PPX – CHEF JONATON GOMEZ-LUNA TORRES

The Next Food Revolution Begins In Riviera Maya
By Kristen Oliveri

All Photos Courtesy Karisma Hotels

Azul Sensatori

Mexico is poised to be the country that starts the next food revolution. So believes award-winning Chef Jonatan Gomez-Luna Torres; and he is simply unafraid to say it, “Mexico is the new wave of culinary innovation. Chefs want to come here because we have over 400 years of history. America doesn’t have the culinary history that Mexico has.”

And if Mexico is the next big thing, so is Chef Gomez-Luna Torres. Just 32 years old he’ll be leading that charge from his role at the helm of critically acclaimed restaurant Le Chique in Riviera Maya. Already noted by many critics as running one of the best restaurants in all of the country the Mexico-City born chef graduated from the Ambrosia Culinary Center and spent years working in some of the best restaurants in the world, including a short stint in a three-star Michelin restaurant in Valencia to gigs at El Bulli in Spain and Noma in Copenhagen. Altogether an undeniable all-star resume.

In 2008, he teamed up with Food and Beverage manager Jeroen Hanlo at Karisma Hotels & Resorts (www.karismahotels.com) to open Le Chique in its Azul Sensatori Hotel property located in the Riviera Maya. While many food and wine snobs might dismiss a restaurant located in an all-inclusive hotel, Chef Jonatan has shattered those preconceived notions by receiving award after award for his work; for instance, the coveted Five Diamond Award bestowed by AAA.

Azul Sensatori

Many locals now opt to spend a weekend at the hotel simply to dine at Le Chique (www.lechiquerestaurant.com), says Gomez-Luna Torres. As part of a guest’s all-inclusive culinary package, they can make a reservation at the restaurant and feast on a special menu with many of the restaurant’s popular dishes presented in a passed, family style setting. To experience the entire degustation menu, hotel guests can upgrade for the full monty. (Eater beware: even if you’re a guest you should book weeks ahead of your vacation to ensure a table) Outside reservations are also available by calling the restaurant directly or booking on OpenTable (www.opentable.com).

While many of Chef’s followers would characterize the cuisine at Le Chique as “molecular”, Gomez-Luna Torres certainly doesn’t. In fact, he quite dislikes the term “molecular” itself. Rather, he believes his cuisine to be innovative, thought provoking and, most importantly, delicious.

The roots of the cuisine are all grounded in Mexican culture—or perhaps it is best characterized as a recharged interpretation of the food of his youth—as taught to him by his grandmother. The 24 to 25 course menu showcases the fusing of regional cuisine, local food and international flavors, all crafted to heighten the customer’s experience from start to finish.

“Everything has a story and a reason for why things are a certain way,” he noted. “At Le Chique, there are some items that make references to grandma’s dishes using different techniques. The key is to maintain a balance between that technique, with tradition, presentation, research and flavor.”

Food

He spends a significant amount of time traveling throughout the country, looking to work with local purveyors and learn more about the cuisine he loves so much. Within Mexican culinary culture, he has a deep appreciation for basic dishes such as adobos, molés, black bean soups and anything with pork belly confit, he confessed. All of his key, all-star ingredients like chocolate, water, truffles and foie gras, come exclusively from Mexican purveyors.

The menu at Le Chique might not appear to serve those traditional dishes, but the concept and the flavors are ever-present. He often melds his past cooking experiences, making subtle nods to his time at Noma. His restaurant has both a juice and water menu, which are quite popular with guests abstaining from alcohol. The juice menu he is particularly proud of. On any given day, juices such as fermented plum, banana with vanilla, pineapple mint or jicama with blood orange will be featured on the menu.

One of the more interesting food and beverage trends Chef Gomez-Luna has spotted recently is the resurgence of the popularity of mezcal in his restaurant and countless others throughout Mexico. Once a spirit that was made in an uncle’s backyard, similar to moonshine, mezcal today has progressed to being a leading spirit that will complete a dining experience. “Due to its growing popularity and demand, mezcal is now consumed almost as much as tequila. As the mezcal trend is still young, it is in the development process,” he says. “Personally, it is one of the drinks that I enjoy the most and always look forward to.”

While the chef enjoys bucking food trends and creating dishes unlike any others, what he loves about being a chef is the freedom. “I’ve never felt so free as I do in a kitchen. I love creating a story and telling our philosophy of how we see, appreciate and cook Mexican cuisine,” he says. “I am a Mexican chef and I plan to make my own history.”

Food

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For two of the chef’s most dynamic recipes, read on. These will not disappoint.

The Egg That Wanted To Be A Panucho

Ingredients for The Egg

150ml beans soup
2.5 gelatin sheets previously hydrated
5g Gluconolactate
4 egg yolks
Egg mold

Directions

Melt the gelatin with the soup and add the gluconolactate, once it is dissolved pour the jelly beans into the mold; Carefully add the egg and let it curdle completely a few minutes; refrigerate until gelatin has curdled perfectly.

Once the jelly is curd, unmold and dip the eggs in the alginate bath for 25 min., rotate every 5 min. for uniform cooking.

Once the egg has finished its process in the alginate bath, rinse thoroughly in water and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cook the eggs at 85°C with a thermocirculator for 6 min.

For the solution of algin

1L of water
15g of alginate
10 drops of water soluble dye White

For the beans soup
100g Black beans
100g onion threaded
10g sliced serrano chile

Directions

Cook the beans in water until soft, mix in a blender with a little cooking broth, to a consistency of light cream, strain and reserve. In a skillet, sauté onion and chile, until very soft, add the bean soup and season with salt, drain and set aside.

For the avocado cream

250g of avocado
25 ml of water
10 ml of lemon juice
.05 g de Salt

Grind all ingredients in blender to acquire a smooth, “creamy”, consistency and set aside.

