How Restaurant Blogs Redefined Dining Forever: For those of us who fritter away our days (and nights) dreaming up catchy top-ten listicles, posting images of our cocktails and half-eaten desserts on Instagram, and obsessively trawling the online galaxy for the latest viral food sensation, it’s easy to forget that the chaotic, maddening, constantly expanding online food world is still in its relative infancy. This month marks just the tenth anniversary of Grub Street, which went live on September 18, 2006, with a post promising hourly updates that would cover “everything from the cult street vendor, nameless yet venerated, to the latest temple of gastronomy, awash in renown,” written in an Adderall-fueled lather by our first editor, the late, great Josh Ozersky. Grub Street was a “blog” back in those dim, pioneer days (it’s a “vertical” now), founded in response to other local, restaurant-centric sites like Chowhound, eGullet, and Eater, which were popping up around town and fast morphing, even then, from sideline hobbies into mini-brands and businesses.
When restaurants ditch the dining room: In a city where restaurants frequently blame closures on a brutal real estate market, a new solution has taken hold: Why not get rid of the dining room? Of course! If no one actually has to come to your restaurant, all sorts of problems are no longer an issue. You don’t need an attractive location, artistic ceramic bowls, quirky wallpaper in the bathroom, printed menus, service staff — way less risk of failure. Just put up a website, and install a button that says “delivery.”
Shaun Hill’s recipes: salt, spice and all things nice: All chefs, however proficient, need to remember that food must taste good, not just look good. The level of seasoning, with salt or spice, is crucial to the eventual success of the dish. And if there is one thing I’ve learnt from 50 years at the stove, it’s that salt is essential. Soup that is served by the bowlful will need less strength than a tablespoon of sauce that may be required to enliven a piece of meat or fish 10 times its volume. The more often you make a dish, the easier it gets, because you will remember how the ingredients behaved together the time before.
Alice Waters: What Lies Ahead: Alice Waters visited my home turf in Southern California recently and I was fortunate to have another interesting conversation with her. Much has been written about her and yet there are some aspects I feel that most career journalists in search of the sensational fail to delve into. As we all progress through life our interests and ideas change and I found that to be true in her case as well. She is a very easy communicator and engages passionately in subjects that interest her. Her sense of humor leads to much laughter in every exchange and she has an uncanny ability to bond with with people.
Barolo & Barbaresco producers to know about: Stephen Brook gives a personal view of the charms and complexities of Piedmont’s terroirs and wines, both traditional and more modern in style…
Why sherry needs more love: The recent misfortunes of sherry, arguably the most distinctive wine in the world and produced only in bodegas around Jerez in Andalucía, could be said to have been determined in Deerfield, Illinois. This is where the spirits company named after Jim Beam whiskey is based. In 2005, the US company found itself the owner of the two most famous names in sherry, Harveys and Domecq, and, in the view of many observers of the sherry scene, proceeded to run them into the ground.
A wine tour of Canada’s beautiful Okanagan Valley: Even to someone accustomed to going round wineries, Mission Hill is just jaw-dropping. The 40 specially commissioned sculptures, the 12-storey bell tower, the collection of ancient Greek amphorae, the Chagall tapestry … this is as grand as a wine experience gets, yet it’s not in the Napa Valley but a thousand miles to the north in Canada’s Okanagan Valley.
Friuli, Italy, guide: what to see plus the best bars, hotels and restaurants: Driving east from Venice along the autostrada, it only takes half an hour to leave the tourists behind and cross into the very different world of Friuli. This autonomous and proudly independent region is officially known as Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a wild and still little-known corner of Italy that has its own language, a distinctive local cuisine, and a host of world-famous wines grown on rolling hillside vineyards. Strategically located at the crossroads of central Europe, Friuli stretches over Italy’s north-eastern border, from the lagoons and sandy beaches of the Adriatic coast to the grand maritime port of Trieste, along the frontier with Slovenia, then up into wild Alpine scenery and the border with Austria. The first visit here can come as a surprise, compared with Tuscany or Umbria. But it is so easy to fall under the charm of the unspoilt landscape and the warm welcome that many travellers find themselves returning.