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Food

Holiday Dining with the World's Best Chefs

201311-dd-meadowood-12-days-of-christmas-sign.jpg.jpeg
Courtesy of Meadowood

The world’s best restaurants have spectacular holiday dining down pat, but the dinner event Twelve Days of Christmas at Meadowood Napa Valley (December 6–7, 10–14 and 17–21) steals the show. In its sixth year under Christopher Kostow, chef at the resort’s Michelin three-star restaurant, the series partners with 11 notable chefs to create 12 meals that span as many days and are matched with wines from (you guessed it) 12 vintners.

“Initially the chefs I invited would provide me with the dishes they wanted to serve and I would cook their menu with them,” explains Kostow. “Now they send me some of the dishes and I come up with other ones on my own to complement them.”

Participants this year include Rodolfo Guzmán from Boragó (Santiago, Chile); Ashley Christensen from Poole’s Downtown Diner (Raleigh, North Carolina); and David Chang of Momofuku (New York). Each meal features between seven and 12 courses, and this year’s festivities kick off at the Relais & Châteaux property with dishes prepared by Kostow and Andy Ricker, of the popular Thai eatery Pok Pok in New York and Portland, Oregon. (Exact menu details are being finalized, but we hear Kostow will prepare a Thai-inspired catfish dish.) The wines for the evening will come from the local Grgich Hills Estate; the winemakers themselves will attend.

While food is the undisputed star of the event, philanthropy also plays a role. Since beginning in 2008, the dinners have raised more than $230,000 for Share Our Strength to help fight childhood hunger in America. This year Meadowood is giving back locally by donating $2,000 in honor of each participating chef and 20 percent of every dinner ticket sold to the Holly Cranston Foundation (hollycranstonmemorialfund.org), which helps children with disabilities, and Napa Emergency Women’s Services (napanews.org), which gives shelter to women dealing with domestic violence. Dinner tickets start at $395; dinner and overnight packages are available from $1,315; 900 Meadowood Ln.; 855-953-2435; reservations@meadowood.com; meadowood.com.

A Hotel in Spain Celebrates Truffle Season

A Hotel in Spain Celebrates Truffle Season
Courtesy of Hotel Arts

Few ingredients garner the celebrity status that truffles enjoy. The homely fungi with the sky-high price tag is beloved year-round, but particularly in the fall. In a nod to the season, Michelin two-star restaurant Enoteca at Hotel Arts Barcelona will serve two exclusive white-truffle tasting menus—seven courses ($260) and six courses ($220)—beginning November 1.

Enoteca’s chef Paco Pérez has big plans for the truffles, which are dug up in the Piemonte region of northern Italy and revered for their particularly earthy flavor. (The chosen few cost roughly $5,000 a pound.)

“White truffle is a unique product highly respected and appreciated by all chefs,” says executive chef Roberto Holz. “The secret lies in its unforgettable fragrance and flavor, combined with the fact that it can be introduced in the menu from appetizer to dessert.”

Pérez’s signature risotto pairs the white truffle with the ou de reig (or Caesar’s mushroom), which hails from Catalonia. Other dishes include sweet-potato gnocchi with shrimp; a low-cooked egg with Iberian ham parmentier and sea urchin; forest consummé; and Wagyu beef with sauce, mushrooms and potatoes—all incorporating truffles. Sommelier Albert Escofet and his team can match wines from the restaurant’s cellar with the menu.

How best to enjoy the bounty? Holz suggests taking it slow. Somehow we don’t think that will be a problem. Through November 28; Marina 19–21; 34-93/483-8108; hotelartsbarcelona.com.

Food Photography for the Ages

Food Photography for the Ages
Courtesy of Juergen Teller

“I think I may have overdosed on the hotel,” joked Juergen Teller at a recent banquet in New York announcing the release of the lavish new cookbook Eating at Hotel Il Pellicano (Violette Editions; $60). The photographer, best known for his portrait and fashion work, indeed spent a lot of time at the fabled Tuscan retreat (one of the world’s most glorious seaside resorts), turning his lens to a new subject: food.

