Category Archives: Travel

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash​ Recipe

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash RecipeFor over 25 years, Annie Mahle has honed her craft with both knife and pen. Annie and her husband, Captain Jon Finger, run the Maine windjammer, the Schooner J. & E. Riggin. Not only is Annie a maritime captain, she also is the captain and chef of her galley, where she has been cooking meals on her cast iron wood stove, Lucy. In the winter, she continues to create new recipes and shares them on her recipe and lifestyle blog, At Home & At Sea. Her third cookbook, Sugar & Salt: A Year At Home and At Sea – Book Two is the second in a series of cookbooks featuring a collection of recipes, crafts, thoughts, and stories from Chef Annie’s adventurous life on the coast of Maine.

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe
Lucy

Chef Mahle notes, “In Sugar & Salt, I share more memories, stories, and recipes that are inspired by my life on the coast of Maine. Whether it’s through my cooking, crafts, or gardening, I’m always creating, and I hope that this book will be a inspiration for the reader.”

 

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
My first cooking memory is of canning tomatoes with my grandma in her kitchen. Several years later, I had a love affair with chocolate chip cookies. I started cooking professionally after I graduated from college and haven’t looked back!

What is your favorite food to cook?
Anything from the garden but kohlrabi.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Half and half, kale, leftovers.

What do you cook at home?
All of the comfort food.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I love someone who is willing to try something new. Like oysters. And really savor that first bite.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Boorish or selfish sorts who are unaware of how much airtime and space they take up.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Ball jar.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine. Red. Although I do love creating new cocktails.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Lori Colwin, Laura Brody, Dorie Greenspan. I wish I liked James Beard more.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My santoku. One day I wasn’t thinking and used the tip to pry something open. Rookie move. The tip broke. But then Jon, my husband, ground the tip down to look like a blunt sailor’s knife and I love it.

Your favorite ingredient?
Flour. Or eggs. They can become so many creations.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Kohlrabi. Hate it.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean.

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash RecipeFavorite types of cuisine to cook?
The type you eat with family and friends.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork. Flavor, flavor, flavor.

Favorite vegetable?
A ripe tomato picked just off the vine on a warm summer day.

Chef you most admire?
Is it a cliché if I say Julia Child? Well, it’s true.

Food you like the most to eat?
I’m loving poached eggs, kale, and avocado for breakfast right now.

Food you dislike the most?
Food that is too clever for its own good. The sort that looks like the height of art on the plate, but leaves you still feeling hungry and wishing for a burger.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I’ve never gotten a tattoo, but my crew has poked at me for years to get one. I think a tattoo would bore me after a time. If I did get one, it would be a ring of a knife, fork, and spoon around my wrist or bicep.

Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash with Poached Eggs and Asparagus Recipe

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe

Hash is usually made with leftover meat or fish from a previous meal. Feel free to substitute beef, pollock, or other flavorful fish in place of the pork.
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 1⁄2 cups diced parsnips, peeled; about 2 parsnips
5 cups diced red potatoes; about 11⁄2 pounds or 6 potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion; about 1 medium onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
1 pound cooked pork shoulder or other tender pork meat, pulled apart with a fork into bite sized pieces
1 pound asparagus, ends cut or snapped off; about 1 bunch
Poached Eggs
Herbed Salt (recipe below)

Directions:
Place the parsnips and potatoes in a wide saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. Remove from water with a basket strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the water hot for the asparagus. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and onion. Sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the parsnips, potatoes, salt, and pepper and cook until the potatoes begin to brown. Add the pork and sauté until the pork is warm. Remove from heat and cover.

Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute or until the asparagus is tender. Timing will vary with the thickness of the stalks. Remove from water with tongs, transfer to a platter and cover. To the same pot of water, add the vinegar (from Poached Egg recipe) and poach the eggs. Plate the hash, asparagus, and poached eggs and sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of Herbed Salt.

Herbed Salt
Makes about 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon kosher salt
1⁄2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Store in a glass jar indefinitely.

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeChef David Pan was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota – one of my favorite towns in the world! After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Mendota Heights, he began his career at WA Frost in St. Paul with Chef Russell Kline. WA Frost, one of my favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities, is a leading culinary institution in the Midwest, winning multiple awards, including the “AAA” Tour book 3 Diamond Rating – they also have a great outdoor patio, FYI. Pan noted, when I expressed my joy at eating at Frost, that it was a great place to start! He said, “they have a great culinary vibe – everyone is there because they love to cook. There are hard core line cooks!”

He then moved on to the prestigious Minneapolis Club, one of the last invitation only clubs in the US, and his culinary skills were put to test cooking for the elite clientele. Pan spent his summers in Gustavus, Alaska working at The Gustavus Inn, a 2010 James Beard America’s Classics Award Winner. There, he worked side by side with the chef – being a prep cook, gardening, washing dishes, driving a van, and learning how to do just about everything! Pan remarked, “It was the first time I’d been outside of my comfort zone – getting fish straight from the ocean, growing vegetables in a very short summer. It was eye-opening to work with vegetables straight out of the ground, and learn the difference between something processed. I now have a great appreciation for fresh veg – from seed to harvest. When I think of the fresh (and small!) strawberries there, they were so potent and delicious. It changes how you think of foods.”

Pan moved to the Gulf Coast in 2013, and had the honor of working for Chef Bill Briand of Fishers Orange Beach as well as working for Eric Beech of Brick and Spoon. He worked very long days for 14 months, and then made a big life decision. In 2015, he and his wife launched Orange Beach Concierge, one of the only private dining services in the Orange Beach area. He said that there is a big fear to step out on your own, and lose the stability of a full-time job.

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeHowever, he’s doing many private events, and loving it. From private chef work to themed weddings (a recent Greek-themed wedding saw him making gyros meat from scratch, as well as kebabs, hummus, tabbouli, and every kind of traditional Greek food – and they loved it) and smaller events. When he described his menus, well, I started thinking about a trip down south. He’s very talented – and creative. His kitchen at Orange Beach Concierge specializes in locally sourced, organic and sustainable ingredients whenever possible – and that that healthy dining should and CAN BE convenient – as well as affordable.

I asked (as a former Minnesotan myself) what changed about his cooking, when he moved south. He laughed, and said he couldn’t help but be influenced by the South! A man after my own travel heart, he said that “one of the greatest parts of traveling and cooking is that you are influenced by that area, and you take it with you in your education and life experience. I never want to stop – I always want to travel and eat and learn as much as I can about foods (especially locally sourced) and different places.”

I also queried him about what new foods he loves, living down south. Don’t be surprised that he answered fresh seafood, especially  oysters. He shared how delicate they are, and how sensitive they are to the environment that they grow in. Pan also noted that with the longer growing season (than Alaska, for sure, but also Minnesota), the agricultural environment in Alabama is abundant and great. The corn is amazing, and there is definitely a bbq scene (I laughed when he said that chefs “have to be on your game because many bbq critics will let you know if you know how to cook pork or not. I passed the pork test…”).

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe
Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Garlic Pomme Purée, Chef David’s way. Traditional French Cooking for the current times. This is the winning dish for the FLAVOR category at #thewharfuncorked2016.

Pan earned the Flavor Award at the Wharf Uncorked Food & Wine Festival in Orange Beach. His style is traditional French cooking for current times; his winning dish was a Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Garlic Pomme Purée. Held in mid-September, the three day event combined tastings of delicious food and tantalizing wines, live entertainment, a pinch of southern flare, and a dash of Gulf Coast hospitality.

Chef Pan is relatively new to the coast but his culinary impact is already well known by his peers. His new storefront (a commercial kitchen, located at The Wharf), is available by appointment only for events, private chef table dinners, and more. Did you know that the Orange Beach area has about 5,000 year-round denizens, but over 6 million people visit from Memorial Day to Labor Day? That’s some kind of crazy tourist season (imagine private cheffing during the busy season!), and also influences his cooking the rest of the year, he noted. I expect we’ll hear much more about this innovatibve, interesting chef, who cares deeply for his fellow cooks, as well as his (lucky!) clientele.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
16 years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Roasting and brining proteins

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, cream, and Wickles pickles

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeWhat do you cook at home?
Ramen – I use the noodles to make sticky noodles…never use the packet

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Willingness to be open and try new foods

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Taking issue with others without bringing it to me first. I can make anyone more pleased if I know there is an issue

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

Your favorite cookbook author?
Thomas Keller

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My tongs

Your favorite ingredient?
Kosher salt

Your least favorite ingredient?
Bouillon

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Peel potatoes – I am allergic

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Mediterranean, and Vietnamese

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork (Bacon)

Favorite vegetable?
Carrots

Chef you most admire?
Francis Mallman

Food you like the most to eat?
Pizza

Food you dislike the most?
Whole olives

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None, not sure if I will ever go there.

