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Aida Mollenkamp

Meet the cookbook author with a slight obsession for gnocchi

Delicious food has always been a way of life for Aida Mollenkamp, founder and editor-in-chief of Salt & Wind, thanks to the culinary talents of her mother, grandmother and her family’s Italian-American roots. But it was her grandmother’s gnocchi recipe that really sparked her passion for well-made cuisine. “Every Christmas, we would join her in the kitchen and help her make it from scratch,” Aida recalls. “The diligence and time she put into making this one type of pasta was amazing to watch. I don’t think I realized that food could require so much care.”

That experience—and Aida’s innate attention to detail and interest in quality ingredients—is what led her to launch her culinary-focused career, first as a food editor, then as a TV host (you’ll recognize her from Ask Aida on the Food Network) and, recently, as author of her first cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen. Her current gig puts her at the helm of Salt & Wind, a lifestyle website where food and travel (and wellness and shopping, among other things) intersect. “We’re all about helping you live your life in good taste,” Aida explains.

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On the destination with the best up-and-coming food scene. “Right now, I would say Tel Aviv is where it’s at. The mix of Mediterranean ingredients with the global experience of Israeli chefs leads to some amazing cuisine. There’s also a great cocktail scene, juice bars and more. I’m also really into the northern area of Baja California. There’s a wine region there called Valle de Guadalupe, plus an area of Tijuana with three restaurants ranked in the World's 50 Best this year. But there’s also just really great street food.”

 

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The food trend she’s most excited about. “The Spaniards have completely reinvented the gin and tonic, and it’s starting to come over to the United States. (Here’s a recipe from our site.) Basically, the whole cocktail is made in a big wine glass. You add one shot of liquor, a ton of ice and a ton of really good tonic, which makes it more of a sipping drink versus the heavy G&Ts we make in the States. And if you’re entertaining, you can add all sorts of fun herbs or fruit or spiced citrus.”

Her perfect L.A. day. “I love being outdoors, so I think I’d head to Malibu first and go for a hike. There are some really amazing wineries there, so after that I’d head to Cornell Winery, which is a wine tasting room. Then, I’d finish the day waterside either with dinner either at Nobu—a classic—or Malibu Farms, where you can have a glass of wine and watch the sunset.”