Asian supermarkets can be equal parts intoxicating and intimidating to those unfamiliar with their wares. Thankfully, Andrew Zimmern has come to the rescue: After demoing how to make classic Chinese dishes like dumplings and hand-pulled noodles at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Zimmern answered a few crowd questions; one regarded his five must-buy ingredients from the Asian supermarket. Rather than stop at five, Zimmern enthusiastically rattled off seven; keep reading to see what he suggests seeking out.
Knowledgeable, affable, and nothing if not entertaining, Andrew Zimmern is the ultimate showman, as his legions of Bizarre Foods fans know. So not surprisingly, his dim sum cookery demo at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen was not only informative but also peppered with a host of goofy, often self-deprecating quotes. Keep reading for the five best.
- On his ego: Zimmern joked, "I love holding things that are steaming. Usually it's my ego," after he grabbed a still steaming-hot cabbage when prepping the filling for dumplings.
- On the question he's most asked: "How the eff do you eat that?" His standard response? "Usually it's good!"
- On why his fingernails were painted blue: Zimmern spent the night before his demo with buddy José Andrés and his two daughters, who tried to convince Andrés to paint his nails to no success. They then turned to Zimmern, because, Zimmern hypothesized, "he's Daddy's friend that'll do anything."
- On why he's qualified to teach Chinese cookery: "Jewish boys from New York really can cook Chinese food because we eat it every Sunday night."
- On his other secret to cooking Chinese food: For the best results, Zimmern taps into his "inner Chinese grandma."
- On the scene at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
- The best from the Grand Tasting Tent
- Editors' highlights from the weekend
- The most creative dishes from 2013's Grand Cochon
- Top food and beverage trends we saw in Aspen
- The wines to try from the Grand Tasting Tent
- Sweets we loved at the Last Bite Dessert Party
- Social snaps from celebrity chefs in Aspen
It's a growing trend with newer wineries — instead of unpronounceable French "Chateau such-and-such" names written in thin cursive, wineries are using flashy graphics and recognizable names to make their bottles more approachable to the everyday sipper. We saw plenty of examples at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, where a number of brands used humor, bold prints, and florescent colors to capture the eyes of wine drinkers. These particular eight are as pleasing to the eye as to the palate.
Cheese expert Laura Werlin, author of Mac & Cheese, Please! ($17), taught two jam-packed seminars (who can say no to the American staple?) during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The queen of cheese knows a thing or two about the best cheeses to use for homemade macaroni and cheese, as well as lighter variations to make during the heat of Summer.
Making homemade noodles might seem like a dish best left to professional chefs, but Andrew Zimmern wants to change that. While the Bizzare Foods host showed off his challenging Chinese hand-pulled noodle technique at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, he also peppered his cooking demonstration with useful tips when making any from-scratch noodle recipes. Here are his steps to noodle success:
- Use the right tools: Unless your kitchen is outfitted with stainless-steel countertops, Zimmern suggests picking up an 8-by-30-inch stainless-steel door kick plate for about $3 from the hardware store and duct-taping it to your counter. This slick surface makes shaping dough infinitely easier and is also a "great tool for pasta and baking work." Still skeptical? "You're just going to have to trust me on this," he quipped. "It's something you need."
- Get gluten forming: Unlike pasta, choux, or pie dough, this dough isn't delicate or supertender, and it can handle a little roughness. Zimmern made the dough for the noodles in a stand mixer, further promoting gluten formation by adding all of the water in one addition to the flour. Zimmern explained that "the chewier they are, the better."
Despite gloomy weather and a tired, hungover crowd, Top Chef veteran Hugh Acheson lit up the stage at his cooking demo on the last day of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. While much can be gleaned from the chef, it was hard not to get completely wrapped up in his fervor for Southern fare, a cuisine that he, despite hailing from Canada, has embraced fully as a chef and co-owner of three Georgia-based restaurants. Keep reading for Acheson's take on new Southern fare.
Before she catapulted to Top Chef fame, Gail Simmons was in charge of running the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, so it's no surprise that when we caught up with her there, she was completely in her element. She was, in fact, minutes away from hosting a seminar with Tom Colicchio and had just hosted her Last Bite Dessert Party with Johnny Iuzzini (that's the two of them, above, at said party) the night before. We grabbed her in haste to talk about Top Chef Masters, the Cronut craze, season 11 of Top Chef, and this Summer's coolest dessert trend.
POPSUGAR: Top Chef Masters 5 premieres July 24, and you'll be the head judge this time. What can you tell us about the competition level compared to previous seasons?
Gail Simmons: I've never been on Top Chef Masters full-time before, so this was new for me to see it through a whole season, and I loved it. The chefs are so solid this year. What's amazing about Masters, compared to the regular Top Chef, is that they're in it for different reasons. They're doing it for charity, and they're doing it to kind of be together. They all know each other, and we all know them. So it's not about the same level of stress and competition, but the good cause and the camaraderie. It's a chance for them to really be pushed and challenged again as chefs, which is great to see.
PS: You're the host of Top Chef Just Desserts. I have to ask: have you tried a Cronut? What do you think of it all?
GS: I've been living in New Orleans right now, because we're shooting Top Chef 11. The Cronut chaos erupted after I had left New York City. But I do know the Cronut. Dominique Ansel, who invented the Cronut, is an alumni of Daniel Boulud, and I worked for Daniel Boulud too, so I have known Dominique for a long time. He really is one of the most powerful and talented pastry chefs in America. Look, everyone loves a craze, and this is kind of the new thing. It's sweet and it's buttery and it's fried: I mean, what can be bad? But people are getting a little crazy. It's just a piece of dough, for God's sake. Calm down!
Dessert trends, Top Chef: New Orleans, and more, right this way.
Only an expert like Tyler Florence would attempt to clear up all the myths surrounding such a tricky topic as steak at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. To pepper a steak prior to cooking or not to pepper? Is a grill mark a coveted barbecue char or simply a big bad burn mark? Read on to clear up the biggest steak myths.
- Myth: you should marinate a steak. Say what? Don't you dare! A wet marinade will steam the meat and it won't give you that golden brown crust.
- Myth: you should season liberally with salt and pepper. Skip the pepper when seasoning raw steak. Pepper burns at a high heat and develops a bitter flavor. Always liberally season a raw steak with a good kosher salt, but wait to pepper the steak until after it's cooked.
Keep reading for more steak fiction, debunked.
Chef Mario Batali's demo at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen focused on the enlightened way of cooking and eating like a Sicilian during the summertime. In true Italian fashion, chef Batali had the crowd roaring with laughter as he spewed parsley, salt, and cheese every which way. Despite his messy and haphazard preparation, he plated gorgeous and perfectly cooked Italian food, not before taking a bite, sighing longingly, and stating the obvious: "Damn, I'm a good cook!"