In his review this week, Pete Wells praised almost everything about Botequim, a Brazilian restaurant located in the basement of The Hyatt Union Square hotel. Actually, it was the location the critic believed to be the establishment’s weakest feature, though he warmly praised the food.
There are two ways to get down to the below-street-level restaurant, and as Wells puts it, “The first is weird… The second is weirder… Once you make it inside, though, things quickly start to look up.” He enjoys the ethnic feel of the décor and ambiance, and quickly maps out a meal comprising his favorite dishes on the menu. He tells his readers what to starts with (“have a few globes of pão de queijo, Brazilian cheese puffs that are something like gougères crossed with mocha… Or with a plate of pasteizinhos … It’s terrific stuff”) before calling out the best entrées, which “make it obvious, if it wasn’t already, that Botequim’s kitchen cooks with far more finesse than the remaining restaurants of Manhattan’s Little Brazil or the outposts of those all-the-grilled-meat-you-can-eat chains that turn up every few years and are never as much fun as they sound.” The mains are so good, according to the critic, that he admits to having flashbacks of his experiences with them: “Botequim’s cube of suckling pig plays a recurring role in one of my hungry daydreams, in which I break the thin roof of crackling skin into chips to scoop up swirls of lime-brightened pork, soft enough to serve as a dip. In other idle moments between meals, I flash back to the short rib… And when I imagine feijoada, it looks the way it did my first night at Botequim, when it was loaded with smoked pork and sausages and the black beans tasted as if they, too, were on the verge of turning into meat.”
The desserts don’t quite follow suit with the rest of the menu, as although Wells found the tres leches cake to be excellent, the other selections — along with the coffee — didn’t quite make the mark. According to Wells, “Sonhos, the doughnut holes whose name means 'dreams' in Portuguese, had an undreamlike heaviness… the rice pudding, which was allegedly made with bananas and passion fruit, tasted like stewed onions. And my coffee, which seemed like a sure thing in a Brazilian restaurant, was awful.” He’s quick to point out, however, that “weak coffee and iffy desserts can be fixed,” and once again brings the reader’s attention back to his befuddlement regarding the restaurant’s location. Because, to Wells, “Botequim has Brazilian food, under the direction of the chef Marco Moreira, that is too good to be trapped in a basement.”
Kate Kolenda is the Restaurant and City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @BeefWerky and @theconversant.
Self-Satisfied New Yorkers Swear They Hated Peter Luger All Along
Reactions to NYT dining critic Pete Wells’ zero-star roast of landmark steakhouse Peter Luger are rolling in: Disbelief. Confusion. But also: Agreement. In fact, many New York dining fans — who have, until now, apparently swallowed their concerns about Luger — can finally speak their truth.
Problems at New York’s foremost steakhouse, Wells writes in his review, start with service: “The Department of Motor Vehicles is a block party compared with the line at Peter Luger.” But they also include uneven food — like a literally unevenly cooked burger — at steep prices.
Eater Critics Debate: Is Peter Luger Still Good?
Reactions to Wells’ zingers — he looks forward to the restaurant’s German potatoes the way he look forward “to finding a new, irregularly shaped mole” — were spicy themselves. While there was some defense of the restaurant, suddenly, lots of opinionated diners were eager to tell the world they, too, had noticed the emperor wasn’t fully clothed. Most responses fell into a few camps.
“Peter Luger is, in fact good”
My other opinion today is that Peter Luger is Good. I have been a bunch of times in the past few years and it is always sort of a debacle and always costs too much but it’s great for reasons I can’t totally explain, much like New York City itself— Amanda Mull (@amandamull) October 29, 2019
I've seen plenty of questionable, ridiculous stories and pieces in @nytimes over the years, to the point where I can't even look at it now, but I have NEVER once had a bad meal or a bad experience at Peter Luger.— Ryan (@ryanfield) October 29, 2019
“Never-Lugers,” who say they totally questioned it the whole time
Seems my contrarian Peter Luger Is Bad view is no longer contrarian. While all the complaints in this review are correct, @pete_wells fails to note also that the restaurant is lit far too brightly, like a hospital. https://t.co/sSJvzynmVI— Josh Barro (@jbarro) October 29, 2019
Peter Luger Steak House has always been bad. I'm glad we're all finally admitting it now. https://t.co/pQgoPzcByo— Josh Barro (@jbarro) October 29, 2019
The Times' review of Peter Luger is more than fair. My last two visits were just bad.— Robert Armstrong (@rbrtrmstrng) October 29, 2019
I regret to inform everyone that most steakhouses are so overrated. They are only worth it, in my opinion, if their service is extraordinary. Otherwise go to costco for a cheap usda prime and call it an evening. https://t.co/sL4izXFiFx— Tom Carroll (@TRCsnow) October 29, 2019
the peter luger server bringing me the check for my burger, fries, and wedge salad pic.twitter.com/fNuaqmxI7Z— Adam Moussa (@adamjmoussa) October 29, 2019
This is a fucking devastating review. Holy shit. @pete_wells has a beautiful and crushing way with words, and I’m a little heartbroken. But this speaks to me. because the hard truth is that he’s absolutely right. #irregularlyshapedmole https://t.co/9nmKeSJxID
— A s t o r i a | H a i • B O O ! (@AstoriaHaiku) October 29, 2019
After having dined there in the late 70’s and 80’s when its reputation was deserved, went back after years away in 2016 and we were very disappointed with food and service exactly as described in NYT review. Appears they can live on rep for a l o n g time and $$$ too— Charles C Andrews (@CharlesC1976) October 29, 2019
Those just in it for the drama
pete wells just did the same thing to peter luger that jay-z did to the x5.— Desus Nice (@desusnice) October 29, 2019
And absurdists who aren’t afraid to say “okay, I’ll bite, what’s a Peter Luger?”
I see Peter Luger is trending. I hope nothing happened to him.— Adam “Spooky Boi” Cozens (@AdamCozens27) October 29, 2019
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Dave & Jen
Even host Jimmy Kimmel was surprised to learn that Dave Matthews and Jennifer Aniston are close friends. The singer revealed, during an October 2019 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, that Aniston has been on Matthews family vacations before. When Kimmel asked if people lose their minds once they see the Friends star, Matthews jokingly responded, "Well, it's more like I'm a bag of potatoes and &mdash 'What's Jennifer Aniston doing standing there next to that bag of potatoes.'"
Talk to the Newsroom: Dining Editor Pete Wells
Pete Wells, The Times's dining editor, answered questions from readers July 23-27, 2007.
