March 09, 2011
After a buzzy, successful start in late January, "temporary restaurant installment" What Happens When
has launched its second movement. The concept eatery from Dovetail chef John Fraser—in New York's NoLIta through October—is completely reimagined each month, with a fresh menu, soundtrack and design scheme. For round two, Fraser has whipped up inventive selections like venison tartar, short ribs with cheddar cheese polenta and, for dessert, a gingerbread house with spiced panna cotta. Insider's tip: Though not listed, a special eight-course tasting menu with wine pairings is available for those who ask, and before being seated, diners should sneak a peek at the blueprint from the restaurant's first iteration, outlined in white on the floor. Act quickly—the third movement begins the first week of April. Three-course prix-fixe menu, $58, with wine pairings, $96; eight-course tasting menu, $110, with wine pairings, $175. At 25 Cleveland Place; 212-925-8310; whathappenswhennyc.com.
Photo Felix de Voss
March 16, 2011
A little bit of Texas arrived in Washington, D.C. when Hill Country Barbecue Market opened in the city's Penn Quarter neighborhood over the weekend. The two-level, 300-seat spot, like its sister restaurant in New York, doles out pound after pound of dry-rubbed meats slowly smoked over Texas post oak, a hard wood brought in from its native state. Upon entering, guests receive a "meal ticket" which doubles as the menu and—after the server behind the counter weighs, tallies up and hands you your order on butcher paper—the check. Trimmings include traditional Texas Toast white bread, collard greens and pickles; executive chef (and BBQ expert) Elizabeth Karmel has also updated a few Southern classics like campfire black beans with burnt ends, confetti coleslaw and Longhorn cheddar mac and cheese. At the downstairs Boot Bar, expect to hear live roots rock by bands slipping through town, five nights a week. At 410 7th St. NW; 202-556-2050; hillcountrywdc.com.
Photo Courtesy Hill Country Hospitality
March 24, 2011
Chef Homaro Cantu has opened the doors of his second Chicago restaurant, iNG, whose menu bears his signature flair for inventiveness and respect for ancient Asian cooking techniques. The name iNG refers to the suffix "-ing" and expresses Cantu's passion for action in the kitchen. The menu is divided according to the verb used to create the food: The "Heating" section, for example, has Baozi buns with pork, enoki mushrooms and melted scallions; noodle soups are listed under the "Boiling" heading; and a waffle (frozen in liquid nitrogen) with coconut and mango sorbet is among the "Sweetening" offerings. But the truly experimental dining happens at the chef's table in the sublevel kitchen, where Cantu offers a 15-course tasting menu to four visitors per evening. The experience is centered around the miracle berry, a cranberry-sized fruit that acts as a natural sweetener, temporarily altering one's taste buds, and on which diners "flavor trip" before sampling certain courses. (Cantu calls it "food science with a purpose.") The details are a secret, but we do know the menu involves a beer and oyster pairing, Poke tuna, salt-and-vinegar kettle corn and sour cherry cheesecake. Miracle berry tasting menu starts at $250; 951 W. Fulton Market; 855-834-6464; ingrestaurant.com.
Photo Mike Ruggirello
March 30, 2011
To aid those affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami, Peninsula Hotels has launched Hope for Japan, a three-pronged initiative taking place in all its U.S. and Asia locations. The first element: Ten dollars of each guest's stay will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross. For the second part of the campaign, hotel lobbies will feature trees adorned with origami cranes (in Japanese tradition, the folding and construction of them is a form of healing). For a $5 donation, guests can purchase a paper ornament or make one on their own with the help of hotel staff. A more indulgent option is Japanese Afternoon Tea, a riff on the Peninsula's signature midday rite that involves sushi-inspired treats and a selection of Japanese teas. One hundred percent of the $50 cost will be donated to relief efforts. peninsula.com.
Photo Courtesy The Peninsula Hotels
April 04, 2011
While Southern California's year-round beach weather has always made us jealous, it didn't have much of to speak of when it came to fine dining. That's now changed with Addison—the only five-star and five-diamond restaurant in the region—led by Relais & Châteaux grand chef William Bradley. From the grounds of the luxury resort The Grand Del Mar, in San Diego, Bradley meticulously prepares local, seasonal ingredients in a contemporary French style. The four-course tasting menu ($98 per person, offerings change with the season; 5300 Grand Del Mar Court, San Diego; 858-314-1900; addisondelmar.com) offers selections like licorice-glazed squab with candied red cabbage and plums, fois gras pot de crème and delicious handmade sweet pea agnolotti with ham hock. For dessert, the coconut custard with pistachio brittle is a must. The wine list, created by Jesse Rodriguez (formerly the head sommelier of Napa's French Laundry), is an oenophile's dream, with an innovative mix of high-end vintages from Europe, new wines from South America and New Zealand as well as California cult favorites. You can also make it a full day by starting at The Grand Del Mar's spa: Begin with the Spring Refresher facial ($180, lunch and day access to all spa amenities included; 858-314-2020; thegranddelmar.com), continue with a yoga or Pilates class and a plunge in the pool, then take a sunset walk through the property until you arrive, finally, at Addison, refreshed and ready for a dinner to remember.
