsay.
What do you think: Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, or Jeffrey Steingarten? Cast your vote right here. Maybe the losers have to go on the cooking reality show chopping block.
As the Beijing Olympics enter their first full week, we thought we'd let you know that our friend Jeffrey Steingarten, writing in Vogue magazine, gives a list of his 18 favorite Beijing restaurants.
He also wants you to know that when noted Chinese food expert Fuchsia Dunlop went to the Chinese capital on a recent trip, she took one of his recommendations, went to a restaurant even she had never been to, and said it was one of the best restaurant meals she had ever had in the city. That restaurant is:
Chang Pu He Garden, 140 Nanchizi Street
On the eastern side of the Forbidden City
+86-10-8511-5556 or 8511-5557
If you want the guide, here's the deal: You have to go to vogue.com and scroll down toward the bottom, where you'll see an item titled "Lost in Beijing." I'd give you a direct link if I could, but the Vogue site does not give you the option of direct-linking. Sorry.
Jeffrey Steingarten attached his obsessive, fertile food brain to the not-so-lowly hamburger in this month's Vogue magazine, and the results were mouthwateringly insane. Since the good folks at Vogue don't share well with others (the magazine doesn't put Steingarten's pieces online), I am going to do my best to summarize his findings. I also managed to talk to Steingarten for a few minutes about hamburgers, so stay tuned.
Steingarten on hamburger greatness:
What do we demand of the perfect hamburger? That the meat patty be profoundly beefy in flavor, mouthwateringly browned on the outside, and succulent (a combination of juicy and tender) on the inside. The bread or bun should not interfere with any of these virtues. It should be soft, mild, and unassertive; its job is to absorb every last drop of savory juice trickling from the meat while keeping the burger more or less in one piece and your hands dry. Mouthwatering, beefy, juicy, and tender—not too much to ask from life, but entirely elusive, at least to me. It's not as though I haven't tried. God knows, I've tried.
Where his hamburger exploration takes him after the jump.
We should all live in Jeffrey Steingarten's world. As food critic for Vogue, he's got one of the best food-related jobs out there, exploring the universe of very fine dining on his employer's dime. For the March issue of the tony fashion magazine, Steingarten was asked by his editor to hire a personal chef for two weeks and report on the experience.
Bonus material: The Great Bread Debate"soft, squishy British bread" vs. "incinerated, burnt, crusty bread." And, the last of the outtakes from our video microseries.
Adam Kuban's recent curry rice feature prompted a few commenters to fret about MSG, a phenomenon that always reminds me of the essay from Jeffrey Steingarten's collection It Must've Been Something I Ate, in which he points out that a) the Chinese, who eat MSG every day, are not suffering from debilitating headaches en masse, and b) foods like Parmesan cheese and ketchup contain enough free glutamate to trigger headaches in people who say they're affected by MSG but no one ever complains about them.
The Guardian's Alex Renton wrote a great article two years ago about the mythology of MSG that goes from the discovery of umami, to the mass production of MSG, to the 1968 article that triggered the spurious conflation of MSG with Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. From the piece: "Science has still not found a convincing explanation for CRS: indeed, some researchers suggest it may well be to do with the other things diners have imbibed there - peanuts, shellfish, large amounts of lager. Others say that fear of MSG is a form of mass psychosis - you suffer the symptoms you've been told to worry about." Renton himself experiments with the stuff, to hilarious results.
Posted by Adam Kuban, December 13, 2006 at 11:00 AM
In this episode of Table for Two, Curb Your Enthusiasm's Susie Essman has lunch with Vogue food critic Jeffrey Steingarten. Essman reveals her cannot-eat-list, which Steingarten, when handed the menu, ignores.
I've been blown away by the quality of the entries for the Win A Dinner with Jeffrey Steingarten and Me contest. The breadth of candidates offered up by entrants (To enter you have to tell me in a hundred words or less who your favorite food critic is and why) has been impressive indeed: Frank Bruni, John T. Edge of Oxford, Mississippi, Robb Walsh of Houston, Texas, Calvin Trillin, the late R.W. Apple, Ruth Reichl, Peter Meehan (current $25 and under critic at the NY Times, Jonathan Kauffman (formerly of the East Bay Express), blogger Clotide Dusoulier, Roy Andries de Groot, A.A. Gill, Anthony Bourdain, and Jane and Michael Stern.
But we still need about 25 more entries before ending the entry process. Remember, this is not an election. You can write about one of the above-mentioned writers or someone brand new. So enter right here. Steingarten and I await the pleasure of your company.
My friend Tom is on his way to Barcelona, so of course he asked me where he should eat. I've never been to Barcelona (a shocking admission for a foodie), so I immediately called Jeff Steingarten, who's eaten everywhere. Alexander Lobrano has a pretty comprehensive take on Barcelona food on Epicurious. Generally I find Lobrano, who has lived in Paris for almost twenty years, to be pretty reliable if a little snooty. Time Out Barcelona also devotes a fair amount of space to food, but in general I find Time Out's writers all over the world to be inexperienced and not as knowledgeable as they should be. Steingarten just called, and as he doesn't have an assistant he can't find the piece in Vogue he wrote on Barcelona restaurants. But a lovely woman at Vogue named Phyllis Rifield graciously faxed me the article, which is from August of 2002. Steingarten told me on the phone that Cal Pep (Placa de las Olles 8 (93-310-79-61) is the one place you must go (get there early, he says, or be prepared to wait quite a while for a table). Other Tapas spots Steingarten likes are Estrella De Plata (Placa de Palau 13 (93-268-06-35), Cata 181, Valencia 181 (93-323-68-18), Santa Maria, Comerc 17, (93-315-12-27), and El Xampanyet, Montcada 22 (93-319-70-03). I'm jealous, Tom. I want a full report.
I'm in a Gael Greene groove today, maybe because she's my neighbor AND because her sexy memoir is about to come out (more about that later), so here's her late 2004 take on Parisian restaurants . I'm going to call Jeffrey Steingarten to get his latest take on Paris, and with any luck I will post it today sometime. Jeffrey is sometimes very difficult to get a hold of, but I'll do my best.