Mr. Wells joined the Times as dining editor in October 2006. For the previous five years, he was the articles editor at Details. He also wrote a column, "Always Hungry," for Food & Wine, where he worked as an editor from 1999 until 2001. Mr. Wells has received five James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards for his writing about eating and drinking. He will eat almost anything except cold pasta salad.
Several other editors have answered questions in this column, including Executive Editor Bill Keller, Obituaries Editor Bill McDonald, Assistant Managing Editor Glenn Kramon, Director of Copy Desks Merrill Perlman, Metropolitan Editor Joe Sexton, Living Editor Trish Hall, Investigations Editor Matthew Purdy, National Editor Suzanne Daley, Digital News Editor Jim Roberts and Culture Editor Sam Sifton. Their responses and those of other Times editors are on the Talk to the Newsroom page.
These discussions will continue in future weeks with other Times editors.
Coverage of Quick Bites
Q. I come into NY 3-4 times each year for Bdwy, opera, Chelsea arts scene and more. I rarely have the time or desire to sit down for a fancy meal but usually just grab something on the run. I eat lots of pizza slices, falafel sandwiches, bagels and baguettes, fast Chinese, and other quick bites.
While the NYT should not lessen its coverage of expensive restaurants by its primary restaurant critic, I would appreciate more coverage of smaller inexpensive restaurants. Perhaps expand the $25 and under column. More columns comparing say hamburger joints, pizza, ethnic specialties, etc (I know you have done some of this and it was great — I would just like more). More articles like NY Mag does on "Cheap Eats" in NY.
A. I love cheap and quick meals, too. The first restaurants I ever wrote about were ones where it was almost impossible to rack up a tab over $15 — a good thing, too, because the magazine I wrote for back then barely covered my expenses. (Good training for The Times, it turns out.)
I promise you that the whole Dining staff loves hunting down the food you are talking about. We're always on the lookout for stories from the realm of cheapdom. We made one change recently that does affect the way we review inexpensive restaurants, but I hope it won't change the number of those restaurants we review. The $25 and Under column now appears every other week, alternating with Dining Briefs, a selection of two or three short capsule reviews. Some of these capsules focus on cheap eats, including options that are even cheaper than the places covered in $25 and Under, like food carts and takeout joints. And I hope we will do many more features on burgers, pizzas and all the other stuff that people eat every day.
I'm glad you like Diner's Journal and Mark Bittman's videos. It's been fun for all of us to figure out things we can do on the Web that we can't do in the newspaper.
Recipes for the Experts or the Masses?
Q.Are home cooks your audience? Are most or all of your recipes intended for the experienced and enthusiatic home cooks to actually try?
— Cheryl Allmon, San Francisco
A. The Dining section has many kinds of readers, from home cooks to famous chefs. And some of the articles we publish might be of special interest to one particular sub-audience — vegans, or workers in the restaurant industry, or New Yorkers, or Chicagoans, or people who love cheese.
The recipes, on the other hand, are all meant to be cooked by civilians in their home kitchens. Sometimes they're relatively simple, like the recipes in Mark Bittman's Minimalist column. Some are more complex and time consuming. I've toyed with the idea of somehow marking recipes that are especially challenging — what my grade school teachers used to call "extra credit questions." But I think it's probably easy enough for most cooks to read through a recipe and decide whether it's in their comfort zone.
I do ask myself, before publishing a recipe, whether it's something Iɽ be comfortable doing at home. This is sometimes an issue with recipes from chefs. Anything that involves many components tends to put me off — like "first bone and roast a duck, then make a stock from the carcass and reduce it to a demiglace. While the sauce is reducing, stuff two dozen baby zucchini with duck pate" — I mean, forget it. Not in this lifetime. You have to have a staff of sous chefs to do that. But within reasonable limits, challenging recipes do have their place, even if some readers skip right over them.
Chef? Cook? Which Is Which?
Q.This may be a harebrained question but here goes: What is the difference between a cook and a chef. I know a person who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and works at a very, very nice place in St. Michaels, Md., who insists he is a cook and not a chef. Then again, I know of some who I thought were cooks, say at a chain, who are called chef. Is it all nonsense or is there something behind the designations?
A. That's not harebrained at all. I don't blame you for being confused, because those terms have become very confusing lately. A chef used to mean the guy (in those days it was almost always a guy) who runs a professional kitchen — the boss. Now we have iron chefs and celebrity chefs and home chefs — all kinds of "chefs" who don't have anything to do with a professional kitchen.
Does your acquaintance in Maryland run the kitchen? If not, then he's right, he's a cook. But if he is the guy in charge then he may be making a subtle point about the kind of food he makes. I've heard chefs — actual chefs in the traditional sense of the word — say things like "I'm just a cook, not a chef." Sometimes what they mean is they make simple, straightforward, unfancy food. It's a way of demystifying what they do, something like my friend the highly paid animal surgeon who likes to say, "I'm just a doggie doctor."
Low Profile of Indian Cuisine
Q.Why is it that Indian cuisine still does not get high importance? Why is it that chefs like Vikas Khanna, Suvir Saran and Durga Prasad still cannot even share the center stage?
A. I do think that's changing, but maybe it's not changing quickly enough for admirers of Indian cuisine. There are a number of explanations. One, as Anne Mendelson pointed out in a last week's review of two Indian cookbooks, is that the tremendous diversity of Indian cuisine isn't very well represented in the United States, both in restaurants and in cookbooks. You could say that consumers aren't very knowledgeable about Indian food, but it's also true that Americans haven't had many opportunities to learn. For many decades, a lot of the Indian restaurants here had nearly identical menus that represented one very narrow sliver of what India has to offer. The restaurants were very cheap, too, which over time probably colored Americans' perceptions of the seriousness of Indian cuisine.
But you also have to look at India itself. The best cooking I had when I visited was served either in private homes or in expensive hotels. That may have changed in the past few years. But it's worth bearing in mind that one of the reasons French restaurants and French chefs were so revered here for so long is because the French invented what we think of as a restaurant — a formal dining room with a printed menu, waiter service, etc. — about 200 years ago. It's not that French food is better, it's just that the French had a long head start on presenting their cuisine in a restaurant context.
But Americans are beginning to notice what a talented Indian chef in a serious restaurant can do. The late Raji Jallepalli-Reiss, with her restaurants in Memphis and New York, for example. And Suvir Saran at Devi. There's also the interesting example of Floyd Cardoz, who brings Indian flavors and ideas into contemporary American cuisine at Tabla in Manhattan.
All three of those chefs received serious attention, in The New York Times and elsewhere. Ms. Jallepalli-Reiss's New York restaurant was given two stars by the Times restaurant critic, as was Devi, and Tabla got three.
