Food Republic Where Food, Drink & Culture Unite Tue, 30 Jun 2015 19:35:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cariñena Is For Wine Lovers: Seeking Out The Next Great Grape In Spain Tue, 30 Jun 2015 18:30:58 +0000 For those who search far and wide for the finest glass of wine and find art in the swirl, sniff and sip of a tasting within sight of where its grapes were grown, there is a destination you should consider. Cariñena, an ancient and world-renowned growing region in northern Spain, holds the history of oenology in its meticulously tended vineyards. A growing force in the global wine market, wines from Cariñena — not least of all wines made from the Cariñena grape itself — attract fans from around the world. This place is home to the only grape in the world named after the region in which it’s grown, in the heart of Spanish wine country. The local cuisine never goes unpaired. The winemakers want you to taste what they taste, and they channel their passion through each pour.

A generations-old vineyard of Grandes Vino y Viñedos, leading brand of the Cariñena Denomination of Origin
A generations-old vineyard of Grandes Vinos y Viñedos, leading brand of the Cariñena Denomination of Origin

Owing to close proximity to the Pyrenees Mountains, one of Cariñena’s defining features is its powerful winds, always present in the towns and even stronger in the hills of the vineyards. The wind helps keep the grapes at the right temperature for ripening on schedule for harvest (minimizing any off-tasting “green” flavors and amplifying the red fruit and berry notes), free of disease and strong from the constant wind resistance. Perhaps surprisingly (once you’ve felt the force of the gusts), the wind never goes so far as to damage the vines — a symbiotic dance hundreds of years old. The soil composition in these rolling hills varies widely according to altitude. On lower plots you’ll see reddish sandy soil from iron content, and up higher than 2,000 feet the terroir bleaches to light brown and near-white, composed of the slate, chalk and granite that lend Cariñena wines their distinct minerality.

Vines at the highest elevations grow best in slate, granite and chalk, like these 35-year-old vines at Bodegas San Valero.
Wine from Grandes Vinos y Viñedos, the largest winery in the Denominación de Origen (DO) of Cariñena, which utilizes modern label design.
The labs at Bodegas San Valero
Each bottle is tested, tasted and analyzed hundreds of times in a lab setting before it hits the market.

As popularity and demand have increased, winemakers’ techniques and technology have become significantly more sophisticated as they discover and detail every tiny nuance of planting, growing and harvesting in order to attain deeper mastery of fermenting, bottling and aging. Implementing industry trends like screw-cap bottles, bold, modern packaging and pheromone technology — to naturally repel moths without damaging vines — has allowed Cariñena’s hundreds of wine-growing operations to keep up with the competition. Winemakers from Bodegas Paniza show these yield-maximizing strategies in action.

Pheromone “twist-ties” applied to the vines at Bodegas Paniza confuse and ward off grape moths. If the grape is pierced, its sugars begin to overdevelop and it cannot be used for winemaking.

When visiting these wineries, leave all notions of pretentious wine clichés at the door. Cariñena’s vineyards have been family-owned and tended for many generations, and the land, owners, cultivation and product are equally important in expanding the Garnacha grape’s sterling reputation among winemakers, sommeliers and enthusiasts. Winery tour guides are all professionals in the field (literally!) and you’re guaranteed to make friends no matter what your level of wine knowledge may be. Honor their unfailing dedication to the history and future of some of Spain’s most celebrated wines by bringing home your favorites to share with friends and family.

So now that you know where to find the famous Cariñenas and Garnachas, what’s the plan of action? Make your way from one of the bigger cities via the high-speed rail to Zaragoza, the historic city that works in tandem with the wine region to maintain, expand and promote its reach in the global market. From design-it-yourself tapas crawls to world-class fine dining, whatever varietal you have in your glass is a pairing just waiting to happen.

Expert pairings by local sommelier Raúl Igual, twice named Best Sommelier in Spain, from Bodegas Paniza, Bodegas San Valero and Grandes Vinos y Viñedos at Zaragoza’s renowned Restaurante El Chalet. Crowd favorite Bodegas San Valero Particular Cariñena (far right) is from a limited production that pays tribute to winegrowers’ ancestral traditions.
River trout, fresh cheese and tomato salad paired with Grandes Vinos y Viñedos Anayon Cariñena at Restaurante El Chalet.

