EAT HERE NOW – NEW ORLEANS: CHEFS YOU WANT TO KNOW…HALEY BITTERMANN

By Francine Cohen Except as noted, all photos courtesy of Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group

Photo by Francine Cohen

With just a little over a week before most of the spirit industry descends upon New Orleans to attend the 10th annual Tales of the Cocktail we decided it was our duty to honor the “f” in our INSIDE F&B title and bring you a taste of NOLA’s restaurant culture.

Since we’re returning to town for a second installation of “Eat Here Now – NOLA” we’re taking a slightly different approach this time. This time around we’re going behind the scenes to see what makes these Crescent City chefs tick and learn what they’re doing to shape the future of dining in this very food-centric city where the locals have always fashioned an afternoon or evening out around their mealtimes.

New Orleans’ restaurants have, through thick and thin, been a community center and a neighborhood gathering place where you could count on all your favorite dishes filling the menu. These days, as new chefs move into town and up the line bringing new ideas about cuisine, you may be surprised at what you discover on your plate. While the classics are still cherished by locals and tourists alike, culinary change is afoot in this town that possibly sports more iconic dishes than any other in the nation.

From the land of beignets, turtle soup, po’ boys, muffulettas, grilled oysters, étouffée and Bananas Foster rises a new breed of chef. One capable of honoring the past while looking to the future.

First up, Haley Bittermann, Executive Chef, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group (www.neworleans-food.com)

Mentioning the Brennan name in New Orleans is the foodie equivalent of referencing the Kennedy administration in DC- in an instant there’s recognition that you’re talking high profile people who have had an impact on their city, though here it’s all about dining, not politics (though certainly a lot of politicking takes place in restaurants). Fortunately for the Brennans their curse seems to be bearing the mantle of a great reputation for running exceedingly popular restaurants and landing in the role of benevolent elder statesmen who balance the past and the present by offering guests exactly what they crave on the plate and in the dining room. They’ve been awarded a James Beard Award for their contribution to the American culinary experience,

Though not a member of the award-winning Brennan clan by birth, Bittermann might as well be an adopted daughter or distant cousin; her contribution to the family’s success involves having spent her entire professional career in Brennan run kitchens.

Bittermann’s first taste of kitchen life took place during high school, in a much different venue…Dominos. The Cincinnati native confirms, “I started out as a pizza delivery girl at Dominos.” It was where she first got her taste of the food industry and then a stint during college spent working in a local family owned restaurant did the rest. She continues, “My family all did medical research. That’s what I was supposed to do, go into the medical field or research. But I started working in a restaurant in college and loved it. It was a small family owned restaurant close to campus and that taught me that the restaurant is a family. I loved the camaraderie. Finally, at one point I turned to my mom and said ‘I want to go to culinary school.’ And quite a look I got! Read the full article here »

EAT HERE NOW – AUSTIN

By Hannah Fearheiley

Photo courtesy of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau

Keeping Austin weird is the crux of the charm this capital city possesses as it balances legislators, college students and full time residents with an eclectic vibe. It’s the kind of city where you can dress up or dress down; in most cases, people prefer dressing down in a nice scarf, boots and jeans kind of way as they dine in establishments replete with exposed brick walls, metals stools nestled at a bar, water served in Mason jars and servers expressing their own personal style. With this embracing spirit of self expression it makes perfect sense that quirky, creative, breath-of-fresh-air Austin has become town where the word trailer connotes mouthwateringly innovative cuisine instead of transitory residents and long haul truckers.

It hasn’t been a long haul since diners felt the impact of the food trailer boom in 2009, but in a few short years the Austin food scene has been changed forever. When it started the locals had no idea how big it was really going to get. Trailers got people talking not only about the diversity of cuisine being produced out of a trailer but the sheer talent of the chefs who got their start producing delicious food with integrity and very little overhead. The recently James Beard nominated chef/owner of Barley Swine (www.barleyswine.com), Bryce Gilmore, received praises over his food trailer “ The Odd Duck” and is now one of the most talked about and respected chef’s in Austin. Aaron Franklin opened his small BBQ trailer on the side of a noisy frontage road in 2009 and by 2011 had a brick and mortar store front, selling out of some of the best, okay the best, BBQ in Texas every day.

Their commonality extends further than their trailer beginnings, they also support local farmers and keeping the Austin culinary industry thriving. It’s an industry producing food worthy of a five star restaurant rating. Chefs have created eateries, both mobile and brick & mortar, where people can enjoy well executed and well thought out dishes in a very comfortable and aesthetically pleasing atmosphere.