Recipe: Chargrilled Oysters

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

1 lb butter room temperature
1 large shallot minced
4 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 fresh lemons squeezed
2 tbsp creole seasoning
1 tbsp fresh thyme chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
Hot sauce to taste
Worchestershire sauce, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan shredded

24 oysters shucked, toss top shell
French bread crostini or favorite saltine crackers to complement

Directions:

Fire grill
Reach 500 degrees and hold
Combine all ingredients except oysters in KitchenAid and mix
1 tbsp of mixture on shucked oyster
Place oysters on grill
Cook for 4 minutes, lid closed
Remove from grill
Squeeze fresh lemon juice on each oyster and serve and enjoy!

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

The world is full of great food and chefs – we only need to open our tastebuds to them. For instance, at Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse, at The Phoenician, a Starwood property, French-born Executive Chef Jacques Qualin may be the area’s only stove helmer to have worked at four Michelin restaurants – two in France and two in New York – a very rare distinction. If you are a sports fan, it’s like saying you played soccer with Manchester United and Real Madrid; then moved to the United States, and played baseball with the Yankees and Mets.

Qualin, like many chefs, started cooking with his mother, tying his apron strings and sticking close to her, learning about food from the region of his birthplace, Franche-Comté, home to Comte and Emmenthaler cheeses. As a young cook, he traveled to Paris, where he studied under Michelin-rated chef Michel de Matteis, working at his three-star Restaurant Taillevent, defined by The New York Times as “the best in Paris, if not all of France.” Several other kitchens later, including working for Daniel Boulud in New York at the world famous Le Cirque, Qualin worked again in Paris as at the cosmopolitan Restaurant La Marée, before working with his friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Jojo’s on East 58th Street as the culinary great’s first sous chef.

After closing his seventy seat restaurant in upstate New York, The French Corner, The New York Times reviewer said, “(Qualin) created a unique and wonderful restaurant…delightfully rustic and complex all at once.” Vongerichten asked him about working together again, this time in Phoenix. He says, “I had been in France and New York City for fourteen years and I was looking for opportunities to come to the West Coast.”

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu SauceWorking in the Valley of the Sun, Qualin now defines himself as a “Frenchman who cooks with an Asian flair,” speaking to Vongerichten’s penchant for European and Asian cuisine. He says about working at J& G Steakhouse, a long distance from European Michelin restaurants, “I like good food and I like the brasserie-style we have at J&G. It’s a different restaurant than before, but it’s a steakhouse. I like that.”

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

How long have you been cooking?
I have been cooking as far back as I can remember, I have loved cooking my whole life.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I get very excited when I see or find a product that looks pristine in quality and freshness, and that’s the way the flavors will come out the best. French cooking is my soul, Italian my guilty pleasure, and I like all Asian types of cooking.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I love hot sauce, so I always have good selections from wacky hot to mild. French mustard is a must too and fresh herbs.

What do you cook at home?
Everything from a six course tasting for my friends, to a simply grilled fresh fish. I do like to do some classical French dishes that remind me my childhood or some Asian dishes, like a Pad Thai.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
To be open to try new things and flavors.

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Ignorance.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
I used all of them, but I tend to go back to Pyrex as it’s PBA free and can take extreme heat or cold, such as liquid nitrogen.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All of them! Depending on the mood and the occasion or the food. I love to start with a ginger margarita or a crafted beer and wine (red or white), with a preference to the old world.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Many of them! I do have quite a extensive collection, from old traditional French cookbooks to the latest trends in cooking.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Cake tasters are very helpful for checking the food.

Your favorite ingredient?
Hard to say; there are too many I like, from yuzu to ginger or mint.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Fish sauce.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Not doing anything in the kitchen.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French/Asian.

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu SauceBeef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
All, I like a nice Prime beef grilled to perfection, Milk feed Chicken roasted whole, Smoked and Braise Pulled pork sandwich with Habanero sauce, or seared tofu with a cilantro pesto.

Favorite vegetable?
Beets.

Chef you most admire?
Hard to pick because there are so many. Maybe Francis Mallman, as I like his philosophy of cooking and being genuine to the product.

Food you like the most to eat?
I like perfectly cooked pastas, Miruguai sashimi, fresh line-caught fish, and flavorful soups.

Food you dislike the most?
Okra.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None, not into that at all.

Recipe: Roasted Whole Snapper Citrus and Garlic with Yuzu sauce

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

For the Yuzu Mayonnaise
3 each Egg yolks
1 tsp Salt
2 oz Yuzu juice
1 oz Lemon juice
1 oz Orange juice
1/2 qt Grape seed oil

Combine all but the oil in the robot coupe and drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Put in a siphon and charge with 2 cartridges.(soda)

Roasted Snapper:
1 pc Snapper 1.2# deboned from the inside and still attached and scored.
3 slices of Yuzu
3 slices of oranges
6 slices of fresh Ginger
1 tbsp. cilantro picked and chiffonade
1 tbsp. mint picked and chiffonade
6 slices of Serrano peppers
15 g garlic sliced ¾ inch
½ cup Olive oil

Season the fish with salt on all sides, arrange all the slices and the herbs evenly inside the fish. In a Dover plate, pour the oil and the garlic in the bottom then lay the fish on it, baste with the olive oil. Cook in the oven at 375 F for 10 min, basting it often. When almost cooked, finish under the broiler to get a nice brown color while basting. Drain ¾ of the oil, leaving the garlic inside.

To serve:
1 pc of fancy lemon
1 small bunch of cilantro
On a big black plate, fold a white napkin squared, put the hot plate on it. Add the lemon and cilantro and cover with the lid, serve the Yuzu mayonnaise on the side.
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar’s Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup RecipeMyanmar may not be a country that comes to mind when you think “international cuisine destination,” but thanks to the recent democratization of the government and lifting of most sanctions, it’s quickly becoming an Asian hub of excitement and energy. Myanmar’s main city of Yangon, formerly called Rangoon, is a dynamic destination with both the tranquility of an off-the-beaten-path Buddhist sanctuary and the subtle buzz of locals and foreigners seeing the country in a new light.

Two of the entrepreneurs that wanted to capitalize on the growing thirst for international flavors in Myanmar are Ringo and Michelle, a Singaporean couple who started their restaurant Merlion Cuisine in Yangon this year.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe

Having had the passion for the food and beverage industry simmering on the back burner for years, they decided to jump on the opportunity to start the only restaurant serving authentic Singaporean cuisine they knew growing up with international standards. Meticulous care and no expense was spared in doing the kitchen. Owner Ringo called on his friend (owner of Q’Son) in Singapore to supply top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances. Two water filters are used because of Yangon’s history of bad water. Multiple exhaust hoods handle proper ventilation. And, a renowned food safety consultant from Singapore was brought in for a pre-opening intensive two week training in food preparation, handling, storage.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Food Asia Culinary Challenge Gold Award – Chef Darren Lim

Joining them is the Singaporean Chef Darren Lim, who started cooking at 19 years old and worked his way up from cleaning live fish in Malaysia to head Asian chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Singapore. Chef Lim is no stranger to taking risks – moving by himself to Australia with the hopes to find a job in a kitchen in order to learn about Western food is no small feat – so he feels the enterprising environment in Myanmar suits his style. Sitting down with him for the interview, he’ll never tell you he’s a multiple gold medal winner in the Food Asia Culinary Challenge or for which Presidents or Heads of States he’s cooked for; instead, he beams with excitement over which new cookbook he has and which new recipe he wants to try.