In the morning, drive to the winery of your choice (stopping at the childhood home of renowned writer and artist Francisco de Goya, if you wish) and spend the afternoon touring the vineyards and manufacturing facilities. Then, of course, take your time sampling the wines you just learned about. Seasoned oenophiles know to spit in order to open the palate enough to taste fully, but for the uninitiated, this is the purpose of the bucket provided. You’ll be happy to be in your right mind when you head to a small local café for a late lunch.

Visit Bar El Arco in the village of Paniza, Zaragoza, just a stone’s throw from Bodegas Paniza. You’ll enjoy simple, rustic fare from chef Alberto Báguena that pairs perfectly with a variety of Cariñena wines. Here: Manchego cheese flowers, sautéed mushrooms and seared pork medallions.

If you see anchovies, roasted red peppers, assorted tapas on sliced bread, deep-fried croquettas, green salads with tuna, egg, onions and wine vinegar, and, of course, the renowned Spanish jamón ibérico sliced masterfully right off the leg, you are in the right place. The simple, rustic food of Spanish wine country elevates the simplest ingredients to royalty-level status. Translucent slices of aged and fermented ham from specially bred and raised Iberian pigs are a far cry from any ordinary haunch. Ripe tomatoes, olive oil and salt blended together create a topping for bread, potato and egg tortilla or humble migas (fried bread and chorizo with eggs).

Spain’s famed jamón ibérico de bellota at Bodegón Azoque, from pigs finished on foraged acorns. You can taste the nutty flavor in the substantial fat marbling.

You love wine so much you’ve been planning a trip devoted to it for ages now. You’ve got a thing for simple, superb cuisine starring the best of local ingredients. Flights to Madrid leave every few hours, and Cariñena is just an extra-fast train ride or breathtakingly beautiful drive away. Now how many bottles can you fit in your suitcase and proudly (and carefully) drag through customs?

Brought to you by our friends at D.O.P. Cariñena:


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Video: The Science Behind Grilling Meats Tue, 30 Jun 2015 17:30:28 +0000 We all know that red meat turns brown when you’re grilling it and gray if you’ve overcooked it, but have you ever wondered exactly why?

The American Chemical Society has put together a video explaining what happens to the cells in steaks and burgers before and after they’ve been graced by the hot flames of your grill.

According to the video, steaks are filled with myoglobin cells that give it that bloody red color. Once those myoglobin cells reach a temperature of 140° Fahrenheit, oxygen leaves the cells and the meat takes on that great brown color we all know and love. Don’t leave the steak on the grill for too long, however. At about 169°, the meat will turn grey.

As far as tastes go, you can thank the Maillard reaction for that. From a “complex series of simultaneous reactions between amino acids and sugars,” the Maillard reaction produces a number of flavors and also contributes to the brown color of your burger.

The video also goes into the age-old debate of gas versus charcoal.

Now that you’re the resident grilling scientist, put that knowledge to good use with these recipes:

Check out the video below:

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Please Drink More American Wine This Summer Tue, 30 Jun 2015 17:00:54 +0000 Not so long ago, the most-esteemed U.S. wine regions were known for their heavy Cabernet Sauvignons, fuller-bodied Pinot Noirs and rich, oaky Chardonnays. Things have changed radically, and there’s never been a better moment to turn your attention to the small-production, artisanal, terroir-driven wines popping up around the country. Many of these wines are also very affordable — although they will generally be slightly more expensive than their French counterparts, due to the high prices of domestic land and labor.

Here, we’ve compiled some of the more warm-weather-friendly domestic wines available right now. We recommend using an online resource like to find out where these wines are carried near you, although many of them are smaller-production and will likely be found either at a carefully curated wine shop or through the winery’s website. Good things come to those who click.

Gruet Brut
Gruet Brut, the bubbling pride of New Mexico


Scholium Project Blowout
California’s controversial philosopher-winemaker, Abe Schoener, has delivered a sumptuous, force-carbonated sparkling blend of Verdello and Gruner Veltliner that is pungent on the nose, dry and crisp and absolutely fun to drink. Have it at the start of your fete, or with dessert.

Dr. Konstantin Franklèbre
One of the oldest and most influential wineries in New York’s Finger Lakes region, Dr. Konstantin Frank is now run by the family’s fourth-generation heir, 28-year-old Meaghan Frank, who studied oenology in Australia. The recently created sparkling-wine program at the estate operates in the method champenoise style, even using traditional artisanal riddling (turning the bottles by hand to stir the dead yeasts), and produces beautiful wines, even vintage ones, with little or no dosage.

