January 07, 2014
By Shivani Vora | Dining

Private Dining on the Ponte Vecchio
Four Seasons Ponte Vecchio

Strolling over the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and perusing one of its many jewelry stores is a pleasure. But the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze has created an unparalleled new way to experience the landmark by giving guests the chance to actually dine on it for the first time.

The hotel has secured a completely private location on a fourth-floor private terrace above the Cardini jewelry store, which has impressive views of the city and the river. According to hotel general manager Patrizio Cipollini, the idea grew out of the personal relationship that the Four Seasons has with the Cardini family, which owns the building. “We wanted to offer a unique way to see Florence,” he says, “and having a dinner at a place that’s such a symbol of the city was what we came up with.”

The menu is entirely customizable, but the property’s Michelin-starred chef Vito Mollica (who helms the restaurant Il Palagio) has conceptualized a dinner focused on gold, which speaks to the Ponte Vecchio’s history in the jewelry trade. Guests will enjoy a four-course meal that begins with prosecco at sunset. Dishes (made on-site) include a scallop carpaccio with golden citrus dressing; a saffron risotto with sevruga caviar and golden leaves; and a golden chocolate sphere with Vin Santo zabaione.

The extravaganza concludes with fireworks and lanterns. And if it leaves you wanting more, the Cardinis have created a complementary Four Seasons ring (price on request) made of white gold and diamonds and topped with a rose sapphire. Dinner requires two to three weeks’ notice, from $6,800; rooms, from $400; Borgo Pinti, 99; 39-055/;

July 20, 2011
By Departures Dispatch | Dining


Like everything else in the Hamptons, the roadside burger and lobster shack is getting an upgrade. Just down the road from the venerable Montauk Highway après-beach dives Clam Bar and Cyril's comes power hospitality publicist Steve Kasuba and restaurateur Alex Duff's new joint, Banzai Burger. The Hamptons regulars have hired James Beard Award nominee Alan Hughes and sushi chef Isao Yoshimura to create an eclectic fusion menu that includes Mako shark burgers, sushi, and corn crab cakes. The whitewashed indoor-outdoor spot has banquettes in the back for after-hours revelry (it is the Hamptons, after all), but how will the well-heeled fashionistas interpret the shoes-optional dress code? 2095 Montauk Hwy., Amagansett; 631-267-3175;

Photo Kathleen Doran

July 13, 2011
By Departures Dispatch | Dining


French chef Pierre Koffmann occasionally likes to make grandiose dishes like suckling pig and pot-au-feu, but he found the meals too large for an at-home dinner party. So Koffmann and his partner, Claire Harrison, started Koffmann's Dinner Club, a series of over-the-top suppers held in the private Camille room of Koffmann's restaurant at London's Berkeley Hotel. Fourteen gourmands can sign up for the evening's five-course tasting menu and wine pairings, the details of which remain a secret until guests arrive, but we do know it's a mix of Koffmann's signature dishes and food he's never served before. While the chef toils in the kitchen, Harrison sits at the head of the table, entertaining and getting to know her company. The next gatherings are on September 13 and October 25, but book early, as places at the table will go quickly. $175 per person at Wilton Place, Knightsbridge; email Claire Harrison at to reserve a space.

Photo Courtesy of The Berkeley

July 06, 2011
By Departures Dispatch | Dining


A meal made with summer's freshest ingredients and served outdoors is one of the season's more enjoyable luxuries, and this summer and fall, the West Village farm-to-table restaurant Bobo is serving just that with its Plate to Gate pop-up dinner series. Taking place at nearby farms, oyster beds, breweries and urban rooftops throughout New York, the gatherings are headed by James Beard Award-winning chef Patrick Connolly and restaurateur Carlos Suarez, who prepare themed menus based on location and date. The next event, on July 14 at Brooklyn Grange, will celebrate Bastille Day with French-style charcuterie, canapés and locally sourced meats and vegetables. On July 30 on Fire Island, they will host a buffet-style dinner of fresh lobster, clams, mussels, sausages, corn and potatoes, all cooked in a hot pit in the sand, followed by a post-meal bonfire. Visit Bobo's website or call the restaurant for a full schedule of upcoming soirees. 212-488-2626;

Photo Courtesy Bobo

June 29, 2011
By Departures Dispatch | Dining


Fresh off his win for Outstanding Chef at the James Beard Awards, D.C.-based chef José Andrés is temporarily transforming his Penn Quarter restaurant Café Atlántico into America Eats Tavern, an extension of the nearby National Archives' exhibit "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government's Effect on the American Diet." Opening July 4, the pop-up eatery will serve an extensively researched menu influenced by current and long forgotten American dishes like burgoo, oysters Rockefeller, Waldorf salad, bison steak and strawberry shortcake. The dishes are also part history lesson, accompanied by an explanation of the origin of New England clam chowder and the introduction of grapefruit to the U.S. A casual tavern menu will be featured on the ground floor, while Andrés will serve more fine dining options on the second and third levels. The menu will be available until the National Archives exhibit closes in January, at which point Café Atlántico will find a new home and Andrés will use the space for his next phase. At 405 8th St. NW; 202-393-0812;

Photo Courtesy Greg Powers

June 15, 2011
By Departures Dispatch | Dining


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

Photo Jon Edwards

June 08, 2011
By Departures Dispatch | Dining


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;

Photo Rick Lew

May 18, 2011
By Departures Dispatch | Dining


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; Taste of the Nation tickets are $225 for general admission, $425 for VIP experience; Center 548 at 548 W. 22nd St.;

Photo by Karen Wise

May 11, 2011
By Departures Dispatch | Dining


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;

Photo Courtesy of Joseph Perez-Green

April 20, 2011
By Departures Dispatch | Dining


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;

Photo Courtesy Pebble Beach Food & Wine