Contigo Patio by Knox Photographics

Locals embrace this culinary boom with open arms but have not forgotten their roots- the alpha of the food scene- the simple breakfast taco. On any given Saturday morning Austinites, roused from their Rainey Street-induced slumber with growling stomachs, can be heard muttering, “Where should we get breakfast tacos?” A food staple that is the common denominator between Read the full article here »

EAT HERE NOW – ADELAIDE

By Jeff Miller
All photos (except where noted) courtesy of the South Australia Tourism Commission

While it may not have Sydney’s opera house or Melbourne’s stylish reputation, Adelaide, South Australia is a culinary hidden gem, thanks in no small part to its location: because of its temperate climate and seaside location, the city of 1.2 million’s bustling with fresh fish, farm-to-table veggies, and fine wine from the nearby Barossa and Clare Valleys, each of which is also blessed with a smattering of fine restaurants. Add to that a youthful population (colleges are the lifeblood of the city’s economy), and you’ve got a city that is exploding with an ever-expanding selection of dining destinations, plus a wealth of cultural worth, with museums dedicated to Australia’s unique aboriginal culture and long-standing art scene and old-school architecture that calls to mind the gorgeous facades of classic New Orleans.

Grub wise, in-town, the food scene’s dominated by the massive Central Market, a bustling mix of chef-friendly produce stalls and specialty stores, the success of which has spawned a mini-business of farmers markets selling everything from homemade spice jam to hand-caught fresh scallops.

Photo courtesy of The Grace

Restaurant-wise, modern-looking spots like the American-influenced The Grace – The Establishment (127 The Parade, Norwood; http://www.thegrace.net.au/home.html) a slick-looking tapas spot stacked with well-heeled ladies and slim-tied men, share space with more traditional dining experiences like the one at Chianti Classico (160 Hutt St; http://www.chianticlassico.com.au/), where a hearty seafood stew reigns supreme. Still, getting into the nearby wine country’s the way to be, with outdoor, among the vines-dining at Skillagolee (email for directions; http://www.skillogalee.com.au/) worth every moment of the drive there.

For even more picks in and around Adelaide and South Australia, we asked three experts:

Photo Courtesy of The Louise

The Restaurateur: Mark McNamara is one of South Australia’s most well-respected chefs; his award-winning restaurant, The Appellation, is located at the beautiful Louise Hotel in the Barossa wine region.

Ferment Asian: “Unlike most Vietnamese restaurants that have the same giant selection cookie cutter menus, “Ferment” has a tiny seasonal card and [the chef] cooks real food. For me it’s like dining with Vietnamese friends – it’s all cooked to order with passion and the flavours burst with freshness.
(90 Murray St, Tanuda) (http://www.fermentasian.com.au/)

Fino: “Simple, honest local ingredients cooked with great skill and passion and more than a little rural Italian influence with a menu that follow the season. The wine list is again short but very sharp with some amazing wines by the glass.” (8 Hill St, Willunga) (http://www.fino.net.au/)

The Wheatsheaf Hotel: “The Wheaty” has become the bar of choice for those that like to drink good beer, wine or whiskey (they have a pretty lineup in gin and rum as well) with at least 10 beers on tap including one on a hand pulled Read the full article here »

EAT HERE NOW – KANSAS CITY

By Seánan Forbes

Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association

Kansas City’s not just about barbecue. There are restaurants, bars and coffee shops that would be mobbed were they in LA or New York, but the owners are happy in the Heartland. If you’re into coffee, then share in KC’s celebration of its independent roasters: The Roasterie (www.theroasterie.com) and Broadway Café and Roasting (www.broadwaycafeandroastery.com). Visit at the right hour, and you can catch one of Kansas City’s chefs fuelling up for another successful day.

Three-time Beard nominee Colby Garrelts and his wife, Megan, are an unstoppable pair: as parents, chefs (Colby handles the savory side; Megan, the sweet), and co-owners of Bluestem (www.bluestemkc.com, 900 Westport Road). They’re looking into opening a new restaurant, and are working on a cookbook – and their crew gets along so well that they hang out together when they have time off.

