12 days: on the sixth day of christmas: mcfadden… (2014)

•December 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Baby gems on the Josper


There are two guest chefs on the roster for this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood whose restaurants I have not visited.  One of them is Joshua McFadden, chef of Ava Gene’s, and “Roman”-style Italian restaurant in Portland, Oregon.

I first met McFadden at The Restaurant at Meadowood last year when he and the owner of Ava Gene’s, Duane Sorenson*, attended the Twelve Days of Christmas.   This year, chef Christopher Kostow invited him back as the guest chef for the sixth night of this dinner series, with wine pairings by Kongsgaard.

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12 days: on the fifth day of christmas: wetzel… (2014)

•December 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

8th Course: Parsnips in Razor Clam Broth


Blaine Wetzel got his start at a very young age. By the time he returned to his native Washington at the age of 24 to head the kitchen at Willows Inn on Lummi Island, he had spent eight years cooking around the world.  He had cooked in the kitchens of Mary Elaine’s at the Phoenician in Phoenix, Alex at the Wynn in Las Vegas, Aubergine at l’Auberge Carmel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Noma in Copenhagen. His cooking at Willows Inn has turned heads, earning his far-flung archipelago off the coast of the Pacific Northwest some time in the culinary spotlight. In 2012, he was named one of Food + Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs, and earlier this year, he was elected the restaurant industry’s “Rising Star” by the James Beard Foundation.

Although Wetzel had been on my radar for a couple of years, I didn’t make it to Willows Inn until last year.  I liked it so much that I went back for a second time a few months later.

Using ingredients he finds locally, Wetzel subscribes to the foraging branch of the Nordic school of cooking.  I was particularly interested to see how he would he bring a sense of place to his dishes at The Restaurant at Meadowood, where he cooked the fifth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas, with wine pairings by Failla.

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12 days: on the fourth day of christmas: gauthier… (2014)

•December 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

5th Course: "Red Ravioli"


As the entire left coast braced for the largest storm to hit in decades, Nathaniel Dorn, the Restaurant Manager at The Restaurant at Meadowood, and his staff kept calm and carried on. At line-up, he reminded: “We have a generator, headlamps for all of the kitchen staff, pre-burned candles, emergency crash kits, and pre-charged music stations… if the electricity goes out tonight, the party doesn’t stop.”  This is, after all, the Twelve Days of Christmas.

And so, from the far reaches of northern France came Alexandre Gauthier to stormy Napa Valley.  He is chef of Froggy’s Tavern in the medieval, walled city of Montreuil-sur-Mer and the Michelin-starred la Grenouillère in nearby La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil.

Gauthier is the fourth chef to cook at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas at the Restaurant at Meadowood.  Together with hosting chef Christopher Kostow, he presented a nine-course dinner paired with wines by Williams-Selyum.

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12 days: on the third day of christmas: desramaults… (2014)

•December 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

2nd Course: Oysters and Whey Sauce


“Karremelkstampers” is not only a fun word to say, but it represents the wonderful cross-cultural exchange that makes the Twelve Days of Christmas such a meaningful event.  It’s a traditional dish from the Flemish region of Belgium, where chef Kobe Desramaults was raised and is now chef and owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant In de Wulf.  I had his version of “karremelkstampers” there earlier this year, when I spent a night at his family’s quaint farmhouse in the hilly Belgian countryside near the French border.

“Karremelkstampers” translates into English as “buttermilk smash.”  It’s kind of like mashed potatoes, made with buttermilk. At In de Wulf, Desramaults bakes whole, waxy potatoes in dough, and presents them at the table, still steaming in the crust, with a frothy, buttermilk dip that is also served warm.

On the third night of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas dinner series, Desramaults shared this cultural curio from his corner of the world with the guests at the Restaurant at Meadowood.  Cracking open rounds of ashen bread at the table, the potatoes, which had been baked individually, were presented, piping hot, beside bowls of that warm, cheesy fondue that I remembered so fondly from In de Wulf.

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12 days: on the second day of christmas: castranovo & falcinelli (2014)

•December 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

7th Course: Fruits, Nuts


“The Feast of the Seven Fishes,” they announced at staff line-up on the second day of the Twelve Days of Christmas. And everyone’s eyes lit up.

I first met Frank Castranovo and Frank Falcinelli on a crazy weekend in Spain. We were all there for the Gastronomika conference, and stole a day to venture into the wild, Basque countryside for a long, leisurely lunch at Asador Extebarri that spilled over into dinner at Mugaritz.*  That initial meeting seemed to set the bar for our subsequent, chance meetings in the most far-flung and extraordinary places: Mexico City, Lyon, and this past weekend, Napa Valley, where they cooked the second dinner of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas at the Restaurant at Meadowood with hosting chef Christopher Kostow, and with wines paired by Diamond Creek Vineyards.

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12 days: on the first day of christmas: orlando (2014)

•December 8, 2014 • 1 Comment

6th Course: Venison


Kicking off the seventh annual Twelve Days of Christmas with hosting chef Christopher Kostow at The Restaurant at Meadowood a couple of nights ago, an event with which I have been a part since 2012, was Matthew Orlando, chef and owner of Amass in Copenhagen, and Jonata and The Hilt wineries.  [To read more about this collaborative dinner series hosted by Kostow at his three Michelin-starred restaurant at Meadowood Napa Valley, refer to the restaurant’s website.  You may also read about all 24 dinners from the past two years on this blog.  I have provided a full inventory of the dinners from 2012 and 2013 at the bottom of this post.]

In keeping with the last two years, I plan to post short recaps of each of this year’s twelve dinners here, with a slideshow of photos.
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travel: kansas city… (2014)

•September 1, 2014 • 5 Comments

Pour over.


Evidently, the gestation for Midwestern maturity is slow.  Two years ago, I took an honest (some might characterize it as critical) look at the eating culture of my hometown of Kansas City.  Cautious with praise and focusing mostly on quality, I also used that blog post to acknowledge and recommend a few local restaurants, businesses, artisans, and food producers that I thought were contribute something meaningful to our city’s culinary identity.

Most of what I wrote then still stands today.  So, I happily bring forward those same people, places, and products that I recommended in 2012.  I continue to support them with my dollars and with my word-of-mouth here. At the same time, Kansas City’s dining culture has shown little progress or change since.  Ours is a city that remains largely dependent upon trickle-down trends from elsewhere.  Despite the fact that a number of new restaurants and bars have opened in the past two years, I haven’t found much that is worthy of discussion or mention.  So, I have relatively few additions to my previous list of recommendations, which, in my humble opinion, remains a comprehensive list of the best of what our city has to offer.  What little I have to add this time I do so after first noting a few changes to some of the businesses that I mentioned two years ago:

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