Over the course of three years, Teller returned repeatedly to the property to shoot and reshoot dish after dish, transforming chef Antonio Guida’s modern, seasonal fare (which has earned him two Michelin stars) into stunning food porn. The chef’s work—with its bright primary colors, iridescent sauces and frequently scattered flowers—lends itself well to the photographer’s raw sensibility, translating seamlessly to the book’s oversized glossy pages.

More art book for ogling than practical volume for cooking, Eating at Hotel Il Pellicano also features wonderfully purple prose by British novelist Will Self. “At Il Pellicano,” he writes in his introduction, “the past and the present are adjacent plots in a garden of gentle topiary and sweet smelling lemon trees.”

The recipes are divided into thematic menus, each dedicated to a loyal and prominent guest. The Missoni menu, for fashion heiress Margherita, features saffron risotto topped with tuna tartare and suckling pig paired with Campari-soaked beets. Mike Mills of the band R.E.M., who vacations at Il Pellicano with his friend Mario Batali, has his own entry, too, featuring squab breast with foie gras and polenta and a Strawberry Fields Forever dessert of berries, tomatoes and yogurt ice cream. Available for pre-order at amazon.com; violetteeditions.com.

Hotel Restaurants Get to Gardening

Hotel Restaurants Get to Gardening
Courtesy of Tower Gardens at El Encanto

Over the last few years, “fresh,” “seasonal” and “local” became the undisputed culinary buzzwords at top temples of haute cuisine. Hotels around the world followed suit, reinventing their restaurants to remain on trend. Some planted on-site kitchen gardens, growing herbs and maybe the occasional tomato. But these early efforts often felt like window dressing—initiatives that didn’t affect the food all that much. You might find some homegrown basil on a caprese salad or a few microgreens atop a sous-vide heritage-breed pork loin, but it seemed like hotels continued to procure most major produce by more conventional (read: corporate) means.

Not anymore. A handful of hotels, both new and old, have begun building more serious chef’s gardens—quasi-farms that are leading to big-picture reevaluations of restaurant concepts and top-to-bottom menu overhauls.

One of the most recent arrivals is at iconic El Encanto in Santa Barbara, California (800 Alvarado Pl.; 805-845-5800; elencanto.com), which reopened this spring after a seven-year, $134 million renovation by Orient-Express. Here, chef Patrice Martineau (pictured above) planted not one but two gardens: A traditional plot for the likes of eggplant and peppers, and a vertical tower started in partnership with Montecito Urban Farms. The tower—a so-called aeroponic garden used for a variety of lettuces, kale, arugula, herbs and edible flowers—suspends roots in midair, letting them soak in an organic, nutrient-rich solution that allows them to mature faster than normal. The results have turned up in a dish of Provençal-style vegetables, chilled tomato soup and lemon-basil risotto, with more planned for autumn.

Spring also saw the addition of a large garden on the park-like acreage of Il Salviatino (21 Via del Salviatino; 39-055/904-1111; salviatino.com), a three-year-old hotel (its villa is more than 500 years old) just outside of Florence. Chef Carmine Calò—who has worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants—designed a growing space for the necessities of Italian cooking. Already the 300 plants (eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers) are producing a quarter of the vegetables used in the restaurant, whose concept Calò will adapt as the vegetation develops and expands. Fall menus will feature dishes using yellow pumpkin, black and savoy cabbages and chard. By spring 2014, Calò says he expects nearly two thirds of the restaurant’s produce to come from the garden, with new plantings of celery, carrots, spring onions, garlic and zucchini.

In the English countryside, on the pastoral border between Dorset and Northampton, the country house hotel Chewton Glen (New Forest District, New Milton; 44-14/2527-5342; chewtonglen.com) debuted an expansive chef’s kitchen garden last year, plus a newly planted orchard of some 200 trees. Overseen by an in-house, full-time gardener, the plots provide the hotel with thousands of pieces of fruits and veggies every week, including radishes, beans, ruby chard, black kale, fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, herbs and edible flowers. Chef Andrew Du Bourg’s stuffed zucchini flowers were one of the most popular items on the menu this summer; this fall he’ll pair homegrown borlotti beans with a dish of braised lamb brisket and crispy sweetbreads

Grand-Slam Snacking

Grand-Slam Snacking
Courtesy of United States Tennis Association

Forget Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams. A new set of stars is taking over at the US Open: celebrity chefs. The 700,000 fans attending the Grand Slam tennis tournament, which started this week at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens and runs through September 9, are in for a real gourmet treat.

