The Contests

Winner (and Loser) of the 2nd Annual A&M Annual Smackdown

January 5, 2011 • 12 Comments

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Congratulations to Merrill for winning her second A&M Holiday Smackdown with her recipe for Mulled White Wine with Pear Brandy! And Amanda may have lost, but she still gets a Q&A for being a good sport (read on below).


Winner's Q&A with Merrill

  • How do you plan to celebrate your victory?
  • Gleefully, with lots and lots of hot toddies.


  • In what other contests do you think you could take Amanda?
  • Anything revolving around butter. Or cheese.


  • In which ones would she trounce you?
  • Anything having to do with Meyer lemons. Also, pretty much any sort of baking contest.


  • What's the best thing you've tasted recently?
  • My mother made a delicious butternut squash puree for Christmas: it just had butter, maple syrup and orange juice/zest, and it was topped with some toasted pecans. Simple but perfect.


  • Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
  • Right after I moved into my current apartment (about 4 years ago), a pot of oil I'd been heating on the stove for deep frying spontaneously combusted when I lifted the lid (NEVER heat oil with the lid on, people!) and created a column of fire. It was so hot that I couldn't get close enough to it to put it out (mistake #2: having only a mini fire extinguisher on hand), so I called 911. In the seven minutes it took the fire truck to arrive, the microwave above my stove had melted into a grotesque, Dali-like sculpture, and my kitchen cabinets had totally scorched, filling the entire apartment with a layer of dark soot. (Even the medicine cabinet in my bathroom at the other end of the apartment had a fine layer of soot inside it.) I couldn't use my kitchen for 3 months.



  • What's your least favorite food?
  • Fishy/slimy seafood.


  • Who is your culinary hero?
  • Amanda! And Laurie Colwin -- I love that she cooked simple, great food -- nothing too fancy -- and she really had such a great writing voice.

amanda  Hot Toddy with Dried Cherries and Lime

Loser's Q&A with Amanda

  • So, how does it feel to lose the A&M Smackdown 2 years in a row?
  • I bow to the master.

  • How do you plan to console yourself?
  • I plan to drink loads of Merrill's hot toddies, until I can no longer remember that I lost.

  • In what contests do you think you could take Merrill?
  • Well, let's see. Nothing with cheese or creme fraiche. She'd school me for sure. But maybe scallops -- she doesn't like scallops! Weak spot!

  • In which ones would she (continue to) trounce you?
  • See above.


  • What's the best thing you've tasted recently?
  • Spicy minced duck salad at Kin Shop, Harold Dieterle's new restaurant in Manhattan.

  • Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
  • This contest. Clearly!

  • What was on the menu at your last dinner party?
  • It was an engagement party for Merrill and (now her husband) Jonathan. Merrill's ricotta crostini. Corn soup. Slow roasted cod with romesco. Roasted potatoes. Peach tart.

  • What's your least favorite food?
  • Caviar

  • Who is your culinary hero?
  • Johnny Apple and Merrill


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Comments (12)


about 4 years ago Rhonda35

Merrill - you're not alone - I was reading the intro to Dorie Greenspan's new book and, in it, she makes reference to burning down her parents' kitchen when she was young and just starting to experiment with cooking. I'd have to say that might top your disaster - burning down your OWN kitchen is one thing, but burning down your PARENTS' kitchen (with all the guilt, disciplining, etc. that may come with that) is quite another!!
So glad that both you and Dorie were unharmed in those blazes.


about 4 years ago mcs3000

Still need to make the drinks - both sound sublime. Merrill - Congrats, and thanks for the tip about the hot oil - did NOT know that. Glad you were ok, despite the kitchen meltdown.


about 4 years ago TiggyBee

I've missed about 3 weeks here and I have a lot to catch up on!! I'll be jumping back in starting with these two recipes fo sho.


about 4 years ago TiggyBee

Huge thanks!!! I just got my mail and came home to my beautiful pickle prize and an ep!! You guys are awesome. I never thought I'd miss a website so much as I missed this one. Heartfelt hugs to all.


about 4 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Go team both! Scallops IN creme fraiche? Spicy duck on a buttered roll? YUM!


about 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

I second MrsLarkin re: go Team Creme Fraiche! And, I like to think there's no shame in setting your kitchen on fire (I did so when cooking for my brother's confirmation - yikes!), as long as you don't burn your eyebrows off ;).


about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Aw, shucks. No greater honor than winning for biggest mess-up! Thanks, guys.


about 4 years ago dymnyno

Wow...that is really a spectacular kitchen disaster! Did your smoke detector go off for the appropriate sound effects?


about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

I think so, but honestly, I think I was in shock and don't remember many details.


about 4 years ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

I'd say that Merrill also wins the contest for the most spectacular kitchen disaster!


about 4 years ago Midge

Seriously, Merrill, pretty sure your kitchen disaster takes the cake!


about 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Go Team Creme Fraiche! And that's one spectacular kitchen disaster, merrill! Better luck next year, amanda.