Gruet Brut
You won’t believe that sparkling wine made in New Mexico can be good until you try this one. Does it help to know that the family who owns the winery is originally from Champagne? Seriously, though, at around $16 a bottle, these wines never disappoint if you’re looking for a Champagne-style bubbly that’s refreshing and light. FYI, it’s pronounced in the French way: GRU-WAY.

The pioneering Long Island winery Wolffer is legendary for running out of its pink supply each summer.


Lioco Indica Rosé
This Carignan-based wine from one of California’s new small wineries is on the fruit-forward side, with notes of rose petals, watermelons, and strawberries, but it’s also totally dry.

Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly
One of California’s longstanding natural winemakers, Steve Edmunds makes restrained, elegant wines with southern French varietals, working out of a corrugated-iron warehouse in Berkeley. This Gamay rosé has some magical power that makes people want to drink the entire bottle within five minutes. It’s dry, fresh and snappy. With a $20 price tag plus a screw cap, it’s a no-brainer for a party.

Wolffer Estate Rosé
One of Long Island’s pioneering wineries and an anchor of quality in that region, Wolffer Estate makes a Provencal-style rosé from a blend of red grapes that is so good, it often runs out by mid-summer — so get your hands on it now! This year, they are trying it out with a screw cap, so you can open it at that point in the night when a wine key seems daunting.

"Dirty" Hardy and "Rowdy" Matt began making exciting and unusual wines in 2010.
“Rowdy” Matt Richardson and “Dirty” Hardy Wallace


Dirty and Rowdy Semillon
A Bordeaux varietal from California? Yup, and though it’s a far cry from the classic whites of Bordeaux, this wine from two couples of young winemakers in Santa Barbara is just as aromatic as its French ancestor and absolutely mouthwatering. They started making wine just a few years ago, after Hardy Wallace was laid off from his job at Kodak — and it’s still a bootstrapped, tiny-production venture, but the wines are banging. This one is full-bodied enough to stand up to charcuterie but would be awesome with chicken.

Bloomer Creek Tanzen Dame
Edelzwicker is a traditional blend of Alsatian varietals Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Typically, the wine has a little bit of residual sugar (meaning it’s off-dry), which makes it an ideal pairing for spicy foods or something with a kick — Nashville-style hot fried chicken and coleslaw, for example. Bloomer Creek is a tiny winery in the Finger Lakes, but its natural wines are in high demand.

Oyster River Villager White
This 50/50 blend of hybrid grapes Seyval Blanc and Cayuga, sourced from Seneca Lake in upstate New York, becomes a work of beauty in the hands of Brian Smith, who also makes cider, in Warren, Maine. The wine is just a bit off-dry, making it a perfect aperitif to drink with snack foods.

Turley winemaker Tegan Passalacqua


Eminence Road Elizabeth’s Vineyard
Grapes are carefully sourced from sustainably managed vineyards, and everything is done by hand at this small-scale Finger Lakes winery, run by a married couple. Their single-site bottling of Cabernet Franc, Elizabeth’s Vineyard, is a refreshing light red that has just enough tannin and herbaceous flavor to tackle fatty ribs or saucy pulled-pork sandwiches.

Steve Matthiasson Tendu
Even without the accolade of Winemaker of the Year in 2014 from the San Francisco Chronicle, Matthiasson is beloved for his work across the Northern California appellations, where he consults with small wineries and makes sought-after Old World-style wines, often with obscure Italian varieties. The Tendu is a 1-liter treat made with Aglianico, Montepulciano and Barbera — so refreshing and easy to drink, and perfect for just hanging out and eating from the grill. It is also one of his most affordable wines, usually retailing for around $20.

Turley Kirschenmann Vineyard
If you haven’t yet experienced the Turley winery’s terroir-driven, elegant Zinfandels that are rejuvenating the grape’s image across the country, get your hands on one for this Fourth. Winemaker and grape-grower Tegan Passalacqua is revered as a scientist of soil and cellar alike, and each cuvée of Zinfandel is treated with incredible seriousness. This is the first year Turley is working with the Kirschenmann Vineyard, located a short drive south of Sacramento, and the wines have turned out beautifully perfumed, with integrated tannins. A pairing for steak, no doubt.

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What I Tasted At The 2015 Summer Fancy Food Show: The Good, The Bad, The Gluten-Free Tue, 30 Jun 2015 15:00:44 +0000 This past weekend I went to the 2015 Summer Fancy Food Show, the twice-a-year trade show for all things edible and notable, and tried so many new products my head was spinning. I probably sampled 50 varieties of mustard (I can’t pass on mustard—it’s an issue). My girlfriend made a valiant attempt to try every single hot sauce there. Alas, there’s just too much to get to in a single day.