For pickled red onion

1 small piece of onion
2 pieces of lime
3g of salt

Cut the onion into quarters, slice the onion using a slicer, for very thin strips; Blanch the onion strips, keep the onions in a container, add the lemon juice and salt, keep refrigerated.

For the tomato sauce and habanero chile

100g chopped onion brunoise
1 piece of tomato chopped in brunoise
1/2 piece of roasted habanero Chili, seeded

Sauté onion in oil followed by tomatoes, cook until slightly caramelized, add the chile and smash into the sauce, season and set aside.

To assemble:

100 g avocado cream
50 g marinated red onion with lemon juice
150 ml of tomato and habanero sauce
100 g fried tortillas into strips
Coriander Sprouts
Coriander Flower
Wild coriander

With the help of a bottle, draw a circle with the avocado cream in the plate, then put the strips of pickled onion on top of the avocado and cover. Then place the julienned onion tortilla over, building a nest. Afterwards, put hot tomato sauce with habanero in the center of the nest, then place the egg previously cooked 6 minutes at 85 ° C , over the tomato sauce. Finish with coriander sprouts and coriander flower.

-AND-

Hamachi Aguachile + Green Apple + sea sprouts

5kg de Hamachi (yellowtail)

For the aguachile

30g of coriander
38g of White onion
12g of salt
350g of cucumber
95ml of lemon juice
1.5g of sodium citrate
3g of serrano chili

Grind all the ingredients, when liquefied, strain to drain excess fluid. Keep both parts of aguachile

For the Aguachile Juice

250ml of aguachile (juice)
1g de xanthan gum

Grind the xanthan gum in the broth using immersion blender until desired texture. Preserve.

For the Green Apple

1pz cut into sheets

Remove the center of the green apple using a corer and cut into wedges.
Using a slicer, cut the apple with measure no. 6 and reserve in cold water.

For the Avocado

2pz of firm avocado to make rugs

Peel the avocado and using a slingshot peeler, prepare thin films; using a round mold cutting mats 1cm in diameter. Hold on a plate with vitafilm. (Do not cut with an advance of more than 15 min)

For the cucumber
1pz cut into sheets

For the tostadas
10pz of corn tortillas (cut with a ring of 10cm diameter)

For Foam Green Apple

4 pcs of apple (for juicing)
1 sheet of gelatin
5Lt Liquid Nitrogen

Cut and core apples, extract the juice and strain. Separate some of the juice and melt the gelatin, previously hydrated, add a siphon cream 1/2 liter capacity. Place two cartridges cream and stir, pour the foam in liquid nitrogen until frozen completely and grind using a Thermomix or a processor with stainless steel vessel. Keep in a metal bowl on a nitrogen bath.

For the lemon caviar

25 ml lemon juice
60 ml water
1 gr of citras
2g agar
Salt 2 g
100 ml of oil

Mix all the ingredients in a pot with the exception of agar and bring to heat until it boils. Mix the agar using a balloon whisk, pouring it slowly. Already incorporated, allowing the mixture to a boil for the 2nd time and using a Pasteur pipette, drip into the cold oil well. Once solidified shaped caviar, remove all of the oil with a strainer and reserve.

For the avocado cream

300 gr Avocado
8 grams salt
3 g of citras
30 ml lemon juice

Grind all ingredients in blender to acquire a smooth, “creamy”, consistency and set aside.

To assemble:

Place a strip of marinated hamachi in aguachile. Around it, make dots with avocado cream slices of green apple, sprouts, leaves and edible flowers. Add the juice of aguachile in the center and finish the green apple powder made with liquid nitrogen. Accompany with toast.

WHEN BOTTLE SERVICE TURNS CASUAL

The Up & Up
By Sara Kay
Photos by Gregory J. Buda

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When we hear the words ‘bottle service’ mentioned in a nightlife atmosphere, a lot of thoughts immediately come to mind; for instance, will we be paying for a drastically over-priced bottle of vodka this evening? And will we have to combine that price with the price of a table as well, plus a cocktail waitress, and the variety of other amenities that come with one hell of a price tag? Bottle service can be daunting as a result of these thoughts. However, the creative minds behind newly opened cocktail haunt The Up & Up in Greenwich Village have given bottle service a bit of a facelift. Or perhaps, an un-facelift.

Matthew Piacentini, owner of recently shuttered bar known as The Beagle, and head bartender at Inoteca e Liquori bar is the owner of The Up & Up. Piacentini has managed to bring a lot of fairly unique and fantastic bar elements to the Greenwich Village, an area that doesn’t get to bask in the glory of exciting cocktail bars very often. However, not only does The Up and Up bring outstanding cocktails to the neighborhood, thanks to Piacentini and his head bartender Chaim Dauermann, this neighborhood has hit the jackpot. A cocktail bar with this caliber of drinks and approachable atmosphere is something that this part of town has been craving.

“Why do a cocktail bar on MacDougal Street?” Piacentini asks. “There are people around here who want a good bar and there’s nothing for them. It’s a nice place with nice people, and people are happy to have a choice like this without having to go somewhere fratty, or leave the neighborhood.”

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Piacentini’s bar track record in New York City has been a successful one, however it is not where his passions lie. With every establishment he opened, the focus always seemed to go towards the food, rather than the stellar cocktail program. However, with The Up & Up, there’s no denying that this is a bar. From the giant bar that spans across most of the space, to the menu that is more cocktails than anything else, this is most certainly a bar.

“What I’ve tried to do here is build a place that is as beautiful as I can get it, while still being comfortable, relaxed and friendly,” says Piacentini. “That’s what people want; people love the really good drinks and the friendly people and the nice rooms, but they don’t like to jump through hoops. They don’t like the impenetrable door. In all these years of working in bars and hanging out with bartenders, this is a place where bartenders want to hang out.”

