Food Republic Where Food, Drink & Culture Unite Wed, 29 Jun 2016 19:47:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Here’s Why We’re Hard-Wired To Love The “Cheese Pull” Wed, 29 Jun 2016 19:30:41 +0000 Behold: one of the oldest and most important tricks in the food marketing book. We’ve even said it ourselves in the confines of the Food Republic Test Kitchen: “Make sure you get the cheesy pull-away shot.” Of course we’ll get the cheesy pull-away shot — we wouldn’t dream of passing up that kind of guaranteed success. We’d put cheese where cheese doesn’t even go, just to capture that moment. If you stuffed an eclair with mozzarella just to slowly yank it apart for the purpose of grabbing our attention, we’d call it fair game. And considering our limitless attention span for rainbows and dairy elasticity, the instant fame of the rainbow grilled cheese was only a matter of time.

According to Quartz, when advertising agencies discovered the universal currency that is the cheesy pull, their brains are essentially hijacked by strong positive memories of comfort, fullness and sharing food with loved ones. Watching cheese stretch “brings people into the moment and gets them out of their right minds,” says Mark DiMassimo, chief executive of the advertising agency DiMassimo Goldstein. “They have this iconic bit of hunger transmitted to their brains and they just without thinking go out and eat a lot of the product.”

This transmission, related to the synapses that made you addicted to cheese in the first place, will always be a valuable asset to marketers of things that make you go “Well, I probably shouldn’t, but…”

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Now There’s An Ugly-Produce Version Of Mr. Potato Head Wed, 29 Jun 2016 18:00:35 +0000 The new Mr. Potato Head is truer to his ugly produce self. (Photo: Hasbro.)
The new Mr. Potato Head is truer to his ugly-produce self. (Photo: Hasbro.)

We’re in the midst of a toy revolution, people. First there were fuller, realistic Barbie dolls — now there are realistic Mr. Potato Heads!

In sync with the ugly-produce movement, toy company Hasbro has teamed up with British food-waste charity FareShare to create the “Wonky Mr. Potato Head,” according to Hello Giggles. The elongated, lopsided potato–shaped toy is currently available for bidding on eBay with all proceeds going toward FareShare. The current bid (at noon today) is at $313.

With the toy’s new shape, we can all make our Picasso masterpieces even more Picasso-y.

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Bob Marcelli On Real Italian Cheese And Lessons From James Beard Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:00:31 +0000 Self-professed “recovering chef” Bob Marcelli is founder of cheesemaker and importer Marcelli Formaggi. Trained under the legendary James Beard himself, Marcelli discovered that cheesemaking runs deep in his family, and has for centuries. Upon visiting his grandfather’s native village in Abruzzo, Italy, his calling quickly turned from chef to producer, and his cheeses and imported goods have been impressing the culinary world ever since.

We sat down with a whole bunch of his remarkable cheeses (including a juniper-smoked ricotta that’s basically Polly-O’s hot Italian cousin), as well as pasta, olive oil, honey and jarred specialties like tomato sauce, pesto and bruschetta, all made in small — tiny, really — batches by his family and friends. Ask me what I did last weekend. Well, since you ask, I ate two pounds of various Pecorinos. That’s right, various.


Tell me about how your family’s roots in Abruzzo.
It’s where my ancestors are from — my family’s been in this village since the 1500s. About 12 years ago, my dad wanted to go to the village of his father and mother. My grandfather left around 1916 at age 18, came to America and never went back. One time I asked him, “Grandpa, why did you leave this beautiful little village?” And he said, “To eat.” Not to escape the fascists, it wasn’t anything political like that, he just wanted to eat. Abruzzo is historically one of the most impoverished areas of Italy, and a lot of that has to do with the terrain. It’s incredibly mountainous — I mean rugged, rugged mountains. It was so impassible that there was no real industry. It was also very isolated, not just economically, but families were very close-knit. I think that’s where their outlook on life came from: “This is how we do things and there isn’t a lot of room for innovation.”

The good news about that is, because it was never really industrialized, the land is incredibly pristine. Abruzzo has more national park space than any other area of Europe. What that means is that the products that are produced there are just incredibly pure, pristine and simple, and that translates into the cheese.

What inspired this first trip back?
My father was getting on in age and he’d never been there, so he wanted to go home, if you will. I remember saying to my brothers on the first day of the trip, “What are we going to do with ourselves in this little place for three days?” I remember my dad saying, “We should do something with the village.” Nothing specific, so we sampled some cheese and when I tasted the cheese my cousin made, I was like, “This is real cheese.”

My wife and I went back about six months later, talked to my cousin a lot more and over the course of four years we got to the point where we didn’t go anywhere in Italy but the village. I tried to convince my cousin, saying, “I think there’s a market for this in America. It’s not just okay cheese, it’s extraordinary.” It wasn’t about me changing their production schedules or making it a different way, but even the concept of change from their routine was kind of hard for them to grasp.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
People always think Americans come into a situation like we know everything, like “This is good, but you should really do it this way.” So, I said, “I will never ever say anything about how you make the cheese.” They appreciated that, and we’re 10 years in now.


What kind of sheep does this extraordinary cheese come from? 
The breed is Soppravizzano, it’s an ancient breed. At one time, there were more than three million of these sheep in Abruzzo, and today there are maybe 500,000, so it’s a very rare breed that produces half the milk of a normal breed of sheep. It’s easy to explain to a chef — I say it’s like working with a reduction. It’s concentrated. They identified over 120 wild herbs and flowers in the pastures where the sheep graze, so that’s what you’re tasting.


Not many American companies import soft pecorino cheese, which is nothing like Pecorino Romano. It’s creamy, mild, practically spreadable.
It’s nothing like anything, it’s very unique. Pecorino Gregoriano a little sheepy, a few hints of blue, a little mushroomy. It’s named after the cheesemaker whose name is Gregorio. Gregorio thinks very highly of himself and he came up with the recipe, so he named it after himself.

