Not only is the French Laundry one of the most influential restaurants in America, it serves as a training ground for chefs who go on to open their own restaurants and raise the culinary bar across the nation. Plus they have brought international recognition to the U.S. at the Bocuse d'Or. Beverly Stephen interviewed a half dozen alums about the part they played and where they are now.
California's leading role in culinary innovation is recognized by the new Michelin statewide guide--the first of its kind. Read more about the history of California cuisine here in this report by Beverly Stephen.
Record Attendance at the 22nd Annual Championship BBQ & Cook-Off
Competing chefs squared off over hot coals at the 22nd Annual Championship BBQ & Cook-Off and fed over a thousand of the industry’s leading chefs and operators. The event, co-hosted by Flavor Forays and their new media partner Plate magazine, was held May 19 at Galleria Marchetti during the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago.
Aaron Bickham (Bartolotta Restaurants) came down from Milwaukee and walked away with the grand prize Jade Grill for his Charred Carrara 640 Waygu, Braised Baby Turnip Greens, Smoked Oxtail, Bone Marrow Honey Butter, Masa Bread. Paul Bartolotta and other members of the restaurant team were there to cheer him on.
“Great day for a great cause, the weather broke at the right time,” Bickham says referring to the torrential rains that miraculously stopped just as the BBQ was getting underway. “Cooking outside with the Bartolotta executive team is something we do not get a chance to do enough of. I was honored to take part.”
What about that amazing Waygu that had everybody raving? “The dish was an inspiration from something my older brother would throw together when I was younger. He's also a chef and six years older. When he didn't have time to smoke meat overnight, he would just char beef tri-tip and serve it over braised greens and sliced white bread. I took a simple dish I grew up with and amped it up.” Did he ever!
Tony Priolo (Piccolo Sogno), who has been participating in the BBQ for over 13 years, claimed the Vitamix Vita Prep runner up prize for his Grilled House-Made Barese Sausage with Grilled Rapini and White Beans. “The dish was inspired by the neighborhood Piccolo Sogno is in,” Priolo explains. “There’s a small deli that has been there forever, Bari Foods, and they have amazing subs and homemade Bari style sausage. So we decided to make the sausage and serve it with Purgatory beans and grilled rapini and the results paid off.”
“Being a part of the BBQ has always been a highlight for me during NRA,” Priolo says. “It’s a great way to stay in touch with the restaurant community and have a fun competitive barbecue for a great cause.”
An Edward Don basket of chefs’ toys went to Décor winner Greg Biggers (Margeaux Brasserie) for his eye-catching display of hanging ducks.
“We are so happy to be involved with the BBQ,” says Biggers. “We had a great time coming up with this dish. We really wanted to do something that was fun for us and representative of what we do at the restaurant.”
He explains: “We have recently made ourselves a small dry aging ‘cave’ with sea salt rocks that we hang our chicken and ducks in at the restaurant. We have had such good response with it at Margeaux we figured we would try it out over a grill. We had our friend Brandon weld us a rack to fit the grills and slow roasted them over the open fire. Super fun and it turned out visually spectacular!”
Sani, a company known for making germs disappear, highlighted the event with an illusionist performing his own disappearing acts.
Meanwhile magic of another kind was taking place in the Plate/Arc-Cardinal VIP Lounge. “Dragon’s Breath”, Chef Katsuji Tanabe’s signature smokin’ caviar was drawing crowds. There the Bravo Top Chef fed curious onlookers Tsar Nicoulai caviar pop rocks paired with J. Lohr wines.
Thanks to all the champion chefs who donated their time and talents: Ashlee Aubin (Fisk & Co.), Aaron Bickham (Bartolotta Restaurants), Greg Biggers (Margeaux Brasserie at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago), Amber Lancaster (Fifty/50 Restaurant Group), Ryan McCaskey (Acadia), Maureen Neer (La Sirena Clandestina), Martial Noguier (Bistronomic), Robert Palenski (Ernst & Young, Restaurant Associates), Tony Priolo and Mike Burke (Piccolo Sogno); Carlos Ramirez (County BBQ).