Unfortunately, Myanmar doesn’t have the supplies he’s used to, so he hand-picks ingredients from Hong Kong and Singapore to bring into the restaurant for the highest standard food. As we continued the interview, I became more and more impressed with the devotion to the art of cuisine he showed. By putting his soul into his food and refusing to compromise on quality, he represents the idea that “the right way is not always the popular or easy way.” Once Ringo became a regular customer of the Ritz-Carlton and got to know Chef Lim very well, it seemed natural for them to join forces and take the next step into Myanmar.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was 19 years old.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Cold Bean Curd Pudding with Longan

What is your favorite food to cook?
Lobster, since there are many different ways to prepare it in both the Asian and Western styles. My favorite way is with a spicy black pepper sauce.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Fresh herbs are important, rosemary is a staple.

What do you cook at home?
Since I eat at work usually, when I’m at home I like something light and easy to prepare. Usually a double boiled soup that isn’t too heavy.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Steamed tofu with Soya Sauce

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Actually, I like the challenge of a customer that comes in with a judgement already made up in their minds. Maybe they think tofu is bland because they only tofu prepared in a certain way. To me, I want to be able to take that on and change their minds. As a chef, I believe every customer is a VIP.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Deep fried banana with ice cream

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Unfortunately some – and it really is very few – customers are trying to make problems with the food and have a certain closemindedness about it. As a chef, I have no power over this.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Corningware.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I drink whiskey only, just a little bit. Now I’m working on my collection of Jack Daniels.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Deep Fried Tofu with Soya Sauce

Your favorite cookbook author?
Tony Khoo, who wrote “To Be A Chef” and is the head chef for the Mandarin Group as well as a committee member of the Singapore Chef Association. He inspires me because he also has a passion for mixing Western and Asian cuisines. Aesthetically, his attention to detail is meticulous, and his plating on dishes like his (Asian) tapas is perfection.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
American chef knife.

Your favorite ingredient?
Infused oils, like olive oil infused with garlic and onion.

Your least favorite ingredient?
This is difficult for me to say. As a chef, I have to try to have a positive mindset towards all ingredients, because maybe a customer really likes it and I have to work with it.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
sambal kang kong

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Opening oysters. When I was training, my master chef said I opened oysters too slowly to work in the kitchen. As part of my training he gave me 20,000 oysters to open up and I couldn’t leave until I finished. It was intense, after just the first one I wanted to cry and give up because I looked back and saw the mountain of oysters to go, but I kept going and past the half way point I knew I could make it. But I still have that traumatic memory.

Also making omelets reminds me of a similar memory. In my training on how to make the perfect omelet when I was working in a hotel, the rule was: If the omelet isn’t in the exact correct shape, you had to eat it. I went through a lot of omelets. Even now, I can’t lose the extra weight I gained from all those eggs I ate. As you can imagine, I don’t eat omelets or oysters anymore.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Chendol

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Anything that is fusion cuisine. Every month I buy 2 cook books, since every chef has their little secrets and techniques, I like to mix and test different fusion dishes with this knowledge.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?
Pork

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
seasonal fresh fruit, Myanmar

Favorite vegetable?
White asparagus. It tastes a little unique, but it has a short harvest season. It’s fairly common in Singapore, but for a quick dish to whip up I like to use a Western-style preparation: Combine bay leaf, milk, lemon, butter in a pan with the white asparagus and poach it for 4-6 minutes depending on the size, then top with either hollandaise (for Western style) or poached egg yolk (for Asian style).

Chef you most admire?
Chef Edmund Toh. He’s the President of the Singapore Chefs Association and made his own way through the ranks to the top. He never had anything handed to him and he’s a great mentor for us younger Singaporean chefs.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Bean Curd with Seafood Sauce

Food you like the most to eat?
Soups, because they can be difficult to get the balance of flavor correctly. Whenever I go to a restaurant I make sure to try a soup because I want to see if they have a skilled chef there, and I test this by the soup. If they are skilled, then I always try to find my way into the kitchen so I can learn from them. Also, noodle dishes (especially pulled noodles) because it is a traditional technique — like an art form — and seafood because it’s the most fresh-tasting food.

Food you dislike the most?
Even though I can handle them in any other form, raw beets are not my favorite.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Tofu with salted fish & chicken in clay pot

Childhood memory with food?
My fondest memory with food is also the reason why I got interested in cooking. My grandmother used to make a traditional pork belly with soya sauce dish for my family, but after she passed away no one seemed to be able to replicate it the same way. It really pushed me to try experimenting in the kitchen; it was like a puzzle I had to solve. I tried every technique my parents knew how to do, but nothing seemed to work and everyone gave up hope of tasting the same dish. Then one day I decided to try preparing it in an old-fashioned way, without using any of the popular shortcuts or modern tools, and finally I was able to succeed in recreating it in the exact same taste.

Recipe: Traditional Confinement Soup

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Confinement Soup

In many traditional Asian homes, recovering from surgery, illness, or childbirth includes a “confinement” period for about a month, where the recovering person stays inside and away from potential hazards in the environment — germs, pollution, or bad energy. While trying to naturally restore their strength, their mother stays inside with them and makes the food. They will make many gently-boiled soups that extract the most nutrients and vitamins slowly for optimum recovery, and are easy on the sensitive stomach. Below is one of the staple soups made for recovery along with the benefit: most of the ingredients can be found in Asian markets.

Prep time: 35 min
Cooking time: 3-4 hours

Ingredients:

2 chickens (1 kg in size)
enriches the blood
high protein
supplements qi energy

20 gm ginseng
helps recovery from illness, immune system
helps hepatitis C
improves mental & physical wellbeing and stamina

5-8 dried scallops
lowers blood pressure
strengthens stomach & kidneys
low in fat

20 gm wolf berries (also called goji berries)
improves eyesight
strengthens immune system
antioxidants help aging process

3 litres water

10 red dates
improves qi energy
improves circulation
helps mental wellness

5-8 dried longan
improves circulation
detoxifying super fruit

50 gm dang shen (can substitute ginseng http://www.davidbocktcm.com/articles/Dangshen.html)
brightens & evens complexion

50 gm solomon rhizome (also called yu zhu, traditional chinese herb in Asian markets)
relieves dry throat
strengthens stomach

Directions:
Clean the chicken and cut into pieces.
Wash and drain the wolf berries, red dates, longan, dang shen, solomon rhizome.
Place all ingredients into a large pot.

For Hong Kong style, bring the soup to a boil covered for 3 hours.
For Singaporean style, double boil soup for 4 hours.

 
– The End. Go Eat. – 

 

 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico City

Guest Writer and Mexico City travel expert Katja Gaskell is the co-founder of globetotting.com, a website for adventurous family travel. She is a firm believer that you can – and should! – take your children everywhere and anywhere no matter what age they are. Prior to life on the road with kids, Katja wrote across a range of titles for Lonely Planet and tried and tested luxury hotels for the British boutique hotel guide Mr & Mrs Smith. She is currently based in Mexico City with her husband and three children. Find her online: TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Mexico has long had a reputation for good food, but these days its culinary clout goes far beyond tortillas and tacos. Nowhere is this more evident than in Mexico City, where new dining experiences have helped catapult the capital onto the worldwide gourmet scene.

This is an exciting place to eat, with dining options to suit all palates and all budgets. From a simple torta stand to some of the world’s best restaurants, Mexico’s capital is foodie heaven.

This is, however, also one of the world’s largest cities and finding your way around can take some time. To make things easier, we have focused on two neighbouring colonias, Condesa and Roma Norte, both home to some of the city’s most exciting eateries.

Breakfast: Lalo!

Lalo! From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityOwned by chef Eduardo García of Maximo Bistro fame (one of the capital’s best restaurants), Lalo! is a lively, colourful café and pizzeria. But this is not your average breakfast joint (nor your average pizza parlour). Lalo! boasts an innovative menu that will have you dithering over what to order. Diners sit side by side on one long communal table overseen by a mural of bright caricatures. It’s fun, tasty, and a great way to start the day.

My suggestion: The Croque Madame is, without doubt, one of the best breakfast dishes in the capital. A large slab of brioche bread, a generous helping of ham, mountains of cheese and an egg on top. Have one of these and you won’t have to eat again all day.