The cocktails and small bites at The Up & Up are worth doting on for hours, there’s no denying that. However, the real shining star here comes in their bottle service. Whether you’re a party of two, a party of four or just enjoying a solo cocktail, you have the option to order a bottled cocktail to pour at your convenience. Large format (375ml or 750ml) bottles are available, as well as Individual (100ml), and are served with chilled glassware and ice cubes for the table. Take your pick from a variety of bottled cocktail options, from The Carlson Martini (courtesy of Laura Carlson, bartender at The John Dory Oyster Bar), The Messier Manhattan (courtesy of Max Messier), The Greenbaum Negroni (courtesy of Dan Greenbaum, bartender at Attaboy) or The Teague Old Flaskoned (courtesy of Sother Teague, head bartender at Amor y Amargo).

“The heart of the bottles is the large format,” says Dauermann, the brains behind the bottled cocktail operation. “I was thinking about an idea where cocktails could go into a bottle and still be in prime condition. The ideal scenario is the smaller bottle for two people, and the larger bottle for 3-4 people. They have enough for their first round and their second round. It’s unlike any other bottled cocktail because it’s not deconstructed in any way when presented.”

Old Flaskioned (3)

Piacentini and Dauermann see the bottled cocktails not just as an innovative cocktail presentation, but an efficient one as well. Rather than have several staff members running around on the floor taking cocktail orders all night, a server can deliver six drinks to a table with just one bottle and a set of glasses, and spend more time working on other things. Customers can spend more time on other things too; like talking to one another rather than ordering a new cocktail every 15 minutes.

“The question is always how do you do high volume and high comfort, but maintain quality? It’s hard because in bars with a lot of people, it becomes about time. That time has to get less and less, and the only way to do that is to take shortcuts somewhere,” says Piacentini. “This allows us to make 1/3rd of our menu in 30 seconds. It takes less time to pour the bottled cocktail than to open a beer.”

The dynamic between Piacentini and Dauermann, as they describe it, is a sort of musical collaboration. Piacentini sees Dauermann as the composer; creating and making and discovering. He sees himself as more of the first chair violinist; where he is good at what he does, but his real goal is to figure out how to make the best harmony with what is already made. Together, their balance is unbeatable.

“We have so many different styles. So many interesting, intriguing, culinary drinks that Chaim does, and we’ve got the elegant, stirred intense drinks that I do,” says Piacentini. “In between, we have our own style of refreshers. So far, there’s something for everyone here.”

With the opening of The Up & Up, a night of bottle service with a group of friends doesn’t sound nearly as daunting as it once did. Approachable and casual, the unique experience comes without the unreasonable price tag that we as New Yorkers have become accustomed to, and to that we say: it’s about time.

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HUDSON VALLEY LOCALVORE DINING DEALS

Restaurant Week Supports Local Purveyors
By Seánan Forbes

Bistro Rollin- Scallops

Restaurant Week. It’s a phrase associated with cities, with buzz, first-time patrons, and publicity. New York’s Hudson Valley has taken Restaurant Week to its seven counties, and turned it to an anything but urban advantage. Hudson Valley’s Restaurant Week has more than one purpose. Yes, its organizers want to bring attention, cash and customers to restaurants’ tables – but they also want to keep some local foodstuffs on their home turf.

The regions produce is worth attention. That causes a strange problem. The rural products have a habit of streaming straight to urban centers. From carrots to cheese to chickens, the Hudson Valley’s products are popular in professional kitchens and city farmers’ markets. Until Restaurant Week started, foods from the Valley went to New York City.

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (www.hudsonvalleyrestaurantweek.com) has multiple purposes, and every strategic decision works to forward them. One aim is to create routes within the county, letting regional products star in local restaurants. Jeff Kroner, chef/owner of Terrapin Restaurant (www.terrapinrestaurant.com) and Hudson Valley Restaurant Week advisory board member, says that Restaurant Week “was designed to drive up business for restaurants in the Hudson Valley.” Kroner had always been involved in the farm-to-table movement; he brought that drive to Restaurant Week. In the Hudson Valley, the aim is to entice patrons from the city and to tempt people from one part of the Valley to another, expanding their knowledge of and appreciation for the Valley. When it started, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week was a brand-new concept for the region. It was a needful one.

Photo by Kevin Ferguson Weddings

Photo by Kevin Ferguson Weddings

Janet Cranshaw, publisher of The Valley Table Magazine (www.valleytable.com), says, “When we started [the magazine], we found that the great food that was grown here, in the Hudson Valley, was impossible to find here in the Hudson Valley.” Not that she’s complaining. “The New York City chefs helped to save the Hudson Valley. “ Locals – professional and home cooks alike – were frustrated.

For Cranshaw, the solution was to create a biennial Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. Held in the spring and autumn, it would drive traffic – from the city or from county to county – to restaurant tables. It would also showcase the best of the region. “From the start,” Cranshaw says, “we had chefs and restaurants feature something local on their menu.”

Cranshaw’s aims were large and practical. “We had set our sights on bringing people from the outside in – some of the 25 million mouths within a one-hour drive of the Hudson Valley. Surely, we could woo some of them.”

Maybe even some from New York City. A few of the Hudson Valley’s restaurants are an easy 20-minute train ride from Manhattan – useful, when you consider that many of that city’s residents don’t drive. Others are hours away from the city, and a healthy drive from one another.

Cedar Street Grill - Exterior

Over time, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week has drawn some useful and impressive sponsors, including Metro North, the city’s commuter rail line, and the Culinary Institute of America (www.ciachef.edu), which is in Dutchess County and part of the Hudson Valley. From the start, Kroner says, Cranshaw organized “a kick-off event, where all the chefs and restaurants are invited to come, and a lot of local producers come.” Chefs and producers could meet, talk, and begin to form relationships. Call that fertile soil for communication and cooperation. Since then, like a black dirt onion, the upstate restaurant week has grown organically.

“After a couple of years,” Kroner recalls, “[Cranshaw] wanted to associate the event more w/having farm-to-table With routes growing between Valley producers and restaurants, and locals supporting their farmers and chefs, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week “is definitely something that has evolved over the years.”