But the Fancy Food Show is more than a gallery of mustard and hot sauce; it’s a full-blown conference for anything and everything food-related, epic in its scale. There are even prizes awarded for “best in show.” Here are some of the best things I tried, which also means “glad I tried it so I can avoid it in the future.”

Ginger Zinger gluten-free cookies from Tate’s Bake Shop
In my experience, most gluten-free cookies are terrible. Not all, just most. These, however, were soft and chewy, with a little crunchy bite, and I could’ve eaten a whole bag. If you handed me one of these without telling me it was gluten-free, I would never know.

Organic apple balsamic vinegar from Ritrovo Selections
Apple cider vinegar is my favorite kind of vinegar, and balsamic is probably my second favorite. So a balsamic vinegar made from apples? In my mind (and mouth), it was amazing. I can’t wait to stock my kitchen with some of this. Can you say “Italian BBQ”?

Handmade salted caramel from Coop’s Micro Creamery
It’s not often you can just eat a scoop of caramel sauce with nothing else and not have it be a bit too sweet. This is that sauce. I could have eaten this whole jar with a spoon, and I can’t wait to start dipping apple wedges into a jar of this from the comfort of my couch.

A viable substitute for my homemade burger sauce, which should always be your first choice

Special Sauce from Sir Kensington’s
If you know anything about me, you might know that my first recipe on Food Republic was for “special sauce.” Now, I love my special sauce, and it’s really easy to make, but having a good one in a jar that I can keep at the office is awesome. Mine is modeled more off what you get at In-N-Out, and I would say this one is closer to Shake Shack’s; make of that what you will.

No messy bowls or pans, just one perfect cake in one perfect oven-safe container

Organic molten chocolate cake from Hot Cakes
I saw this and thought, “I doubt this is any good.” It’s cake batter that comes in a small mason jar, and you just bake it right in the jar. Can’t be good, right? OMG, IT WAS SO GOOD! I was shocked. And the lady who tried it after me was also shocked. Anytime you hear a member of the press who is over 50 years old say, “Holy shit. Holy shit…. Have you tried this?!” you know it’s something good.

Organic Austrian pumpkin-seed oil from Stöger
Did you know that pumpkin-seed oil was a thing? I didn’t. I mean, in theory you can make an oil from pretty much any seed, but I’ve never seen this. But it was awesome, nutty and smooth. I’m really looking forward to using this to really take things up a notch in salad dressings.

You were going to drink beer with whatever you were slathering mustard on, correct?

Irish mustards from Lakeshore
Of course there was going to be mustard on this list, especially if that mustard is spiked with stout or whiskey, and Lakeshore makes a version of each. And the brand’s original has that sharp classic bite of any good English or Dijon mustard. If you have to just do one, my favorite of the three was the Irish Stout.

Original Bacon Spread from Skillet
Ever wish you could spread bacon on something? Well, now you can. I’ve made bacon jams in the past, but it’s nice to know that I can get something similar with much less effort.

Welcome to the charcuterie board, truffle salami!

Tartufo salami from Creminelli
Truffles are a tricky thing. They’re sort of trendy in a sense, and people have tried truffling pretty much everything. The problem is that it doesn’t work a lot of the time. But this salami has achieved a perfect balance: You can taste the truffle, but you’re not overwhelmed by it, and it enhances the flavor of the meat as opposed to being the foremost flavor. A welcome addition to any charcuterie board.

Bacon hot sauce from Whoop Ass
I’m not into this trend for hot sauces to include “ass,” “butt,” etc. in their product names; it makes me think of that old SNL commercial for “Colon Blow” (because, yes, we all know what happens when you eat too much hot sauce). But at least these guys are called Whoop Ass instead of the Fire Between My Cheeks. And you know what? Hot sauce with bacon in it is pretty awesome, even if it was made to be a novelty item.

A little sweet, a little hot. Miller’s Mustard sounds like something everyone can enjoy.

Habanero Hot & Sweet from Miller’s Mustard
Here’s where the quests of myself and my girlfriend intersected. This mustard was a hot sauce, but also a mustard. It’s also amazing when you mix it with cream cheese. I’ve been mixing hot pepper jelly and cream cheese for a while now, but this really took it to another level. I want to put it on every cracker I see from here on out.

