In celebration of National Empanada Day on Monday, April 8th, the Nuchas Empanadas truck delighted us with an array of sweet and savory pastries. A longtime NYC favorite of the famed Midtown Lunch blog, they feature an inventive take on the classic handheld treat, with a range of flavor profiles including shrimp-and-andouille jambalaya, shiitake curry or apple-cranberry-and-nutella. But the best part about their concept? They create special doughs to pair with their unique fillings—rosemary, turmeric, paprika, you name it!—that look as good as they taste. We always appreciate a good reminder to play with food.
—Alexa Weibel, Associate Food Editor

In celebration of National Empanada Day on Monday, April 8th, the Nuchas Empanadas truck delighted us with an array of sweet and savory pastries. A longtime NYC favorite of the famed Midtown Lunch blog, they feature an inventive take on the classic handheld treat, with a range of flavor profiles including shrimp-and-andouille jambalaya, shiitake curry or apple-cranberry-and-nutella. But the best part about their concept? They create special doughs to pair with their unique fillings—rosemary, turmeric, paprika, you name it!—that look as good as they taste. We always appreciate a good reminder to play with food.

—Alexa Weibel, Associate Food Editor

I attended the press preview of the 1st Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo last night at Jimmy’s No. 43 restaurant, where I watched a panel of judges suffer through a whopping twelve categories of hot sauces, with flavors ranging from fiery and fruity to scorching scotch bonnet. While I greatly doubt my ability to savor over 100 sauces in one sitting, I look forward to sampling these products at my leisure in my home kitchen, with a number of safety drinks handy! 
Mark your calendars for April 20-21, 2013, where the NYC Hot Sauce Expo sets up in Brooklyn, New York’s East River State Park, featuring eating contests, hot sauce awards, fire eaters and other capsaicin-oriented treats! 
—Alexa Weibel, Associate Food Editor

I attended the press preview of the 1st Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo last night at Jimmy’s No. 43 restaurant, where I watched a panel of judges suffer through a whopping twelve categories of hot sauces, with flavors ranging from fiery and fruity to scorching scotch bonnet. While I greatly doubt my ability to savor over 100 sauces in one sitting, I look forward to sampling these products at my leisure in my home kitchen, with a number of safety drinks handy! 

Mark your calendars for April 20-21, 2013, where the NYC Hot Sauce Expo sets up in Brooklyn, New York’s East River State Park, featuring eating contests, hot sauce awards, fire eaters and other capsaicin-oriented treats! 

—Alexa Weibel, Associate Food Editor

Behind the Scenes: We were privy to a lovely visit from the fine folks of Tito’s Vodka today! Longtime fans of the drink, we’re now even more impressed after learning about the company’s history. Started by geologist-turned-distiller Tito Beveridge and based in Austin, Texas, the company grew out of one man’s love for vodka—and an entrepreneurial determination to make the very best. Thanks, Tito!
—Alexa Weibel, Associate Food Editor

Behind the Scenes: We were privy to a lovely visit from the fine folks of Tito’s Vodka today! Longtime fans of the drink, we’re now even more impressed after learning about the company’s history. Started by geologist-turned-distiller Tito Beveridge and based in Austin, Texas, the company grew out of one man’s love for vodka—and an entrepreneurial determination to make the very best. Thanks, Tito!

—Alexa Weibel, Associate Food Editor

For non-football fans, Super Bowl Sunday means one thing: an excuse to snack unapologetically. I indulged in my share of chili and nachos (and beer!), but there was one thing missing: fried chicken! Which left me craving the crispy wings of East Village hotspot Mono + Mono, a unique restaurant with a threefold focus: jazz records, soju cocktails and Korean fried chicken. If you haven’t yet discovered the spicy wonders of the latter, this is the place to go in New York City. Come for the chicken, stay for the tunes and tipples.
—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor 

For non-football fans, Super Bowl Sunday means one thing: an excuse to snack unapologetically. I indulged in my share of chili and nachos (and beer!), but there was one thing missing: fried chicken! Which left me craving the crispy wings of East Village hotspot Mono + Mono, a unique restaurant with a threefold focus: jazz records, soju cocktails and Korean fried chicken. If you haven’t yet discovered the spicy wonders of the latter, this is the place to go in New York City. Come for the chicken, stay for the tunes and tipples.