Eric Gabrynowicz, chef/partner of Restaurant North (www.restaurantnorth.com) and A Hudson Valley Restaurant Week advisory board member, offers credit for his involvement in Hudson Valley Restaurant Week to a New York City restaurateur. “I was part of eleven restaurant weeks in New York City. I worked for Danny Meyer in NYC, so I learned very quickly.” Wherever it happens, Gabrynowicz sees Restaurant Week as “a great thing. It’s an epic way to get new butts in seats.”

In Restaurant North, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week’s farm-to-local-kitchen connection isn’t a huge change. “We like to live in the thought and philosophy of Blue Hill Stone Barns – The farmer is right in front of me right now. We are local producers.” (www.bluehillfarm.com)

Dishes from the new Bocuse Restaurant, Mont Blanc hazelnut Dessert

At Restaurant North, the price point is around $80. Gabrynowicz muses about a place across the road, which has a much lower price point. Places with $25 price points don’t tend to have lots of local, but Gabrynowicz says, “I see them utilizing more and more.” Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, with its pull of new customers and push toward connecting with producers, may have something to do with that.

Visitors to the Valley are offered tours of breweries, farms, and cheese-makers. A short journey from many restaurants, patrons can see where their food came from. In some cases, visiting the Hudson Valley is the only way to taste its good.

“There is some exclusivity going on,” Cranshaw says of producers. “I’m only going to provide this particular chicken to this particular chef.” That benefits the farmer, who has a steady client, and the chef, who can provide a dish that can’t be had anywhere else. “The more restaurants involved in it, the greater the effect on the farmer and the community at large,” Kroner says.

Gabrynowicz is in accord. Meyer, he says, “gave everything at every time to his community. Always made time for his community, his staff and his guests, before he worried about his profitability. . . I want the restaurant across the street to be successful. I want to go there three times a week. Anything I can do to increase the restaurant community – for me, that’s a no-brainer.” As Kroner sees it, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week’s participants do just that. “You’re promoting local products, and local products help the economy and the community.”

He offers a concrete example: dairy farmers, Hudson Valley Fresh. “Hudson Valley Fresh, while it does not have the organic label, they use no hormones.” They don’t have to send their milk across the country, so the carbon footprint is small. Kroner breaks down local mathematics: “Use their stuff; they have more money to spend on the economy.”

Bistro Rollin- Sliders

A TASTE FOR WHISKY LIVE!

International whiskies tasting event touches down in NYC and debuts in Washington, DC
Story By Joyce Appelman Photos by Gabi Porter courtesy of Whisky Live

Whisky Live Danny Neff pouring Makers

Don’t know where to get the best Whisky? Here’s a place to start: Whisky Live (www.whiskylive.com); the annual, internationally renowned tasting event held in dozens of cities around the world, making a stop in NYC at Chelsea Piers in New York City on Wednesday, February 25 and then makes its debut in the Nation’s Capital on Saturday, March 7.

Produced by Whisky Magazine, the show is in its 11th year and offers New Yorkers an opportunity to check out over 300+ of the world’s best whiskies including Scotch, Bourbon, American, Canadian, French, Irish, Japanese and others. Washingtonians attending the first-ever Whisky Live DC will close to 200 of the world’s best whiskies.

Really, where else are you going to find this volume in one room? And be able to attend Master classes where you’ll learn how Whisk(e)y is produced around the world and taste the most interesting and most popular and newest ones on the market – they are all going to be here.

Whisky Live multiple bottles with Russell's and Michter's etc

In New York, The James Beard Foundation nominated Dead Rabbit will be among the bars making cocktails, plus a full buffet, live music, Master classes, and the ease of getting there and home safely thanks to a partnership with Uber – makes it truly a full and exciting night out. In DC, look for James Beard nominee Derek Brown’s bar Southern Efficiency alongside Jack Rose Saloon and others shaking and stirring up whisk(e)y cocktails.

Whisky Live is a prime opportunity to sample premium single malt Scotches, bourbons, ryes and Irish whiskies, along with those from France and elsewhere while you are chat with distillers about their work and other scotch fans to compare your experiences. Titan brands like Johnnie Walker, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, The Glenlivet, Beam and Heaven Hill will be featured side by side with dozens of spirits from boutique distilleries, including New York’s own Tuthilltown Spirits and Utah’s High West Distillery, and award-winning world whiskies from producers in the US, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere.

This is a great event to learn the stories behind them from master distillers, brand ambassadors and industry experts. Guests at Whisky Live NY can also take Master Classes on: scotch production with Ewan Morgan and Gregor Cattanach – Senior Masters of Whisky from Diageo; wood management with Craig Vaught – Master of Scotch The Glenlivet and Aberlour; and an exploration of vintages from Balbair’s Distillery.

The Diageo Master Class will include pours from 1956 bottlings for example, while Balblair will feature a new release and introduce four new vintages to the US in its master class –and these are just you just two of the many things you can learn about and taste at Whisky Live and nowhere else.

VIP Tickets to Whisky Live New York are $149 and include unlimited tastings from 5:30 to 10 PM, a lavish dinner buffet, live entertainment, a souvenir Glencairn tasting glass to take home and a one-year subscription to Whisky Magazine. Standard ticket ($119) entrance is from 6:30 PM with a souvenir glass and access to the buffet and live entertainment as well. Master classes are ticketed separately at $20 and hold just 40 people per class. Tickets to Whisky Live DC are priced at $129 and the event runs from 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.whiskylivena.com .

Whisky Live men in kilts drinking

*INSIDE F&B Editor in Chief, Francine Cohen, collaborated with Whisky Live on their marketing efforts in 2015.

EAT HERE NOW- CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY

By Kristen Oliveri

Photo courtesy of Meadowood

Photo courtesy of Meadowood

Though a recent trip to wine country was initially planned simply for Napa Valley, adventurous travelers know you can’t stop there and so, our jaunt took us through Napa to Sonoma to the beautiful hills of Alexander Valley and back again. No stone—or vine—went unturned in a quest for the ultimate food and drink experience.