There’s also Pecorino di Parco, which means “pecorino of the park,” aged five to six months. My cousin calls it the “flower of the sheep.” It’s the beautiful floral flavor that’s not overly salty. When you say “pecorino,” people say, “Romano!” Can you imagine eating a piece of Pecorino Romano? You’d be like, “Whoa! Where’s the water?” [Laughs] The way that they make things is really to be eaten, not to just be grated on a bowl of pasta.

What are the cheesemaking facilities like? 
It’s a very, very, very simple process. Everything is done by hand. The only machine is the steam kettle that the milk goes in to bring up the temperature a little bit. They don’t even have an electric paddle. They do it by hand with a big whisk.

Do you think they would ever be interested in mechanizing the process, or is doing it by hand part of the point?
It’s the whole point. If you were in the business of making cheese, explain why would you pick an animal that produces so little milk. The sheep eat the same amount, it’s the same amount of effort to care for them. It’s because — and this is the thing that blows me away about these folks — it’s their life, and they’re respecting centuries of tradition. It’s not that they don’t want to do anything in a different way, they would say ,“Why? Could you make that better?” I don’t think so. The production is such that this [product] will never be available everywhere.

Given that the FDA has a bit of a reputation for being a stickler for things like cheese, what’s been the most challenging part of importing these products to the states?
The pasta.


You’re kidding me.
I’m not kidding. This is a bronze-cut pasta. It’s beautiful, it’s air-dried for about 48 hours, it’s a remarkable product, but there’s an anti-dumping law, which means years ago, the ways that companies in countries get their products in markets like ours is that they sell products for less than they cost to make. They’re at an advantage over an American product because it costs less. Because we make a tremendous amount of pasta at this company, there’s a law, I pay 19 percent duty on the pasta. And on this cheese? Zero.

I’m sure you didn’t know any of this before you jumped into the business.
We knew absolutely nothing. These producers, they’re not shippers, they’re in the business of making products. So we tried to figure out a way from the States how to get it here. My eldest son, Andrew, who started the company with me, spent six months on the farm, every day on the phone talking to Italian shippers. “No, we don’t ship to America.” We even went to the Italian Trade Commission and said, “Can you help us? We found this great product, how do we get it here?” They said, “Oh, we don’t do that.” “Well, what do you mean?” “If you came to us and said ‘I want pasta,’ we can put you in touch with a bunch of producers, but we can’t help in terms of getting it there.”

How is pasta the most complicated part of your business when imported cheese gets such a bad rap?
Not only is it complicated, but as Americans, as New Yorkers, we’re a little impatient. I’ve had to learn to just take my hands off the wheel. They’re going to have it ready when it’s ready. That’s been the hardest part, but I’ve grown to appreciate what it takes for them to do it. We have more inventory in our warehouse than they have in their warehouse. Why? They don’t make it unless someone orders it. I place an order for dry pasta, it’s going to take them a month and a half to make it. They have one machine. There are four people in the company. It’s Papa, who’s got to be in his 80s, wife, same age, and their only son and daughter-in-law. That’s the company. The honey producers: Papa, Mama, daughter.

Is all the cheese you sell from the village?
All of the cheese is from my cousin’s cooperative.

Any recent newcomers to the lineup?
(Marcelli hands me a piece of cheese) This is called ricotta passita. They hadn’t made a new cheese in probably 10 years.

That’s the sharpest ricotta I’ve ever had. I didn’t know ricotta did that.
Passita means “dry.” So what they do is they rub this in olive oil, work in dry herbs that you would find in the fields and some peperoncino. We didn’t even know they were making this new cheese until we were there. We were like “Why didn’t you say?” They said, “Oh, I don’t know.”

One of the cheeses you sell that stood out to me was Manteca Podolico Colantuano: butter preserved in cheese. Why are we not preserving all of our butter in cheese because that sounds like incredible butter.
It’s a lot of work, that’s why. This is made by one of the very few female cheese makers in Italy. She’s referred to as “the last cowgirl” because she practices the transhumance, which is the ancient tradition of taking the animals, either to the summer pasture or from the summer pasture. The original roadways in Italy were really built along the shepherds’ paths. What’s unusual about this is that the Podolico cow is a rare breed, another low-milk producer — that’s the common thread in my cousin’s cooperative is that they only have animals that are low-milk producers. They don’t make a ton of cheese. So imagine: We’re out here in the pastures, there’s no running back hundreds of miles to the casa to get something. They make the butter, spin it in caciocavallo so there’s a very thin layer of cheese on the outside and then it’s preserved and tastes like the cheese.

Is that something you just put on bread?
We were [in the village] in the winter sitting around the fireplace, drinking wine and eating cheese with salumi. My cousin ran out of the kitchen, brought out some bread, put the grate on the fire, rubbed some fresh garlic cloves on the bread, toasted it right in there and then just cut off a piece of the butter and let it melt on top.

How did you end up being taught by James Beard himself?
I wonder what I would be doing if I had gone to cooking school. I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll go to the CIA.” But I was living in Maine and wanted to study with somebody first and see if it was something that I really want to do. I had the Manhattan Yellow Pages and Jim Beard cookbooks (we called him Jim), so I got his phone number and called. “Yes, James Beard Cooking School?” “Hi, my name is Bob Marcelli and I’d like to speak to somebody about classes.” “Hi, Bob. This is Mr. Beard.”

You called James Beard in the Yellow Pages?
He said, “We’d love to have you come down.” Classes were equal to about three mortgage payments for us, but I had to do it. So I’m in this class situation, and this is James Beard. You’re basically studying with God.

Was the cooking school in his house?
No, up by Columbus Circle. One day we were making a corn and crab soup and everyone was going, “What do you think?” “It’s wonderful.” I raised my hand, nothing to lose. “I think it could use something.” And Jim was sitting in his tall director’s chair. “Well, Bob, what do you think it needs?” And I went, “Bourbon, because sherry is a normal ingredient in those things.” And he went, “Wow! Yes!”