David Burke, Tony Mantuano and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto are all setting up shop, as well as New York barbecue eatery Hill Country and its pit-smoked turkey or chopped-brisket sandwiches (pictured here). In all, a culinary team of 250 mans five restaurants, 100 suites and 60 concessions stands throughout the complex.

“No sporting event in the entire world matches the US Open," says Mantuano. "It's the best of the best and the food matches the tennis.”

Along with dishes like sushi (Morimoto), dry-aged, bone-in rib-eye steaks (Burke) and marinated artichokes and tomatoes with rosemary breadsticks (Mantuano), a new oyster bar is offering caviar, lobster rolls and shrimp cocktails, while a Pat LaFrieda filet mignon steak sandwich joins the menu at the popular East Gate Grill. The Honey Deuce (Grey Goose vodka, lemonade, raspberry liqueur, honeydew-melon-ball garnish) remains the Open's signature cocktail.

Players are, of course, also getting the royal treatment. Balance Kitchen, featuring items developed by chefs, trainers and nutritionists to maximize wellness, serves juices, nutrient-dense dishes, gluten-free options and varieties of chocolate milk for recovery. Who knows? This year’s winning moment could come down to whoever has the healthiest appetite. Flushing Meadows Corona Park Rd.; usopen.org.

The Capella Pedregal Food & Wine Festival

The Capella Pedregal Food & Wine Festival
Capella Pedregal

With its sumptuous beachfront suites, palatial spa and 24-acre property accessible only by a private tunnel from Cabo San Lucas, the Capella Pedregal resort hardly needs a special event to lure in visitors. But its second annual Food & Wine Festival (July 10–14), a decadent culinary occasion limited to just 120 guests, is sure to impress.

The celebration of Baja cuisine features cooking demonstrations by some of the most notable chefs in the west, including Tim Hollingsworth, current chef de cuisine at the French Laundry in Napa; Kent Rathbun of Abacus in Dallas; and Yvan Mucharraz, Capella Pedregal’s new executive chef, who hails from Mexico City’s Tezka. Local vintner and master sommelier Humberto Falcon of Mariatinto winery will orchestrate daily tastings of wines from Baja’s Guadalupe Valley, which has a growing climate similar to that found in Napa and Sonoma.

According to Marco Bustamante, food and beverage director at the resort, the festival’s small size gives guests unparalleled access to the culinary stars. Each cooking demonstration—highlighting locally sourced produce like Baja-farmed organic pork, mangoes and line-caught fish—will have just 60 to 70 attendees. The opening-night wine reception, tequila seminar and after-party make for easy mingling.

The main draws, however, are likely the two evening meals: One is a barbecue beach party at the resort’s Beach Club, with chefs cooking on open grills and a team of mixologists serving Baja-themed cocktails, and the other is a grand five-course dinner prepared by the chefs and complete with dancing.

Given all the planned indulgences, Bustamante has only vague advice for guests worried about their waistlines. “There’s an excellent fitness center here,” he says. “So if you really want to be virtuous and head there between seminars, you can.” Good luck with that. Festival rates start at $3,820 (including accommodations, airport transfers and meals); Camino Del Mar 1; 52-624/163-4300; capellahotels.com.

GrillHampton Fires Up

GrillHampton Fires Up
Courtesy of Estia's Little Kitchen

If fans of grilling thought outdoor cooking couldn’t get much better, GrillHampton is about to elevate it. The inaugural event, held July 12 (8 P.M.) at Sayre Park in Bridgehampton, puts a competitive spin on cooking with fire. Hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian, chef and partner of The Lambs Club and The National, the celebration involves two teams—one from New York, one from the East End—of accomplished local chefs. Vying for two awards, from the official judges and from the (lucky) crowd, the likes of Elizabeth Karmel (Hill Country in New York), Chris Santos (Stanton Social in New York) and Colin Ambrose (Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor) will square off.