Turning the Dining Tables
Q.I remember many years ago, possibly in the 1970s, one sports writer (the name escapes me), was highly critical of a referees officiating in the National Football League, so much so that this writer was then invited to officiate a game (probably an exhibition game), and he quickly discovered that being an N.F.L. official wasn’t as easy as he thought.
Have you ever considered turning the tables and having one of your restaurant critics prepare a meal for some famous New York chefs, who could then write up a critique of the meal they were served?
A. That's a great idea for a story. Do you mind if I steal it?
Actually, while Frank Bruni, our restaurant critic, hasn't cooked for a panel of critical chefs yet, he did put in his time waiting tables, and wrote a terrific piece about it.
Iɽ be thrilled to have him do the same thing in a restaurant kitchen, but the trouble is that the restaurant critic for The Times eats in restaurants almost every night. As you can imagine, that doesn't leave him much time to hone his own cooking skills. But unlike your sports writer, Frank never forgets how difficult it is for a chef to send out great food night after night. After all, he eats his share of the failures. And I think that experience makes him all the more enthusiastic when he comes across a chef who is doing great work and doing it consistently. That's the goal, or it should be, and few people know better than a regular critic how hard it is to meet that goal.
Missing R.W. Apple Jr.
Q.My basic question is who will replace R.W. "Johnny" Apple. The easy answer, of course, is that no one can. Mr. Apple ranged from Sydney to Oxford (Mississippi and England) to Walla Walla, going where the food was. His death last fall has left something of a gap in national (and international) food coverage. Perhaps not coincidentally, there appears to be a new voice on the food page. Joe Drape wrote about horse racing on the sports page up until June 15. After a month "off" his byline has now appeared twice in the food pages, both on articles about food (or at least restaurants) in other parts of the country. What exactly is Mr. Drape's beat, and does it focus more on food (which Mr. Apple tended to do) or more on the business of food.
A. You're right, I'm sorry to say. R.W. Apple Jr. truly was irreplaceable. He died the week before I started here, and I'll always regret missing my chance to work with him.
Joe Drape isn't trying to fill those big shoes but I'm happy he's here. He is pinch-hitting for Dining while Julia Moskin is on maternity leave. The summer is a quiet period on the horse beat, apart from the races in Saratoga, so Joe is working some new muscles as a food reporter. (And now I will stop using inappropriate sports metaphors.) He and I are looking together for stories about the culture of food and dining the piece he wrote about Tao Las Vegas was, it's true, a bit of a business story, but I think he'll get a chance to explore some other ways into the subject we cover. I've never thought that one needed to be a "food writer" to write about food.
The 'Huge' Dining Staff
Q. In your response to a reader, you mention that you and the "Dining staff" are always on the lookout for cheap eats. Just how big is the Dining staff. How many people does it take to produce these articles. Also I notice that major reviews usually intimate that three or more persons accompany the reviewer on his eating rounds. How are these persons chosen to go to dinner with the reviewer — some qualifications or just friends who are happy to eat on the New York Times tab?
A. People at The Times sometimes tell me that I'm very lucky to have such a big staff, but I am still amazed that just a few people are able to do all this work. We have two critics, Frank Bruni on restaurants and Eric Asimov on wine. And we have three staff reporters, Marian Burros, Kim Severson and Julia Moskin, who's on leave at the moment. Then there are three freelancers who write virtually every week, Florence Fabricant, Mark Bittman and Peter Meehan.
Those are the bylines you'll see on the stories, but then there are those of us who work mostly backstage. Nick Fox is the deputy editor and Pat Gurosky is both a text editor (in Times parlance, a "backfielder") and the glue that holds us all together. Making the section a visual thrill each week are a great art director and a photo editor. And we share a news assistant with the Home section, as well as a copy desk this is a team of six extremely smart editors who help us whip the stories into shape while navigating the nuances of New York Times style. We also share a Web producer with some other sections she puts the section online for us and also works with us on Web-only multimedia projects like videos and slideshows.
I'm sure I've left someone out, so I'll just apologize right now. Maybe the staff really is huge after all.
As for the reviewer's dining companions, it's not quite the gravy train you might picture. I'm sure his companions appreciate being taken along, but everybody at the table gets drafted into helping the critic do his job. Eating with a critic isn't like eating with a civilian: you have to order whatever he wants to try, and if you happen to get an appetizer or entree you really like, too bad — after one or two bites you have to pass your plate over so the critic can have a taste. And then it gets passed to the next person, so that delicious lobster salad you loved so much will be gone before you know it. I've gone along with Frank Bruni on his rounds a few times and while he's as gracious as anyone could be, I still feel cheated about passing a good plate of food to somebody else. And if there's one dish on the table that absolutely everybody hates? That will be the one that I end up with when the passing stops. It's like musical chairs, but with overcooked lamb.
The Secret of Story Selection
Q.I want to learn about how you select stories. How do you feel about e-newsletters like DailyCandy and UrbanDaddy plus blogs like Eater.com breaking restaurant stories at a very quick rate daily? How does this change your coverage? Or does it?
A. When I assign stories, I hope that the piece that comes in will be something I've never read before. I like having news in the section, but I also like to see fresh perspectives on things that have been around for a while.
When I am planning a section, I try to choose pieces that either complement each other or, more often, pieces that are very different. Running two very dissimilar pieces side by side can be just fun (I got a kick this week out of putting a story about beef jerky under a story about animal rights, but the animal rights people might not share my peculiar sense of humor). But the selection of contrasting stories can also help to broaden the section's appeal. So if you look at this week's section, people who are concerned about food politics will read Kim Severson's story on the animal rights movement, while people who care about discovering new taste sensations might like the piece on the "boutique jerky" trend, and then there's a story about restaurants catering to diners who can't eat gluten. This last one seems to have found its audience because it was the most emailed story on nytimes.com.
And every week, there are restaurant reviews for people who love eating out and good recipes for people who love eating in. The thing I don't want — the thing no editor wants — is to have readers flip through the section and say, "I'm not interested in any of this stuff."
As for the blogs, yes, the news cycle has speeded up tremendously. I'm not even sure you can call it a cycle anymore, it's just a constant whir. Since we're a weekly section, it's harder for us to break news, but we manage to do it. We also try to do what the weekly news magazines have always done: offer a richer and more thoughtful perspective on news that's already happened. The animal rights piece this week is an example of that. There has been a lot of news on that front this year and not much of it was broken in the Dining section. But Kim Severson's story pulled it all together and, I hope, gave readers a broader context than they might get from reading a quickly reported news story about Wendy's new animal welfare policy.