Was that the kind of teacher he was?
Yes. So, he came up to me that day and said, “We have to talk.” I started to come down to visit him once, twice a month and we just talked. He said, “You should really come down to New York.” He introduced me to Larry [Forgione] who was just about to open his first restaurant. It was really extraordinary and humbling and it taught me, “We’re cooking food. It’s not brain surgery.” Respect the ingredients; respect the people you work with. Meeting James Beard completely changed my life, the direction, the life of my children.

What do you think he would’ve thought of your cheeses?
He would’ve just been blown away.

Is this crazy or a good idea?

Well, what are you going to do with the cheese afterwards? I think this is for presentation. I can’t imagine anyone in Abruzzo…

What do you think they would say if they saw this?
They’d shake their heads and they’d say, “Why?”

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10 Of Our Favorite Grilling Tips And Techniques Wed, 29 Jun 2016 15:00:47 +0000 With Fourth of July weekend just around the corner and temperatures poking up out of the 80s and creeping into the 90s, summer has undoubtedly arrived in full force. What better way to celebrate than by firing up the backyard grill and trying out your latest and greatest steak, burger, ribs, chicken and sausage recipes? Even the most experienced of home grillers has some sort of lingering questions, however, and that’s where we come in here at Food Republic. Perhaps you’re unsure about just how much lighter fluid to use, or maybe you’re wondering how to infuse a bit of ethnic flavor into your traditional recipes. Feel like you’re finally ready to take on the challenge of cooking a whole hog? Whatever your query, we’ve rounded up some of our most popular grilling tips and techniques from the past few years, in hopes that you’ll learn something new while continuing to impress your guests with your culinary prowess.

1.Alabama pitmaster (and barbecue circuit legend) Chris Lilly talks about the biggest mistakes home grillers can make and which drinks to pair with grilled meats. He also reminisces about that time that some guy grilled a fruit roll-up.


2. How much lighter fluid should you be using? Turns out — fun as it may be to squirt it all over a live fire — not that much.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 4.20.14 PM

3. So you got caught up in the hype and sprung for a Big Green Egg. But how to best use it? NYC chef Harold Dieterle has some ideas. Recipes included.


4. Everyone dreads cleaning the grill at the end of the night (or leaving it unattended and scrubbing it down months later). Here’s how to do it simply with two items you have in your kitchen right now — no brush included!


5. Ever grill too much food for your backyard dinner? We all have. Here’s how to reheat it properly the next day without killing it.


6. Feeling like a light summer dinner? This ultimate grilled salad recipe fits the bill and is sure to please the masses.


7. Thinking more ambitious? How about following this step-by-step guide to cooking a whole hog?


8. Want to know the best way to toast a hamburger bun? Hint: A wet towel is required. Right this way!

photo: adrielsocrates on Flickr
(Photo: adrielsocrates/Flickr)

9. How about some Korean, Mexican and Thai grilling tips? We’ve got all three of ’em here.

barbecue sauce recipe
(Photo: Kendra Bailey Morris)

10. Craving homemade barbecue sauce? We couldn’t decide on just one recipe to recommend, so take a look at a slideshow of 11 of our most popular tangy, spicy blends.

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How This Belgian Beer Pipeline Could Solve Some of Bruges’s Traffic Woes Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:30:05 +0000 Trucks have long been the choice of transportation for beer. But for one Belgian brewer, the Bruges streets that lay between De Halve Maan’s brewery and its bottling plant were too narrow for beer-carrying trucks, and traffic was starting to pile up. That’s when De Halve Maan owner Xavier Vanneste decided to build a two-mile-long pipeline that would transfer ready-to-bottle beer from the brewery to the bottling plant, according to The Architects Newspaper.

When faced with the problem, Vanneste had the option to move the brewery, which is situated in the center of Bruges, closer to the bottling plant (just outside the city). Instead, he crowdfunded the underground pipeline.

The Architects Newspaper reports that 1,060 gallons of beer will travel 12 miles per hour in the pipeline from the brewery to the bottling plant. The pipeline was approved by Bruges city officials in September 2014 and was recently finished. The pipeline is now in the testing stages, with late August as the projected start date for operations.

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A Step-By-Step Guide To Homemade Hot Dogs Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:00:39 +0000 Food Republic’s column Ask Your Butcher seeks to answer FAQs in the world of butchery. Ethically minded butcher Bryan Mayer has opened butcher shops and restaurants and has trained butchers in the U.S. and abroad. He helped develop the renowned butcher-training program at Fleishers, where he is currently director of butchery education. In each column, Mayer tackles a pressing issue facing both meat buyers and home cooks. With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, he delves into the world of homemade hot dogs. Now that’s some serious BBQ bragging rights on the line.

We can debate the merits of hamburgers versus hot dogs until, well, the cows come home, but there’s no denying the superiority of meat in a tube on a bun in terms of portability and global varieties. From Sweden’s Tunnbrodsrulle to South Africa’s Boerewors to Australia’s Dagwood Dog (its version of a corndog), hot dogs have earned their place in the hierarchy of street food.

And if the spice of the meats isn’t enough for you, hot dogs are the perfect vessels for relish, chutney, sauerkraut or just about any topping you can think of. Smoke them, poach them, grill them, fry them and top them with whatever. And yes, ketchup is totally fine. Whether you use all beef, mix in pork, poultry or make your own special blend, we’re going to help you create something far superior to those commercial hot dogs you buy at the supermarket. And most importantly, you’ll know the source of your ingredients.

Before we get into the process of making your own hot dogs, let’s dive into a little bit of history surrounding what some consider to be the world’s oldest processed food. Legends of its origins stretch all the way to Babylon and Cyprus — hot dogs are even referenced in The Odyssey! After all, what better snack for Odysseus to indulge in following a ten-year war? This all may be more fiction than fact, but the debate still rages on in regards to the hot dog’s origins. Frankfurt, Vienna and Coburg all lay claim to the invention.