It was all for a good cause-- World Central Kitchen, an international organization led by chef/humanitarian José Andrés, which uses its network of world-renowned chefs to find sustainable solutions to end world hunger and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, which distributes the equivalent of 160,000 meals daily. The food bank also collected the leftover food at the BBQ and distributed it to those in need. Lamb Weston stepped up to make additional donations of $5,000.00 to each charity. A silent auction by Sportsnation Enterprise also benefitted CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees) an organization that supports families of food and beverage employees in times of crisis brought on by medical emergencies, a death in the family, loss of home and other extreme conditions. The auction featured celebrity-signed memorabilia.
Barbara Mathias, former Food Arts publisher, founded the event two decades ago and continues to produce it along with her colleague Beverly Stephen, former executive editor of Food Arts. Their company, Flavor Forays, joined with Plate Magazine as a media sponsor for the first time this year to organize this must-attend industry party.
The following sponsors make the BBQ possible: Anheuser- Busch, Arc-Cardinal, Beam Suntory, Bigelow Tea, ConAgra, Constellation Brands, Elohi, J. Lohr, Jealous Devil, Jade Range, JBF Blended Burger, Lamb Weston, Nestle Waters San Pellegrino and Aqua Panna, Impossible Foods, The Perfect Purée, Sani, Smithfield, Sugar Foods/Schreiber Foods, Schuman Cheese, Sweet Street, VerTerra.
Charleston is often voted the #1 city in America to visit but few tourists get to look behind the scenes the way Flavor Forays does. We recently enjoyed a delightful culinary immersion there and, believe it or not, there are even things to do between meals! Read more about one of our favorite cities by clicking below.
Chefs get showered with glory. But what about a shout out for the designers who set the stage for their work.
Read what some of the top kitchen designers in the field have to say about the kitchens, the chefs, what's hot and what's not.
Glamorous bars in New York City offer delicious craft cocktails and stylish decor for a special night out.
Here are some of the best.
Ti Martin and Dickie Brennan, of the legendary Brennan restaurant family are proposing a new way to think about culinary education. Their New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute, NOCHI, is up and running.
Read all about it here.
These past months have been a whirlwind of inspiration and education as Flavor Forays crisscrossed the country alighting in culinary meccas. We’ve taken remarkable groups of corporate chefs and f&b executives to Austin, Portland, Charleston, Louisiana—and even made a detour to Rome. We’ve met with the creative chefs, makers and bakers, millers and distillers, farmers and fisherman, wine makers and craft brewers who are propelling our country into the gastronomic stratosphere.
Who knew there was a tea plantation in Charleston or an olive oil mill in Oregon? If you haven’t heard of Sotol, you will soon as this spirit derived from Texas-grown cactus makes a play to become the next Mezcal. If you thought mesquite was just for grilling, you haven’t had bread made with flour milled from the beans. These were just a few of our discoveries as we sought out the characters and cooks on each of our delicious journeys.
Here’s a big thank you to all those who joined our tours and all the locals in each destination who gave so unsparingly of their time and knowledge. And a shout out to our generous sponsors who make it all possible. Flavor Forays of the future: We’re sure to return to our favorite haunts. We’re also exploring the possibility of visiting Brooklyn, Nashville, Denver, Vancouver and more—they’re secrets for now. (Who’s up for a truffle hunt in Italy?). We’ll keep you posted.
Books to Give or Cherish
Here are a few of our favorite books—some by industry friends, others by authors admired from afar.
Sweet Home Café. A celebration of African American cooking with 109 recipes from the National Museum of African American History and Culture's café. Co-author Albert Lucas, Restaurant Associates Supervising Chef Mid-Atlantic region, spent several years prior to the opening of the cafe researching the culinary contributions of African Americans. We were honored to have him join one of our Flavor Forays in Charleston where he had some fruitful conversations with Gullah chef BJ Dennis. You can order your own copy of the Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook here.
Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business
Matt and Ted Lee. Matt Lee has served as an informal guide on one of our Charleston trips and we can attest to his ability to charm and inform with an insider’s knowledge. In their forthcoming book, he and brother Ted go behind the scenes to uncover the secret world of caterers and their universal reliance on the “hotbox,” an “upright aluminum cabinet on wheels” used to transport food and powered by Sterno lamps.
Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking. Toups is one of the hottest chefs in New Orleans and one of his Meatery restaurants is adjacent to the wonderful Southern Food and Beverage Museum. We had some of the best cracklin’s a pig ever gave its life for and a prize winning po’boy from sous chef Courtney Hellenschmidt. We’ll be meeting up with them in NOLA.
Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel. We’ve been fans of New Orleans-based Alon Shaya from his first days at Domenica, then Shaya, and now his new restaurant Saba. Not only are these Israeli inflected recipes fabulous, Shaya’s personal story of the redemptive power of cooking is moving and inspiring. He’s definitely on our Flavor Forays agenda.
Ottolenghi Simple. A collection of 130 easy, streamlined recipes from beloved chef Yotam Ottolenghi with his signature Middle-Eastern inspired flavors. We don’t know Ottolenghi but we’re ready to meet him with za’atar and pomegranates in the pantry. Maybe it’s time for a Flavor Foray to London.
The Noma Guide to Fermentation: Including koji, kombuchas, shoyus, misos, vinegars, garums, lacto-ferments, and black fruits and vegetables. Every dish at NOMA includes one of these foundations of flavor.By Noma chef/co-owner René Redzepi and David Zilber, the chef who runs the restaurant’s fermentation lab. Redzepi and NOMA founder Claus Meyer were frequent subjects in Food Arts as we covered the Nordic foraging fervor. Fermentation is all the rage now and we had a terrific lesson in Austin from Emmer & Rye’s chef/owner Kevin Fink, who staged at NOMA.
Washington, D.C. is finally getting its due as a dining destination. Didn't hurt that Michelin has bestowed its imprimatur. One of the most significant venues, though not a Michelin restaurant, is the Sweet Home Cafe in the Smithsonian's Museum of African American History and Culture. Albert Lucas, Restaurant Associates Supervising Chef Mid-Atlantic region, spent several years prior to the opening of the cafe researching the culinary contributions of African Americans. We were honored to have him join one of our Flavor Forays in Charleston where he had some fruitful conversations with Gullah chef BJ Dennis about that culture. Lucas is co-author of the just published Sweet Home Cafe cookbook, a must read for anyone interested in American food history.
You can order your own copy of the Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook here.
A terrific group of food and beverage professionals joined our second annual Portland Potager Flavor Foray October 15 to 17, 2018. It was nonstop inspiration and education as we explored this dynamic food city and met creative chefs, artisans and producers, millers and distillers and wine makers. Nannette Bedway’s photo album will guide you through our delicious journey.
From sandwich champion (and baseball coach) Melissa McMillan’s Pastrami Zombie to Olympia Provisions charcuterie and Jacobsen’s salt, we tasted Portland’s best. We experienced Vitaly Paley’s unique Russian tea samovar service, Peter Cho’s amazing Korean inflected dishes, Nostrana’s delicious interpretation of Italy. And how about those miniature flavor bombs at Pip’s Donuts!(https://www.loc8nearme.com/oregon/portland/pip-s-original-doughnuts-and-chai/3862339/). We were treated to exclusive tastings at top wineries Domaine Drouhin and Argyle, at craft brewery Wolves & People, at cult coffee favorite Public Domain, at Oregon’s only olive oil mill Red Ridge, and at New Deal Distillery. We were amazed at the variety of herbs and vegetables on Noble Rot’s rooftop garden. No one left hungry.
Thanks to the wonderful sponsors who made this all possible: IMS/Bigelow Tea, Smithfield Foods, ARC Cardinal, Farmer Brothers, Impossible Foods.