The Pesky Competition
Q.I look forward to each Wednesday to be able to read the Dining section. Thank you for making my week easier to get through.
My question is, why is it that when I read a review of a new restaurant or product in the Dining section I see similar articles in the "other" New York papers?
A. I hope you are seeing those stories in other papers after you've seen them in The Times. But I know it doesn't always work out that way, especially with restaurants. There are a lot of restaurant openings that, for one reason or another, generate so much interest in the dining public that just about every magazine or paper that covers restaurants is going to feel compelled to write about them, and everybody wants to do it right away.
When it comes time to run a review we typically wait longer than other publications in the city. There's a rush to be first in almost everything in the media, and these days some bloggers will post their impressions of a new restaurant on the day it opens. But we typically give restaurants around two months before we run a review. If you've ever been in a restaurant that's just opened you know how chaotic and uneven it can be. By waiting two months we give the staff a chance to work out the kinks, but more important, we are giving readers a more accurate impression of what the place will be like in the long run. That's our hope, at least.
A Meal, So to Speak, With Substance
Q.Like so much popular food writing, the Dining section often opts for chatty, fairly insubstantial content. Have you considered adding an article each week that is richer in content, more thoroughly researched or just more thoughtful? For example it would be lovely to read about the relationship between farmer's markets and old strains of seeds or a brief history of lunch in New York City or how cookbook writing has changed and the current fashion to hook the reader/cook. Or — gasp! — what about an article linking current immigration debates to the New York City restaaurant industry. Or even, why it is that so many cafes have such poor quality baked goods.
On another note, why is Frank Bruni so concerned with decor?
A. I like your ideas. While I think about them, you might enjoy reading a few recent pieces we've published. Kim Severson's story this week looks at the growing influence animal rights advocates are having on the way we eat. Marian Burros wrote an article a week ago on the gathering momentum to ban or replace plastic shopping bags, for ecological reasons, and she wrote a similar story at the end of May about restaurants that are giving up bottled water — again for ecological reasons. In the July 11 issue, Micheline Maynard traced the paths by which new ingredients and flavors trickle down from a few high-end restaurants or gourmet shops into the mass market. On July 4, Marian did something previously thought impossible: she explained why the pending Farm Bill legislation matters to all Americans and not just the handful of commodity farmers who receive subsidies. Or you could go back to Elaine Sciolino's story in June about why some of the French are up in arms about proposed changes to the legal definition of Camembert. Or the special issue we did in April on the green movement in food.
Frank Bruni does write a lot about restaurant decor, it's true, but I disagree with people who believe that decor is somehow unrelated to food. Context is enormously powerful in food and wine. There are a whole bunch of academic studies done by sensory scientists showing how much our perceptions of taste can be altered by visual or auditory cues. Even if you don't believe the scientists, you can begin to understand their point if you think about how good a glass of wine can taste when you're on vacation in some beautiful place. If you opened a bottle of the same wine when you got back home, youɽ experience it in a different way — and chances are that it wouldn't taste as good. (Remember this the next time you're in the tasting room of a winery in Napa.) Or if you've ever had a fight with someone in a restaurant, try to remember what the food tasted like. So when Frank describes the look and feel of a restaurant, he's doing it because those environmental factors that may seem irrelevant to the food actually have a lot of power over the pleasure we take in a meal.
Deciding Where to Eat (and Critique)
Q.I always enjoy the reviews by Frank Bruni. Simple question: How are the restaurants picked? Of course, the flashier, well-known ones are easy how do the obscure or lesser-known get chosen out of the myriad in the city and environs? And perhaps some more articles/reviews of the better restaurants in the suburbs? I know that they are covered in the local editions on Sunday but some coverage in the main paper would be nice.
— Robert Lefland, New City, N.Y.
A. I turned to Frank Bruni for help with this one. Here's his answer:
Restaurants are picked in different ways, and it's not scientific — it can't be in a city in which several dozen new restaurants may open each month, in which scores of important restaurants haven't been reviewed in 5 or 8 or 10 years, in which there are many hundreds times more legitimate restaurants than there are Dining sections in a given year.
Most restaurants are selected because of their pedigree: They're the work of serious chefs or ambitious restaurateurs whose efforts pique the curiosity of food lovers and cry out for assessment. As for the less flashy, less obvious choices, it may be that they're inherently interesting restaurants that also help lend the column some geographic or ethnic diversity. It may be that they're just worthy standouts among the restaurants I had time to try out. It may be that there's a history to, or a broader context for, the restaurant that guarantees that a review devoted to it will have some interesting ground to cover.
And these restaurants come onto my radar in various ways: through word-of-mouth, through mentions in other publications or on Web sites, etc.
The "myriad" you rightly mention is a big reason there are almost never reviews, in the Dining section, of restaurants in the suburbs: It would broaden the range of possibility to an unmanageable degree. In addition, the newspaper's Dining section only reviews restaurants after a critic makes multiple visits — typically three at the minimum — and making regular multiple visits to restaurants in New Jersey and Connecticut and Westchester County would be a logistical impossibility for the critic. And the reviews of suburban restaurants would have an even more instantly narrowed core audience than reviews of restaurants in Manhattan, where the population is denser and diners from all around the metro area are eating.
I think our system is a sound one, because we do have the suburban sections and we do have reviewers for those sections who can give that narrowed audience information tailored to it.
What About Vegetarian Food?
Q.Why isn't there more coverage of vegetarian food, menus, issues and vegetarian, vegan and veg-friendly restaurants?
A. Actually, I am very interested in covering vegetarianism and veganism. We did a big story yesterday by Kim Severson which I've already mentioned a few times up above. There are a couple of other ideas in the works, which I hope to publish soon. And we ran a very popular story in January about Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a vegan cook. (I've made her recipe for vegan Hostess cupcakes twice now, once for a party with a few vegan guests and once a couple of weeks ago for my 3-year-old son's birthday party he isn't a vegan but he is allergic to eggs.)
But the Dining section has a lot of constituencies to serve and we have to balance our coverage so that many different kinds of readers can come away from the section feeling satisfied. I can't give everybody everything they want every week, but I hope that over time, week to week, we can provide stories and recipes that will satisfy vegans and carnivores, candy lovers and dieters, bread bakers and people with celiac disease, and so on.
The Pleasures of Portland
Q.How come the New York Times travel section seems to have a (well-founded) obsession with Portland, Ore., and yet you yourself never come here to sample: a) some of our fine restaurants, b) our micro-brews, c) our micro-distilleries, d) our micro-meat curers, e) our Pinot? We really need you to represent, and not from a shiny throne in New York City.