It was not until the 19th century, however, that we started to see what we now know as the hot dog here in America. And once again, a debate raged from Brooklyn to Chicago concerning who created it. But what is a hot dog, really? Well, that depends on where you get it. The joke amongst butchers and consumers is that a hot dog is made up of lips and assholes. And while maybe that might have been true in your grandmother’s day, hot dogs today are mostly limited to skeletal meat (muscle attached to bone). If they contain anything other than skeletal meat, they must be labeled “with by-products” or “with variety meats,” and if there’s any extender or binders, those must be listed as well. That all sounds like a dubious ingredient list. So what we recommend is purchasing your hot dogs from your local, whole-animal butcher shop, which is more likely to keep the ingredients simple and use meat from pastured animals.

Hot dogs today are largely made up of skeletal meat. We recommend buying them from your local butcher shop.

Or how about making your own? Why, you ask? Well, in addition to knowing the source of your ingredients, making emulsified sausages is the next natural step in your homemade sausage game, and you probably have all the equipment you need (if you own a sausage stuffer). There’s just one key point to keep in mind here — temperature! Now, this applies to all sausages, but since you’re making an emulsified sausage, you’ll be left with a hot dog that has a grainy texture if your meat should go above 40°F. Work in batches to ensure that you keep the temperature cold, make sure to return your mix to the freezer in between, and use a good amount of ice water when emulsifying in a food processor. Those moving parts generate a bit of heat from friction. In addition, you’ll keep your stuffer and grinder parts in the fridge. This will ensure that every surface the meat comes into contact with is cold.

I like an all-beef hot dog. If you read “Ask the Butcher” regularly, you know my penchant for shank meat. Its deep, rich flavor is perfect for a hot dog. Your meat grinder might have a difficult time cutting through all that sinew, so if you use shank meat, have your butcher grind it for you. If you plan on grinding at home, neck meat will work great as another option. You’re looking for an 80/20 lean-to-fat ratio, so the addition of chuck is perfect. Let’s get started!

Sheep casings are thin and help achieve that traditional hot dog snap.

Servings: Around 40, assuming a five- to six-inch twist-off per sausage


  • 5 pounds fully pastured/grass-fed beef (either ground by your butcher or in cubes for you to grind at home)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of celery seed
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • Just over 1 cup ice-cold water
  • Sheep casings (24-26 mm)



  1. If you’ve purchased beef cubes and/or fat from your butcher, place them on a baking pan and place in your freezer. You don’t want to freeze the meat; you just want a crunchy exterior surface.
  2. Once the meat is sufficiently cold, nest a nonreactive bowl into another containing ice (keeping things cold here) and quickly grind. If things start to warm up, you can grind a few small pieces of ice with your meat to bring the temp back down.
  3. Add your spices to the ground meat and mix until thoroughly combined. You’ll also want to add just a bit of ice water here to help with the bind. You’ll know it’s mixed well when it becomes tacky and starts to stick to the bowl. Place the meat back into the freezer and set up your food processor.
  4. Working quickly, place your meat and about half the ice water in the bowl of your food processor and begin to mix. Continue adding the ice water to this process, which should take no more than 5-6 minutes. If you’re like me, you’re constantly worried about breaking your emulsion, so work in batches, returning what’s been emulsified to the freezer. When you’re done emulsifying, it’s time to test both for taste and to ensure that the emulsion has not been broken.
  5. Spoon a tablespoon of the farce into a pan and cook. Adjust your spices if needed, and if it exudes any water, your emulsion is broken. Let’s not let that happen. At this point you can cover your farce and place it in your refrigerator overnight. This allows for fuller flavor development as the meat proteins react with the spices.


  1. You’re now ready to stuff! You’ve kept your stuffer and its parts in the fridge in order to keep it cool and your farce has either been in the fridge overnight or in the freezer while you set up your stuffer.
  2. Sheep casings are what you’ll use here as they are thinner and help with that traditional hot dog snap. I like a slightly larger one at about 24-26 mm, since they’re easier to work with. And of course, just as we do with our non-emulsified sausages, you’ll soak and flush them to remove any excess salt.
  3. Place a sheet pan, with a bit of water on it, underneath the nozzle of your stuffer and quickly begin to fill the casings. The watered sheet pan helps the filled casings move easily away from the tip of the nozzle.
  4. Once your casings are filled, twist off into desired lengths and it’s back into the fridge while you get your cooking implements set up.


  1. You can poach, roast or smoke. You’re looking for an internal temp of around 145°-150°F. That’ll happen in a 170°F smoker in about an hour, in a 200°F oven in about 30 minutes, or, how I like to do them, in a water bath of 160°F for about 30 minutes. Once the sausages are fully poached, you’ll want to toss them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  2. Since they are fully cooked, you’re only looking to finish them, and that can be done in a few ways. My two favorites are once again poached, in something like sauerkraut, or sliced lengthwise and cooked on a flat cooking surface.
  3. For the first method, pour the sauerkraut and its liquid into an aluminum pan, and along with the hot dogs bring to a bubble over direct heat. This should take about five minutes. Slide them over to the cool side of your grill and in about ten minutes, you’ll have perfectly heated, unwrinkly hot dogs! Pop them directly on the grill for a minute or two for a bit of char.
  4. The second method is kind of self-explanatory. This will take about five minutes.
  5. As for buns, let’s keep things simple here with the old standby — Martin’s potato roll. Save the split tops for your lobster. I don’t love to grill buns as I don’t need any extra crunch. I like them steamed: Place a wire rack over an aluminum tray of water and heat that water over direct heat on your grill. You’ve got steamed buns!
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How Natural Wine Is Driving The Lower East Side Dining Scene Wed, 29 Jun 2016 13:00:35 +0000

On a quiet, dark, cobblestone street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is the epicenter of natural wine in downtown New York City. On any given night at the Ten Bells, you’ll not only find couples flirting over oysters and sparkling wine made in the pétillant-naturel style, but there will likely also be an internationally celebrated winemaker casually hanging out while some of the city’s top wine directors and retailers mingle and sample the juice. Yeah, just another Thursday night at the bar with renowned and historically significant Burgundian producer Philippe Pacalet. Hashtag: “NBD.”