Terrific article in the Austin Chronicle about Sandeep Gyawali and his mission to put this ancient desert food back in the mainstream. Our "Deep in the Heart of Austin" Flavor Foray group visited Gyawali at the Barton Springs Mill in May and tasted some of his fabulous mesquite flavored sour dough bread slathered with mesquite compound butter. There was also a mesquite beer from Jester King. Gyawali is one of the creative artisans driving culinary innovation forward and we were privileged to meet with him.
How One Man Started the Local Mesquite Movement
A baking challenge led Sandeep Gyawali to this little-known flour
BY MELANIE HAUPT, FRI., AUG. 3, 2018
It started off simply enough: Bake something using a unique ingredient. Who would have thought that such a mundane task would launch a passion project to recover a culturally significant foodstuff that has, over the course of the last century and a half, fallen out of favor?
Back in 2012, Slow Food Austin asked Sandeep Gyawali of Miche Bread to make something for its annual fundraising quiz using a unique ingredient. Competitors would do a blind tasting and try to guess that unique ingredient. "I wanted to do it in good faith with the mission of the organization," says Gyawali. "So, I checked the Ark of Taste, which is the database of heritage foods in danger of extinction and found mesquite [the actual entry on the Ark of Taste is mesquite pod flour] and decided to use that. I went to Whole Foods for mesquite flour, and found a bag of it from Peru. It was surprising to me that there wasn't any Texas mesquite flour available. From there, it stayed in the back of my mind that there should be a Texas mesquite flour." And that's how the Texas Mesquite Project was born.
The English word "mesquite" comes from the Spanish "mezquite," which was borrowed from the Nahuatl "mizquitl." The mesquite tree (what we have here in Texas is known as the honey mesquite; farther west, folks use velvet mesquite) was a cornucopia for indigenous people pre-colonization. Members of the Tohono O'odham, Pima, Apache, Maricopa, and other tribes ground the pods into meal and used it to make bread, or mixed it with water to make a sweet mush. The rest of the tree could be used for textiles and for medicinal purposes. But today, in Texas, mesquite is most closely associated with barbecue.
According to Daniel Vaughn, writing for Texas Monthly, the association of mesquite with barbecue goes back to the post-Civil War era in the Southwest, which gave rise to the cattle ranching industry. Grazing cows helped propagate the trees across the scrubby range, which effectively turned mesquite, a thirsty tree, into a nuisance plant. To combat the problem, in a triumph of midcentury marketing, mesquite became the go-to wood for that "authentic smokehouse" flavor of Texas-style smoked meats. Today, mesquite occupies 50 to 60 million acres of land in Texas. That's a lot of untapped raw material – and potential for revitalizing an ancient foodstuff beyond the smoker – and there are plenty of good reasons to explore the possibilities.
“I want to be the Johnny Appleseed of mesquite.” – Sandeep Gyawali, Miche Bread
Chris "Chiltic" Luna, a Phoenix-based ethnobiologist descended from the Guachichil Chichimecas of San Luis Potosí, documents the process of harvesting, storing, and processing mesquite and other native plants. In so doing, he pushes back against the erasure of cultural practices, and recovers indigenous plant knowledge in the process. For Luna, who prefers to add bone broth or berries to mesquite meal for a grits-style breakfast, consuming mesquite is a way to avoid incorporation into the late-capitalist food chain. "One small mesquite tree can give you five gallons of beans, which is enough to feed you for a while," says Luna. "Power structures don't like that, because if you're able to eat off the land, who's going to tax you? If you can go harvest mesquite beans, you don't need McDonald's. When the land provides, the corporate structures start to break down."
While Gyawali, who hails from Nepal, doesn't have that same ancestral drive to revitalize mesquite as a culinary ingredient, he does recognize its importance to the lifestyles and livelihoods of those who lived in Texas and the greater Southwest centuries ago. The Texas Mesquite Project is animated by a desire to re-establish the culinary use of mesquite because it's delicious, local, and has a rich cultural history. "I want to be the Johnny Appleseed of mesquite," he says.
