FOOD WRITERS, and their editors, fall in love with certain turns of phrase, but none is so ubiquitous and irritating as this one: "[FILL IN BLANK] is the new cupcake." Macaroons are the new cupcake. Pies are the new cupcake. Pudding is the new cupcake. Marshmallows are the new cupcake. Anything sweet and handheld and artisan — and pricey — will undoubtedly be called The New Cupcake.
AS PLCB retail wine specialist Max Gottesfeld led me on an extended wine safari, I found plenty of interesting wines for under $15, many for under $12 and some for under $10. Here are just a few examples of the game I bagged: WHITESChâteau Font-Mars Picpoul de Pinet 2010, Languedoc, France. $11.99
MANY TIMES, I've imagined this scenario: Noon on a Wednesday and instead of working, I'm standing out in front of a liquor store at 12th and Chestnut Street. On this day, however, I'm sober and still gainfully employed. Actually, I'm standing here as part of my job. There are several others standing with me, and they all seem gainfully employed, too, or at least employable. "I'm supposed to be in a meeting right now," says the guy with white hair and a trim mustache, wearing a golf shirt.
IT MUST BE said: In the scope of literature, food writing is a minor genre. As popular as food books have become, no one is confusing most of them with "War & Peace" or "One Hundred Years of Solitude" — or even "Fifty Shades of Grey." There is nothing worse than the food writer who foolishly convinces himself that he is writing something akin to the Great American Novel. The smart food writer quickly realizes that she's just as likely to be praised for the recipes or the restaurant recommendation as for literary merit. And yet there are those rare occasions when food writing does offer something more, something bigger, something deeper.
DOES ANY foodstuff carry as much baggage for Americans as escargot or foie gras? When it comes to escargot, it can be hard to move beyond the old pop-cultural image of snail as “snob food.” Plus, for many newbies, there’s a primal, knee-jerk repulsion to the animal itself or to the presentation that, when done badly, can look like boogers. And when it come to foie gras — the third rail of the food world — it’s difficult to steer any discussion of fatty duck or goose liver away from the ethical or political and back toward the culinary.
ATLANTIC CITY - Drinking at the Shore is always a different sort of proposition. In places like Sea Isle or Wildwood, it's all about quantity over quality. I almost never drink, say, Red Stripe beer at home (or listen to much reggae), but dammit if every summer I don't find myself somewhere listening to a middling rendition of "Legalize It" and drinking $3 Red Stripe on special.
DUE TO THE TIME and place of my upbringing — white-bread suburb, 1970s and 1980s, WASPish family — I spent the first 19 years of my life believing that pasta must come from blue boxes and be boiled into a mushy mound, topped with “spaghetti” sauce that came from a jar, and “Parmesan” cheese sprinkled from a green can. It was while living as an exchange student in a village near Cremona, Italy, that I realized I was living a pasta lie. Anna, the mother of the family, would spend the afternoon making stuffed pastas by hand. And her tortellini di zucca agnolotti and marubini were nothing like the spaghetti back home in West Deptford. Rather than red sauce, they’d be served with a little brown butter and sage or a broth, and top with fresh grated Grana Padano. It was an honest-to-goodness revelation from which I have never looked back.
Jason Wilson, director of Drexel University's Center for Cultural Outreach, is editor of TheSmartSet.com and TableMatters.com. He has won an award for Best Newspaper Food Column from the Association of Food Journalists in three of the last five years, and is the author of "Boozehound." Follow him at twitter.com/boozecolumnist or go to jasonwilson.com.