It was at the Ten Bells that Jorge Riera — who introduced drinkers to natural wines in the early 2000s while working at the influential but now-defunct Brooklyn restaurant 360 — met two young chefs who would take natural wine to new heights. Fabian von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone used the Ten Bells for brainstorming sessions when they were planning their critically acclaimed Orchard Street restaurants, the more formal Contra and the wine bar Wildair. Von Hauske had worked at Noma in Copenhagen, Stone at Rino and Chateaubriand in Paris — two European restaurants with natural-wine lists — and they knew they wanted this special juice at their New York City establishments.

Now, people line up at Wildair half an hour before it opens to get in, eager to sample Stone and von Hauske’s farm-fresh small plates and imbibe a bottle of funky, natural wine selected by Riera.

Natural wine is a niche within the broader global market, and its production is defined by the lack of chemicals in the vineyard and cellar. While the term “natural” within the food industry may raise eyebrows, as it has been largely discredited there thanks to overuse, saying that a wine is “natural” has much more meaning. This is partly because wine directors and importers work closely with a small handful of producers around the world, and these relationships are built on trust and transparency: Importers and sommeliers know that a “natural” wine is made organically, without additives that change the way it tastes, through visiting these small wineries and vineyards over the years.

Not only are natural wines made from organic grapes, they are lower in sulfur — a preservative that arrests fermentation and kills bacteria — which renders them more alive, fresher. They also won’t be acidulated or have added sugar or tannins, both practiced in most commercial winemaking. You may say, “Well, who cares that much if I put a few chemicals in my body? It’s wine!” Yes, but health isn’t the only question here. It’s also about taste. Natural wine can have a profound purity and expressiveness that doesn’t always show in conventional wine.

And the Lower East Side of Manhattan has become something of an unofficial home base for drinkers of this quirky juice. Beyond Contra, Wildair and the Ten Bells, there is Sel Rrose, a beautiful, casual spot with an Art Nouveau–inspired design, serving French-inflected fare and a selection of natural wines chosen by noted sommelier Doreen Winkler. Natural wines also accentuate the Asian-influenced flavors at nearby hot spots Fung Tu and Mission Chinese Food.

Mission Chinese beverage director Sam Anderson, tattooed from the neck down, is an embodiment of the natural-wine ethos: “I don’t have fucking time to go to wine school; I’m an autodidact,” he explains. Instead, he learned about natural wines on the job, tasting with distributors, and he has subsequently crafted the Mission Chinese Food wine list through “intuition and heart,” he says. For natural wine, as opposed to fine wine more broadly — you know, the Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo categories — a liberal-arts ethos may be more useful than formal knowledge of appellations and vintage charts. That’s because there’s so much emphasis on the stories behind producers and their vineyards. In his restaurant-industry career, Anderson has had more experience with mixology, which he says is “good for approaching natural wine because it’s more free of genre.” Anderson also strives to emphasize both the cocktails and the wines at Mission Chinese, something he believes is not often achieved at restaurants.

Natural wine isn’t easy to work with, as chef Amanda Cohen is learning. When she reopened her artful vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy on the Lower East Side in 2015, the chef chose to delineate a section for natural wines on the new menu. Cohen had become smitten by natural wines over time after the importer Camille Riviere turned her on to them, and her palate for them was honed on a trip to Paris, which has a growing number of natural-wine bars.

“When we opened the big restaurant, I was excited to do all natural wines,” says Cohen. “[But] we didn’t quite do that in the end. It’s still a hard sell, and I still have to make money.” The reality that Dirt Candy is experiencing is that natural wines are esoteric, despite the recent surge in popularity — and not everyone likes them. Without added sulfur, a wine can occasionally develop powerful, “barnyard-y” odors and tastes, which doesn’t suit many wine drinkers.

“Sometimes people think the natural wines have gone bad,” Cohen says. “They’re like, ‘It’s really funky,’ and we’re like, ‘Yes, natural wines can be funky.’” That’s the reason behind having a specific section on the menu for natural wines. And Cohen enjoys comparing the two sections, exploring how different Pinot Noir can be stylistically.

There are nine notable restaurants serving natural wine in the Lower East Side alone.
There are eight notable restaurants serving natural wine on the Lower East Side alone.

Ultimately, though, the vegetarian theme of the restaurant seems to turn people away from drinking, and alcohol sales at the new Dirt Candy location have been dismal, reports Cohen. Do people think “vegetarian” means “drink water instead of wine”? Possibly, and it’s also a question of the new space, says Cohen. At the old location, which had only nine tables, “We could spend the time talking about wine, and people wanted to sit and stay and learn,” the chef says. “Here, it’s harder. We just don’t have that moment at the table to explain.”

Natural wines require some explanation, indeed. They often feature unrecognizable heritage grape varieties that even trained sommeliers are unfamiliar with (although natural Chardonnay certainly exists, too). “I encourage dialogue and conversations,” says Riera of Contra and Wildair, “and I provoke people, too.” This is true: If you walk into the casual small-plates wine bar Wildair, be ready for Riera to simply tell you what he thinks you should drink. It’s a list that reflects his own tastes, and he is proud to personally know many of the featured producers.

Riera is glad to see how much the scene on the Lower East Side has developed in recent years, despite the eccentricity of natural wine (and despite its relatively small production; you cannot find it in grocery stores or large retailers, for example). “You’ve got people coming here just for the juice,” he says, although it’s worth mentioning that Wildair and Contra are critically acclaimed restaurants, with Wildair recently earning notice as a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s coveted Best New Restaurant award. About 20 percent of the guests at Wildair and Contra haven’t tried natural wines before, says Riera, but they are curious and open-minded.