“I can say that these chefs will be creative while still sticking to the classics,” says Zakarian. “There will be great steaks, burgers and ribs, but think deconstructed steaks from Delmonico’s of Southampton and dressed-up burgers like the French-onion-soup burger from chef Paul Denamiel.”

GrillHampton takes place the night before Dan’s Taste of Two Forks, a popular event featuring more than 40 restaurants from the Hamptons showing off their culinary prowess. But for that one Friday night, it will be all about the undeniable allure of the grill.

“It’s man versus nature,” says Zakarian. “It’s just in us, and it allows you to feel formidable!” Tickets, $115; Sayre Park, 156 Snake Hollow Rd., Bridgehampton; danstasteoftwoforks.com/grillhampton.

What to Taste at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
Photo by Galdones Photography

The white tents that take over Aspen this time of year mean summer has officially arrived and the Aspen Food & Wine Classic—the country’s premier culinary event—is underway. The 31st annual festival (June 14–16) features more than 80 cooking demonstrations, wine seminars and panel discussions led by chefs, vintners and up-and-coming talent. Tickets this year were the toughest yet; the classic sold out in March, the earliest in five years. Even so, here are some highlights, a few with tickets still available.

Food & Wine Best New Chefs

A pass is required for entry, but the Grand Tasting Pavilion in Wagner Park is the heart of the festival. Don’t miss the Best New Chefs station, where the class of 2013 will present signature dishes. We have the exclusive on the menu—here is a sampling:

  • Danny Bowien, Mission Chinese Food (New York)
    Hokkaido scallop, Genovese pesto, country ham, rye
  • Justin Cogley, Aubergine (Carmel, California)
    Poulard, liver, seaweed vinegar, coastal herbs
  • Matthew Gaudet, West Bridge (Boston)
    Warm baby carrot salad with picked, raw and braised carrots, savory granola, fresh cheese
  • Michael Voltaggio, Ink (Los Angeles)
    Egg-yolk gnocchi, golden trout roe, smoked crème fraîche
  • Jamie Malone, Sea Change (Minneapolis)
    Abalone, asparagus, bone marrow, yuzu, chili

Last Bite Dessert Party

Tickets ($125) to this salute to the sweet tooth (June 14, 10 p.m.) are still available. Held at the historic Hotel Jerome and hosted by culinary personality Gail Simmons, the Art Deco–themed evening features desserts by pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini and local notables. “Last year, this party was my favorite moment,” says Simmons, “but there’s just something about the mountains, the chefs—the whole spirit of the weekend that is undeniably magical.”

Tac au Vin: Best Wines for Tacos

Twenty-five wine seminars (limited to pass holders) will cover regions from around the world. Our pick is this program (June 15, 3:45 p.m.), where Union Square Hospitality Group’s Danny Meyer and John Ragan will pair wines with tacos by chef Floyd Cardoz of New York’s North End Grill.

Reserve Tastings

Tickets (from $175) are still available for one of these tastings, featuring rare varietals and hosted by winemakers and sommeliers. Try “A Piedmont Superstar: The Wines of Angelo Gaja” or “Two Legendary Rioja Vintages: 1994 & 1995.”

June 14–16; for official festival coverage, follow @fwmag #fwclassic; foodandwine.com/classic.

Chocolate à la Alain Ducasse

Chocolate à la Alain Ducasse
Pierre Monetta

Whenever Alain Ducasse opens a new restaurant or a charming countryside inn, the cognoscenti immediately take notice. So it is no surprise that his recent venture into chocolate making—Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse (40 Rue de la Roquette; 33-1/48-05-82-86; lechocolat-alainducasse.com), which opened in February in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris—has heads turning. Instead of relying on premade couverture (bulk chocolate), as many high-end brands do, the Frenchman enlisted his former pastry chef, Nicolas Berger, to source and roast beans for the ultimate pod-to-bar creations.

