Hoping to settle the rivalry in a gloves-off duel between our two foodie burgs, we tracked down the fantastic Mr. Rapoport at Hakkasan, where he was hosting the preview of Uncork'd, the magazine's annual food-festival happening this May in Las Vegas. And the victor? The visiting epicurean and former GQ style editor demurs (it's a draw!), but we couldn't help but be charmed.
Read on for his love of homemade ramen (his Super Bowl snack of choice — sorry nachos), the condiment he'd take to the grave, and his next global tasting adventures.
How do you rank San Francisco among other food capitals?
"In terms of serious food cities, you've got New York and S.F., in no particular order. They're the main ones. Portland is phenomenal for how small it is. I don't know how they support so many serious restaurants. And then, Chicago and L.A."
What do you love about San Francisco’s food scene?
"Whenever we come out here, there are so many places we need to check out that are doing food with a respect to ingredients and preparation. They have that in New York, too, but it's just so full-on, so crowded, and so expensive, and a little bit more intense. It can wear you out."
Speaking of New York and San Francisco comparisons, can you tell us what each city does better. Let's start with Chinese.
"I'm going to go with San Francisco on this one. There's something about New York Chinese, it can be a little heavy and a little greasy. It can be delicious. There’s New York Noodle Town that’s awesome; it’s just a bit much."
How about pizza?
"New York, no question. You've got the slice places like Joe’s Pizza in the West Village. Then, there's been a growth of artisanal pizza in the last five to eight years. There's Motorino and Roberta’s out in Brooklyn. Pizza is treated as an art form as opposed to just the $2 slice."
What are your thoughts on ramen?
"Ramen's having a moment in New York. I will just say Ippudo is very popular. And there's this guy Ivan Orkin and he's opening a ramen place, Ivan Ramen, next month. For the Super Bowl, I went to my friends' house, and they decided to make homemade ramen. I thought they were crazy for doing that. It was really good. They impressed me more than I thought they were going to."
So, you’re saying New York for ramen. How about coffee?
"I love Blue Bottle, and I love the waffles they serve, which are Belgian-style. They're insanely good. We do now have a Blue Bottle in New York. It's a tough competition. Both New Yorkers and San Franciscans appreciate good coffee. You know, we have Stumptown now, we have Ninth Street Espresso, Blue Bottle here, Intelligentsia in Chicago. What I really love is you can go to any city, and get really great coffee; it was not the case ten years ago."
Any international cities on your radar?
"Sydney and Melbourne, they have a lot of exciting things going on right now. The Scandinavia thing has been happening, but I've never been to Copenhagen or Oslo. I feel remiss. Working in magazines, you're constantly editing articles about all these cities, but I've never had a chance to go. When I worked for GQ, every year, twice a year, we would go to Milan. That's my major blind spot right now."
When you’re traveling do you pack a stash of gourmet treats?
"Andrew Knowlton, whom I travel a lot with, he always brings a little container of bitters, so when he's on a flight, he can make his own cocktails. On the plane, he ordered a gin with a side of club soda and he mixed it with his bitters. I respect that. I have a little travel-sized Maldon sea salt; I will take Maldon to my grave with me. When we rent a beach house, I always bring Parmesan cheese. If you have a little kid, they'll always eat pasta and cheese. That, Maldon, and good olive oil are the three things I travel with."
We love reading about your dreamy summer holidays. What are your plans this year?
"We might go to the South of France for my friend's 40th birthday. Places like Provence and Tuscany, they come across as cliché, but they're cliché for a reason. They're insanely beautiful. The food is delicious and simple and what food should be. I want to try and find a way to go to Northern Europe this summer."
You were at GQ as a style editor and now you edit food. Melding your two areas of expertise — and just in time for Valentine’s Day — what's a sexy thing to order?
"A really good bottle of wine. The best date I've had was going to this bar called Angel Share — this little Korean bar upstairs [in the East Village], where they have hand-chipped ice. We were there at 7 p.m. and next thing I know it was 10:30 p.m. We didn’t eat a thing. We'd been drinking for three and a half hours! It was a fun night."
Photo: Via Bon Appetit