Chicken & Waffles Saltwater Taffy from TaffyTown
I got excited when I saw this. Chicken and waffles have a special place in my heart. But don’t. Don’t do it. Just stay away. This tasted like maple syrup on a bouillon cube, and it was not good.

Real Moon Cheese, finally. You no longer have to lie to your children.

Moon Cheese from Moon Cheese Snacks
I remember being a kid, hearing the notion that the moon was made of cheese and thinking, “Wow, those people are idiots.” But if you handed me one of these when you said it, I might have believed you. Moon Cheese is real cheese (and only cheese) that’s dehydrated at low temperatures into little crunchy, moon-looking rocks that are quite delicious.

Pure Maple Water from DRINKmaple
You’re going to be seeing this everywhere pretty soon, I think — we covered it a while back. The way that a few years ago suddenly everyone was drinking coconut water. The difference here is that coconut water tastes like the sweat of a person who’s been eating too much coconut, and this tastes like pure water with just a hint of maple. I will be drinking a lot of maple water this summer.

Beer in jelly form. Jelly? Jealous-jelly, not…actual jelly. I mean, it is actual jelly.

Beer jelly from Potlicker Kitchen
Imagine a delicious beer, and then take every aspect of its taste and color, then transport that to a jelly. I was in love with these. They came in Oatmeal Stout and IPA, and both were totally on point and totally true to their heritage (meaning they tasted exactly like the beer they purported to taste like). I can’t wait to try these out with some stinky soft cheese.

Jalapeño chips from Deano’s Jalapenos
These are slices of real jalapeno, fried up and turned into a chip. Are they spicy? Yes. Are they delicious? Definitely yes. Should you go find them and try them? Of course, why would the answer be no at this point? Come on. Don’t ask me stupid jalapeño-related questions.

Pitorro Anejo from Port Morris Distillery
Pitorro is basically moonshine rum from Puerto Rico. And just like normal moonshine, when you age it in a barrel it develops additional flavors and colors. This is not your normal rum. This is something you want to sip on, or drink on the rocks with a wedge of lime. Also, it’s from the only distillery based in the Bronx.

Hot honey. Again, two words that should always go together.

Mike’s Hot Honey from Mike’s Hot Honey
It’s honey. But it’s spicy. You can use it to make a spicy margarita. And if you haven’t ever had pizza with some soppressata and Mike’s Hot Honey, you are seriously missing out. This is one of those things that I will forever keep in my pantry now that I know about it, and you should consider doing the same.

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Hôtel Hermitage Is Your Appropriately Baller Monte Carlo Home Base Tue, 30 Jun 2015 14:00:37 +0000 In Hungry Concierge, we travel the world to spot hotels that operate with their guests’ food and drink needs squarely in mind — hotels, both big and small, that are located in neighborhoods rich with bar and restaurant options. Because there’s nothing worse than having your trip derailed by crummy room service.

Several days into my stay in Monte Carlo, Monaco, I realized I had eaten every meal al fresco — even breakfast. I was living it up royally at the stately Hôtel Hermitage, which is even more grand than the Prince’s Palace, visible high on a hill on the other side of the harbor from my room’s Juliet balcony. Not many of us can pull a Grace Kelly or Princess Kate and wed a prince, but anybody can check in here and enjoy all the royal perks — without any pesky paparazzi lurking about or stuffy official functions to attend.

Monaco, in case you need a refresher, is a pocket-size principality on an extremely prime stretch of the French Riviera. This wealthy enclave of fewer than 40,000 people is the world’s smallest country, not counting Vatican City; the whole place measures about 0.7 square miles, or roughly the size of Central Park. The sunny and mild year-round climate once furnished an ideal environment for the olives and oranges that brought in most of the country’s revenue until the 1850s; now it offers the perfect backdrop for cultivating the newer crop of visiting Russian billionaires.

Zucchini three ways at Le Vistamar
Zucchini three ways at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Vistamar

Hôtel Hermitage is an ideally opulent base for living, and dining, like a royal for a few days. Within the hundred-year-old Belle Epoque building you’ll find a swanky champagne outpost, Le Crystal Bar, a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Vistamar, with an expansive terrace overlooking the harbor, plus a newly renovated world-class spa, fitness and pool complex, Thermes Marins MonteCarlo. If you ever manage to leave the hotel, equally decadent dining, drinking, beach-clubbing and casino-going awaits a short hop away.

All of Hôtel Hermitage’s rooms and suites feature high ceilings, large windows and ample space.

