Bad year, good year — In this part of the country, the year 2009 will be remembered as one of the hardest years to produce wine, despite a warm and sunny late summer. But the good news is that tough growing conditions often produce excellent wine, giving liveliness and character to Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Riesling grapes. The real test comes this spring, when Michigan's 71 wineries release the 2009 vintages. We'll be waiting.
Growing trend — Last year's mild summer didn't stop Americans from growing food. In fact, the National Gardening Association says that the number of households with gardens rose from 2008's 36 million to last year's 43 million. The "grow it yourself" trend also saw increasing emphasis on heirloom varieties, and supporting local growers by buying flats at farmers' markets and from small nurseries.
On Monday nights, L.A.'s award-winning Campanile departs from the usual a la carte menu for themed dinners served family-style. In New Classic Family Dinners (Wiley, $34.95), executive chef Mark Peel reveals the recipes that have drawn diners year after year. Campanile is no ordinary diner, serving fine, comforting fare that's more than comfort food. The photos will draw you to the recipes. The unabashed, unashamed (fried in lard) Southern-fried chicken sounds as good as it looks.
That deep, ruby-red drink you see in so many Mexicantown taquerias is agua de Jamaica, or hibiscus tea. It's a tart and refreshing infusion of parts of the dried hibiscus plant, sweetened and chilled, that tastes something like cranberry juice and flowers. Make your own by steeping one cup of hibiscus (available in Mexican groceries) in eight cups of water and one-half cup of sugar that was brought to a boil and removed from heat. Strain and refrigerate.
Debone a turkey; then a duck; then a chicken. Make two different stuffings: perhaps a family Thanksgiving recipe and some jambalaya, whatever works for you. Layer some stuffing on the turkey and the duck. Put the duck on the turkey and the chicken on the duck. Roll it all up and roast it. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it. There is an alternative. Order one online. The "Turducken" pictured here can be found at louisianaliving.com, and often at Hiller's Market.What's going on in food this week? We'd like to know. Send us e-mails at firstname.lastname@example.org