—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor 

En route to Oaxaca to film season 9 of Mexico: One Plate at a Time, Chef Rick Bayless popped in to our test kitchen to chat with us about today’s American culinary frontier. A few predictions from the Mexican-cooking mogul:
Overall, Bayless notes a dominant trend of moving away from the processed food world to dishes that are just “really honest"—and consequently, he eschews fast food for slow cooking, heralding the "soul-satisfying" flavor development of braised meats and vegetables. He’s thrilled about kale helping the American palate embrace bitterness, and even is even more excited for it to open the door for other greens. Similarly, ”Chipotle was the darling for a while,” Bayless tells us, “but now the habanero is poised for its closeup.” Most intriguingly, he cites Middle Eastern food as “what we all want to eat—but we just don’t know it yet,” and foresees sumac, za’atar and pomegranate molasses making an appearance on menus across the country.
And the best tip we learned from him?  We’ve long known that the heat of the chile pepper lies in its seeds, but Chef Bayless taught us how to extract the flavor of the habanero without the fire: If you slice vertically through the fruit without disturbing the vein—which also traps concentrated heat—you can simply include the whole vegetable in soups, sauces and more to extract its subtle mild citrusy nuances.
—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

En route to Oaxaca to film season 9 of Mexico: One Plate at a Time, Chef Rick Bayless popped in to our test kitchen to chat with us about today’s American culinary frontier. A few predictions from the Mexican-cooking mogul:

Overall, Bayless notes a dominant trend of moving away from the processed food world to dishes that are just “really honest"—and consequently, he eschews fast food for slow cooking, heralding the "soul-satisfying" flavor development of braised meats and vegetables. He’s thrilled about kale helping the American palate embrace bitterness, and even is even more excited for it to open the door for other greens. Similarly, ”Chipotle was the darling for a while,” Bayless tells us, “but now the habanero is poised for its closeup.” Most intriguingly, he cites Middle Eastern food as “what we all want to eat—but we just don’t know it yet,” and foresees sumac, za’atar and pomegranate molasses making an appearance on menus across the country.

And the best tip we learned from him?  We’ve long known that the heat of the chile pepper lies in its seeds, but Chef Bayless taught us how to extract the flavor of the habanero without the fire: If you slice vertically through the fruit without disturbing the vein—which also traps concentrated heat—you can simply include the whole vegetable in soups, sauces and more to extract its subtle mild citrusy nuances.

Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

With Thanksgiving just around the bend, we’ve been giving thanks for all of our blessings—and, as conscientious New Yorkers, we’re painfully aware that many neighbors weren’t so fortunate following the advent of Hurricane Sandy. I’m proud that my Every Day with Rachael Ray coworkers were eager to help, donating money, food and supplies, as well as time. 
Thought to be the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, the damage of Sandy was devastatingly widespread—but so were relief efforts. Tri-state area volunteers turned good will into action, helping Hurricane Sandy victims with everything from removing sand, debris and wreckage from flooded areas, to insurance advice and moral support. Military veterans rallied together with Team Rubicon; the American Red Cross deployed nearly 10,000 workers; Occupy Sandy united volunteers with resources to aid hurricane victims; and other smaller grassroots organizations scrambled to provide immediate relief. (When our editor-in-chief, Lauren Purcell, heard that I was organizing 15-passenger vans to shuttle volunteers to areas in need, she even requested to sponsor relief efforts.)
And speaking of thanksgiving, I was impressed, humbled and floored by the amount of affected families refusing help from volunteers, instead selflessly directing them to neighbors with even more pressing needs. I am thankful that, for me, this natural disaster shed light on the resilience of the human spirit and sparked my faith in the kindness of others.
—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor 

With Thanksgiving just around the bend, we’ve been giving thanks for all of our blessings—and, as conscientious New Yorkers, we’re painfully aware that many neighbors weren’t so fortunate following the advent of Hurricane Sandy. I’m proud that my Every Day with Rachael Ray coworkers were eager to help, donating money, food and supplies, as well as time. 

Thought to be the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, the damage of Sandy was devastatingly widespread—but so were relief efforts. Tri-state area volunteers turned good will into action, helping Hurricane Sandy victims with everything from removing sand, debris and wreckage from flooded areas, to insurance advice and moral support. Military veterans rallied together with Team Rubicon; the American Red Cross deployed nearly 10,000 workers; Occupy Sandy united volunteers with resources to aid hurricane victims; and other smaller grassroots organizations scrambled to provide immediate relief. (When our editor-in-chief, Lauren Purcell, heard that I was organizing 15-passenger vans to shuttle volunteers to areas in need, she even requested to sponsor relief efforts.)

And speaking of thanksgiving, I was impressed, humbled and floored by the amount of affected families refusing help from volunteers, instead selflessly directing them to neighbors with even more pressing needs. I am thankful that, for me, this natural disaster shed light on the resilience of the human spirit and sparked my faith in the kindness of others.