The Rooms: The hotel’s 278 rooms and suites were recently renovated by design firm Pierre Yves-Rochon in a classic, elegant style. Decor varies from room to room, but all feature high ceilings, large windows, ample closet space for a royal wardrobe and marble bathrooms stocked with Bulgari bath products. Twice-daily housekeeping might include treats like colorful macarons or, for ladies, a bouquet of a dozen white roses.

The Look: Wander Hermitage’s hallways if you want to know what it might’ve felt like to be a pre–World War I European aristocrat. Outside the chateaux of nearby France, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a place with more chandeliers, shinier floors or more gilded detailing. The huge hotel has two regal reception areas, one adjacent to the stately winter garden, with its domed colorful stained-glass ceiling. A staff that insists on greeting everyone with “Bonjour/Bonsoir, madame/monsieur” adds to the effect.

The view from one of the hotel’s suites

The Neighborhood: In Monaco, you’re never very far from anything — especially Michelin-starred restaurants. Within a short jaunt or a five-minute cab ride, you can arrive at Blue Bay, inside the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort, where Martinique-born chef Marcel Ravin offers creative tasting menus featuring dishes like shredded papaya “spaghetti” on top of real spaghetti in a truffle-Parmesan sauce, or a “pre-dessert” that’s essentially a tangy yogurt parfait. Five minutes farther on, next to the dreamy MonteCarlo Beach Club, you’ll find Elsa, the world’s only totally certified organic Michelin-starred restaurant. Executive chef Paolo Sari uses lots of seafood (and no red meat) to delicious effect, and he grows some produce on site. His signature dish, the Bio Sama, a colorful medley of raw seasonal vegetables, is inspired by time he spent living with Korean monks. Don’t miss grabbing a cocktail at the Hôtel de Paris’s classic Le Bar Américain (sadly, the Alain Ducasse restaurant inside the hotel, Le Louis XV, was closed at press time while the property undergoes a major renovation), or at Buddha Bar, whose large terrace becomes a late-night hot spot. At all of these places (well, except Buddha Bar), you’ll be presented with an amuse-bouche of Monaco’s signature dish, the spinach-stuffed fried ravioli known as barbajuan — it’s fun to compare and contrast the different versions. Then there’s the historic Casino de MonteCarlo itself, which is every bit as badass as it looks in the James Bond movies. Hôtel Hermitage is also within walking distance of the palace and old city (with choice yacht ogling along the way), if you don’t mind hoofing it up the hill. I can’t think of a better way to work off all those tasting menus.

Hôtel Hermitage
Square Beaumarchais, Principality of Monaco
Rooms start at $333

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Living And Dying In Chinatown: A Lesson In How To Buy Seafood Tue, 30 Jun 2015 13:00:16 +0000
If at all possible, don’t buy filets. Get the whole fish.

The latest dispatch from the frontlines of our investigation into the world of illegal seafood for our new series, Food Crimes.

The surest way to drive yourself insane at the grocery store over what seafood you should eat and in what season is to spend the five months prior investigating crimes within the international fishing industry. Then you’d be just like me.

Shopping at Whole Foods one recent evening, it was a piece of salmon that sent me reeling. Could I, given what I’ve learned of the fish’s confused route to the table and farmed salmon’s legal and environmental issues, make an informed decision about what to serve my kid? What if these glistening pink filets in front of me weren’t even salmon at all? Or what if they’d been caught and frozen in 2014, only to be thawed and purchased by me in 2015? I looked at the cod. And then at the bass. I remembered from my reporting the incomprehensible regulations governing roughly 100 types of bass. I left with nothing.

Scott Doyle with lobster.

Scott Doyle is an good-natured retiree from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. During his 27-year career, Doyle oversaw a variety of investigations, including that of the world’s biggest fish criminal: Arnold Bengis. He recently started 3SA Consulting, which helps companies with training and compliance issues related to wildlife and fisheries. I asked him to walk with me through New York City’s Chinatown, which is a known destination for all manner of both illegal and environmentally unpopular fish, and give me a lesson in how to shop for seafood.

What are your thoughts on farm-raised salmon? 
The last thing I would recommend, if I was a consumer, would be the farm-raised fish — like tilapia, farm-raised salmon. There’s a big difference in price if you buy Alaskan salmon that’s caught in Alaska and shipped here versus farm-raised salmon — and the quality, in my view, is much better with the wild-caught. But the salmon, for example, is not a bad fish. I would stay away from the farm-raised shrimp if I could. But then it comes down to a price point. What can you afford? You’re still better off eating a fish than another food.

