winter is coming…

•August 31, 2017 • 1 Comment

~

Winter in Napa.

~

I know, I know, the producers of Game of Thrones are releasing new seasons more frequently than I’m posting here.

It’s embarrassing.

I have much to record and share.  And I wish I could to be more regular about it. But that’s unlikely in the coming months, given that my travel schedule will find me suspended me at cruising altitude through the end of the year: Thailand, Cambodia, France, South Africa, Zambia, with pit stops all over the U.S. in between.

But as exciting as all of these adventures are, I am happy to say that my final destination in 2017 will, once again, be The Restaurant at Meadowood.

Perhaps the only thing (among the circles in which I turn) that is more highly anticipated than the return of the Iron Throne: The Twelve Days of Christmas are back. And I will have the honor and pleasure of photographing the series for a fifth time.
Continue reading ‘winter is coming…’

le cinq: tragic triptych… (2016)

•April 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Our Mise en Bouche

~

The British restaurant critic may be one of the few species that deserved to board Noah’s ark. Equipped with endless wit and flare for hyperbole, they have gifted the world with some of the best food writing I have ever read.*

However, their reports provide little evidence of discriminating taste, and rarely, if ever, a serious analysis of the food they eat.  So they don’t really function as critics – at least not in the way this American thinks of criticism. Rather, most British restaurant writers are highly skilled arsonists, celebrated for their barn-burning pyrotechnics that often reduce their subjects to smoldering ruins.

I’ll admit, the teardowns (for which they are most known) seem cruel. But their targets often seem deserving of public shaming – at least, that’s the way these writers paint the picture.  And their deftly deployed arsenal of sarcasm and bathroom humor usually includes a hearty dose of charming self-deprecation that saves them from an unredeemable ledge.

To mitigate my own guilt for indulging in their bombast, I file most British restaurant writing under the category “humor”.

Continue reading ‘le cinq: tragic triptych… (2016)’

rumination 33: clicking for stars …

•March 12, 2017 • 5 Comments

“What is the long-term effect of too much information? One of the effects is the need to be first, not even to be true anymore.”

This was Denzel Washington’s pointed reposte when a sidewalk journalist tried to bait him on the topic of fake news.

Sloppy journalism isn’t a speciality of politics. It plagues every industry. How many times have chefs vented to me in private about some grievance they’ve suffered at the hands of food media: poor fact checking (or no fact checking); jumping the gun on embargoed, time-sensitive information; coercive threats; pay-for-play; biased coverage?

It happens all the time.  And we, collectively, let it happen.

Continue reading ‘rumination 33: clicking for stars …’

travel: woo pig sooie… (2017)

•March 4, 2017 • 2 Comments

Walton's 5-10

~

In the decades since I last visited my neighboring state to the south, I have heard increasing praise for Arkansas’s upper-left corner.  Home to three Fortune 500 companies – Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt (a trucking company), and, most notably, the Wal-Mart empire – NWA (the local shorthand for Northwest Arkansas) is the fastest growing area of that state.  These companies have attracted workers from all over the quad-state region and beyond, doubling the NWA population between 1990 and 2010.

Due to a ban on the sale of alcohol, many who worked in Benton County (Wal-Mart is headquartered in Bentonville, which is located in Benton County) chose to live outside the county and commute from nearby towns like Springdale, or Fayetteville, which is about 30 minutes south.  Able to issue liquor licenses, these towns offered more “amenities.” But, in 2012, after significant lobbying, the alcohol ban was finally lifted.  And that changed everything. No longer in a dry county, Bentonville witnessed a boom in new businesses, especially in the hospitality industry. Restaurants, bars, cafés, hotels, and museums have sprung up within the last half decade, making the once-sleepy town not only the attractive and sensible place locals have always wanted to live, but a shiny new destination for long weekenders as well.       Continue reading ‘travel: woo pig sooie… (2017)’

favorites of 2016: the restaurant edition…

•January 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

3rd Course: Spanish Mackerel

~

In the past, I’ve used this final, year-end blog post to marvel at just how well I’ve eaten in the preceding 12 months. Over the years, that emphasis has grown dull and unnecessary.  By now, those who read this blog know that, when it comes to eating, I’m getting along all right.

Explaining my process for evaluating meals and dissecting my food preferences, too, have wearied from repetition. If you’re interested, all of that is well-documented here, here, and here.

And my annual observations about the restaurant industry are increasingly misplaced in this post. My growing cricitism of food media, thoughts on various genres and trends in cooking, and other commentary at large have been appearing, with more frequency, as “ruminations.” Moving forward, I refer you to them.

This year, I’m slimming down and returning to the reason I launched this laudatory exercise: to memorialize the best meals I have had.

Continue reading ‘favorites of 2016: the restaurant edition…’

favorite desserts of 2016…

•January 17, 2017 • 1 Comment

Breakfast.

~

What is happening in pastryland?

In 2015, I described a slow-down and a top-off, as the energy and excitement that I first noticed propelling dessert-making into a new era half a decade ago began to level.  And as that unbridled sprint into the unknown, which had charted new and exciting territory, suddenly slowed, the language and form of pastry in this new era seemed to start codifying.  In 2016, pastryland reevaluated and realigned itself, and for the first time, started dividing into a new set of tracks, packs, and camps.

At least, that is my observation.

Let me explain.

Continue reading ‘favorite desserts of 2016…’

favorite dishes of 2016…

•January 14, 2017 • 1 Comment

11th Course: Egg Yolk

~

In 2015, I yawned.

So, in 2016 I did something about it.

I took my foot off the culinary gas pedal, tuned out the lists and rankings, and returned to the basics. I’ve never been a conformist, but, more than previous years, I focused on eating where I had found joy before.  And, when exploring afield, I relied on those I personally knew and trusted, and followed their lead.

As a result, I ate better in 2016 than any year before.

Continue reading ‘favorite dishes of 2016…’