save the dates: the twelve days of christmas (2015)…

•August 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Misty dusk.

~

Thirty-six meals and tens of thousands of photos ago, I arrived at Meadowood Napa Valley for my first Twelve Days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood.  In the three, short years since, I have had the pleasure of watching it grow into a celebrated event with an increasingly global reach.

For twelve truly enviable nights of food and drink, the international culinary spotlight moves to this quiet, wooded corner of California, highlighting a cultural exchange among chefs, and bringing awareness to a couple of great causes.

Like last year, this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas benefits two local charities, the Holly Cranston Memorial Fund, as well as the Napa Emergency Women’s Services (NEWS).

And, as in past years, this year’s roster of guest chefs represents a diverse number of culinary perspectives.  Not only do they comprise the most internationally diverse group of chefs in the event’s history (with seven countries represented), but, from what I know of them, they offer twelve very different styles of cooking.

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travel: for bothwell and tandsmør…

•July 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Gate.

~

In 1559, while sailing through the Dano-Norwegian kingdom (at the time, the two were united under the Danish crown), a Scottish admiral fell in love with the daughter of the Danish admiral (who was Norwegian).  They married, and he whisked this Norwegian noblewoman off to his faraway land.

But be not misled.  This deceptively romantic scene – what sounds like the start to a Renaissance fairytale – was merely an overture to what was surely one of the most bizarre dramas in history involving a cast of the most unlikely and unlovable creatures.

After marrying the Norwegian Anna Throndsen, James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Bothwell and Scotland’s Lord High Admiral, abandoned her, and married a Scottish noblewoman, Jean Gordon (daughter of the Earl of Huntly).  Barely a year into that second marriage, Bothwell filed for divorce (on shady terms).  In the meantime, he was implicated in the famous Kirk O’Field plot that resulted in the murder of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, the young consort to Queen Mary of Scotland (and father to her only heir, who would later found the Stuart line on the English throne as James I).

Perhaps emboldened by his acquittal for the murder of Darnley (for which most historians agree he is guilty), Bothwell then abducted the newly widowed Queen Mary and raped her. Despite his detestable behavior – or, perhaps threatened by it – the Queen bestowed more titles on Bothwell, elevating him to the Duke of Orkney and the Marquis of Fife.  Even more shocking, a few days later, after Bothwell finalized his divorce from Gordon, the Queen married him.

Things began unravelling quickly thereafter for Bothwell and the Queen, as the Scottish nobility rose up against them. The two were forced to separate. Queen Mary was captured and imprisoned in the island castle of Loch Leven (from which she eventually escaped to England, only to be imprisoned for the rest of her life there by her cousin, Elizabeth I). Bothwell took to the sea, whereby he hoped to gain support from the Danish king for his cause.  It was during this spirited maritime campaign that the long, vengeful arm of the Danish admiral’s daughter – Bothwell’s abandoned first wife – reached out from the icy waters of the North Sea and caught him off the coast of Norway.  He was hauled into the port of Bergen and clapped into the prison at Rosenkrantz Tower.

After settling accounts with Throndsen (he owed her the dowry of which he defrauded her in abandonment), Bothwell probably would have been set free had Frederick II, the king of Denmark, not received word that Elizabeth I was hunting Bothwell for the murder of Darnley. Realizing that he had a potentially valuable pawn in his possession, Frederick II had Bothwell transferred out of Bergen to Denmark, where the Scotsman eventually ended up prisoner in the dreaded Dragsholm Slot, where he died in 1578 (after some reports of having gone insane).

Why am I telling you this ridiculous story?*

Because, it is the backdrop and context for my latest trip to Denmark.

Continue reading ‘travel: for bothwell and tandsmør…’

collaboration: friends of lysverket 5… (qui)

•July 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Midnight in Bergen.
~

If the clouds are just so, and if you happen to look at the right time – just before midnight in a mid-calendar month – the skies over Bergen, Norway will appear as if they’re on fire.

Summer had arrived on the northern brow of the world, and the sun had become restless, lingering well past bedtime.

But I wasn’t in bed.  At one in the morning, I was standing on the cobblestone sidewalk under the flicker of florescence wiping sauce from my mouth and trading hot dogs with friends. This was becoming a familiar street scene on my visits to Bergen.

Continue reading ‘collaboration: friends of lysverket 5… (qui)’

review: the wider, richer universe… (fäviken magasinet)

•July 8, 2015 • 3 Comments

Fäviken Magasinet

~

I might die in this car.  And if I don’t, I’ll probably miss my flight. And if I miss this flight, then I’m probably going to miss my connecting flights. And that means that I won’t get to New York in time for my photoshoot tomorrow night.

Or, I might die in this car.

But hey, at least I had one hell of a breakfast.

These thoughts swirled through my head as we raced down a snow-covered road in the Swedish countryside. Consumed in conversation, we had somehow missed a crucial turn that would have set us on the highway to Trondheim.  Instead, we found ourselves furiously back-peddling to recover lost ground.

By a stroke of luck, the car rental company had upgraded us to an X5. So if, for some reason, my friend Christopher lost control (say, a moose decided to cross the road unexpectedly, as one did the day before) and we went flying into a snow bank – or worse, a row of pines – at least we’d do so in German-engineered style.

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travel: cinnamon and midnight toasts… (helsinki)

•July 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Havis Amanda

~

My first trip to Finland was in 2005, when I took an overnight cruise from Stockholm to the ancient capital of Turku on the country’s west coast.  That day-stop – which only gave me enough time to run through a museum (the copy of the haunting, self-portrait of Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck that I bought there still stares at me from across my study today) and a couple of churches before embarking for the trip back to Stockholm – was hardly an introduction to the country.

Sadly, my recent trip to the modern-day capital of Finland, could hardly count as more.

With barely 48 hours on the ground, I hit Helsinki running.

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

•July 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

End of service.

~

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.

Continue reading ‘rumination 31: a martyr and a millionaire…’

 
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