The region is bustling with plenty of new restaurants and bars, all offering exciting options alongside some old favorites. Swiss Hotel Bar & Restaurant (www.swisshotelsonoma.com), is a great place to kick off, sharing dishes like the burrata appetizer with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and roasted peppers and entrees including the beef filet mushroom and red wine sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts and creamy blue cheese mashed potatoes. Given the Swiss Hotel restaurant allows diners to indulge in their own bottles (for a nominal corkage fee), you can take full advantage of this and open many bottles purchased along a wine tour which, quietly likely hits some highlights like Russian River Vineyards, Thomas George Estates, VML Winery and Sbragia Winery.

Arguably, one of the best meals to be found is one hosted at the VML Winery (www.vmlwine.com) where one picnics in the vineyard’s private space while enjoying a tasting of their wines and noshing on local produce, meats, cheeses and fruit. Picnics in wine country are a popular way to dine and at Vine Cliff winery the sommelier dines with you which adds to the authentic experience.

Napa AO at night closer

Even the briefest of wine tours wouldn’t be complete without a stop in to the Alpha Omega winery. It is famous for its wine maker, Jean Hoefliger, taking a complex, yet approachable process to winemaking, not to mention breathtaking scenery.

Keeping with the scenery as a side dish theme the Carneros Inn in Napa offers al fresco meals at their on-site FARM restaurant, though you’re also welcome to stay warm by their beautiful fire pit while nibbling on dishes like lobster risotto with Meyer lemon and a side of truffle fries. Breakfast, however, is truly a highlight there. The hotel’s Boon Fly Café is known for its warm and sugary breakfast (or anytime) doughnuts.

The restaurant offers gluten-free bread which makes a morning selection as easy as could be for those who need that consideration and was the perfect bookend for their BELT (bacon, eggs, lettuce and tomato).

Gluten free diners will also find total satisfaction at dinner, at an old favorite, Jackson’s in Santa Rosa where they serve the most delicious gluten-free prosciutto and pear pizza paired with acorn squash and mascarpone and Brussel sprouts with bacon.

A well-traveled and well-fed network of friends also led me to Goose and Gander. I was told to stop by not only for the food but also for Scott Beattie’s retro-fresh libations that are known for attracting many local industry folks when they’re not punching the clock. Taking their lead landed us with a table in the picturesque garden where wild salmon with roasted delicata squash, puy lentils, appelwood smoked bacon and celery root veloute on the menu had to be tried. The ingredients were of the freshest quality and the vibe was essential California cool.

Photo courtesy of Meadowood

Photo courtesy of Meadowood

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We asked the locals what some of their favorite spots on the island are for beverages, places to picnic, romantic date-night dinners and beyond. Here’s what industry insiders had to say:

Paul Tilson, Director of Hospitality: Alpha Omega Winery
Favorite Winery?
Alpha Omega
1155 Mee Ln, Rutherford, CA
Of course, but I’m biased. The following wines are my favorites: 1155 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012, Reserve Chardonnay, 2011 ERA and our Future – 2012 (not yet released) Sunshine Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon. www.aowinery.com

DANA Estate
1500 Whitehall Ln, St Helena, CA
My other favorite winery is Dana Estate. It has such beautiful architecture and delicious Phillipe Melka wines. www.danaestates.com

Favorite spot to picnic?
Yountville Park
www.townofyountville.com/index.aspx?page=176

St. Clement Vineyards
2867 St Helena Hwy, St Helena, CA
www.aowinery.com

Best Romantic Date Spot?
The Restaurant at Meadowood
900 Meadowood Ln, St Helena, CA
Chef Christopher Kostow is brilliant – amazing place on all accounts! www.therestaurantatmeadowood.com/food?WT.srch=1&WT.mc_id=PPC2p&DCSext.ppc_kw=the+meadowood+restaurant&ppc_ac=Brand&ppc_ag=Exact+Match&ppc_mt=Exact&platform=c

Best Seafood?
Morimoto
610 Main St, Napa, CA
www.morimotonapa.com

Best budget friendly restaurant?
Norman Rose Tavern
1401 1st St, Napa, CA

Also besides the Norman Rose, the hidden gem is The Grill at Meadowood in St. Helena (the Grill is the secret local joint, totally under the radar and amazing, Chef Victoria Acosta is a true talent, they also have very special wine and cocktail programs. www.normanrosenapa.com

Best Splurge?
The French Laundry
6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA
www.frenchlaundry.com

Augie Kersting, Sommelier and Manager at Meadowood

Favorite Winery?
DANA Estate
1500 Whitehall Ln, St Helena, CA
Howard Backen built the winery into the ruins of the barrel room of the old Livingstone Moffitt winery. Everything about it—from Mr. Lee’s private cellar to the high tea room to the wrought iron and glass door that open back onto the courtyard enclosed by the walls of the original barrel room is – is gorgeous. They have three different fermentation rooms for their three different single vineyard Caberenets. The wines aren’t half bad either! www.danaestates.com

Favorite spot to picnic?
Vineyard 29
2929 St Helena Hwy, St Helena, CA
The best “picnic” I’ve head is on the deck up at Vineyard 29. Meadowood provided the picnic and the winery provided the view. www.vineyard29.com

Bure Family Wines
2825 St. Helena Hwy N. St. Helena, CA

The view next door at Bure Family is equally spectacular. Neither are regularly open for picnic but upon special arrangement it may be possible. www.burefamilywines.com

Best Romantic Date Spot?
Auberge du Soleil
180 Rutherford Hill Rd, Rutherford, CA

The deck at Auberge du Soleil is pretty phenomenal to make a lasting impression and make some memories. The food and wine list stack up pretty well too. www.aubergedusoleil.com

Best Seafood?
Bouchon Bistro
6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA

The best seafood I’ve eaten in Napa was the Sea Bass with Lobster and southwestern corn salsa at Bouchon (seasonal special). www.bouchonbistro.com