Hours: 7am – 11pm (closed Mondays)
Address: Zacatecas 173, Roma Norte
Phone Number: +52 55 5564 3388
Website: www.eat-lalo.com

Second Breakfast: Panaderia Rosetta

Panaderia Rosetta. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityOwned by Chef Elena Reygada, named Latin America’s best female chef in 2015, this hole-in-the-wall may not look like much but it serves the best breads and pastries in Mexico City. Reygada is particularly well known for her baking skills, and Panaderia Rosetta provides bread for restaurants across the city. Among the many pastries on offer are croissants filled with fig, rosemary flavoured buns, and cinnamon. Grab a coffee at the counter or order to take away and sit in the nearby Rio de Janeiro park instead.

My suggestion: You can’t go wrong with any of the pan dulces (pastries) here but there’s no denying that Reygada’s light and fluffy doughnuts are unparalleled.

Hours: 7am – 8pm Monday – Saturday; 7.30am – 6pm Sunday
Address: Colima 179, Roma Norte
Phone Number: +52 55 5207 2976
Website: www.rosetta.com.mx

Lunch: Tres Galeones Taquería de Puerto

Tres Galeones. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityThis small, retro-styled taquería is great for a quick lunch and is almost always packed. The chalkboard menu offers seafood dishes such as pescado estilo baja (white fish, battered, fried, and served in a light tortilla with toppings) and taco de pulpo al pastor (octopus dressed in a tasty red sauce). Also on offer are tostadas, sopes, and burritos. Grab a table outside if you can.

My suggestion: The pescado estilo baja are excellent as is the caldo de camarón, a shrimp amuse bouche offered to all diners. It’s worth going to Tres Galeones for this alone.

Hours: 11am – 5.30pm Monday to Saturday
Address: Calle Jalapa 117, Roma Norte
Phone Number: +52 55 5419 3964
Website: www.tresgaleones.com

Coffeeshop: Espressarte

Espressarte. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityCoffee is serious business at Espressarte, a small artisanal café in Roma Norte where a plethora of coffee-making gadgets and gizmos line the walls. The café even has their its own micro-roastery. Everything from a simple Americano to a Japanese-style slow drip coffee is served. No bells, no whistles, just very, very good coffee.

My suggestion: You can’t go wrong, choose your favourite coffee and enjoy.

Hours: 7.30am – 9pm Monday – Friday, 8am – 8pm Saturday, 9am – 5pm Sunday
Address: Monterrey 151, Roma Norte
Phone Number: +52 55 4171 1969
Website: https://www.facebook.com/espressartel/

Happy Hour: Condesa DF

rooftop bar, Condesa DF. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico City

The rooftop terrace at boutique hotel Condesa DF is a great place to watch the sun go down with a drink in hand. This hotel is part of the Habita Group, an edgy brand that has been responsible for some of the city’s most innovative hotels in recent years. Condesa DF is no exception and this hip hideaway is a magnet for the city’s beautiful people. Don’t let that put you off, however, the view – and drinks – are well worth it.

My suggestion: When in Mexico drink Mescal, either straight or in a cocktail. The Cucumber Mescal Mojito, with mescal, mint, lemon, and cucumber is particularly good.

Hours: Sun-Wed 2 pm – 11 pm; Thurs-Sat 2 pm – 1 am.
Address: Veracruz 102, Condesa
Phone Number: +52 55 5241 2600
Website: www.condesadf.com

Dinner: La Capital

La Capital. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityA modern take on the traditional Mexican cantina, La Capital is a fun dining space with a tasty menu. Watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen and order plates to share; crispy tuna tostadas, shrimp tacos, and flautas (a type of friend taco) are just some of the house specialities. Not forgetting the guacamole, which is sublime.

My suggestion: The tacos cochinita pibil (pulled pork) are simply delicious. This slow-roasted pork dish originates Yucatán and is served with corn tortillas and onions marinated in sour orange.

Hours: 1.30pm – 12pm Monday to Wednesday, 1.30pm – 1am Thursday – Saturday, 1.30pm – 6pm Sunday
Address: Nuevo Leon 137, Condesa
Phone: +52 55 5256 5159
Website: www.lacapitalrestaurante.com

 

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico City

 

 

Pinnable photo: Flickr user Alexxx C; Feature photo:  ProtoplasmaKid / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0; Condesa DF photo flickr cc: scaredykat; Espressarte and Tres Galeones photos: Katja Gaskell; All other photos: respective restaurants

I8tonite: with Tucson’s Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive Right out of college, Casino del Sol’s renowned mixologist Aaron de Feo was turned down for a journalism job in his hometown of Tucson, Arizona. As the saying goes, “When someone hands you lemons, you make margaritas.” And, that’s exactly what de Feo did. He has become the one of the country’s prominent mixologists while working at the 215 room property owned by the Pascua Yaqui Indian tribe, a native area nation of the forty-eighth.

Before he landed at Arizona’s only Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond casino resort, de Feo also worked at the landmark Hotel Congress, the city’s only other exciting property, perfecting his craft of blending liquors. Since he’s landed at Casino del Sol, however, his creative drinks have been showcased, turning de Feo into one of the I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrivecountry’s leading libations makers. His business card names him Beverage Director, but he has been called by GQ as “Top 10 Most Inspired” and “Celebrated Doctor of Mixology” by Nightclub & Bar Magazine. He even has a nickname, “Doc,” used by his Old Pueblo liquor networks and friends, turning him into a cocktail cowboy of sorts – although de Feo’s more likely to pull out six shots of his favorite gin, rather than a six bullet shooter.

Importantly, one of the first things he accomplished when opening the four-diamond property was to invigorate Arizona’s growing swizzle stick scene on his turf.  He ensured that all staff learned how to master scratch beverages using simple syrups, freshly squeezed juices, and macerated herbs. De Feo’s distinguishing mark is to insure that any customer had a thirst-quencher made from wholesome ingredients, nothing made with food coloring or preservatives.

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive“People are more adventurous now,” says De Feo. “We were being out-gunned by Los Angeles and smaller cities like Nashville. Because we have a good, local music and cultural scene, many of the bar owners didn’t care about changing. They now do. There is a difference which is because of the hotel.”

According to Visit Tucson, the area’s bureau on tourism, there has been an uptick of yearly visitors from 3.4 nights in 2011 to 4 full nights in 2015. It can be attributed to many factors. Since the progressions occurred during de Feo’s term at Casino del Sol, the safe conclusion about the growth is the word is out about his crafty liquor potables. Resort and area guests want a drink from “Doc,” knowing that what he concocts will surely cure what ails them.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive
Tom Bergeron

What is your favorite food to cook at home? I tend to cook rather simple meals, mostly lean, grass-fed meat, vegetables, and legume pasta. However I’m very partial to making sauces, which I think comes from how often I am working with flavoring agents in cocktails.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? A galaxy of various syrups and house-made ingredients for cocktails, which is funny because I don’t drink cocktails at home that often.  Mostly they are experiments that I have elected to save for posterity.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?  Honesty.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?  Anyone who tries to decide for me what “we” are having at a restaurant.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? A Gin Rickey.

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive
Casino Del Sol Resort 2011

Your favorite cookbook author? Maybe not a cookbook, but certainly Harold McGee’s work on the science of food is fascinating.

Your favorite kitchen tool? A really great Y peeler.  So many of them are garbage.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian, without question.  Focus on the ingredients and their harmony more than intricacy.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Beef.  Chicken gets re-heated so often in fast casual places.

Favorite vegetable? I’m a huge fan of green peas with truffle salt & olive oil, and brussel sprouts, of course.  Baked cauliflower is about the greatest thing ever.

Chef you most admire? I don’t go in for celebrity chefs much.  I certainly admire many of the chefs I’ve worked with, especially the ones whose cuisine has inspired me behind the bar.  I admire Phoenix-area chef Cullen Campbell (Crudo, OKRA) quite a bit because he has managed to do extraordinary things with styles of food that I’m not entirely comfortable with, and still has me coming back for more.  His take on Southern cuisine is simply incredible.

Food you like the most to eat? Really great pasta with really great sauce.  Nothing better.