A. Guilty as charged. I haven't spent nearly enough time in Portland, which has all those things to offer and more (you neglected to mention the superb literary scene). It's hard for me to travel these days but I do have writers who are very keen on the Portland food scene. As Michael Corleone said, "We'll get there, pop. We'll get there."
Don't Forget ɺ Good Appetite'
Q.I truly love the Dining In section every week. Whether I steal it from my boss's newspaper or I read it online, it's a wonderful lunch-hour thing to do and makes my boring home-brought lunch meal taste so much better!
You forgot Melissa Clark! I devour her articles and find her writing to be quite fresh and recipes easily accessible for any level of cook. Her recent articles on morels and spring vegetables just made my mouth water. Her spinach dip discoveries were hilarious and maraschino cherries really gave some interesting information!
Is Ms. Clark a freelancer and where exactly is her kitchen where she tests those recipes? Does she come up with her own ideas or do you assign her article topics?
— Rose Strong, Bucks County, Pa.
A. Don't worry, I didn't forget Melissa. She's currently writing three columns a month so I didn't lump her in with the freelancers who write weekly, but we like her column as much as you do. She lives in Brooklyn, where she conducts and chronicles her kitchen experiments, and almost all the ideas are hers.
Too Many Kitchens for One Chef?
Q.One of the dining industry’s most visible practices is for so-called “celebrity chefs,” some of whose names are more visibly promoted to the public than the restaurants they operate, to oversee multiple eating establishments at the same time, not only within major cities like New York, but even in distant locations (Las Vegas immediately comes to mind).
How do you feel food writers should deal with this practice when writing about these establishments, and especially in reviewing for the public a new restaurant being opened by one of these chefs? Do you think the writer should attempt to learn and disclose how much of the time the name chef is actually spending in the new restaurant or, conversely, is no longer spending in his or her other, older restaurants?
Finally, do you think the head chef on duty actually doing the cooking in some of these restaurant kitchens should get more of the reviewer’s attention, credit and/or criticism than the name celebrity who, in some cases, may only be “creating the menu” or “helping train the kitchen staff,” but will rarely be present in the house night after night when readers will be dining?
— John Stone, Southbury, Conn.
A. You're right, there's more and more of this going around, and it's not always famous chefs, either. A number of chefs who are quite successful but are not at all household names have been opening spinoffs and clones. Obviously, a chef can only be in one kitchen at a time — and when the chef is in charge of a restaurant empire with outposts around the globe, they may be in the kitchen very rarely indeed.
To be honest, I'm not sure food journalists have fully caught up to these changes. Sometimes we'll persist in calling a restaurant "Jean-Claude Fondue's Cafe Fondue" when we would realize, if we thought about it for a minute, that Chef Fondue is not the primary force in the kitchen. We'll use the name as a sort of shorthand, but it may be that we're falling for a branding or marketing strategy. On the other hand, there are chefs who manage to be actively involved in all their restaurants.
Even when the chef is in the kitchen full time, he's often not the one cooking your meal. He's supervising, organizing, keeping the operation on track, and maybe stepping up to the stove only when the line cooks start to fall behind. And if the people in the kitchen are talented and dedicated, they can do great work without the direct supervision of the famous chef whose name draws patrons to the restaurant.
When it comes to reviews, sometimes there can be problems in knowing who gets the credit or blame. Obviously, weɽ like to get that right. But I don't think a restaurant critic needs to know whether the famous chef is actually in the kitchen in order to assess the restaurant. What matters is the food, not who's cooking it. There is a funny scene in Bill Buford's "Heat" where Mario Batali turns up and tells all his cooks that they're doing everything all wrong — it turns out they might know more about how his kitchen works than he does.
There may even be some restaurants that are worse on the nights when the celebrity chef shows up in the kitchen. People who work in an office probably know this phenomenon — having the boss looking over your shoulder doesn't always help you do your job.
Trim the Fat in the Title?
Q.Two questions and a comment:
Are you going to eliminate the last three words of your section title?
I read the national edition as does a growing number of Times subscribers. I recognize the difficulty of covering restaurants outside New York City but, to serve your national audience, why aren’t you reviewing cookbooks and TV cooking shows on a regular basis? They are key components of the dining world in this country and, except for the semi-annual Book Review takeouts, totally underserved by the Times.
I seek out and enjoy the Witchel and Clark columns and consider them an improvement over the chef columns.
A. You mean just call the section Dining, instead of Dining In/Dining Out, or Dining Out/Dining In? It's funny — when I'm editing copy, I'm always looking for unnecessary words to delete, so I have to admit that sometimes I look at my section and think, "Couldn't we just say ɽining' instead?" And here at the paper we do call the section just plain "Dining." But we don't have a plan to change it, no.
We do review cookbooks regularly, in fact. The first story I assigned, even before I got to the office, was Kim Severson's review of the latest version of "Joy of Cooking." There are a lot of cookbooks out there and readers could use some help in sorting through them. I'm not sure they need the same kind of help with food TV, though. We've written articles about food TV, like Julia Moskin's profile of Paula Deen. And we touch on it once in a while in our Diner's Journal blog. But I don't know if weɽ be providing any kind of valuable service to readers by setting a critic loose on this week's episode of "Roker on the Road."
The Impact of One Recipe
Q.Mark Bittman's column about no-knead bread started a national discussion on baking and eating bread at home. Readers forwarded the recipe to friends, put rush orders on dutch ovens to make the bread, and are still writing blog posts about their own changes to the recipe. What do you think this recipe is still drawing so much attention more than nine months after it ran? READER QUESTION
A. I suspected that the no-knead bread piece would be popular, but I had no idea how popular. Part of the explanation, I think, is that there is an international community of home bakers who are all hooked up through baking blogs, email, etc., so when the piece came out it just ricocheted around the world.
But I put your question to Mark Bittman today, and he has a different answer:
That's why they call him the Minimalist, folks.
It's All in the Stars
Q.How does the restaurant star rating system work? Is there some kind of written guideline that critics are expected to follow? Is there an attempt to be consistent from critic to critic?
A. Ah yes, the star system. I knew somebody would ask and so I had Frank Bruni standing by with an explanation. It's actually pretty straightforward:
The only written guideline for the rating system is the one shared with the public in the boxes that accompany reviews. One star means good, two stars means very good, and on up the ladder, with those assessments incorporating questions not just of food quality and appeal but of service, atmosphere and cost. And there's no predetermined percentage: service counts for x much, atmosphere for y amount.