From a workshop attached to the store, 42-year-old Berger does everything from cracking the cocoa pods to tempering. Treats include milk- and dark-chocolate bars in different percentages, nine praline varieties and a dozen ganaches (dark vanilla, lime, coffee). The head chocolatier spoke with us recently about the hard work involved and why eating the sweet treat shouldn’t be so serious.

Q: There are some high-quality brands out there that you could use for your chocolate. Why make your own?
A:
Mr. Ducasse and I have had a dream to open a chocolate workshop since 2005, but we always knew that we wanted to put our hands on it from the very beginning, where we actually source the beans. It’s in line with his philosophy of always using the best of the best, and we felt we could only get that by doing it ourselves.

Q: How did you choose the plantations?
A:
I visited a few dozen of them in the Dominican Republic and Peru and from other places we source from, including São Tomé, Madagascar, Trinidad and Ecuador. Plantations actually sent me bean samples here in Paris. I looked at the quality of the pods and the beans to make sure they were clean and without stones. If I was satisfied, I would roast the beans and make small batches of chocolate to see how they turned out. Then, based on the taste, I made the final decisions.

Q: What is involved in making the chocolate?
A:
It’s an elaborate process with several steps and machines. We usually get about a half ton of beans a month. First we sort through them and throw away the ones with the broken pods. We roast them for 25 to 30 minutes and crack the shells to get the nibs, which we mill into a cocoa paste and mix with sugar and milk if we are making milk chocolate. Then we refine this mixture through big cylinders, conche it and temper it before it’s ready to be used in bars and pieces.

Q: How often do you produce?
A:
We do it once a week—200 kilos of pieces and 500 kilos of bars. Since the chocolate is available only in Paris, that amount is just for our store.

Q: Do you eat it every day?
A:
Yes, at least a pound. My favorites are the bars from Ecuador and Peru and also the pralines.

Q: And how is it best enjoyed?
A:
Anytime and by itself. Some people try to make chocolate intellectual by pairing it with wine or doing formal tastings. Eating chocolate should be fun, not serious.

Uptown Flavor

Uptown Flavor
New Taste of the Upper West Side

In a city like New York, the multitude of food options is as varied as the numerous neighborhoods that populate it. The sixth-annual New Taste of the Upper West Side (May 29–June 1), which celebrates the robust restaurant and culinary scene of the uptown enclave, gives a nod to the chefs, restaurateurs and food that bring it all together there.

Two main events anchor the festivities. On Friday night, Comfort Classics will feature neighborhood chefs and eateries showing off their versions of comfort fare. Food Network’s Adam Richman will host and a People’s Choice Award will allow visitors to vote on what moves them the most. Saturday brings Best of the West, facilitated by Gail Simmons and this year honoring Danny Meyer and Randy Garutti of Shake Shack.

“Danny and Randy can take credit for contributing in a big way to several New York neighborhoods, from Madison Park to Downtown Brooklyn, but their impact on the Upper West Side is undeniable,” says Simmons, a Top Chef judge and special projects director at Food & Wine magazine. “By opening Shake Shack, they have created a vibrant hub for all ages and walks of life to gather and nourish themselves.”

Well-known chefs and restaurants will appear, including Marc Murphy from Landmarc (a six-foot porchetta hero sandwich with pickled vegetables and parsley pistou), Alex Asteinza from Cafe Luxembourg (lobster roll), Shake Shack (buttery caramel-cocoa-nib frozen custard), Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud (of Boulud Sud and Bar Boulud).

Proceeds will benefit the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District’s Streetscape Project, the Wellness in the Schools program at the O’Shea School (where the New Taste tent is based) and Roosevelt Park at the American Museum of Natural History. Ultimately organizers hope that attendees walk away with a better sense of the neighborhood’s culinary charisma, from the farm-to-table fare at Telepan to the upstairs café at the Fairway grocery store. “I think the Upper West Side is characterized by a great mix of approachability and elegance in its dining scene,” says Simmons. “There’s lots to choose from for any taste.” Columbus Ave. btw. 76th and 77th sts.; 212-721-5048; newtasteuws.com.

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