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive
Casino Del Sol Resort 2011

Food you dislike the most? I guess I just don’t get the phenomenon of tartare and paté.  Texture and aroma mean a lot to me, and the mushy, raw consistency of those things triggers a flight mechanism in my mind.  I guess that makes me the foodie equivalent of a hillbilly, but I don’t care.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? I suppose that excludes going to cocktail bars.  I spend a lot of time working out late at night, by myself.  There’s something extraordinarily calming about it, almost like hitting a sweaty reset button on my day.

Who do you most admire in food? Dave Arnold, for making that leap from food to beverages and showing us all how it’s done.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Sonoran Mexican restaurants, no doubt.

What is your favorite restaurant? Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver is not only one of the coolest spaces I’ve dined in, but the food and service were mind-blowing.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? I think I’m one of the last people in the industry with no tattoos, and honestly it’s getting to the point where that’s almost a disadvantage… like I’m not in the cool club.

Drink Recipe

Tom Turner Overdrive. Created by Aaron DeFeo, Casino Del Sol Resort Mixologist.

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive

  • George Dickel Select Barrel Tennessee Whiskey (1.5 oz)
  • Creme de Mure (1 oz)
  • Fresh lemon (.5 oz)
  • Mint (4-6 leaves)
  • Shaken and double-strained over crushed ice with four dashes of house aromatic bitters. Garnish with mint and blackberries (if available)

NOTE: Thomas Turner is the Master of Whiskey for the Diageo whiskey portfolio.

The end. Go drink. 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, CaliforniaThe city of Santa Barbara has been called The American Riviera. Matter of fact, as a travel destination, it’s been trademarked as The American Riviera under that name, bringing connotations of luxury and prestige. Beyond that branding, the area is home to truly great farming, including wine growing regions. There is also damn mighty fine eating if you get beyond the idea of high-end dining and leave that to the bigger urban centers. It’s not that the chefs aren’t capable and many of the small city’s dining rooms are decorated beautifully, but it’s why bother bringing a jacket or heels to a low-key area? After all, this is a coastal community and a college town, where flip-flops and shorts are de riguer.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California
Photo Credit: Terry Straehley

Interestingly, Santa Barbara provides a sublime campus for higher learning, as this is where – as noted – several colleges are based, including the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Antioch University, and Brooks College of Photography. Located along the Pacific Coast, about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara’s geography provides temperate weather, golden sand beaches, and incredible bike paths, supposedly evocative of the Mediterranean.

However, if cultural pursuits are really your interest, there is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Furthermore, Mission Santa Barbara (named the Queen of the Missions), is one of the twenty-one Franciscan missions in the state of California. Well documented in the eighteenth century history books, the traveling and gospel spreading monks dedicated to transiting the indigenous peoples into Christians did so via sub-standard means and torture.

Even with all the college aged individuals, there is relatively very little nightlife and the streets roll-up early. But the beauty of Santa Barbara lies not in its evening but in the early part of the day, when people – visitors and natives alike – take up more physical pursuits, such as kayaking, beach volleyball, and fishing.

Breakfast: Tupelo Junction Cafe

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

When Tupelo Junction first opened, it was cozy with no more than a dozen tables packed onto a small side street. The walls were covered in burlap cloth and white washed with touches of red gingham, giving the impression that Tom Sawyer and his girlfriend Becky were manning the cook’s station. Maybe about a decade ago, the restaurant moved to State Street, closer to the action. The charming atmosphere was lost, but thankfully not the creative spin on Southern dishes. You can eat buttermilk pancakes slathered in creamy pan gravy or apple beignets.

  • Our Suggestion:  Dungeness Crab with Potato Hash, Avocado Salsa, Poached Eggs, and Beurre Blanc. This restaurant is a touch of France, big scoops of the America’s South, and the California coast.
  • Price: $18.00. (It has big pieces of crab throughout and worth every penny.)
  • Hours: Breakfast is served daily from 8:00am to 3:00pm.
  • Website: www.tupelojunction.com
  • Address: 1218 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA  93101
  • Phone: (805) 899 – 3100

Lunch:  Brophy Bros.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

This is a wharf restaurant that is worth just driving ninety minutes along the Pacific Coast Highway to dine for lunch.  It’s truly a quintessential Santa Barbara dining experience, overlooking the fishermen’s boats as they bring in their day’s catch. If you decide to have dinner here, the second floor outlook is one of the most beautiful places in California to watch the setting sun. It’s a busy restaurant and can have a very long wait.

  • Our Suggestion: New England Clam Chowder. Living on the West Coast, where food is mostly about becoming a rabbit – chewing a lot of veggies, no carbs and dairy – this is one of the most deliciously, decadent soups imaginable. It’s very East Coast made, with lots of clams, potatoes, and cream. The only thing missing is the Maine mist and chill. If you do take an afternoon drive to Santa Barbara, come here and have this as a cup with a salad for lunch, with a glass of white wine, and your life will be as perfect as fairy tale.
  • Price: $5.00 for a cup; $7.50 for a bowl.
  • Hours: Open daily from 11:00am – 10:00pm. They do not take reservations. First come, first serve basis.
  • Website: www.brophybros.com
  • Address:  119 Harbor Way (Harborside), Santa Barbara, CA           93109
  • Phone: (805) 966 – 4418

Cocktails: Canary Hotel’s Finch & Fork

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

Smack dab in the middle of the town of Santa Barbara is the Canary Hotel. White-washed on the outside with a distinct Mediterranean/ Mexican/Spanish feel, complete with clay tiles, red-roof, decorative irons and wood, it can be a little precious. But it’s a great place to stop for a mid-day cocktail or an afternoon repast as you meander through the State Street shops. New American cuisine with freshly bought bounty is served at the bar daily and in the main dining room.

  • Our Suggestion: This is one of California’s great wine countries. You need to sample the wine while here.
  • Price: Varies depending on the winery.
  • Hours: Open daily at 2:30 pm – 11:30 pm.
  • Website: www.finchandforkrestaurant.com
  • Address: 31 West Carillo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Phone: (805) 879 – 9100.

Dinner: The Wine Cask

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

Created in 1981, The Wine Cask is Santa Barbara’s landmark restaurant bringing the area’s food and wine to the forefront of dining scene throughout California. Farm to table long before the term was coined, the owner, Doug Margeruem, has long been resolute in showcasing the Santa Barbara County’s rich agriculture, most notably it’s wine growers. If ever there was a quintessential dining place — a must place to dine in Santa Barbara — The Wine Cask is the place. It’s like going to Beverly Hills and never eating at Spago, or dining in New York and never eating at Gotham Bar and Grill. There are some restaurants that you have to eat at if you are in the area. The dining room, with its painted beam ceilings and massive fireplace to keep out the sea chill even in the heat of the summer, is one of the California Coasts most stately and stunning.i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

  • Our Suggestion: The food is delicious and the produce is brought in daily from nearby farmers markets and vendors. Probably the closest you will get to the farm without actually picking it yourself.
  • Prices: Varies but American Wine Country cooking at it’s finest.
  • Hours: Nightly from 5:30 pm. Closed Sundays – Mondays.
  • Website: www.winecask.com
  • Address: 813 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA                                91301
  • Phone: (805) 966 – 9463

Place to Stay: Simpson House Inn

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

Out of all the hotels in Santa Barbara, this is the one beyond reproach. It’s a small bed and breakfast, with 13 rooms, and no two rooms are the same. Therefore, each time you stay, the experience is different. And unlike the other hotels, which are managed or owned by big corporations, wealthy developers, or billionaires, this is luxury hospitality at its finest. Built by the Davies family, Simpson House Inn became an award-winning bed and breakfast, the only one to be named a “five diamond” by AAA and by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway. Like all b and b’s, breakfast is served daily – but it’s completely vegetarian. If it was never mentioned, a guest would never notice. Also, there is a two-hour afternoon wine tasting with a bevy of tasty snacks before dinner. For this intrepid traveler, I find this to one of my favorite hotels in the world.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

 

 

 

 

Website: www.simpsonhouseinn.com

Prices: Ranges according to accommodation and season. Prices can start over $250.00, but it’s worth every penny.

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

 

The end. Go eat. 

