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

January  5, 2011

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.


Shop the Story

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


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Rhonda35
  • mcs3000
  • TiggyBee
  • aargersi
  • fiveandspice
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


Rhonda35 January 7, 2011
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.
mcs3000 January 7, 2011
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.
TiggyBee January 6, 2011
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.
TiggyBee January 6, 2011
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.
aargersi January 6, 2011
Go team both! Scallops IN creme fraiche? Spicy duck on a buttered roll? YUM!
fiveandspice January 6, 2011
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 ;).
Merrill S. January 5, 2011
Aw, shucks. No greater honor than winning for biggest mess-up! Thanks, guys.
dymnyno January 5, 2011
Wow...that is really a spectacular kitchen disaster! Did your smoke detector go off for the appropriate sound effects?
Merrill S. January 5, 2011
I think so, but honestly, I think I was in shock and don't remember many details.
Greenstuff January 5, 2011
I'd say that Merrill also wins the contest for the most spectacular kitchen disaster!
Midge January 5, 2011
Seriously, Merrill, pretty sure your kitchen disaster takes the cake!
mrslarkin January 5, 2011
Go Team Creme Fraiche! And that's one spectacular kitchen disaster, merrill! Better luck next year, amanda.