Browsing Tag




August 14, 2018

By Francine Cohen
All photos courtesy of Unico 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya

When Unico 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya opened in 2017 everything they did, from sense of arrival to decor to room
rates to retail, restaurants, and included activities were truly unique at this adults-only all-inclusive boutique property that envelopes guests in local culture, luxuriously.
That fresh take on operations, driven by maintaining an enhanced guest experience, also touched the bars.
In the past when you found yourself at the bar at an all-inclusive property, no matter if it was a swim up bar or one where the drinks were wetter than the guests, the back bar was pretty uniform; filled with the same bottles you’d find anywhere. That’s not the case at Unico 20˚87˚. Land at this property and you’ll find that each cocktail is prepared with the same care, attention and creativity as you’d find at the world’s finest cocktail bars.
Bar Balam_2
This is all thanks to ownership’s creative vision and the personal passions of Beverage Manager, Luis Felipe Vallejo, who has more than 20 years behind the bar and a lot of perspective on what guests want and need. So, when the time came to fashion his own program the vision he had was expansive, and innovative in the region. He shares his vision for the program that integrates both property wide outlets as well as in-room cocktailing. He explains,” To take the program to another level, by using all natural ingredients we mark the difference among other resorts, and by implementing the mixology throughout the hotel at every single bar, even in the guest room, is something that no other all-inclusive is doing. “
Being unique in the all-inclusive space didn’t just stop with the liquor. As any self-respecting bar professional would, be focused on every component of his drinks. Vallejo notes, “By using all natural ingredients we mark the difference among other resorts, and implementing the mixology throughout the hotel at every single bar, even in the guest room, is something that no other all-inclusive is doing.”
Vallejo’s passion for the craft, and great guest service shines through; in interactions with him and his staff and in the cocktail menu itself. When evaluating new hires Vallejo says the most important things he looks for are “people who are committed and passionate in this profession.” He takes that passion, pairs it with the carefully chosen spirits he’s selected for their high quality, texture and flavor, and then takes a hands-off approach with his staff since he knows the best way to make a great barman is to, “Let them be themselves, showing pride in local culture and surprising our guests.”
Guests are also always pleasantly surprised by the property’s wine list which he oversees. It’s a mix of Mexican wines and those from other regions around the globe, all chosen to specifically pair well with each of the property’s unique restaurant menus.
They’re also pleased by how much cocktail & spirit knowledge they can glean at one of Vallejo’s afternoon cocktail classes. Taught four times a week with different subjects in each one, starting with the origin of the distillate, history and origin of the cocktail, preparation of the cocktail and then the guest recreates each cocktail this is more than just a refreshing respite from the afternoon Mexican sun; they’re a serious, and seriously fun, hands-on education designed to guarantee that home bars are getting better after vacations at Unico 20˚87˚.
For guests not consuming alcohol while on vacation, or after they return home, there’s no shortage of excitement in the glasses they’re handed upon arrival or across the bar during the stay. Local, authentic experiences are the focus on property from decor to activities to drinks, and it is delivered at every turn. Vallejo concludes, “I created these drinks to boost the local flavors and culture and have our guests try something new and exquisite.”
Xke Ban
Xkeban (Sinner)
2 oz. Vodka Infused with Chile de Arbol (sun-dried pepper)
1 oz. Lemon Juice
1 oz. Agave Honey
1.5 grams Strawberries
3 Basil leaves
3 Mint Leaves
Chile de Arbol for garnish
Lemon twist for garnish
Add vodka, lemon juice, strawberries, mint, basil, agave to a shaker and muddle
Add ice and shake
Strain into a chilled martini glass
Garnish with lemon twist and Chile de Arbol



October 29, 2014


By Francine Cohen

FoodFilmFest Logo

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 ( 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 (and winner of the seventh season of Chopped) serving up Peruvian specialties like ceviche alongside some Pisco cocktails and the Peruvian lager, Cusquena (

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

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


On Thursday, October 30th, Michelin-starred Chef Phillip Foss of Chicago’s EL Ideas ( 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 ( 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.



December 20, 2013

Judging Panel Announced For James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Restaurant Design Awards

JamesBeard Award Medallion

New York, NY (December 19, 2013) – The James Beard Foundation is proud to announce a distinguished panel of jurors that will serve as the judging authority for the 2014 Restaurant Design Awards. This panel invites restaurants, architects, interior designers, and graphic designers to submit their projects for consideration for the 2014 Restaurant Design Awards. The distinguished 2014 jury includes Kristina O’Neal, partner of the James Beard Design Award-winning firm AvroKO in New York City; Clive Piercy, the founder and Creative Director of the Santa Monica, California-based air conditioned design, and a James Beard Design Award nominee in 2012; Los Angeles restaurateur Caroline Styne, a 2012 James Beard nominee for Restaurateur of the Year; Adam D. Tihany, widely regarded as one of the world’s preeminent hospitality designers and an early pioneer of the restaurant design profession; and Marion Weiss, cofounder of WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism in New York City, and the Graham Chair Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Restaurant Design Awards were established by the James Beard Foundation in 1994 and have become highly coveted by visionary designers nationwide. “The design of a restaurant is absolutely essential to the overall experience,” said juror Adam D. Tihany. “It is the first impression, a direct extension of the chef, his food and personality. Together, the partnership between design and cuisine create what we understand as dining today.”

Any restaurant or design project that was completed or redone in North America since January 2011 is eligible, and the deadline for entry is Monday, January 20, 2014. The Restaurant Design Awards are comprised of two categories, Restaurants of 76 seats and over; and Restaurants of 75 seats and under. Architecture, Interior Design, Graphic Design, and all other design aspects of a restaurant will now be considered comprehensively in each submission for restaurant design. “The JBF Design Awards signify our commitment to honor all aspects of the culinary industry,” said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. “The judges will be looking for candidates where excellent design is an integral part of the restaurant’s overall concept.” All those interested in submitting projects for consideration should visit for the complete guidelines. The nominees will be announced at a Nominees Breakfast in Chicago in March, with the winners named at the Awards Ceremony on May 5, 2014.

The committee overseeing the awards process is made up of architects, curators, interior designers, and graphic designers who are experts in the field; it’s this committee that has chosen the jurors who will judge this year’s entries. This year’s committee includes James Biber, principal of Biber Architects in Continue Reading…