 

 

i8tonite with Eat Smart Culinary Travel Guides’ Susan Chwae & Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

i8tonite with Eat Smart Guides' Susan Chwae & Shepherd's Pie RecipeSusan Chwae, along with her mother Joan Peterson, are publishers of the award-winning Eat Smart Culinary travel guidebook series. To date, they have published guides to Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Peru, Poland, Sicily, and Turkey. Note: the links are to my interviews with the authors! I love these guides and have enjoyed reading and sharing them for many years. This series? It’s the best thing you can read if you love food and are traveling.

In 2014, Susan designed the Eat Smart Abroad App that pulls the menu guide and foods and flavors chapters from each book so you never have to wonder what’s on the menu or in the market with easy-to-use translators for food and beverage terminology.

Susan also co-leads the Eat Smart Culinary Tours. Their annual Eat Smart Culinary Tour to Turkey is their most popular tour. Here’s a video from one of their tour participants:

They also lead tours to Morocco, India, Peru, Sicily, and in 2016 will be launching the 2016 Culinary Tour to Indonesia, with William Wongso, who is considered one of Indonesia’s national treasures.

Joan Peterson and Susan Chwae of Eat Smart Guides. From i8tonite with Eat Smart Guides' Susan Chwae & Shepherd's Pie Recipe
Joan Peterson and Susan Chwae of Eat Smart Guides

 

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

i8tonite with Eat Smart Guides' Susan Chwae & Shepherd's Pie Recipe

What is your favorite food to cook at home?  My grandma’s Shepherd’s Pie. It’s simple and a real comfort food in the winter months. I tend to cook with what I have available at the moment and this recipe is perfect to use what you have on hand, or that single parsnip or rutabaga you received in your CSA share.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese, a Wisconsin kitchen staple.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? A mutual appreciation for the thought and creativity that went into preparing the meal.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Eating too fast, and making me clean up the kitchen.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? Wine or cocktail.

Your favorite cookbook author? When I went away to college, my dad bought me the Better Homes and Garden cookbook collection. He wrote a message on the inside cover in each of them. I grab those first for ideas and then create my dishes with what I have on hand.

Turkish spoons. i8tonite with Eat Smart Guides' Susan Chwae & Shepherd's Pie Recipe
Turkish spoons

Your favorite kitchen tool? My Şimşir wood spoon collection from Turkey. There are shops behind the Spice Market in Istanbul where they are made and sold and we always stop to shop as part of our tour itinerary.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? I’m a casserole fan. And I love traditional Mexican foods.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu? Chicken

Favorite vegetable? Asparagus

Chef you most admire? My husband. When he starts creating a dish, he absolutely has to master it and I admire his dedication.

Food you like the most to eat? King crab legs

Food you dislike the most? Pearl onions

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Watch my daughters perform in dance and music. Both of them are passionate about the arts.

Who do you most admire in food? Right now, William Wongso. He’s going to be co-leading our upcoming culinary tour to Indonesia. His dedication and drive to promote the cuisine of Indonesia is awe-inspiring.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Home. I am surrounded by great cooks.

What is your favorite restaurant? Salvatore’s Tomato Pies in Madison.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? If I did, I wouldn’t be able to say because my mother will read this.

Recipe: Thelma’s Shepherd’s Pie

i8tonite with Eat Smart Guides' Susan Chwae & Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Brown ground or diced lamb with chopped onions.

i8tonite with Eat Smart Guides' Susan Chwae & Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Add a variety of small or diced vegetables you have on hand, some flour, worcestershire sauce, some herbs, salt and pepper, and enough water to thicken the mixture.

Place in a deep casserole dish and top with prepared mashed-potatoes.

Sprinkle with paprika and bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, around 30 minutes.

 

-The End. Go Eat.-

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee

The largest city in Wisconsin, Milwaukee is perhaps best known for beer and a great Midwestern immigrant tradition (think delicious Polish and German food!). Today, you can celebrate those cultures with food, events (Irish Fest and German Fest, an 11 day music festival, the largest Bastille Day celebration in the US – it’s a city of festivals), and entire neighborhoods that represent immigrant communities (hello, South Side!). All of this – plus an extremely beautiful location, right along Lake Michigan, mean that this is a place that is serious about food, culture, and enjoying the best of life with friends and family.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee

There’s so much to do, from visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Discovery World science center to shopping the Milwaukee Public Market to sports galore. But let’s be honest – we’re all about the food and beverages here.

Did you know that Milwaukee has historically been famous for beer? Yes, that strong German tradition carried over across the pond, and Milwaukee was the #1 beer producing city in the US for many years, with local breweries Schlitz, Pabst, Miller, and Blatz being the largest in the nation. The only large brewery still in town is Miller (you can see their impact all over town, notably with Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team). But in keeping with that brewing culture and tradition, as well as a diverse population and close proximity to Chicago, there is SO MUCH to eat, drink, and explore here. It’s not just about the beer any more.

What surprises visitors most is the quality and diversity of great eats here. You can find global meals, innovative American cuisine, a fantastic public market, and traditional Friday Fish Fries.

What are you waiting for?

Breakfast: Blue’s Egg

A perfect way to start the day is a meal at Blue’s Egg, a brunch spot serving traditional items as well favorites with a modern twist, with an emphasis on from-scratch cooking and locally sourced ingredients. If you’re looking for something more traditional, choose a dish from the “basics” section of the menu: a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes; thick French toast with sausage or thick-cut cherry wood bacon; or two eggs any style with choice of meat, slices of toast with butter or jam, and fresh-cut hash browns (with just the right amount of crisp).

Florentine Benedict: poached eggs, fresh spinach, beefsteak tomatoes, house-made English muffin, and hollandaise. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Florentine Benedict: poached eggs, fresh spinach, beefsteak tomatoes, house-made English muffin, and hollandaise. Photo: Blue’s Egg

In addition to the classic eggs benedict, Blue’s Egg offers the Dubliner (corned beef, leeks, rye toast, paprika aioli) and the Florentine (fresh spinach, beef-steak tomatoes, English muffin, hollandaise sauce). Menu standouts include the hoppel poppel (scrambled eggs, cream, sausage, bacon, caramelized onions, shredded potatoes, spinach, toast, hollandaise sauce); the blue crab cake (mixed greens, poached eggs, pickled peppers, challah toast, remoulade sauce); and corned beef hash made in-house (the best ever). A lunch menu is available Monday to Friday in addition to the brunch items and offers burgers and sandwiches with hand-cut fries, soups, and salads, but once you see the overflowing plates of eggs, bacon, and toast being delivered to other tables, you will want to stick with the brunch menu. Blue’s Egg also serves creative cocktails, wine, local beers, fresh squeezed juices, and coffee and café drinks to enjoy with your meal.

Look at those hash browns! at Blue's Egg. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Look at those hash browns! at Blue’s Egg

My suggestion: The restaurant is spacious but fills up quickly on weekends, so arrive early or consider having a seat at the counter. Take home some monkey bread, coffee cake, or cookies from the front case (if there is anything left).

Price $6-13
Hours every day 7am-2pm
Address 317 N 76th St, Milwaukee, WI 53213
Phone (414) 299-3180
Website http://bluesegg.com/

Second Breakfast: Clock Shadow Creamery

Wisconsin is home to cheese – so of COURSE I’d suggest you stock up on some cheese snacks over at Clock Shadow Creamery. This is an urban cheese factory that uses local milk (some of their cows are at the ZOO!) and creates fantastic cheeses. I won’t be lying when I say that when I walked into their clean, bright storefront, I felt like a mouse in Switzerland. I just wanted to EAT ALL THE CHEESE. But there’s a back story – with local founders, an extremely green and clean building, and a strong environmental and community commitment.

Fresh quark and cheese at Clock Shadow Creamery. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Fresh quark and cheese at Clock Shadow Creamery

Yelp Haiku by Rachel F
Urban cheese-making/
Flavored cheddars everywhere/
Lemme at that quark!

Fresh cheese curds at Clock Shadow Creamery. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Fresh cheese curds at Clock Shadow Creamery

My suggestion: While there are tons of cheeses, made by Clock Shadow and others, I’d get a tub of fresh quark to slather on crackers or bread, and a bag (or five) of fresh cheese curds to snack on all day. If you are in Milwaukee in winter and won’t be long, you won’t need a cooler (we just use our cars as freezers). In the summer, bring a small cooler so you can enjoy your chilled cheese curds all day long. Squeak squeak!