Photo by Bonjwing Lee

Where would they have you go in KC? In the great tradition of “eat dessert first,” let’s give Megan Garrelts the first word. “We go to Room 39 a lot,” she says. “It’s homey. It’s small . . . They have a great burger, great specials and soups . . . Ted [Ted Habinger, chef-restaurateur] is a great friend of ours.” Habinger’s worked for some of the best, including Danny Meyer. Room 39 is the ultimate in egalitarian treatment. Whether you spend hours drinking excellent cappuccinos and reading the newspaper, or order a five-course meal and a $200 bottle of wine, you’ll be shown honest grace and courtesy. Habinger wouldn’t have it any other way.

R Bar (www.rbarkc.com, 1617 Genessee Street) is another of her favorites. There’s “a great cocktail selection.” Just as important, “The ambience is just really cool. It has that old Kansas City feel. It takes you back in time.” Check the calendar for live music. R Bar’s drinks pair well with jazz.

Laughing, Colby Garrelts says, “The boys and I eat out almost every single day. We go hit the holes in the wall with the good lunches. These are the places that are the heart and soul of what we eat on a normal basis. We eat tons of pho.”   For that, they go to The Vietnam Café. (522 Campbell Street) and Kim Long Asian Market and Restaurant (511 Cherry Street) “It’s where the Vietnamese people go to eat, both of these places.” Look for “noodles, vermicelli, tripe – which isn’t really tripe – tendon, shank . . .” Garrelts’ one-word review: “Fantastic.

El Camino Real (902 N 7th Street, Kansas City KS). “They serve real gorditas – they hand-make all the gorditas – and they have those big pork shoulders with pineapple that drip and roast in the rotisserie. This is the real deal.”

El Pollo Rey (1101 Kansas Avenue, Kansas City KS) “All these people do is grill chickens.” You can buy a whole or half-chicken. You get fresh, warm tortillas, pickled vegetables, Mexican sodas – and it’s just spectacular.” Read the full article here »

EAT HERE NOW – HARVARD SQUARE

By Anushka Wirasinha

Photo courtesy Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Recently I returned to my college town, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and went in search of the places I used to love when I was a student at Harvard. Some are still around, and I share these with you; and some are gone, but there are great replacements. All are welcoming and budget friendly and cater to the lifestyle and pockets of students.

It was the unique local homey cafes and restaurants I remember looking back on my days roaming around Harvard Square. These one of a kind little cafes and eating places served menus with many delicious options unavailable elsewhere. But they were more than just a place to grab a decent meal for a great price;it was the friendly atmosphere that was served on the side that made a homesick student remember and treasure these small local cafes. They were a place of relaxation, friendly chats, a place to study, meet friends, play a game of cards and watch the world go by but most of all a place where you were surrounded by friendly serving staff that were there to give advice, listen, create the perfect blend for your taste buds to enjoy and make you feel at home whenever you entered through their doors.

Many of these charming little cafes have now unfortunately disappeared partly with the springing up of large chain stores and coffee shops and partly because of the economic recession sending them out of business. My craving for unique homemade taste made me want to visit one of my favorite places in the world once more- Harvard Square and discover the hidden treasures that were still around waiting to be discovered and delight the taste buds.

There was a particular café that grabbed my attention in Harvard Square because of its quaint whimsical décor. Sweet www.sweetcupcakes.com is relative newcomer to the area, but fits right in. Inside black and white elegantly patterned wallpaper blankets around a few white tables and chairs to sit and enjoy cupcakes while watching the happenings in Harvard Square. Read the full article here »

EAT HERE NOW – TAIWAN

Taiwan isn’t the world’s largest country, but it might be one of the friendliest, yummiest, and calmest; despite the swarms of citizens zipping by on their motorbikes. Little did we know all this before arriving. Existing guide books just don’t offer that kind of insight.

Boarding the 11:30 p.m. EVA Airlines (www.evaair.com ) flight to Taipei came with some mild trepidation. Was the uncertainty coming from wondering about how to manage a 14 hour 36 minute flight (not that anyone was counting); the fact that Asian cuisines are not (well, at least until this trip, WERE not) top of our list of foods that please our palate and we knew we were in for nothing but Asian food breakfast, lunch, and dinner; was it sheer fear we’d have to go for more than a week without seeing a piece of cheese (thank you Chef Ashish Deva, at Taroko Silks resort in Hualien www.taroko.silksplace.com.tw/index_en.html for making that an unfounded fear); or was it that uncertainty of not knowing our traveling companions and wondering how we would all get along over eight days and knowing that if we didn’t it was going to be really painful finding ourselves stuck in a foreign country with people whose company we didn’t enjoy.