Best budget friendly restaurant?
Cook St. Helena
1310 Main St, St Helena, CA

Cook in St. Helena delivers good value for the nuanced palate at lunchtime. Ciccio in Yountville has a decent amount of diversity as well as lively atmosphere. Food isn’t complicated but it’s well executed. www.cooksthelena.com

Best Splurge?
Etoile
1 California Dr, Yountville, CA

Perry Hoffman at Etoile is using some of the most unique and delicious ingredients in the valley in his little hidden away spot in Yountville. The Caramelized Pear Mille Fueille may still be the best dessert in the Napa Valley. www.chandon.com/etoile-restaurant.html

Eric Franco, Guest Relations, Silverado Vineyards
Favorite Winery?
Schramsberg Vineyards
1400 Schramsberg Rd, Calistoga, CA

I really enjoy sparkling wine, however this is a nice winery located in Calistoga (appointment only) with a lovely private tour. I feel that Schramsberg is the best sparkling wine in the valley and their cave tour is very informative and an overall fun experience. Also, check out Pride Mountain Vineyards on Spring Mountain. Bring your own food and enjoy a bottle of their wine on top of their looking down on a beautiful scenery. www.schramsberg.com

Best Romantic Date Spot?
Celadon
500 Main Street, Suite G – Napa, CA

It’s just really good food, quiet atmosphere with inside and outside eating areas, great service, and a great place to make an amazing impression on a first date. It’s even a great spot for an anniversary dinner. www.celadonnapa.com

Best Seafood?
Morimoto
610 Main St, Napa, CA

Expensive but their spicy crab legs are amazing and of course the sushi is great too. www.morimotonapa.com

Best Budget Friendly Restaurant?
Gott’s Roadside
933 Main Street, St. Helena, CA

Well, in Napa there are no cheap deals, however on Tuesday nights Gott’s has locals’ night and their cheeseburger and beers are $3 to $4 dollars cheaper. www.gotts.com

Boonfly Café
4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa, CA

Another restaurant I would recommend is Boonfly Café for breakfast. Their Eggs Benedict is to die for and once a week they will have chicken and waffles. www.thecarnerosinn.com/dining/boonfly-cafe

Photo by Katie Newburn

Photo by Katie Newburn

Best Splurge?
Zuzu
829 Main St, Napa, CA
This is a tough choice, for a local I would say Zuzu’s for Spanish tapas. http://www.zuzunapa.com/

Bouchon Bistro
6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA

Thomas Keller Bouchon is amazing and, of course, French Laundry, but you need to make reservations ahead of time and expect to drop close to a grand per person if we are including wine pairings but it is a multiple course meal. bouchonbistro.com

CHAMPAGNE COCKTAILS: A SPARKLING SUCCESS

By Sara Kay

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With events like New York Champagne Week, which is only in its second year and has already experienced an incredible amount of notoriety, it brings to mind an important question about the future of champagne as not just a celebratory beverage on its own, but a key player in the cocktail world.

The French 75 and the Kir Royale – both cocktails that feature champagne – are staples in the classic cocktail category, but as we’ve seen from events such as this one on Nobember 4th, versatility is the name of the game.

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Champagne and cocktail lovers alike came together for the first consumer event of New York Champagne Week 2014 to see bartenders from around New York City compete for the title of best champagne cocktail. Sponsored by Nicolas Feuillatte, these competitors took over Evelyn Drinkery and created some truly outstanding tipples for people to sip on and enjoy as they talked about all things bubbly.

For Rob Bigelow, Master Sommelier and Senior Director of Wine Education and On-Premise Development for Ste Michelle Wine Estates, the future of champagne cocktails looks bright, and won’t be slowing down any time soon. He says, “It’s my opinion as a master sommelier and the opinion of most mixologists that champagne is the superior choice for sparkling wine in a cocktail, and that has to do with the quality of the grapes it comes from. At the end of the day, it’s just better.”

The competition ended with a bit of a twist; two competitors came away with the first place trophy, that trophy being a magnum bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte and the possibility of having their cocktail featured at Tales of the Cocktail 2015. Marlo Gamora of Jeepney and James Menite of The Plaza Hotel were crowned the two winners of the evening, with Micaela Piccolo of Distilled NYC coming away with the People’s Choice award.

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A tie in a cocktail competition is fairly unheard of, but it signaled something exciting that industry insiders have known for a while; that Champagne cocktails are on the rise. It also means that competitions like these are finally being seen as ways to showcase the creative use of a base spirit like Champagne, and not just for bartender bragging rights or awareness of a certain spirit brand. In a display of excellent sportsmanship, Gamera and Menite accepted their equal first place win with joy, hugging it out and congratulating each other on a job extremely well done.

Gamera’s win with his drink The Pastry War meant first taking on the job of thinking about champagne in a whole new way. He explains, “I never thought mezcal and champagne would go together, I’ve never made a mezcal champagne cocktail before and I figured, why not? Mezcal is a great spirit and champagne as well. I took a dash of absinthe to tie them both together, then added a form of Asian expression from my background into the cocktail to really balance them out.”

Menite had similar sentiment about his approach to creating his winning cocktail, the Doit Anoir, which featured Salerno Blood Orange Liqueur as the base spirit. He notes, “I wanted to do the first egg white champagne cocktail. I’d never seen it done before and I thought it would work really well with the Salerno blood orange liqueur and the Ramazzotti Amaro. I don’t know if Salerno has ever been used as a base spirit, people mostly use it as a mixer. I wanted people to see it can be used as a base spirit. I wanted to showcase the Salerno and the champagne and how well they worked together.”

Whereas most champagnes ring in with a fairly hefty price tag, making working them into a drink menu not the economical choice for using in cocktails, Bigelow believes it’s brands like Nicolas Feuillette that end up coming out on top based on the low price point and the younger and hipper personality.