Price inexpensive. A bag of cheese curds is under $7
Hours Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm. Closed Sundays
Address 138 W Bruce St, Milwaukee, WI 53204
Phone (414) 273-9711
Website http://www.clockshadowcreamery.com/

Lunch: Vanguard

Finding great sausages in Milwaukee is easy. However, Vanguard

Sausages, poutine, fries, cheese curds from Vanguard. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Sausages, poutine, fries, cheese curds from Vanguard.

takes it a step further – these are, hands down, some of the best sausages I’ve ever eaten. The flavors are both traditional (brats, dogs, cheddarwursts, super fun toppings) and creative – look at the KHING KHAN (Lamb, Pork, Galangal, Chilis & Lemongrass Sausage, topped with Red Curry, Carrots, Cilantro, and Jalapeños)! Whether you go hot or mild, traditional or creative, you’re bound to be happy. They also serve local and global beer, spirits, and have delicious sides (fries, a variety of poutines, baked potato balls, corn, deviled eggs if you get there before they run out). Be prepared to spend a bit of time talking while you wait – the chefs take their time grilling and assembling the sausages with love.

Thai Breaker – pork sausage, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, topped with peanut sauce, carrot, lettuce, and some fun crunchy bits. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Thai Breaker – pork sausage, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, topped with peanut sauce, carrot, lettuce, and some fun crunchy bits at Vanguard

My suggestion: I absolutely loved the Thai Breaker – pork sausage, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, topped with peanut sauce, carrot, lettuce, and some fun crunchy bits. Get a side of cheese curds, no matter what else you order.

Price $5-9
Hours every day 11am-2am
Address 2659 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207
Phone (414) 539-3593
Website http://www.vanguardbar.com/

Coffee: Anodyne

If you’ve followed my instagram, you know I can’t get enough good coffee. And frankly, Anodyne is the best. Let’s start with the Walker’s Point location (one of three) – an historic industrial building, turned warm and inviting inside with enormous round mirrors over the coffee bar, a stage, and plenty of honey-colored wood. Splashes of red for accents highlight the red A in the labels and Anodyne logo.

Anodyne - the menu at the Walker's Point location, and coffee roastery in back. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Anodyne – the menu at the Walker’s Point location, and coffee roastery in back.

This place? It freshly roasts their coffee in the back – you can view the roasters from the counter, and if you don’t see the kind you want to purchase in bags, they’ll head back to see if there is some freshly roasted and not bagged up yet.

The friendly baristas, relaxed environment, and delicious coffee

Sumatran pour over at Anodyne Coffee. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Sumatran pour over at Anodyne Coffee

make this my favorite in town. The menu features brewed to go, lattes and cappuccinos, a honey bee (honey latte with milk), a my buddy (almond and vanilla cappuccino), mochas (including additions of frosty and turtle – mint and caramel, respectively), espresso, Americano, red eyes, and seasonal apple cider.

My suggestion: A pour over. I love Ethiopian, but the Sumatran was also excellent. Get a slice of layer cake from the Cake Lady to accompany your delicious brew.

Price 12 oz pour over $2.75, 20 oz mocha $4
Hours Monday-Friday, 6:30am-9pm; Saturday 7am-9pm; Sunday 7:30am-9pm
Address 224 W Bruce St, Milwaukee, WI 53204
Phone (414) 763-1143
Website https://anodynecoffee.com/

Happy hour: Lakefront Brewery

Come for the microbrews and riverfront seating, stay for the polka. Yes, this true Milwaukee brewery features a polka band on Friday nights for the fish fry. With a rich family history in beer, Lakefront started in 1987, and has won over 200 awards over the years. You can take an informative, hilarious tour ($9-10) of the Brewery with samples (!)– check the website for details.

Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall - from i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall. Photo: Lakefront Brewery

My suggestion: try the beer flights to ascertain which you love best.

Price pint $5, flight $8
Hours Monday-Thursday, 11am-8pm; Friday 11am-9pm; Saturday 9am-9pm; Sunday 10am-5pm
Address 1872 N Commerce St, Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone (414) 372-8800
Website http://www.lakefrontbrewery.com/

Dinner: Fortune Chinese Restaurant

At Fortune, you’ll have the option to peruse two different menus.

Salt and Pepper Squid at Fortune. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Salt and Pepper Squid at Fortune.

Get the red menu – it offers more authentic dishes. Try to go with as many people as you can round up, so you can order more dishes (they are served family style). You’ll see large families sitting around large, circular tables. This is to take advantage of the lazy susan in the middle of the table, to scoot the food around so everyone can reach it. The food is delivered as it is made, so it’s hot and fresh. Milwaukee’s Chinese community likes to get together there for family gatherings and special events.

Plenty of delicious food at Fortune Chinese Restaurant. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Plenty of delicious food at Fortune Chinese Restaurant

My recommendation: dumplings, of course – with a thick wrapping and flavorful meat, they are scrumptious. The crabmeat rangoons are hot, crispy, and delicious. My favorite entrée is the Salt Chicken – crispy, salty skin, tender, juicy inside. Love at first bite. We also get the salt and pepper squid (served with jalapenos) and the fried pork intestines (a dish my husband loves) and the tender, gently sautéed pea shoot leaves with garlic.

Price $11-30
Hours Sunday-Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am-10:30pm
Address 2945 S 108th St, Milwaukee, WI 53227
Phone (414) 328-9890
Website http://www.fortunerestaurant.net/

Late night dessert: Kopp’s Custard

A visit to Milwaukee is not complete without indulging in frozen

Peach melba custard at Kopp's. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Peach melba and butter pecan custard at Kopp’s.

custard, and Kopp’s Frozen Custard serves some of the best. A Milwaukee institution since 1950, Kopp’s scoops up vanilla and chocolate custard daily, but the real standouts are the specialty flavors. Each month, Kopp’s posts a Flavor Forecast so customers will know when to stop in for their favorite custard (there are two specialty flavors each day). The flavors are irresistible and include tiramisu (espresso flavored custard with fudge swirl and pieces of ladyfinger cake), peach melba (chunks of peaches and raspberry swirl), macadamia nut (loaded with whole nuts), Sprecher root beer float (highlighting soda from a local brewery), and cherry amaretto cheesecake (cherries and chunks of New York cheesecake). Specialty sundaes, floats, malts, and shakes are also available.

Haven’t tried frozen custard yet? It’s rich, smooth, and has a creamy texture – I like it more than ice cream! Kopp’s doesn’t freeze their custard, so it’s not hard packed when served, like ice cream – it’s served up straight out of the frozen custard machine. If you’re looking for lunch or dinner or a heartier late night snack, Kopp’s serves delicious burgers and chicken, fish, and grilled cheese sandwiches – just remember, there’s always room for dessert.

My suggestion: Try the flavor of the day!

Price 2 scoop cone/dish: $3.45 (they price it up to 6 scoops!!!)
Hours every day 10:30am-11pm
Address 7631 W Layton Ave, Greenfield, WI 53220 (two other locations in the metro area – check the website for addresses and phone numbers)
Phone (414) 282-4312
Website https://www.kopps.com/

 

We couldn’t narrow it down. Here are 12 more of our favorites!

The End. Go Eat.

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Jessie Voigts, except where noted

 

Photos

Finding Food, Friends, and Conversation On The Road – My Most Memorable Meals of 2015

This is a memorable guest post from Penny Sadler, blogger at Adventures of a Carry-On. 

My best meals of 2015

I grew up in a big family, but as a teenager there was a period of time when it was just my dad and I living together. Neither one of us was a whiz in the kitchen, so we often ate dinner out. Those early dining experiences ingrained in me a love for delicious food and conversation. They shaped who I am today – a good listener and a good conversationalist, with a penchant for excellent food (preferably cooked by someone else), with a healthy dose of listening and sharing by all parties at the table.

Writing about my top five most memorable meals of 2015 was easy…except that I had so many memorable meals. When I really thought about the meals that stood out for me, I noted that I was always traveling. From San Francisco to Piedmont, Italy, 2015 was a year of new food experiences and wine pairings. Another reason these meals were memorable…all of my favorite meals this year included reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances or dining with new friends. And of course, great conversation.