You’ll find mostly European names on the wine list at Wildair and Contra; Riera is especially partial to Spanish producers, as well as the French, who really led the way with natural wine starting in the 1980s. Meanwhile, at the tapas restaurant and natural wine bar the Ten Bells, wine director Sev Perru has made a concentrated effort to emphasize American winemakers who have eschewed chemicals and sought out unique, older vineyards.

“I think the soul of natural wines is the people who make them,” says Perru. The idea behind “Meet the Winemaker” nights at the Ten Bells is to “have producers and consumers in the same room,” with the winemaker’s juice on offer by the glass at discounted prices so people can taste and talk together. These winemakers come from near and far to visit New York and meet the industry professionals and everyday people who love their products. And Perru has made extra effort to highlight natural winemakers from California, New York, Oregon and Vermont. For upcoming “Meet the Winemakers” nights, which are very casual, and open and free to everyone, check the Ten Bells Instagram feed and website.

A more recent addition to the neighborhood’s wine-centric roster is Le Turtle on the Lower East Side, which has an emphasis on natural wine. Of course, the cooking at Le Turtle is noteworthy (New Yorkers will likely have heard about the heritage Sassoo chicken dish) for its creativity and top ingredients, which is only enhanced by the excellent bottles on offer. Its addition to the Lower East Side scene proves that the neighborhood has become the unofficial NYC home base for chefs who believe in natural wine and its freshness, its unpredictability, and its artisanal nature. It’s the place for those who are not only hungry for authenticity, but thirsty for it, too.

Contra, 138 Orchard St., New York, NY 10002; 212-466-4633;

Dirt Candy, 86 Allen St., New York NY 10002; 212-228-7732;

Fung Tu, 22 Orchard St., New York, NY 10002; 212-219-8785;

Mission Chinese, 171 E. Broadway, New York, NY 10002;

Sel Rrose, 1 Delancey St., New York, NY 10002; 212-226-2510;

The Ten Bells, 247 Broome St., New York, NY 10002; 212-228-4450;

Le Turtle, 177 Chrystie St., New York, NY 10002; 646-918-7189;

Wildair, 142 Orchard St., New York, NY 10002; 646-964-5624;

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Food News Roundup: Beer Bike Ban, Animated Wine Notes, Pear Is The New Apple (Maybe) Tue, 28 Jun 2016 18:00:32 +0000 Ch-ch-changes are a-happening in the food world. Amsterdam is saying no to some party bikes while pears are trying to upstage their super-popular friend the apple. An illustrator from Vancouver is showing off wine notes like you’ve never seen before.

Beer bike tours too much for Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the city of debauchery, has banned the drunken messes that are beer bike tours, according to City Lab. A 6,000-signature petition was drawn up as part of the move to ban the mobile bars. City Labs reports that some, like Els Iping, president of the Friend of Inner Amsterdam Federation, have found the beer bikes cause unwanted lewd ruckus.

“We find the beer bike a horrible phenomenon. It causes nuisance,” Iping told the North Holland Radio and Television. “They are often made up of hen [bachelorette] parties [or] groups of naked men or women with an inflatable penis. People are forced to flee when a beer bike with screaming people comes off the bridge. The city is turned into one big theme park.”

The ban takes effect in 2017 and will only be enforced in the city center.

Get animated with wine

We at Food Republic love wine — we even have a column featuring our resident Wine Dads. And what could be better than sipping on some wine and having your kids join in on some coloring? That may not have been Zelda Sydney’s initial thought when she released the Wine World Colouring Book, but that’s where our heads are at. The Vancouvian illustrator is also animating tasting notes on Instagram, making wine that much more fun. Sydney tells Forbes that she started illustrating her wine notes as she was learning more and more about wine and wanted to “express my wine experience visually.”

Pears want apples’ spotlight

The apple has long been painted as the all-American fruit. One horticulturalist is trying to replace the round pie-filling favorite with the pear. According to The Atlantic, Amit Dhingra has been researching the pear at Washington State University for most of the past decade. The Atlantic reports that the pear has been lost in the dust not only in the produce section but also in dedicated research dollars. In 2016, apples have received over $1.7 million while pears got about $590,000. Even cherries received almost $800,000. The problem with pears is that they are harder to produce as a ripe fruit because they don’t ripen on the tree and take time to ripen post-harvest.

“Getting a nicely ripened pear is harder than winning the lottery,” Dhingra told The Atlantic. Dhingra is trying to up pears’ popularity with one simple concept: offering them in sliced form. This method worked well for the apple, increasing production from 4.9 billion pounds to 6.6 billion pounds between 1980 and 2005.

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4th of July Recipe Roundup: Burgers Tue, 28 Jun 2016 17:00:40 +0000 What’s your game plan for the upcoming grillout? We’re going to go out on a limb and say folks will remember the epic burgers coming off your grill more than a standard display of Fourth of July fireworks — now’s your time to shine. These patties are anything but ordinary. Start with homemade buns and work your way out.

Recipe: Roy Choi’s Los Angeles–Style Double Cheeseburger

For many Korean-Americans and Southern Californians alike, Roy Choi is a hero. His empire of taco trucks, called Kogi, were innovators in their use of social media. Who would have thought Twitter could bring 150 hungry people to a supermarket parking lot? Choi invented that. Ever eaten a Korean short rib taco, an appealing mashup of Asian and Mexican culinary common sense? Choi invented that. Here’s a double cheeseburger recipe from the L.A. chef that features a bit of Asian flair.

With a name like the Doojie and a composition of ground beef and spicy, tangy ‘nduja sausage, how can you possibly lose?

Recipe: The “Doojie” Burger

Chef Gawronski mashes it in with the yolk filling for deviled eggs and renders it into a vinaigrette for pan-seared prawns. He also smears a thick layer atop his new specialty burger, the “Doojie” — along with tomato jam, smoked mozzarella and bagna cauda aioli — and serves house-made ‘nduja chips on the side.

Inspired by the flavors of Chiang Mai sausage, chef Hong Thaimee creates a well-balanced burger you’ll definitely make again.

