A gray day and a gray-ish Dining Section at the Gray Lady.
First Came the Smoker, Then the Ingredients: Melissa Clark spends some time with the chef Iacopo Falai, of Falai on the Lower East Side, who loves a good kitchen gadget. He offers a recipe for Steamed Sole with Smoked Trout Consommé, which might help justify the purchase of a smoker.
Fresh Fennel in Cahoots: The Minimalist makes a Roast Chicken with Fennel "The idea was that the fennel would lend its flavor to the chicken, the chicken would lend its juices to the fennel and the creation would need little else."
Going to Bat for a Much-Maligned Grape: Eric Asimov hears out Chris Phelps of Swanson Vineyards, who is trying to make the case that merlot has been unfairly maligned, thanks in part to the film "Sideways."