I'm guessing that each critic has looked at the work of his or her predecessors and tried to get a sense from it of how frequently or rarely the newspaper has, over time, doled out the different star ratings. But to my knowledge there's never been a mandate that a critic do so, and it's clear — and inevitable — that each critic has his or her own approach in this regard.
And I personally think that's fine, because with any change of critic, there's already a much bigger shift happening. The new person's reaction to restaurants is going to be his or own, and in large part subjective, just as reactions to books, movies and the like are. That's the nature of criticism.
Frank's last point is really the key. We demand honesty of our critics. That means we want a critic with integrity, somebody who's incorruptible. But it also means somebody who can be honest with himself, who can write his own opinions rather than writing what he thinks is expected. We want a critic who calls ɾm as he sees ɾm (I really am going to send the sports metaphors to the showers after this). If everybody else in town thinks a restaurant's terrific and the critic doesn't, he's got to say that. And that applies to the stars just as much as to the way a review is written. The star system, being numerical, might give the illusion that there are objective mathematical guidelines — add up the scores for decor, service and food and get the total number of stars — but the stars are ultimately subjective, and the star system simply can't work any other way.
About That Cold Pasta Salad
Q.Never say never, youɽ eat my cold pasta, it's actually not a salad. Next time you come to France come down to Provence and I'll knock your socks off with my version, which includes pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, parmesan and basil.
A. I'll make you a deal. I'll try your cold pasta if you promise to make the same recipe in a hot version. We'll taste them side by side. If we agree that the cold pasta is better, I'll buy the wine.
And with that I must slink back to work and reclaim my accustomed anonymity and obscurity. My writers are waiting. I apologize to all the people whose questions I wasn't able to answer. Thank you, everybody, for your interest in how things get done around the Dining section.
Chelsey White, @chelsweets
If you’re looking for the ultimate dessert inspo, Chelsey White is your girl. She makes some of the most eye-catching cakes on TikTok and boasts an audience of more than 1.4 million followers.
To date, White has made some pretty epic creations in a process that she fully documents online. She consistently bakes cakes into fun shapes like mermaid tails, toilet paper, and Spongebob Squarepants. Sheven made her own wedding cake last summer. Yes, you heard that right.
According to her blog, White had daydreamed about her cake since she got engaged and decided to take matters into her own hands. “Somehow I managed to make our cake ahead of time, deliver it to the venue the morning of our wedding, and had the time of my life on our wedding day,” she writes. “In retrospect, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”
The Brooklyn location was established in 1887 as "Carl Luger's Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley" in the then-predominantly German neighborhood that would shortly thereafter be in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge.   German-born Peter Luger (1866–1941) was the owner, and nephew Carl was the chef.  When Peter died in 1941, his son Frederick took over and the restaurant declined. 
In 1950, Frederick shut the restaurant and put it up for auction. Bernard and Lester Magrill, local auctioneers and frequent patrons, conducted the auction. Sol Forman, and Seymour Sloyer who owned a metal giftware factory across the street,  bought it as partners for a "whimsically low" bid. According to Lester Magrill, the purchase price was $35,000, which included the building as well as the restaurant. According to one history, "the neighborhood was declining, filling up with Hasidic Jews, whose kosher rules forbade the eating of Luger's hindquarters. Both Forman and Sloyer had been eating at Luger for twenty-five years, and they needed a place to take their clients. They were the only bidders during the auction. In 1968, Craig Claiborne of The New York Times gave a four star review of the steakhouse, under the new ownership. 
In 1968, Forman and Sloyer opened a Great Neck, New York, location. It was closed in 1984 after a severe fire, and reopened a year and a half later in 1986. 
Seymour Sloyer died in 2001 at the age of 85. Sol Forman died in 2001 at the age of 98.   Ownership of the restaurant passed to Forman's daughters and Sloyer's wife and children 
In July 2009, while having dinner at Peter Luger, New York Governor David Paterson had Richard Ravitch secretly sworn in as Lieutenant Governor to oversee the stalemate-stricken State Senate. 
- Boil potatoes in an 8-qt. pot of salted water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside to let cool slightly. Meanwhile, bring milk to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan remove from heat, cover, and set aside.
- Peel potatoes and pass them through a food mill into a 4-qt. saucepan set over medium-low heat. Using a rubber spatula, turn potatoes frequently until they take on a drier, fluffier consistency, 2–3 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Working in batches, vigorously stir in the butter until mixture is creamy. Whisk in warmed milk, season potatoes with salt, and transfer them to a warm serving bowl.
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Bhaji Dana (Parsi-Style Fenugreek Leaves with Peas)
Bitter greens are an elegant foil to the sweetness of onions and green peas.
Born in Mumbai, Chintan Pandya immersed himself in hospitality from a young age, studying hotel management at the Oberoi Management School in Delhi, India. He got his professional start at a hotel restaurant in Mumbai, spending eight years in the kitchen learning traditional Indian cuisine and techniques. After a brief stint in Singapore in 2009, Pandya traveled to Cleveland and Atlanta for consulting gigs. Landing in Manhattan, Pandya became the executive chef of Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Junoon.
In 2017, Pandya opened Rahi in the West Village, a casual and relaxed Indian bistro where comfort is king. Along with restaurateur Roni Mazumdar, the pair wanted to help evolve Americans&rsquo perception of Indian food, showing the varied regional cuisine in playful ways like chaat made with edamame and artichokes. In 2018, Pandya and Mazumdar opened a second restaurant, Adda, in Long Island City. At Adda, Pandya is making the traditional food he grew up with and explored throughout India instead of the Americanized dishes often associated with Indian cuisine. New York Magazine named Adda, &ldquothe most exciting new Indian restaurant in New York,&rdquo and the restaurant earned two stars in The New York Times from Pete Wells who said the food is, &ldquoa lusty, full-throated defense of traditional cooking.&rdquo The restaurant also netted three stars from Eater critic Robert Sietsema.
Recipes the Top Chef All Stars L.A. Contestants Are Cooking Up While Social Distancing
It's time to step up your cooking skills!
And who better to help you in the kitchen than a few of the Top Chef All Stars L.A. contestants?
Season 17 of the series is currently playing out week to week on Bravo (Thursdays at 10 p.m.), but the expert chefs are now at home, practicing social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak like everybody else. Unlike most, though, they're not exactly filling up on cereal or frozen pizza—at least not exclusively! Instead, they're dining on their own unique creations—whether that means putting a spin on a classic or creating something new entirely.
If your stomach is already growling, you're in luck. Top Chef vets Brian Malarkey, Lisa Fernandes, Nini Nguyen and Jennifer Carroll all shared their detailed recipes for everything from masa ball soup to a five-minute roasted chicken.