Recipe: Hong Thaimee’s Thai Burger

This burger was inspired by a traditional sausage dish from Chiang Mai. Topped with homemade cilantro-lime mayonnaise and pickled green papaya, it’s a fresh Thai take on the American classic. I used to make it for friends when I first moved to Brooklyn, and it has since become one of the most popular menu items at Ngam.

Harlem Shake's Classic Cheeseburger Recipe
Special sauce included

Recipe: Harlem Shake’s Classic Cheeseburger

Though named after a popular Internet meme from 2013, the Harlem Shake is anything but a fad. That is, if you ask Jelena Pasic, the owner of Harlem Shake, a restaurant that embraces the Harlem of old, bringing high-quality, affordable fare to local residents and visitors alike. “Our burgers are great because we pay special attention to the quality of meat and the mix of cuts that we use,” she says. We asked Pasic for her unique recipe, which includes a blend of sirloin, chuck and brisket (though you’re fine to use just one of those). Pasic insists on using Martin’s Potato Rolls, which we agree is one of the best moves for backyard burger grilling. And when it comes to cooking the burger, she suggests using a cast-iron skillet and employing a “smashing” technique that achieves a nice crust. And of course there is special sauce, which is revealed here.

Instead of ordering takeout, whip up a batch of flavorful, healthy peanut veggie burgers at home.
Photo: Katie Parker

Recipe: Spicy Thai Peanut Veggie Burgers

Although I grab Thai takeout every so often, sometimes I need a quick meal that gives me all the flavor I crave while allowing me to save some money and stay comfy at home. These burgers come together easily, are packed with the flavors of my favorite Thai takeout, and include healthy, fresh ingredients.


Recipe: The Big Marc Burger

A burger is a burger, but what separates a passable burger from an exceptional one is the quality of the meat. If you can, get your butcher to grind the meat fresh for you — the difference is quite notable. You also want to balance out your flavors and textures. When you bite into a hot burger, it’s a nice contrast to taste the cool, tangy pickle against the char of the meat. And the cheddar and black pepper bun, my spin on brioche, is just a bit more exciting than your run-of-the-mill bun. While making your own hamburger buns might seem like a lot of work, once you taste one, you’ll know it’s definitely worth the trouble, and it will give you an edge on your competition.


Recipe: Rick Bayless’s Queso Fundido Burger

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I went years and years without ever eating a hamburger, that most American of American specialties. I’m not completely sure why, though it probably had something to do with being so completely infatuated with other flavors that eating a hamburger seemed like a step backward. Then my daughter came along, and somehow we bonded over hamburgers. Not just any hamburgers, but ones that were so well executed that we could argue about whether they were the perfect burger. It remained our private debate, never spilling into my life as a professional chef — until I was asked to participate in one of those culinary challenges that have become a part of every chef’s life nowadays, this one a hamburger challenge. I couldn’t imagine not weaving in some classic Mexican touches, crowd-pleasing flavors I knew could win a competition. Flavors like the traditional Mexican queso fundido, melted cheese with chorizo sausage and roasted peppers. So for those very special moments, I offer my mash-up of the rich and delicious, gooey-melty queso fundido and a classic American burger. Cultural exchange never tasted better, unless, of course, it includes a big spoonful of roasted tomatillo salsa.

grilled bison burgers with caramelized onions and crispy shiitakes
Not only are these bison burgers better for you; they’re also something different from your everyday fare.

Recipe: Grilled Bison Burgers With Caramelized Onions And Crispy Shiitakes

I know it says bison here, but that lean meat (bison = buffalo) is really just a great excuse to hold a mushroom-a-palooza while getting a load of brain-boosting B12. First, we mix the bison with chopped cremini mushrooms. Then a few crispy shiitakes that have been tossed with smoked paprika and olive oil go on top. In between? Caramelized onions (mmmmmmm). Put it all on a lily pad of butter lettuce and it tastes like a tower of umami! The mushrooms also provide a bit of hard-to-find vitamin D, which University of Kentucky researchers say plays an important role in reducing oxidative damage in the brain that impacts learning.

Beef Tartare Burger Recipe
It’s like two different dishes in one.

Recipe: Beef Tartare Burger

We love the New York Times food section, so we picked up a copy of The Essential New York Times Grilling Cookbook, with recipes from the past century (or so) of outdoor cooking. All your favorite authors contributed recipes, but we’re crazy about this beef tartare burger from Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist for the Grill: Burgers Beyond the Basic.

burger recipe
Angelo Sosa ups the fat content in his burger blend by adding brisket, then takes it on an Asian joyride with a Vietnamese-style glaze that leaves ketchup by the curb.

Recipe: Saigon Burgers With Ginger Glaze And Thai Basil Mayo

Burgers have become my new fetish — I’m sort of obsessed. For me, it’s all about the burger blend, which is why in my recipe I’ve increased the fat content by adding brisket to give the meat a special lusciousness. Then, as opposed to adding ketchup at the end, I brush the burgers with a sweet, tangy Vietnamese-style glaze throughout the cooking process so the meat is infused with flavor.

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Brain Freeze Alert: Four Ways To Enjoy The Summer of Frozé! Tue, 28 Jun 2016 15:00:07 +0000 Summer is rosé season! This is your cue to make a very unsubtle seismic shift in drinking habits. Put down the brown liquor and heady Riojas and fill your refrigerator with blissful rosés from France, New Zealand, the Hamptons and more. Sipping chilled rosé all day long never gets old, but if you’re looking for a new spin on this summer staple, try freezing it. Winemakers everywhere might be cringing at the phenomenon, but frozé is the perfect cornerstone for creating boozy, adult treats that will keep you refreshed right up to Labor Day.

Every component of the below recipes is from scratch — no premade mixers here. There are also very few ingredients in each, so it’s important to use fresh, peak-season produce and premium-quality wines. If you’re not willing to drink the wine on its own, these recipes aren’t going to mask or compensate for those shortcomings. These recipes are meant to celebrate and complement the rosé flavor profiles, not overpower them. You won’t need to blow a paycheck, but commit to spending about $15 per bottle.