—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor 


In cooking there are some things you can cut corners on, and some you shouldn’t. For example, puff pastry: Made from scratch, the toilsome dough is only marginally better than the stellar store-bought varieties. But one thing that you can’t fake? When cooking, good-quality olive oil makes a world of difference in your final product. 

Ever scouting for new ingredients, my mother discovered the gourmet EVOO shop We Olive, in Ventura, California, on a trip to the Santa Barbara farmers’ market—and, lucky me, has been sharing their wares with me ever since! They have a dazzling display of condiments and vinegars, but, as the name suggests, they live for EVOO (just like Rach!). With more than 200 local California olive oils on offer, there’s one for every dish—I’m particularly fond of the Meyer Lemon variety, which dresses up summertime watermelon salads, brightens wintertime tagines and can even make unexpected appearances in desserts. But don’t let your experimenting stop there—bold lavender, basil, habanero and yuzu oils add punch to any dish on your menu. Pamper your pantry with a visit to their online shop!

—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

In cooking there are some things you can cut corners on, and some you shouldn’t. For example, puff pastry: Made from scratch, the toilsome dough is only marginally better than the stellar store-bought varieties. But one thing that you can’t fake? When cooking, good-quality olive oil makes a world of difference in your final product. 

Ever scouting for new ingredients, my mother discovered the gourmet EVOO shop We Olive, in Ventura, California, on a trip to the Santa Barbara farmers’ market—and, lucky me, has been sharing their wares with me ever since! They have a dazzling display of condiments and vinegars, but, as the name suggests, they live for EVOO (just like Rach!). With more than 200 local California olive oils on offer, there’s one for every dish—I’m particularly fond of the Meyer Lemon variety, which dresses up summertime watermelon salads, brightens wintertime tagines and can even make unexpected appearances in desserts. But don’t let your experimenting stop there—bold lavender, basil, habanero and yuzu oils add punch to any dish on your menu. Pamper your pantry with a visit to their online shop!


—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor


Last night my coworker Judi and I had the privilege of helping out at City Harvest's “Bid Against Hunger” event, a walk-through tasting tour prepared by New York City's best chefs, including the likes of Marcus Samuelsson, Jesse Schenker, Dan Barber, Richard Sandoval and George Mendes. Dazzled by the city’s culinary talent, attendees nibbled on a dizzying display of bites while raising money for the food-rescue organization—a savory cause, indeed!

—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

Clockwise, from top left: the inimitable Missy Robbins with fellow staffer Judi Pena; chef Eric Ripert onstage, auctioning off his cooking skills; me with Every Day with Rachael Ray contributor, chef Seamus Mullen; and a bright crab salad from Ed’s Chowder House

Last night my coworker Judi and I had the privilege of helping out at City Harvest's “Bid Against Hunger” event, a walk-through tasting tour prepared by New York City's best chefs, including the likes of Marcus SamuelssonJesse SchenkerDan BarberRichard Sandoval and George Mendes. Dazzled by the city’s culinary talent, attendees nibbled on a dizzying display of bites while raising money for the food-rescue organization—a savory cause, indeed!


—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor


Clockwise, from top left: the inimitable Missy Robbins with fellow staffer Judi Pena; chef Eric Ripert onstage, auctioning off his cooking skills; me with Every Day with Rachael Ray contributor, chef Seamus Mullen; and a bright crab salad from Ed’s Chowder House



Food for Thought at the Clinton Global Initiative

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I was invited by the French Culinary Institute to cook with some of NYC’s most prominent chefs at the Clinton Global Initiative's “At the Chef's Table” event last night, where I had the honor of meeting “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto, Marcus Samuelsson and the ex-president himself, Bill Clinton. While I was drawn to the event for the cooking opportunities, I ended up staying to absorb the CGI's annual awards ceremony, which recognized visionaries like Reverend Christopher Senyonjo, for his advocacy on behalf of Uganda's LGBT community, and Luis Alberto Moreno, the President of the Inter-American Development Bank, for his leadership in public service.

Similar in concept to the United Nations think tank approach, the Clinton Global Initiative “convenes a community of global leaders to forge solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.” Founder Bill Clinton’s closing remarks made quite an impression: In terms of global development and success, there’s no doubt that cooperation among nations is a boon. “We’re smarter when we work together,” Clinton said. “But in the process, we [must] find an identity in this new century that [will] reflect the fact that, whether we like it or not, our futures are bound together.”