So hop off the couch and head to the kitchen—it's your time to shine, Top Chef-style.
Get more of this year's contestants by watching Top Chef All Stars L.A. Thursdays at 10 p.m. on Bravo!
Prior to this year's Top Chef All Stars L.A., Carroll appeared on season six of the Bravo series. She later returned for the season eight All Stars season while also participating in Last Chance Kitchen season seven.
While at home, Carroll said she's been keeping large batch sauces that she can use in multiple ways. One of her favorites? Jerk sauce.
"Jerk sauce can be used on EVERYTHING!" she explained. "Chicken, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, mangos, pineapple, eggs, rice, even delicious baked into bread, cakes and drizzled on Vanilla ice cream. Trust ME it's sweet, spicy and savory."
1.5 cup peeled garlic clove
12 bunches of scallions
1.5 boxes of light brown sugar
6 grams of Allspice
18 grams of cinnamon
30 grams of thyme
6 grams of nutmeg
30 ounces of soy or tamari sauce
3 cups molasses
2 cups rum
2 whole habanero peppers with seeds
1/2 cup blanched preserved lemon
1 cup Dijon mustard
30 grams salt
1 cup olive oil
Add all ingredients except oil to a blender and blend until smooth. Stop blender and scrape down sides. Turn back on and slowly emulsify in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
This recipe makes about 5 quarts. You can freeze it or share with family, neighbors and friends.
Fernandes was a contestant on season four, the Chicago-set season.
As for right now, she said she's been loving Chinese food—especially dishes that incorporate ginger and garlic, like her take on this recipe. And if you run into any trouble while cooking it, Fernandes said to message her on Instagram.
Ginger Chicken & Broccoli
1-pound chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 egg, scrambled
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1/2 red onion, diced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar light brown or white is fine
3 cups broccoli
Optional: sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, sambal, sriracha, sesame oil, rice
*Cooked Jasmine rice is best but whatever you have at home is fine! Follow the instructions for your rice based on the package.
Bring a pot of water to a boil with some salt. When it's boiling, cook the broccoli for about 3-5 minutes, or until it's tender. Drain and set aside.
Put the chicken and egg into a bowl. Coat well. Coat the chicken in the cornstarch.
In a pan on medium heat, add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom. Cook the chicken on both sides until golden brown. Make sure the chicken is 165 degrees in the middle.
In the same pan, add the garlic, onions and ginger. Cook until golden. Put the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and pepper flakes in the pan. Add the chicken back until the sauce coats everything. Add the broccoli and stir well. Serve over rice!
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Nguyen is a veteran of season 16.
She's offering up a recipe that she used on this year's Top Chef All Stars L.A. in episode two.
Masa Ball Soup
2-3 pounds chicken with bone
3 stalks lemongrass
1 whole onion
6 kaffir lime leaves (if you have)
4-inch knob of ginger
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 can coconut milk (full fat)
1 cup masa harina
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
2-inch ginger, thinly sliced
Place all ingredients except the coconut milk and simmer for about 1.5 hours. In the last half hour add the coconut milk. Strain and pick chicken meat off bone.
Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients in separate bowls and then combine. Let the dough chill in the fridge for about an hour or until dough is stiff. In a pot filled half way with boiling salted water, place masa balls in and simmer with the lid on for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Malarkey was an early competitor on Top Chef from season three.
As of late, he said he's been obsessed with roasted chicken.
"It's the ultimate comfort food for me and my family, but waiting for it to roast is not always ideal," he explained. "So when the family's hungry, I use this 5-minute chicken recipe that is only 5 ingredients It is just as homey and wholesome, without the wait."
Crispy Skinned Pounded Chicken Breast in 5 minutes with Lemon Salsa Verde
4 each chicken breast with skin
3 each lemons
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 bunch Italian parsley, rough chop
salt and pepper
2 Large saute pans
Medium mixing B=bowl
Tongs and spoon
*You may have to do this twice—2 breasts each time—as to not overcrowd the sauté pan.
Cover the chicken breasts with a kitchen towel and start pounding—you want to thin the breast out evenly so that it cooks very quickly giving it incredible texture and maximum juiciness. Season the pounded breast with salt and pepper.
Put one of the large sauté pans over high heat, add pan spray and the 4 breasts skin side down. Spray the bottom of the other large sauté pan and place on top of the breast. Now put something heavy on top of the sauté pan to weigh it down—the more weight the better (i.e. pot of water, bricks). Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the chicken is white on the side facing up. Flip the breast over and the skin should be crispy golden brown. Remove from heat and place onto a large platter or individual plates.
With a microplane, zest and remove the yellow from the lemons and put into the bowl. Next, remove the peel and segment the lemons (as seen on The Today Show) and add to the bowl. Add olive oil, parsley and capers. Season with salt and pepper and more lemon juice if you like. Now, spoon it onto your beautiful chicken breast!
A Tangy, Crunchy Twist on a Mumbai Street Snack
What's in your refrigerator at any given time says a lot about you. In this series, GQ reached out to famous chefs with a deceptively simple, if revealing, question: What do you cook when you're by yourself and no one's watching?
There’s Indian food, then there’s Indian Accent, a restaurant that takes all the aromatic dishes and flavors of India that you love and presents them in a way unlike anything you’ve ever seen (or tasted) before. It’s the handiwork of Manish Mehrotra, a wildly creative chef considered to be one of India's best. He helped start Indian Accent in New Delhi back in 2009—the only restaurant in India to land a spot on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list two years in a row—and has since set up the restaurant's first outpost in Midtown Manhattan. From the first few bites, you can tell you’re eating something really spectacular. In fact, The New York Times’s finicky, prose-loving food critic Pete Wells just gave Indian Accent two stars, citing the sweet pickle ribs, soft-shell crab koliwada, and soy keema.
Chef Mehrotra has traveled the world over, incorporating new flavors and techniques into traditional Indian dishes. When he finds the rare moment to cook something for himself (opening restaurants is a time-consuming affair, understandably), Chef Mehrotra opts for something quick and light, with a touch of nostalgia. Take his recipe for bhel puri, a popular snack made out of puffed rice, red onion, tamarind chutney, and chaat masala that originated from street food stands in Mumbai. But as you’ll see from the ingredients list alone, Chef Mehrotra rarely settles for what’s traditional. The results: incredibly tasty food with a hint of “what did I just eat?”
Chef Manish: “I find inspiration for my recipes from day-to-day life in India and from my travels. Everyone misses their childhood, so I take a lot of inspiration from my childhood. All of these things inspired me to create dishes that are very traditional but with a twist. It becomes not only Indian cuisine but global Indian cuisine. Bhel puri is a very, very basic thing to make, but with all the different ingredients here, every person in America can relate to it and even make it themselves. There's nothing difficult about it. There's so much mystery and fear around Indian food, that there are so many spices. People are intimidated, so I really want to make these Indian recipes in an easy, relatable way.
