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

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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