save the date: kansas city… (friends of james beard foundation dinner)

•July 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

End of service.

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This year marks the seventeenth annual Friends of James Beard Foundation dinner at The American Restaurant in Kansas City, the longest-running fundraising dinner for the foundation in the country.  Over the past decade and a half, this event has brought some of America’s most respected chefs to my hometown to raise money for the James Beard Foundation (I’ve included a list of the chefs who have come to cook at The American Restaurant since I became involved with this event at the end of this post).

For the sixth year, I have been asked by the hosting chef – now, Michael Corvino –  to help invite the guest chefs and organize the dinner.  Having just finalized this year’s guest chefs list, I am pleased to share it with you now and to announce that this year’s Friends of James Beard Foundation dinner at The American Restaurant will take place on Monday, September 28, 2015.  Please save the date.

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rumination 31: a martyr and a millionaire…

•April 14, 2015 • 3 Comments

One of my biggest criticisms about food media today is that they tell us what is “good,” instead of telling us what we need to know in order to determine what is good, for ourselves.  They tell us where to eat and who to know, without a deeper conversation as to why.

My recent blog post about my meal at Kong Hans Kælder touched upon this, and opened a thought thread that I’d like to chase further down the line.  It has to do with quality, and the difference between craftsmanship and artistry, and personal preferences.

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travel: toward a facile familiarity…

•April 6, 2015 • 5 Comments

A city of bikes.

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The Norwegian Airline strike was a refrain during the latest Friends of Lysverket weekend in Bergen.  It came up repeatedly in conversation.

The strike had gone on way too long, keeping thousands of people, including me, suspended in travel limbo.  I had two connecting flights on the airline that week: one to Copenhagen, and one to Oslo, where Christopher Haatuft (chef of Lysverket), his wife Annette, and I had a dinner reservation at Maaemo.  Unless the strike ended, we’d have to find another way to get there.

Not willing to take chances, we booked train tickets.  And seeing that the strike was still on when we woke early that Tuesday morning, we headed to the station to catch a ride to Oslo.

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review: cooking is back… (kong hans kælder)

•March 30, 2015 • 3 Comments

Kong Hans Kælder

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It used to be that people talked about dishes.  Now, they talk about names.

Those of you who read this blog or follow me on social media know that I have been fairly critical of the way the restaurant industry has shifted the focus away from the diner, and has, in general, devolved into a media circus.  This subject is well-covered ground on this blog, so I won’t burden you with more of it here. Just read my last four or five ruminations, and you’ll get a good sense of my frustration and complaints.

But let me not be that guy in cyberspace who’s always whining about something.  All is not lost.

There are many chefs and restaurants that are doing great things, despite the over-hype.  As I confided to my friend Andreas recently over dinner in Copenhagen, I’ve found a renewed excitement in using this blog to cheer on the great experiences I have, and, more importantly, to champion those that might otherwise be lost amidst all the noise.

The restaurant where Andreas works doesn’t exactly need a champion.  Far from it, Kong Hans Kælder is a storied institution in Denmark.  Founded in 1976 by the Grønlykke family, it was the first Danish restaurant to earn a Michelin star, a rating that it kept until 2014, when Thomas Rode, its chef of 18 years left.  A new team was brought in, and with it, came a breath of fresh air.  After a brief closure, Kong Hans Kælder reopened in September of last year with Mark Lundgaard Nielsen at the head of the kitchen and Peter Pepke at the head of the house.

My dinner there in early March of this year demonstrated the type focus on cooking and service that I value and sorely miss.  So, in the spirit of celebrating the good, I would like to tell you about it here and now, in this, my first dedicated restaurant post since I wrote about Ifuki last year (the kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto, where, as it turned out, I had my favorite meal of 2014).

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friends of lysverket: people meeting people…

•March 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

On the way to Hardanger

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A leading voice in the international black metal movement.

A high-end furniture designer from Copenhagen.

A Scotsman who dives for a living off the North Sea coast above the Arctic Circle.

An American hardcore punk drummer-turned pastry chef.

A group of Norwegian women preserving the craft of bread making in a remote village in the fjords.

And an Asian-American lawyer who left the firm to travel the world with his camera.

What do these diverse people have in common?  We are all friends of Lysverket.

Since I last wrote about the Friends of Lysverket collaborative series, chef Christopher Haatuft has hosted two more of these dinners at his restaurant in Bergen, Norway.  And, together, we have plan three more of these dinners this year.  I’d like to give you an update on this dinner series now.
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kansas city: save the date… (harvesters chefs classic 2015)

•March 20, 2015 • 2 Comments

Line-up.

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This is my fifth year serving on the planning committee for the Chefs Classic, a charity dinner hosted annually at The American Restaurant that raises money for Harvesters, a food bank that serves the greater Kansas City area.  Because I obsess over documenting and recording things, I asked Harvesters to send me a complete roster of all of the chefs who have cooked at this event.  By our accounting, this will be the eighteenth annual Chefs Classic, which has brought nearly one hundred chefs from around the country to Kansas City.  I have included the complete list of past guest chefs at the bottom of this post.

This year’s Chefs Classic will take place at The American Restaurant on Sunday, June 28, 2015.  Please save the date.

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collaboration: friends of lysverket…

•January 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Headlights on a fjord road.

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Bente Getz has returned to her family’s farm, situated high on a steep rake that rises almost vertically from the fjords of Samnanger, Norway.  She left her homeland as a young woman to travel the world, a hippie who hopped around the globe, starting in the United States, then to Spain, and finally settling on a kibbutz in Israel, where she started and raised a family for more than a decade.

It took her two years to rehabilitate her family’s abandoned property.  But now that it’s back in shape, Getz raises cattle and sheep and farms her land according to simple organic practices.  She produces cheese from her animals and sells them, along with dairy, at a small co-op in Samnanger. Bente Getz is just one of the many, interesting, generous, and talented people that I’ve had the great fortune of meeting through Friends of Lysverket, a collaborative dinner series and cross-cultural conversation hosted by Christopher Haatuft, the Norwegian chef of Lysverket in Bergen, Norway.

I’m late in telling about this great project, which we started in 2014.  I’d like to do so now.

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