In different parts of India you get different versions of bhel puri. If you go to the eastern part of India they drizzle a little bit of raw mustard oil, which gives it a really big wasabi punch to it. This one is very refreshing, not too heavy, and easy to digest. And it's fun! Sometimes you don't really feel like having salad with lettuce. You force yourself to eat that. Because this is made with rice, it fills you up. It has a nice mix of texture, all these different flavors, colors. And it's completely vegan.
Everybody has avocado, cucumbers, onion. Fox nuts are a little harder to find, but that's optional. You should always add some kind of nut, whether it's almonds, pine nuts, peanuts. You can also add whatever seeds you like: sunflower, flax, pumpkin. You can add really anything. There's no hard and fast rule to this, other than the puffed rice. You can buy any kind of puffed rice you want. Making it at home is slightly difficult. If you're going to do it, take leftover rice and spread it on a baking sheet and put in the oven at a very low temperature overnight until it becomes dry. Then flash fry it.
The essential ingredients for Indian food are very simple: onion, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic, which everyone already has in their house. In terms of spices, I think everyone should keep chaat masala around, especially during the summer. It's great to sprinkle on watermelon or salad, anything you want really. It's perfect.”
Puffed Rice and Quinoa Bhel Puri
1 tbs Black rice puffs
1 tbs White rice puffs
1 tbs Quinoa puffs
1 tbs Roasted fox nuts (makhana)
1 tsp Roasted pine nuts
1 tsp Crushed roasted peanuts
2 tsp Diced avocado
2 tsp Chopped onion
2 tsp Chopped tomatoes
1 tbs Microgreens or Chopped lettuce
1 tsp Fresh coriander
2 tsp Lime juice
2 tsp Dried cranberries
1 tsp Tamarind chutney
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the puffs with nuts (you may use any other puffed grains or nuts of your choice). Add chopped tomato, onion, avocado, cranberries, and coriander. Drizzle tamarind chutney and Sriracha to taste. Sprinkle chaat masala, a squeeze of lime juice, and lightly toss until thoroughly mixed. Fold in microgreens or chopped lettuce. Adjust the seasoning and serve immediately.
3 Sweet and Savory Recipes to Make With Silicone Muffin Forms
Muffin tins. I know what you’re thinking: You use them for blueberry- or bran-filled breakfast pastries with an occasional, misguided try at cupcakes that never turn out as glamorous as you hope. Or you already own a muffin tin but it has proven to be problematic—cake sticks in the bottom of the wells, they’re hard to clean, and the metal is prone to rust.
Happily, Jay Muse, Lulu Cake Boutique’s charming baker/co-owner, has hacked his own muffin tins so that the pans actually earn the cabinet space they require. He’s turned the rarely used specialist pans—which had been, at best, one- or two-trick ponies—into capable multitaskers that rival the most utilitarian pot. How? For one thing, this baker-to-the-stars has been around the cookware aisle a few times. He eschews rust-prone supermarket muffin tins for the higher-quality, silicone versions. These flexible, heat-proof pans offer the combined benefits of a non-porous, non-stick surface with bendable cups that can be turned inside-out to release even the most recalcitrant cake.
For all of their charms, silicone cake pans can take some getting used to. When baking cakes, they may not brown as well as those rigid metal pans. Also, silicone’s wiggliness can make for tricky counter-to-oven transfers. Happily, the recipes below dodge the challenges of silicone pans while showing off their beauty.
- ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp unbleached organic all-purpose flour
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- ¼ tsp (slightly heaping) baking soda
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup canola oil + more for greasing pans
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon (this is optional: added, the result will taste like sopapillas)
- ¾ cup + a few extra Tbsp sparkling water
Preheat oven to 475°F. Grease or coat a 24-cup silicone mini-muffin pan with canola oil.
In a bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the egg and oil. Combine sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
Add the egg/oil mixture and the sparkling water to the flour mixture. Using a fork, quickly whisk the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, being careful not to over-mix. (“It’s okay to have a few lumps,” says Muse.)
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins until they are almost full, and then bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are a light golden color and have formed a crisp outside crust. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes.
Carefully remove them from the pans and toss them in the cinnamon sugar. To serve, drizzle with honey and serve while hot with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.
Lemon Pancake “Soufflés” with Macerated Berries
- 2 cups fresh berries
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 Tbsp water
- ½ cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- ¾ cup flour
- 1½ cups milk, lukewarm
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 10x powdered sugar, for sprinkling
In a bowl, mash the berries and lemon juice together and allow the mixture to macerate while you prepare the soufflés.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard-size, 12-muffin form with cupcake papers.
In a bowl, beat the egg whites with 1 tsp of lemon juice until they are stiff.
In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the water, sugar, and vanilla until the mixture is light and foamy. Add the melted butter and beat for another minute. Being careful not to over mix, slowly add the flour and quickly combine until there are no remaining lumps.
Add the milk, remaining lemon juice, and lemon zest to the batter and beat until all the additions are incorporated.
Using a spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter, then pour into paper-lined forms to the rim. Bake the soufflé for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly before unmolding soufflés.
Peel off the cupcake papers, sprinkle the soufflés with powdered sugar, and serve while warm with fresh whipped cream and macerated berries.
Wild Leek and Smoked Bacon Popovers
- Canola oil
- 6 double-smoked bacon strips
- ½ cup sliced leeks
- 1 ⅔ cups milk
- 1 ½ cups unbleached organic all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ cup shredded Gruyère
Preheat oven to 450°F. Lightly grease/spray a jumbo muffin pan with canola oil.
In a pan, sauté the bacon until it is crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving the fat in the pan. Coarsely chop the bacon and set aside.
Place the leeks into the pan with the bacon fat and sauté for a minute or two, or until the leeks are tender.
In a bowl, combine milk, flour, eggs, and sea salt and beat the mixture until it is smooth.
Stir into the batter in 1 cup of Gruyère, ⅔ of the chopped bacon, and the leeks. Spoon the batter into muffin tin until they are ⅓ full. Sprinkle evenly with remaining Gruyère and bacon.
Bake popovers for 15 minutes at 450°F, then reduce oven to 375°F and bake about 10 to 12 minutes more (or until the popovers are golden brown). When done, remove from the oven and poke a hole in the top of each popover. This will help to release steam and prevent them from getting soggy. Serve immediately.