One fish, two fish, red fish, ew fish. The market for live fish in areas like Chinatown thrives because it isn’t regulated the way dead fish are.

What fish do you recommend?
I would eat locally caught fish first. So if you’re in the New York area, or on the East Coast, you’d eat your flounders, you’d eat cods, you’d eat scallops. Tilefish is locally caught. There’s a big, vibrant clam industry here. There’s a lot of flat fishes — great sole, herring, Spanish mackerel. There’s quite a few fish that are locally caught right in the metropolitan area — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, all the way up to Massachusetts and all the way down to Florida. Then if you go down to the Gulf, you have the snappers and groupers. You can rest assured — or be pretty sure — that those fish were caught locally, and the quality is going to be pretty darn good. They’re going to be pretty fresh because they were probably caught within three to four days. They may have been caught last night, for all we know. There’s fish here that may have been on a boat yesterday, was shipped to the Fulton Fish market last night, a buyer went to the Fulton Fish market last night, purchased those fish and people are buying those fish less than 24 hours later. That’s a really high-quality fish, and it’s a fresh fish.

doyle crab

What about shellfish?
There’s a real tight scheme to keep track of oysters and shellfish — a whole way to track fish from the harvester all the way through to the plate. There are actually tags. We’ll see them on some other shellfish and they’re required. These tags will tell you who the harvester was, what lot he got it from, the date of harvest and maybe even a permit number. So you’re able to track that fish all the way from where it came from. That’s important because people often get sick from shellfish.

What if I live somewhere that there is no locally caught fish?
Then I would go with fish that may be frozen but you know are pretty sturdy fish, like the tunas, all the Chilean sea bass, the shark, cod, pollack, haddock — those types of fish that may be imported. A lot of the mackerels, a lot of the snappers. You may get those imported from Mexico or as far away as South Africa, but they’re pretty fresh fish, too, because they’ve been frozen or deep frozen and then shipped here.

What if I live somewhere inland with no local fish markets?
I would try to find something domestically caught from that state and then move outward. I would look for product that was harvested in the U.S. and wild-caught. If you know a little bit about fish, you go with snappers, you go with groupers, you go with flounders. You would be relatively safe that they’re domestically caught.

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Exclusive Video: Danny Meyer On The Art Of The Cocktail Bar Tue, 30 Jun 2015 06:15:15 +0000 Food Republic is honored to sponsor Danny Meyer’s keynote discussion at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail celebration in New Orleans. The evening will include a lively talk moderated by Tales cofounder Paul Tuennerman at Harrah’s Theater on Wednesday, July 15, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Tickets are currently available for the event here.

Why would Danny Meyer, creator of insanely popular dining destinations both fine and casual, want to go and open a lil’ old cocktail lounge? Turns out he enjoys a Sazerac. Here, in this exclusive video, he talks about how a love of New Orleans and its tremendous cocktail culture influenced his new bar, Porchlight, in New York City. Plus: why he believes that “hospitality” is about to become a buzzword in cocktail circles; how his restaurants have launched the careers of top bartenders; and why you should be able to call the shots when you’re at the bar. “Maybe 90 percent of the time you’re willing to experiment when you go to a new bar, but there’s that one drink that is your go-to,” he says. “Our challenge is to make your go-to drink better than you’ve ever had it before.” Watch him preach.

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The Brothers Hanson Still Going Strong With Their Mmmhops Beers Mon, 29 Jun 2015 19:30:51 +0000 Remember Hanson? The trio of blond-haired brothers who made two syllables and a series of sounds so catchy that you’re probably humming the tune now? Nearly 20 years later, they’re back celebrating their classic “Mmmbop” with their award-winning, and very appropriately named, craft beer: Mmmhops Pale Ale.

For those who grew up with the unbelievably poppy tune that followed them through the malls and was on every radio station, AM and FM, it’s about time that fans get to enjoy that same poppy tune with a hoppy brew. And now’s your chance to do so.

Hanson’s going on a 10-city North American tour this summer, playing two shows at each stop. Following each show will be an afterparty where you’ll get to try Mmmhops and Taylor Hanson plays DJ. The boys and their fans are all grown up.

Tickets are sold in two-night packages with access to the beer afterparty as an add-on ticket. Presale tickets are now available.

If the Hanson brothers want to continue their venture in the libation business, a Food Republic editor suggests they move on to Mmmschnapps.