—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

Ever on the prowl for the next “It” food, I was thrilled to attend this year’s sofi Awards hosted by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), who narrowed down more than 2,300 innovative new food products into 32 categories, ranging from “Confection” to “Cracker,” “USDA-Certified Organic Product” to “Shelf-Stable Foodservice Product.” I got to discover a few fantastic new products—including KIMKIM Korean Hot Sauce (which seems like the versatile, saucy stepchild of sriracha and gochujang), Fermin Ibérico Smoked Pancetta (a revelatory bacon to a porcine fanatic!), Sabatino & Co’s Sweet Pistachio Cream (which I’m dying to play around with in both sweet and savory roles), and the year’s winning oil, Fernando Pensato Truffle EVOO (a refreshingly light truffle oil)—and to put a face to other beloved products. Pictured above, Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is as sweet and quirky as her frozen dessert line!
—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

Ever on the prowl for the next “It” food, I was thrilled to attend this year’s sofi Awards hosted by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), who narrowed down more than 2,300 innovative new food products into 32 categories, ranging from “Confection” to “Cracker,” “USDA-Certified Organic Product” to “Shelf-Stable Foodservice Product.” I got to discover a few fantastic new products—including KIMKIM Korean Hot Sauce (which seems like the versatile, saucy stepchild of sriracha and gochujang), Fermin Ibérico Smoked Pancetta (a revelatory bacon to a porcine fanatic!), Sabatino & Co’s Sweet Pistachio Cream (which I’m dying to play around with in both sweet and savory roles), and the year’s winning oil, Fernando Pensato Truffle EVOO (a refreshingly light truffle oil)—and to put a face to other beloved products. Pictured above, Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is as sweet and quirky as her frozen dessert line!

—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

Move over, Ladurée! We were tickled pink by the arrival of this cheerful sampling of confections from newcomer Dana’s Bakery. In addition to the classics, Dana bakes outside the box, nailing a Fruit Cereal version (hello, Fruity Pepples!), a purple tie-dye Birthday Cake, an electric Orange Creamsicle, and—my personal favorite—a salt-crystal-studded Caramel Popcorn. In the midst of our hectic September issue, these really brightened our day—and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

Move over, Ladurée! We were tickled pink by the arrival of this cheerful sampling of confections from newcomer Dana’s Bakery. In addition to the classics, Dana bakes outside the box, nailing a Fruit Cereal version (hello, Fruity Pepples!), a purple tie-dye Birthday Cake, an electric Orange Creamsicle, and—my personal favorite—a salt-crystal-studded Caramel Popcorn. In the midst of our hectic September issue, these really brightened our day—and disappeared in the blink of an eye.

—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

As a culinary school graduate and an ex-restaurant critic, I’m always looking for the next new place—and last night’s discovery—the restaurant 1 or 8 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—was revelatory.
Pictured here is their clams dish, topped with somen noodles and microgreens and steamed with a light but complex saffron, thyme, butter and sake broth—a unique approach combining classic French technique with a bold Japanese bent. Their sushi follows suit, pairing unbelievably fresh fish with unexpected elements—seared tuna with a sweet Peruvian aji amarillo dip, or yellowtail with mango, jalapeno and cilantro sauce. I love to be surprised by food—and can’t wait to try more items off their refined but quirky menu. (http://www.oneoreightbk.com)
—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

As a culinary school graduate and an ex-restaurant critic, I’m always looking for the next new place—and last night’s discovery—the restaurant 1 or 8 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—was revelatory.

Pictured here is their clams dish, topped with somen noodles and microgreens and steamed with a light but complex saffron, thyme, butter and sake broth—a unique approach combining classic French technique with a bold Japanese bent. Their sushi follows suit, pairing unbelievably fresh fish with unexpected elements—seared tuna with a sweet Peruvian aji amarillo dip, or yellowtail with mango, jalapeno and cilantro sauce. I love to be surprised by food—and can’t wait to try more items off their refined but quirky menu. (http://www.oneoreightbk.com)

—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor

Who knew playing with food could be so genius?! I’m smitten by the whimsy and ingenuity that goes into the stop-motion work of “Pes” and his animation partner, Dillon Markey, in their viral videos. In their newest cooking foray, “Fresh Guacamole,” the amount of detail and culinary prowress is impressive, from rolling the “lime” along the table to extract the most juice to their choice of a lightbulb to represent the jalapeno and its removable seeds. Apparently Pes, too, is a skilled cook, admitting, “I know how to handle a knife and can draw on this knowledge in breaking it down into a still image sequence.”

First lauded for their “Food Fight” video, a summarized depiction of post-WWII American warfare using strictly food as its subject, Pes has gone on to tackle a variety of subjects, from skateboarders to spaghetti. For more info on Pes’ work—which director Michel Gondry describes as positively “glittering and exploding”—check out their website at http://www.eatpes.com/.

—Alexa Weibel, Senior Copy Editor