With help from funds won via an Austin Food & Wine Alliance grant, Gyawali bought a hammermill, which he stores at the Barton Springs Mill headquarters and uses to grind the mesquite pods after they have been harvested, roasted, and dried. "Initially my idea was to make a flour available for retail sales, but there needs to be an educational component first. I realized that if I just made flour, no one was going to buy it or know how to use it." According to Gyawali, you can add the mesquite powder to just about anything – coffee, chocolate, bread, butter, smoothies – and it will improve the flavor.
In order to put that claim to the test, I took home a tub of mesquite flour and whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies, replacing a third of the white flour with the mesquite flour. My 13-year-old son spooned up some of the dough and asked, "Did you add cinnamon to that?" A family friend described the flavor as "snickerdoodle-y." The cookies themselves, made with dark brown sugar, were decidedly nutty/malty, and the flavor of the mesquite worked very well with the caramelization of the brown sugar. The mesquite added a sweet depth and earthiness to the cookie that you wouldn't get from an ordinary Toll House recipe.
But it's true that without prior knowledge of how and within what context to use it, people aren't going to purchase a bag of mesquite flour and go to town with it in the kitchen. That's where Gyawali's canny partnerships with other local food purveyors who are among the food brands that have embraced the mission of the Texas Mesquite Project and have incorporated the ingredient into their goods come in. The Brewer's Table features mesquite baguette and butter on its menu; Cured in San Antonio makes a mesquite tres leches and a mesquite mole; Jester King released a Cerveza de Mezquite; SRSLY chocolate makes a mesquite "dirty white" chocolate; and Lick Honest Ice Creams added a honey-sweet mesquite cookie crumble ice cream to its summer menu. "People eat what they're offered. A lot of these brands are influencers in terms of how we eat," says Gyawali. What better entry point to a new and exotic foodstuff than via your favorite local brand?
Says Anthony Sobotik of Lick Honest Ice Creams, "Food, especially ice cream, serves as a nonintimidating vehicle to open a person's eyes to the history of what they're eating. In the case of the mesquite beans, it's documented that Native Americans have been making meal from them for at least 500 years, so it's only fitting that we used a mesquite bean meal to make the cookies in our flavor. It creates a direct, tangible connection to this ingredient that has been a part of the diet here for hundreds of years and I just think that's awesome."
Of course, indigenous folks centuries ago probably weren't enjoying their mesquite in chocolate chip cookies and delicious ice cream (although they could mix the mesquite meal with water and ferment it to make a low-alcohol beer), so the bridge to the past is a bit wobbly, at best. But the Texas Mesquite Project is opening the door to considering how we can use these heritage ingredients in new and delicious ways, while also being respectful of the traditions that preceded us.
Flavor Forays just completed a custom trip for winners of a Smithfield breakfast sweepstakes in Portland, Oregon. Amazing food, wine, and beer. Plus visits with veteran chefs and newcomers continuing to elevate the food scene. Both restaurants and artisan producers flourish. Take the tour with our flipbook below:
Smithfield commissioned Flavor Forays to create a custom trip to Portland, Oregon for the winners of their sweepstakes. This is the itinerary.
Remembering Miss Ella. Few restaurateurs have been as influential as New Orleans matriarch Ella Brennan who died on May 31.
Even tradition bound area are changing to meet demands of the modern world. Anne Moreau of the distinguished Louis Moreau domaine tells how.
Morocco will meet Mexico when Mourad Lahlou and Louis Maldonado open Amara this summer on the spot where Aziza once flourished.
Science meets spirits at this new tech centric bar in NYC's Greenwich Village opened by Dave Arnold and Don Lee. Josh Eden helms the kitchen. Dave Arnold was a frequent and valued contributor at Food Arts and we're pleased to follow his successful career path.
It's almost that time again - this must-attend party during the National Restaurant Show is open to all industry personnel. See you there!
White wine is having a moment as increased in international cuisines and vegetable forward dishes calls for new ideas about pairings.