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Food Hybrids Are Here To Stay, Probably Mon, 29 Jun 2015 18:00:44 +0000 Everyone and their mother seems to be raving about Uma Temakaria’s release of the sushi burrito in New York, a concept that has been thriving at the appropriately named Sushirrito in San Francisco since 2011. Chef Chris Jaeckle’s fast-casual sushi joint is just the latest spot to feature a food hybrid on its menu.

In a society that seems to fall over itself at any sight of the latest food mash-up or hybrid, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and reflect: Are these oversized hand rolls really worth the exaggerated excitement? And when does that excitement end? Will it ever?

In the case of the marriage of croissant and donut (yes, we’re still talking about the c-word), Dunkin’ Donuts and countless others have made their own versions, which you can buy at any time and in any quantity. But is Dominique Ansel’s original creation any less line-worthy? I received a Snapchat from my friend that showed a 50-person-deep line for the pastry around 10 a.m. last Wednesday. So maybe not.

Over in Brooklyn, Keizo Shimamoto is still slinging ramen burgers to lines that rival only those at Home Frite at Smorgasburg. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco has tried its hand at pastry mash-ups with the Cruffin, a — you guessed it — half muffin, half croissant. Donut burgers are also a pipe dream come true, slowly making their way through people’s clogging arteries. KFCs in the United Kingdom are dishing out coffee cups made of cookies — essentially sweet, tiny versions of chowder bread bowls. And has Taco Bell run out of vehicles for its breakfast tacos yet? The waffle and biscuit tacos would suggest not.

The list goes on, but not all hybrid foods are cringeworthy. Classic hybrids include the ice cream sandwich and the root beer float — let’s remember that there was a time when neither of these existed. Marriages between cuisines have also brought us Korean tacos, matcha lattes and California rolls. So hybrids really aren’t all that bad…right?

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Indian Spices Are Finding Their Way Into Cocktails Mon, 29 Jun 2015 17:00:55 +0000 indiaspice
NYC cocktail bar owner Greg Boehm traveled to India to source spices for his new bar, Mace.


In June, Food Republic is counting the many reasons to love Asian food in America right now. Here’s one of them.

Greg Boehm, just back in New York from China, is already plotting his return to Asia for a Japanese adventure. The guru of New York barware haven and book publisher Cocktail Kingdom is a bona fide globetrotter, and it was this very wanderlust that inspired his newest venture, the East Village bar Mace. A collaboration with Experimental Cocktail Club vet Nico de Soto and Zach Sharaga of the late, great jazz bar Louis 649, which once occupied the space, Mace was originally hatched as an ode to travel.

“It was a good idea, but vague,” says Boehm. “Instead we decided on spices, which are intrinsically international, and the notion of a modern spice shop — not a dusty old one. Once we decided to open Mace, every meal became a meaningful spice hunt.”

At the bar, de Soto has dreamed up a dozen intriguing spice-laden cocktails. There’s the namesake concoction, for example, with Aperol, aquavit, beet juice, orange acid and young Thai coconut cordial capped off with a mace mist. There are also drinks flaunting cinnamon-infused Pisco and brown butter and hay fat-washed Cognac laced with chamomile syrup. But the shelves of spices lining Mace’s walls are most certainly not filled with an array of McCormick-branded ones plucked from the supermarket. “Commercial spices pale in comparison to the real thing. They are allowed to remove 30 percent of flavors and still sell them,” says Boehm.

In search of quality, Boehm traveled to India (along with Seychelles and Madagascar) to source Mace’s initial stash of spices from the wholesale markets of Mumbai. Finding the good stuff proved challenging. “They wanted to take us to the tourist spots, so I said, ‘If your uncle owned a restaurant, where would he go to get cardamom?’” Boehm recalls. “I had to convince them that yes, I really wanted to go there. There were just a few stalls, and it was incredibly loud as they smashed and pulverized spices. They were cooking them in giant things that looked like woks and all the hot peppers and smoke in the air made us cough while we negotiated giant jars of mace.” Here, peppers dried in the sun on dirt roads. There were coriander seeds, cardamom and rose petals aplenty. Nutmeg, notes Boehm, was “two or three times the size of the ones bought in the States.”

Naturally, Boehm can’t run a business based solely on random purchases abroad. In the midst of the always-unpredictable spice trade, he has numerous sources from which to obtain fresh batches of goods on the regular — although “the prices of licorice are really fluctuating right now.” Still, he’s “most excited to bring spices back in my suitcase. You’d be surprised how much you can fit in there.”

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