12 days of christmas: lowe… (2018)

•December 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment


In 2011, I met a young, clear-minded chef in Paris named James Lowe.  At the time, he was the head chef of St. John Bread & Wine in London.

He would subsequently help found the Young Turks, a collaboration with fellow young guns Ben Greeno (who subsequently went on to open momofuku Seiobo in Sydney, Australia) and Isaac McHale (who now runs Clove Club in London, and who also cooked at the Twelve Days of Christmas in 2015).  Together, they made a name for themselves for their fresh and affordable approach to British cooking at pop-ups around the city, and later at Ten Bells, just a few doors down from St. John Bread & Wine at Spitalfields.  In 2014, Lowe moved on to open his own restaurant, Lyle’s, just up the road in Shoreditch.  I was able to visit Lyle’s at the top of 2016, a few months after the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star.

With all of this familiarity with Lowe from far, I was extremely excited to him on this year’s list of guest chefs for The Twelve days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood.  He cooked on the fourth night.

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12 days of christmas: largey… (2018)

•December 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

In the garden.

I met Jessica Largey at the Twelve Days of Christmas in 2013.    At the time, she was the chef de cuisine at Manresa under chef David Kinch, who had been invited to cook on Night 11 that year.  In the five years since, she has won the James Beard Award for Rising Star, and opened her own restaurant – Simone, named after her favorite singer Nina Simone – in Los Angeles.  This year, she returned to The Restaurant at Meadowood on the third night as a guest chef for The Twelve Days of Christmas.

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12 days of christmas: pynt… (2018)

•December 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Leeks on the coals.

I perked up when I first heard about a restaurant in Singapore named Burnt Ends. (For the uninitiated, burnt ends are those charred “bits and bobs,” or “bark” of barbecued beef brisket first made famous in my hometown of Kansas City – the undisputed capital of American barbecue).

I didn’t visit David Pynt’s restaurant when I was in Singapore in 2016. And I regret it. So I was very happy to see him on the roster of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood.

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12 days of christmas: enrique… (2018)

•December 10, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Don Q Gran Añejo

For six years now, I’ve had the pleasure of dining at The Restaurant at Meadowood the night before the first night of the Twelve Days of Christmas with the first guest chef of the holiday series.  Not only does that meal telegraph some of what is to come from the Meadowood kitchen in the subsequent weeks – it serves as a test run and offers a preview of what chef Christopher Kostow and his team are developing – but it’s an opportunity for me to get to know a chef who I may not know well. It’s one of my favorite parts of getting to photograph the Twelve Days of Christmas.

This year, I had the double pleasure of meeting and eating with Jose Enrique (Day 1) and David Pynt, who had arrived early from Singapore (Day 2).

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travel: personal history… (amsterdam; 2018)

•December 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment

A wall of Holbein.

Why hadn’t I spent more time appreciating this place?

A mild sense of regret trickled through me as I stepped out of the train station and into Leiden, a beautifully preserved Dutch town cut with canals and dotted with windmills.  Clean and uncluttered, Leiden is the Dutch postcard that Amsterdam is not.

I am not proud to say that, when I first arrived in Leiden in the fall of 2005, I was there for all the wrong reasons.  Like many who take a semester abroad, I was a tourist using academic cover to pose as a student.  In fact, the only reason I chose the University of Leiden out of a catalogue of sister institutions was for its proximity to trains and planes.  Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is only 20 minutes away, and from that hub, an incredible network of travel stretched across Europe.

That semester I visited nearly a dozen countries.  More significantly, I visited my first Michelin-starred restaurant (Bon Lloc  – now closed, this was Mathias Dahlgren’s first restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden).  I visited my first two Michelin-starred restaurant (Mosconi in Luxembourg – it has maintained its two stars to this day).  And I visited my first three Michelin-starred restaurant (Dieter Müller at the Hotel Schloss Lerbach in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany – when I returned in 2011, Müller had retired, and Nils Henkel had retained the three stars, losing a star the following year, and sadly closing the historic restaurant in 2014).  By the end of that semester, I had managed to visit restaurants totaling nearly 40 Michelin stars.  And remember, this was before the Michelin Guide began rating restaurants in the United States.

I returned home having learned shamefully little about E.U. law, but an immense amount about restaurants and, more importantly, the way I like to eat.

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save the dates: 12 days of christmas 2018…

•September 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It's glowing a lot like Christmas

It is hard to believe that the year has tipped once again, and I find myself hurling through time and space towards those dozen, wonder-filled days at the end.  As I tap out these words, I count fewer than 15 days left at home between now and then, scraped together from a splinter of gaps between trips to Denmark, Greenland, both coasts, and points in between.

Christopher Kostow and The Restaurant at Meadowood will be hosting the Twelve Days of Christmas again this year.  And, for the sixth time, I have the honor of photographing the series, which, like last year, will benefit the St. Helena Preschool for All, a nonprofit organization that, in partnership with five private preschools, provides pre-school readiness programs for four year-olds in the St. Helena Unified School District.

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rumination 37: killing meritocracy…

•August 29, 2018 • 3 Comments

A few months ago, I posted a picture of a plate of food to my Instagram story.  I purposely  framed the photo tightly – providing as little visual information as possible beyond the linen-lined table top.  But by context, it was clear that I was at a rather nice restaurant, with frilly rimmed china and white tablecloth. Over this photo, I superimposed the following:

“Female chef.  Two Michelin stars.  Where am I?”

I received dozens of guesses, not one of which was correct.

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