None of these fears were of concern from the moment we started eating in Taiwan, just about an hour after we arrived. Our first meal was in the hotel club lounge of The Regent Taipei www.grandformosa.com.tw/EN. In the Tai Pan lounge, where the concierges were as gracious and welcoming as any weary traveler would want to meet, a wide selection of appealingly tasty Asian and Western fare was beautifully presented.

And it just got better from there. Street food galore (intestines you didn’t want to put down, scallion pancakes that put others to shame), local dumpling houses, country restaurants, mountain resorts serving indigenous fare and others offering the finest cuisine in high Taiwanese style.

And there were great cocktails to be had too thanks to Angus at Marquee www.marquee-taipei.com and Aki at Indulge www.indulgetaipei.blogspot.com where we encountered the same kind of personalized attention we love here, partnered with warm Asian hospitality and knock-your-socks off terrific cocktails.

All these foods, and more, were worth traveling for to a country where it’s easy to communicate and get around even if you only read English and women can feel safe walking alone in towns, at most times of the day or night.

So, if you find yourself in Taiwan, check out some of our favorite spots (detailed list to follow), explore to find your own and, for a sure bet, try these five frequented by Florian Kuhn, Hotel Manager, for the new W Hotel, slated to open in February.

Ding Tai Fung
+886-2-2321-8928
No. 194 (corner of Yunkang Street), Xinyi Road Sec. 2, Taipei
(Best Dumplings)
Ding Tai Fun is a must visit place if you want to have good “xiao long bao”(pork dumplings).
The consistency of great quality food attracts not only the tourists, but locals, too.
Other recommended dishes: chicken soup, and beef soup noodles.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Din_Tai_Fung

2. L’ATELIER de Joel Robuchon – Taipei
+886-2-8729-2626
5F., No.28, Songlong Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei
(Business Lunch)
Worldwide famous 3-star-michelin Chef Joel Robuchon has his L’atelier in this luxury department store “Bellavita,” which is located next door W Taipei.
Robuchon’s French haute cuisine is served in a stylized environment. An open kitchen is set in the middle for gourmets to overlook while the chefs are preparing the food.
Signature dishes: Cauliflower Cream with Caviar and Potato Puree./ Free-range Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras

3. ABU
+886-2-2707-0699
No.28, Siwei Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei
(Romantic Date)
ABU is named after Chef Abu who is originally from Hong Kong.
Open just under a year now, Abu is clearly making his mark in the upscale dining scene of Taipei.
During dinner hours Abu features two prix fixe menus, approximately $80 US each.
The 8-course meals offer fine French inspired dishes, including two sinfully delicious dessert courses.
For the dessert connoisseurs, be sure to ask about Abu’s special soufflé that needs its own table for delivery

4. Yuan Guo Hot Pot
+886-2-2723-2111
No.6 Alley178, Zhuang-Jing Road, Taipei
(Gathering for friends)
Of all the restaurants, Yuan Guo is the most relaxing and fun place to be.
The restaurant is run by famous local movie star/artist Tony Young – close friends called him yoyo.
(http://yoyo520.tv.to/) Thus it’s a hangout place for models and artists after work as well.
( The restaurant is open until 3 in the morning during weekends!)
Hotpot and traditional Taiwanese stir-fried are served.

5. HANABI
+886-2-2511-9358
No.1-3, Ln. 20, Sec. 2, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei
(Gathering for friends)
HANABI is a Japanese tapas restaurants that starts serving alcohol at noon and the dishes on the menu are all appetizers that go well with booze, like tapas dishes.
They have great selections of sake, wines and cocktails. Recommended dishes: Fluffy Fish Egg Omelet./ Mushroom and Truffle Rice Bowl./ Grilled chicken wings./
One interesting item, not listed on the menu, is the Miso-flavored ice cream!!

EAT HERE NOW! – NEW ORLEANS

Sure, the name of this column sounds demanding; and as a creative spirit whose medium is food and beverage, the last thing you want is to be bossed around and told where and what to eat. But trust us. You don’t take your precious time reading www.insidefandb.com just because you’ve been everywhere and eaten everything. You’re on this page because you are as excited about discovering the best dining in cities around the globe as you are passionate about creating new items for your menus that keep your guests enticed and coming back.

So, we’re giving it to you, city by city, our take on where you’ll want to eat. Plus, the inside scoop from the locals (aka your industry colleagues in each city).

Read the full article here »