Cacio e Pepe at Locanda - one of my favorite meals this year
Cacio e Pepe at Locanda – one of my favorite meals this year

California: Locanda – The Mission: Let’s begin in San Francisco, voted the best food city in the USA by Bon Appetit Magazine.  I can’t disagree. I had several memorable meals in San Francisco. but the one that really stands out for me was dinner at Locanda  in the Mission District. Owners Craig and Annie Stoll have turned to Rome for the inspiration behind Locanda – and for this reason, I was eager to try it.

Aside from being some of the best Italian food I’ve eaten in the US or Italy (there’s an Italian who is going to argue with me about this I know), what made this meal special was my dinner companion. I met Jody on New Year’s Day in Cambria, California, under not the best of circumstances. I fell on the beach and couldn’t get up. Jody rescued me. Jody lives in Mill Valley, I live in Dallas. We met up in San Francisco almost a year later, and had an amazing dinner and wine pairing at Locanda.

Locanda - home to one of the best meals I ate in 2015
Locanda

I decided to try the Cacio e Pepe for a primi. It’s about as basic as you can get – pasta, cheese, and pepper with some olive oil. And yes, it did remind me of Rome. For an entrée, I had the Pancetta-wrapped Mary’s Chicken with Anson Mills polenta and grilled turnips.  I rarely ever order chicken, but Mary’s Chicken is a family-owned business that has been raising free-range, organic chickens for three generations.  The dish had the perfect blend of flavors – slightly salty, savory, and the perfect portion size. The sommelier paired it with a Francesco Rinaldi Barbaresco. The dark red fruit and licorice flavors of the wine were a perfect balance with the savory notes of the pancetta and chicken. Jody had the Berkshire Pork Saltimboca paired with a lovely Beaujolais. She left with a doggie bag. For dessert, we had a Barolo Chinato. It’s a dessert wine with aromas of stewed fruit, but not too sweet. Lovely.

No matter what you order at Locanda, you can’t go wrong. We loved everything.

Locanda chef making pasta - one of my best meals of 2015
Locanda chef making pasta

Since I’m a recent WSET (Wine Spirits Education Trust) graduate, I did take note of the excellent wine list at Locanda. Many Italian wines from Piedmont were included, and I was pleased to see I’d visited several of the wineries on the list. One of them is part of this article, as I also had an amazing meal there. Read on.

Locanda, 557 Valencia (San Francisco)

 

Acquolina - location of one of my best meals of 2015Aquolina – North Beach: I spent Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco mostly walking around the North Beach neighborhood.  There was a place right on the corner facing Washington Square with lots of windows and sidewalk seating that looked inviting. I grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a spritzer, and watched the crowd for a while. I was scouting for a place for myself and a friend to have Thanksgiving dinner, but we didn’t want to spend a fortune on a pre-fixe menu.

Aquolina was serving their regular menu, casual Tuscan-style Italian,

Pizza with speck and mozzarella from Aquolina - one of the best meals I ate in 2015
Pizza with speck and mozzarella from Aquolina

in addition to holiday specials. I saw a few pizzas being served and decided that was where we’d have dinner later. We ate a wonderful thin-crust Roman-style pizza, with mozzarella and prosciutto. Delicious! It was the perfect antidote to a traditional Thanksgiving meal…and I got to dine outside on a crisp San Francisco night with a friend who happened to be in town that week.

Aquolina, 1600 Stockton St. (San Francisco)

Courtesy. Harmony Cafe
Courtesy. Harmony Cafe

Harmony – San Luis Obispo County: South of San Francisco, just off of Highway 101, is the tiny town of Harmony,  population: 18. I was starving, so stopped to see what I might find in such a small place.

The moment I stepped foot inside the Harmony café, I felt like I was in Italy. And guess what? Chef Giovanni is

House-made butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce at The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough - part of my best meals of 2015
House-made butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce at The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough

indeed Italian. He made me a butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce, which paired well with a glass of pinot grigio. While I waited, I chatted with other customers who told me they were regulars there – they return every year on vacation from New York. That’s how good Chef Giovanni’s food is. For dessert, I had the house-made tiramisu.  Pasta and tiramisu in one meal is an indulgence I don’t often allow myself. But tiramisu made by an Italian is the next best thing to going to Treviso, the home of the original tiramisu.

Chef Giovanni, The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough - location of one of my best meals in 2015
Chef Giovanni, The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough

Note: Harmony Cafe has relocated to Cambria, and is now called The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough. Chef Giovanni is still cooking in the kitchen.

Harmony Cafe, 824 Main St. (Cambria)

 

Piedmont, Italy: Barolo

why go to Barolo, Piedmont, Italy @PennySadler 2015
Photo by Penny Sadler

In September, I toured the wine country of Piedmont, Italy. I completed my Wine Spirits Education Trust certification in August (you can read about it here), and the time seemed right for this trip. Many of the wineries in the area also have dining rooms and tasting menus serving regional dishes paired with the local wines. I recommend La Foresteria at Cantina Marchesi di Barolo, in Barolo,

Angelo, Me, and Valentina Abbona, the Marketing Manager and owner's daughter at Marchesi di Barolo, location of one of my best meals of 2015
Angelo, Me, and Valentina Abbona, the Marketing Manager and owner’s daughter at Marchesi di Barolo

Italy. Here I met up with an Italian friend who had hosted me at his home in Italy over two years ago. A reunion over food and wine in Barolo doesn’t sound too shabby, does it?

 

 

 

Marchesi di Barolo - the location of one of my best meals of 2015
Dining room, Marchesi di Barolo

There are three menu options, and depending on how hungry you are, you can chose three to five courses. Whatever you do, you must try the veal with tuna sauce (veal con tonnato). I thought it sounded disgusting until I tried it. Buonissimo! It was paired with the Gavi di Gavi, a wine I enjoy drinking on its own – it was perfect with this dish. The desserts were to die for, as well.

The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit served with Moscato d’ Asti

The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit at Marchesi di Barolo -dessert from one of my best meals of 2015
The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit at Marchesi di Barolo

Zagara tasted crisp and fresh. I could have eaten a gallon of it. The ambiance was very elegant, with white tablecloths, delicate stemware, and enough silverware to make me feel like I was in a scene from Pretty Woman.

Marquesi di Barolo, Via Roma 1

 

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

Santa Fe, New Mexico: Now, believe it or not, I do have one amazing dining experience to tell you about that was not Italian, nor in Italy or California. This memorable meal was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, another well-known foodie city. It was, and remains, the most unique dining experience of my life so far. Yes, I think I can honestly say that.

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

Prepared in the parking lot at the Santa Fe Opera, the locals call this dining a tailgate party. We had our table set up under a beautiful white tent.  Executive Chef Todd Hall, from La Posada de Santa Fe, prepared a four-course meal for us while black tie waiters served us grilled bacon wrapped peaches, lobster in little gem lettuce, and ahi tuna, paired with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Those were the appetizers.

The second course was a salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled

Salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled egg, and lemon curd aioli, La Posada de Santa Fe ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled egg, and lemon curd aioli, La Posada de Santa Fe ©Amiel Gervers Photography

egg, and lemon curd aioli. To die for. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever. I could have made the main course out of that.

Next up was Prawn and Diver Scallop Brochette on a salad of chilled

lemon mint tabbouleh, icicle cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, and yellow watermelon, paired with a buttery chardonnay from Walt vineyards. Wait, did I say the second course was the best thing I’ve ever eaten? Honestly, the entire meal was a work of art. The combination of flavors and textures was sublime. I will never forget this meal.

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

And then there was dessert: a dark cherry tartlet with Kahlua salted caramel ice cream. Swoon! The sad news is, we barely had time to inhale this heavenly creation because we were being swept off to see the opera.

My suggestion: go to the newly remodeled Julia,  at La Posada de Santa Fe. Todd Hall is a James Beard-recognized chef and Julia is a beautiful, warm environment. The experience may not be the same as a tailgate party at the opera, but the food is sure to be five-star, and the warm and inviting atmosphere at Julia is pretty swanky, too.

La Posada de Santa Fe, 300 East Palace Ave. (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

The End. Go Eat. Happy 2016.