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Cocktail innovation tends to be the focus for many of these competitive events, but there is also an element of education that comes in as well. Mixologists of this caliber know what makes a good cocktail great, and by discovering that champagne serves as the perfect balancing agent, it’s only a matter of time before the bubbly becomes a regularly featured ingredient in many a cocktail.

Charlotte Voisey, Brand Ambassador for William Grant & Sons, which provided all the spirits, comments, “It’s nice to see champagne in the industry getting the recognition it deserves. Champagne is a fantastic source of acidity, and that’s the key ingredient in any cocktail to balance everything out, and as we saw tonight, it goes well with every spirit category too.”

The cocktail industry sees its fair share of changing trends, with a particular drink being all the rage one day and yesterday’s news the next day, but when it comes to champagne cocktails, the attitude is fairly clear; they aren’t going anywhere.

“Whether it’s a cocktail or champagne straight up, it’s always going to be a good time,” says Gamera. “And, to quote Coco Chanel, she said t’here’s only two times that I drink champagne, when I’m in love or when I’m not.’ Anytime is a good time for champagne, even if you’re feeling down or feeling up. Champagne cocktails are always going to be there.”

We’ll cheers to that.

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OVER THE TOP TEAM BUILDING

Hyatt chefs strut their stuff at a culinary extravaganza
By Beverly Stephen
Photos courtesy of Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort (by Russ Coover photography)

Andaz Maui chefs paddling

Some people draw straws or flip coins to decide who goes first. But the 12 chefs competing in Hyatt’s Good Taste Series at the beginning of November raced outrigger canoes cheered by onlookers on the beach in front of the Andaz Maui at Wailea. The winning team would be the first to present their dishes to a panel of five industry professionals. The chefs were psyched before they got to the stoves. And a troupe of Japanese drummers gave new meaning to the term drum roll when they heralded the announcement of the winners. Talk about team building!

The contestants, all junior chefs at Hyatt hotels throughout the United States, had already shown their mettle by wining regional competitions. Just to be pampered in a luxury hotel in one of the world’s most awesome vacation spots, be wined and dined, and be put in a position to gain the attention of the big brass made every competitor feel like a winner. But they still gave it their all reaching for the big prize of a week’s vacation for two at any Hyatt resort in North America, Canada, or the Caribbean. Second and third place winners took home commercial Vita-Mix blenders.

Iron-chef style staging and a professional emcee–Mark Walberg of Antiques Roadshow—lent drama to the event as did enthusiastic cheering by the chefs’ friends and families in the audience.

Andaz Maui friends and family cheering

Judges were Beth Weitzman, vice president of editorial for Modern Luxury: Naomi Tomky, blogger The GastroGnome; Sam Bhandarkar, director of events for American Culinary Federation, chef Sheldon Simeon of Migrant restaurant in Maui; and yours truly. Each contestant presented two dishes—one street food and one that represented either the regional culture of his hotel or his own heritage. And each was required to use two mystery ingredients which turned out to be bacon and lilikoi, the Hawaiian passion fruit.

Paying homage to his Southwest roots, Rodney Ashley of Hyatt Regency Atlanta took first place for his veal cheek and anasazi bean stuffed sopapilla with Hatch green chile and his charred wild boar tamale with New Mexico red chile. Patrick Mohn of Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa in New Mexico came in second with cochinita pibil arepa and a juniper scented elk tenderloin with blue corn gnocchi. Matthew Garelick of Grand Hyatt New York placed third for his bacon, egg and cheese pupusa and his “Ode to the New York Delicatessen” which included pastrami duck breast and smoked leg, stuffed cabbage, caraway and prune mostarda, slow roasted and pickled roots and potato knish.

Andaz Maui chef cooking

The long weekend was about more than just cooking and eating. There were educational tours of the last working pineapple plantation in Maui and a taro farm and exposure to a different culture and its ingredients. And it was an unparalleled opportunity to network with their peers and shine in front of their superiors.

“It was a very bondable weekend,” said Bradley Duboy of the Park Hyatt Washington, characterizing how well the chefs worked together. “I made 12 new friends.”

Susan Terry, vice president of Culinary Operations for the Americas and the mastermind behind the event had the lofty goal of “providing food for their souls, not just their minds.” She said, “It shows our top talent we’re invested in them and their education The contest was only four hours in total but we spent five days with them. We really got to know each other and I can guarantee that each of them feel connected to the company in a different way now. And it shows me who my next executive chefs are going to be.”

Finally, a slew of creative new dishes is going to be showing up on Hyatt menus across the country.

Andaz Maui chefs cheering on beach

FEAST YOUR EYES ON THESE FOOD FILMS

THE 8TH ANNUAL NYC FOOD FILM FEST OPENS TONIGHT WITH SPECIAL TREAT FOR OUR READERS

By Francine Cohen

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Most movies about food leave you hungry. For years filmmakers have been using food and lushly shot meals to comment on society or simply as vehicle to drive home their central theme. What better tool is there than the universality of food to convey moods, uncover cultural differences and highlight relationships? Movies like Babette’s Feast, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I Am Love, Ratatouille, Sideways and Tampopo, all of which appear on the Epicurious.com (www.epicurious.com) Top Ten Best Food Films list have become classics, as have individual scenes like the orgasm at Katz’s scene from When Harry Met Sally. While not yet classics, newer films like “Chef” and The Hundred Foot Journey also turned to food as the focal theme. These are all films you’ll see, and leave with some food for thought, and a hunger for a restaurant meal or a trip to the grocery store.

The Food Film Festival, which was founded in New York City in 2007 by George Motz and Harry Hawk, and has grown to include the Chicago Food Film Festival and one in Charleston as well, takes things one step further; featuring food films that don’t leave you hungry. And why not? Because audience members are fed DURING and after the film. With food and drink from and inspired by the movie they seeing.