Recipes for rosé slushies are in abundance this summer, but I use the below because it’s easy to execute (thank you, ice cube trays) and combines two staples that I always have in my bar: rosé and Campari. Since there are so few ingredients, spend a few extra dollars on a better-quality wine, and feel free to improvise! The below is really a template: a big wine, sugar, something tart/bitter and garnish. Substitute the fruit garnish with savory touches like rosemary sprigs, or treat it more like a mint julep and muddle blueberries and fresh mint into the mixture.

Wine recommendation: Full-bodied and robust, a bit on the dry side. I like Alpha Estate ($20), which has strong berry notes and a deep color, so it holds up well against natural color dilution from freezing and blending. It’s also Greek, making it a surprising choice among the sea of North Fork and Provence varietals commonly found on shelves. 


  • One 750-milliliter bottle rosé
  • ½ cup simple syrup
  • Splash of Campari
  • Lemon twist and orange slice to garnish


  1. Freeze rosé in ice cube trays. The alcohol will prevent it from freezing completely, but that’s okay.
  2. Combine ice cubes, simple syrup in blender and pulse until desired slushie consistency is reached.
  3. Pour into coupe glass, float Campari on top and garnish.

Makes 4-5 cocktails



I avoid popsicles because they usually are cloyingly sweet. This adult version is not only boozy, but using fresh lemonade creates a tart, refreshing treat. (And one where I control the sugar content!) For a colorful, flavorful twist, substitute the fruit and mint leaves for bits of cucumber and thyme sprigs.

Wine recommendation: Fruit-forward, sweet-leaning and richly colored. I like Saved Magic Maker ($14) by tattoo artist turned winemaker Scott Campbell. I’m usually skeptical of celebrity-endorsed forays into spirits and winemaking, but Saved’s California rosé is surprisingly refined and completely delicious, and the vibrant strawberry and apple notes are exactly what you want in a good, boozy popsicle.


  • One 750-milliliter bottle rosé
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed lemonade (lemons, simple syrup to taste)
  • Honey, to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup of in-season fruit, such as whole blueberries or quartered strawberries
  • Mint leaves, chiffonade


  1. Combine wine and lemonade, sweeten with additional honey to taste.
  2. Pour into popsicle molds, filling each mold only halfway. Drop in a few pieces of fruits and bits of mint, then freeze.
  3. After 2 hours, remove molds and fill remainder of the way, dropping in a few more pieces of fruit and herbs.
    *This ensures the garnishes remain evenly spaced in the popsicles.
  4. Freeze another 2-3 hours until frozen and ready to serve.

Makes 6-8 popsicles, depending on the size.

*Tool note: Tovolo has several fun popsicle molds for summer, including a tiki-themed set (I’ve never refused tiki anything). I also recently discovered the jewel molds. Reminiscent of Ring Pop candies from childhood, they’re a fun and unexpected approach that will surely win over unsuspecting guests. Likelihood of top-notch tipsy banter: high.



Granita is a wonderful palate cleanser at any stage of a meal: as a fun amuse-bouche, in between courses or as a postmeal digestif. It’s also a healthier alternative to heavy, cream-based desserts and makes a guilt-free option for midday sugar cravings. Take advantage of the hot weather and omnipresence of premium rosés to make what is essentially an adult sno-cone.

Wine recommendation: Crisp and floral, light on sugar, and full-bodied. Truvee Rosé ($15) by the McBride sisters is a unique find. With notes of white flowers and peaches, it’s a welcome departure from the more expected berry tones of many rosé wines and creates a delicate, refreshing granita. If you’re making granita as an ice cream alternative for a crowd, increase the simple syrup concentration and opt for a more cost-effective brand. The seasonal, limited-release rosé from Dark Horse is light without being thin and just the right amount of sweet. At $10 a bottle, it’s easy to double the recipe and make an entertaining-sized batch — the perfect ending to a big summer BBQ.


  • One 750-milliliter bottle rosé
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh lemon and grapefruit juice
  • Approx. ½ cup simple syrup, to taste
  • Candied grapefruit peel to garnish


  1. In large bowl, combine wine, simple syrup, and citrus juice.
  2. Pour mixture into sheet pan or shallow, freezer-proof cooking dish. Place in freezer.
  3. After two hours, remove from freezer and using a fork, scrape the half-frozen mixture to break up any clumps. It should start to resemble icy snow.
  4. Return to freezer, freeze another hour. Scrape again with fork.
  5. Return to freezer for another 2 hours, up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, scrape the mixture again with a fork and, using an ice cream scoop or melon baller, dish up scoops of the ice. Garnish with grapefruit peel and serve immediately.


Rosé. Tequila. Summer fruit. Is there anything better? The combination of a classic margarita with the refreshing bliss of dry rosé is a delicious — and potent — summer delight. In keeping with frozé fashion, this recipe can be served blended, but I prefer mine on the rocks. Either way, serve the cocktail super-cold and with a generously salted rim.

Wine recommendation: Very dry, and preferably French. Margaritas should be smooth and crisp, not bogged down with excessive sugar. Avoid overly fruity wines for this recipe, which will ruin that essential citrus bite of a proper margarita. Minuty’s M Rosé ($14) from Provence is my go-to (and also has a shapely bottle for repurposing).


  • One 750-milliliter bottle rosé
  • 1½ cups blanco tequila, such as Espolòn
  • 1½ cups muddled strawberries
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ – 1 cup simple syrup, to taste
  • Orange wedges to garnish
  • Salt


  1. In a large pitcher, mix wine, tequila, fruit, lemon juice and simple syrup to taste.
  2. If serving on the rocks, pour mixture into glasses with salted rims. Garnish with orange wedges.
    *To stretch (and dilute) this version of the recipe, pour a one-liter bottle of club soda into the pitcher for a sparkling version.
  3. If serving blended, combine mixture in blender with handful of ice and pulse until smooth. Serve and garnish as above.

Makes one very serious pitcher of roséritas.

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