April 21, 2011
The fourth-annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine event will tee off April 28, starting four days of foodie heaven and bringing more than 70 renowned chefs and 250 wineries together on the coast of California. In attendance will be, among others, Daniel Boulud, Michel Richard, Masaharu Morimoto, Jacques Pépin and Tom Colicchio, who will celebrate the tenth anniversary of his restaurant Craft. On every epicure's can't-miss list are the two Grand Tasting events, held on April 30 and May 1: In a 60,000-square-foot tent, 25 celebrated chefs will serve samples of their signature dishes and sign books, while oenophiles will have the chance to try 500-plus vintages. Other highlights of this year's festival are Food & Wine Best New Chefs Alumni dinner; cooking demos with Colicchio and Pépin; the Robert Mondavi dinner with Napa Valley's most notable chefs; and, of course, the grand finale dinner, prepared by Charlie Trotter, Michel Richard and Gary Danko. VIP-ticket holders will also have access to after-hours parties with the chefs and vintners. Tickets range from $100 for a single event to $4,750 for a VIP four-day pass; 1700 17-Mile Dr.; 866-907-3663; pebblebeachfoodandwine.com.
Photo Courtesy Pebble Beach Food & Wine
May 12, 2011
Smitten Ice Cream, now open in the artsy Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, is a far cry from the ice cream parlors of yore. Housed in a modern, minimalist structure made from two recycled shipping containers, the operation is helmed by Robyn Sue Goldman, who spent two years developing an ice cream machine that runs on liquid nitrogen (its negative-322-degree temperature allows for the formation of exceptionally small ice crystals, giving the dessert a smoother texture). She named it Kelvin, and for two years the business lived in a souped-up Radio Flyer wagon that traveled the city, turning out artisanal ice cream—with absolutely no additives—made to order in 60 seconds. Now in a fixed location, Smitten has a rotating menu with traditional flavors like vanilla and strawberry alongside innovative combinations like poached pear crème fraîche, brown sugar butternut squash and dark chocolate with hot peppers. True to California's locavore ethos, the dairy is sourced from nearly Beretta Organic Farm, while the chocolate comes from TCHO on San Francisco's Pier 17. At 432 Octavia St.; 415-863-1518; smittenicecream.com.
Photo Courtesy of Joseph Perez-Green
May 19, 2011
Two major culinary events are on our can't-miss list this week. First, the inaugural Atlanta Food & Wine Festival takes place May 19-22, celebrating a wide range of Southern fare. There will be demonstrations by New Orleans-born chef John Besh, interactive seminars on dry-rub and chicken-frying techniques, and tasting experiences showcasing bluegrass, bourbon, gumbo and barbecue. Don't miss the street-cart pavilion or the Sunday brunch at the Ritz-Carlton, at which one of the city's best gospel choirs will perform. Further north, in Manhattan, more than 40 of New York's top restaurants, including ABC Kitchen, Eleven Madison Park, A Voce and Market Table, will prepare dishes for Taste of the Nation on May 23. Cocktails by renowned local mixologists—from behind the bars of Employees Only, Little Branch and Macao Trading Company—will also be served. One hundred percent of ticket sales will benefit Share Our Strength, an initiative to end childhood hunger in New York. Atlanta Food & Wine Festival tickets, from $50; 404-474-7330; atlfoodandwinefestival.com. Taste of the Nation tickets are $225 for general admission, $425 for VIP experience; Center 548 at 548 W. 22nd St.; newyorktaste.org.
Photo by Karen Wise
June 09, 2011
A stone's throw from the Hamptons' glamorous party spots, La Maison Blanche, an eight-room, pet-friendly boutique hotel, has opened on quieter Shelter Island, between the north and south forks of Long Island. With its muted beach-chic interior, library lounge, complimentary bicycle use, pétanque court and tranquil garden, the spot is already proving to be a welcome respite for the city-weary. Foodies are talking about La Maison Blanche's in-house bakery, where fresh bread, muffins and croissants are made daily, and its new bistro, helmed by executive chef Charles Le Tous. A veteran of Bistro Vendôme and L'Absinthe in Manhattan as well as Michelin star-rated brasseries in the Alps, Corsica and Paris, the French chef is creating European-inspired dishes; on the brunch menu are a croque madame and eggs ecossaise, while a seared branzino and steak frites—with a choice of bleu, béarnaise, shallot and au poivre sauces—are served at dinner. (One diner said the moules marinières were better than the mussels she'd had in Paris the day before.) Bon appétit! Rooms start at $225; 11 Stearns Point Rd.; 631-749-1633; maisonblanchehotel.com.
Photo Rick Lew
June 16, 2011
Summer grilling season is upon us, and this year foodies nationwide can have meats previously reserved for steak havens like Cut, Spago and Ruth's Chris delivered to their door, thanks to California-based purveyors 35° Premium Aged Steaks (the name refers to the optimum temperature for aging beef). The idea started when two friends, both working in the meat industry, realized that the top-tier steaks they served to their friends—courtesy of their businesses—at barbecues were not available at retail level or by Internet order. Now they send out custom cuts of New York strip, filet mignon, porterhouse, and rib eye in addition to pork rib chops, Colorado lamb racks and T-bones in vacuum-packaged containers that allow the meat to ship unfrozen, thereby preserving flavor and tenderness. When refrigerated, the boneless cuts have a shelf life of 14 days, while bone-in varieties keep for ten. The goods come in assortments ranging from a one-week sampler pack for couples to the "Game Day," which consists of ten 16-ounce rib eyes and sirloins. Be sure to check the 35° website for cooking tips, "Meat 101" and the Adam's Rib grilling blog. For more information, call 800-355-3535 or visit 35degreessteaks.com.
Photo Jon Edwards