FoodFilmFest calling chefs in field

This year’s festival, the 8th annual, kicks off tonight, October 29th, with the theme, Cocina Peruana and features Patricia Perez’s film Finding Gaston, a documentary on the intersection of social change and cuisine in renowned Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio’s life. It will be followed by a chat with the director and Chef Miguel Aguilar of Brooklyn’s Surfish Bistro www.surfishbistro.com (and winner of the seventh season of Chopped) serving up Peruvian specialties like ceviche alongside some Pisco cocktails and the Peruvian lager, Cusquena (www.cusquena.com).

Later in the week you can check out films on oysters, sriracha and more. To do that you’ll want to get your tickets here and use our discount code just for our INSIDE F&B readers that offers 10% off all tickets purchased for the festival. USE CODE INSIDE10 when purchasing tickets at www.thefoodfilmfestival.com

FoodFilmFest guests eating

We spoke with the festival’s Executive Director, Seth Unger, to get a taste of what lies ahead for hungry moviegoers later this week.

IF&B: How did this food film festival first come about?
SU: George Motz served regional hamburgers during the premiere of his film Hamburger America in 2005. After that, he and restaurateur Harry Hawk thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to do this for all kinds of food not just burgers?” The NYC Food Film Festival debuted in 2007.

IF&B: Why did you decide to open this year with the Peruvian film/Peruvian themed film?
SU: One of the challenges of the Food Film Fest is that the selection committee has to accept the films before we know how challenging it will be to track down the chefs and purveyors that are featured in those films. In recent years, as our festival concept is more widely understood, directors seem to have a much better understand of how the Festival works. Often, they submit films having already arranged for the featured chef to cook the dish from the film.

In 2011, we took a chance and screened a film called “Mistura: The Power of Food” by director Patricia Perez. She pulled out all the stops and brought in chefs, musicians and dancers. Patricia went above and beyond the call of duty. It was an amazing event. So after the committee selected Finding Gaston this year, and we learned it was Patricia’s film, we knew we could trust her to work with us to make it come alive for the event…and what a great way to kick things off.

IF&B: Can you expound a bit on the formula of the evening which is all inclusive film & food?
SU: Most events have 3 segments…A VIP Pre-Party, an in-theatre food-film experience and an After-Party. Tickets are all inclusive of entry, food and beverages. The driving concept is quite simple…That food tastes better when you see it on a big screen before you eat it. Our signature Taste-screenings are instantly gratifying for the guest, but very complicated to execute for the staff. We have to time food service to specific a specific frame in a film…and then do that 10 times in a row.

Also, during this culinary celebration, guests will learn about and meet the actual people who grow, harvest and cook the food. By learning their true stories of hard work and hardship, we gain a massive appreciation for who they are and what they do…and that makes it taste even better.

IF&B: What’s different this year in NYC?
SU: The 1st-ever Halloween Edition of the Food Porn Party…complete with food burlesque and a food porn costume contest….all hosted by the world’s first food porn star, Larry Cauldwell.

IF&B: In what other cities does the Food Film Festival take place?

It’s an annual event in NYC, Chicago and Charleston, SC. We’ve also done one-offs in places like Copenhagen and Connecticut. Other cities are on deck for the next few years.

IF&B: Anything else you want to share?

SU: Most guests comment that the Food Film Fest is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced, and that they remember being present for some special moment that we created years back…like the first Lowcountry oyster roast we did in Chicago, or when we brought Keizo to America to make his ramen in-theatre (which was the launching point for his ramen burger craze that ensued). The way that we make those moments is by treating the entire guest experience, from entry to exit, as one long theatre production. What a guest sees, smells, hears, tastes…is all intentional and it all helps tell the story of the event (each of which has a different theme).

The reason that the Food Film Fest is able to do what it does is the incredible group of people that it attracts to work on it. It’s a group of creative, friendly people of all ages, from many different places who all understand that the event production they are doing is its own work of art. Though most volunteer or receive just a stipend, they each place their own heart into it and by doing that affect it in a way where the outcome is always a unique merging of both planning and happenstance.

FoodFilmFest calling all chefs holding crabs

2014 FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

On Thursday, October 30th, Michelin-starred Chef Phillip Foss of Chicago’s EL Ideas (www.elideas.com) will host the VIP pre-party before the Edible Adventure #011: Just Add Sriracha, which includes French Fries + Ice Cream, a film inspired by one of Foss’ signature dishes.

Then things get turned up a notch with a screening of Sriracha, the documentary that traces the origins of everyone’s favorite condiment. This will be the hottest Edible Adventure yet, with an after party of sriracha-inspired dishes.

Be sure to come in costume on Halloween night as Chef Chris Shae cooks up a VIP pre-party feast before the The Food Porn Party: Halloween Balls. The notorious party (and crowd-favorite) returns with an array mouth-watering shorts, costume contests, food burlesque, and porchetta di testa from Chef Ian Kapitan during Hog on Hog, a film that follows the making of Kapitan’s famous dish. Larry Cauldwell, the world’s first Food Porn Star returns with his new short film, Balls!, along with an assortment of his favorite ball-shaped foods – meatballs are just the beginning.

On Saturday, November 1st, Brewmore Baltimore, a feature-length documentary that chronicles Baltimore’s rich brewing history will be celebrated with the Brewmore bash. Expect an entire evening of Charm City’s best brews paired with salty snacks and sweet treats from Baltimore, New York, and more.

Closing out the festival will be The Night Aquatic, an evening of sea-centric films that begin with a VIP pre-party hosted by Open Oyster and features all-you-can-eat oysters from Fishers Island and more. Chef Brad Farmerie (www.public-nyc.com) will be creating a dish with fresh California sea urchin alongside local oysters and crab from Alabama during the film. And at The Night Aquatic after party, enjoy wild-caught South Carolina shrimp at a huge Beaufort Stew feast.

FoodFilmFest su propialiga

*Disclosure: INSIDE F&B Editor in Chief Francine Cohen has also served as a consultant to PromPeru and the Trade Commission of Peru in New York but said affiliation had no bearing on this story.